Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

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Ribbit
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Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Ribbit »

Previously, in this series of posts...

I spent two days in Panama with Matt, Joe, Kevin, Ryan, and Hayley. We were then joined by a few more people for a day in Iquitos, Peru. Then everyone hopped onto a boat down the Amazon to our first multi-day Peruvian rainforest location, Madre Selva Biological Station.

Our final destination was Santa Cruz Forest Reserve, another field station operated by Project Amazonas.
Santa Cruz is quite close to Iquitos on a map, but getting from one to the other requires boat rides on two rivers (Amazon and Mazan) with a cross-land mototaxi ride in between.

You reach the Santa Cruz buildings by hiking a mile or so up a muddy rainforest path from the Mazan River. Several tambos surround a grassy clearing. The center one houses the common area, where meals are served and gatherings are gathered.

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Santa Cruz Forest Reserve, main clearing


Behind the tambos lies a pond that was created by damming a forest stream. The pond serves as water source for the field station, and also home for all sorts of wild animals.

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Santa Cruz Forest Reserve pond


Though it's closer to the civilization of Iquitos, Santa Cruz has significantly more primary (never cut) forest than Madre Selva. Creatures that require primary forest habitat are thus considerably more likely to be found here, including every ophidiophile's favorite, the Bushmaster. I saw a Bushmaster here on my first visit, though not on my second visit. Every year or two some group visiting Santa Cruz finds a Bushmaster, so our hopes were high. However, Matt had been here eleven times (Matt can check my math here) before seeing his first Bushmaster, so our hopes were not excessively high.

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A Santa Cruz forest trail. Primary forest is probably not actually featured in this photo.


But before we discuss our viper friends any further, let's get all the bugs and frogs and lizards and such out of the way. This part will take awhile, as bugs and frogs and lizards and such are far more frequently encountered in Amazonia than snakes are.

I took a little time to deliberately photograph grasshoppers, because they are plentiful and beautiful and diverse. I also took a little time to try to identify them, but only a little. If you know more about grasshoppers than I do (which is likely), please help clarify my identifications.

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Tetrataenia sp?


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Family Acrididae, I think, presumably a nymph (but some species look nymph-like their whole lives)


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Ommatolampis perspicillata, an adult (the wings on this species never grow beyond lacy stubs)


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Two Ommatolampis perspicillata


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Family Eumastacidae, possibly Eumastax vittatus


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Family Pyrgomorphidae


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Family Pyrgomorphidae


This next grasshopper was my favorite oddball, but I only got one lousy photo before it jumped and vanished. I saw it jump, and I saw it land only a few inches away, but I could not find it again; it had achieved invisibility by virtue of its fantastic camouflage.

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Omura congrua


I only photographed one particularly outstanding katydid from Santa Cruz this year.

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Typophyllum sp.


The forest was filled with beautiful and impressive butterflies and moths, but I only got photos of a few due to my strong lack of patience and only moderate interest.

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Amarynthis meneria


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Skipper (family Hesperiidae)


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Freshly metamorphosed Sphinx Moth (family Sphingidae)


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Some kind of cool dead-leaf mimic moth


I didn't see a large number of caterpillars, but I did see a few remarkable ones.

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If there's one thing I know about caterpillars, it is to not touch the hairy ones. Once you've heard the word "urticating" you never forget it.


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I did not touch this one either.


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This one I probably could have safely touched, but felt no compulsion to do so.


I'm a sucker for phasmids, and once again Santa Cruz did not disappoint. I will try not to bore you too much by only including a few.

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Green one!


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Flying one!


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Brown two!


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Brown one plus green one!


I have seen many a Pleasing Fungus Beetle (family Erotylidae) in Peru and elsewhere, but as far as I know this is my first Handsome Fungus Beetle. I can just imagine a smoky wooden back room in a museum somewhere, probably in Victorian England, with bespectacled and bewhiskered old gentlemen arguing about whose fungus beetles are the most attractive.

