Thursday, September 25, 2014

Onwards to the coast

The cloud forest is a dark and gloomy place. With no lizards. Just clouds and forests and failure. Stupid cloudy places with no sun. Or lizards. Maybe I'm just bad at finding lizards. I quit. After another weekend spent in the cloud forest in vain, I've decided to become an entomologist that studies weevils.
Tightrope Walking Weevil
This is a weevil.

With the way this world works, you can always find insects. Weevils are a kind of beetle, and beetles basically rule the world, numerically anyway. There are around 9 million species of animal on this planet and probably about 6 million species of beetle. What a great world we live in...
Yoga Cotton Candy Weevil
I guess this is pretty fantastic. 

Well, that about exhausts my knowledge of weevils. Luckily I'm off to the coast tomorrow, which was pretty much "lizard heaven" (although I did find a weevil there too)... but apparently the weather this time of year is cloudier (like the cloud forest!) which could mean no lizards... Hopefully I'll be able to find some reptiles and won't actually have to resort to studying insects. I gave a rather honest and complete overview of what that place is about the last time so feel free to refresh your memory by reading that. 
This bromeliad is being hanged for treason
No more cloud forests for me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

La Hesperia

I just spent the past weekend in La Hesperia which is a cloud forest I conveniently never blogged about the last time I was there. "Cloud forest" is an odd term and unless you're a biologist or someone who's vacationed in Costa Rica it brings a strange visual to mind.

Artist's rendition.

A more technical name for these places would be "tropical premontane moist forests." I don't know why that name never caught on. While they aren't floating above rainforests on clouds, they are higher than rainforests in elevation along mountains. The name is not completely misleading though; cloud forests are shrouded by... (you guessed it) clouds for at least part of the day. Due to the readily available moisture this is where forests start to look really lush and tropical with plants growing on plants. 
Frogs also like wet places, but surprisingly there weren't many out and about like last time. I guess they didn't like how I violently grabbed them out of their daily routine to take a million pictures of them. Or rather, the last time I was here was during a wetter part of the year when more frogs were reproducing tiny froglets to place on your finger. But there are always insects, so you'll have to entertain yourself with these leaf cutter ants who decided to add some color in their life by bringing flower petals back to the nest. 
But the real reason people come to cloud forests is for the birds. Like actual birds. I did see toucanets, tanagers, and barbets which is English for "colorful tropical flying things," but they're hard to photograph so here is an underwhelming, but humorous bird called an ani.
I could eat it, but I'm watching my figure.
Contemplating dinner. 

While birds are nice (if you're into that) the true jewel of the cloud forests are the lizards. Except, there aren't many lizards in the cloud forest. And they're hard to find. Actually, the cloud forest is a truly horrible place to go lizard hunting, something I found out last year the hard way. But it makes finding them all the more enjoyable or something like that. 
Sweet gemmosus Brown
Gee, what a sappy ending.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Round 2

If you're a true fan you may remember why I started this blog in the first place: to write about the fun times I was having gallivanting all over Ecuador. It was a magical time where I got to go hunting for seals in the Galapagos and help extract oil in the Amazon all under the guise of "school" in a completely once-in-a-lifetime type of experience.

Well, in a bizarre turn of events I'm going back. To do exactly everything I did the last time. Again. I'm still in disbelief even though I'm sitting in the airport about to leave for paradise. Yes, this is very lucky for me, but even luckier for you! This means no more boring crap from the northeast and the return of the blog that originally won you over.

Next time: A blog posted with 100% genuine Ecuadorian internet!

Hopefully I'll see this rare species of mosquito again this weekend.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The End 2

Summer is over. I've taken 82 pictures in what is more or less my backyard since May. You can view these photographs in chronological order here OR you can view the slideshow below. It's so big that it barely fits on the blog space so it must be good. Might I suggest playing some groovy music behind it so you won't be bored to death. Thankfully this marks the end of the "unemployed stuck at home phase" of my life. For now. So while my writing may not improve I can promise the subject matter will be objectively more exciting. I leave you in suspense!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hawaii 4

Aloha sagrei
An Ole. 

And finally we have the infamous anoles. While these lizards may not seem as pretty as the day geckos, they make up for their otherwise bland coloration with retractable colorful flaps of flesh under their throat. Now doesn't that sound attractive? Maybe if you were a lady lizard.

Lizard doing the neck thing again.
*wolf whistle*

Actually, it seems that the lady anoles probably care about this wonderful appendage just as much as you, but the color and timing is important in species recognition and differs between species of anoles. Just check out how the green anole's dewlap is totally different from the brown anole's dewlap. They're practically different species.

Although there are over 400 anoles in the world only the one in the above video is a native resident of the United States. But now a handful of species are running amok in Florida, the most common invader being the brown anole. The brown anole is so fat and mean and beats up his green cousins. They then go hide in the treetops where the brown anoles cannot reach because they are so fat and mean. This has been scientifically proven in areas where the two species overlap. 

A great view of the hyoid apparatus in action, the bone behind the ear and jaw that's responsible for the movement of the dewlap.

If you have too much free time on your hands, you may notice that the brown anole only slightly bobs his head while the green anole would fit in at a thrash metal concert. Unfortunately, I didn't get the full display of the brown anole, but it would probably look slightly different from the green anole's performance. 

"Green" anole
The "green" anole can be quite brown. 

Well, there are many other facts about these anoles (about seven), but there isn't enough time in the day to blog about all of them. This concludes the wonderful pictorial walkthrough of the reptiles (and amphibian) I saw while in paradise. More pictures can be found here. We'll be back with more thrilling stories from the second most exciting place on earth: upstate New York. 

The Majestic Brown Anole