Northeast Dominica

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Today we spent our first day over on the East side of the island. This is the Atlantic coast, and is the windward side of the island so it was much windier and had large waves. It also has some very interesting reef structures, such as fringing reefs. We first went snorkeling just south of the town of Calibishie. There was a not so friendly yet very photogenic young bull near where we were snorkeling, he posed nicely for some photos.

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After that we continued a little further south to Woodford hill beach. There were tons of kids all around some in their underwear and some even naked playing cricket, wrestling, swimming, and everything in between.

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Sascha and Demian were very surprised to see this much activity because usually the beach is empty. This week because of Palm Sunday and Easter the schools spend most of the days on “field trips”, such as this one to the beach. Either way it was cool to see all the kids, and we got to talk to and play with some of them, and Karen even let them bury her.

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Brian, Kate, Demian and I walked aways down the beach to a point of rock where we got in and began snorkeling. There was a huge reef structure in the middle the water. It had cliffs on all sides of it, and they were covered with beautiful corals, and zooanthids. It was really incredible, it would have been even more incredible had we had been permitted to use scuba equipment that would have allowed us access to the rest of the cliff, but apparently the school won’t allow us to use scuba equipment for whatever reason. I got some very nice closeup photos of the corals.

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Herping and our Beach Buddy!!!!

For all you who aren’t quite familiar with the term “Herping” it basically is the act of photographing or catching reptiles and amphibians. Today’s herping excursion started off with hopes of photographing or even possibly catching a Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima), which was spotted in the canopy at this location by Tirzah the previous day. Clayton and I decide to wait until mid-day when the sun was at its highest, assuming they would be out to bask. We started walking around underneath the canopy keeping our heads facing up hoping to catch a glimpse of one, but we were easily distracted by all the Ameivas scurrying around us. After many misses Clayton and I finally caught a baby ameiva who was just adorable as can be.

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Baby Ameiva (Ameiva fuscata)

After a couple of hours of searching we came across an abandoned building. While trying once again to catch a huge Ameiva we came across this huge land crab!!!

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Huge land Crab!

After searching for so long we called it quits. We decided to go hike along the beach where we were approached by a very nice local by the name of Julius. He ever so nicely offered Clayton and I to smoke some weed (marijuana). Clayton and I have never smoked weed before and were definitely not about to start now. Once he realized that we were not interested he offered us some very nice looking necklaces that were very cheap. I personally was not able to decline the offer and I then told Tirzah, Nicole, and Karen about them and we all purchased one. He was so nice he even agreed to take a picture with all of us. This country has the nicest people I have ever met!!!!

 

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Karen, Nicole, Julius and I!!!

We got back to ITME and just when we thought our herping fun was over it wasn’t!!!! Lisa called to Clayton and I and pointed out what looked like to be a little skink, but actually wasn’t. It was actually a Worm lizard(Gymnophthalmus pleii)!!! That was our sixth herp species for the trip and still 3 whole days to go!!!!

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Worm Lizard!

An Ameiva Capture and Dominican Basketball?

Dominican ameiva’s (Ameiva fuscata) are a large lizard species in the family of Teiidae which also includes several other extremely fast lizards such as the tegu’s, and other whiptail species. We have seen several on our trip thus far, but as all members of the Teiidae family which are known for their speed they have until today eluded our capture.

We went back to Batalie Beach today where we got our introduction to the Dominican fisheries. We were going to do some actual scientific marine surveys while we were snorkeling. As soon as we got there, we saw several nice sized ameivas scurry off. Mark and I (Clayton) dove out of the truck (Big Bubba) and began chasing them around like crazed madmen. I saw 2 of them dash into a small closet/building, where I had hoped they where trapped, and didn’t have a secret escape route. Before entering I summoned my faithful herp catching steed Mark, and Karen came over to assist as well. They blocked the door, while I overturned some metal roofing stacked inside. I could still hear them scurrying around under the metal roofing, even over my pounding heart. All of the sudden one of them makes a mad dash by Karen, she makes a grab and misses. The next one dashes towards Mark, he frantically grabs for the slender powerful turquise body of the ameiva. He got it!!!

