Friday, July 27, 2012

A Humid Forest

At 8:15 am, as Kodi and I hike to the top of Rattlesnake Knob, the woods are dark, like the fading light of dusk. The air is still and thick, my arms are clammy, Kodi is panting.

It feels like the tropics, reminding me of my 5-month stint banding birds in Panama in 1983, before anyone heard of Manuel Noriega. In those days, while I was out on Pipeline Road along the Panama Canal catching colorful birds in mist nets, Noriega was planning his military and political takeover of the country; he was elected (presumably) Governor of Panama six months after I left. My memories of the country are of birds, mist nets, the Canal, Barro Colorado Island, fresh fruit, cockroaches in our cupboards, a tapir, monkeys, and the humidity.

It is the humidity this morning that reminds me suddenly of Panama. As I listen to squirrels lurking among the oaks and beech overhead, I wonder what it would be like to have monkeys living among us. What would Kodi do with a troop of howler monkeys overhead? In Panama the howlers would throw sticks at us while we erected the mist nets. They were always a bit surly about us invading their territory. Still, it would be interesting to hear their loud howls boom through the forest. Kodi has no such thoughts about monkeys, as he sniffs for fox and their kin. He, I think, would not like such an addition to the biodiversity of these woods.

A deer snorts from over the rise, out of sight, and I emerge from my humidity-induced day-dreaming.  A pewee's clear song pierces the still air as we climb steadily to the top. A lone hermit thrush sings from the Knob. The humidity is high today, over 100 percent, the woodland birds are quiet except for the pewee and thrush.
The humidity and the view from Rattlesnake Knob reminds me of central Panama
In Panama we measured the relative humidity, as well as temperature and habitat features, as part of our bird study to learn if humidity affected bird distribution. I don't recall that we found any correlation with humidity. To me (and maybe the birds) it felt humid, regardless if we were in an upland forest or along a stream.

Here on Rattlesnake Knob among the normally dry, upland forest, it is decidedly more humid than is typical or comfortable. Everything waits for a rain. A few drops fall as we hike back down and return to the car, the raindrops gently tap the tree canopy. The rain disappoints, the humidity remains.


  1. Very interesting post, Ellen! Especially enjoyed the background you interjected about your 5-month stint in Panama banding birds. What a memorable experience!

    Thankfully, our "stints" of high humidity here in NH are very short lived.


  2. Thanks John. I agree that the high humidity is short-lived, thankfully. We had a lovely, ling, air-clearing rain yesterday here in western Massachusetts. I'm back in New Hampshire later today I think it has cleared there too. Ellen