Hugh Erle Smith
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Puerto Rico Adventure, April 5 - 20, 2007
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Observations In Puerto Rico, April 2007

From what I’ve gathered, there seems to be about 350 species of birds, migratory, indigenous and endemic to the island. There are so many different birds! Many are familiar ones, but far more unfamiliar. And so hard to photograph! Contrary to what you might think, there are far more birds in the low tropical dry forests that receive only about 35 inches of rain compared to the high elevation tropical rain forest that receives 180 inches (15 feet).

 There are 16 species of frog, called Coqui (ko KEE) and I have photographed 5 or 6 of them. The largest is about 2 inches and the smallest can sit on your small fingernail. Although there are several distinct sounds of the different species I have encountered, most of them say Coqui in either a 1-5 announcement or else an octave. Some are bold, others are very timid. I took movies just 8 inches from several of them, at night, and the lights and proximity of the camera do not seem to affect them. Others I never found because they hear you coming. And ALL are exceedingly LOUD.

Every night in the jungle comes this cacophony of sound. It starts before sunset and continues until the birds drown them out at sunrise. It will wake you up! You might think your windows are open. You will want someone to turn it off! And then you get used to it. AWESOME!

There are many species of bats, 3 inches and up. And there is one large snake, the 7 foot Puerto Rican Boa Constrictor. They eat bats, and this is how they do it. Before sunset and sunrise, they go to the mouths of caves in the limestone mountains (the Karst Country) of the north central area. They wrap themselves around stalactites at these caves and  snag bats, midair, as the bats enter and exit the caves. Have I used the  word ‘awesome’ yet?

Here in Puerto there are at least 3 species of toad, too many species of lizards, spiders (all but 2 are very small), walking sticks (found my first one), 3 species of fresh water shrimp (up to eight inches), and 2 species of fresh water crab. One was 6 inches across the Carapace! I’ve found 6 species of Land Snail, 1 type of slug, and numerous insects. Wish I had more time. And I wish they would get rid of the anti bug lights.

I had read there were fossils in the road cuts through the limestone cliffs west of Isabella. So off I went in search of some fossils. I found some really fantastic ones, Scallops (like the shell sign) large snails, sea urchins and Heart Urchins.

Took some photos, took some fossils. And across the road was what I’m always looking for. There were Conchs, Shelfs, Wood Ears and Oysters.

It had rained only 3 times in our 18 days here, and being near the end of the dry season, I knew mushrooms would start popping soon after every rain. Timing could be critical because some mushrooms bloom and die in just a few hours, especially in the Tropics and Sub Tropics. And, of course, there were some very cool things.

We stayed a night in the mountains of Jayuya (Ha YOU ya) at a coffee plantation established in 1858. Pure historical! Early in the morning we went for a walk and found several types of mushrooms, including some perfect Oysters. We brought them back to the coffee plantation and asked our waiter to have the chef cook them up for us. The waiter’s eyes got very wide. “You wanna eat these?” he said. “Of course,” I said. “These are very good. These are sold in grocery stores in America.” So he took them to the kitchen and the chef sautéed them in butter, garlic and salt. And yes, they were very good. We ate about half of them and then invited the waiter and chef to have the rest. They loved them! And they were so surprised. Our waiter said he sees these all the time. I pointed out specific characteristics and compared some of their look alikes. He knows that what he sees frequently are Oysters. But he was shocked that edible mushrooms might come from somewhere else other than a store (only Agaricus  bisporus down here).

When I mention mushrooms to anyone, and almost any where, the first thing they talk about is the mushrooms in the cow manure, as they point at their head and move their finger in a circular motion, and grin. Then they say mushrooms don’t grow here right now.

Here is a partial list of what I found in Puerto Rico:

Sarcosoma mexicana
Pseudohydnum type fungus, jelly, with brilliant orange top and snow white stripe
Lepiota species
Wood Ears
Coprinus species
Oysters (Pleurotus Ostreatus)
Artist Conchs
Cups on Stalks (Tiny)
Xeromphalina kaufmanii
Slime Molds

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