The life of an intern

Published: March 10th 2014
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Hola Chicas and Chicos,

Following a request for more details on what I get up to in the jungle I thought I would draft a blog based on the last few days in February and add some more pictures to.

Sunday 23 February: no surveys for me today as on duty. This involved the usual cooking, cleaning, t-towel and bathroom cleaning regime with the added mix that we had planned to cook and serve lunch on the beach (at mile 15) where the rest of the team was busy placing the final mile markers into position. However, as they are so efficient they had finished the task by 10am, so as we were about to work out how we were going to travel with 21 portions of food and plates and cutlery and sauces etc., to the beach we were relieved to see them back on Base and served up a rice salad (with seconds) for lunch. I can't remember what we cooked for dinner but in my journal I made a note that the afternoon passed by quite quickly as Ellouise and I sang along to the tunes on Zoe's phone.

Monday 24 February (happy birthday mum - sorry it's a bit late): off on survey along North Boundary with Kat, Zoe and Cathrine. As part of the internship it was more training for me as Kat supervised as I led the patrol. Generally that involves giving a safety briefing before we head out, carrying first aid kit and mobile phone, looking for for snakes, spider webs and any other potential risks to health and safety of the volunteers. The survey was going to plan, we hadn't seen many animals (excluding a fast moving Slender Anole) when we saw a couple of Spider Monkeys to the left of us in the high canopy. A few bird calls later (Bay Wren and White Collared Manakin) and we were trudging our way though sticky mud and over dead palms when on the path there was a dead snake...not just the skin but a dead/decayed snake. The smell was pretty awful and Zoe confessed she felt pretty sick and did in fact have a fear of dead snakes...apparently she is ok with the live ones, the dead ones however pose a problem. With crisis averted by talking about the monkeys and heading back to Base Cathrine shouts out as she has seen a dead toad! I am hopeful all future surveys will have a better ratio of alive to dead animals otherwise none of the volunteers will want me to lead them anywhere. After lunch, things picked up as we were on the canal for a bird survey. I quite like the paddling and bird watching and we had a good trip, Cattle Egrets, Northern Jacana, Great Blue Heron and two Ringed Kingfishers amongst others. For light entertainment on the boat we had Max who delights in teasing Marcelle (patrol leader) about her paddling shouts and her inability to see the Central American Penguins (which only Max can see as they don't actually exist on the canals in Tortuguero). That evening (in my journal) I have noted that I worked on my review of a science paper (intern assignment) and my slides for the manatee presentation (more on that later).

Tuesday 25 February: made a note here that I was up at 4.15am, had a bowl of cornflakes (I have these most days so not sure why I made a specific note about it, but thought I would share for the sake of completeness) and then off on Monkey Survey. This was the best monkey survey to date (for me that is) as we saw a cluster of (i.e. group) of 4 spider monkeys and I saw my first Trogon - hoorah. I finally know what Ken's favourite feathered bird looks like 😊 It was a male Slaty-Tailed Trogon and Sarah happily pointed him out to me as she knew I had been trying to see one ever since I arrived in Tortuguero. It turns out Trogons are like buses....having not seen one for over a month, I see one on the monkey survey and then back at Base there is another one in the tree near the staff house....perhaps it was the same one following me....who knows but I saw it (twice) so can tick it off the seen list. Not only did we see the Trogon as we headed back towards the main trail we saw a Fitzinger's Rainfrog and Peter and Sarah thought we were close behind a Tapir.....I was at the back laughing with Ryan and Max as Max had found the mud....right up to his knees! That afternoon I have noted it was an incidentals survey with Cyrille leading. We walked along South Boundary. We didn't see anything but some Howler Monkeys in the distance. The trail was muddy but not wet (Editor's Note: I appreciate that this is not particularly exciting to read but I am copying from the notes I took...apologies, I will take better notes in future). After dinner it was the first of the leadership presentations. . Peter gave a really good presentation about philosophy which started a round of questions and some debate about the ethics of pushing (or not) people of railway bridges....thankfully there are no railway bridges in the jungle so we should all be safe (ish). Julia followed with an overview of Red Wolf conservation. Really good presentations, hoping my one in a few days time lives up to the standard (again, this is what I wrote in my notes....ever the confident one - when will I learn!)

Wednesday 26 January (happy anniversary Mum and Dad, again apologies for the tardiness): another early start as another monkey survey - this time on the transect they call Camelot. It has no bearing to Camelot, it's simply called that
as it is monkey transect C and they like to give the letters a name! Kat led the survey and it was me and the three newest volunteers. We saw absolutely zero monkeys. We did however all get stuck in the swampy mud - Cathrine particularly not amused to find herself waist deep having to hold onto a palm leaf to try and drag herself to the dry. We also came pretty close to an Eyelash Palm Pitviper but we all made it back safe and sound and in time for lunch. (Sorry Fuzz Bear I have failed to note down what we had. Possibly chickpeas or beans but can't be certain). After lunch and before the afternoon surveys told by Ian and Mari that GVI had provisionally decided they want me to stay at Tortuguero for the 3 month work placement after the 2 weeks of Spanish school. Yipeeeeeeeee 😊 Note: the yipeeeee was not in my notes; my notes actually read, very delighted and glad that the second guessing on where we will be placed is over - as you can see, yipeeeee is much better. Anyhow, back to life as an intern.....after lunch another canal boat survey. This one of the Cano Negro which requires a fair amount of paddling both to and from it. We failed to see many birds but the weather was glorious and the canal is my favourite part of the park so basically a very good end to a very good day. I added a p.s. to my notes from this day - it reads "Great news Cyrille and Ellie are also being kept at Base -Hooray"

Thursday 27 February (Happy Birthday Foo Bear - journal reads "Hope she's had a good one."): first survey of the day was incidentals -a walk along North Trail where we saw a juvenile Scarlett Webbed Treefrog and an Olive Snouted Treefrog. Best moment however was on the walk back where we saw two Tyra up in the trees (see the pictures for what they look like). Cyrille got some great shots so they may appear on the GVI Facebook pages. After lunch it was a Shorebirds survey led by Renato. This is a walk along the beach to the Estuary where (having checked for crocs) we spot the Sanderlings, Spotted Sandpipers and Plovers. Great shot of a Great Blue Heron (who is usually found there with his friend - the Bare Throated Tiger Heron).

Friday 28 February: No surveys today. Helped Cyrille with his leadership project - creating new washing lines in the sunshine. This involved digging holes and sawing thick bamboo for the poles. Turns out I can saw better than I can use a machete and also dig better than Marcelle who spent a fair amount of the morning pointing out birds - including the Kiskadee and and Rufous Tailed Hummingbird near the garden. That afternoon there was nothing planned (Jordan deciding to move his Jalova games to Saturday) so we listened to music and played the longest game of scrabble known in the history of the game. That is an exaggeration but it did last a while. After dinner there was a quiz night with the whole of camp divided into 4 teams. Questions ranged from Geography, History and obscure media - there was even a question about Sponge Bob!

So, there we have it - a few days in the life of an intern at Jalova. Let me know if you want more blogs like this. Oh and don't forget to rate the photos I post - it makes my stats look better!

p.s. Hope everyone is well and happy and Spring is finally on its way to the UK.

p.p.s if you made it this far you may be wondering why I included a picture of a harpoon. This was taken at the Ranger station and it was confiscated by them from hunters of manatees. I took it for my manatee presentation - but that crops up in the next blog!

Until next time......take care all, Sx

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