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Handsome Fungus Beetle (family Endomychidae), perhaps Corynomalus sp.


This ghostly white weevil seemed to be sporting quite the defiant attitude. I remained unpanicked.

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Some kind of weevil, family Curculionidae


One afternoon while several of us were lounging around at Santa Cruz, Hayley swatted a pesky insect off of her neck and then asked nobody in particular "Are there mantises that look like tiny ants?". Nobody in particular knew (or did not know? I have tangled myself up in grammar) the answer, but we all agreed that the very tiny and dead bug on her hand looked like an ant, and looked like a mantis. We rued its untimely passing for a few minutes, and then Cliff found another one (at which point I must admit we stopped caring about the first one). My lens was fogged at the time, so my photos were bad, but you can get the idea.

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An Antis


Even the "true bugs" are extra colorful and/or weird in Amazonia.

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Euagona juno, I think


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Waxy-tailed Planthopper a.k.a. Red-dotted Planthopper (Lystra lanata)


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A brand new adult cicada


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I think this is some weirder-than-usual form of cicada


I don't normally take pictures of cockroaches, but I make exceptions for the ones that are several inches long.

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Huge cockroach with some of its millipede minions


By far the best invertebrate of the trip was this velvet worm, a member of a group of animals so unusual that they have a whole phylum (Onycophora) entirely to themselves. I have seen occasional photos of these in books since I was a kid and never thought that one day I would find one myself. This little guy was maybe an inch and a half long. It did not squirt any sticky, quick-hardening slime from its head, but it could have. Oh, it could have.

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Velvet worm (family Peripatidae, probably)


The last of the non-herps that I will subject you to are a couple of ex-insects that have been eaten alive from the inside out by horror-movie-worthy fungi. I had been calling these "Cordyceps fungi" but have since learned that some other related fungi genera could be to blame here.

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Cordyceps fungus (or close relative) sprouting from ex-moth


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Cordyceps fungus (or close relative) sprouting from probable ex-moth


Finally, some herps! Here are a few more variations of the ubiquitous forest toads.

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South American Common Toad (Rhinella "margaritifera")


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South American Common Toad (Rhinella "margaritifera")


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South American Common Toad (Rhinella "margaritifera")


I initially mistook this miniscule toad on the forest floor at night for a metamorph Rhinella "margaritifera", but something about the way it hopped made me take a closer look. The long legs and consistent rough texture identified it as a different Bufonid.

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Orange-bellied Leaf Toad (Amazophrynella minuta)


Most of the frog species I've seen at Madre Selva are also present at Santa Cruz, and vice versa. But due to a combination of different terrain, different microhabitats, localized populations, and the luck of the draw I always end up seeing significantly different sets of frogs at the two locations.

I saw five small treefrog species at Santa Cruz this year, none of which I had seen at Madre Selva. The most generically "tree froggy" of these was the Two-striped Treefrog, which is very common in the area but which for whatever reason I didn't see at Madre Selva.

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Two-striped Treefrog (Scinax ruber)


The Polkadot Treefrog is another species that is pretty common at Santa Cruz but rare at Madre Selva, at least in my experience. This is no doubt partly due to the big pond at Santa Cruz, a gathering spot for this species among others, but that can't be the whole story because I've also seen them in the Santa Cruz forest far from the pond. Here's a typical adult:

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Polkadot Treefrog (Hypsiboas punctatus)


Here's a youngster apparently being menaced by a terrifying stick monster:

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Polkadot Treefrog (Hypsiboas punctatus) and phasmid friend


I think this metamorph treefrog is another Polkadot Treefrog, but I'm not completely sure. Holler if you have a different idea:

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Polkadot Treefrog (Hypsiboas punctatus)?


The most numerous frog around the Santa Cruz pond is the Variable Clown Treefrog, another species I didn't see at Madre Selva. Calling males are a common sight.

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Variable Clown Treefrog (Dendropsophus triangulum)


Pairs in amplexus are not especially rare either.

