New website and promo video

We proudly announce the re-launch of our website.
I have spent a lot of my (free) time during the past three months creating a brand new website for Un poco del Chocó. It went online this morning.
It’s all new with a lot more photos, videos and an integrated blog.
Please check it out: www.unpocodelchoco.com

All our future blog posts will appear on the integrated blog on our new website. That’s why I also would like to invite all followers of this blog to subscribe to our newsletter on the new blog. Anyways it’s worth having a look at it as I have also added a few more news from the past months on the new blog.

In August a spanish-american couple from Little Miss Lola Productions visited us and produced a short promotional video for Un poco del Chocó. It also went online just recently.

Have a look and enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQ8cmHqxZ5E

Hope to stay in touch with all of you!

Best, Nicole

The Return of the Cuckoos

It is actually so exciting to write this blog post. We have been waiting for this day for over 14 months……the Banded Ground-Cuckoos have returned!!

Although we had quite a lot of army ants in the reserve in the past weeks and we even had an intern working with ant-following birds checking the bivouacs every morning there was no sight of the cuckoos. I was actually quite dissappointed and was wondering why these birds wouldn’t show up although we had three colonies at a time. Well, they were probably busy elsewhere….

Our intern stopped observing bivouacs about two weeks ago and therefore we also stopped tracking the army ants. Every once in a while one would find them on the trails, but nobody actually expected to see a cuckoo again. Not until yesterday: Christian, our dear friend and employee, came back from the Wood-Quail feeder in the afternoon. First he didn’t dare to tell me because he thought I wouldn’t believe it. But then he told me that he had spotted two ground-cuckoos crossing the trail towards the ant swarm. One was very shy and the other one stopped for a bit and looked at him.

We were so excited to hear it, but I knew that I had to confirm it myself to really believe it. At dusk I was working with the interns on the leafcutter ants in that part of the reserve where the army ant swarm had raided earlier. And while the forest was getting darker we could hear the calls of several ant-followers: Bicolored Antbirds, Immaculate Antbirds, Plain-brown Woodcreepers, Northern Barred Woodcreepers and all of a sudden we also heard a click, click, click……the Cuckoos had to be there!!

Last night then Christian and I tracked the (nomadic) ants from their old bivouac to their new nest spot in a tree while Wilo collected grasshoppers. I had to observe the bivouac next morning and I needed to confirm if there was still a tame cuckoo around.

This morning I got up at 5.30am and headed to the bivouac. At the beginning there were no birds around; although the ants had already started to come out of the tree. It took a while and then the first pair of Bicolored Antbirds arrived. It was joined a bit later by an Immaculate Antbird and then something bigger flew in: a Plumbeous Forest-Falcon. The birds got silent and they only started with their activity again when the falcon had left.

And then I heard something very familiar. Click, click, muuuhhh…the cuckoos were coming. I heard leaves moving on the ground and when I got the first glimpse of the rufous back and the green-violet tail my heart almost stood still. There were two cuckoos and one was coming straight towards me. I didn’t know what to do first: get the camera, get a grasshopper, get the walky talky and call Wilo…..??? So I decided for the grasshopper. The cuckoo came running and picked it out of my fingers immediately!!!! OMG that was so exciting! I couldn’t believe that this little guy still knew me after so much time. I was so amazed and relieved at the same time that this little creature was still doing well. The other cuckoo didn’t want to come closer. It was constantly calling for its partner, but the tame cuckoo stayed with me. So now it was time to take some photos…..they all turned out shaky. I was too excited. And I had only brought the big lense which was too close…I should have known better. So then I called Wilo.

The Banded Ground-Cuckoo is back

The Banded Ground-Cuckoo is back

Wilo arrived at the spot about ten minutes later and we spent another half an hour together feeding the tame individual while the shy one was still calling on the other side of the little creek the ants were crossing. And then it also came into the open and perched on a fallen bambu, observing the ants, us, its partner…who knows. But we got good looks of it. Unfortunately the photos all turned out blurry, but this individual seemed to be somewhat bigger which makes me believe that it is probably a female.

