Frogs that wear denim

Blue jeans poison dart frog – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This tiny little beauty is a type of strawberry dart frog from Costa Rica. They call this particular variety a blue jeans poison dart frog because the red bodied frog has blue arms and legs. The bright colors of these frogs is a signal to any predators that they are extremely toxic and should be left alone. The poison from one individual frog is enough to kill 10 adult humans. When I saw this frog it shocked me how tiny they really are, as they are generally about the size of your big toenail. It’s also amazing to me that such tiny frogs can create so much noise!

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.  

Peculiar Pizote

Peculiar Pizote – Photograph by Laura Lecce

There are so many animals that I meet on my travels that I didn’t know existed. This pizote was one such animal that I had never heard of until I met this gorgeous creature in Costa Rica. It is also known as a coati and belongs to the same family as raccoons. They are omnivores with a diet of insects, small vertebrates and fruits. Like raccoons they will scavenge through the trash to find something to eat and seem to be quite used to human encounters. They are quite intelligent and have even been kept as domestic pets. This particular pizote seems to have learned that approaching the side of a car may result in being fed, however, on this particularly rainy day he was out of luck.

For other Costa Rican animals please click here.

Reg-eyed tree frog

Red-eyed tree frog - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Red-eyed tree frog – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This glossy and colorful red-eyed tree frog lives in the jungle of Costa Rica. While visiting I attended a frog spotting tour which taught us how to listen for frog calls, spot the glistening eyes in our torch light and hopefully find the tiny frog making so much noise. It was harder than I thought! These frogs are very well camouflaged when they want to be. By tucking their orange toes under their belly and closing their eyes, the entire frog is as green as the leaf they’re sitting on. You can’t see it in this photo, but these frogs also have a fair bit of blue along the side of their body and upper arm which gets hidden when they tuck in their limbs. Their beautiful coloration and comical face makes them a very popular subject in animal photography. The bulging red eyes are great for startling predators who think they can make a meal out of a sleeping frog, and also signaling that this frog is not as tasty a meal as a predator might think. The eyes also help the frog swallow larger mouthfuls, this is done by pulling the eyes inwards which pushes the food down into their belly. I definitely had a great time observing some of the night activity that is usually only heard by humans.

For other posts from Costa Rica please click here.

Sloths – how will they ever keep up?

Happy to be Hanging Out - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Happy to be Hanging Out – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Last week on the 20th of November it was international sloth day. These incredibly interesting and bizarre creatures were a highlight on my visit to Costa Rica. Honestly, they are one of those creatures that you hope you will see, but in reality never think you will be lucky enough to actually spot one. I was so very wrong… we actually saw quite a few. We were also lucky enough to see a couple of them on the move (although they move frustratingly slow, making you wonder how they get anywhere they want). You can imagine that in a world where things move so fast, and increasingly so, that these animals may not have a place in the future without a lot of help from humans. However for now, they always have a smile on their face and are truly happy just hanging around. After spotting a few on our own we decided to go on a guided sloth spotting tour to learn more about these fascinating creatures. The two photographs below were taken on a mobile phone through a telescopic lens that our guide had, so I cannot take credit for them, but they clearly show the differences between the two families of sloths. The first is a three-toed sloth with a darker fur, and the second a two-toed sloth with lighter fur.

Three-Toed Sloth
Three-Toed Sloth
Two-Toed Sloth
Two-Toed Sloth

We were lucky to have photos with their heads in them, as they mostly sleep all day, and all you often get to see while looking up into the trees is a furry bum. Being Australian, I think of them as the Central/South American cousin of the Koala. Both move quite slowly, live high up in the trees, spend most of their day sleeping (about 15-20 hours a day) and for the few hours a day they are awake they munch on leaves.

Click here for other posts from Costa Rica.

Totally Annoyed

Totally Annoyed - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Totally Annoyed – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Whilst on vacation in Costa Rica, one of our destinations was the Tabacon Grand Spa located in La Fortuna De San Carlos which is right in the center of a rainforest at the base of the Arenal Volcano. This resort is famous for naturally heated, black volcanic pools of crystal clear water. A heaven on earth for anyone that loves relaxing baths, and luscious tropical gardens. However, as I am not a person who finds sweating in warm water relaxing, I instead was delighted to see that many reptiles obviously loved the humidity and warmth that these thermal hot springs had to offer. The stunning juvenile lizard in this photo was experiencing quite a relaxing day at the spa, until I arrived with my camera. So instead of relaxed, he looks incredibly annoyed at me for ruining his day by taking some photos. Those glaring yellow eyes and pursed lips make me smile every time I look at him, what a cutie!