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Variable Clown Treefrogs (Dendropsophus triangulum)


And sometimes they're just hanging around individually.

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Variable Clown Treefrog (Dendropsophus triangulum)


At Madre Selva I had seen an Amazon Milk Frog in a tree hole. At Santa Cruz I didn't see any of those, but I did see a few Common Milk Frogs a.k.a. Veined Milk Frogs.

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Common Milk Frog (Trachycephalus typhonius)


Rough-skinned Green Treefrogs are the last of the small treefrogs that I saw only at Santa Cruz this year. This one that Michael and I found on a long walk through the forest had only one eye, but was full-sized and healthy in appearance.

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Rough-skinned Green Treefrog (Hypsiboas cinerascens)


Here's a larger treefrog that I did see at both locations. Note the horrible nasty mosquito taking advantage of this poor innocent frog. (And don't try to tell me that mosquitos are a normal and necessary part of the natural ecosystem. I refuse to believe it.) Something I love about the tropics is how many extra, unnoticed-at-the-time critters (usually but not always invertebrates) show up on photos.

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Convict Treefrog (Hypsiboas calcaratus)


Speaking of mosquitos, how is this frog sitting still and not swiping at its hindlegs?

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Rocket Treefrog (Hypsiboas lanciformis)


I can't be certain due to the angle, but I believe this is a Yasuni Broad-headed Treefrog.

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Yasuni Broad-headed Treefrog (Osteocephalus yasuni)


Based on the radial pattern in the iris, the relatively small size, and the pattern, I believe this one is a Mocking Bromeliad Treefrog (Osteocephalus deridens). I love the etymology of this name. I quote from the original species description: "The specific name is the present participle of the Latin deridere (make fun of someone) in allusion to the males' calls from the treetops that sound as if they are laughing at the collectors' vain attempts to reach them."

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Mocking Bromeliad Treefrog (Osteocephalus deridens)


There are a couple of mossy green Osteocephalus species in the area. Based on the amount of wartiness and fringiness, I think the ones I saw were all Buckley's Slender-legged Treefrogs.

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Buckley's Slender-legged Treefrogs (Osteocephalus buckleyi)


As usual, Giant Monkey Frogs called their distinctive "Bob ... Bob ... Bob" from the trees around the Santa Cruz pond. I saw a few of them there, but they were all high enough up that I didn't take any photos. However, I did photograph a young Giant Monkey Frog on a leaf in the forest, far from the pond.

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Young Giant Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor)


Great big Smoky Jungle Frogs patrolled the area. As always, most flash photographs of these beasts had world-class red-eye.

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Smoky Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus pentadactylus)


Somehow I managed to get one photo of a Smoky Jungle Frog with normal-looking eyes. I have no idea how I accomplished this.

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Smoky Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus pentadactylus)


Here's a small Leptodactylus that was hopping about a forest path at night. A number of species in this genus are similar and challenging to differentiate, but I think this is a Dwarf Jungle Frog based in part on the full dorsolateral folds.

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Dwarf Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus wagneri), probably


I saw fewer species of Pristimantis and fewer individuals in Santa Cruz than I had at Madre Selva. In both places the ones that I saw most frequently were those light-colored little W-marked ones that I was happy to have finally identified (at least hopefully; see the Madre Selva post for the lurid details of this saga).

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Luscombe's Rain Frog (Pristimantis luscombei)


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Luscombe's Rain Frog (Pristimantis luscombei)


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Luscombe's Rain Frog (Pristimantis luscombei) ? (The raised W-mark on the back is present but incompletely bordered with dark color; I saw one in Madre Selva like this also.)


I think this one is an Amazonian Rain Frog, based in part on the bumpiness of the skin, heel color, and eyelid tubercles. But even with an entire book dedicated to this group of frogs in Peru, it's still hard to be certain.

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Amazonian Rain Frog (Pristimantis altamazonicus)


This little guy was at a forest edge rather than deep forest, which means that it is most likely a Cocha Chirping Frog rather than a Forest Chirping Frog.