My grasshoppers were already gone when we suddenly realized that it might be difficult to repeat the feeding tomorrow morning and that the interns would have loved to see the cuckoo as well. So Wilo ran up the hill and back to the station to get them. They were just having breakfast when he stumbled into the station and told them to come with him. Quick, quick (zack, zack as Wilo likes to say)!! I doubted that the cuckoo would still hang out with me without grasshoppers and I feared that he might leave when we heard that the interns were coming, running down the trails. But it all turned out too well. They slowed down, sneaked through the bushes and found me right there with a cuckoo in front of me. I turned around to look at them and they all had big smiles on their faces. And then Vivian said: ” So he really does exist!”

The Banded Ground-Cuckoo returned

The Banded Ground-Cuckoo returned

Tonight we’ll see if we can track the army ants again. We are hoping that they stay where they are, because the direction they were taking today was not a good one. We’ll see and I’ll keep you posted as always!

The early kids got the birds..!

Buenas tardes dear followers of “Un poco del Chocó“!

We already have November, but here in the reserve the sun is warm, the trees are still green, the birds are singing with their loveliest voice and soon comes Christmas. Even if you can´t really notice that as a European intern in the rainforest, the year comes slowly to an end. And therefore we decided to invite 12 kids aged between 12 and 16 years from the village next to the reserve, Las Tolas.

Our concept was pretty easy and at the same time luckily successful. We wanted to bring nature closer to the kids and therefore we linked excitement, joy, play and learning together.

The kids arrived on the evening of the 14th November and were welcomed with cake and hot chocolate.

Welcome cake

Welcome cake

Afterwards all together we set up the nets for the mist netting we planned to do early in the next morning and gave the kids an introduction of the way how to use them. Additionally we used a bird skin of a toucanet to teach them how to handle a bird, how to ring and measure it, how to sex and age a bird and how to collect data and we explained them why this work is so important for the research of ecosystems.

Setting up the nets

Setting up the nets

Introduction to bird ringing

Introduction to bird ringing

While the sun set the kids had a bit of free time to settle down and prepare their rooms for the night. In the meantime Wilo cooked something nice for dinner.

Straight afterwards we started our night hike to discover the nocturnal animals of “Un poco del Chocó”. On our walk we saw among others millipedes, centipedes, a glass frog, leaf-cutter ants and of course a lot of spiders. And back at the station we had to find out, that not only nocturnal animals exist in the rainforest, but also nocturnal children. The giggles of the boys next door kept us awake until 2.30 am 😉

Spider

Spider

Night hike and a millipede

Night hike and a millipede

Glas frog

Glas frog

Cucaracha

Cucaracha

 Intern Oli with a millipede

Intern Oli with a millipede

After a short night we all got up together with the sunrise. We divided the children into three groups and caught birds in three different spots. In total we caught five birds, one Lineated Foliage-Gleaner, one Spotted Woodcreeper and three Orange-Billed Sparrows (one recapture from September). With these birds Nicole showed the whole process of bird ringing. While Nicole was measuring the birds, the children had to identify the species using the different bird guides. Subsequently, five kids had the chance to release the birds after they had been ringed.

Intern Henrike extracting a bird out of the net

Intern Henrike extracting a bird out of the net

Intern Henrike extracting a bird out of the net

Intern Henrike extracting a bird out of the net

Ringing a bird

Ringing a bird

Kids trying to identify the right species

Kids trying to identify the right species

Nicole explaining how to release a bird

Nicole explaining how to release a bird

Nicole explaining how to release a bird

Nicole explaining how to release a bird

Releasing a bird

Releasing a bird

Filled with a hearty breakfast the kids couldn’t wait to have a swim in the river Pachijal. Over there some of them tried to learn how to swim and some were successful in fishing. The kids didn`t want to leave the river even after 4 hours of swimming, but they were also getting hungry and therefore we had a nice lunch cooked by Wilo at 2 pm.

Having fun at and in the river

Having fun at and in the river

With satisfied stomachs and a bit exhausted from the morning the kids hopped on Nicole and Wilos pick up truck. Happy but also a bit melancholic they were ready to go back home.

Altogether it was a weekend with a lot of fun and input for everybody. And we would like to say thank you again to the kids of the 3a and 3b of the “Internationale Deutsche Schule Brüssel” (iDSB) who made this weekend possible thanks to their donation.

This post was written by: Vivian Welzel 3. Semester BSc. Landscape Management and Nature Conversation at the University for Sustainable Development in Eberswalde

Intern Vivian with Toga

Intern Vivian with Toga

Nature treasure hunt

Environmental education workshops with the local kids from Las Tolas are always fun, and so two weeks ago we invited a group of 16 kids from Las Tolas for a Nature Treasure Hunt at Un poco del Chocó.

