Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dangers on the Trail

Sometimes we are not aware of the hidden dangers that lurk in the forests and trails we find ourselves birding in. Most of the time, these "dangers" aren't really life threatening but they are present and can cause discomfort and even pain. From ant colonies to snakes to monitor lizards to limatic (a kind of leech), we've seen some pretty awesome (and potentially harmful) things on our adventures that can possibly sting, bite, or suck your blood.

We saw a Reticulated Python slythering along
the bamboo walk in Candaba

We saw this Monitor Lizard
sunbathing in La Mesa Ecopark.

Jops and Jun found some limatic attached to their skin
in our mega-twitch in Bangkong Kahoy Valley.

Just this weekend, we discovered another "danger" in the mini-forest of the La Mesa Ecopark. During the guided trip for the Nikon Club Philippines, some of us noticed a beautifully patterned ball, attached to a thin branch. It was obvious that it was a nest of some kind but we weren't sure as to what animal it belonged to.

It was beautifully crafted, with different shades of brown forming a scalloped pattern all over the orb. It looked like it was made from pretty paper! We found another one in a different part of the trail and I was able to photograph it from a safe distance. I had it identified on a Facebook group and the very helpful people there told (and warned) me it was a hornet's nest. And apparently hornets can sting in a really bad way. It got me really interested in hornets and I started reading up on them.

Hornet's nest (possibly Vespa sp.)

I learned that hornets are not bees. Bees are fuzzy and can only sting you once as their stingers get stuck and left behind in your skin (ouch!) leaving the bee to die. Hornets on the other hand can sting you repeatedly  with their straight stingers (a bigger ouch!) and can be pretty aggressive. They may attack at the slightest distrubance, especially when their nest is threatened or disturbed. I also learned that hornets are a kind of wasp. All hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. (Yes, I had to read that again too =P)

So, here is another danger we may encounter on the trails that we all have to be aware of so we do not get too close to be seen as a threat (and also a subject for stinging practice). The hornet's sting is said to be excruciatingly painful and aside from the resulting pain, itching, and swelling, can even cause fever. Also if you are allergic to their sting, it can be fatal without immediate medical intervention. So, it's always best to stay on the trails to avoid disturbing these hornets! And if you ever see one of these amazing creations, just observe it from a safe distance.

In the unfortunate event that you get stung by a hornet, immediately leave the area and distance yourself from the hornet/s. Inspect the bite and make sure the hornet (or bee) did not leave its sting in your skin. Ice the area and apply a topical antihistamine or steroid (hydrocortisone.) For those who are allergic, seek medical help immediately to get an epinephrine shot. 

Aside from the hornet's nests in LMEP, I had another encounter on the trail and it was sadly of the human kind. I was observing a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker when a photographer walked towards me holding a lighted cigarette. I politely asked him to put it out since the park was a no smoking area. 

Me: Sir, pakipatay po yung yosi nyo. No smoking po sa park. (Sir, please put out your cigarette. There's no smoking in the park.)
Sir: Ay, ganon ba? (Ay, really?) - then he drops the cigarette butt on the trail and steps on it!
Me: O! Tapos dyan nyo pa tinapon? (O! Then you just throw it there?)
Sir: Eh wala akong tatapunan e. (I don't have any where to throw it.)
Me: Kaya nga po bawal diba?! (That's why it's not allowed, right!?)
Sir: <walks away>
Me: <fuming>

Honestly, it wasn't the smoking itself that irked me the most but more the blatant, guiltless littering. And from a "nature photographer" too! I don't think I need to explain when I say that sometimes man is the biggest danger in our trails.

Stones, wild vines, and dried leaves marred
by a newly put out cigarette butt.


  1. about that cigarette thing... I think cigarette is one of human being's worst invention EVER! No offense to all smokers, but if you ask me it should be banned everywhere not just in public places. If I'm a leader, I'll probably make it illegal, but then those mega rich cigarette companies will probably run out of business or I'll be assassinated during my first month in the office. hahaha

    1. I agree Vincent - both with making it illegal and the possible assassination =P Sad no?

  2. the hornet nest is lovely! dangerous things can be beautiful, no?
    well... cigarettes can be dangerous but definitely NOT beautiful, tsk, tsk. haha.

    1. Ganda no? Good thing Jops didn't go Curious George when we saw it and didn't inspect it any closer.

      Yeah... hay. Littering really gets to me... and it's sadder because "nature photographers" and birders should be more aware. Apparently not.

  3. by the way, excuse that there is no place to throw the butt is bull. wala ka bang bulsa? bag? kamay? before we used to place the butt under our shoe laces and then throw them in the proper place when it was available. backed when we still smoked ;P

    1. Yeah,it shouldn't be an excuse. Glad you quit =)
      (Pero natawa ako sa isang choice... kamay =))

  4. Maia, Bram saw the Hornet hive! scary cuz he said it's like low down by the trail! have to be careful =(

    1. Yeah, it's easy to bump into if you veer away from the trail... we have to talk to the LMEP admin na asap about it.

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