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Cocha Chirping Frog (Adenomera andreae), most likely


The Common Big-headed Rain Frog was both big-headed and common; it was the most commonly seen species on the forest floor at night.

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Common Big-headed Rain Frog (Oreobates quixensis)


I've never seen as many poison frogs at Santa Cruz as at Madre Selva for some reason. The only ones I saw this year were the two lookalike species that were also relatively common at Madre Selva.

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Spotted-thighed Poison Frog (Allobates femoralis)


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Pale-striped Poison Frog (Ameerega hahneli)


The Santa Cruz pond is home to a few Spectacled Caimans. Usually they make their presence known only at night, when their glowing red eyeshine can be spotted from quite a distance. But on our last morning at Santa Cruz, one big lunk lounged on a log as we prepared our exit from its kingdom. If you look veeeeeeery closely at the photo of the pond at the start of this post, you will notice that I took it that last morning as well.

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Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)


All of the lizards I saw at Santa Cruz were species I had also seen at Madre Selva. I would have to admit that lizards are not the main attraction of Peruvian Amazonia. Frogs and snakes are far more diverse.

After recently visiting Australia, it is hard to believe that this area of Amazonia is the stomping grounds for only a single species of skink.

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South American Spotted Skink (Copeoglossum nigropunctatum)


A young Forest Whiptail taking advantage of a small sunny patch in the forest.

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Forest Whiptail (Kentropyx pelviceps)


Matt saw several species of microteiids at Santa Cruz, but I managed only one.

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Elegant Eyed Lizard (Cercosaura argulus)


We watched this little lizard for several minutes as it cautiously prowled the nooks and crannies of a bundle of tree roots and the nearby leaf litter. It had a cool tiny black forked tongue with white tips, just visible in this photo.

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Elegant Eyed Lizard (Cercosaura argulus)


We got brief glimpses of many Gonatodes by day, but they were easier to photograph as they slept on leaves and twigs at night.

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Bridled Forest Gecko (Gonatodes humeralis)


I know Turnip-tailed Geckos do live in the forest because I saw one there once. But all of the many others I've seen have been on buildings.

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Southern Turnip-tailed Gecko (Thecadactylus solimoensis)


The anole distribution at Santa Cruz and Madre Selva seems to be about the same, though I generally see a few more at Madre Selva. This year I saw three species at Santa Cruz.

Here's a young Common Forest Anole still hauling a few drops of water around after a rainstorm.

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Common Forest Anole (Anolis trachyderma)


And an older one sleeping on a leaf at night.

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Common Forest Anole (Anolis trachyderma)


A peaceful Slender Anole (the most nondescript of all Peruvian Amazon anoles), dreaming of not being eaten by arboreal snakes:

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Slender Anole (Anolis fuscoauratus)


And another, just after becoming aware of our presence:

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Slender Anole (Anolis fuscoauratus)


This teeny tiny baby anole was shedding its skin and also very wet from a recent rain. I think it's a Slender Anole but it might be an Amazon Bark Anole.

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Slender Anole (Anolis fuscoauratus), I think


My favorite anoles in the area are the Blue-lipped Forest Anoles, with their cute little pug snouts, and their fantastic leaf-litter camouflage, and their general ease of capture and willingness to sit still for photos. Both of these were found waddling across the forest floor and gently placed on nearby tree roots for photos.

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Blue-lipped Forest Anoles (Anolis bombiceps)


We were all hoping that the main event at Santa Cruz would be the snakes. Our snaking at Madre Selva had been up and down; many nights with one common snake or no snakes at all, but also a night of seven snakes and another night of five. (In Amazonia, on foot, five snakes in a night is a serious haul, and seven is fantastic.) We were hoping that Santa Cruz would provide us with more snakes, and if we were really fortunate perhaps one of the epic tropical snakes.

