These last few weeks we have started mammal walks throughout the reserve. We first started these back during the wet season and it forms part of our research into the behaviour, diversity and abundance of mammals in the reserve.
Once a week a couple of volunteers and a staff member walk slowly along pre-selected sections of trails looking out for mammals. The walks take place early in the morning, between 6am and 8am and in the afternoon from 4pm onwards as these are times when the animals should be most active. Although we may not always be successful, when we do see something, we record details such as location and species and number of individuals to enable Raul Bello, our resident mammal biologist, to collate the data and compare it with other information we have from during the wet season and from our fixed sensor cameras which we also have around the reserve to help us find out more about those more secretive animals.
A Tapir footprint found along one of our trails
Also, every two weeks, we undertake a night walk with the same aim: discovering more about the movements of the nocturnal animals. With only torchlight to see by, senses become heightened as you listen for rustles within the leaves or up in the branches of a tree or sniff the air for the unmistakable stench of Collared Peccaries. Often it may only prove to be a falling leaf or twig, but occasionally we are lucky enough to come across something more. So far during the day and night, we have spotted tapirs, peccaries, night monkeys, capuchin and squirrel monkeys as well as smaller animals such as agouti and opossums.
Yesterday we saw the second round of our new weekly photography competition take place! In addition to the usual routine of conservation activities, we decided 2 weeks ago to introduce this more social event at Taricaya. There are so many moments everyday that are recorded by volunteers that it seemed a shame not to share these in some way. We also felt that it was a good way to get groups of volunteers working together during their free time and was another opportunity for newer and older volunteers to socialise and get involved.
So, the idea is that each week we choose a theme for the photos to focus on. We began with something fairly standard: Landscape. Volunteers were told to use their imaginations and creativity to put together a (PowerPoint) presentation to be shown at the end of the week, on Friday. The presentation should be organized in some way: perhaps tell a story or certain photos grouped together. Volunteers worked in groups of 3 to 6 and had opportunities throughout the week to take photos, either during their free time or also with a member of staff who could take them further afield to find more interesting places to take photos. With a trip to Lake Valencia planned that first week, as well as nights at the Turtle beach, landscape seemed a good choice for a starting theme.
Friday afternoon arrived and groups of volunteers could be seen huddled in corners organizing their presentations: not only was there a prize for the winning group, but the best individual photo as well! We had 3 groups enter the first week and the winning presentation, “A Day in Taricaya” showed some beautiful photos taken throughout the day from sunrise to sunset and all based around water.
Photos from the winning landscape presentation by Julia Waldherr, Isabelle Jaimeson, Grace King, Bessie Richards and Katarina Dittlau
Two photos were then nominated by the judges (members of staff) from each presentation for the Best Photo Award and all the volunteers voted for their favourite. Julia Waldherr won the first week with the misty boat scene above, taken in the morning after a night at Playa Alta (the turtle beach).
We then announced our less serious theme for the following week: The Unexpected.... Volunteers were able to interpret the theme in their own way. Some chose to focus on unexpected sightings along trails and around the reserve, others decided to create unusual photos that would surprise the judges. The week had seen a water fight take place in the river and again volunteers had an opportunity to walk with staff to look for or create their photos. Despite some great individual attempts, the winning group this week were the group that created a rather unexpected storyline to their presentation: Taricaya’s Unexpected Volunteer.
Some of the photos from the winning presentation by Caitlin Kafura, Chris Stuart, Mike Keane, Ryan Chalmers, Jonathan Bell and Julia Eggert
The winning photo this week, by Caitlin Kafura, was the sight of “Gigo” (staff member, Daniel Alvarado) playing chess with the unexpected visitor and, it seemed, losing.
I look forward to seeing the entries over the next few weeks too...look out for the winners on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=2222530927