Argentina

Spot the beast 41

I consider this “Spot” a tough one. Once again it shows the amazing camouflage that some creatures have developed to survive. Look for it!

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Its colours do not matter once it is able to fly off!

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A WWII relic

On the way back from our macaw walk [1] Oscar mentioned that there was an old truck parked nearby. Curious we agreed to get there and -as usual- do a bit of “controlled trespassing” to investigate.

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First view.

The truck was still there and it still showed its original painting as well as its make: Ford Canada.

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P1190013 copyP1190015 copyAlthough the truck showed the signs of time, it still was quite well preserved. Surprised, I took a few pictures and went to the Internet in search of answers. This is what I found mainly via Wikipedia [2].

I believe that it is a Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck. This truck was produced in large numbers and several types in Canada during World War II. Standard designs following British Army specifications for use by the armies of the British Empire and allies were prepared before the beginning of the war coincident with the rise to power in Germany of Hitler and the Nazi party in 1933.

By 1939, mass production in Canada of CMP military vehicles was on the way and the Canadian-built vehicles were to serve widely in the forces of other countries. At the outbreak of World War II, Canada’s large and modern automobile industry was shifted over to the production of military vehicles out-producing Germany. Truck production was focused on a broad range of medium-capacity vehicles.

Over 500,000 CMP trucks were manufactured in Canada. They were right-hand drive and they formed the basis of a wide variety of different truck types and armoured vehicles.

All the CMP cab designs had a short, “cab forward” configuration that gave them a typical boxer-nosed profile, a design required for a more efficient transport by ship. Internally the cab had to accommodate the comparatively large North American engines and it was generally cramped.

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Eight cylinder engine.

P1190021 copyNewly manufactured, or as modified war surplus, CMP trucks were widely used after 1945 in several European armies and around the world, among them in Argentina. CMP trucks were adapted after the war for a variety of civilian roles including forestry, grain transport, fire-fighting trucks, and snow-ploughs.

Focusing on our find, while I wait for a response from the experts available in the web (if it ever comes!) I would classify our find as a Ford CMP truck of the cargo type as its back part was resting nearby.

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Summary of technical specifications:

Ford F15. 3 ton 4×4 Cargo produced by Ford Canada. Designed in 1936–1940. Produced in 1940–1945. Service history: From 1940. World War II. Engine: Ford 239 239 cu in (3.9 L) petrol V8, 95 hp (71 kW). Wheel 4×4. Speed 50 mph (80 km/h)

Now, how did it get to Itiyuro?

Although the Argentine Army is listed among the world armies that got CMP trucks [2] they would have been re-painted with the proper livery and they would have had special Army number plates.

The answer to the origin of the truck relates to oil prospection work in the area [3].

Oil had been detected near Tartagal (Northern Salta) in the 17th Century although interest for its extraction only started in the mid 1920’s through the arrival in Salta of the Jersey Standard Oil Company (SOC), attracted by the area’s potential.

The SOC finally started to extract oil industrially from 1926 but soon slowed down its intervention as the Government YPF moved in. During 1938-9 extraction by SOC declined as the YPF’s increased and by the late 1940’s, in view of the poor production of its wells, the SOC withdrew from Salta.

It is possible that the truck is one of the few remnants in the Itiyuro area left by the SOC or one of its engineers that brought the truck as a war surplus. I am not sure that we will know but, anyway, it was an interesting find.

 

[1] http://www.bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/safari-to-itiyuro/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Military_Pattern_truck. Consulted on 6 April 2018.

[3] Benclowicz, J.D. (2011). Aportes para la Historia del Norte de Salta. Conformación y desarrollo de las localidades de Tartagal y General Mosconi durante la primera mitad del siglo XX (Contributions to the History of Northern Salta. Formation and Development of the Towns of Tartagal and General Mosconi in The First Half of the Twentieth Century). Andes vol.22 no.1 Salta ene./jun. Consulted on 6 April 2018.

 

Spot the beast 40

This took place while walking up the hill in Itiyuro in search of the macaws. See my earlier post.

For a change I spotted this little fellow running and then lost it when it stopped. After a while searching it moved again at the time that we were almost about to abandon our search.

I am sure that you will find it.

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Just in case you did not spot it, I took a couple more pictures as it was really a nice youngster although we could not identify it.

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Jaguarundi

A Herpailurus yaguarondi known locally as yaguarundi run in front of our car on the way to the Itiyuro-Yuyunti dam. Although I will soon describe the actual “expedition” that too us to that most northerly part of Argentina, I thought that t”he jaguarundi that crossed the road” offers a good opportunity to focus on this species that I ignored until a couple of years back.