Bushmasters are seen reasonably often at Santa Cruz, perhaps once every three herp-oriented trips on average. But of course you still have to be lucky. Matt had been to this area eleven times before first seeing one three years ago (unlucky). That same trip was my first visit to the area (lucky). Everyone always wants to see a Bushmaster, but the Bushmasters do not always oblige.

Also high on everyone's wish list, and in the very highest position on some, was the Emerald Tree Boa. Possibly there are places in Amazonia where this gorgeous snake is not difficult to find, but northeastern Peru is not one of such possibly extant places. Lorrie had been coming to this area for something like thirty years and nobody had ever seen one on any of her visits. She had even offered the local guides 100 Soles (about 30 US$) if they could find such a boa.

With thoughts of snakes like these on our minds, we got off of our boat in mid-afternoon and hiked up the mile-long muddy hill to the Santa Cruz field station. After some negotiations about who would be in which tambo with whom, we unpacked our bags a little and gathered together in the common area as dusk approached, anticipating a delicious dinner and our first night hike in this area.

While we were sitting around on our lazy butts discussing our hopes for the upcoming few days, Edvin threw open the door and excitedly let fly Spanish words that we immediately understood: "¡Boa esmeralda!" Everybody leapt up and followed him about 100 feet from the building to the start of the trail, and then another couple hundred feet up the trail. It was by now dark, and Edvin was shining his flashlight up towards the canopy. But he was not aiming at any one spot; he was pointing his light back and forth, and then moving to a different spot on the trail and doing this again. He had seen an Emerald Tree Boa somewhere very near here, and then ran down to the station to tell us, and now he could not find it again! This sounded very, very bad. But we knew Edvin, and we knew not to doubt his snake-finding skills. Within a few minutes he had relocated it, maybe twenty feet up, and soon a dozen flashlights were illuminating it. Soon after that a dozen camera flashes were illuminating it.

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Amazon Basin Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus batesii)


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Amazon Basin Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus batesii), somewhat longer lens


After a hundred or so similarly low quality photos were taken of this distant snake, Edvin realized that the branch it was coiled around grew from a small tree with a trunk only a couple of inches in diameter. He and Cesar (I think it was; perhaps it was Emerson) tried to bend the tree enough to put the snake within reach, but this was slow going and the boa began to wise up and stretch out, looking for another perhaps less bendable support. Ah, no worry. Cesar whipped out his handy machete and with two whacks the trunk was cut through and two seconds later the boa was in someone's hands. The former tree had been right at the edge of the path, so I guess you could consider this a form of trail maintenance.

At the time, we all thought we were photographing the Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus). Only after we returned home did we discover that the species had been split in 2009, and Corallus caninus now refers to a species restricted to the Guiana Shield.

The next afternoon featured hundreds of additional photos of this gorgeous creature perched in various locations closer to the ground. It was released soon thereafter back near where it had been found. Not on the exact same tree, of course.

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Amazon Basin Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus batesii)


The dinner conversation that first night was all about the boa we had just seen within a couple of hours of arriving at Santa Cruz. We ate more quickly than usual and split up into groups to see what other wonders the night might hold. Cliff, Matt, and I headed one direction while other groups chose different paths. We had been out for perhaps twenty minutes and seen a few frogs when Cliff aimed his flashlight into a clump of foliage that I had just walked past and said, softly and slowly, something very much like "Hoooooe leeeeee ship". Where he was looking in, a Bushmaster was looking out.

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South American Bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta)


Fortunately, Matt (who had been twenty or thirty feet back, photographing the young Giant Monkey Frog pictured above) was carrying his lucky Bushmaster pillowcase, the same one used to transport the first Bushmaster he and I had seen three years earlier. He was also carrying a pair of tongs, and Cliff had a snake hook, and I found a sturdy stick. Matt wrangled the Bushmaster into the pillowcase while Cliff and I held it open from a distance, and soon we had one very heavy bag o' snake ready to bring back to camp for everyone to ogle and photograph. But heck, we had just started our hike, and didn't want to head back to camp yet. Cliff had a satchel (think "European carry-all") just big enough to hold the snake-laden pillowcase, so in it went, and we continued down the hill with Cliff's load quite a bit heavier but his step quite a bit lighter.

