The incredible noisy Cicadas
While we were walking along a path in the San Miguel La Palotada - El Zotz Biotope, we could hear the sound of the cicadas intensely, when we were about to leave in a tree we could observe the small insect on the trunk of a tree.
Cicadas are insects belonging to the superfamily Cicadoidea, they are well known for their shape and colors, you can easily see a skull, a bird and a butterfly, in the area of its head and thorax. They are also famous for being able to remain buried for up to 17 years (depending on the species); but, above all, they are very famous for their strident sounds. And why are Cicadas so noisy? They are able to produce these sounds because they possess the tymbal organ. The sound is produced only by males because is a mating call. According to Bauer, P. (n.d.) “each male cicada has a pair of these circular ridged membranes on the back and side surface of the first abdominal segment. Contraction of a tymbal muscle attached to the membrane causes it to bend, producing a clicking sound. The tymbal springs back when the muscle is relaxed. The frequency of the contractions of the tymbal muscle range from 120 to 480 times a second, which is fast enough to make it sound continuous to the human ear.”
What is most amazing of the noisy calling of Cicadas is that each species has its own distinctive song that only attracts females of its own kind. This allows several different species to coexist (Valdes, n.d.). So the next time you listen to Cicadas, pay attention because you won’t always listen to the same song twice.
Now that we are in Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo National Park we were able to photograph them in droves. We spent more than ten minutes observing them and finding their best angles. You can find them on the Yaxha road to Nakum and at Grupo Maler, in the Yaxha area. Possibly in more places, you just have to listen and observe the logs.
Chicharra - Order: Hemiptera
Written by Roxana Leal and Vivian Hurtado. ID Victor Mendoza.
Chicharra - Order: Hemiptera - Family: Cicadidae. Grupo Maler, Parque Nacional Yaxha. June 30, 2021. Photography: David Arrivillaga. Photo taken with a Sony A7R IV camera, Sony E 30mm F3.5 Macro lens, 1/125 sec, f/9, ISO 1600
Sony A7R IV camera,Sony E 30mm F3.5 Macro lens, 1/100 sec, f/10, ISO 1600
Diversity of hummingbird nests in Livingston
During the May and June expeditions in Livingston, Izabal, we had the opportunity to find and photograph hummingbirds and their nests. The nests are incredible, it is located five feet from the ground and they are made perfectly with branches, lichen, moss and other materials found in nature. In each nest we have found between one and two eggs. Because of their size they are difficult to find.
Tapon Creek, Cerro San Gil and Río Dulce, Biotopo Chocón Machacas were the places where we have documented these birds. On some occasions there was the hummingbird and on others we only found the nest. You can find different species of hummingbirds when you visit Izabal, FUNDAECO has registered around 26 species in this department.
According to Alarcon (2011) some of the characteristics that you must take into account to identify hummingbirds in the field are: the size of the beak, its shape and color; the projections of the wings when the bird is perched; the shape, color and markings on the tail. Sometimes, the species can be very similar to each other so they can only be differentiated by the area where they live and it is advisable to use distribution maps, it also helps to identify the flowers they visit.
You can find more information in the “Hummingbirds of Mesoamerica” bibliography that we prepared for you.
Photographed by David Arrivillaga on April the 28th 2021, in Livingston Izabal, Guatemala with a Sony ILCE-7RM4 using the FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens. Settings: 1/250 f/9 ISO 2000.
Photographed by Haniel López in Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala.
FLAAR Mesoamerica team finds and photographs rare Mantled Howler Monkey
Solid black howler monkeys can be found by the thousands in Peten. We hear and see them all the time in Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo (PNYNN) and elsewhere in the Reserva de la Biosfera Maya (RBM). But along El Golfete and especially along the Amatique Bay coast, during the last year we have seen and heard howlers only about twice (have seen and photographed more rare crocodiles than howler monkeys in these areas of the Municipio de Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala).
But yesterday, Edgar Alexander Cuz Choc. noticed monkeys and quickly we realized they were howler monkeys not spider monkeys. I asked if they had rust-colored patches on their backs; the photographers were able to confirm this: so I told them that they had photographed the rarest monkey of Guatemala, the Mantled Howler Monkey, Alouatta palliata.
So if you want to see and photograph these monkeys, we recommend lanchero José Jacobo Ardón Madero, (phone number +502 3030-4801). can take you up each river (keeping in mind it’s pure luck to find this rare monkey). We stayed at Tortugal Hotel and Marina, surrounded by a picturesque rain forest with lots of exotic wetlands plants.
