Batting in Nicaragua without José

The recent reports from Nicaragua featuring José Martinez—batman extraordinaire–caught my attention because my wife and I had a sizable hole among the neotropical bats in our quest to see families of vertebrates.  Furipteridae, Natalidae, Mormoopidae, and Thyropteridae were all MIA (or more accurately Missing Due to Inaction) and another family, Molossidae, was a BVD on our list (Better View Desired).   Emails with José confirmed that he could probably show us—and better yet, hand us–all but the Furipteridae, as well as help us with some herp family targets. Thus a plan was made.

Months later, good news for José, bad news for us; José was heading to Arizona for a grad degree.  Uncertainty about the timing of his departure left us still patching things together on December 26 for a January 3 trip, but in the end his colleague Maynor Fernandez (maynor2405@hotmail.com) could still take us out with another colleague, Rolando Davila (rdavilas@hotmail.de), serving as translator and driver.  Maynor proved to be a very able trip leader and thus we found most of our target families as well as the elusive yapok.   And with Rolando’s good natured work to keep lines of communication open, we also had a highly enjoyable trip with smooth logistics and comfortable room and board.   “We” were just three including my wife Aram Calhoun, and our friend, Ron Joseph, a retired wildlife biologist.

Previous reports have given a good overview of logistics so the following should suffice for an overview.   Days 1 & 2 were based in Ostional for a visit to Rio Escameca for mist-netting and a trip to the El Abuelo caves on Lago de Nicaragua.   On Day 3 we returned north to the Masaya area for an evening of mist-netting and spot-lighting at Laguna de Apoyo.   We had planned on four nights at Refugio Bartola but having scored most of our targets within 26 hours of arriving, we departed a day early, on Day 7, so that we could spend an evening at Laguna de Masaya and our 8th day at Refugio Chocoyero where b@#ds were the focus.

Yapok   Chironectes minimus   Bartola    This was our #1 target after the bats, having seen most of the feasible medium-large mammals during previous trips to the region.  We were delighted by fabulous views as it swam across the river twice, posing on each bank less than 10 m away.  Maynor estimated that he is successful on 30-40% of trips and said that excellent views like ours are typical.

Common Opossum Didelphis marsupialis  Ostional, Apoyo, Bartola

Central American Woolly Opossum Cauromys derbianus   Two spot-lighted at Laguna de Masaya

Bats:   We were delighted to have close encounters with 21 species representing 8 of the western hemisphere’s 9 families, all but the Furipteridae.  We only had about 10 mist-net hours (~4 hrs x 2-3 nets) but they yielded 10 of our species with the rest coming from dip-netting at roosts.  We limited mist-netting because we found the stress on the bats stressful for us too.  Two species marked * are apparently uncommon but IDs were confirmed in consultation with José.

Greater White-lined Bat Saccopteryx bilineata Escameca, Apoyo

Gray Sac-winged Bat Balantiopteryx plicata   Abuelo

Greater Fishing Bat Noctilio leporinus Escameca

Greater Spear-nosed Bat Phyllostomus hastatus Apoyo

Pale Spear-nosed Bat Phyllostomus discolor  Apoyo

Stripe-headed Round-eared Bat Tonatia saurophila Escameca

Jamaican Fruit-eating Bat Artibeus jamaicensis  Escameca

Pygmy Fruit-eating Bat Artibeus phaeotis   Escameca

Seba’s Short-tailed Bat Carollia perspicillata Abuelo

Sowell’s Short-tailed Bat Carollia sowelli  Bartola

Chestnut Short-tailed Bat Carollia castanea  Escameca

Gray Long-tongued Bat  Glossophaga leachii * Apoyo

Common Vampire Bat Desmodus rotundus  Abuelo

Common Mustached Bat Pteronotus parnellii  Abuelo

Lesser Mustached Bat Pteronotus personatus    Abuelo

Big Naked-backed Bat Pteronontus gymnonotus  Abuelo

Riparian Myotis Myotis riparius  Bartola

Mexican Funnel-eared Bat Natalus mexicanus  Abuelo

Woolly Funnel-eared Bat Natalus lanatus  Abuelo

Spix’s Disk-winged Bat  Thyroptera tricolor  Bartola

Mexican dog-faced bat   Cynomops mexicanus * Escameca

Hooded Skunk Mephitis macroura   Two near Laguna de Apoyo

Southern Spotted Skunk Spilogale angustifrons  Four foraging together at Laguna de Masaya

Mantled Howler Monkey Alouatta palliate  Almost daily sightings

Central American Spider Monkey Ateles geoffroyi  Sighted twice at Bartola

White-faced Capuchin Cebus capucinus Small groups at Bartola and Chocoyero

Rodents.  Maynor had 10 Sherman traps but we only deployed them at Escameca with no captures and after that other priorities for our time always prevailed.

