Not that I am biased or anything, but here's the coolest episode with the coolest subject.
Remember to watch in high quality!
As funny/boring/badly narrated these videos are, the one thing you should pay attention to is the slideshow at the end of this episode and the previous. Whether they're showcasing frogs or lizards, the photos do the incredible diversity in size, shape, color, and pattern at least some justice, or so I'd like to think.
So after three long years since my last directorial debut here is the next episode in this doomed series of youtube videos. Expect more of the same subpar editing with less monkeys and hatred of monkeys and consequently less humor.
I remember when Steve Irwin would disrupt his regular schedule of poking reptiles and go to Africa to find elephants and monkeys. Those were the worst episodes. What a ripoff. Yeah, yeah, I guess a true nature lover appreciates all life on this planet equally and whatever, but screw that. Mammals are boring.
Unfortunately, I'm about to do the same to you guys. Please forgive me. For better or worse, mammals (mainly monkeys) were a significant part of the experience at Tiputini because they were everywhere and excluding them would be an incomplete representation of my month there.
This was made with Windows Movie Maker so don't expect Oscar quality cinema. It was also recorded with a subpar digital camera. That being said, I had some amazing photo opportunities and a goal of this project is to show what you can see, without National Geographic photo expertise, in the most biodiverse place on earth.
I've loved lizards my entire life, but have been cursed with living in a place virtually devoid of them. It wasn't until Ecuador (I went there!) that I got the chance to see, catch, study, observe, cuddle, and watch the darn things in the wild for the first time and it was great. Now that I'm back home to rot in my room in upstate NY where there are no lizards, things are not great.
Fortunately my life regained purpose when I found out there are introduced Italian wall lizards (Podarcis sicula sicula) around NYC. Apparently they were released from a pet shop in Long Island in 1967 when they went out of business so people like me could find lizards in an otherwise lizard-less state. Those guys deserve a medal.
My first stop was the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. Here is a video detailing the trip.
I didn't actually get kicked out, but my noosing attempts were met by an unhappy gardener who disapproved of my goals. I tried convincing him, but all my efforts and subsequent rejection left me only with contempt for this man. The worst part is that I started finding a lot of lizards right after I was chastised. Being the moral, upright, law-abiding citizen I am, I didn't grab any. Jeeze. The signs only say "Do not touch plants" not "Do not catch lizards." What a waste of $18. Don't go there. It's lame.
So close, yet so far.
But wait, there's more! Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion to this subpar story.
Animaniacs is so funny. In addition to only an hour of Animaniacs I watched an hour of the Sopranos today. It's kind of like the Animaniacs, except one episode lasts an entire hour, not two (like Animaniacs). They're both great shows.
Back to business. Here is proof that I am working on this poor excuse of a nature documentary.
A lot of files.
As you can see there are a lot of files to sort through and I have been hard at work on episode 1: "Why monkeys are stupid."
Stay tuned. Likely to come out in the late summer of 2014 at this rate.
Enough about boring, temperate northeastern suburban living! Here's a story about how I caught a viper in the supercool, awesome Amazon.
So I was happily strolling along during a sunny afternoon with this dingus named Evan to check out some gaps. Gaps are areas where trees have fallen allowing sunlight to reach the ground which means that lizards that like to bask are found in these areas. Trees fall a lot in the rainforest because their roots are not very deep at all because the soil sucks in the rainforest. Epiphytes might also have a role in tree falls as well. Regardless of the actual reason, the resulting light conditions have great significance for the plants that grow there.
"I love gaps." -Lizard
But who cares about plants? Back to lizards. So I saw the lizard pictured above (Kentropyx pelviceps) in a sunny spot, but before I could noose the darn thing, it ran under a large fallen tree. From the shadow cast by the large tree, I could make out the silhouette of something reptilian so I eagerly noosed it and to my surprise (stupidity) I pull out a fer-de-lance.
The fer-de-lance, Bothrops atrox, is a pit viper complete with a hematotoxin that can kill me. The noose only got tighter behind the viper's giant head full of venom as it struggled to get away at a distance of 10 feet away from me. How do I know it was 10 feet away from me? Because my lizard catching stick is a collapsible fishing pole that can be extended to 10 feet. While this helped me with standing at a safe position, I still couldn't cut or loosen the noose without getting within striking distance of the damn snake.
