Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, March 07, 2008

Puerto Rico and El Yunque Rainforest

The very blue waters of Aruba

The final island that we visited on our Caribbean cruise was Aruba. Like Bonaire, Aruba is a flat, arid island, however it’s much more developed than Bonaire. There is a high-rise hotel district and a large downtown shopping district. We did a package tour that included sailing on a wooden boat and snorkeling. I don’t really feel like I got much of the flavor of that island. But the water was some of the most gorgeous blue that we encountered on the trip.

El Yunque Rainforest

Following Aruba, we had a full day at sea, returning to Puerto Rico early the morning after that. There had been talk of doing some touring together on Puerto Rico, however UrSpo was not feeling well by then, so we bid our companions goodbye at the airport and grabbed our rental car. By late morning we were at El Yunque rainforest.

The stream near the start of our hike

Further downstream, it gets bigger and rockier

El Yunque is very readily accessible from San Juan. We toured the visitor center and then headed off on a jungle hike to La Mina waterfall. I’ve not been to the Greater Antilles before. I was immediately struck with how much greater the biodiversity is on these larger islands. Our walk took us along a tropical stream through very different kinds of rainforest. We got to see lots of endemic plants and birds. A single fallen branch covered with an array of bromeliads and orchids hinted at the species richness high above our heads in the canopy.

Bromeliads and orchids on a fallen branch

Jungle Beauty

I had been hoping to see a Callisto satyr butterfly. This genus is endemic to the Greater Antilles, and includes species on Puerto Rico. Although I would not see one, I was treated to another Caribbean endemic, Dismorpha spio. This is actually an unusual species of sulphur butterfly. I sow several- but always out of reach in the ravine that the stream flowed through. This picture is from the collections where I work. The individuals were collected in the Dominican Republic.

Habitat of Dismorpha spio

Dismorpha spio
Even if I had been able to get close, they perch with their wings closed.

The weather was quite changeable at El Yunque. As we walked through the rainforest, we encountered- surprise- periodic rainfall, some heavier than just a passing shower. The paths and foliage were quite wet for much of the walk. The waterfall was lovely, though I was a bit disappointed by the number of people there.

Rain in the rainforest

La Mina Waterfall

We had lunch at a little concession in the park, then decided to go to a beach on the south shore of the island. Leon knows me well enough to know my ulterior motives. I wanted to see tiger beetles. Remember my shopping list? I got to see (and photograph) two species on the list. They were very active, so photography was difficult. Cicindela trifasciata did not come out really well, but I’m pleased with my image of C. suturalis, which is a Caribbean endemic. Leon was very patient waiting for me while I was having my entomological fun.

Sandpipers along the beach

Cicindela trifasciata

Cicindela suturalis

I really enjoyed Puerto Rico. I’d love to go back and explore the island a bit more. I also enjoyed the cruise experience. I’d probably do a few things differently next time, mainly more independent travel by bicycle or motor scooter. Still, the food, the scenery, and especially the company were without parallel.

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At 17:06, Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Doug, did you put in the birds for us birders! I like the shot of the fallen branch and the bromeliads. look at all the colors in the wet bark! I'm like you with the crowds. I prefer to enjoy nature in relative peace. Sometimes we don't get a choice, however. I hope you enjoyed the waterfall anyway. Imagine, rain in a rainforest! Who woulda thunk it! Nice post! Are you heading home now?

At 19:36, Blogger valown said...

That is too bad there were that many people at the waterfall. Although, it's still beautiful. And great pic of the suturalis. I could have guessed that was what you would look for on the beach. Do tiger beetles occur on most of the beaches of the world?

At 20:01, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Kathy- The waterfall was great in spite of the crowds. The people weren't too rambunctious, either, which helped. I'm not on the way home- I've been back for a while. I only did a couple of posts from shipboard. INternet time is just too expensive there.

valown- Tiger beetles do occur on beaches, and have a very wide distribution- with some gaps. None in Hawaii, for example. There are lots of non-beach species, too. They are actually some of the most interesting ones.

At 14:36, Blogger Tommy said...

Love the pictures, especially of the insects and flowers

and the description on your travels.


At 16:28, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

That rainforest looked amazing. I especially liked the shot of the fallen branch!

At 09:36, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Very nice. I've enjoyed catching up and following your travels.
Soundsl like a great trip.

At 08:44, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Tommy- thanks, and welcome to the Tapestry.

Dave- I like taking pictures of downed branches when I'm visiting rainforests. They are often the only place that I get to see things like orchids. Occasionally I even get to see them in bloom in this situation.
FC- Thanks. It's good to be home. The travel calms down a bit now.

At 11:23, Blogger Ur-spo said...

i remember this place when i was last in PR

At 16:32, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Spo- Sorry you guys couldn't make this part of the trip with us. We had a terrific time.

At 18:09, Blogger rodger said...

Late to the party but I really loved the rainforest photos. That would certainly be a hike I'd enjoy taking regardless of the people at the falls.

All in all it seems you had a great time and saw some fantastic scenery.

At 18:40, Blogger robin andrea said...

Love the lushness in these photos, and that incredible blue water. It all looks very warm and beautiful. Must have been a great break from winter.

At 09:09, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Rodger- I'm sure you would have enjoyed the hike. My pictures just don't do the place justice. That's been true for every one of my rainforest experiences. I feel that very few, if any, photographs can ralloy capture the feeling of the place.

Robin- It was indeed wonderful to get away from winter. Especially this year- it's been a hard one for us.

At 17:18, Blogger Chilmarkgirl said...

Doug- the pics from El Yunque are so great to see and brought back great memories from our trip there. I certainly remember all the bromiliads-and I also remember seeing these really large snails- young David loved them- he was 4 1/2 at the time! So you have actually been on my mind- I just came back from a ladies ski trip- we skied a couple of days at Attitash-the last time I was there was with you- there are now 2 peaks-Attitash and Bear Peak. It was a great trip and I would now kick your butt skiing :-)
On my drive home on rt 16 near Ossippee a Great horned owl flew in front of me and landed in a tall spruce- nice way to end the trip!

At 07:49, Blogger Doug Taron said...

CG Soiunds like a wnerful ski trip. I did not see any of the big snails in El Yunque. Would have been interesting. Still, we saw lots of cool stuff.

At 15:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - you mean if I move to Puerto Rico, I can see all that? They have some nerve calling SW Florida "Paradise" when Puerto Rico is so beautiful in its wild places. I am suddenly taken with the urge to go out to the Everglades.

(All Floridians know that it's Fc's neck of the woods that is ACTUALLY Paradise).

It's been great reading about your travels and continuing adventures, Doug.

Beware - I am back to posting again.

At 14:43, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Thingfish- On a day when we are recovering from a spring snowstorm in Chicago, I'm thinking that all of those places sound like paradise to me. Glad to have you back blogging.

At 19:05, Anonymous sharon Bladholm said...

hi..i like your photos! i was jsut in El Yunque in March..
you seemto know a bit about butterflies...
do you know of any others that would be found in El Yunque?
I wrote down the 2 you mentioned but would love to know more..
where do you work?
Could it be the Field Museum?
thanks Sharon


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