Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

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Roki
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Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by Roki » January 6th, 2014, 12:06 pm

Well, once again, thank you to everyone who gave me some advice prior to this trip. Typically I travel alone or with just one other person, but this time around I had the whole gang with me. Overall the trip went very well and the older and young crowds had fun and everyone got along which I considered a big win. Inspite of being pulled in a lot of differing directions I still managed to pull off a bit of herping and birding while we were there. I would have liked to have done more, but compromises had to be made. Anyway, let's get to it.
After flying into San Jose I rented an SUV for us to get around in. I must say, the GPS navigation system that came with the car was wonderful for getting us out of the city with ease. I highly recommend it. Once on our way we headed down the slope to the Caribbean. FYI- Route 32 is open and has been repaired since the bridge washout earlier in 2013. Anyway, we drove down to Puerto Viejo and stayed in a wonderful spot at Totem Hotel right across the street from Playa Cocles. The place is south of town a bit and is nice for getting out of the business of the Puerto Viejo proper. Especially since a nice swell was rolling in so the place was hopping with hungry surfers. I surf, but Salva Brava in town is over my abilities. We settled in and I promptly let the kids relax while I headed out with my girlfriend to find what we could.
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We quickly turned up a beautiful little fellow on the hotel grounds.
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Strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio)
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And another.
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The boys were constantly entertained with the geckos and anoles that were plentiful near the hotel.

One of our reasons for heading to this side of the country was that the teenager with us wanted desperately to see sloths. So we figured we would hit up Cahuita National Park and the local animal rescue center (the Jaguar Rescue Center). I had also been wanting an excuse to get over to these areas myself to search for eyelash vipers, strawberry dart frogs, and collared aracaris. As some on this site might remember, a few folks on here have come down to this area with great success. We were hoping for the same. For some species we really did well with and others remained elusive.
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Well we ended up doing quite well on finding sloths.
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And yellow phase eyelash pit-vipers (Bothriechis schlegelii) as well.
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Once we started looking we found them everywhere.
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We also saw a few narrow-headed vine snakes (Oxybelis aeneus).
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The Capuchin monkeys and howler monkeys seems to also be common within the park.
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The howlers tended to be a bit further out and thus made getting good shots of them difficult.
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The sloths also tended to be quite high up and made photographing them tricky, but there were enough to afford plenty of chances to see them.
Really Cahuita was loaded with wildlife. Anyone heading to the Caribbean should take a day and enjoy it.
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Plumed basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons)
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Striped Basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus)
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I think if I had been kid and teenager free, I could have easily tripled the species found during our time here. That being said, I still felt we did pretty well.
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Long-nosed Bats (Rhynchonycteris naso)
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Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)
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Green iguanas were also common.

In addition to the park we hit the local pockets of habitat, a botanical garden, and the Jaguar center. One of my failures on my part this trip was failing completely to find any red-eyed tree frogs at the center or in any surrounding areas. I found egg masses, and green parrot snakes (Leptophis ahaetulla), but no red-eyeds. I honestly thought I could turn them up with relative ease in this area.
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Other natives that come and go that were found at the Animal center included.
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Collared Aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus)
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Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, or Swainson's Toucan ( Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii)
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Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma)

Also some of the injured animals at the center included sloths and Kinkajous.
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My other, even more humiliating failure this trip was find and catching the most beautiful metallic green and black (Dendrobates auratus) I have ever seen and I found a nice spot of flat ground to photograph it on and boom...gone. The little guy slipped into some ground cover that was much deeper than I though and vanished. One of those moments you literally have in your hands and poof. I was glad the kids had gotten pooped out earlier and had decided to play in the hotel pool while the adults went on our species photo hunts. A few choice words got thrown around in the jungle that afternoon. Ha, directed very much at myself. To those frogs that got away, I know where you live, I will be back with my camera in hand. I did however later find another one in a deep little nook and managed to at least get one shot of a less colorful one.
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The afternoon was redeemed upon finding some tent bats (Uroderma bilobatum).

While we were there the Caribbean was going off. Saw a lot of great rides. Catch a few smaller ones myself. With the beach across the street, the boys were in heaven.
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A few nights we got out around the hotel area and turned up a few things.
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Mourning Geckos (Lepidodactylus lugubris) were commonly found.

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Smilisca phaeota

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The common tink frog (Eleutherodactylus diastema) is one of the major contributors to the nightly symphony in the jungle.

