Tuesday, July 2, 2013

bats, birds and elephants

Well, despite some frustrations in the forest, including barking deer alarm calls stimulating predator songs from multiple groups and gibbons crossing deep, impassable rivers and leaving us behind, the last two days have still been a bit exciting. Monday morning Yun, our ranger assistant, told us that the night before there had been 30 elephants in the big field near the R territory. Monday night Julie asked if I wanted to join her on a drive to see if the newly repaired brakes on the truck were still burning (luckily they were not). I thought about it, it was 5:45, I wanted to run soon, but I also knew at dusk there are always opportunities to see interesting things, so I ran to get my camera and off we went. Sure enough, driving up the road we passed some of the rangers from the search and rescue unit along with the "elephant man" (what I call this guy who follows the elephants, Julie pointed out this isn't the most flattering nickname...). If you want to find elephants, you are usually in the right place if the elephant man is nearby. So we pulled over and looked, we saw two elephants but they were already making their way back into the forest and just looked like two giant, moving boulders. So we drove on. We stopped at the lookout point before turning back because we had never stopped there before, so I could get a picture of the view. Once again we were lucky, soon bats started coming out for the evening, in huge groups. One group after another flew by in every direction, it was really awesome. There were hundreds if not thousands. We were also lucky enough to see several groups of hornbills flying together to their sleeping trees. Seeing one hornbill flying is cool enough, they are so huge their wings make a loud swishing noise when they fly by. So needless to say seeing groups of up to eight of them was awesome.

We eventually got back in the car and drove back down towards home. Everywhere there was evidence of this group of 30 elephants we had heard about. Branches and poop were strewn across the road. Sure enough, after a few minutes we found ourselves in a long line of traffic. The elephants were back on the road. It was starting to get dark, and we were not very close to the front of the line, so I only got a few pictures, but it was amazing how many there were! They took their sweet time on the road, and we were stuck behind them for over an hour and a half. When the finally did move off the road and we drove by, they were still very near the edges of the road. It was awesome to be driving along, window down, and to suddenly see out of the corner of my eye and enormous bull elephant standing in some brush at the side of the road, probably 6 feet from me in the car. Before heading back home we drove further to a field that was very dark so we could see the stars. it was absolutely beautiful, but it didn't last long. Soon the lightning from the distance brought storm clouds and covered everything up. We finally got home at about 8:30, so I missed my run for the day, but I guess it was worth it.

Today was less exciting, but the elephants were still around. I ran in the direction we'd seen them last night because I was sick of my usual route. I got just over a half mile out and had to stop because apparently they were still nearby in the forest and the rangers suggested I turn around.

 Unfortunately it was really hazy, so the view isn't great


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