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):
Blue and White Swallow
Blue and Yellow Tanager
White Necked Heron
White Faced Heron
White Cheeked Pintail
White Rumped Sandpiper
Three Striped Flycatcher
Crowned Slaty Flycatcher
Black Crowned Night Heron
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 Concepción and I may have got pretty close to a venomous lizard on the Condor Hike but at least I came back in one piece.