We knew we would soon meet up with Michael and Tom, who had taken the same loop trail but in the opposite direction, so we came up with a plan for how to share our good news. We would start by asking them if they had seen any snakes yet, and ask for details if they had, cooing appropriately for even one of the common species like Imantodes cenchoa. Then we'd wait until they asked us if we had seen any, and we'd say something like "Just one, but we're not quite sure what kind". And then we'd show them a photo.

It almost worked. We ran into them, and asked about their snake luck, and they reported that they hadn't seen any. Then they asked us about our snake luck, and Cliff said we had seen one, but he couldn't maintain enough of a poker face. Tom saw right through Cliff's ship-eating grin and spat out "oh man, you got a Bushmaster, didn't you!"

The next day it was trotted out for photos, and was also measured and had a scale clipped for a DNA sample at the request of Kenny Wray, a biologist who had been doing field research at Santa Cruz for about six months. Here's what the Bushmaster looked like in the light of day:

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South American Bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta)


After finding the Bushmaster, Cliff was naturally ecstatic, as it was the snake he had most been hoping to see in Peru. Number two on his wish list was the beautiful arboreal Red Vine snake. The way our snake luck had been going so far in Santa Cruz, none of us were especially surprised when Cliff soon spotted one of these snakes at his feet, crawling across a wooden bridge. I didn't get any in situ photos of this one, but here are a couple of photos from the next afternoon:

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Red Vine Snake (Siphlophis compressus)


We didn't see any other snakes that evening, and if I recall correctly none of the other groups did either.

The next morning I tagged along with Edvin, Raul the caretaker (not to be confused with Raul the cook), and Emerson. Emerson and I were chatting about this and that and had fallen behind Edvin and Raul by maybe 100 feet when Edvin yelled something in Spanish back at Emerson. Emerson yelled back to Edvin and told me "let's go!" and we both ran up the trail. When we caught up, we came upon Edvin holding the tail of a massive snake, trying to prevent it from escaping while also trying to prevent it from curling back and biting him. Emerson had been carrying a stick with a slightly forked tip that he had fashioned earlier on the hike and he jumped in to help. Raul was standing a few feet away with a bemused look on his face. I asked Emerson if I could help but he said they had it under control. So I pulled out my iPhone and recorded the events for posterity.

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Edvin at work, Emerson coming to help with a stick and a pillowcase


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Edvin with the snake extracted to the trail while Raul keeps a safe distance away


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Edvin and Emerson showing off their juggling and dance moves


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Edvin in control, though Raul maybe isn't quite sure


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Emerson admiring the oh-so-very-big snake


After posterity seemed sufficiently satisfied, the snake was lowered carefully into the pillowcase, which was tied up and placed in Emerson's backpack. High fives were exchanged all around before we hiked back to the camp to photograph and measure our new acquaintance, eight feet and five inches of glorious Cribo, a.k.a. Yellow-tailed Indigo Snake. It was actually pretty cooperative for photos and handling by those who wanted to hold it. I think Matt was only bitten once, which is pretty good. This was certainly the biggest colubrid I have ever seen in the wild, and only a couple of Australian pythons away from being the biggest snake.

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Cribo a.k.a. Yellow-tailed Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais)


So in our first 18 hours at Santa Cruz we had found an Emerald Tree Boa, a Bushmaster, and a gigantic Cribo, not even counting the beautiful Red Vine snake. We collectively agreed that if we saw no more snakes in our remaining days here, we would be more than satisfied.

