Journal archives for March 2018

March 23, 2018

Napo Basin, Ecuador

Much of the Napo Basin, a sub-basin of the Amazon headwaters, is a pristine rainforest interlaced with swampy channels and boasting a plethora of birds, primates and flora. Access is difficult, since there are no roads in much of the watershed, so that ingress is typically by small boats and hiking jungle trails, often steeped in mud. The rewards are plentiful; in spite of high humidity, the prevailing blackwater swamps are inimical to mosquitoes. There are very few accommodations in the basin, my choice being the excellent Sacha Lodge, which has good guides, appropriate unpowered watercraft and adequate food. There are also opportunities to visit a few of the indigenous villages, accessible only by water; the village i chose was accessible only by water, and i was able to converse at length via my translator. The small tribe was one of the most self sufficient peoples i have ever known, producing all of their food, fiber and shelter from the land; the concept of government help was not only foreign , but repugnant to them....refreshing!

Primates i saw included the Colombian Red Howler Monkey and Black Mantled Tamarin. Attached are some of those photos as well as the Proboscis Bat seen near a large lagoon. Parrots were abundant including the Mealy Parrot and other Amazonian Parrots, which were especially abundant along the Napo River cliffs seen by small boat. The Spectacled Caiman was watched at length in the blackwater seamps. The soft silty sand banks of the Napo River gave rise to continoual creation of islands and bars along vast stretches of the river; most interesting were the thousands of micro-islands made of fragments of silt and organic material which looked like gray snow tufts on one portion of the river. These new islands were rapidly colonized by Cecropia trees.

Posted on March 23, 2018 03:14 PM by c_michael_hogan c_michael_hogan | 25 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These islands, recently formed within the last ten million years are truly a laboratory to explore numerous endemic species and speculate on their origin and interactions. With extremely high endemism, appropriate to the distance from mainland South America, the mammals and birds have a surprising lack of fear to us humans, due to historic lack of land predators here.

Some of the notable littoral zone animals are the Galapagos Sea Lion, who might inquisitively follow you as you hike, or whimsically bask in mangrove trees; the Marine Iguana; Galapagos Lava Lizard, Giant Land Iguana and Sally Lightfoot Crab. All of these are present on most of the islands and in profusion. Birdlife is also abundant both in the littoral zone, as well as the Arid Zone and Humid Zone (progressively higher elevation ecosystems), Of great interest are the low lying nesting sites on North Seymour Island, where Blue=footed Booby, Brown Booby and Magnicent Frigatebird giant twig nests are seen in the scrub.

Hiking is superb, with opportunities I had for rocky and sandy littoral hikes as well as full ascent of some of the volcanic peaks. Much of the lava flow is quite fresh (e.g. from last two centuries) and plant colonization is slow, so that amazing geometrically artistic flows yield great photographs. Some pioneer colonizers are the Galapagos Lava Cactus and Sandmat Plant. On these lava expanses there are often no marked trails (e.g. no soil). Some of the interesting places are “islands” of soil that became totally surrounded by lava flow; thus one sees a mature arid zone ecosystem millennia old that is engulfed on all sides by a lava flow of two centuries earlier. These patches of mature arid scrub are replete with small trees, shrubs, herbs, insects, birds and lizards, while no other living things may be seen for hundreds of meters in any direction. Patch size of these remnants are typically 1000 to 10000 square meters.

Snorkeling was rather turbid on the days I entered the water, likely due to the rough seas for this isolated island group around 1000 km from the mainland; I did obtain some underwater photography with my new Gopro, but it is for more entertainment value, rather than scientific observation. Around some of the outer islands there are areas of decent coral; some degradation of coral reefs has occurred chiefly from overfishing. There has been no documented degradation from water temperature alteration, which is thought to be negligible at these locations. The main overfishing is occurring from Chinese fishing fleets, which are conducting illegal take; the Ecuadorian Navy and Coast Guard do not have sufficient resources to interdict such illegal fishing in the volumes being conducted.

Access to the Galapagos for land visitors is closely controlled, such that landing your own small boat is virtually impossible. You will most likely have to book a small boat facility with onboard accommodation, and actual landings (usually wet) are typically by zodiak vessel.This governmemta; control is necessary to limit visiting human populations and protect the islands.

When one carefully studies the natural wonders of the Galapagos, one sees that there is no confl­ict between the concepts of Creation and evolution. Recent adaptation of species here is simply a mechanism of the Creation.

Posted on March 23, 2018 06:30 PM by c_michael_hogan c_michael_hogan | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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