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Wildlife Adventure in Costa Rica (2016) Part II

The adventure is halfway now and already unforgettable. The Osa Peninsula (Drake Bay and Corcovado NP) was my personal highlight so far. I hope you enjoy this second part of the story, with new highlights. 

San Gerardo de Dota

Together with Daphne and Daniël we arrived at the Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve & Spa. We had more luxury than we were used to. That was comfortable, because temperatures at night can drop below 10 °C. Totally different than we were used to in Costa Rica.

Around the hotel you can find a lot of wildlife, especially birds. The Green Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus), the same lizard as in Monteverde, was also frequently seen.  Green Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus)

Quetzals

When you are in Los Quetzales National Park the main attraction is the iconic Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). I am usually not really patient with birds. I can not search and stare at a tree for hours. Besides that, I am usually not really a morning person. This makes me a terrible birder. Most of my bird photos are opportunities that come to me.

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

At the Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve & Spa we asked where to find quetzals. They told us to follow the road back to where we came from until the “Soda” roadsign on the left side of the road. Here is a small shop, restaurant and a plantation. In the morning and late afternoon you can come here to see the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). You just have to pay a small amount to the owner. He even guides you to the birds on his land.Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)We were “up and ready” in the early morning. For this special bird I made an exception. The Quetzals were flying around and feeding on the avocados. Most of the time they were on “eye level” and easy to photograph. This is the perfect location for a bird photographer looking for the perfect quetzal photograph. Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)We enjoyed this place so much that Daniël and I wanted to go there for a second time. Daphne drove us to the location in the early morning to drop us off. Thanks again! Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)On the second morning, while waiting for the quetzals to be on the perfect spot, some Blue-throated Toucanets (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis) came to the same tree. A nice surprise!
It took them a lot of effort to eat the avocados. It was funny to see, but also another great photographical opportunity. Maybe I should become a birder. I have more luck with special birds. Blue-throated Toucanets (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis) Blue-throated Toucanets (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis)

Hiking the trails

The Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve & Spa has their own trails through the beautiful forest. We walked on some of the trails, but I did not see a lot of amphibians and reptiles. I just saw some Green Spiny Lizard near the hotel. We saw some birds while walking on the trails, but we saw more birds around the hotel. We did see a hummingbird on a nest above one of the trails. It looked very cute!

Hummingbird

Joannes Paulus II

I made my favorite hummingbird photo in the backyard of the pizzeria called Joannes Paulus II. The owner of the place is a very nice and hospitable guy. On my favorite hummingbird photo you can see a Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) in flight. Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens)

Turrialba

For Daphne and Daniël it was the end of their trip to Panama and Costa Rica. They went to San Jose to fly back home. After a short goodbye Yara and I went to Turrialba by bus.
Turrialba was just a short stop on our way to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. As soon as we were in the hotel it started to rain. With rain, I mean real Costa Rican rain. We decided to relax a bit and I made some photographs from the balcony.

"Survival"

From the balcony I made some photographs of the “urban jungle”. To me the epiphyte on the photo is a symbol of survival. They are common in the rainforests. Now there are cities on places where used to be rainforests years ago. The epiphytes are still there, even on overhead power lines if they have to.

"Survival II"

Cahuita

The next day, after a few hours by bus, we arrived in Cahuita. Traveling by bus in Costa Rica is cheap and you can reach most touristic places.

Asian Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris)

While walking in the village Cahuita you can already look around for wildlife. In August it was not very touristic here. I expected more people, but this was much better. Wildlife was also present around houses and hotels, like this melanistic Spinytail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis).Spinytail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis)

Eyelash Vipers of Cahuita National Park

For herpetologists Cahuita National Park is famous for the high density of golden (orapel) Eyelash Vipers (Bothriechis schlegelii). In 2008 I also went to Costa Rica. During that trip I saw a golden Eyelash Viper for the first time in Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal. It was my first trip outside of Europe. I was really impressed by the beauty of this venomous snake. It was an unforgettable moment that I could not really capture in a good photo. After the trip in 2008 my passion for photography started and since then I always wanted to get a sharp photograph of a golden Eyelash Viper. Now, eight years later, the moment was finally there.