The common name for these snakes in Spanish is "equis" or "X" which is another interpretation of the patterning on the snake. In America we refer to it as a "diamondback," with regard to rattlesnakes which are closely related to the fer-de-lance I just caught. The snake reminded me of this by violently shaking his rattle-less tail while squirming approximately 10 feet away from me. Pictures and videos would be helpful in illustrating these facts and story, but I was too busy pissing my pants.
Thankfully, before that actually happened, we were close to camp and my friend ran to get the professor who did not simply cut the noose, but loosened it off the snakes head so I could still use it for the rest of the day.
And we're back in the US. I've been really excited to start editing the videos I took over the past semester into something cool and now I finally have ample time to start. For now you can see random clips I've uploaded here.
The editing room/my room.
So I woke up today and ate sushi for breakfast. Then I decided to turn on the TV and Animaniacs was on. What a great show. After four or five episodes I was hungry, so I ate some Popcorners. They are like popcorn in the shape of chips. They were flavored like kettle corn. Mmmm. Popcorn is the best bar snack. Not kettle corn, just regular salt/butter popcorn. I don't normally like snacks, but I love kettlecorn and popcorn. I should eat lunch now and Animaniacs is on until six, so... stay tuned.
This is a picture of me the day before leaving the US and the day before leaving Ecuador. As you can see, I no longer have ears and should probably shave.
But subpar facial hair isn't the only way in which I've changed this semester! I've gathered the experiences of a lifetime spent with some good friends to boot. And while this is the end of my journey here, there are at least three more things worth posting about. Stay tuned. I wish I could write more, but there is too much to say and I'm currently at a loss for words.
So I leave with sadness, but not with regret, and with the dream of returning one day to romp around in the rainforest looking for frogs and such.
Hi. So instead of posting about the vipers I ran into, I made a little video for a project I'll get to this summer.
WATCH IN 1080
I don't have good editing software (Windows Movie Maker), a good camera (Nikon CoOlPiX), or steady hands. That being said, I still got a lot of (subpar) footage of a lot of amazing birds and plants. While pictures are nice, videos are even nicer. So expect some semblance of a cheesy nature documentary with the possibility of me saying stupid things over shaky footage of animals doing nothing in the near future.
The piece on Yasuni, some of which is filmed at Tiputini, that features my professor among others that I've been plugging for quite some time. Alright, back to the show.
I was just in Mindo, planning to stay the whole weekend and study
this beautiful lizard, but left early. I fell in love with cloud
forests early on this semester, but despite hearing an Andean bear rush off into the underbrush right in front of me, I
didn't receive the same joy as when I first walked through these
excessively lush and borderline magical places.
Not so magical anymore.
To be fair, this picture was taken at a different location (Santa Lucia) and is about thirteen times more lush than where I just was. Perhaps if I went there instead I might feel differently now, but the point of this story is that I miss rainforest. Prior to leaving for Tiputini, our professor told us that some Amazonian tribes believe that there is a spirit in the forest that tries to lure you deeper into the jungle never to return. He then joked that this is probably what kept him in South America for the past 20 years.
Who knows if I'll follow in the footsteps of my professor, but I sure as hell want to go back to the rainforest. While I was in Mindo, all I could think about was getting back to this magical place. Maybe I'll make it in the 12 days I have left. Probably not if I spend all this time writing about it instead.
I'm sure this must be extremely boring to read since this isn't the usual sarcastic and misleading writing you're used to here, but that's just, like, your opinion, man. Here's a picture to lessen the dullness.
We have to go back.
Thus begins my blogging about my month in the Amazon, although I should probably write about the Galapagos to be chronologically faithful. During the first week at Tiputini I actually fooled myself into thinking that the Galapagos was cooler! How stupid is that?
I love pie. I remember the first time I ate blueberry pie. It was delicious. I should learn to make pie when I return.
You may not know this, but Ecuador is a country famous for pie.
Another thing Ecuador is famous for is Otavalo, the artisanal market that I wrote extensively about the last time I went. Since I've already been there and blogged about it, I'll keep it brief.
You can buy a bunch of handicrafts made in a factory or by hand if that's what you're into. Bartering is half the fun. I bought my cool hat here last time. You can also find some weirder things like this.
What does it mean? Is it Luigi's time to shine? Cookie Monster is a long lost Mario brother?
Despite the beautiful weather and creepy Mario hats, I was feeling pretty down until I stumbled across this local artist's work with my friend Bryngus.
