Getting Outside Saturday: Costa Rican Critters

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside

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Nice murals, too.


Just a little more from a vacation in tropical nature.  Part of the pleasure, of course, was being in the rain forest and on the beaches and in the farmlands with an eleven-year-old, and watching her begin to draw the connections between absolutely everything.  We did a lot of cataloging, too, keeping lists and notes and forming questions to ask both there and at home.  And photos, all three of us snapping

Squirrel Monkey

Big tree Carara, with Juliet.

away in hopes of a decent shot of this or that elusive something or other.  Many shots of the forest floor or vague shots of sky or colorful blurs represent attempts to capture images of butterflies.  Many shots of banana leaves or mango tree limbs or masses of drip-tipped leaves show

A swim in Quepos

recently departed monkeys.  Sloths were easier to shoot, but always far away.  Elysia got the anteater.  Guides were always grabbing her camera and putting it on the spotting scope for shots of distant birds.  Juliet caught the people, more often.  My thing was signs.

Some added a lizard...

Monkeys: Howler, spider, squirrel, white-faced.  Great sight was squirrel monkeys crossing the roads of Manuel Antonio on blue ropes provided for the purpose, the (female) leader stopping to call the last teen, who took his damn time.

Tent-making bats (they fold down the palm leaves)

Hoffman’s two-toed sloth (mean).  Three-toed sloth (sweet).  And a baby sloth (aww!).  Boys have a black stripe on their back.

Silky anteater, lesser anteater (tamandua).  My favorite, somehow, for sheer exoticism.

Really big, really charming rodents: Paca, Agouti

Don't feed the animals

Familiars: racoons, opossums, armadillos, squirrels.

Heard, but not seen: kinkajous!

Coati mundi, come on.

Reptiles: turtles, lizards galore (iguanas black and green,

Oh, and flowers

skinks, Jesus Christ Lizard/water walking basilisk, etc.), frogs (by flashlight at night, wow), and one bird-eating snake, about eight feet long and thick and only identified later, so run!  Also crocodiles, some of them on the beach at Carate, and along with rip-tides, the reason you don’t see people swimming right there.

A diurnal moth

Insects.  Blue Morpho butterflies, and dozens of others.  Giant katydids, buzzing locusts galore, ticks (ick), and on and on, many heard but not seen.  Winner was a six-inch katydid that I took several photos of before I realized that the guide had made it out of palm leaves: an origami hoax.

Plants.  Many, many species, few individuals of each, the opposite of the temperate forest strategy.  So many epiphytes and vines that trees need strategies to shed them.  And

Those are crocodiles

enormous trees–200 feet and more tall, boles bigger than any in Maine.  Favorite: Strangler figs, which start in the crowns of existing trees, drop roots hundreds of feet, if necessary, take root, and gradually envelope their host trees, using their support till the roots all unite and graft and form even bigger trees around the dead host, gorgeous

night frog

knots and folds and windows, habitats for thousands of species.

Birds: About 140 species (I’m still working on the list), about 80 I’d never seen before.  Also, another 40 or so species I couldn’t identify, some after long looks.  Birding is


always a focus for me and on this trip as much as ever.  Something new, though: I was gratified that Juliet and Elysia got into it, too: more eyes, and more time to devote!  When we weren’t horseback riding and ziplining and boating and beaching.  We went out with guides on two occasions.  The first was a simple secondary-forest platform, the second was a hike into Carara National Park along the Rio Tarcoles, which is the river of the famous crocodile bridge.  Carara is a 25,000 acre biological preserve, and the wildest place I’ve been maybe ever.

Favorites: Turquoise Cotinga.  Chestnut Mandibled Toucan.  Royal Flycatcher.  Little Tinamou.  Black-throated Trogon, Scarlet Macaw, Mangrove Warbler, Orange-necked Manikin.  And actually, every single bird we saw.

[Thanks to Elysia for corrections, additions and her wonderful memory. And for knowing how to spell everything, which Bill should know because he is a writer and Elysia is only 11. My work here is done. Back to sewing my Pointe Shoes.]


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