Variegated Squirrel Sciurus variegatoides  Ostional & Chocoyero

Deppe’s Squirrel Sciurus deppei   Bartola

Central American Agouti Dasyprocta punctata Bartola & Chocoyero

Forest Rabbit Sylvilagus brasiliensis   Bartola

Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus   Ostional

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth Bradypus variegatus   Bartola

The list of herp families that we need is characterized by one word—fossorial—and thus I was delighted to flip a log and discover a caecilian.  It was only the third caecilian of my life, but it was also my third caecilian family (of the seven globally).  The next day I spoiled the one for one ratio by finding another individual of the same species.   Here is our list from Bartola, using Amphibia Web nomenclature Incilius coccifer, Incilius coniferus, Craugastor megacephalus, Craugastor noblei, Dendrobates auratus, Oophaga pumilio, Rana vaillanti, Gymnopis multiplicata, Bolitoglossa striatula, and Reptile Database: Anolis capito, Anolis limifrons, Anolis oxylophus, Anolis quaggulus, Basiliscus plumifrons, Iguana iguana, Clelia clelia, Leptodeira rhombifera, Micrurus nigrocinctus, Rhinoclemmys funerea, Trachemys scripta, Crocodylus acutus.

For the ornithophiles hiding among Mammal Watching readers I will mention we had one avian target, the double-striped thick-knee, and found a pair in a pasture south of Lago de Nicaragua.  White-throated crakes at Bartola and the endemic Pacific parakeets at Chocoyero were also memorable.  Our morning of birding revealed the challenges of translated guiding—e.g., imagine quickly translating “it is in the shadow of the lowest dead branch on the dark-barked tree”—but an IR pointer would have solved this.

In summary, we judged this an excellent trip, although we would have learned more about Nicaraguan fauna and ecology with José.  Maynor and Rolando also enjoyed the experience and are ready to organize a similar trip for anyone else who wants to visit Nicaragua with mammals and herps as primary targets.

9 Comments
  1. Venkat Sankar 4 months ago

    Excellent report! I need to start plotting a trip there…

    One question–do you know if the Smoky Bats are still roosting at Bartola? They are one of my key targets there.

  2. Profile photo of machunter Author
    machunter 4 months ago

    I am afraid I don’t know but I would suggest you email Maynor, especially if you can do it in Spanish. We were really focused on the yapok and disk-winged bats at Bartola and did not inquire about the smokey bats. We only had 2 mist nets up for a short hour at the edge of the compound there.

  3. Profile photo of Jon Hall
    Jon Hall 4 months ago

    I just checked with Jose Gab and he reckons they should still be there… they have been a regular fixture for the past 4 years at least and I don’t think anything has changed at Bartola

  4. Venkat Sankar 4 months ago

    Thanks! Hoping to visit next Dec-Jan. Nicaragua has become one of my most-wanted trips now…

  5. Profile photo of machunter Author
    machunter 4 months ago

    Note that Jose originally suggested January weather would be better than early December and Charles Hood recently had weather issues in mid-Dec….mac hunter

  6. Charles Foley 4 months ago

    Congratulations on the Yapok. That’s increasingly high on my list!

  7. Profile photo of machunter Author
    machunter 4 months ago

    I wish it were an otter shrew…..soon to be recognized as a new family by HMW. Will you be targeting them on your upcoming trip to CAR?….mac

  8. Curtis Hart 4 months ago

    I was at La Bartola 3 days ago, and Maynor said the Smokey Bats were not there, he said he had known of another roost, but that it was a really long hike into the forest.

    Bartola is incredibly changed since the fall 2016 hurricane. It is wide open with tons of treefall. There are paths, as they are logging the down trees. Netting was slow and the only bat roost we found were the bilineata in the eating area.

    I would check in advance before counting on the Smokey Bats being there.

    • Venkat Sankar 4 months ago

      Thanks Curtis. Bartola remains high on the list for the Yapok of course (as well as Rufous Tree Rat, Disk-winged Bat, etc.), but good to know the Smoky Bats would entail a long hike. It seems like the Pacific slope sites are fine, though I haven’t heard any mention of Long-legged Bats, another species I’d like to see. Looking forward to the report.

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