In the national park there was one trail to walk. You can also walk on the beach. We decided to walk on the trail. On our first hike into the national park we found three golden vipers. One of them was an adult. Every time I walked passed this snake I made some photographs. This ambush predator does not move a lot, so I had also photographed the same snake on the way back.



The next day the snake was still there. Very close to the original location. The snake was only a few meters away in a different tree.

In total we saw four Eyelash Vipers in the national park. Three of them were younger specimen. I must admit that I prefer the shapes of the younger ones over the adults. Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)I returned to one of the smaller Eyelash Vipers the next day (the one of the previous photo). The viper was in a different, even better spot. When I am in Costa Rica, with the snake I really wanted to photograph, I have to try every possible photograph. I took the time to look for better angles and experiment with compositions.
The first photo shows most essential parts of the snake. You can see the eyelashes (scales above the eyes), the heat sensing pits, the very keeled scales on the body, the color pattern, but also the tail with a different color.
Young Eyelash Vipers use the tip of the tail to lure prey. They move the tail wormlike and when the prey comes too close they strike. You can see the different coloration of the tip of the tail on the next photo.

With a close-up of the same snake you can show more details, or give more attention to certain parts of the snake. In this photo I wanted to give more attention to the head.Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)One thing that I missed in the other photos is the shape of the head. Vipers have a triangular head, as you can see on the photo. The next photo “shows both the typical features of B. schlegelii and its behaviour when waiting for prey” (Stefan Dummermuth). I have no better words myself to describe the photo.

Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)

Other treasures of cahuita national park

There is a lot more than just Eyelash Vipers in Cahuita National Park. We had to be careful not to stand on the Four-lined Ameivas (Ameiva quadrilineata) on the trail for example. They were everywhere!Four-lined Ameiva (Ameiva quadrilineata)
I love geckos. Especially diurnal geckos. In Manuel Antonio I already saw a Yellow-headed gecko (Gonatodes albogularis) on a tree while walking to an ATM right after sunset. In Manuel Antonio I was not able to photograph the gecko. This time in Cahuita National Park I found a very cooperative specimen. Look closely for the blue details!

Yellow-headed gecko (Gonatodes albogularis)

We also saw some beautiful anoles during our hikes in the national park. Helping me with the IDs of the anoles would be much appreciated. Giving the right names to anoles is very difficult.

Anolis sp.

Another iconic species living in this national park is the Emerald Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), better known as the Jesus Christ Lizard. Unfortunately they can not turn water into wine. They can run away on water to escape from danger.Emerald Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons)While sitting on a tree trunk eating a sandwich we looked out over the Caribbean Sea and a flock of Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens). It looks like they were having a good conversation. Maybe they were just being magnificent.

Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens)
The Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila clavipes) was our most frequently observed animal inside the national park. I must admit that it is a spectacular spider. The head looks like a scull when you look closely.

Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila clavipes)

Another great surprise was the Brown Vine Snake (Oxybelis aeneus). A very beautiful and slender snake. This snake was also very relaxed. The snake was probably convincing me that he was a twig. More time to enjoy the snake!Brown Vine Snake (Oxybelis aeneus)

Guayacán Rainforest Reserve

After Corcovado National Park this location, the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center, was another location I was really looking forward to. I was really hoping to see some special amphibians like the Ghost Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex).
The Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center (C.R.A.R.C.) is a small family owned and operated biological research center that is dedicated to studying, understanding, and conserving one of the most ecologically important fauna groups of Costa Rica’s humid forest ecosystems, that of the amphibians.
We stayed in the guesthouse and Brian Kubicki, who established the C.R.A.R.C., guided us in the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve to find some of the beautiful species living in the reserve.

