Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lagoona SAT Camp

One of the experiences that I have enjoyed the most while being out in the jungle is SAT camp. SAT camp is basically a satellite basecamp we set up to help with conducting one of our surveys, mistnetting, for birds. We have four different location on the reserve that we do mistnetting at. In consists of opening up four different bird nets that are very thin and difficult to see. Birds are most active in early morning and later evening, avoiding the heat of the day. So, we need to open up the nets at 6am…-_- which definitely isn’t what I enjoy about SAT camp. The nets stay open until 10.30am and we check them every half an hour and take out any birds that may have gotten caught and record their information and place a lightweight alloy band for identification on them. Three of the netting locations are about an hours walk away from basecamp, so instead of getting up at 4.45am to walk out to the sites in time, we head out to the location the previous day and campout, so the next morning we only have to get up at 5.40.
The nets are used every morning for a week, so everyone at camp gets an opportunity of going out for the night. Which means, the first group going up takes all the camping stuff and sets it up for the week, and the last group of the week brings it all back with them. Items include jungle hammocks, kettle, tarps, and birding equipment. Each individual group takes up a previously prepared dinner, a package of cookies for the biscuit challenge, granola (which is an AMAZING change from the daily porridge), potatoes for a late-night baked potato snack, a spare hammock, and firewood- in addition to all the personal items needed.
We leave for SAT camp after lunch, and normally we stop at a nice place to swim along the way- either a low waterfall, or a semi-deep stream, depending on the location you are going to. Once we get to the sat camp, everyone picks a hammock, or sets up a new one, if needed. We unpack and settle in, and then maybe do a bit of birding. Honestly, birds are not my favourite- I seem them, I respect the fact that they fly and all of that, so I don´t normally have the enthusiasm to look at them through binoculars, but we have seen some really neat birds including toucans and birds of prey- which make it more exciting. We eat dinner at the campsite and then head out on a night walk. Again, we have seen some really neat things including glass frogs, caymen, and a fully grown fur-de-lance, which I stood within a couple meters and walked past with absolutely NO idea. When we get back to the campsite, we get a fire going for tea/coffee, and our baked potatoes. However, the last time I went to sat camp, it was along a trail called Lagoona. I partook in the most fat, sugar indulgence, I have in a long time. Not only did we eat the typical jacket potato, but Edwin, a member of staff, brought a couple bags of marshmallows, which I had a leading role in demolishing, as well as a couple chocolate bars, a ripe plantain, and I additionally added a can of tuna and cheese to my baked potato, and I also had the extra baked potato.
An early rise at 5.40am to open up the nets located a couple minutes from the campsite, but after we are able to talk quietly and relax at the camp. When birds are caught, they are bagged, weighed, and then taken out to have all their additional measurements taken. We make the process quick, because they birds can get stressed really easily. If a lot of birds are caught, we will skip taking a bunch of measurements, but band them, so we can let them go about their morning business. During the breaks of checking the nets, we also find the time to do the biscuit challenge. Ofcourse you just enjoy the snack, or you can partake in the challenge, even if its just for a personal best. The rules are that you can only use whole, unbroken cookies, you can´t crunch them until you can close your mouth around the cookies, and none of the cookie crumbs can fall out. The record was held by Edwin at 11. However, I got to witness the intense competition between Edwin and Fabian, another volunteer, at an attempt for 12 cookies. It took about 20 minutes, and the look of defeat on both of their faces was simply amusing. But, in the end, Fabian ended up beating the record, by completion, as Edwin came close but lost (although he still manages to find excuses/ and believes he was cheated). I did a personal best of 8, to be improved over the next sat camps. Once we close the nets at 10.30, we pack up our stuff and head back to basecamp to be back in time for lunch.

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