This small cat, also known as eyra is native to southern North America and South America. It is, so far, doing quite well according to the information from the IUCN Red List that gives it the Least Concern status. However, its long-term future only seems assured in the large reserves of the Amazon basin. [1]

The jaguarundi stands low on the ground with a body length of 50-70cm and a rather long tail (30 to 60cm). The ears are short and rounded and the coat varies from blackish to brownish-grey (grey phase) or foxy red to chestnut (red phase) and litters can have individuals of various colours in them.

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Picture credit: Halvorsen, Gary [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike other cats found in the region, jaguarundis are mainly diurnal and therefore more likely to be spotted. Although they can climb trees they spend most of the time on the ground where they hunt for almost any small animal they can catch such as rodents, reptiles and birds. They are, however, able to capture larger prey such as rabbits and opossums and they had seen also feeding on fish.

Mostly solitary their home range is very variable, from a few to almost one hundred square kilometres. Their call is also variable and they can purr, whistle, yap and chatter! They can even chirp like birds!

 

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Drawing credit: Wyman & Sons Limited – Lloyd’s Natural History: “A hand-book to the Carnivora. Part 1, Cats, civets, and mongoose”[1] by Richard Lydekker.

So, a very little known but not less interesting small cat that has been observed in the area of our farm although we have never seen it. No doubt that after this brief sighting we will keep our eyes open for them.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguarundi. Consulted on 7 April 2018.

 

Spot the beast 39

After a quiet spell in South America, enjoying social and rural life, we traveled to the very north-eastern tip of Argentina to a place called Itiyuro-Tuyunti dam, invited by our farm neighbours.

While I write a couple of posts about the trip, I thought interesting to present you with this easy “Spot the beast” to keep you busy…

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We came across this rather beautiful beast while walking through the subtropical forest and it was often feeding on this particular plant that has these interesting flowers. The butterfly is probably Anteos clorinde or Sulfur spot. While the external part of its wings resembles a green leaf, its interior is white with a yellow spot on its upper part. The internal coloration is mainly seen while flying as it closes its wings when landing.

It is a fairly large butterfly of about 85mm that flies strongly during the times of sunshine over open spaces and forests. It is often observed near wet areas where they congregate to drink and get mineral salts.

Snake attack… [1]

There are two important venomous snakes in the Gallinato area of Salta where our small farm is located: the Cascabel (South American rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus) and the Yarará (crossed pit viper, Bothrops diporus) [2]. The former’s venom is neurotoxic while the latter’s can cause severe tissue damage although, contrary to general belief, it is not often a cause of death. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bothrops_alternatus).

Enoc, a boy of eight was returning from school after lunchtime with his brother Angel and his father Juliano, our caretaker. When fording a small river, the boy either stepped on or near a snake of about 120 cm. The snake reacted angrily and bit him. “I saw the snake going for him and heard him shouting that he had been bitten” Juliano told me later, and then he added “I hit it with a couple of stones but it hid under some large stones. I left it as I thought that taking Enoc to the nearest clinic was more important”.

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The small river crossing showing the stone at the centre of the picture used to step across. Tee snake was above my shadow.

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Another view of the crossing.

Juliano, wisely, calmed the boy, ran to his house, got the boy in his car and drove straight away to the public clinic. He was also shrewd enough to stop at the Police post located 5km from our farm to report the accident. In turn the Police radioed the Vaqueros [3] clinic and, by the time of Juliano’s arrival an ambulance and a Doctor were on standby! The boy was taken immediately to the Hospital Público Materno Infantil in Salta city  for treatment.

While this was taking place we were returning from the city of Salta after having dealt with pending administrative issues as well as getting some essential farm supplies. We were near our farm already when we got a recorded message from Juliano telling us of the accident. We immediately turned around and tried to get in touch with him. I was concerned about the availability of anti-snake bite sera at the Vaqueros clinic (I was unaware that Enoc was on his way to the large hospital in Salta!).

We failed to talk to him but we met him at Vaqueros and collected him to follow the ambulance. Bea, Enoc’s mother was already with him and over the phone we learnt that he was stable and -apparently- well. The hospital has an emergency unit to deal with these kinds of problems so I should. Juliano believed that a yarará was the responsible snake but was not sure.

