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 Post subject: 4 days and 3 nights in Northeastern Colombia Part 2
PostPosted: January 16th, 2018, 9:22 pm 

Joined: January 11th, 2013, 12:06 pm
Posts: 17
Location: T-dot-O
The third day we did a gruelling hike to Cinto which, thanks to very little sleep the previous two nights, completely wiped me out. It was just as well as that night we got rained out. We spent a couple hours looking around the fringe of the forest where we had our hammocks set up and still managed to turn up a beautiful adult Phimophis guianensis (Torchel's Pampas Snake) just cruising the leaf litter. The adults retain the black dots they had when they were juveniles, but completely lose the brilliant pink hue. Love the shovel nose on this snake.

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Phimophis guianensis (adult Trochel's Pampas Snake)

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The last night we decided to do something we should have done from the very beginning: Herp the carretera (the derelict, pot-holed road that runs the length of the park) after dark!!! I was so intent on getting up into the forests and dried-up river beds above the beaches, I'd neglected the roads entirely. The last night ended up being the best in terms of species, lifers and overall animal count. We started out at around 8:30 PM and hiked along the windswept beach for about 2km. We passed a pack of stray dogs, some locals with flashlights gathering prawns and crabs from the brackish water on the other side of the dunes, and then found the trail that would lead us back up to the service road. Within the first 10 minutes of the hike we found what had been my primary objective the whole time: a slightly beat-up, though nonetheless impressive Corallus ruschenbergii (Ruschenberger's Tree Boa). I'd been looking for a tree boa in Latin America for almost two years, in both Costa Rica and Panama, to no avail. I don't know how Jose spotted the eye-shine through all the vines and foliage, but I was about 10 metres in front of him when I heard him yell out “BOAA!” I ran back and found him coming out of the abyss with a huge smile on his face and the angry snake's jaws firmly clamped onto his hand, blood trickling down his arm.

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Corallus reschenbergii (Ruschenberger's Tree Boa)

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We continued our walk and about half an hour later turned up another lifer, Enulius falvitorques (Pacific Longtail Snake), quietly making its way along the side of the road.

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Enulius falvitorques (Pacific Longtail Snake)

20 minutes later while taking photos of a sleeping juvenile green iguana, I nearly stepped on another Pseudoboa and, just 5 minutes after that, Jefer came out of the bush with a snake in each hand: another juvenile Phimophis guianensis and an adult.

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Iguana iguana (juvenile Green Iguana)

We walked for another 45 mins and found no snakes, but spent much of the time talking about finding a Boa constrictor. For me the Boa constrictor was mythological. I'd only ever seen them in terrariums, or in documentaries and the thought of potentially finding one in the wild was very exciting. Jose was intent on us finding either a coral snake or the Boa to finish off the night and cap off the trip with something iconic. Sure enough, as we mused about rounding a bend and spotting the s-shaped silhouette of a big boa crossing the road up ahead of us, Jefer, in his calm, collected way, nonchalantly gesturing with his walking stick about 10 feet in front of him, says “boa.” And there it was. A beautiful, 1.5m, thick and healthy, pastel-coloured Colombian Boa constrictor with about half of its body in the undergrowth and the other half on the road. My shortlist of famous people I'd like to meet is not very long, but I felt as though I were meeting, in person, someone (some creature) I'd only ever seen in movies all my life. I'd held boas at expos, and in pet stores as a kid, but the experience of touching and photographing one in the wild was extraordinary. I was also surprised by how reluctant to bite or strike this animal was. It allowed us to pose it for photos on a nearby fallen tree and get incredibly close with the cameras without once lashing out or attempting to bite.

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Boa constrictor (Colombian Boa)

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Here are some birds, inverts, a frog and a mammal from the trip. Frogs were conspicuously lacking (not surprising given that it was the dry season – though we saw a handful), but Rhinella marina, as always, was everywhere. ID's if you've got them.

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Some-sort of orb weaver with a very intricate carapace on it.

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unidentified mantis I rescued from a feral cat

Jose told me the local name for this animal, but was unsure of the scientific name. I asked if it was a marsupial and he said yes. I figured it was an opossum and, after some research, it looks like it's probably a short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica), but I'm not 100% on it. We saw a handful of them on our night hikes. They were quite unafraid. They'd normally just hang out on a branch a few feet above our heads and stare as long as we stayed still.

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I decided to see how close I could get one night and stretched the snake-hook out towards it. To our surprise, it climbed on! Ended up sitting there on the hook just checking us out for about 30 seconds. I then put the hook back up into the tree where it originally was, it hopped back onto its branch and continued to survey us.

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Some birds:

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Jefer with 5 different snake species on the last night. We took the juvenile Mussarana back to the village to show the locals because Jefer said they often kill it thinking it's what they refer to as a "blood viper."

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The crew

That concludes the trip. I was told by various people that, despite my satisfaction with what I'd seen, I wasn't even there during the “good” season; that I should come back during the summer if I really wanted to see an explosion of life. Not sure if that's just the Costeño one-upmanship talking, or if I really hadn't scratched the surface, but either way, I was pretty content with my 4 days and 3 nights in Tayrona.

Thanks again to Jose for a great herping excursion (and general wildlife education) in an area of Latin America that is not herped all that often and which offers incredible scenic backdrops, a confluence of some really cool habitats and biomes, and some really interesting species from Northern South America.

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