Photo taken with a Sony A1 camera, Lens Sony FE 200-600mm, f/5.6-6.3 G OSS by David Arrivillaga, FLAAR Mesoamerica
Scientific illustrations of birds, mammals, and reptiles of Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala
We have found scientific illustrations by three capable artists:
- a bird and peccary by Henke
- a dozen illustrations of animals by Joan Branca
- Nice set of illustrations by Wendy Addison
Addison and Branca helped as volunteers on FLAAR projects half a century ago. Both are alive and well and still doing eye-catching art designs. We estimate Henke was also a student assisting us in Guatemala; since we don’t have a first name we have not yet located this individual.
Mario Vasquez, CONAP co-administrator of PNYNN has asked us (FLAAR and FLAAR Mesoamerica) to add additional research on fauna to our long-term dedicated field work and library research on plants and animals of PNYNN. So we will produce two FLAAR reports on fauna of Yaxha: one with drawings by Joan Branca; and a second report with drawings by Wendy Addison. We hope to find more by Henke as well; we show here the only two we have found so far:
Ara macao, an endangered species no longer found in Central Peten (so not at Yaxha, Nakum, Naranjo, or Tikal). This macaw is a patron logo of Copan Ruinas, Honduras.
Victor estimates this is a rendering of a Tayassu pecari, white lipped peccary. I will do more research since there is also the collared peccary (and on the drawing I see the base of its white diagonal band).
To publish all these illustrations will take a while since we need to identify the genus species, common name in English, in Spanish, and in either Q’eqchi’ or Peten Itza Maya language. But we wanted to show samples first.
After we publish a first edition of each of their scientific illustrations, we will see which important species of mammals and reptiles we should add. Wendy Addison kindly told us she could accomplish additional illustrations for a more comprehensive coverage of the mammals and reptiles of Yaxha (for these creatures we will focus on the ones that appear in Classic Maya murals, on carved stone monuments, or painted or incised on ceramic vases, bowls, lids, plates, or are seen as 3-dimensional figurines of birds, reptiles, or mammals.
We will have two additional pages on this website later this summer: one with samples of the drawings of Joan Branca, and the other with illustrations by Wendy Addison.
Bright Green Lizard, Municipio de Livingston
Photographed May 10, 2021 by Lucas Cuz, Q'eqchi' Mayan photographer of flora and fauna and park ranger in nearby nature reserves.
This nice crisp high-resolution photo of this gorgeous green lizard was photographed by plant scout Lucas Cuz, who lives in aldea El Rosario and works in Tapon and Taponcito nature reserves of FUNDAECO.
We provide cell phones with high-quality digital camera (usually a high-end Google Pixel phone since they have better macro than most other brands), plus we provide productive plant scouts with a computer.
Plant scouts also photograph butterflies, larvae of butterflies and moths, and fauna in addition to remarkable Neotropical plants where they live or where they work in remote rain forest nature preserves.
Stingless bees of Guatemala produce healthy honey (and pollen)
When you drive towards the Yaxha entrance to Parque Nacional Yaxha, Nakum and Naranjo, a few kilometers before the park entrance, on the left side of the road (west side) there is a local family that depends on income from bee honey and bee pollen to survive.
About 7 km towards Yaxha park entrance from the highway turnoff of La Maquina, you can find local honey at Don Goyo's bee area. Here is Roxana Leal, social media manager of FLAAR Mesoamerica, walking up towards the family-run business of Don Goyo.
Members of the FLAAR team also bought several bottles of honey to assist the hospitable family. Don Goyo raises doncella bees (Melipona species, probably Melipona beechii) and tamagás (the slightly larger black stingless bee, potentially Cephalotrigona zexmeniae). We are preparing a full report (ready by June) and will double-check the species identification with bee-ologist Scott Forsythe.
It helps local Mayan families if you can purchase their handicrafts at the PNYNN visitors center or obtain the honey directly from Don Goyo along the side of the road (his honey is not sold in any store; only directly from their family home).
To learn about stingless bees of the Mayan people you can ask Don Goyo to take you on a brief tour around his apiary so you can see the cute golden stingless honey bees. The tamagás bee tend to swarm into your hair (if you get too close to their hive), but they have no stingers. I am used to them.
Stingless bee honey is much more liquid than honey from European bees and nowhere near as thick as Manuka honey. So stingless bee honey is not “watered down,” it is liquid as is.
Howler Monkey, Alouatta pigra, list of suggested reading
Photograph by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth, with a Nikon D5 Camera, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4e FL ED VR lens. 1/30 sec, f/11, ISO 5000
Today we are making available our extensive bibliography on Alouatta pigra, the more common black howler monkey of Peten and surrounding areas of Mesoamerica (southern Mexico and Central America).
The entire bibliography will be available as a FLAAR report as a .pdf in coming months, but in the meantime, for students, zoology professors, and people around the world who are curious about the howler monkey, on this page you can find lots to read.