We managed to get into the emergency room (against the rules). Enoc was calm and already they had given him all needed medication for snakebite. I expected to be told to leave the room any minute so I had a quick look. His vital signs were normal (great relief!) Further, a rapid look at his leg revealed that he had been bitten just below the right knee and, apart from some small amount of dried blood I failed to see any fang marks but only a small scratch. Then, as expected, I was told to leave!

The conclusion was that the snake failed to take hold of him, perhaps because of him wearing long sweat pants. The medical personnel were very keen on the identification of the snake so we drove back to the farm to look for the culprit. Unfortunately, we failed to find it and informed the hospital accordingly. We learnt that the boy would be kept under observation for 24 hours but he was stable.

The following day in the afternoon I went again to look for the snake and this time I found it. It had died, probably from Juliano’s stoning and it had been already partly eaten, probably by a fox that had pulled it out of its final resting place and had a “snack_e”.

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The rear end had been eaten but, the marks were not those of a yarara! It was a rattlesnake!

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The dead snake markings.

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The markings of an earlier rattlesnake caught at the farmhouse and later released far away (See: https://bushsnobinafrica.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/rattled/). 

I immediately informed Juliano of this but by then the boy had been discharged from hospital as he continued to be healthy.

As the snake had a clear bulge, I spent a bit of time doing a post-mortem that revealed that it was busy digesting a large rat that it had caught a couple of days earlier. My conclusion was that it was sunning itself digesting its meal when Enoc stepped on it or too close for comfort and this prompted the snake’s reaction.

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The fangs that failed to reach their target!

Luckily the incident ended well but I still I wish to highlight the excellent public health coverage that exists in Salta where after an accident such as this not only there was an ambulance on stand-by to take the patient to the specialized hospital but also that it was immediately given the correct treatment and kept under close medical supervision until the doctors considered that he was out of danger!

Liking snakes but being a coward, I am buying myself a pair of wellingtons that I plan to wear from now on instead of my usual sandals!

 

[1] This event took place about ten days ago but, because of communication “challenges” I am only able to publish it today.

[2] Moschione, F.N. (2014). Relevamiento de Fauna. Finca El Gallinato, La Caldera, Provincia de Salta. Informe Relevamiento 2013-2014. 55pp.

[3] Vaqueros is the small town located about 10km from the farm on the way to Salta city on the national road No. 9.

 

Note: for those of you curious to see the stomach contents of the snake, I place the picture below. I warn you that some may not wish to see it and hence I place it here.

 

 

 

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Snow in the Chaco

Crossing the Chaco region of Argentina on our way to Salta is rather hot and monotonous as we are dealing with a rather straight road that goes on for a few hundred kilometres across this semi-tropical area of the country.

While driving we were talking about the news and pictures received from our daughter and our friend Lola from Rome where we learnt that snow had fallen a few days back. We agreed that we were lucky to be mostly in warm climates, away from winters most of the time!

We were in the middle of the discussion when we passed an area where, maybe because of the subject we were discussing, it was snowing!

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Or so it seemed to us for a few seconds until we realized that we were crossing an area populated by millions of white butterflies known locally as “pilpintos”.

 

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Apparently, these butterflies appear after the rains and live rather short lives and mainly stopped in the rain puddles to recharge water and salts.

We were happy to realize our error and continue on our way to our summer South American hiding spot!

 

Spot the beast 25

When my computer crashed earlier this year I was fully aware that this would be a set back that would affect my internet activity. However, I knew that I had a back-up in Zimbabwe, albeit a few thousand miles away! Nevertheless I knew that I had no duplicates of the pictures taken during the first part of the year while in Carmelo and Salta.

Luckily the contents of my hard disk was rescued as I mentioned to you earlier. Unluckily all pictures were placed in one file called “Images” by the file recovery programme used. After searching a few days I found one of the recent pictures and that gave me hope and the needed patience to keep searching. Eventually, thousands of files later, I found most of them, including the ones included in this post that, in my opinion, are worth the time I spent finding them…

So, without further ado, here is a new beast for you to spot (if you can!!!). I warn you that it is tricky if it does not move (as in the bottom pictures.

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Are you ready for the surprise?

 

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Its secret revealed, I rate this moth as one of the most striking I have seen so far!

Spot the beast 24

Going through thousands of files, I found recent pictures I took while in Salta that I thought were lost forever. Among these, there are of course a few “beasts” and this one is one of them. Although it is a rather easy one, it may be a good training for the next one to come in a few days.

Here it is:

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Yes, a young grasshopper.

