When I set out for my first early morning canal boat survey, I didn´t know what to expect. We´d been taken out on the nearby canals during training week but now we were heading to the furthest survey route from base: Sierpe Viejo.
The survey began as expected, with dawn bringing out the usual collection of herons, egrets and jacanas, along with an assortment of other birds often seen along the canals. It wasn’t long, however, before we found our path somewhat blocked. In fact, the end of this particular survey has not been completed for some time due to the reeds, broken branches and other vegetation which were obstructing the waterway. But with our crack team of rowers and some amazing directing from our spotter (me), we decided to plow on and see how far we could get.
Over reeds and under branches we went, and it wasn´t long before our efforts were rewarded. The distinctive call of the boat-billed heron began ringing around us, and we were soon surrounded by a flock of at least nine of these unique birds. The flock were being especially vocal as we´d inadvertently approached a nest, in which sat a juvenile complete with fluffy feathers.
The baby boat-billed heron in the nest.
By the time we had to give up and turn back, we had not only completed the Sierpe Viejo survey route, but even managed to get almost half a kilometre past the end. No one knows when the last time a boat got so far down this canal, but we were definitely in unfamiliar territory. When we reached the motorboat to return back to base, we were full of excitement for the great sightings and fun we´d had on the survey. Just as we were winding down for the journey back to base, our boat-driver Robyn spotted an otter sunbathing on the bank. These elusive and endangered animals usually bolt at the sound of boats, so the fact that we got a really clear sighting of this as well just put the icing on the cake of an awesome morning on the canal.
The neotropical rover otter basking in the sun.
-Heather, 6 month intern