Other obvious hymenopterans at our field site include the eusocial wasps of the family Vespidae. Sure, in the temperate regions we have our hornet nests and paper-wasp nests, but these types of wasps really become conspicuous in the tropics. There are just so many more elaborate mud and paper domiciles hanging about trees, bushes, and buildings built by a number of interesting genera that are sadly missing from higher latitudes. In fact on one cool day, when few insects were flying about, I took the opportunity to collect these nests and their occupants.
A very nice colony of oropendola birds was nesting outside our lab. We became accustomed to their comings and goings and admired their long, basket-like nests and gargling calls. They always seemed to come and go together and did so with much fanfare. One afternoon however, while the birds were away, three capuchin monkeys raided their nests, and we were lucky to see it. The capuchins systematically went to each one, inserted their heads and torsos into the long nests, pulled out the oropendola eggs, and ate them right there in front of us. It was quite shocking.
We awoke to rain....heavy rain..…that kind of Amazon rain where you can’t keep your eyelids open and that promises to last all day. And we are in the middle of the dry season! Well, this is time to recover from hectic preparations in Kansas, the long journey here, and to orient to our new home. This field station’s set meal schedule (6 am, 12 noon, 6.30 pm) allows all the current station residents to meet. It is a great opportunity to learn about other exciting research going on here.
Yesterday I got up early and hiked up into the hills outside of town with one of the professors. We found a beautiful pond at the top and were at last greeted with a view of the elusive Mallard. Still, it’s the first one of the trip. Yay! Then a pair of Phalaropes then came around the corner to smooth things over--that was a nice treat.
This morning getting up early to look for birds, this time down by the rapids at the bridge, proved sadly fruitless. Except there were rapids, which was in itself neat.
The Gyrinidae are a family of charismatic aquatic Coleoptera commonly known as whirligig beetles, for their gyrating swimming style. Gyrinids are peculiar for having completely divided eyes giving them the appearance of having four eyes: two that peer above the water and two that peer below the water. They swim about on the surface tension of the water kicking with two pairs of paddle-like legs.
We were in Hinoba-an, a municipality in the southwestern half of Negros Island. The mission was to try to collect the first genetic samples in the world of a burrowing species of lizard first described from the western half of Negros. To survey the habitat in the municipality during our visit, we hired a local tricycle driver to take us around during the day. Tricycles or pedicabs are dirt bikes that have had small carriages attached to their bodies.