Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Poison Dart Frogs

There are approximately 150 species of amphibians living in Costa Rica. Several of these species include some of the most brightly colored frogs found in the rainforest. This fascinating group of frogs belong to the family Dendronbatidae. In Costa Rica there are 7 species, 3 of which boldly display the bright and contrasting colors that are a family trademark. The common name of Poison Arrow Frog or Poison Dart Frog originated from the Choco Indians of Colombia. The Choco knew that the frogs emitted a toxin from their skin. The Choco would rub the tips of their arrows across a frog's body to make the arrow head poisonous.  Below is a small sample of some of these Poisonous frogs and others.

Green & Black Poison Dart Frog © John N Murphy
Strawberry Poison Dart Frog © John N Murphy

Red-eyed Tree Frog © John N Murphy
Red-eyed Tree Frog © John N Murphy

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

La Selva Biological Research Station

We departed La Savegre and drove 3 hours North, passing through San Jose and Las Horquetas en route to reach the Central Cordillera National Park.  La Selva is located 3 km south of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.

Located in the Caribbean lowlands and bracketed by the Sarapiquí and Puerto Viejo Rivers, La Selva is covered with what is technically known as tropical pre-montane wet forest and more commonly referred to as rainforest.  There is no better place in Costa Rica to learn about this ever more endangered ecosystem.  Dr. Leslie Holdridge established La Selva as a study site on mixed plantations for the improvement of natural resources management in 1954.  Since its purchase in 1968 by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), it’s been declared a private Biological Reserve and grown into one of the premier sites in the world for research on tropical rain forest.

Here and within the Research Station you have to get and pay for guides to show you around the location within the National Park. They offer both early-morning and night walks, allowing visitors the opportunity to observe the day time and nocturnal wildlife environments and creatures.

 Passerini's Tanager male © John N Murphy
 Passerini's Tanager female © John N Murphy
Tree-wattled Bellbird©  John N Murphy
Sun Bittern © John N Murphy
 Flame-colored Tanager male © John N Murphy
Pale-billed Woodpecker © John N Murphy
Double-toothed Kite © John N Murphy

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Costa Rica is loaded with hummingbirds. The country's checklist boasts 54 species. These range from widespread and common, like Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, to rather scarce and local ones, such as Black-crested Coquette.  On my travels in Costa Rica I clocked up 14 different species.  These were seen in three main sites (La Sevegre, Monteverde & Arenal), where there were active feeding stations attracting hummers.  Please see shots below.

 Green-crowned Violet Hummingbird male © John N Murphy
 Green-crowned Violet Hummingbird female © John N Murphy
 Green-crowned Violet Hummingbird male © John N Murphy
 Green-violet-ear Hummingbird © John N Murphy
 Green-violet-ear hovering near a feeder © John N Murphy
 Purple-throated mountain Gem female © John N Murphy
 Green-crowned Mountain Gem juvenile © John N Murphy
 Magnificent Hummingbird © John N Murphy
Violet-headed Hummingbird © John N Murphy
 Scilliant Hummingbird chicks in the nest © John N Murphy
 Scilliant Hummingbird feeding young on the nest © John N Murphy
 White-throated Hummingbird © John N Murphy
Volcano Hummingbird © John N Murphy

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Resplendent Quetzal

One of the big target bird species and specialities for Costa Rica has to be the Resplendent Quetzal.  Everywhere you go you see signs of adoration for this bird.  What makes me laugh is that it is not even considered as the National bird of Costa Rica.  Instead the plain Clay-coloured Robin has that title and it looks similar to a female Blackbird.  If I was Costa Rican I'd be a little peeved that such a colourful specimen like the Quetzal did not make the grade.

Green Iguana

Green Iguana is common in lowlands and warmer areas of Costa Rica. The native range of the Green Iguana extends from southern Mexico to central Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolovia and the Caribbean specifically Grenada, Curacao, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St. Vincent and Utila. They have been introduced to Grand Cayman, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. Though the species is not native to Martinique, a small wild colony of released or escaped Green Iguanas endures at historic Fort Saint Louis.
Green Iguanas are diurnal, arboreal, and are often found near water. Agile climbers, Iguana iguana can fall up to 50 feet (15 m) and land unhurt (iguanas use their hind leg claws to clasp leaves and branches to break a fall). During cold, wet weather, green iguanas prefer to stay on the ground for greater warmth.

Friday, February 24, 2012

La Sevegre Costa Rica

Cloud Forest near La Sevegre © John N Murphy

On 8th February we moved on to San Geraldo de Doto and the small town of La Sevegre where we were booked into the Sevegre Hotel de Montana.  This small pastoral mountain town of less than 150 poeple, is situated on the Pacific face of the Talamanca Mountains, a three hour drive inland from the west coast. The Savegre River runs down this steep valley from cloud forests above.   The whole valley offered excellent birding with a wide range of very comfortable accommodation.  The 9km drive down this valley was a bit hairy at times on dust tracks but the rewards at the end of it were well worth the scary moments.

Bird highlights here included nesting Resplendent Quetzals, Torrent Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Black Guan, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-tailed Hawk, White-collared Swift, Vaux's Swift, Grey-rumped Swift, Acorn Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Grey-blue Tanager,  Flame-colored Tanager, Summer Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Black-checked Warbler, Collared Redstart,  Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-thighed Finch, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Yellow-billed Siskin, Orange-billed Trogon, Elegant Euphonia, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher, Tufted and Yellowish Flycatcher, Clay-colored and Sooty Robin, and a selection of Hummingbirds that included Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-throated Mountain Gem, Volcano Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain Gem and Scintilliant Hummingbird.

Elegant Euphonia © John N Murphy
Black Guan © John N Murphy
Black Phoebe © John N Murphy
 Acorn Woodpecker © John N Murphy
 Rufous-collared Sparrow © John N Murphy
 Flame-colored Tanager male © John N Murphy
Flame-colored Tanager female © John N Murphy
Clay-colored Robin © John N Murphy
 Sooty-capped Bush Tanager © John N Murphy
 Slaty Flowerpiercer  © John N Murphy
  Silver-throated Tanager admiring his own reflection © John N Murphy
Yellow-thighed Finch © John N Murphy

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vultures or TV's as they are fondly called in North America are one of the most numerous birds of prey in the skies of Costa Rica.  No matter where you looked in Costa Rica you would see TV's or their close cousin the Black Vulture.