Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today was a happy day (for the most part) which I needed after a slightly frustrating week. The last two days were fairly uneventful. Tuesday we didn't go into the field because Julie's arm pain (a pulled muscle or something) was so bad it kept her up all night and she was exhausted (and in a lot of pain). So it was a bit of a boring day. I read by the reservoir and got a bit of a tan on my arms and shoulders. I was just leaving for my evening run when the park ranger who also lives here asked if she could come. I said yes out of politeness, but regretted it. We couldn't have been going more than 10 minutes/mile and she knows no English and unfortunately I still know no Thai. I thought I might kill her going up hills, so I'm going to have to be sneaky for my runs in the future. The highlight was that we saw a scorpion crossing the road at the end. It was a huge one, I think Heterometrus laoticus. 

Yesterday was another frustrating day, but it was cool to see new parts of the forest and new gibbons groups. The forest was awesome and creepy this morning because a low fog that came all the way down to the ground lasted until about 7:30 am. It made it seem like we were in some sort of scary movie. We walked through several territories, unfortunately early on, every single one of the closer groups did a disturbed song. In some cases they seemed to be reacting to each other because several were singing sequentially or at the same time. Groups B, T, A, and BD all did disturbed songs, so we decided to go find C, the furthest group, and try the python with them. This was a new territory I'd never been to, because its so far. Julie said it would be possible to see bears here. We didn't see any bears, but we did come across a pair of hornbills eating some huge fruits. they were making a ton of noise dropping the outer part of the fruits as they ate, it was hard to figure out what kind of animal it was making all that noise at first. Hornbills are HUGE birds with HUGE bills, they're really quite amazing to see in person. After watching them a while we heard C start to call and they were not far off. Before reaching them we realized that they too were singing a disturbed call, and sure enough when we got to them they were scanning the ground and acting generally spooked as if they'd seen something. So we threw in the towel and went back. It was too late in the morning to try some of the groups on the opposite side of the study area, and it took us forever to get back from C.

 hornbill grabbing a fruit

Claude: "Grandpa" of the N group. Secondary male, father of Nithat (main male)

Today, we set off to do a python experiment with our new protocol, a two hour scan afterward instead of one. We went to the R group. After finding them we waited until they were in a good position to follow and started our before scan. I was doing the female while Julie did the male. This was my first scan, so I was nervous! Of course for the half hour before we started the scan Brit (the female) was a perfect angel, moving slowly and visibly through the trees eating as she went. Then we started the scan, and after 10 minutes she decided it was time to move, and to move quickly. I spent the next 45 minutes running after her trying to get around/through spiky palm plants and tangled vines and still record her behavior, position, gazes, etc. at five minute intervals. It was rough, and Julie had to help me relocate her a few times. Then, for the last scan of the hour, as if to mock us, she and Henry (the male) came down to about 10 meters above the ground and looked at as like "Oh hey, you wanted to see what we were doing for the past hour, well hows this?" After the scan, Julie found a place for the snake and we waited for them to see it. It didn't take long for Henry to notice it. I was video recording, though I'm not sure how good the recording was hard to get them all in view. Only about 10 minutes into the alarm song tourists and their guide came, we were right near the road so it was a wonderful opportunity for them to interrupt us. We asked them to be quiet, but usually at this point its already ruined, and they never listen anyway, especially the guides. So, with the dirtiest looks we could muster we stomped out of the forest and slammed the doors to the truck and drove away. We will have to try again. Julie wants to ask the park chief if she can put a sign at the trailhead to the R territory saying "Keep out research in progress" on the days when we do experiments with R, since they are so close to the road and the trail is so accessible to tourists. Otherwise I worry we will never be successful with this group.

So after that minor frustration I was still feeling elated having completed my first scan. I was also incredibly pumped when Julie said we'd go to Pak Chong to get groceries this afternoon! I was getting seriously low on food.We had lunch there, ran a few errands, went to the market and Tesco Lotus. I got a pineapple, mangoes, snap peas, carrots, potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, green onions and eggs at the market and tons of other food at Tesco. I am very excited to try new things with the rice cooker. Look forward to a post about how to survive using just a rice cooker and boiled water to cook, I plan on documenting my upcoming experiments. As soon as we got back it rained buckets and Julie and I worked on packing all our food into the fridge. Unfortunately I'm not very hungry after chicken and rice for lunch and some fried bananas for dessert, so I'll have to save my cooking adventures for tomorrow.

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