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Bridging the gap

December 22, 2012

Here we are, finally, at Las Tangaras! We are Jeff and Kate, the new managers for the next three months. We’ve been working as National Park rangers during the summertime and doing international work during the off season. And now, we’ve been busy getting our feet wet in the all the workings of Las Tangaras, some routine, some extraordinary. Here’s a quick overview of our first three weeks here.


A little cabin in the big jungle

Previous managers Jaime, Micah, and Never helped us get acquainted with the reserve during our first two days. They’ve done a huge amount of work here and have left us with an overwhelming amount of information. The most exciting news perhaps is that Micah upgraded the water system with better connections, easier access, and an intake filter that should reduce clogs from sediment. Thanks! Dusti, our boss, was also here for a our first day and it was great to go with her to the cock of the rock lek and get a little birding lesson.

9:00am on our second day, Jaime, Micah, and Never left and it was just Kate and Jeff, brand new managers, and a couple campers in the reserve. We proudly finished our first hummingbird identification session on our own.


Our little friends enjoying their daily fix

11:00am, a couple hours into our managerdom, a camper runs up to us and says “the bridge just broke!” So much for our first peaceful morning. Did Jami and Micah’s protective spell break when they left? Whatever strange cosmic coincidence may have caused this mishap, we may never understand. But we went down to look, and yes, indeed, one of the cables of the cable suspension bridge had snapped and left the floor of the bridge hanging somewhat precariously.


Oops! Glad nobody was hurt!

Good thing the water system and other things were in order, because it would take us the next three weeks to talk with locals, look for suppliers, investigate other hanging bridges and cable structures, meet with cable experts (zip line tours are big here), and ultimately make a trip to Quito to purchase 130 meters of new cable and connection hardware to replace all of the cable in the bridge. Jeff claims that he crossed from the southern hemisphere into the northern hemisphere and back again, 8 times in one day, just to get that new cable. Happily, with good planning, it only took 2 days of labor to get the cable replaced. We hired locals Artemio and his son to help make it happen.


Carrying 150 pounds of cable


Cutting the old bridge cables from below the newly placed cables


Securing the cable clamps around the trees

Oh, and maybe the magic spells didn’t all break after all, as we went an entire week without rain–the first drops fell the evening after we finished all the hard work on the bridge. Lots of work still remains to be done on the bridge, but at least it is standing and it feels a lot stronger than before.


Construction workers at bridge with new cables

Otherwise, life is filled with the daily jobs of being here: long hikes into town for food and supplies, waiting many days for laundry to dry, and feeding lots of crazy hummingbirds that are addicted to their daily fix of sucrose.  Kate has been working on harvesting and drying bamboo to make some furniture and shelving in the cabin.


Tired after cutting and dragging lots of bamboo

We also took advantage of the transport for the cable delivery to buy a backup water storage tank. That way, if there are ever problems with the water system, we have water for a few days to hold us over. The hardest part was getting the tank the last two kilometers to the reserve.


This is how everything gets to the reserve

We’ve been loving the amazing plants and wildlife here. Lots of cool bugs, of course.


camouflaged leaf hopper/katydid

But the reserve is especially about the birds, and we hope to have more time to sit and identify some of them, now that things have settled down a little. We’re not hard-core birders, but the little bit of bird knowledge we have led to an interesting deja-vu experience. One of our first mornings we woke up to a very familiar sound. We had only been learning bird songs back at home for the past year or so, so it’s still a novelty to identify bird songs–we usually second-guess ourselves. But one of our first mornings we hear the unmistakable song of Swainson’s thrushes. We feel like we’re back in the North Cascades with pine trees towering overhead . Is that possible? We rush downstairs to check the bird list for Las Tangaras. Yes, Swainson’s thrush is on the list. A little more perseverance with the binoculars, and we get a clear visual ID of the guy. Did they migrate down here, too, just like us, to spend the winter at Las Tangaras? Thank you for sharing that familiar sound, welcoming us to our new home!

We’ll be back soon with more pictures and more stories. In the mean time, Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, and happy holidays to all from Las Tangaras–Adios for now!


Our Christmas picture with a bamboo tree

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tony Povilitis permalink
    December 22, 2012 3:47 pm

    Wow, hang in there and keep up the great work! Felices Navidad y Ano Nuevo! Dr. Tony Povilitis (Life Net co-director)


  2. Ron Thompson permalink
    December 23, 2012 3:31 am

    Great info as always. Happy #13 to you two too.. Uncle Ron


  3. December 24, 2012 6:00 am

    Great blog entry! – a major management task so soon!

    Dr. Dusti Becker LIFE NET NATURE

    International Conservation Projects Coordinator 6423 S. Bascom Trail Willcox, AZ 85643 520-384-3886

    “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” – Aldo Leopold



  4. December 29, 2012 7:33 pm

    Love the stories and photos. Keep ’em comin’.


  5. June 5, 2014 10:59 pm

    Interesting about hearing Swainson’s Thrushes as I thought they were normally silent on their wintering grounds. Cool observation.


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