Around the guesthouse

As soon as Yara and I arrived we wanted to see some of the beautiful wildlife. Yara was very enthousiast and fanatic at searching for animals. Brian warned us to be careful in the bushes, because there are snakes around. We needed that warning to remember that we were a guest in the Costa Rican wilderness, where dangerous animals live.
The Strawberry Poison-dart Frogs (Oophaga pumilio) where easy to find. Especially on the first afternoon after the rain. Yara found the first. During the photoshoot the frog was not cooperative. The result was a dynamic photo of a leaping frog.  Strawberry Poison-dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)We saw Strawberry Poison-dart Frogs (Oophaga pumilio) for the first time this trip, so they were still special for us. To me they are always special, because of the colors and unique looking individuals.

Strawberry Poison-dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)

To make the photograph you like you don’t have to go deep into the forest. It is easier to make good photos around the place where you sleep. Most of the time you are not in a hurry, and “animals come to you”. When you are not in a hurry you can wait for the right moment, and make the better photos. When you let people wait for you (like with guided tours or hikes with other people), you have to work faster. Anolis sp.Around the guesthouse I found another very beautiful anole, the Pug-nosed Anole (Anolis capito). I love the coloration of this anole. The anole is so well camouflaged that it blends in the leaf litter.

Pug-nosed Anole (Anolis capito)

Even on the last day the Strawberry Poison-dart Frogs did not bore me. It was very sunny and warm so they were hiding in the plants. A great opportunity to make some creative and “surreal” photos. Strawberry Poison-dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)

Night hikes

Every night after dinner Brian came to the guesthouse to pick us up for the night hike. We stayed for two nights, so we had two night hikes with Brian.
At night the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve (and the area around the guesthouse) changed completely.Veined Treefrog (Dendropsophus phlebodes) Veined Treefrog (Dendropsophus phlebodes)From the first moment Brian was clearly an amphibian expert.  For him it was his home. He knew where to look and how to look. He also found this Spiny Glass Frog (Teratohyla spinosa). Spiny Glass Frog (Teratohyla spinosa) Salamanders fascinate me, but I do not photograph them often. The Striated Salamander (Bolitoglossa striatula) look so different than the salamanders in Europe.
I hoped to see at least one Bolitoglossa sp., and we did see one!

Striated Salamander (Bolitoglossa striatula)

Before leaving for the second night hike I wanted to make a photograph of one of the Red-eyed Leaf Frogs (Agalychnis callidryas) around the guesthouse. They started calling around sunset (sometimes late in the afternoon). The good thing is that the photo I made is in situ, which means I did not manipulate the scene. All natural and no signs of stress! Red-eyed Leaf Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)Besides being important to the ecosystem glass frogs have another important reason to be protected. They are cute! The look of this Spotted Glass Frog (Sachatamia albomaculata) is something you do not want to miss in this world. This trip to Costa Rica made Yara and I love glass frogs.

Spotted Glass Frog (Sachatamia albomaculata)

We also went to a place where the Ghost Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex) is commonly seen. This species of glass frog was high on my wish-list to see in the wild. The beauty of the eyes are only visible in real life when you look closely, because the frogs are small. On the photograph, created with a macro lens, the eyes are stunning. See for yourself!Ghost Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex) Ghost Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex)Seeing the Ghost Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex) in real life was unforgettable, but maybe I like the Spotted Glass Frog (Sachatamia albomaculata) even more now. I am not sure yet. Well, it is not a contest!
We did see a lot, but there were also many species we did not see. A good reason to come back someday!Hourglass Treefrog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus)

Day hike

During the first night hike we saw four Fer-de-lances (Bothrops asper) in a short time. At night they are active and easier to spot with a flashlight. I do like snakes, but I must admit that the Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper) is one I fear. These vipers are hard to spot, big, aggressive, and very venomous.
We did not expect one of the vipers to be at the exact same spot the next morning (in daylight). The photo shows how dangerous the Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper) is. The snake is some kind of ‘landmine’. Although this snake was on a very exposed spot, it was still hard to see.  Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)Because we had to walk carefully and look around for dangerous snakes I also found a tiny anole. The size was only a few centimeters.

