Finaly six weeks in the jungle!!

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Final Blog post So once again here I am at my final blog post before heading back to England, I am very excited to be heading home. However at the same time am still sad about leaving.

Our final 6 weeks in the jungle have been very busy, the plan for this period was to collect as much low water data as possible. I have a month of high water data as well as several months of transition data however only have a few weeks in the low water. We joined an Earthwatch expedition which left Nalta on the 25th August, we were staying aboard the Nutria (a small boat with only two beds in the cabin) which was alongside the Ayapua. For the first two weeks we were at the Mouth of the Samiria River at PV1, the first guard station as you enter the reserve. This is very close to the villages; Boilvar and San Martin. This gave me a good opportunity to survey transects which have quite a high level of disturbance and use due to their close proximity to these villages. We set up and surveyed three different transects and surprisingly found some very interesting frogs including Rhinella margaritifera, Hamptophryne boliviana and one Leptodactylus lineatus. We also found a very large tadpole on the transect closest to the village of Bolivar, this tadpole was in a flooded section of the transect. It was likely to be a large treefrog so we collect it to observe its growth, see the photos below of this development. It developed very rapidly and soon metamorphed into a very small silver Hylidae (photos below) from the guide books I was able to identify this as a Hypsiboas geographicus. This enabled me to add another species which we did not observe on the transect.

We left the Earthwatch group on the 4th September and took the Nutria up to PV2, by this point we had a very small team, Me, Sophie our guide Roma as well as Juan who was driving the Nutria. This was a seven hour drive and so Sophie and I helped a little with the driving so the men could have some lunch. (Well technically I asked if I could have a go driving and so they all left us to it, only sticking their heads up from the deck below to make sure we were not about to crash!). Once we arrived at the site we repeated the transects we had previously undertaken, this only took a few days. Then on the 7th September Roberto arrived at PV2 to help us translate, the next day we travelled up river to PV3. I visited PV3 back in 2009 however have not been back since yet have always wanted to. We arrived at PV3 on the 8th and the water level was very low! In 2009 when I first visited the water level was at a record high and the water was right up at the bottom of the guard station. This time however the water was several meters below this point and the channel was only a small stream! This made for a very interesting frog survey due to the caiman soup…..

So in the first afternoon we cut and measured two transects one a little up river behind a small settlement, they had a sand pit and were taking part in the turtle project (collecting and head starting the baby turtles before releasing them into the river). The second transect was located down river just past the PV station this was much higher and had denser vegetation however we encountered a nest of sweat bees which lodged themselves in Sophies hair needless to say she was not impressed they sting and sound like you have bees inside your head! Not a nice experience, I had to help pick them out her hair and they instantly went into mine! After this experience we walked that particular section of transect very quickly so as to avoid them. The final transect we cut was behind the guard station. We picked the location to be similar to the transects located at PV2 so I could make a nice comparison between the sites.

We spent 9 days at PV3 completing day and night repeats of the different transects, many of the amphibians we found were very common species. These were in quite a high abundance however we found very few rare or interesting species, we found one Hypsiboas faciatus which I have only seen once previously so was an interesting observation. The lack of species was somewhat disappointing as in 2009 I found some very interesting species, however this may be due to the change in water level as they have a larger area in which to disperse due to the lack of flooding this year. Although we did find many leptodactylid species, which are a common leaf litter frog, many had small orange lumps around their back legs and lower back. This may be caused by a disease however without taking samples this would be very hard to prove. Although the frogs were a slight let down we did find many other interesting species we saw hoatsins which I have also not seen since 2009. The caimans were also very interesting!! On the first night we went out we saw many caimans along the river bank, at least one every 10m. Then we went into the channel….. This was amazing… We counted over 100 caimans and we only travelled around 2/3km!! They were literally everywhere, admittedly many were juveniles however we did see some 2 / 3m adults. It was a great thing to see, if a little scary!

On the 16th September we moved back down to PV2, this was a slightly quicker journey on the way back as we were going down river with the current. Our time at PV2 was quiet but enjoyable, we found many interesting species including one which I have not yet recorded in the reserve. The rain was very heavy on many days even causing us to cancel a few transects. It’s usually not the rain that is dangerous but the wind, this can cause tree falls which would not be fun if they were to happen close by!! This heavy rainfall did cause many temporary pools which caused some interesting species to appear and start breeding within them. We also visited the lake where the water level had dropped quite significantly and most of the ground was out the water and covered in grass. There were many different bird species in the lake such as egrets and horned screamers, one of the loudest birds I have ever seen and also rather strange looking. During this time Sophie and I were quite busy cooking, and surveying with some time in between to relax and type up data. We were very pleased after a few weeks when an Earthwatch group arrived, although only a small group of four people they were very lovely and welcoming even letting us join them for some cold beers which was very much appreciated! We spend the final days with them, assisting with surveys and taking them out to do floating meadow frog surveys.

We arrived back in Iquitos on the 5th and all went for a nice meal at the Pizza restaurant followed by some beers at a local bar. The plan before returning home is to visit the manatee sanctuary and the zoo, before flying to Lima where we will spend one night before flying back to the UK!

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