Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

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Antonsrkn
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Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

Post by Antonsrkn »

Hi all,
Well a few days ago I got a intern position at the Smithsonian tropical research institute located on Barro colorado island in Panama. I will be spending mid June to mid August on the island. Needless to say I am extremely excited about this opportunity and can't wait to get out there and begin. I don't know the details of how my days will go as of yet but I'm sure that I will have some free time during which I can go herping. For those of you that don't know, Barro Colorado island is an island that was formed when the panama canal was constructed and is now a nature preserve. The Institute is located on the island and there is number of scientists on the island studying ecology and other things. As far as herping goes my main goal is to see a diverse amount of tropical herps of all kinds. My plans right now are to take nightwalks with a headlamp hoping to run across herps and to check around water both during the day and at night. If I am not mistaken it is going to be the wet season so herps should be on the move, which is a welcome change as my trips to the tropics typically coincide with the dry season and reduced herp activity.

My main questions are: has anyone been to Barro Colorado Island as a visitor or researcher? If yes I would love to hear about your experiences there herping and otherwise.

And is there anything else I can do to maximize my herping results while there? and some advice on finding secretive species that aren't often encountered is welcome.

Lastly I would love to see some photos from Panama, there were lots of threads about Panama precrash but now there are just a few.

Thanks guys!

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Rags
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Re: Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

Post by Rags »

Hi Anton,

Looks like you have an exciting summer ahead of you, what a great opportunity.

Although I have never set foot on Barro Colorado I have seen it from a boat. I visited the Lake Gatun area when in Panama in 2006. It was visited as part of a one day package that saw us spending time in canoes and motorised launches touring the lake and backwaters. All the usual suspects were there, Mantled Howler Monkeys, White-throated Capuchin, 3-toed Sloth, Snail Kites, Keel-billed Toucans and Frigate Birds. The area was very lush and I'm sure will be stuffed with lots of great herps waiting to be photographed. Our base on the lake for the day was the 'Lake Gatun Explorer' a double decker house boat. I don't know if it still operates.

I also visited the north-west of Panama a couple of years back, crossing from Costa Rica via the Sixaola border. Spent some time in the 'Frog Heaven' of Bocas del Toro before turning inland. Then took 15 days to explore the area around Boquete. It's a much cooler climate and a beautiful area. If you visit try the Spanish School on the outskirts of the town for cheap/clean rooms. The coffee plantations around Finca Lerida were stunning and home to great wildlife.

Incidentally I recall National Geographic magazine ran an article on Barro Colorado and the work done on the island in tracking Ocelot. It was really interesting if you can get your hands on a copy.


Look forwards to reading your report when you return.

A couple of photos to whet your appetite...

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Oophaga pumilio - Bastimentos, Panama.



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Oophaga pumilio - Isla Colon, Panama.




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Oophaga pumilio - Saltaire, Panama.


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Tree heavy with bromeliads, Boquete, Panama.


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Jungle falls, Boquete, Panama.

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Forest near Boquete, Panama.

Cheers, Rags.

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Jon Wedow
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Re: Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

Post by Jon Wedow »

Yes you should be there for the first few months of the rainy season. The area around the canal is always warm and dries up quick with a day or two of sun so lots of rain shouldn't hurt. You should also be in some very prestine habitat so that can't hurt either.

I don't know too much about BCI itself but the canal zone has many unique herp species that are rarely encountered. I have always found small frogs, toads and lizards to be extremely common in the leaf litter but snakes not so much. I have seen some very cool species of snake dead on the roads but because of traffic it is almost impossible to find anything alive on the roads in the canal area. There aren't very many roads through the rainforest and when there are they are very well travelled. The lack of roads and population on BCI probably has a very possitive effect on larger snakes so you may get lucky and find a very large Drymarchon or Lampropeltis ... maybe even a Lachesis! I haven't night hiked as much as I would have liked in the canal zone but it is probably very productive given the warm temps.