For a while it seemed like that might turn out to be the case. On our second night, a heavy rain discouraged us from hiking until quite a bit later than usual. I didn't see any snakes that night, and I don't think anyone else did either. The next day was Super Bowl Sunday. Nobody saw any snakes during the day, and about half the herpers decided to hang around the clearing where a weak cell data signal could be used to intermittently track the progress of the game. I went out with Michael and we saw some frogs and invertebrates, but no snakes. On the fourth day in the morning there were again no snake sightings.

The evening of the fourth day picked up a little snake-wise. Matt and Tom found another Red Vine Snake, and Cliff found an Amazon Scarlet Snake (Pseudoboa coronata), like the one we had seen on the Nauta road in Iquitos but larger. Neither of these snakes were interested in having their photos taken. Later Cliff and I were poking around a stream looking unsuccessfully for rumored glass frogs when he came across a sleeping Ornate Snail-eating Snake:

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Ornate Snail-eating Snake (Dipsas catesbyi)


The next day was our final one in Amazonia. Matt, Joe, Cliff and I took a long hike in the morning. We saw dart frogs and some fine lizards and some lekking birds and even a troop of monkeys, but no snakes. Then in mid-afternoon the rain started, and quickly grew heavier, until soon we were all sitting around in the main building listening to a powerful tropical rainstorm pummel the roof. This soaking dampened our collective mood, as we had hoped for one last good snake night but experience had taught us not to expect much after strong rain.

When the rain had changed from a downpour into a drizzle I got restless and decided to look around the pond and then hike into the forest on a small trail that I hadn't previously noticed. Soon the rain had essentially stopped, and I quickly came across a very wet Green-striped Vine Snake coiled at about my eye level.

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Green-striped Vine Snake (Philodryas argentea, formerly Xenoxybelis argenteus)


This was a nice start to the night, and I knew others would want to photograph it the following morning before we headed back to so-called civilization, so I gently encouraged it to unwrap itself and come along with me. I had a couple of big ziploc bags with me but no cloth bags, and I didn't want the poor snake to endure a potentially longish hike in a plastic bag, so I brought it back to the field station right away. Joe, Ben, Hayley, and Ryan were hanging around there, so I put the snake in their care and headed back the way I had come.

I had just crossed the little dam across the pond when a movement in the leaf litter caught my eye. It took me half a second to recognize it as a snake, and another half a second to recognize that the shape was neither viper nor coral snake. It looked like a generic colubrid such as a garter snake, until I covered it with my hand, whereupon it immediately flattened its body and basically went stiff. I gave it some time to unflatten, but it had its mind made up.

I still didn't have a cloth bag, but this time I was even closer to the field station buildings, so I brought it back and once again handed it over to Joe, Ben, and Hayley, who were a little surprised to see me bring them a snake for the second time in about ten minutes. (Ryan was busy flirting with the young daughter of the caretaker so he didn't count.) We quickly determined that it was the species that Dick Bartlett's field guide called "Flat-headed Snake", though I wasn't too impressed with this name since the head was really the only part of the snake that was not extremely flat. The Internet mostly uses the English name "Wucherer's Ground Snake".

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Flat-headed Snake a.k.a. Wucherer's Ground Snake (Xenopholis scalaris)


Out I went for a third time, off in the same direction. It seemed to be a good direction. I headed up the previously-unnoticed trail mentioned earlier, and soon noticed a Blunt-headed Tree Snake that was not yet out on its nighttime hunt. Since this was the most commonly seen snake in the area, I let it be and continued. Three snakes in about thirty minutes. I guess the earlier downpour wasn't such a bad omen for snakes after all.

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Common Blunt-headed Tree Snake (Imantodes cenchoa)


I continued up the unknown trail until I saw a building and some dim lights and heard some dim voices in the distance. I guess the trail was leading out of the preserve and into a nearby village house, but I'm not sure. I didn't want to trespass so I turned around and headed back the way I had come. As I was getting close to the back of the pond I saw lights and heard voices in front of me. Was I on some crazy time-space Möbius strip? It turns out that this was not the case; I was coming up on Ben, Hayley, and Ryan on the trail. And what were they doing on the trail, you might ask? Glad you asked. They were keeping an eye on a snake, hoping someone would happen along that could help Ben capture it. The kids were not allowed to help because the snake was, you probably guessed it, another Bushmaster.

