2010 Daily Journal
June 27, 2010
2010 Meet the Team
After we reported in yesterday, we observed mariposas de la noche (moths) and learned how to dance salsa.
This morning we had the option to sleep in until 8 am. But about half of us chose to “opt in” to an early morning bird walk with Miguel. We heard Plate-billed Mountain Toucans. We never saw them, but Miguel was able to mimic their call and they called back to us. We also saw the peak of Cotacachi, which we hear is rare, because the peak is usually covered in clouds.
After breakfast, the entire group went on a guided hike with David. The hike started out sunny, clear and warm. David has an incredible knowledge of local flora and pointed out several native plants that have medicinal uses. “Inca Earrings” can be chewed to relieve a sore throat (they are tart!). The leaves of a local species of Oxalis, a plant that contains oxalic acid, can be chewed to cure a headache. A tea made from a purple flowering tree supposedly acts as a contraceptive. Its leaves are called “Cat’s Tongue” because they feel like sandpaper, much like a cat’s tongue. David also picked soft burrs off of a small shrub beside the trail and told us to crush them and guess the smell (they smelled lemony). When the crushed burrs are rubbed on the skin, they repel bugs for 20 minutes – it is known locally as the citronella plant. We saw slashes in the trunk of the “Dragon Blood Tree,” so named for its red sap, which is used as an antiseptic and coagulant. The potential to find medical cures from plants in the cloud forest is one reason to conserve this ecosystem.
At the top of the trail, we headed towards the BellaVista Research Station, where scientists can come to study. While there, we saw an Armored Millipede and were very fortunate to observe the rare Cinnamon Flycatcher, in situ. By this time, clouds were forming along the ridges. Water vapor rises from the dense forest canopy and condenses as it encounters colder air at higher altitudes, forming clouds (that give the cloud forest its name) and creating a cool, moist environment to which plants and animals have become adapted.
As we returned to the lodge, we stopped to look at the differences between the primary and secondary forests. The primary forest has a taller canopy and more diverse plant species, these forests are at least 100 years old. The secondary forest was about 18 years old, having regenerated from cleared land previously used for agriculture. Trees were not as tall and more like a monoculture (only one species).
Bird watchers were quick to point out various birds along the trail: White-collared Swifts, Turkey Vultures and hummingbirds.
After lunch, we boarded the bus for the two-hour drive back to Quito, stopping along the way for a brief visit at Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World,” on the equator).
— Linda, Erin and Meredith
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