Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

Hiking the Guánica State Forest

Guanica Cacti

Marty’s photo of the day #1736: It’s Photos of Endangered Edens Week Pt 2, featuring pictures from my new book Endangered Edens: Exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica, the Everglades, and Puerto Rico.

This short excerpt from my Puerto Rico chapter explains this unusual photo:

On one hike, through the Guánica State Forest, nearly every bush had a contingent of tiny lizards scurrying for cover. We also spotted a skink with an iridescent turquoise tail. Unfortunately, it disappeared under the leaf litter before I could photograph it. I was glad to have guaranteed snakes to look forward to. Otherwise, my herping efforts would have been frustrating. Little lizards are kind of like an opening band at a rock concert. The band could turn out to be a great new discovery, but in most cases, you are ready for the main attraction long before the opener leaves the stage.

Despite my inability to find any snakes or other large herps, the Guánica State Forest was a fascinating hike, as it contains the largest remaining tropical dry coastal forest in the world (almost ten thousand acres). Because the Codillera Central mountain chain does such an efficient job of blocking rain clouds, the forest receives only about thirty inches of precipitation each year. (For comparison, San Juan, on the opposite side of the island, averages fifty-six inches per year.)

Guánica’s dry climate doesn’t mean that plant or animal life is lacking, however. Aside from the abundant lizards, the forest also supports seven hundred species of plants and one hundred species of birds. For me, the most memorable sights were the tracts of large cacti that stretched all the way to the beach. And while all the lizards were busy in the leaf litter, numerous small birds flew among the tall grasses and gnarled trees.


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