During the time period you will be there I'm sure you will come across A LOT of herps... good luck! You're going to have a blast!

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Jon

gretzkyrh4
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Re: Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

Post by gretzkyrh4 »

Congrats on the internship. I've only spent a day on BCI as a visitor, but it should be a great experience. Lots of great habitat with very little foot traffic to disturb it. I only saw a few common species on the island during my day hike (caiman, basillisk, green & black dartfrogs, cane toads, etc), but I bet you will do exceptionally well on night hikes. I also seem to remember my wife forwarding me an email while she interned with STRI (Naos Marine Lab on the causeway) a few years ago about american crocs nesting on BCI.

As for specific herping details about the island it might be worth trying to contact Roberto Ibanez with STRI. He would likely know as much or more about the herps of the island than anyone else. Also try and track down a copy of "The Amphibians of Barro Colorado Nature Monument, Soberania National Park and Adjacent Areas." Hard to find in the US, but I believe copies are available at STRIs book store in Panama City.

Good luck.

Chris

danh
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Re: Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

Post by danh »

Hi! I spent time on BCI, and it was a great experience! Tonnes of frogs, including a couple Phyllomedusa, a couple Agalychnis, smokey-jungle frogs, dendrobates auratus, tungara frogs, and the list goes on. There are some artificial ponds in the station that are absolutely phenomenal for frogs after a good rain. Unfortunately BCI doesn't have the cool highland species, so you'll have to do trips to the mainland for those!

In terms of reptiles BCI is noticeably less diverse than the adjacent mainland (Soberania National Park is amazing). There are still plenty of brown basilisks, american crocs, spectacled caimans, anoles and a few other odds and ends. Cool snakes are present, including at least two (maybe three, I don't remember) species of viper, Drymarchon, and several coral snakes, however they are few and far between. Night hikes with a good, strong light will be by far your best bet for finding them, I think.

There are also many interesting mammals and birds, including three species of monkey, good numbers of tamanduas, guans and motmots. While I was there a jaguar was recorded on the island, which was only the second time that had happened!

I really enjoyed the research station on BCI. It was referred to as a "club med" research station, with beautiful facilities and good food. The community amongst the students there is great as well. You will definitely enjoy your time there. Out of curiosity, will you be working for a STRI scientist?

Dan

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Panama & Barro Colorado (?)s

Post by Antonsrkn »

Thanks all for replying I didn't think it was possible but I'm now even more excited about this!

I'm thrilled to hear about all the different species, it will definitely be a good time seeing how many I can track down.
Incidentally I recall National Geographic magazine ran an article on Barro Colorado and the work done on the island in tracking Ocelot. It was really interesting if you can get your hands on a copy.
I will sift through the piles of National Geographics at my parents house for it. They have had a subscription since I was still in elementary school so it will be there somewhere. I also remember an article in Nat Geo about bats and barro colorado, that was the first I had ever heard of the island and the article obviously made an impression cause I still remember it years later. And awesome photos of the frogs, really amazing little critters.
the lack of roads and population on BCI probably has a very possitive effect on larger snakes so you may get lucky and find a very large Drymarchon or Lampropeltis ... maybe even a Lachesis!
I hope so, an encounter with any of the above or any other large tropical snake would be an unforgettable experience.
I also seem to remember my wife forwarding me an email while she interned with STRI (Naos Marine Lab on the causeway) a few years ago about american crocs nesting on BCI.
Awesome I love corocodilians of any sort and hope to be able to observe some during my time there. And I will definitely look into that book you mentioned.
While I was there a jaguar was recorded on the island, which was only the second time that had happened!
Wow thats pretty exciting, knowing you are sharing an Island with such a majestic animal. I wouldn't know whether I should walk the trails in hopes of an encounter or try to play it safe.
Out of curiosity, will you be working for a STRI scientist?
I think he is a research associate at the STRI, I will be working with tropical plants while I am there.

Once again, thanks all for the great info. I really appreciate the help!

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