01 November 2007

Bolivia Flora and Fauna

My first day in Bolivia we went to the Botanical Gardens just outside of Santa Cruz. It was here that I saw my first Spectacled Caiman. I wanted to pick it up; I blame all those Animal Planet TV shows for this. Rupp had better sense than I and eventually talked me out of it. I also saw one of the weirdest trees in the world, the toborochi tree. People in Bolivia refer to them as the pregnant trees due to their bulging base.

Another tree that caught my attention was the rare Bibosi tree. This tree can grow right on top of the rocks in the Chiquitania. Our guide explained how their roots will find their way down to the ground to find nutrients but they live on rocks and other trees, especially palms. This sounded just like a Strangler Fig back in Florida. After returning home and doing a little research I realized I wasn't too far off base. The Bibosi, Ficus boliviana, is a fig tree just like the Florida species. As the tree grows it will eventually shade out its host tree, the palm, and will kill it. In the case of the Bibosi living on the rocks, they will even break the rocks apart into smaller pieces.

My vacation in Bolivia encompassed many types of activity. We hiked, we swam, we ate at nice resturants, and we even went to Aqualand, Bolivia's big water park. But my favorite activity was birding. Now, we aren't expert birders and though Bolivia is teeming with birdlife we didn't come back with 400 species like we would have if we went with an organized group. But all in all, I was pretty satisfied with the 66 bird species that we DID identify. That's 54 life birds for me and 59 life birds for Rupp. Not bad for a couple of amateurs birding on the side.

Here's a list of our birds (in order of appearance during the trip):

Least Grebe
Pied-Billed Grebe
Olivaceous Cormorant
American Anhinga
Turkey Vulture
Crested Caracara
Common Moorhen
Wattled Jacana
White-Winged Dove
Rock Dove
Blue-Winged Parrotlet
Green Kingfisher
Surucua Trogon
Blue-Crowned Motmot
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Great Kiskadee
Sayaca Tanager
Black-Backed Grosbeak
Crested Oropendola
House Sparrow
Tropical Kingbird
Plush-Crested Jay
Squirrel Cuckoo
Green-Cheeked Parakeet
Blue-Crowned Trogon
Purplish Jay
Blue and White Swallow
Saffron Finch
Black Phoebe
Rufeous-Bellied Thrush
Andean Condor
Blue-Crowned Parakeet
Turquoise-Fronted Parrot
Scaly-Headed Parrot
Narrow-Billed Woodcreeper
Tropical Parula
Blue and Yellow Tanager
Red-Crested Cardinal
Golden-Billed Saltator
Red-Crested Finch
Rufeous-Collared Sparrow
Shiny Cowbird
White Necked Heron
White Faced Heron
White Cheeked Pintail
Ringed Teal
White Rumped Sandpiper
Baird’s Sandpiper
White Woodpecker
Three Striped Flycatcher
Crowned Slaty Flycatcher
Barn Swallow
Ultra-Marine Grosbeak
Black Crowned Night Heron
Roadside Hawk
White Monjita
Greater Rhea
Rufescint Tiger-Heron
Toco Toucan
Smooth-Billed Ani
Fork-Tailed Flycatcher
Black-Throated Mango
Rufeous Horneo
Vermilion Flycatcher
Grey-Breasted Martin
Snail Kite

The Chiquitania had the most insect activity of the whole trip. I first noticed the cicada like insect while hiking in the rock formations outside San Xavier. What I thought were car alarms going off or horns blaring on the streets were really this insect above. They have a tremendous sound and they are about 3 inches in length. While bathing at Aguas Calientes we saw another large insect, something that resembled a giant water diving beetle. My favorite insect of the trip had to be the rhinoceros-like beetle we found in the square in San Xavier. It was the size of my palm and somewhere there is a great picture of me holding it.

Insects and caimans weren't the only animals I tried to touch on this trip. My second night in the country I quite foolishly touched a tarantula on a dirt road and I picked up a bee which stung me right in the middle of the thumb. After that, I resisted all urges to pet the wildlife and merely watched them through my binoculars or from a safe distance away. Okay, I did eat some sugar ants in ConcepciĆ³n and I may have got pretty close to a venomous lizard on the Condor Hike but at least I came back in one piece.

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