Erin and I have been managers at Las Tangaras reserve, near Mindo Ecuador for about a week now and I have to say, it is gorgeous here! The forest is a neotropical cloud forest, which means it’s a little higher in elevation than the classical rain forest, also much cooler. There’s still an enormous amount of biodiversity here though. The trees are covered in epiphytic vines, mosses, lichens and bromeliads all fighting for a spot in the sun. According to a guide of plant families at the reserve, there are approximately 2080 species of moss in 80 families in the neotropical Andes, with the cloud forests being the highest part of that diversity, higher than the lowland Amazon for mosses. There are also some incredible invertebrates in the forest, large amounts of butterflies (including a large blue morpho we glimpsed on our hike to the reserve from town with supplies. There is also the ambylypigian, something that looks like your worst nightmare of a spider but is in fact in its own order of Arachnids separate from spiders. Ambylypugians are also harmless to people and nocturnal, actually quite a few of them live in caves where their long feelers and raptoral appendages come in handy finding and capturing prey in the dark. If you still find these creatures creepy rather than amazing, you can rest easy in the temperate zone, their soley found in the tropics.
There are of course birds, the focus of the research and the main attraction for visitors here at Las Tangaras. Over the years, 32 different species of hummingbird have been seen at the reserve and 16 species regularly visit the feeder. There are many other birds that have been spotted as well, including Kites, Guans (sort of a jungle turkey) vultures and many song birds.
There’s also our resident Agouti, a large rodent-like mammal seen behind the cabin semi-regularly and bats that come around the feeders looking for nectar if we don’t take them in early enough at night.
So far we’ve explored the swimming holes, including a gorgeous one fed by a small water fall and a larger one closer to the reserve and more open. We’ve worked on a swinging cable bridge over the river, keeping it safe for us and visitors to use, we’re doing our best to get to know a host of different birds and other wildlife and we’re just getting started on what seems like it will be an amazing stay in the cloud forest.