It’s amazing what we get used to. Locals keep their eyes forward while passing bloated kangaroo carcasses, spray Raid on redback spiders residing under the handles of the car trunk, and don’t take a second glance at the colorful parrots that beat their wings above street lights and telephone wires. And you’d think after the avian fauna of Costa Rica and India, Nepal and California, I’d be immune to the charms of squawking corellas and squabbling galahs… but of course, though I adjusted rapidly to the climate and the time change, the constant flip-flops and the vague answers to any question (“not bad,” “not long,” “not far,” “not too much,”) I’m still fascinated by the birds.
I think someone must be feeding the galahs. They’re remarkably cavalier about my approach, a slow flip-flop shuffle with a big lens and some muffled cursing as I trip over the tufts of grass that cling to life in the backyard.
It is more or less a place of biblical beauty, especially to a bunch of sweaty, bug-bitten scientists staggering out of the wild jungle- Las Cruces Biological Station and the Wilson Botanical Gardens.
We spent two days recuperating from chiggers and watching birds in the gardens, taking a bit of time to learn some plant taxonomy and work on papers. My favorite hours there were spent just exploring and then finding somewhere to sit and contemplate among the plants.
Lots of cool stuff to see:
This weirdo spider-
This very suspicious nest-building parrot-
And this ethereal-looking butterfly-
It was good to have a bit of time to chill out and be comfortable- hot showers, clean sheets, no mosquito nets necessary, and some other undergraduates from a non-Dartmouth, OTS course in tropical biology to chat with. I also found out what our mystery evil-plant is! It’s in the family Loasaceae, an old group sort of related to thistles (thus the bristles) and magnolias (thus the flowers). The species name is Nasa speciosa. It’s nice to have a name to put to at least one of the two Cuericí study organisms! Apparently all of the specimens of this plant (and there aren’t many) were collected within a mile of where we found ours.