Thursday, August 19, 2010

Monkeys in the backyard

I have been slacking in writing field updates—between being sick, getting data (and, the downside of getting data, having to enter it!), and a very busy trip to the US for a wedding . . . Writing has been at the top of the list. And while I sometimes find myself mentally composing what I want to write (usually when I’m wandering through the forest on days when the monkeys are scarce), I rarely get to it. However, I’m going to try to get better (and as the amount of people at the station starts to dwindle now that summer is coming to end, I will probably be more motivated to write).

Anyway, one of the most wonderful things about my field station is that is it nestled right next to the forest. As a result, we have a lots of animals visiting the station—including all three species of monkey. My room has a window facing the backyard, so I can boast of having seen capuchins, howlers, and spider monkeys from my bed (as well as an emerald basilisk, a coati, and a few keel-billed toucans and orependulas)! While all three species are not there all the time (that would make things too easy), the capuchins seem to visit nearly every day. For a while, a couple female spiders and their kids would visit every day as well, but for the past week, they’ve been makings themselves a bit scarcer than usual. As for the howlers, they are usually the most infrequent visitors, but when they roll through, they tend to stick around a bit longer, and are useful for providing a morning wake-up call.

Today however, the spider monkeys have returned. I spent the early afternoon reading/taking pictures at the gazebo in the lagoon, trying to avoid the afternoon heat. However, the spiders announced themselves with a flurry of whinnies and a bit of crashing through the trees, so I ran back to my room and got back into my field clothes and grabbed my gear. They then spent the afternoon traveling along the creek that runs wraps around the station, concluding with many of the females feeding in a Spondias tree in the backyard. There was a HUGE party of monkeys, which later fissioned into several parties—I counted 5 adult/subadult males, 2 subdadult females, 4 adult females, and 4 immatures. Considering that the parties I generally run into are about 2-5 individuals (unless there is a big party tree fruiting), this was quite a gathering. Even more exiting, was that one of the females in the party, Agata, was a female I haven’t seen since the end of June. I previously had only one 10-focal on her, so it was a big relief to see her and get some data on her. I’m still at only 4 focals on her, while my top female (Leila) is at 31 focals—so clearly I have a lot more catching up to do. But it’s a start!
Even better, about an hour after I finished my last focal (which took me back into the forest, where I had a run-in with a painful stinging plant, which prompted me to call it a day), the spiders returned to the backyard! They were whinnying and vocalizing quite a bit, and continued to chatter even after it got dark (it’s the first night I’ve gotten to listen to whinnies during dinner!). That means they are spending the night close by!

I also have pictures that were supposed to go along with this post, but unfortunately my attempts to write a post with Word and then upload it here did not work with the pics--next time I promise to make include some beautiful pics of my backyard visitors!