The Mysterious Elusive Puma

this photo borrowed from the article linked below

The Puma is also known in english as the cougar or mountain lion. These are not small kitties! They can get up to 150 pounds though they still purr like their smaller domestic cousins. They don’t meow, it sounds more like a high pitched scream. Glad I haven’t heard it especially while I was living in my tent last summer:)

They are found throughout Chile but are more predominant in less populated areas. Our neighbors warned us that cubs had been seen on our property several years ago but they usually don’t venture much down into the farmlands unless it’s been a long lean winter and they need some fresh lamb meat. I haven’t heard of them eating cows but some friends of ours lost a llama in a mysterious way. They found the dead body with large hunks taken out of its belly.

Some acquaintances of ours who own a farm on the western shore of Lago Llanquihue, the opposite side of the lake from the Andes and the large tracts of uninhabited land, found an abandoned puma cub trapped in a ditch. They took the protected animal and fed it until it was old enough to fend for itself. That was probably highly illegal but no harm was done as they didn’t buddy up with the animal and they did release it to the wild. I was kind of surprised to hear that it was found there as the area is predominantly farmland.

Here is a link to a short video with some great footage of a puma and her cubs

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/chile_puma

And another link to a beautiful article on tracking pumas in Torres del Paine Park in the far south of Patagonia from The Telegraph UK

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/south-america/chile/articles/Chile-on-the-trail-of-the-elusive-puma/

 

Mushroom Season

Fall in Patagonia is mushroom season. After a long dry summer, the winter rains have returned and with them all the mushrooms. The mushroom is like a flower loaded with the spores (seeds) of an organism which is largely unseen under the ground. The mycelium, the body of the mushroom, are thread like hairs which can extend quite far through the ground or trees dead and alive.DSCN3526

These shrooms above were well disguised among the leaf litter. I missed them as I trudged up the hill but my little buddy with the eagle eyes spotted them.

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These mushrooms above are growing on a log.

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I was amazed to find these purple beauties down near the Mirkwood section of the woods on our farm. They look so glossy and wet,

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These mushrooms above and below are growing in my pasture. Adventurous friends of mine introduced me to these edible mushrooms. They found out the hard way by trying one that looks similar but grows under trees. They got sick but are now careful to eat only ones with white gills that grow in the pasture. We ate them last year and they were delicious.

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For further information, Chile has a Fungi Foundation with a website that has some interesting photos and a book you can order. The website is available in English but not the bookūüė¶ ¬†¬†I have asked them for some help in identifying my¬†mushrooms.

http://www.ffungi.org/#!home-ok/c2vw

 

The Beautiful Ulmo Tree

The majestic Ulmo aka Eucryphia cordifolia in the family Cunoniaceae. It is a large evergreen tree growing up to 40 meters or 130 feet and native to the Valdivian rainforest.

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The bark is multi colored in greens, grays, and pinks. They always seem to grow in a cluster of trunks ¬†maybe 6-8 but I don’t know if they are separate trees or a multi trunk tree.

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The evergreen leaves are thick, leathery, and hairy. The leaves are opposite but form a whirling pattern down the stem.

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There are only 4 white petals with a bunch of stamen in the middle. It blooms in late summer here, March, and the smell is very fragrant. The whole tree is a mass of buzzing as it attracts many insects especially the honey bee. Ulmo honey is very popular.summer 2015 035

And the fruit is a hard dried capsule. Once dried and open the seeds are dispersed by the wind.

last photo courtesy of wikipedia

Spiders in Chile

While Chile is not crawling with spiders, there are a few to note.

I was very surprised to see 2 tarantulas here down in the Lakes region – one dead and one alive.

Here is the dead one found at the Saltos de Petrohue. Kind of shriveled up but still I would not want to meet one up close. The other I saw was caught by a young boy in Puerto Octay. ¬†He was having a good time playing with it so I guess they aren’t too aggressive.
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The rose colored tarantula of northern Chile is commonly found in pet stores in North America. The one in the south is the Andean or Patagonian tarantula. Tarantulas rarely bite and they usually give you a good warning before they do. The bite can be painful but is harmless. They also can throw irritating bristles at you from their abdomens as a deterrent.

