February 14, 2014
My companions this month at the Northern Jaguar Reserve were Saúl Amador, a biologist who has been working for Naturalia for the last year, and Laqui Duarte, a good friend and vaquero at the reserve. During our travels, we noticed that it has not rained much lately and it was difficult to spot wildlife. We did not see many deer or javelina, however we did see a group of coyotes (Canis latrans) climbing a hill. One of them stayed back, quietly observing us for a while, but when the rest of the group ran away, he followed. We did see two species of raptors everyday: Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and American kestrel (Falco sparverius). It is possible that we also saw several young Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperii), although it was difficult to get a good look at them.
While the temperature on the reserve was low most of the time, there were a few days when the daytime temperatures got as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It seemed record-setting that it was this warm, since it is only January. A couple of times, we noticed dead leopard frogs (Rana yavapaiensis) by the arroyos. I believe they died as a result of the overnight low temperatures, since they are ectotherms (animals that depend on sunlight to regulate their temperature). While we were at La Hielería, we were able to observe Elegant trogons (Trogon elegans) and many Black phoebes (Sayornis nigricans).
After we finished checking the motion-triggered cameras on the reserve, we checked them on the neighboring Viviendo con Felinos ranches. At one of the sites, we saw a green rat snake (Senticolis triaspis) quietly lying on the trail for a while before hiding in the tall grass. We also observed a blackneck garter snake (Thamnophis cyrtopsis) at El Saucito. It was spotted on a rock, and we came very close to it. After watching the snake for a little while, we left it where we found it. We had sightings of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) at Mesa Rica and El Puerto, and one sighting of a javelina (Pecari tajacu) at Las Cuevas.
One problem that we encounter year after year is the conditions of the roads after the rainy season. Sections of the road are in need of repair, and at some points along our route, it was very difficult to access the sites to check cameras. It did not impede us from finishing our work, but sometimes it limited and slowed down our movement from place to place.
We hope that next time there will be more adventures to describe. Each month of fieldwork gives us different experiences to share.
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps to maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.