Unlike a lot of the vendors there, this guy was actually the creator of his wares. Really beautiful. Makes me want to start drawing or painting again. I think if there's anything I've learned this past semester I should drop everything to sell pictures of lizards in flea markets.
It was after seeing the bird paintings that we found the pie shop and ate delicious pie. What a successful trip. Birds and pie. What else is there in life? (Lizards). I'll end by saying that even the parking lots in this country are scenic.
I'm gonna have to break my promise about how there would be no more monkeys on this blog. There are a few in that video; viewer discretion advised. Despite these boring and stinky mammals, it's still worth watching.
Well I've been back for a few days now, but have been too busy/lazy/tired to upload any pictures or do anything except post a picture of me next to a Galapagos giant tortoise on Facebook. I meant to post that when I got back from the Galapagos, but my internet was being crappy so that image of a dream fulfilled couldn't meet the internet until recently. Hopefully people are intelligent enough to realize that there are no Galapagos giant tortoises in the Amazon.
Is it a Galapagos tortoise? Who knows.
Anyway, there is too much to write about the time I spent at Tiputini so you'll just have to watch the piece on the surrounding area, Yasuni, on Rock Center with Brian Wililams on NBC, which apparently got pushed back to May 3rd. Obviously, the most biodiverse place on the planet is not that important so it shouldn't come as a shock to you that I haven't wrote much yet. One thing I will mention is that you can see monkeys everyday.
Oh the horror. Who wants to see monkeys everday? Not me! But I did... It's hard to miss them since they're so smelly. And stupid. And not reptiles. Or even amphibians. And boring. National Geographic had a "beautiful" spread on the ten species of monkeys in their 125th anniversary issue earlier this year which was taken at Tiputini. Ten different species of monkey occurring at high abundance in a small area. Great.
Stay tuned for next time with 100% less content about monkeys.
Sorry about the lack of pictures. The internet at my residence in Quito has been lacking since I've been back from the Galapagos. Here's a lovely picture of a damselfy that I took at USFQ because blogs without pictures are boring and not worth reading.
I will be leaving early this upcoming Monday morning and then little to no internet for an entire month (28 days[OH THE HORROR!]). I'll be staying at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station right on the Tiputini River, a tributary of the Amazon, just outside of Yasuni National Park and within the larger Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.
The rainforest is way too big of a topic for me to explain. Something along the lines of the "ultimate biological setting on Earth" and "the pinnacle of life as we know it" is not unwarranted. Read "Tropical Nature" by Adrian Forsyth & Ken Miyata for a pretty good intro. I'll hope to do my best by taking lots of pictures and videos to upload when I return.
I see a grand total increase of 25 views since I last checked last week, surpassing the coveted 1000 mark. Good job people! Or person! Who knows how many people actually read this shit?
Anyways, my internet is currently sub-par at best so I can't upload a great picture of me smiling next to a giant tortoise or any pictures for that matter. Instead, here is a checklist of all the cool stuff I saw:
For whatever reason, I'm excited for the Galàpagos now. The reptiles there are not my favorite, but I've never really lived on a boat so I think that's why my outlook changed.
Leaving early tomorrow morning and will not have internet access for a week. I'm planning on taking a lot of videos to document this once in a lifetime experience. Look forward to some crisp 1080 youtube gold with some hopefully witty and entertaining narration by your favorite blog artist.
Dìa 2 Santa Fè (New Mexico) - Plazas (Strip malls galore)
Dìa 3 Pto. Ayora - Estaciòn Charles Darwin (Charles Darwin's grave)- highlands
Dìa 4 Pto. Villamil - Humedales (the humid island) - Centro Arnaldo Tupiza
Dìa 5 Punta Moreno - Bahìa Elizabeth
Dìa 6 Caleta Tagus - Punta Espinoza
Dìa 7 Puerto Egas - Ràbida (Why we needed rabies vaccinations)
Dìa 8 Seymour Norte - Baltra (Fly home)
You are only allowed on the marked trails with a guide at all times. Once darkness hits you have to run back to your boat or else the extremely territorial nocturnal land iguanas will get you. We're going to snorkel almost everyday because the boats lack showers and this is the closest we can get to bathing.
We are very close to approaching our 1000th view! This blog couldn't have been possible without all of your support. I know this is exciting news, judging by the whopping 2 views from today, so I'm heartfelt my no holds barred approach to blogging has reached such a wide audience.
Here is a symbolic picture of my appreciation of a robber fly eating another fly.
