Sundown Serenade

 

told by Jack (visiting graduate from Cambridge University)

Every evening, after the sun goes down, the evening chorus begins to call and the restaurant at Golfo Dulce Retreat is filled with the sounds of life.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been venturing out nightly to one of the ponds at the Retreat to start to learn the habits and patterns of some of these nocturnal residents. We were incredibly fortunate on our first night to spot the bright glare of a pair of kinkajou eyes in a tree right by the pond, and even luckier when the kinkajou, beating us to it, spotted a rival and chased it down the tree!

Though what we see changes nightly, some species are a reliable presence, like our small family of white-lipped mud turtles. Their permanently grinning faces have proved a regular feature in the pond - difficult to spot under the leaves during the day but always captured under torchlight as they explore in the evenings.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when the animals you’re searching for stumble upon you instead of course; one particular skunk must have felt left out as it slowly shuffled out of the underbrush, pausing a few yards away to stare in my direction and have a long, slow sniff, before turning and disappearing off in the direction of the compost heap. That decides where the camera trap will go next at least! 

One thing I learned quickly from our exploring was that just because you can hear an animal doesn’t mean you can find it! Spotting the cane toads that squat right by the pool might not be so tough, but tracking down the tiny tungara frog proved rather formidable, even accounting for the loud laser-gun-like calls emanating from the males. After several unsuccessful evenings, one night we managed to narrow our search down to a small square of land near the pool. As we sat with our eyes patiently combing the grass, a small white balloon appeared from nowhere. It turned out, spotting the frog’s inflated vocal sac was much easier than finding the frog! With practise, we rarely fail now to spot a handful of these each night. 

 

Tracking Tungara Frogs: the noise and the bulging vocal sac are both key to locating this frog. This may explain why we gave tungara frogs the nickname ‘Pew frogs’!

 


 
Simon Mezzanotte