Looking back at Costa Rica

I have been back from Costa Rica for five months now and it seems like such a long time since the last post that I made from La Selva. I have really been missing all the great people I met and the experiences I had. Anyway, I decided to make a post looking back on some cool wildlife from the trip. Enjoy!

Birds

Here is a Chesnut-mandibled Toucan that I spotted high in the canopy at La Selva. Chesnut-mandibled are the largest Toucans in Costa Rica and seeing such a beautiful bird up close is always exciting. Notice the really blue feet!

Another vividly colored bird (and a cousin of the Toucan) that inhabits the canopy is the Collared Aracari. I spotted this one in a tree near the Arenal Volcano…

Bichos

Being by far the most ubiquitous of any creature in Costa Rica, I thought I would share some of the more interesting insects that I encountered…

Here is an absolutely fantastic grasshopper that was crawling on the wall outside my room at Monteverde.

Here is a collection of some other amazing insects and arachnids I saw..

 


 

 

Above right is the caterpillar of a sphinx moth, which has a pair of brightly colored spots on its oversized head that closely resemble the eyes of some larger and less edible creature. Bottom right is a scorpion who decided that my shower curtain was a good place to hang out… I disagreed.

 

 

 

Top left is a very unique green spider I spotted at Palo Verde. Top right is an enormous wolf spider I found on a night walk at La Selva. Bottom left is giant swallow-tailed butterfly and Bottom right is easily the largest butterfly I have ever seen, with a 1 foot wingspan.

 

Frogs”

 

Of all the many creatures that can be found in Costa Rica, the frogs are definitely my favorite. The diversity of color, size, shape, and sound that the frogs of Costa Rica exhibit is unparalleled, and I spent lots of time trying to find and photograph as many as I could.

Here are some of the best….

Here is an amazing red-eyed stream frog (Duellmanohyla uranochroa) on a pane of glass that I photographed at a frog garden in Monteverde.

Here is the same species in the wild, found near a stream in Monteverde…

La Selva Biological Station in the lowlands of Costa Rica is something of a frog haven, especially after a large rainfall. La Selva is one of the best places to find the iconic Red-eyed Leaf  Frog (Agalychnis callidryas), and one night at the swamp I came across this one posing for me on a stem…

 

Here is another La Selva resident Hyla Loquax…

 

Another unique tree frog found in Costa Rica is the glass frog. Many species of glass frog such as this one have almost transparent skin which is thought to aid in camouflage. Glass frogs are quite rare and this one was in a frog garden in Monteverde.

Monkeys


I also had many memorable encounters with monkeys during my stay in Costa Rica. The howler (above) and spider monkeys were always interesting and entertaining to watch, but perhaps the most feisty are the Capuchins. These are relatively little monkeys, but they can be quite aggressive, and they are certainly not afraid of humans.

Here is a rather upset male that was trying to lead his family group through the grounds of our hotel at Manuel Antonio beach. He was clearly perturbed by our presence and actually ended up punching my Mum in the back! (She was fine)…

After making a quick retreat, the male capuchin’s family soon followed, and it became clear why he was so protective…

 

Serpientes

Anyone who has read this blog before will know about my encounters with the eyelash viper. It is the most vividly colored of all the creatures I saw in my travels, and being able to get so close to one and watch it capture an anole lizard is something I will never forget…

Costa Rica is home to many tree snakes, including this Blunt-headed Vine snake which I found slithering around the understory at La Selva.

This is one of my favorite finds that I made during the trip. It is an intertwined mating pair of Mangrove Boas that were sitting in a tree literally on the beach at Manuel Antonio. Limited mostly to certain coastal regions, Mangrove Boas are rare and to catch a glimpse of one up close is lucky. To find a mating pair like this is extremely lucky.

 

ANTS

 

I want to end this post with the most common of all creatures in Costa Rica, and the entire world for that matter… Ants!

Perhaps the most well known ant that can be found throughout almost of all of Costa Rica is the leaf-cutter. These tenacious harvesters live in colonies of millions and can completely de-leaf a tree in no time at all. Extraordinarily, these ants don’t eat the leaves that they harvest and instead feed it to a fungus that grows within their colony. It is this fungus that the ants consume.

Below, a lone worker carries her leaf back to the colony. Notice the small ant sitting on the leaf. This is a member of a different caste from the leaf cutter colony called minima. The exact purpose of these smaller freeloaders is unknown, but it is thought they help to defend the larger ant from parasitic flies.

Although small as individuals, ants find great strength in numbers. It is amazing to see what a colony of thousands or millions can achieve by working together as one unit. Army ants are an excellent example of just how powerful ants can be.

Living in large, mobile colonies, army ants leave their nest every morning and spread across the forest floor in waves of hundreds of thousands, swarming and capturing anything that gets in their way. Using their stingers and powerful mandibles the ants will then dismember their prey and bring it back to the nest. Few forest floor dwellers are safe from the army ants, and they have been known to capture frogs, snakes, and even small mammals that can’t escape.

Even powerful scorpions fall victim to the ruthless ants, and here is a poor individual getting swarmed and killed right outside my door at Palo Verde…

 

Army ants are a force to be reckoned with (especially when you feel their sting), but they are not the most feared in Costa Rica. That title is held by the aptly named bullet ant, which gets its name from the fact that being stung feels like being shot. The pain from a bullet ant sting is excruciating and can last for five hours. Bullet ants are also a full inch long, have huge mandibles, and are fairly aggressive. The first time I saw one I couldn’t believe that an ant could be so large…

Here is a bullet ant at La Selva. Check out the size of its mandibles!

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