Friday, November 9, 2012

Fascinating and bizarre creatures great and small

Hi Everyone!! Sorry for such a long delay between posts, but a lot has been going on around here. Where did I leave off? Oh yeah-- we were really thrilled to have collared all the hapalemur by the end of the month, and anxious to finally get started with data collection. Wellllll, that was the beginning of the week. You know how it goes, fieldwork is never easy and is always filled with surprises.

We hoped to get a head-start on it all by starting on Saturday instead of Monday, but Tim was feeling sick. Sunday and Monday, I was sick. Tuesday, one of the hapalemur was sick! Something's going around.... So we decided to check in on everyone to make sure that the other lemurs were healthy. But during our search on Wednesday, we couldn't find everyone- a female from Group 1 was missing, as was a male from Group 2.

A female from Group 1 had disappeared, and was found (thankfully she had a radio collar!) 1 km away from her home range-- very far for such a small animal! We thought it worrisome that she was in a new area all by herself, but it is not unusual for individuals her age to disperse in search of a new group, so perhaps this was a natural process. We checked on her again on Thursday, and she was making her way back towards her original group's territory (the area where she was found looked like pretty terrible habitat to me!). She still hasn't linked up with her Group, or any other group, though.

A male from Group 2 had split off to a different area, and we found him with a new ladyfriend we had not seen before, so it seems that males must disperse too. Ok so what's the deal with everyone running off, just as we are trying to start some data collection?!

The new ladyfriend

Between all this searching for the missing individuals, we somehow managed to lose all the rest of Group 1! My goodness! Thankfully they were spotted late yesterday afternoon, and we decided to put at least one more radio collar in that group since the female has not yet returned, but we were not able to capture anyone. And the field assistants that normally help us are going out on a special project in a different forest for all of next week, so we won't have another chance for a while. Lemurs: please don't disappear this week. Please.

You must be thinking by now, how is it possible to lose so many lemurs all at once? Let me give you an idea of what it's like to follow them in the forest. They are small: 800-1200 grams. They are quiet, and incredibly well camouflaged whether in the trees or on the ground. These are no chimpanzees-- big and boisterous. And dangit they are quick!! It is very difficult for me to find/see them, and even more difficult to keep up once they start jumping through the trees. All one has to do is take 3 or 4 leaps and I might consider them lost forever. Tim, however, is much better and intuitive at following them, and somehow doesn't seem to have any trouble tripping over branches, getting tangled in vines, getting poked in the eye with twigs, or getting attacked by bugs like I do. An angry flying/biting thing got me in 3 places and these bites are so swollen!

But for all the frustrations of this week, I have seen so many equally fascinating things in the forest to balance it all out. I feel like a kid again, every day a new discovery awaits, and it is such a delight to see something completely different from anything I've seen before. It's almost like Alice in Wonderland, where nothing is the size you expect it to be-- from tiny chameleons and bugs to gigantic birds' nests, snail shells, and fungi. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoy finding these creatures in the forest (and you don't have to risk tripping over branches, twisting into vines, or bugs eating you alive :P )

itteh bitteh bebeh chameleon!!

Snail shell? Hard to believe. I wear size 9.

Fungus diameter longer than my pencil
Brightly colored green bee-eater flying off to the right

Carnivorous pitcher plant
Weaver bird nest

Some very strange fruit

Can you see the hapalemur reaching for the fruit? I told you they are hard to find :)
Giraffe-necked weevil

Huge ibis nest

Blurry shot of the resident

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