During our time here it hardly rained which made finding the frogs a bit trickier with the drier conditions. However, everyone else loved the lack of rain. It made for and easy time for the kids and girlfriend to enjoy themselves.
Overall our time on the Caribbean side was a great time and thankfully all the kids got along. From here we headed out across the country to the little town of San Gerardo de Dota. Much higher altitude, so cooler, far less herp, but great birding. I will cover this in the next post along with our time down in the Uvita area. I hope everyone enjoyed the post and I wil be getting the next one up shortly.
Cheers,
Roki

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Cole Grover
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by Cole Grover » January 6th, 2014, 12:23 pm

Pretty cool stuff. Were the Lepidodactylus the only geckos seen? Gotta love Basiliscus, huh? I think your Craugastor might be a Smilisca...

-Cole

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by cbernz » January 6th, 2014, 4:38 pm

Cole Grover wrote:Pretty cool stuff. Were the Lepidodactylus the only geckos seen? Gotta love Basiliscus, huh? I think your Craugastor might be a Smilisca...

-Cole
Yeah, looks like Smilisca phaeota. Nice haul, especially those golden Oropels - I've been to CR 4 times and only ever seen 2. I think December isn't an ideal time to find Red-eyed Treefrogs, so maybe not a surprising miss. If you can, head down there in August sometime - you will be tripping over frogs.

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MattSullivan
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by MattSullivan » January 6th, 2014, 5:13 pm

sweet. the eyelash vipers and sloths are high on my list for my trip this year

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chrisr
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by chrisr » January 7th, 2014, 9:00 am

Very cool, thanks. Hope to see some of those species when I head there in a couple of weeks.

A question for you or anyone else who has headed east from San Jose: Am I courting trouble by not getting a GPS? I tend to not use those things and was thinking of not shelling out for that, but wondering if the drive thru San Jose is challenging enough that I should splurge.


- C

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cbernz
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by cbernz » January 7th, 2014, 9:13 am

chrisr wrote:Very cool, thanks. Hope to see some of those species when I head there in a couple of weeks.

A question for you or anyone else who has headed east from San Jose: Am I courting trouble by not getting a GPS? I tend to not use those things and was thinking of not shelling out for that, but wondering if the drive thru San Jose is challenging enough that I should splurge.


- C
Yes, definitely get the GPS. Many roads, even pretty major ones, are poorly marked, and you really need full attention on the road to avoid dogs, kids, and cars passing each other on two-lane roads (and those little single-lane bridges that suddenly appear at the bottom of a curve where you have to slam on the brakes and "ceda el paso" to an oncoming pineapple truck). You can rent one from the car company or if you have your own, you can probably download a Costa Rica map for it. Navigating through San Jose is not too bad, really, but it's the countryside and those cramped little towns where you can really get disoriented.

It's also a good idea to spend some time talking to the guy at the rental counter about where you plan to go, as he might have some good tips about what roads are good, bad, or destroyed by natural disaster.

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chrisr
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by chrisr » January 7th, 2014, 3:13 pm

Ok, thanks much for the tips Cbernz and sorry to highjack this thread,

C

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Roki
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by Roki » January 7th, 2014, 6:01 pm

Thanks for the ID help guys. No worries on the advice. I agree with Cbernz that the roads here are a bit nutty and my gps made it not just a little easier, but alot easier. It took me down roads I would have not been able to figure out in the city. The country side was fairly simple to get around, but the bigger towns is where the gps really shines. Anyway, hope you guys liked the pictures.

Matt, head to the Caribbean and you should have no problem finding both.

Cole, yes other geckos observed were Hemidactylus frenatus (of course, but I did not bother trying to get a great shot of since I have many through the years in various countries), and yellow-headed geckos (Gonatodes albigularis).

Other species I didn't manage to post already are:
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Anolis humilis (I think)
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Ameiva festiva

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Yellow-headed gecko

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kcmatt
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by kcmatt » January 9th, 2014, 5:03 pm

No Agalychnis at the center?!! Must have been the lack of rain, they were everywhere there when we went, along with an even neater treefrog... Thanks for the post, it is a great area.

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Roki
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Re: Costa Rica December 2013 Caribbean Side

Post by Roki » January 10th, 2014, 8:54 am

Matt,
I can not even tell you how hard I looked for them there. I thought after talking with you and Robbie that it was nearly a sure thing. Then I got there and found some eggs masses and thought ok, need to hunt around a little. I even asked the guy guiding us around to help me look and both of us could not turn up any. Of course my kids were like "whatever", "on to the next thing". At the end of it I just had to throw the towel in and call it. There were five green parrot snakes around the pond, all in weird spots so not really any good pictures, but the guy working there thought that the lack of rain and the snakes were putting a damper on the frog hunting. That and the losing the shots of the auratus were the two crushers of the trip, otherwise it was a great time. We did much better on snakes than I thought we would do, but much worse on frogs. Last year I cleaned up on frogs and almost no snakes. Oh well, I will just have to go back down and see what I can do another time. Thanks again for all the help.
Roki

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