Panama Chronicles - Azuero and RAIN : LUSENET : Stats Forum for Keller-plan Course : One Thread

Hi all,

Here is another installment of the Panama Chronicles!

The last few weeks have been quite interesting, both in terms of days off and in terms of weather. Last Friday I began a three-day holiday from chasing after Slaty Antrikes. I enjoy my work but have to admit that sometimes one needs to take a few steps away from a job that sometimes requires spending six and a half hours trying to trick a 23 gram bird into a mist net, and in the end being out smarted by the bird! But I digress; on Friday I gave another tour of Barro Colorado Island. I had a really good group and along the hiking trail we were lucky enough to see Mantled Howler Monkeys, a Poison Dart Frog, a Slaty-tailed Trogon and the highlight - a White-tailed Trogon nest! The group must have really enjoyed their time on the island because they gave me a $30 tip. I was very impressed!

The next day bright and early, Beto and I piled into his car for a road trip out the Azuero peninsula. The Azuero peninsula is the southern most portion of Panama and is well known as the land of cowboys and culture. The area is largely deforested and as a result the dry season is severe and the region has become very arid. In the peninsula cattle farming is a way of life and as we drove south from the Inter-American highway, the scenery through windows changed from sugar cane plantations to vast cattle pastures, where (at this time of year) very thin looking cattle nosed around the parched grass for food. The further south we drove the drier the area became and in some places the fields were so dry that cow dung from months before lay piled along side fresh dung – there was not enough moisture for decomposition! Needless to say this area of the country is a stark reminder of what happens on poor tropical soils when the forest is removed.

What the Azuero peninsula lacks in natural beauty it makes up for in culture. The area is steeped in tradition and this could also be seen through the windows as we drove south. Along side the cattle pastures were mud huts constructed literally of mud mixed with grasses. Many people in the Azuero peninsula live in mud huts, not necessarily because they are too poor to afford a concrete house, but rather because mud huts are a tradition. The people of Azuero seem to take as much pride in their mud huts as they do in their wide brimmed Panama hats (the Latin American version of a cow boy hat) and their polleras (the national dress that I wore for my wedding).

On Saturday night Beto and I went to the Azuero Fair where we wandered vendor stalls selling wares from all over Latin America. Although the fair was international, the large cattle displays and prevalence of Panama hats and polleras at many stalls reminded us that we were in Azuero. At the fair Beto purchased a beautiful Peruvian chime made from dried Amazonian seeds and I got a rose quartz necklace for a dollar! On Sunday we spent the morning at the beach and then took a trip to Sariagua National Park. This park is a small desert caused by extreme deforestation and cattle farming. It was established by ANAM (Autoridad National del Ambiente) to serve as a reminder of the damage that can be done when land is abused. The last time Beto and I visited Sarigua it hadn’t rained in months and a fierce wind stirred up the dust creating a red storm. That was the day we exchanged our “engagement rings” (purchased at the Azuero Fair 2001). This visit the desert looked a little different. One of the first rains in 6 months had fallen overnight and the dust had settled into smooth dried pools that cracked and crackled when we walked over them. As we stood in the middle of the desert, thunderheads built to the north and lightening flashed on the horizon. A flock of parrots flew overhead towards their roost and as we looked around at the desolate landscape we were indeed reminded that this “desert” did not belong here in Panama.

In stark contrast to the situation in Azuero, life in Panama City and at our field sight north of Gamboa has been WET WET WET for the past two weeks. Although El Niño brought us a very dry dry season, climatologists have reported that the ocean currents have returned to normal and as such the rainy season has begun in earnest. In fact, it has been much wetter than expected with torrential rain falling as early as 10 am and lasting through the night. A couple of weeks ago I almost couldn’t make it to work because the road to Gamboa was flooded near to the Panama Canal loading docks! Needless to say this type of rain is not helping our fieldwork. I am used to an hour or two of torrential rain at 2 pm with sunshine in the morning and the evening. According to the locals the type of heavy rains that we have been receiving do not normally happen until September and October. Perhaps, instead of neutral climatic conditions, we are now starting to experience La Niña (as suggested by various sources on the Internet). I hope not, I hope that this rain is simply a passing phase and that we will be able to work in peace until August.

Ciao for now, Debbie

-- Anonymous, May 13, 2003


Just a reminder that you can see Debbie's pictures of birds, animals, and scenery, from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego here.

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2003

Moderation questions? read the FAQ