Welcome and start of the games

Chloe and Nicole explaining the rules

Together with our conservation intern, Chloé from Belgium, we had planned a mixture of fun and nature activities at the reserve. In order to make it more interesting and challenging, we created the story of a stolen treasure the kids had to find. They would get a piece of a code on where to find the treasure for each activity realized.

Thursday afternoon Wilo picked up the kids in Las Tolas and they were all very excited to have a sleep-over at the field station. So once the kids reached the reserve, we started off with some fun games to canalize their energy. We divided the kids into two teams and from now on each team had the chance to win a part of the key to the treasure. The two teams, the “monsters” and the “lions”, as they had called themselves, had to compete against each other. It was so much fun to watch them playing and a good start for the workshop.

Fungames

Fun Games

Games2

Fun Games

After dinner we went out on a night hike. Accompanied by either Wilo or me, each team had to find a certain number of katydids, spiders, caterpillars, frogs and stick insects. And despite a light drizzle each team completed the given challenge.

Nicole explaining the night hike challenge

Nicole explaining the night hike challenge

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Is there somebody afraid of spiders???

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Searching for critters

We had an early wake-up call the next morning and started with the next challenge: bird watching! Each team had to find a toucan, a trogon, a motmot and a pigeon. Part of the time the kids went with me checking out the trees with binoculars and then we switched with Wilo who tried to find birds with the scope. None of the teams got to see a trogon, but they both found several toucans, a motmot and pigeons. The highlight was a male White-bearded Manakin displaying in a shrub alongside the road. The kids were all very impressed to find out that Manakins produce the sounds with their wings. An unforgettable detail they learned this day!

Birdwatching2

Birdwatching

Birdwatching

Birdwatching with Nicole

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Kids identifying birds

After a hearty breakfast back at the field station, we continued with a few other games, including bird Pictionary, teamwork challenges and a rainforest quiz.

Breakfast1

Breakfast time

Breakfast

Breakfast

Teamwork

Teamwork challenge

Teamwork2

Teamwork

Rainforest Quiz

Rainforest Quiz

Rainforest Quiz2

Rainforest Quiz with human buzzer

Rainforest Quiz1

How to distinguish a kinkajou and an olingo?? The monsters knew it!

In the end both teams had a good set of words for their code and the kids began to solve the mistery where the treasure was hidden. Almost simultaneously both teams started with their search around the chicken stable, but in the end it was a member of the monsters who found the treasure (a box of sweets) next to our water tower.

Decoding2

Kids trying to crack the code

Decoding

Cracking the code

Searching for treasure

Searching for the treasure

Treasure found

The winner team with the treasure

Congratulations Monsters!!

Aside

Paneles The station house is now solar-powered !! 😉
A couple of days ago we installed a solar system for the station house.

Paneles1Now students can work on their laptops and charge other electronic equipment during most of the day. Although a lot of our students and visitors actually prefer the candle light during the night and don’t really need the artificial light, it’s a great change for us. And we are also planning to install some lamps outside for those who have to visit the outhouses in the middle of the night and don’t want to be suprised by a snake!

Paneles2

Thanks again to everybody who has supported this project on betterplace.org!!

New Important Bird Area declared!!

Logo IBA Mashpi Pachijal

Logo IBA Mashpi Pachijal

We are very proud to let you know that we have been part of the declaration of a new Important Bird Area in Ecuador.

In 2012, the Quito Metropolitan District declared the area around the river Pachijal an “Area of conservation and sustainable land-use”. But the declaration itself doesn’t protect the forest remnants from deforestation. Therefore the district administration realizes monthly meetings in order to analyze the various conservation threats and to solve these problems hand in hand with the local people. We form part of the management board and participate in monthly workshops held in the different parts of the conservation area.

A sub-project we supported last year was the declaration of a new important bird area (IBA; program of BirdLife International) in Ecuador in order to support ecotourism as an alternative sustainable income. Especially the birding tourism is a very interesting opportunity for our region. The local foundation Aves y Conservación (BirdLife in Ecuador) organized several workshops to declare a new IBA around the conservation areas of Pachijal and Mashpi. We contributed valuable data from our monitoring work at the biological station and the area completed three of four possible criteria to get the status of an IBA.

