You know the grocery produce section, where there is a mister that goes on every few minutes? It is like that. Nothing is dry, ever. I made the mistake of hand washing some laundry, which is exactly as wet as it was 2 days ago. Parts of the road have become a series of ponds. My camera lenses are misted up, sometimes unusable. You can almost see the mold growing. No surprise that there is an abundance of frogs, who call steadily through the constant drip of water on leaves.
Other sounds: frogs that cluck, chirp, trill and thrum like helicopters. Cicadas and crickets and katydids. Chainsaws, which workers use to clear the wreckage of trees that are falling across all the nearby trails. Wind in the tree canopies, a strange contrast to the stillness of the forest at ground level. Sounds never heard: traffic, sirens, dogs, TV, cell phones and human voices.
Last night we encountered a 6 foot boa crossing the road—quite beautiful. I heard howler monkeys in the distance. These are real screamers, heard from probably several miles away.
Here is an interesting story about bird migration, that I read in Tropical Nature. Many of the birds around me here are migrants from the north. They come here from places like to escape the harsh conditions. And to find food—many migrating birds feed on insects, hard to find in the snow. So it easy to understand why birds would rather be in a rainforest in February. But why do they go back north in the spring? Why does one warbler say to another: “Let’s get out of this comfortable warm tropical forest and make a dangerous journey of 4000 miles across the Caribbean Sea to New England?” What’s to gain (aside from frequent flyer miles)?
There are several hypotheses about why bird migration might be adaptive. One has to do with day length. Birds trying to raise their young need every minute of daylight to forage for insects. In the tropics, they get about 12 hours, year round. But in Connecticut, there will be about 18 hours of daylight in July, 30% more hunting time.
Another idea concerns twilight, which we could easily demonstrate in the planetarium: In the tropics, the sun goes down quickly, because its path through the sky is at a right angle to the horizon. Zoom, straight down. In Connecticut, the sun approaches the horizon at an angle, so it takes longer to rise and set. This means a longer twilight, the dim time between day and night that is the most active time for insect prey.
Finally, there is the predator hypothesis. A bird nest is high off the ground so that it might be safe from predators (say a raccoon, or a fox). But it isn’t so safe in the tropics, where there are many predators up in the trees. Two big examples: monkeys and snakes.
I started writing this an hour ago. It has rained 3 times.
A curiosity: where are the mushrooms? After a rainy week in Connecticut, you can see fungi in the woods everwhere. Dead trees are covered in shelf fungus, and you can find a dozen mushroom species if you really look. What do mushrooms need to grow? Decaying plant material and moisture. So a rain forest should be mushroom heaven. Yet I have seen just 2.