South to Suriname
by Brian O’Shea
I am currently in Suriname working with two Masters’ students conducting research on bird and mammal diversity in selectively-logged forests. I’ve done much bird survey work here over the past several years, and I come back as often as I can — Suriname is truly a gem, with more than 80% of its territory still covered by forest. Serano Ramcharan and Gisèle Nederbiel are looking at how bird and mammal diversity is affected by different timber harvesting strategies in a forestry concession area.
This morning I accompanied Serano as he surveyed birds along one of his transects. In the first hour after sunrise, we observed 38 species of birds on the 400-m transect. After the survey ended, our species list kept growing, as we ran into several mixed-species flocks and rustled up a White Hawk from near the ground.
We suspect this guy was following a nearby swarm of army ants, to catch some of the large insects and small vertebrates driven out of their hiding places by the ants. White Hawks are known to follow monkeys as well, for the same reason — as the primates forage through the forest canopy, they dislodge tasty morsels like katydids, which quickly fall prey to these sharp-eyed raptors.
As the morning heated up and the birds became quieter, we set to work taking vegetation measurements along Serano’s transect — something we will do every day for the week that we are here. Serano is interested in which species of birds use forests that have been selectively logged. These measurements give us some idea of how the forest structure (and especially the canopy cover) differs from nearby, unlogged forest.
Welcome to rainforest fieldwork! There are plenty of biting and stinging things out here, but if you’re careful they are mostly pretty easy to avoid. Even so, the bane of our days is the dreaded boegroemaka palm, which is abundant in the forest understory and is covered with nasty spines.
It’s pretty hard to avoid running into these whenever you leave a trail, and to make things worse, the young leaves sometimes shelter nests of wasps, which take advantage of the tough cover (these leaves actually make great umbrellas if you remove the spines).
Check back as we continue to explore the forests here at Tibiti Soela!