Latest News from the Ecuadorian Mangrove Forest

Today, dawn broke as usual over the mangrove swamps of Ecuador’s largest tropical forest, the Manglares Churute Reserve. The sun sent unusual reds, oranges and purples streaking across the early morning slate-grey sky. Along the watery avenues of the swamp, the mangrove trees started to glow gold. The tide washed in over a bewildering chaos of roots and a sulphurous smell of rotten eggs burbled up from the salty mud. Crab-eating racoons, mantled howler monkeys and white-faced capuchins all began to stir. Tyrants, crested quetzels, horned screamers and woodpeckers raised the daily racket.

Amongst the growing cacophony, a group of parrots, Lilacine Amazons, ruffled their feathers. They’d spent the night roosting together as normal, bright green amongst the darker shades of the waxy tropical leaves. They were extremely hungry, their strong beaks and agile tongues itching to get at figs and nuts, berries and seeds. In pairs, after a couple of hops and flaps, they broke cover to commence their daily journey from the mangroves in search of forest food.

Overhead, above the tops of the trees, male frigatebirds were circling – Darwin’s ‘condors of the sea’ – seeking the favour of females. The skin on their lower neck was inflated to a seductive, bright red balloon. The sun rose higher and the light hardened.

Down in the shade, the roots were teeming with life. Fiddler crabs, one claw comically bigger than the other, sifted the silt for food. With their smaller claw, they brought lumps of soil to their mouths, testing it for algae, microbes, fungus and other fine nourishing, rotting things.

Out in the estuary, the waters vibrated with molten sunlight. Bottle-nosed dolphins arched above the surface and stitched a path towards the open sea. The sun inched higher and the morning wore on.

Much the same will happen again tomorrow. Parrots will wake up hungry. Frigatebirds will spread their arched wings, lift their forked tails and take flight. Crabs will chew dirt for sustenance. Dolphins will race each other with abandon. And we will be looking elsewhere.