It really rains in Thiotte. We are in a small plateau at the edge of the cloudforest/pine forest interphase in Massif de la Selle.
Pierre and Evanita Sanon practice their frog catching and frog measuring skills in a waterhole filled with calling male Hispaniolan treefrogs.
Road distances in Haiti can be relatively short, but it takes effort to travel anywhere, especially in the countryside. We’ve been meandering our way in a 4x4 vehicle up the dry riverbed sections of the Solie River inching closer to Thiotte, a rather large village in Haiti’s southeast mountains and quite possibly the country’s coffee capital. To get to Thiotte we needed to first climb over the crest of Massif de la Selle on Department Route 102 (a large dirt road) and then start our way down. We chose to start our research here because the south side of the mountains are wetter and have more forests than the north, which is mostly deforested and deteriorated. The problem is that it was too wet.
By the time we got there the rain was too hard even for the frogs to be active, and it would damage our electrical equipment, which included digital video cameras, audio recorders, microphones and photography equipment. We sat in the car for a while as we waited for Pierre Sanon, Evanita’s brother. He also worked on iguana surveys in his native town of Anse-a-Pitre with Evanita and was actually waiting for us at the hotel but we were unable to meet due to the rain. The rain suddenly stopped and we all went to check out the hotel and get ready for our frog hunt. The hotel was no good… and there is no need in explaining why, but we decided to go looking for frogs now that the rain had settled a bit and sort out the hotel later.
We took the road down the mountain and decided to stop in the town called Banane. Thiote is a mid elevation cloud forest, nested in the southeast hills of the mountains at about 900 – 1,300 meters of elevation. It is high, but not too high for Haiti. Banane is lower down the mountain, maybe at about 600 meters. We decided to try our luck down in Banane and then hoped to climb back up to Thiotte and deal with the hotel later or just camp out in the forest. As soon as we got back in the car, the rain began to pour again and it was raining very heavily all the way down to Banane. We got there at dusk and sat in the car again for a good 20 minutes pondering what we should do, since we would have to leave all our equipment behind due to the rain. It was raining that hard.
Evanita and Pierre thought that it might be good to just go all the way south to their native Anse-a-Pitre, Haiti’s south easternmost town. At first I thought it was not a good idea, but then realized that with all this rain frogs would either not going to be out, or it would be near impossible to work with them. Also it would be easier to get a hotel room down there. We continued our way down the mountain and reached the town quickly, hitting the coast unexpectedly as we were finding our way through town.
As soon as we exited the car I heard a loud chorus of Hispaniolan treefrogs (Osteopilus dominicensis) calling not too far away. That was music to my ears! We were going to get frogs tonight! The place looked clean and cozy and the beds had mosquito netting, which is always good in Haiti. We took a short break to get everything ready and headed out looking for frogs.
Anse-a-Pitre ended up being a perfect opportunity to practice frog catching techniques with our new crew! We found frogs calling in various places, and Evanita and Pierre were able to identify a few and practice the ever-slippery art of catching a frog. We measured all of the individuals we could get our hands on so they could practice how to measure frogs in the field and how to use Vernier calipers and spring scales. We also practiced how to use a GPS and how to write down the data in the field notebooks. The night was good!