Wayqecha Comes Alive During the Rainy Season

October 22, 2010

   During the low tourist season of Wayqecha flowerNovember–January, Wayqecha is a magnificent wonder of flowering plants, curious animals, and diverse birds seldom seen at other times of year. Story by Wayqecha intern Laura Morales.

When I first arrived to work at Wayqecha in July 2009, I was struck by how relatively dry this cloud forest was. The forest itself was green, but the transition between the upper cloud forest and the puna grassland was dry as a bone. In September I kept hearing from my co-workers the promise of rain. Well, we waited … September and October passed and we worried that the rains wouldn’t come. Finally, in November we had abundant rain, and the change in the cloud forest and puna was amazing. Many plants produce their fruit at this time of year in greater abundance than during the austral winter, attracting many animals.Wayqecha rainbow

On my rounds of the trails, forest, and puna, and through the reports of researchers working at the station, I noticed an increase in the presence of animals, sighting them and finding their tracks more often. We sighted a resident fox several times and even saw a long-tailed weasel right at the door of the station. Birds, the most visible of animals at the station and always relatively abundant, seemed to explode with new varieties during this period. There was a noticeable change in the demographic of the hummingbird population.

Aside from the boreal migrants that come at this time of year, many more local birds come to feed on the newly abundant fruits, shoots, and insects. Of insects, butterflies in particular appear in new shapes and colors – for example, the spectacular Morpho sulkowskyi makes its first appearance. Of course the butterflies are preceded by an abundance of caterpillars, some so large and Wayqecha shrubfull of bristles as to strike fear into the heart of the most experienced biologist lest he put his hand on one accidentally. And of course the myriad orchids in Wayqecha begin to bloom more abundantly at this time of year.

Everything seems to take on new life with the change in seasons and coming of the rains. Unfortunately this change and contrast is something that few visitors and researchers at the station get to experience. In contrast to the animals, most people flock here during the dry season of May through August. However, the few researchers who do brave the constant drizzle, cloudy weather, risk of landslides and falls along slippery trails, are rewarded by witnessing this greening of Wayqecha.

(Photos by Trond Larsen)