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South American Bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta)


Ben had already gathered a couple of pairs of tongs, and a big tub in which we had held the previous Bushmaster, and rope with which to tie it shut. The two of us used the tongs to grasp the snake by the neck and body and lift it into the tub, and then we got the lid on, and then tied the tub shut. We brought it back to the field station to join the Green-striped Vine Snake and the Flat-headed Snake for the next morning's final photo shoot.

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South American Bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta)


In the thirty-plus years of MT Amazon Expeditions (formerly Margarita Tours) bringing groups to this area, this was the first time two Bushmasters had been found on the same trip. An outstanding finale to another wonderful visit to Peruvian Amazonia.

John

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck »

How I wish I was there when that emerald came out... What a trip! The last episode was well worth the wait.

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the_cw1
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by the_cw1 »

Love your posts man. Bushmaster shots are awesome.

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cbernz
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by cbernz »

Beautiful photos, excellent narrative - just as great as your posts from 3 or 4 years ago that inspired me to get myself on this trip!

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dwakefield
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by dwakefield »

Oh man.....you got an Emerald Tree Boa and TWO Bushmasters in one trip??? That is incredible! Great photos too!

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Ribbit
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Ribbit »

Thanks everyone. Needless to say, we were all pretty excited about the snakes from Santa Cruz. Overall we didn't see that many individual snakes, but we more than made up for it in quality.

Cliff, I'm so glad my posts were an inspiration. It was great herping with you!

John

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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Kfen »

Thanks for taking us along on this trip! Your writing is very entertaining and of course the pictures are great. Its amazing that something like an Emerald tree boa was just found for the first time, and so close to camp. Do their eyes shine like the Amazon tree boas?

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Ribbit
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Ribbit »

Thanks Kfen. The emerald tree boa stood out clearly because it had a different reflection than the leaves, but I don't remember noticing any eyeshine

John

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davidburkart
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by davidburkart »

John,

You and I may have seen the exact same frog... I was at Santa Cruz this past January and also found a healthy, adult one-eyed H. cinerascens (pictured below). This guy was found on the entrance trail next to one of the bridges. Where did you see yours?

ImageDemerara Falls Tree Frog (Hypsiboas cinerascens) by David Burkart, on Flickr

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Muchobirdnerd
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Muchobirdnerd »

Always enjoy your post.

Anolis bombiceps is a sp. I hope to find one day.

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Ribbit
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Ribbit »

Thanks Muchobirdnerd. Anolis bombiceps is a great anole. Not as beautiful as Anolis transversalis, but I'm a sucker for great camouflage.

davidburkart: That's wild! It wasn't too far from there; we had been coming up the trail that starts behind the "river house" and heads up the hill parallel to the main entrance trail. (We learned that this is called the "Don Dean Trail" by some people.) We hadn't gone very far up, still on the basically flat part at the bottom, when we took a left to follow a small unofficial trail. If this unofficial trail had continued far enough it would have run right into the main entrance trail, but it petered out at a large tree fall which apparently the local people had used as a wood source. The frog was very close to that petering-out spot. Hard to estimate how far from the main entrance trail that would be, but probably no more than 200 feet or so. So it seems quite possible that it could have been the same frog. (If not, what's with all the one-eyed H. cinerascens?)

John

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Muchobirdnerd
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Muchobirdnerd »

I too favor cryptic behavior over bright colors.

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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by NACairns »

Outstanding, thank you.
Nick

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lanceolatus
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by lanceolatus »

Thanks a lot for this report !!! That was really a pleasure to read you and to witness such beauties !

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Ribbit
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Re: Peruvian Amazonia 2016, part 3 of 3: Santa Cruz

Post by Ribbit »

Thanks very much, NACairns and lanceolatus!

John

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