Archive for January, 2010

Lepidoptera at Mount Totumas

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This past week I had my cousin Tom and his family (Ada, Sam and Megan) up at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest. It was a great week of hiking and exploring. Tom is a lepidopterist and self taught botanist. He brought along his bug lights and traps that we set up at nights around the house. A mercury vapor light together with a fluorescent UV light (powered by our micro hydro generator) on either side of a sheet that we hung between two trees was used to attract the insects.

Bug Light

There are no other competing artificial lights in the whole valley and bordering La Amistad National Park puts us right up against pristine upper montane forest and cloud forest. In spite of some less than optimal conditions with strong winds we did succeed in attracting some interesting specimens of moths and beetles especially in the last couple of nights when the winds subsided.

Cousin Tom The summer months will probably prove to be the best months for collecting and attracting insects. Last August I can remember the spotlight at night attracting hordes of moths. I can only imagine next August when we set up the bug lights Tom left behind how many Lepidopteron visitors we will have. The photos on this post are a sample of some of the more charismatic specimens including butterflies photographed during our daily hikes.
Saturnid Moth
Diversity by night was followed by diversity during the day as some of the local birds figured out that the white sheet still held many of the last nights visitors and by the third morning we had Tropical Kingbirds, Rufous Collared Sparrows and Flame Throated Tanagers actively feeding on the moths. When a large saturnid moth took off four Tropical Kingbirds gave chase high above the trees and in the end the silk moth escaped unharmed. Tropical Kingbird
A butterfly highlight of the week was the giant swallowtail species Papilio garamas syedra that we came across in a small clearing along the trail up the Rio Colorado valley. This beautiful insect reaching a wingspan of 7.5cm road the micro thermals that were rising from the sun heated opening in the forest and glided effortlessly in broad circles for ten minutes as we all watched in amazement.

Here is a link to the Mount Totumas Lepidoptera Gallery

2010 at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Hello Friends of Mount Totumas

Time for an update. Overdue in fact. For the sake of those of you new to this site and to the project I would like to give a quick background. The 400 acres that comprises Mount Totumas Cloud Forest was purchased late in 2008. The past year we were only able to be present on the site for several short trips as we have had other commitments to complete that were ongoing at the time we purchased the land.   In 2010 we will start to implement some of the goals that are outlined on the website that will be regularly updated on this blog.

From January 12 through June I will be at Mount Totumas. A quick trip back to Seattle from March 22 until around April 12 is planned.  I still have not fixed dates for next summer but as spring advances I will be posting on next summers activities.

Visitors are welcome as well as volunteers. I will be posting shortly on volunteer opportunities but as an advance notice we are actively seeking skilled carpenters, plumbers, ecologists with cloud forest knowledge and organic and conventional gardeners, trail designers.

Plans for the first 6 months of 2010

  • Buy a good 4WD pick up truck
  • Complete trail preparation with signs
  • Establish an organic garden
  • Native plant landscaping around home with focus on nectar bearing shrubs and plants
  • Construct benches and viewing platforms along trails
  • Deck extension on house and Mudroom at entrance of house
  • Complete kitchen remodeling
  • Redo the plumbing on the house
  • Complete furnishing on the house
  • Continue initial investigation on premium high elevation coffee growing areas and possible establishment of first coffee seedlings on site.
  • Increase cattle herd to 30 head
  • Gather native seeds of trees and shrubs for starting seedlings for eventual reforestation projects
  • Construct a nursery for native seedlings for reforestation and coffee seedlings.

Keep tuning into the blog. I will arrive at Mount Totumas January 13th and within a couple of weeks of my arrival I will begin to post updates.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Jeff Dietrich