Anole ID?

I want to thank Brian and his family for the great stay with great experiences. Do you also want this experience and support his important work? Please visit the website of the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center. Just a donation is also possible.

Behind the camera

Besides the story through my camera, there is also a story behind the camera to tell.

San Gerardo de Dota

Daniël (left) and I did not have to wait long to see the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). We were just patient to make the photo we wanted to make. We had a good time with a camera glued to our faces.

Photographing quetzals

Sometimes you are lucky to see something special and photograph it. And when you want to make a better photo the animal is gone. It happened with a certain hummingbird. We waited for the hummingbird to return. Daniël and I were very patient. Daphne and Yara gave us another fifteen minutes. That was a good thing, because otherwise we would probably still be there.Waiting for the hummingbird

Cahuita National Park

In Cahuita National Park the golden Eyelash Viper was my dream species to photograph. So when I saw this animal I took my time. As you can see on the photo, I kept a safe distance.

Eyelash Viper photoshoot

After the photoshoot I got my “trophy shot”. I was “not allowed” (my girlfriend cares a lot about my safety) to come any closer to the snake. I respect that. It is just a photo.

Eyelash Viper posing

Eyelash Viper photoshootIn Cahuita National Park dreams come true. Yara’s dream also came true. Seeing a sloth from close range. The Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) was just giving the nutrients back to the tree. That is a dignified way of saying that the sloth was taking a shit.

Yara's dream came true

I have one more recommendation in Cahuita. You can get the best fruit juices at Soda Kawe. A great reward after a hike!

Best juice in Cahuita

Guayacán Rainforest Reserve

It was not just full time looking for animals and photographing animals. In the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve (C.R.A.R.C.) we had some nice seats at the guesthouse and the waterfall in the reserve was magical. It was such a nice place to be! C.R.A.R.C. guesthouse

Swimming in the Guayacán Rainforest Reserve

SUPPORT ME

Part I and II of my Wildlife Adventure to Costa Rica (2016) are online now. Costa Rica is definitely a country to visit for the third time. Not anytime soon, because there is a lot more to explore (more about that later).

Photographing, editing my photos, and writing a report costs a lot of time and energy. I love doing it (it is my passion), but it would be great if you ‘like’ or ‘share’ this report. Also writing a reply feels very rewarding. Also feel free to ask me for information when you are planning your trip.

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SPECIES

This list consists of the amphibians and reptiles mentioned in this report, but also the ones I had encountered but decided not to include in this report. In this report I just included the photos I really like. For some species that means that the photo was not good enough, or that I did not photograph the species.

Frogs
  • Brilliant Forest Frog (Lithobates warszewitschii)
  • Ghost Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex)
  • Hourglass Treefrog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus)
  • Masked Tree Frog (Smilisca phaeota)
  • Narrow-headed Treefrog (Scinax elaeochrous)
  • Rain Frog (Graugastor polytychus)
  • Red-eyed Leaf Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) 
  • Spiny Glass Frog (Teratohyla spinosa)
  • Spotted Glass Frog (Sachatamia albomaculata)
  • Strawberry Poison-dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio)
  • Veined Treefrog (Dendropsophus phlebodes)
  • White-bellied Stream Frog (Duellmanohyla rufioculis)
Salamanders
  • Striated Salamander (Bolitoglossa striatula)
Lizards
  • Asian Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) INTRODUCED
  • Emerald Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons)
  • Four-lined Ameivas (Ameiva quadrilineata)
  • Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
  • Green Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus)
  • Pug-nosed Anole (Anolis capito)
  • Slender Brown Anole (Anolis limifrons)
  • Spinytail Iguana (Ctenosaura similis)
  • Turnip-tail Gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda)
  • Yellow-headed gecko (Gonatodes albogularis)
Snakes
  • Brown Vine Snake (Oxybelis aeneus)
  • Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)
  • Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)

 

 

 

 

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