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Tree frogs and vinegaroons near Teocelo

Saturday, November 26, 2005 | 2 comments

Today we went to the Matlacóbatl ravine (barranca), near Teocelo. We originally wanted to visit that place last weekend, but back then the weather was quite bad (lot of rain). But today was a beautiful day, so we took the bus in the direction of Teocelo and asked the driver to signal us when we where close to El Puente Olvidado, the Forgotten Bridge, which we accidentally found when my mother was visiting us a few months ago.

Matlacóbatl ravine, near Teocelo
Matlacóbatl ravine, near Teocelo

I wanted to go back there since back then I saw my first vinegaroon (also spelled vinegarroon, a uropygid sp. also known as thelyphonida sp.) in the wild (or in real for that matter), and also I hoped to catch a few crickets for my breeding program.

When we got off the bus we had to walk in the direction of Teocelo for a short while. We saw many coffee plants loaded with berries. We picked a few, since you can remove the skin and suck on the big seeds, which have a somewhat sweet taste.

Coffee berries ripening in the sun
Coffee berries ripening in the sun

When I looked a bit more to the left I spotted a tree amongst the coffee plants with flowering orchids in it. We went closer to have a good look, but I couldn't take a good picture. The flowers had a very nice purple color. When we went back to the road, I suddenly saw something jump away. A yellow green tree frog. I captured the animal, and Esme wanted to have it on her hand, so I could take a picture. Since the frog had already made is displeasure clear with being captured by peeing on my hand, Esme felt quite safe.

Tree frog on Esme's hand
Tree frog on Esme's hand

Esme compared the frog with gollem, the creature form the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. And indeed, it was not a good looking frog. After a short photo shoot, we let the frog go and went back to the road. We followed the road a bit more, and suddenly I recognized the way down to the Forgotten Bridge". It looks like a small track going down. It was just sheer curiosity that made us follow it down the last time, and we didn't expect to find a paved path, and a big bridge crossing the river.

Esme on the road down to the Forgotten Bridge
Esme on the road down to the Forgotten Bridge

We followed the track, which after some time gets paved with rocks. Due to it being mostly in the shadow and damp, it can be quite slippery here and there. After a short walk I recognized the stone that on our previous visit had a vinegaroon hiding under it. And indeed, when I moved the stone we saw a vinegaroon. It was quite a bit smaller then I remembered, so maybe this was not the same one.

Vinegaroon hiding
Vinegaroon hiding

As soon as it was uncovered the vinegaroon tried to hide in a small hole in the moist ground (the animal is a nocturnal and hence hunts at night). I took a few pictures, but while doing so I noticed very small flies being attracted by my bare arms and while taking pictures I was in no time bitten 10 or more times. They reminded me of sand flies as I had encountered in New Zealand. I guess that they are midges (Ceratopogonidae sp.) also known as noseeums, although I did see them and felt them even more. The odd thing is that before we left this morning I put Autan Active (repelente de insectos / hasta 8 horas de protección efectiva) on both arms. So much for the 8 hours of effective protection. Esme asked if I put the Deet in her bag. I thought I did, but it was sun block and some cream to clean hands. I used the latter on my arms in the hope it would form some kind of protection. Luckily the midges only seem to attack when I was close to the ground, looking under big rocks.

View from the Forgotten Bridge
View from the Forgotten Bridge

We walked further down, and the road became quite slippery in places, and in some places a broken off branch was blocking partially the way. We arrived on the Forgotten Bridge and enjoyed the splendid views the walls of the ravine to the left and the right, and the river flowing underneath the bridge. From one side we saw in the distance what looked like a car in the river. That must have been quite a fall. We decided to follow the road, even though we knew it would end suddenly. There was a small track, but when it was clear it was leading between more coffee plants, we decided to go back and see if there was another direction we could take.

Another view from the Forgotten Bridge
Another view from the Forgotten Bridge

We crossed the bridge again and Esme spotted several Oropendolas (probably Montezuma oropendola). Birds with a bright yellow tail and making very weird sounds. When we started to walked up, back the way we came, I noticed a small track following the river, in the direction of the car. When we followed the track we saw that people were busy taking the car apart. To the left and the right of the track we saw banana and coffee plants. When we came close to the place where the people were busy salvaging the car, on the other side of the river, we noticed that the track ended. Also, it was not possible to cross the river. So we looked a bit around.

