The biodiversity of Belize is truly incredible and at the Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society it will not be long before you discover wildlife. Whether it’s in the forest or in the house where I sleep, there are plenty of animals that call this part of the world home. For instance, this giant orb weaving spider decided to make its web in a doorway… that I walked through. I find that spiders normally have more sense than that, but this one needed to be relocated. Orb weavers are wonderful spiders. They are big, beautiful, and rarely, if ever, bite. This individual is now living at a different location at the station (where no one will walk through her web!).
Some people may find spiders to be creepy, but to me they are elegant. Plus, they are very good for eating insects that cause me grief. Spiders are our friends and play an integral part in the food web.
Arachnids and insects are quite common at the station. Usually we find small lizards, hummingbirds, and the occasional snake. Outside the station you have more of an opportunity to see the many other denizens of the forest. TREES is a working research station and around the property we currently have various projects set up aimed at finding wildlife. This increases our ability to survey the species diversity that live in and near the property.
Even as we walk around the property we are privileged to see some beautiful animals. This is the Blue Morpho Butterfly. One side of the wing is camouflaged and the other side is a brilliant blue coloration.
We have pitfall traps that are set deep into the forest. A pitfall is essentially a hole where an animal falls into a bucket and can be collected at a later time by researchers. We identify the species, take morphometric data (length, weight, etc), snap a few photos, and then release the animal back into the forest. This survey has so far only produced insects, arachnids, and toads. This species is a Gulf Coast Toad, Incilius valliceps.
Despite being common, I never grow tired of seeing toads. They are just adorable!
Now, what do you do when one of these falls into your trap? While somewhat menacing-looking, this Red-rumped Tarantula is actually quite docile. You can gently lift them out of the bucket with a stick or leaf and they will continue on their way. This individual is a male and most likely was wandering the forest floor looking for a female companion.
Sometimes we get some truly fascinating creatures in the traps.
This is a juvenile Helmeted Iguana, Corytophanes cristatus. This species is a master at camouflage. They are thin, leaf-shaped, and mottled in pattern so they blend into their surroundings. Usually gentle, this feisty individual gave quite a bite to herpetology intern extraordinaire Elina. I would be pretty upset too if I was stuck in a bucket for a few hours.
Besides the pitfalls we have various camera trap stations on the property. The idea is that if anything passes by, it will be photographed or filmed. There have been many interesting species caught on camera here including King Vultures, Armadillos, Tayras, and even Jaguars.
With luck you are able to capture something interesting on camera… like this squirrel!
Last week we caught on camera a new species for the property.
An ocelot. Two weeks ago I believed I had spotted an ocelot in the forest. However, there has not been one seen on the property before and I had convinced myself that it must have been a margay. Margays are similar to ocelots, but smaller and have a longer tail. I was not satisfied with that conclusion so I set camera traps. Lo and behold, the ocelot was captured on camera. There are five species of cats in Belize, and this ocelot observation makes it the fourth species that has been discovered on the property. We have more cameras set and I look forward to sharing with you what we discover next!