For those of you who are also reptile lovers, please click here to visit my other scaly posts.

Capuchin Madness

It takes time to be old and wise - Photograph by Laura Lecce
It takes time to be old and wise – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I was lucky enough to encounter many Capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica. After watching them for some time, I was able to observe some of their relationships and behaviors. In the first image, I had clearly met one of the more senior and respected members of the group. This individual was happiest observing the humans that were observing him, and was quite content in sitting back and allowing the other younger capuchins to cause a raucous.

The Coast is Clear - Photograph by Laura Lecce
The Coast is Clear – Photograph by Laura Lecce

They often moved together as large family groups, and when they did it was like a tornado moving through the trees. At one point they needed to cross a road, and before letting the mums and bubs exit the safety of the trees, they sent out scouts (pictured in the second image) to make sure the coast was clear. Once the scouts gave the all clear, monkey after monkey came flying out of the trees to scurry across the road and back into the jungle. Some of their leaps from tree to tree were incredibly far and seemed very dangerous, but they were completely confident and surefooted.

Caught Making a Mess - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Caught Making a Mess – Photograph by Laura Lecce

The monkey pictured in this last photo was caught making quite a mess with the little fruits hanging from this palm tree. Surely a source of food for these cuties, but at times it looked like it was having more fun throwing the fruits to the ground than actually caring to eat them. I think their cute little faces easily fool humans into thinking they are very friendly, but in contrary they can be quite aggressive and territorial and wont hesitate to flash some pretty sharp canines if you get too close.

Unimpressed

Unimpressed - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Unimpressed – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This is a dog we met while on a road trip in Costa Rica. Seeing a chocolate brown dog in front of an aqua colored wall, I just had to stop for a photo. There was only one way to describe the look on this dog’s face as he saw us pull up – utterly unimpressed. He was like a grumpy old man sitting on his porch wondering why the hell these damn tourists had to come to his country to pester him by taking his photo. In the end, no matter how much he looked like he hated me, I still love him!

Jesus Christ Lizard

Jesus Christ Lizard - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Jesus Christ Lizard – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I believe that what I have photographed here is a green basilisk lizard, commonly found on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica. The adult males have three crests, one on the head, back and tail (which makes them look like a mini dinosaur). Adult females only have one on the head, and juveniles don’t have any. Despite growing quite large (up to 3 feet long head to tail), they are a skittish lizard, but this particular green beauty was quite comfortable hiding deep in the protection of these tree roots. Unfortunately for me, it made for some pretty uncomfortable and awkward photography half sitting/lying in some bushes and rocks on the edge of a steamy hot spring in my bikini. I think some of the other tourists thought I was a mad person photographing tree roots! Anyway, these lizards are also called Jesus Christ lizards for their ability to run across water, usually when spooked by a predator. Knowing that this is their best method of escape, they are often found in trees along the edges of a body of water. They are also great swimmers and can reportedly spend up to 30 minutes underwater. Click here for a very cool slow motion video by National Geographic of the Jesus Christ lizard running across water. Enjoy!

Black Intimidation

Black Intimidation - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Black Intimidation – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Costa Rica is known for some of the most beautifully colored birds in the world. However, since I don’t own a telephoto lens, I rarely get to take bird photos unless the bird literally lands a few feet in front of me. For me, this particular bird will be forever associated in my mind with this beautiful country rather than the traditional toucan. These magnificently intimidating vultures could be seen no matter where we were, circling the skies all day, every day. This particular vulture was sitting on a farm fence post, his/her partner on the next one, both truly formidable in size and presence. Thanks to a rainy day, both had their wings fully spread to dry off their feathers. On the ground below them in the long grass, 5-6 wet chicks huddled together (and by chicks, I mean their fuzzy babies the size of medium chickens!). I would have loved to get out of my car and take a photo of the chicks too, but I envisioned my eyes being gouged out by the parents while they tear my scalp off with their talons. Needless to say, I stayed in the safety of my car, and left their chicks alone. A tribute to truly terrifying parents!

Vulture Parenting - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Vulture Parenting – Photograph by Laura Lecce