Thursday, November 06, 2008

Bottomless Ghaut

Toward the end of the trip we took a hike down into Bottomless Ghaut, one of the volcanic canyons on the windward side of Montserrat. Relatively inaccessible and protected, it is a refuge for rare species such as the Montserrat Oriole and the Sturnira bat. A "ghaut" is pronounced like "gut" in English, and apparently means a ravine of volcanic origin.

Our mission was to find and capture the rare bat Sturnira thomasi which is suspected of being an endemic species on the island. The plan was to attach radio transmitters to as many bats as possible and then return the next day to find out where they roost. To get to the netting location we had to hike carrying our nets and poles down a steep and muddy trail, which Scott cleared with a machete. We did manage to capture one Sturnira that night, but when we returned the next day with the radio receiver and antenna, we were unable to re-find her. So the mystery continues. We were lucky enough to glimpse the endemic Montserrat Oriole and see its nest, and hear many mountain chickens (actually frogs) although we didn't see one.

Only later did we realize the trail somewhere crossed a nest of chiggers, spawn of the devil. They provided me with an itchy souvenir of the trip that lasted long after my return to San Francisco.


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