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Mark+Ameiva

After much hard work, and many disappointing chases a Dominican ameiva was finally captured. Much to our surprise he was a wounded individual and we felt very sad for him, even though we had nothing to do with the injury. One of his rear feet was very torn up, and most of his toes were hanging on by threads. It was a previous injury, possibly from another individual or even a bird or other predator. He most likely will lose all his toes on that foot, but will still be plenty mobile with a stump. Even after the sadness of discovering his injury we (Mark and I) were happy to complete one of our goals of the trip. We got some nice photos and released him back into the wild.

We then went snorkeling and compiled some quantitative data out on the reefs. Which we then brought back to the ITME hacienda (home base) analyzed our data and wrote up presentations of the data. After completing our data analysis and preparing a presentation we decided to take a nice a stroll into the town of Mahaut. The people everywhere are very friendly and enjoy just chatting with foreigners like us. We talked to several very nice people who asked how we liked the island and invited us into their stores, or restaurants. Obviously they consider most tourists as consumers, and most of them probably are. Most of the money that comes into this island comes from the outside, and it is very obvious.

Basketball in Dominica

On our way back we (Bryan, Mark, and I) asked if we could join a game of basketball with some middle aged teenage Dominican boys. They excitedly agreed, and a quick game of 3 on 3 began. We tried to keep Bryan from using his mad sick basketball skills, but he just wouldn’t listen. We played for a good 10 minutes or so, but unfortunately we had to leave to do our presentations. It was a very awesome cultural barrier crossing experience, I think for all parties involved, and of course lots of fun.

Puppy

After that we got attacked by the cutest little vicious puppy who tail waggingly excited ran out onto the road to greet us. Everyones hearts melted as only a puppy can do, and they dove to the ground to greet him with open arms. We tried to get him back onto his property but he kept trying to follow us. Finally we were able to run off without him following.

We got back and everyone gave their presentations of the data they collected, their methods, and a conclusion of the data they collected. The presentations were thoroughly constructively critiqued by the audience (mainly Demian, and Sascha). It was good for all involved and we learned lots of valuable information.

Another day ended fantastically, with a perfect balance of education and fun, or maybe just maybe they might be exactly the same thing here in Dominica.

Day 1 of our trip

Atlantic ocean just south of Melville

After many long stressful hours of travel we arrive at the Melville airport on the Atlantic side of the island. Customs was a breeze and the greeting we received, “Welcome to my Beautiful home”, truly makes us feel welcome. The daunting thought of climbing into a van with a steering wheel on the right hand side (opposite of the US) that will be traveling on the left hand side of the road (also opposite of the US) isn’t as pleasant. Our group is so spell bound by the natural beauty of this place that we climb aboard willingly. Our journey takes us through the heart of Dominica, across the middle of the island, over the treacherous roads that are so narrow most places won’t accommodate two vehicles at the same time. Tortola island on the final flight to DominicaDriver’s honk to each other in friendly greeting or in some cases as a warning to other drivers on blind curves. An hour long ride through dense, lush, green rainforest, past the Atlantic ocean churning against the shore, sheer drops, misty mountain tops and bright sunshine everywhere. All these things create on of the most breath taking, enchanting and memorable rides of my life.Mountains

Nature Lovers!!!

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Dominica is located in the eastern Caribbean, between the French Islands of south of Guadeloupe  and north of Martinique.  It’s natural wonders and rich culture make this unspoiled island a remarkable place to visit.  For all you nature lovers, there are so many activities to participate in such as hiking, canoeing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.  There are also 170 different species of birds, 1000 species of flowering plants, 74 species of orchid and 200 species of fern found in this magnificant paradise.  Tropical rainforests cover two-thirds of the island giving anyone the chance to escape.