The Chilean brown recluse is a spider I see too often in my yard usually hanging around the clothesline and sometimes on my clothes. The chilean variety is particularly venomous though is not aggressive and won’t bite unless squeezed like between you and your clothes. The bite can cause a large necrotic wound which is quite painful and rarely causes death. They can be easily identified by the darker brown violin shape on the abdomen. It is known in Chile as the arana de rincon or the spider of corners as it likes to live in dry dusty out of the way places like closets or sheds or woodpiles. I guess mine didn’t get the memo!

borrowed from top10stop.com

And the third is the black widow which I have seen frequently in South Carolina but not here in Chile and is easily identified by its black body with a red hourglass shape on the abdomen. It is known as the arana de trigo or the spider of wheat as it is often found on farms. There is a Chilean legend of the virile farmer who is called “spider bitten”. As it turns out this legend has some scientific basis and the story can be found on this link to Reuters. Caution – this article linked has adult content – not suitable for children:)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-chile-spider-idUSN0132580120070601

A Chilean scientist shows a black-widow spider at his laboratory in this file photo. Scientists have discovered a potentially marketable contraceptive in the venom of Chile's black widow spider, whose bite is fatal to many but can also cause prolonged, painful and involuntary erections in men. REUTERS/Carlos Barria CB

Snakes in Chile

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There are only 2 species of snakes in Chile and both are small and relatively harmless. A geography reminder to many that Chile is not a tropical country and is relatively isolated by the driest desert in the world to the north, the Atacama, and the Andes to the east, and the Pacific to the west so large venomous snakes like those found in the Amazon are not here.

The most common snake is the chilean slender snake or short tailed snake , culebra de cola corta, and  in latin Tychymenis chilensis.  It is found over most of Chile and while the peruvian species can be fatal, the chilean species is not. It is a venomous snake and the bite can be painful but it is not known to be fatal but then there have not been many recorded bites as it is rarely found. The snake in the picture above was found near a creek in the woods near our farm. It is a greenish brown with brown or black stripes.

The other snake is the chilean long tailed snake or culebra de cola larga and in latin Philodryas chamissonis. It is endemic to Chile and it’s range is from Copiapo in the north to Valdivia in the south. It is gray with black and white stripes and can grow up to 4 feet in length. Not much information is available on it because it is so uncommonly seen. The bite can be painful and cause swelling but is not known to be fatal.

 

 

Rio Coihueco Nature Walk

The weather here as we go into spring has been delightful. One beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, we decided to go fishing on the Coihueco River which runs ¬†near the back of our property. The headwaters are up in the mountains between Volcan Puntiagudo and Volcan Osorno and it flows out to the ocean. The river is fairly shallow with lots of shoals. My boys went kayaking on it and said it has some light rapids but is fairly easy to kayak. One of the beautiful things about the river is the lack of development along its shores. It does run through the city of Osorno but other than that ¬†it’s shores are woods and farms. We went fishing for salmon and trout. Sadly, we caught nothing but a few glimpses of the local Kingfisher bird. I bet he caught something! But the day was enjoyable anyway!DSCN3230

We have to walk about a mile through the neighbors farm to get out to the river.Here are some of the sights of our nature walk.

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A giant plantain plant, Plantago lanceolata.  It is a common weed here but is also found in the US but  the broadleaf variety is more common there. The leaf is edible and can be used like spinach. It also has healing properties. The natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of the leaf make it useful for healing stings, bites, cuts, and bruises. All you do is chew up a leaf and apply it to the wound. DSCN3238

We were being followed by a herd of young dairy cows.

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I think this is growing out of the tree. Some type of parasitic plant! Have to do some research on this one.

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These majestic trees, Nothofagus, dot all the pastures around here. They are a good sign of fertile, well drained soil. You can see my post on the Southern Beech to learn more.

