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Madurai Messenger March 2011

oughly in the sun. We then roasted them over fire, ground them to powder and brewed it in a filter for a heavenly delicious coffee!

Avian Delights

On the miconia trail - the name refers to the endemic miconia tree - right near the station, we wanted to find out the habitat preferences of the various birds and their feeding habits. During day time we took notes about the weather conditions, and later took photographs to identify the differences in beak forms, colours and lengths of tails with the help of books on birds. We spotted greywhite mockingbirds, and light green woodpecker finches. The latter is one of the 13 species discovered by biologist Charles Darwin. We also spotted two kinds of Ani – the smooth-billed and groove-billed, but unfortunately sitting either on the Mora or sweet smelling endemic acacia.

For example, insects feed on the scattered butterfly eggs on leaves which are harmful to the plants, and by doing so protect them. Banana trees, originally from Indonesia, grow so rapidly that you can hew the entire trunk to harvest its fruits. At that stage, they have already sprouted fresh shoots above the soil which can easily be transplanted into a different place where they produce new roots. The sweet sap of the fallen trees provides milk or yeast. Besides it acts as a processor which speeds up the accumulation of compost, a process that would otherwise take about five months. Additionally we find herbal remedies in this place for illnesses like gastritis and kidney disease. For throat-ache we pick up leaves to make into a brew for gargling. Some invasive plants are allowed especially when their seeds are so big that they cannot be distributed either by the birds or the wind. The reddish cedar, used for making furniture, is cut only when in bloom. Some native trees just grow 2cm a year; most invasive ones grow much faster.

We make our own coffee on the plantation. The species cultivated are Arabica and Robusta. Harvest is June to October. We had a first hand experience of making coffee from start to finish. From small red berries, we took out only the little white kernels and dried them thor-

On our Friday hike, we climbed the 600m high El Junco, an extinct volcano, and enjoyed the sight of the misty clouds floating through the highlands. In between juicy green vegetation and a freshwater lagoons is situated a greenhouse where volunteers can plant tomatoes in the 45°C heat inside, but without the annoyance of mosquitoes! Another marvelous place to visit is Puerto Chino Beach, a 20-minute walk from La Galapaguera, the Turtle Conserva-


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