Yeah, so while I have a few things from this past weekend to blog about (SNAKES!) I figured I'd wrap up the last thing from the coast.
Saturday is the big day at Puerto Lopez fish market. The catches are much larger both in number of species and size of fish. I guess all the fish are drunk enough Friday night to bite onto the long lines of the fisherman or something.
Unfortunately, this isn't very pretty. It's pretty sad to see a shark butchered because of the demand for shark fin soup in Asia. Not too sustainable. I wish I knew more, but I don't so here's a really gruesome video for you to watch for awareness or something. It should also be noted that the future of marlin (and swordfish and sailfish) is not too good either.
Oh yeah, so some of you may know of my anti-sea turtle stance. In a nutshell, sea turtles are just too charismatic. Everyone likes them. An interest in sea turtles basically renders your personality boring and without any real passion. Also, since they are all endangered you can't catch them and watch them play in an aquarium in your room. Oh wait, they grow way too big to even keep in a fish tank! Plus marine aquaculture is annoying in general. There are only 7 species of sea turtles out of around 300 species of turtle. What an underwhelming, insignificant minority. Plus they live in the ocean and I hate the ocean. Bah humbug.
Anyway, on the first night at the coast a few people found a sea turtle nesting on the beach at night. When my friends and I got word of this we ran and watched it clumsily crawl up the sand in order to dig its nest for the next generation of sea turtles. I fell asleep on the sand under the stars because the whole process took 3 hours in total, but it was a magical experience and made me almost have an interest in these animals.
Alright, fine. It was actually amazing to see a sea turtle in person and watch it nest.
Crawling back to the ocean.
Unfortunately, the beach where this turtle laid is likely to be submerged during high tide. Darn global climate change. This beach was probably fine when she hatched out of it. In conclusion, what a magical beginning to an otherwise underwhelming week at the coast.
I was never fond of the beach, but I thought "hey. maybe seeing and swimming in the Pacific will be make me stop hating beaches and start loving beaches and it will be a fun time." After all, you get these every night:
and then this during the day.
So after ten days at the coast I still don't like the beach. There is too much sand at these places. Maybe if there was a beach with less sand, humidity and ocean I would potentially enjoy five or ten minutes there. Maybe.
So anyway, we took a short plane ride from Quito to Manta, the city that smells of fish. From Manta to a bus station that did not smell of fish. From the bus station to Los Piqueros Hosteria, home (or sandy hell) for the next week and half.
One of the first things we did at the hostel was to visit tide pools. There were sea urchins and stuff. Nothing really interesting. I guess it was ok; there are a lot of creepy crawly things and the occasional fish. I don't like the ocean or its inhabitants that live at its periphery.
The next event on our "things to do when you are close to the ocean list" was a trip to an artisanal fish market at Puerto Lopez, the closest large town. Unfortunately we didn't find anything good so we went home empty handed. A few other kids went back everyday, but I don't think they ever brought back anything to good to eat.
Assorted goods sold beachside.
We visited more tide pools at Puerto Cayo, an hour and half away via bus, which was superior to the other tide pools due to the large population of lizards that was present. Unfortunately we did not spend much time here.
If you're not tired of tide pools by this point, I sure am. We visited another tidal area in a town called Montañita. This is a surfer/tourist/gringo destination, so you may have heard of it (probably not). While I am sick of tide pools at this point, I suppose they make for a pretty picture.
Back at the hostel, there was a "museum" of sorts with archaeological
artifacts and whatnot. Skulls and stuff. The owner of the hostel
apparently funded some digs and is quite the archaeology aficionado. At the entrance there is a painted picture of him holding a skull in Indiana Jones garb. I wish I took a picture of it.
This museum was located in a mangrove area with its own
healthy population of lizards.
Our last trip together was a walk through tropical dry forest at Machalilla National Park, which was teeming with lizards.
So while we're on the topic of lizards here are all the lizards I saw on this trip
Phyllodactylus reiisi -------------(Gecko)
Microlophus occipitalis-------------(Lava Lizard)
Stenocercus iridiscens---------------(Some kind of lizard)
Unfortunately, all the lizards in the world wouldn't make up for being at the beach. Also, to be completely biased, subjective, and unreasonable, these were not the coolest of lizards. I just didn't like the way they look. Except G. caudiscutatus. That was a pretty lizard, but I didn't find too many of them.