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Every time we walk over this one creek on our journey to the river we meet this little guy. He must be the guardian of the creek! Snakes are relatively rare here and all are pretty harmless. Meaning snakes are not poisonous like a plant but venomous and though all snakes bite the venom of Chilean snakes is not dangerous to humans.

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One of my favorite, the Laurel.

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Look at all the moss growing on this tree!

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My little buddy loves to go on walks and is very observant with a sharp eye for details!

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This old stump has become an amazing home for all sorts of plants, mosses, lichens, insects, and animals.

And here are a few views riverside that my son took on his kayak trip.

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Lots of rocky shoals

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The river is pretty calm with little to no rapids

 

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The Orchid of the Forest

White dog orchid flowers

I was pleasantly delighted to find this diminutive flower on a walk through the woods earlier this month. I instantly thought of Lady Slippers, a rare orchid found in the eastern forests of the US, but this little flower is not quite as showy. It is called Palomita in Spanish, in English the white dog orchid or in Latin Codonorchis lessonii. It is a native orchid only 20-30 cm tall.

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Sadly, my little Nikon is acting up and my photos came out poorly so I borrowed this one above from Flickr. Thanks to Pablo Necochea!

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2015-10-27 12.59.31¬†It has 2-4 gathered leaves with short petioles at the base and a solitary flower on a translucent stalk. The white flowers have reddish purple spots. It’s roots are small tubers. It grows from the Maule region all the way south to the Magellanes region.

Southern Beech

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Nothofagus obliqua is the predominant tree here – like oaks or maples. It is called the southern beech but is not in the beech family. It’s leaves resemble a beech leaf hence the name. In spanish, the young trees are called coiyhue and the mature are called pellin (pay – yeen). A mature tree can reach up to 50 meters or 175 feet tall with a diameter of 2 meters or 6.5 feet. The wood is very hard and a reddish color and is used in construction. These deciduous trees have alternate leaves and separate male and female flowers. The flowers are inconspicuous and covered by green bracts.

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The owls in my woods

Just recently I noticed a new sound coming from the nighttime woods.

a persistent took, took, took

After doing some research, I discovered that it is the mating call of the austral pygmy owl, Glaucidium nanum, or chuncho in spanish. He only calls in August thru October and I wasn’t living here last year at the time so I thought he was a new inhabitant of the woods. I identified his call through a neat site called xeno-canto. Here is the link so you can hear his call.¬†Click on the play arrow just to the left of the scientific name and you can listen the audio file.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Glaucidium-nana

He is small, only 17-21 cm or 6.5-8 inches. He has a large head with yellow eyes and is very shy and hard to spot. This picture by John Spooner was borrowed from Wikipedia and was taken at Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile.Austral Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nanum).jpg

He feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects and is primarily nocturnal. He nests in holes in trees or earthen banks. The female lays 3-5 white eggs in the spring. Their range is from the Atacama desert in the north all the way to the far south Magellanic region of Chile. They live in forests and farmland.

The next inhabitant is the Rufous- legged Owl, Strix rufipes, or Concon in Spanish. Rufous means brown because of his cinnamon brown legs. His muffled croaking hoots can be quite alarming at night. We were terrified in our tents last summer wondering what was making this horrifying sound. Here is the xeno-canto link.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Strix-rufipes

Here is a video from YouTube of a captive owl at a sanctuary.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A51ksI7-ss

This owl lives in forests only from Santiago south to Tierra del Fuego. He likes the closed canopies of the Nothofagus forests which are common in my area. He is nocturnal. He has a large round head with dark eyes, a bulky body, and short tail. He is a medium large owl from 13-15 in. or 34-38 cm.

This picture taken by Julian Tysoe and was borrowed from Wikipedia. He looks kind of sad. I am going to assume he was injured and is in a bird sanctuary:)

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I love these old drawings. What is most notable about this picture is the large flat face and the round facial disks around the eyes. And look at those talons for catching small animals. They nest in October laying a small clutch of 2-3 eggs usually in tree holes.