The past couple days have been ridiculous. You are completed surrounded here, life toots throughout the trees and rattles through the bushes and between your feet in the kitchen. Benita moved what she thought was a moth sample today, to find out that it was alive and just flown in! Tree shrews chatter and bounce in the branches next to my bed, beetles I’ve seen in documentaries interrupt dinner. Best of all, this is just the field site.
Yesterday morning I went for a jog to the local waterfall, about 15 minutes down the road. Its the last point of the botanic gardens and provides the entry to the forest monitoring plot. The air is unbelievably humid and after two minutes out of the shower I was already sweating, so after a short jog I had lost about a litre of fluid and was ready to collapse. Stopping near a log I saw the lurching movement of a large lizard and caught it. I Still don’t know which species it is, hoping someone will be able to positively ID it, but it was pretty keen to get going once I released it.
We came back for a breakfast which consisted of dragon fruit- which was bright purple!! I’ve only had this once before from Marks and Spencers and had been disappointed by the black and white mush I scraped out of it, this thing tasted a mango had sex with a cantaloupe, it was amazing. We also had lots of curry and rice, as bread and wheat in general is not as much of a thing here.
We then threw on our work clothes which consisted of a long sleeved shirt to keep off mosquitoes, boots and an inch of mossy repellent. Yung and Bell, local entomologists working at the research station laughed at how dressed up Benita and I were as they kickstarted their scooters with sandal clad feet. On the back of the scooters we went back to the field site, holding on as the forest zipped by, people working in back waved as we went into the forest. We got to the field site and hiked up the side of the waterfall, to be completely floored by the view from the top.
We were going to collect fruit for seed predator project, in order to bring it back to the lab to observe the insects that would eventually emerge from it. I was also looking for a gap in the canopy, large enough for me to launch the drone.
As we went deeper the heat grew and the air felt so heavy it forced my clammy palms to slip of the trunk of trees I grabbed. Yung taught me numbers in Thai as we walked up the hill, stopping to inspect ants the size of lego men and spiny vines that had a curious habit of wrapping around my throat. The trees here are so big that you cant quite digest their full size in one viewing, you need to stand back, then move closer and squint up into the crown.
Yung and Benita collecting fruit flies for the project whilst I wander around.
A spider I found in the forest, like a massive harvestman
When we got back I talked to Pitoon over lunch about how the drone can be useful, taking pictures for mapping, identifying species in the canopy, filming as well as just being great fun nipping through the air. He suggested that Dr. Sarayudh, who coordinates the research at this research plot, has other, similar plots he’s looking to get images of for several books he’s writing. So depending on how it goes mapping the forest here, he wants me to go to the other field sites all over Thailand to film and take photos of the forest canopy!!
That afternoon I took the drone out and set it up, which involved putting on propeller guards and installing the ground station system so that I can send it out on a specific route over areas I couldn’t reach by foot. The versatility of drones is incredible, the range of applications huge and flying one is such sheer joy. So I set up in the lab and fixed it up with Young’s help.
About an hour in, I realised the screws that held on the plastic body of the drone were way too small for the screwdriver I had, so we went into Trang to find one that fitted. The actual process of finding one took some time, but we did in the end and went to a Thai market afterward. The smells were incredible, saw fruits, veg and animals I’ve never seen before and took lots of pictures on the gopro
On the way back we got in the most ridiculous rainstorm, a comical amount water emptied out of the sky and we waited in the market stall for the deluge to pass.
We had an amazing dinner, sadly didn’t get many shots of it, but it was incredible, Thai cooking may be the best I’ve had, and Janya is an incredible cook, taking pride in his recipes.
After jetlag kept me awake until the wee hours, I woke up at 8 and headed off to breakfast. We were going to use the drone today to do some test filming and fly out over one of the rivers. My mind was full of worries, crashing, water, birds, dragonfly birdstrike? But it was great, my first time flying with the camera, a lot of firsts really. Have a look for yourself.
Really great moment.
The rest of the day I’ve spent fixing the ground station so that it will follow coordinates across the field site and taking pictures, I think it will work with the imaging software I downloaded but we’ll see.
So overall, a pretty good day.
Here are a few more misc shots from the past couple days. More soon! X