Rude plants

While living in Bolivia, in the early part of this century, someone told me a story of the war when Bolivia lost its exit to the Pacific Ocean to Chile. It was apparently during this conflict that a Bolivian General[1], aware that his chances of winning the war were dimming, tried to cheat the incoming Chilean ground forces by dressing the cactuses present in the area with the uniforms of the Bolivian army, pretending that his men were more numerous than they really were! The ruse failed and we all know that Bolivia is now a landlocked country!

I have had the story in my mind since then and recently, when I tried to confirm it by Google for this post, I failed to find any reference to it! In any case, it is a good way of starting to tell you about one of the most emblematic plants that populate parts of the Andean Puna[2], the Cardones [3]. We had a chance to see many of them during our trip to Cachi (Salta Province) that traversed the Los Cardones National Park.

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A view over the Los Cardones National Park. Amazing place!

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A Cardon forest as far as the eye can see.

The park has an area of 65,000 hectares and it was created in 1987, to preserve a sector of Andean biomasses including the Puna, Pre-Puna and related dry forests. It ranges in altitude from 2,700m (Tin-Tin valley) to 5,000m (Malcante hill). Although it only gets an annual rainfall of less than 200mm, its aridity does not stop many plant and animal species to thrive there, too many to mention here but well described elsewhere [4].

Apart from the cardones there are other interesting finds in the area. In the plant world the Jarilla (Larrea divaricata) provides the cardones with needed shelter for them to grow under its protection until reaching suitable size to continue its growth alone.

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A cardon growing under the protection of a Jarilla.

Another amazing plant found at higher altitudes is the haermaphroditic Yareta (Azorella compacta) also known as pasto de piedra [5].This plant is literally a vegetable stone whose leaves develop into an extremely compact and hard mat that reduces heat loss in order to survive. The result is a very rare plant that looks like a giant moss. Of extremely slow growth, some of the specimens in the Puna are estimated to be over 3,000 years old! Unfortunately, because of its slow growth and its traditional harvesting for firewood, it is becoming scarce.

The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) population is not as large as I expected and we only saw three or four groups of these special camelids. Their observed scarcity is apparently the consequence of the competition for food from thousands of feral donkeys (Equus asinus) that once got established there and continue to multiply despite past efforts to control them through culling schemes that will need to be reinstated to give the guanacos a chance to expand. Unfortunately, my pictures of both guanacos and donkeys are still in the deep recesses of my now comatose hard disk!

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Guanacos ahead!

Puma (Felix concolor) are present and they predate on the young of both guanacos and donkeys. Luckily, they are seen with certain regularity and the park is one of the areas where the visitor can, if lucky, spot these beautiful cats.

The dead from both donkeys and guanacos are fed upon a number of scavengers among which the condor (Vultur gryphus) is the most prominent and best known. These veritable flying colossus of about one metre in height have a wingspan of three metres or, to be more graphic, a line of about a dozen school children standing side by side! With such wings they can only be superb flying birds, capable not only to cover great distances but also to reach amazing heights.

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A condor flying overhead.

I was pleasantly surprised to be able to spot (of course after my wife!) quite a number of condors flying high in the very blue sky. Showing similar skills to African vultures, condors are not easy to spot on the ground as they inhabit and nest in difficult terrain. I am proud to announce, though, that I was able to contribute to our condor observations by spotting a far away nest with a fledgeling! I made sure that my companions noted this but, as usual, my effort was largely ignored.

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Although mammals and birds are really fascinating, the cardones were the real stars of the show for me. These very thorny plants are everywhere and they can occur singly, in groups or form true forests that reach as far as the eye can see. Although the majority were very rude by showing me their middle finger, some were polite and welcoming. Admittedly the latter were very few! Clearly, nature comes in all shapes and moods!

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A rude cardon!

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Exasperated by so much plant rudeness the bushsnob attempts at giving some back…

 

The cardones start their life under the protection of the Jarilla bush and they produce their first flowers at about fifty years old. These white flowers are known locally as “pasacana” that gives the species name to the plants. The flowers are eaten by animals and people and it is estimated that when the plants reach 3m high they are three hundred years old so some of the ones we spotted must have been much older, probably near one thousand and I never stop from being amazed when watching such creatures that can exist for such a long tie and still look like they would continue being there for another millennium.

 

[1] I was told that it was President Melgarejo.

[2] Basically a very dry, cold, high and silent area by the Andes mountains.

[3] Spanish for cacti of the species Trichocereus pasacana.

[4] Chebez, J.C. (2012). Noroeste. Guia de las Reservas Naturales de la Argentina. Editorial Albatros. pp. 88-93.

[5] Spanish for stone grass.