GAL

Group photo with members of the “Grupo de Apoyo Local”

Two weeks ago the new IBA Mashpi-Pachijal was officially declared in Quito. We form part of the Grupo de Apoyo Local, short GAL (Local Support Group), of the IBA Mashpi-Pachijal and so we were invited to receive the official recognition of BirdLife International. Members of the GAL exhibited products from our region and sold bio-cosmetics, fruits and coffee.

We hope that the status of a new IBA helps to promote the birding tourism and strengthens eco-touristic projects in our region in the future.

Presentation of the IBA Mashpi-Pachijal by David Diaz (president of Aves y Conservación)

Presentation of the IBA Mashpi-Pachijal by David Diaz (president of Aves y Conservación)

Receiving the official recognition of Birdlife International

Receiving the official recognition of Birdlife International

Exhibition

Exhibition

Christmas Bird Counts 2013

It is already a few weeks ago, but still I wanted to give you a summary on our CBC counts in December 2013.

First of all we started with the CBC in Mindo. Mindo is the oldest CBC circle in Ecuador and it’s always a pleasure to participate. As we went there with 9 students, interns and volunteers from the station we had to split into different groups. Some of us went into the Cinto valley where they had an incredible day with 133 species and some nice finds like White-fronted Tyrannulet, for example.

I went with a group of students to Septimo Paraiso reserve where we started off with a nice morning, but fairly dense vegetation. So we heard a lot of species, but unfortunately the students didn’t see too many. And later the clouds and drizzle made it difficult for good observations. In the end of the day we had 79 species. The highlight of the day was probably the sighting of two small armadillos that were foraging along the road side, followed by us for about ten minutes until they took off into the understory. And just five minutes later we found a group of six noisy Crested Guans!

Who finds the Armadillo?

Who finds the Armadillo?

Armadillo

Armadillo

CBC Mindo group photo

CBC Mindo group photo

The weekend after, we had an adventurous ride with 9 people in our pick-up-truck to go to the CBC in Cosanga. Cosanga has become the number one circle in terms of bird species diversity, so there is plenty to see. Again our groups split. While our group did an unpleasant route along the roadside with a lot of rain and fog, the other group went with a different guide into the woods. Most of them weren’t very happy either coming back covered in mud and soaking wet from the rain, but still everybody had enjoyed the experience and especially the colorful tanagers on the eastern slope. At night some of us went to a small CBC party in town and enjoyed dancing with the locals.

Opening ceremony CBC Cosanga

Opening ceremony CBC Cosanga

Inca Jay

Inca Jay

Flame-faced Tanager

Flame-faced Tanager

Andean Guan

Andean Guan

After X-mas we participated in the Los Bancos-Milpe CBC circle which is a new circle that only started in 2012. The nicest thing about that circle is that it includes our nature reserve, so we can participate counting the birds in our backyard! I organized four different routes in the reserve, on the Las Tolas road and on neighboring properties and invited a few friends from Mindo to help us.

A day before the bird count we measured the routes on the neighboring properties and all were pretty excited to stumple over an army ants swarm. We were thrilled by the idea that the Banded Ground-Cuckoo could be around! So at night when our fiends from Mindo had arrived, some started preparing sandwiches for the next day and others went to track the army ants with the hopes to find the Banded Ground-Cuckoo on the next morning.
Despite a lot of bird activity around the ant swarm, unfortunately the Banded Ground-Cuckoo was only heard the next morning.

But all in all we had a pretty good birding day and counted 189 different bird species on the four routes. And we even could register five new species, two of them were found in the reserve (Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant and Torrent Tyrannulet). The highlight definitely was a male Black-tipped Cotinga on our neighbor’s land which was spotted by Wilo’s cousin through the scope. And of course, three Long-wattled Umbrellabirds which were seen on our neighbor Luis’ farm.

CBC Un poco del Chocó-preparing box lunches

CBC Un poco del Chocó-preparing box lunches

CBC Un poco del Chocó-Tracking the army ants

CBC Un poco del Chocó-Tracking the army ants

CBC Un poco del Chocó-Bird count on Luis' farm

CBC Un poco del Chocó-Bird count on Luis’ farm

CBC Un poco del Chocó-Group photo with friends fro Mindo

CBC Un poco del Chocó-Group photo with friends from Mindo

More information on the CBC counts and results on Audobon.org!