A tree frog
A tree frog

I saw a little lizard running away, probably a small skink. When I looked underneath a stone, and saw only a larvae of a beetle, I put it back. Esme asked me what the yellow thing was. I lifted the stone again, thinking she meant the larvae. But it was a little yellow green tree frog that was hiding close to the stone, and now jumping away. And another...

A tree frog sitting on the remainders of a fire
A tree frog sitting on the remainders of a fire

And then the race begun: me following one of the frogs, trying to take a picture every time it was resting somewhere. My old camera (Philips ESP60) has a macro mode, but it takes some tweaking with a small handle to get the image sharp. So often when I was just ready to take the picture the frog decided that enough was enough, and made another series of jumps. And even though the color is very bright green, the small frogs are hard to spot when they don't jump.

A tree frog looking "angry" (and it looks like it has teeth)
A tree frog looking "angry" (and it looks like it has teeth)

A frog jumped into the remainders of a fire, and got more and more dirty. And more tired. I captured the little jumping creature, and Esme wanted it on her hand. Since it was tired I was able to make a nice picture.

Tree frog on Esme's wrist, tired
Tree frog on Esme's wrist, tired

We decided to go back, and after a short walk we decided to have a break close to the river. We climbed on a few huge boulders, and enjoyed the beautiful view. I was standing on a big rock when a nice butterfly flew close to me, and next in the direction of Esme. She saw it too, and we smiled at each other. Sharing beauty without words.

The river, to the right you can see a small part (arc) of the Forgotten Bridge
The river, to the right you can see a small part (arc) of the Forgotten Bridge

After a short walk we arrived at the road going up, and back to the main road. When we walked on the road Esme saw another tree frog. And also this frog was not interested in having its picture taken.

Another green tree frog
Another green tree frog

So another race begun: the frog jumping a few times, then sitting without moving, me carefully positioning the camera, making the image sharp, finger floating about the button, and the frog decides my time is up and makes a few teasing jumps.

Tree frog acrobatics
Tree frog acrobatics

But in the end I managed to make a few pictures that weren't moved. The frog got tired, and I stopped making pictures since I didn't want to stress the little animal too much.

More tree frog acrobatics
More tree frog acrobatics

We followed the slippery road up and up. I looked under stones, but there was not much to see. A few worms, now and then some ants. When I lifted a big rock in the middle of the road I saw another vinegaroon. I had lifted the rock earlier, but then there was nothing. Maybe because it was later in the afternoon the vinegaroon had decided to come a bit more out of hiding.

Esme examining the habitat of a vinegaroon
Esme examining the habitat of a vinegaroon

I tried to make a few pictures, but as soon as I got close to the ground the midges decided it was dinner time and bothered me a lot. So no good pictures of this vinegaroon. Luckily the first one we found that day was still under the same rock. After a few failed attempts to make good pictures I decided to put the creature on my hand.

Vinegaroon on my hand
Vinegaroon on my hand

The claws of the vinegaroon have a very nice red color as well as the first pair of "legs". The vinegaroon can spray a vinegar-like mist when it's annoyed, but it had no problem with me holding it.

Vinegaroon (uropygid sp.) on my hand
Vinegaroon (uropygid sp.) on my hand

The odd looking whip like tail has no stinger, but gives the vinegaroon a look similar to a scorpion, hence the name whip scorpion which is also commonly used for this kind of animal.

Vinegaroon on my hand
Vinegaroon on my hand

While I was taking pictures of this weird creature, Esme was looking around, and called me because she had found some insects. I took a few more pictures, very close up, of the vinegaroon and then walked to look what she had found.

Close-up of a vinegaroon on my hand
Close-up of a vinegaroon on my hand

It turned out to be two big insects mating on a tree. One of those insects had impaled a smaller insect on its mouthpiece. The two big insects didn't look very nice, and I do hope they don't sting humans.

Small insect impaled on mouthpiece of a bigger insect
Small insect impaled on mouthpiece of a bigger insect

When we arrived at the main road we walked back to where we got off from the bus. And after a short wait a bus stopped and took us back to Xalapa. On our way back we bought chicken that had been grilled above a fire made with charcoal. We enjoyed this tasty meal with Esme's mother in our house.

In the evening we visited a classmate of Esme. He had moved into a new place, and had organized a small party on the roof. We had a few drinks, and looked at the stars.

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