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 (email@example.com) could still take us out with another colleague, Rolando Davila (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.