A nutty scarlet macaw

Scarlet macaw – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This brightly colored scarlet macaw was spotted with it’s equally impressive partner, chowing down on beach almonds (Terminalia catappa tree) along the coast of Costa Rica. As is quite typical of the parrot family, they are large and they are loud! You almost always see them flying and hanging out in pairs, and they know how to communicate very well with each other. They will let each other know when it’s time to fly off to another spot with a very loud screech. This was such a spectacular sight on a bright sunny beach day – life doesn’t get any better than this. It makes me sad to think about how many of these birds live in isolation, in cages, unable to be free or have a partner to chat with. As glorious as they are to look at, nothing is more glorious than spotting them flying freely through the sky as nature intended it.  


Beautiful Boa from Belize

Beautiful Boa from Belize – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This is a gorgeous snake from Belize, which was happily perched on a tree branch hanging over a river taking a nap. By far the most sizeable snake I have ever seen in the wild, I was so excited to be taking its photo. I was quite close to the snake, trying to get a good angle through the leaves, and even though I didn’t know what kind of snake I was dealing with, I knew that if it remained happily coiled, I was going to survive the encounter. After a few photographs, the snake was clearly aware of my presence and started darting its tongue in and out to get a sense of what I was. I persisted with my photographs, and to my relief the snake stayed happily relaxed and allowed me to get my photo. After showing this photo to a snake expert, I was told it is a boa constrictor, a serial asphyxiator, a snake who chokes for a living! I was photographing a snake that belongs to the family of largest snakes in the world, made up of anacondas, pythons and boa constrictors. What an incredible thrill!

Sometimes blending in is more important than standing out

Black and white butterflies – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Looking at this photograph I started to wonder –  What is the difference between a butterfly and a moth? Simple, right? Not so much. For every rule, there are always exceptions and this is no different. However, here are some of the (exceptions aside) differences between moths and butterflies.

Butterflies are generally a day creature (diurnal) while moths prefer the night (nocturnal). Due to this distinction, moths are usually colored grey, black and brown, while butterflies generally show off brilliantly colored wings. Butterflies have slender bodies and long, thin antennae with a club-shaped end, while moths are stout and furry and have feather-like antennae. Butterflies rest with their wings up (like the butterfly in this image), whereas moths rest with wings down. During metamorphosis, moths make a silk cocoon, whereas butterflies make a smooth and hard chrysalis.

Although these are the general rules, this particular butterfly is not so brightly colored, and for the most part sat with wings down against this tree (see image below). I think these traits ensure successful camouflage with the bark of this tree, and therefore a greater likelihood this butterfly evades predation. This reminded me of the classic evolutionary tale of the peppered moths (for more info follow this link).

Butterfly Flattened – Photography by Laura Lecce

A flag footed bug from Belize

Flag footed bug – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This brilliantly colored bug from Belize is called a flag footed bug and is also known as a leaf footed bug (Anisocelis flavolineata). It is found throughout Central America and comes in a variety of brilliant colors. There is very little information about them online, except that they can fly and are relatively harmless to humans. Although they can bite if provoked and it will sting a bit. The festive colors of this insect make it the perfect bug for the holiday season. Enjoy!

Friday Fishes – A parrotfish smile

A parrotfish smile – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This colorful parrotfish living amongst the reef in Belize, flashed me a giant smile, showing me some bright white teeth. They use these teeth to scrape algae off corals and rocks, thus preventing algae overgrowth in the reef. This harsh treatment on their teeth as they eat means that they grow continuously throughout their life. I must say that it is a totally different felling getting a toothy smile from a parrotfish compared to a toothy grin from a shark!

An elk is not a reindeer

An elk is not a reindeer – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This is a sleek and athletic looking young male elk. He calls Yellowstone National Park his home, and was munching on dinner in this lush grassy area. This is probably the closest chance I will have to see a reindeer-like animal. Elk and reindeer are very similar in size, however elk fur is very sleek and shiny, mostly dark with a white bum, and with shaggy fur around their necks. This is clearly a male with his small antlers, that will grow much, much larger once he’s older. They are newly grown and still covered in a velvet-like skin which will dry and fall off in Autumn. Each year after mating season, the antlers will also fall off and grow again for the next mating season. With reindeer, the presence of antlers cannot be used to distinguish between them, as both males and females have antlers.

For other posts from Yellowstone National Park click here.