What did make up for the subpar lizards and beach was the family that ran the place. They were really welcoming and had two kids aged 4 (boy) and 9 (girl). I think I piqued their interest by always carrying a net and my lizard noosing stick. They said they would tell me whenever they saw a lizard. One day the girl gave me a poem clipped out of a newspaper about lizards.
Their father played guitar and sang really well. What nice people. I wish I got a picture with the kids. I like kids more than the beach. And dogs. But that's for another time.
Well, that's enough of the a recap for now. I don't think I'll ever like the beach. Maybe I'll like the Caribbean, where there are lots of anoles. Who knows? Until next time.
I found this little beauty sleeping on a leaf at six in the morning as we were waiting for a Cock of the Rock lek which required a two hour hike in the rain. The lek wasn't that spectacular, but I was content because of this lizard. What is a lek, you ask? Why did you hike two hours in the rain to see something that sounds rather phallic? Forget about those questions, and just look how cute this lizard looks, perched upon a cyclanthaceae leaf with rain drops on his or her head.
The answer to all these questions and more, next time.
This is at Lake Cuicocha (Guinea pig lake in Kichua, the language of the indigenous people of Ecuador), but I like to think of it as Lake Hylia.
There were lizards. We saw many, but failed to capture all but one.
Things that I've done so far that I should write full posts for, but won't because I'm too lazy:
Friday: Visited different mountain habitats @ different elevations. Was basically in a cloud. Rested in hot springs after.
Saturday: The lake, the lizard, an Indian market where I bought a hat and a bird of prey park.
Sunday: Went up to Cotopaxi AKA giant snow capped mountain.
One of the things I was looking forward to while living in a tropical country was the fact that lizards could be scurrying all over the walls everywhere I went. Unfortunately, Quito's more temperate climate is too cold to support this kind of lizard activity.
I know, I know, everyone must be thinking: "But Jon! You like turtles! Not LIZUrDS!!11! Why do you want to see lizerds?! Trtuels are so much cooler."
Podocnemis unifilus. I've always read about these guys but never got to see them in person.
Yeah, turtles are really cool, but for whatever reasons turtles aren't as diverse in the tropics. Ecuador has only 31 species of turtles. This is including sea turtles which are pretty much global and the Galapagos turtles which are the opposite. These don't count in my biased opinion. Freshwater turtles are where it's at. That's a story for another blog entry. Anyway, there are only 10 species at Tiputini. A measly 10. Believe it or not, the United States is the most turtle rich country in the world!
But anyways, I am excited to see lizards because there were no lizards to catch in New York, but there are tons of lizards (and frogs) in Ecuador and I plan on catching them all. More on that later.
Here are pictures from a small zoo in a large park in the middle of Quito. It's called the Vivarium. Unfortunately, they only had 2 lizards, one of which I could not find. I don't think it was in there. There were mostly snakes (which I am completely ignorant about), some frogs (which I have no good pictures of), and turtles!
Bothriopsis bilineata smaragdinus Some kind of viper.
Some kind of boa constrictor.
Verdi! AKA Emerald Tree Boa AKA Corallus caninus
Paleosuchus trigonatus. Smooth fronted caiman AKA small crocodile.
Field guide. I need another for reptiles. Or do I already have one? Cliffhanger, ha ha ha.
Some weirdo who thought it was worth 3 bucks to get his picture taken with a snake.
Finally visited the University San Francisco de Quito for orientation today. My host family asked the woman who lives below us to drive me since she works in the area, Cumbaya, a valley outside of Quito. I spent the whole time taking pictures of the mountains while we were driving.
And the University is really cool. I'm really tired so I'm just going to post pictures and explain the University in-depth at a later time. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so this post should technically be a lot of words. Adios.
Isn't this some Lost shit?
Giant pineapple surrounded by trees.
Zipline you can take across the Asian inspired eutrophic pond complete with koi.
So now that I've actually taken some pictures of Quito I can start blogging for real because what's a good blog entry without pictures?
This was taken on the roof of where I live. Woohoo mountains.
More mountains. So on the topic of mountains, here's a story about the events surrounding my first interactions with my host family. I arrived in Quito at around seven and at the same time their cat of five years which they had raised since it was a darling little kitty was in the hospital because it fell out of a window in their apartment. They live on the fifth floor.
They apologized for the sad atmosphere, especially since it was my first day, but all I can do is wonder. Am I a bad omen? Do I kill cats? Am I their new cat?
I don't know, but so far my host family is muy bueno and the food has been good. Here are some groovy doovy trees outside my window.