Monday, May 16, 2011

Costa Rica - Day 7

The rain stopped sometime during the night so we woke up to somewhat dry conditions. I was unsatisfied with some of the dart frog pictures so far, so I grabbed an extra flash and made a quick solo hike to the suspension bridge and back to try to get some better shots. The Black and Green Dart Frogs weren't hard to find and were relatively cooperative.

Black and Green Dart Frog

On the way back out, I crossed paths with a male Great Curassow:
Great Curassow

Once we were both ready to head out, we decided to see if the Curassow was still around and he was. He was walking slowly towards the suspension bridge and calling. Off in the distance, we could hear his call being answered. This went on for about 10 minutes before the male headed off trail and into the jungle. We continued to the garden and looped back to the lodge via the driveway but didn't see much else of note.

At breakfast, I took a quick break to fill up our water bottles at the bar. A worker there had been sweeping when he noticed a large snake in the corner. It turned out to be a really good sized Boa Constrictor.

Boa Constrictor

After breakfast, we packed up our stuff and moved it to our new bungalow for the last two nights…Pizote. This bungalow was recently remodeled and is fantastic.

Pizote Bungalow

Notice the view:
Pizote Bungalow View

Once this was done we decided to hike the Saino trail. This trail is just off the Titi Trail and, like the Zapatero trail, has it share of ups and downs. In past trips, we have seen some cool birds, a snake, and peccaries on this trail (Saino is Spanish for Peccary). The mild temperatures and abundance of wildlife made this a good post breakfast choice. We saw Spider Monkeys, Black and Green Dart Frogs, a pair of Pale-Billed Woodpeckers and a bat.

White-lined Bat:
Greater White-lined Bat

One of many blooming Hibiscus around the grounds:
Hibiscus Flower

Halloween Crab being a bit defensive (must have been something I said):
Halloween Crab in Defensive Posture

Those encounters were great but there were two better ones on this hike as well. Not only did we encounter our second (and last) troop of Squirrel Monkeys, but we also encountered our first snake on the trails. This is a Neotropical Bird Eating Snake that we estimated to be about 5 feet long. What was great about this snake encounter is that we were able to see it move off the trail, into the leaf litter and then up onto a fallen tree log. So, we got great looks at how it moved and its subtle coloration.

Neotropical Bird Eating Snake

Neotropical Bird Eating Snake

Before lunch we stopped by the pool hoping to find the Green Iguana hatchlings and we managed to see four of them but they were camera shy today. We also ran into Philip at the pool back from his vacation. Philip is the resident naturalist at BdC and it was his blog postings that pretty much clinched our decision to make our rather spontaneous trip to Costa Rica. Philip is a wealth of knowledge in both the Flora and Fauna of the area. Check out his blog for tons of information and great pictures as well.

After lunch we decided to do the Titi Trail yet again. We had come to maximize our opportunities to see a puma and this is traditionally the best trail so why not keep hiking it daily? We should know by now that sometimes the best sightings are before you even reach your intended trail and today was no exception. There were Spider Monkeys in the mango trees again. And, at the path to Casa Miramar we encountered some Capuchin Monkeys.

If I had known the Capuchins were staying at Casa Miramar, we would have visited them for cocktails:

One of the Capuchins was actually on the ground which was a new experience for us. It tentatively looked around…looked at us…and then bounded across the road to snag something to eat. It then proceeded a few feet up a tree to enjoy the snack. We didn't know it until looking at the picture later that day but this snack was a big green katydid. This monkey then cautiously looked around again, went back down to the same bush, grabbed a stick and then returned up the tree to snack on the stick. Once again, at the time we thought this was just a stick. But, we should have known better since Capuchins really don't eat plants. When I got the pictures home and really looked at them I realized that this stick appears to be a Giant Walking Stick insect.

White Faced Capuchin

White Faced Capuchin with Grasshopper Snack

White Faced Capuchin with Walking Stick Snack

Oh what I wouldn't give to be able to have found this insect myself to photograph with all its parts intact! Based on the size of the monkey, this Walking Stick was over a foot long.

Upon seeing me photograph the monkey, one of BdC's workers stopped us and wanted us to come see something. Unfortunately, he only knew Spanish and my 3 years of High School French was of no help in trying to interpret what he was saying (thanks a lot Mr. Morelli). But, through some gestures and pointing we knew something was in a tree nearby. It turned out to be a sloth or "Perezoso" in Spanish as I now know. This was our 3rd sloth of the trip but since I didn't see it first I now need to stop calling myself the "Sloth Whisperer" and my career with the Discovery Channel is definitely out now. What an eventful walk up the driveway this turned out to be!

As it turned out, that portion of the hike was the best since the rest was pretty void of anything picturesque. To top it off, the cicadas were back and were really loud on the Titi Trail which made it impossible to hear anything moving around in the leaf litter.

We did encounter some close Howler Monkeys after the hike on the main road and we also found a Golden-naped Woodpecker nest in the tropical garden.

Mantled Howler Monkey

Mama Howler and baby:

Golden-naped Woodpeckers:
Golden-naped Woodpecker Pair

We hit the bar earlier than normal tonight because we wanted to stake out the boa to see if it would wake up and head out. During the stakeout we met Phil the owner, for the first time, so we swapped some stories as we drank and waited for the boa. But, the boa was still all curled up an hour later so we gave up since we wanted to make a before dinner night walk.

Our main mission was to take our night vision out to see what was really up in the palm trees by the driveway. We saw eye-shine right away and started rolling the night vision video. As we watched the critter we new two things. One was that it wasn't a Virginia Opossum and two was that it was too large to be a rat (This wasn't NY after all). It had the face of a fox but the long skinny tail of an opossum. We didn't know what it was but Philip later told us that it was a Woolly Opossum.

Here is a video of the that Opossum plus a few other night creatures.

The great conversation at dinner continued tonight and the meal itself was topped off by a superb pineapple upside down cake. We ate rather quickly tonight because we were anxious to get out again in case the rain started up tonight. We started the walk by scanning the area around our bungalow. We really wanted to see a Nine-banded Armadillo so we planned to search all the low bushes on the way to the small pond. What we didn't expect to find was a snake right outside our bungalow. Karen saw it first since I had walked past it. Once both flashlights were on it, it took off extremely quickly and I was afraid that we would lose it so I got one shot off hand held. If I knew then what I know now, I would be extremely relieved that it didn't bolt in our direction.

Fer-de-Lance On The Move

The snake stopped about 10 yards away, coiled up and stuck its head up. Once I was able to focus on it I knew right away that this was almost definitely a Fer-de-Lance which is one of Central America's deadliest snakes. This one was only about 3 feet long but that didn't make it any less deadly. So, you can imagine that our adrenaline was going pretty good and we kept a very respectful distance from the snake.


In my mind I kept thinking that the speed of this snake was really alarming and it seemed like it could out run me if it wanted to. So, with that thought firmly in our heads, we retreated to the lodge and notified Philip and Carlos of our find. Fer-de-Lance do occur around the grounds from time to time so it is always best to stay on the paths or exercise extreme caution if you venture off them at night. In the forest, ALWAYS stay on the trails. (The next morning, the snake was gone.)

With that excitement behind us, we headed to the little pond and had more photo ops with the usual suspects and some new ones:

Praying Mantis:
Praying Mantis

Leaf Mimicking Mantis:
Leaf-Mimicing Praying Mantis

Hourglass Tree Frog:
Hourglass Tree Frog

We found even more "leapfrog" going on tonight:

Red-eyed Tree Frogs

Hourglass Tree Frogs

Phew...what a day.

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