Dwarf Glass Frog (Teratohyla spinosa)

The Dwarf Glass Frog is the smallest Glass Frog to be seen in Costa Rica, roughly similar in size to a Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, but given its green dorsal skin it is more difficult to spot, specially if they stay motionless on a green leaf; increasing the probabilities of seeing one is the fact that they call from the upper side of leafs, so putting enough attention one might discover an individual. Their eyes are more forward facing than the Dusty Glass Frog, which is the other member of the Teratohyla genus and is a lot large, also differentiated by the lack of any spots on the Dwarf. An important reproductive characteristic of this species is that the egg clutches are left hanging from the underside of leafs, above a stream so that tadpoles can easily drop to a certain source of water.

This small individual clang to the leaf using its sticky fingers and toes.
This is the smallest glass frog species that can be found in Costa Rica, with males being a mere 2 centimeters in length. They are called Glass Frogs for a good reason: Part of their ventral skin is transparent, letting us observe their inner organs. The same happens with the limbs, as the bones can be observed through the skin.

Dusty Glass Frog (Teratohyla pulverata)

Glass Frogs are fascinating, given their transparent ventral skin. This species is called Dusty given how the dorsal skin is covered in very small white spots. They are intermediate between the sizes of Strawberry and Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs. Their skin is mostly green, with yellowish tints in the ventral surfaces of the limbs and in the tips of fingers and toes. The eyes are very large, located at each side of the head, enabling the frog to spot predators from both sides; the pupil is horizontally eliptical, while the iris is covered with an intricate pattern of blue and gray.

“Focusing on the eyes” is one of the most important elements in general photography, but particularly so in macro. The eyes are usually one of the most striking features in wildlife and macro lenses can bring out impressive detail.
Macro photography is a balancing art between very sharp and detailed subjects and very soft and featureless backgrounds that enable the subject to stand out. Light in the background can created circular figures called “Bokeh”, or disappear entirely into one blotch of color.
This frog was very cooperative and stood in varied poses on a leaf.
Although the frog looks essentially the same color, the leaf does not, but it is the same leaf I promise. Just by changing the angle of view, the light can change entirely, producing very different colors.
This one looks like it is taking impulse before the dash, although frogs usually hop instead of running.

Hourglass Tree Frog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus)

The Hourglass Tree Frog receives its name from the dark brown mark on its back, which resembles an hourglass due to its shape. Overall, it is colored orange and brown, with small light spots on darker areas and small dark spots on the lighter zones. Some individuals are rather pattern less and look entirely orange. It is common and widespread in both caribbean and pacific lowlands. This species is arboreal and nocturnal, and can be found in disturbed areas, including gardens close to people’s homes. It is not likely to be confused with any other frog species that inhabit Costa Rica, although the other two species in the Dendropsophus genus have a similar orange color, but without the intricate patterns of the Hourglass.

This male was clinging to the leaf with much force. The sticky nature of frogs’ fingers and toes is inspiring research into new technologies and adhesive materials.
This male was very active during the photoshoot. It would jump out of view before I could even focus properly, so I ended up with many out of focus images. Taken under a controlled environment.
Another shot of the Hourglass Frog. This is a male, which is noticeably smaller than the female. Like many other frogs, it clings on top of the female to stimulate her to release her eggs, which he then fertilizes in the water.
Although not visible on this angle, it has a brown hourglass shaped mark on the back, which gives its name to this species. They are tiny but brilliantly colored.

Boulenger’s Long-snouted Tree Frog (Scinax boulengeri)

There are three Long-snouted Tree Frog species in Costa Rica, with the Boulenger’s and Olive being both widespread and common accross wet lowlands in the country, and the Dry Forest species being common in the northwest region (Guanacaste). The Boulenger’s is mostly light brown, including the iris, with small patches of green and darker brown that provides better camouflage. It is arboreal and nocturnal, and males frequently call with their body upside-down during the wet season. To help hold this position, the innermost finger can be rotated up to 90 degrees, essentially pointing upwards, which provides a better grip on smooth surfaces like tree branches and trunks. The skin is granular, which might put off some people that call that appearance gross.

The body of this tree frog is covered in warts, so it can look repulsive to many people. Yet amphibians have a very important role in wet ecosystems, as some of the insect prey they consume might develop into plagues if unchecked.
Just as this frog grapples with the branch it was placed in, most amphibian species have been battling with declining populations. Protecting them from extinction is one of our biggest challenges.
The use of a shallow depth of field creates an interesting effect where the eye and face of the frog is extremely sharp, but the rest of the body is defocused.
Another pose of the individual as it crouched on a mossy branch.
I like shooting frog macros, because photos of small animals like this species that measures 5 centimeters of length can potentially be printed up to 1 meter length. That would look like a gigantic frog!
A lateral view where the long snout can really be appreciated. In Costa Rica, it is colloquially known as the “Rana Lagarto” (Crocodile Frog).
As with other frogs, the eyes are placed on the sides, enabling the frog to spot potential predators coming from both sides.

Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina)

The Common Ground-Dove is very similar to related species Ruddy and Plain-breasted Ground-Doves, however the Common is lighter in coloration, with a pink bill that is diagnostic; it also shows a scaled pattern in the throat and neck, which is missing from the other ground doves. Also similar to these species is the Inca Dove, which even behaves similarly as it forages most of the time on the ground, however the scaled appearance in the whole body should preclude any confusion. The male is ligher than the female, which looks grayish. All ground doves feature dark spots in the tips of primaries and secondaries, which look like a curved line when the wings are closed, although the Common’s should area spots are more numerous and do not form a line.

A male Common Ground-Dove stands on a metal rod, with trees in the background becoming a dark green blotch of color.

Black-crowned Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha)

There are six species of Antshrikes that occur in Costa Rica, some more elusive than others, but all having a common theme: Their songs is heard more often than they are seen. All of them sing using a pattern of repeating notes that build more speed slowly, abruptly ending in a single note that usually is different from all others. The song of the Black-crowned Antshrike is very similar in pitch to the Barred Antshrike’s, so it is easy to confuse them. The Black-crowned is bigger and does not have the bold markings that the Barred has, only displaying small white dots and stripes on the wings, along a black crown which is difficult to see, given that they are usually perched higher than eye level inside the dark forest.

As a bird photographer, I strive for great image quality, but also value unique moments with rare or elusive species. This sighting of the Black-crowned Antshrike is one such encounter, a bird that can be easily identified by the song, but that can be difficult to see as they live in the dense, dark forest. To see them in the trail is priceless.

Long-billed Starthroat (Heliomaster longirostris)

The Heliomaster genus contains four species, two of which occur in Costa Rica, including the Long-billed Starthroat that can be spotted in the Caribbean and northern lowlands, as well as in the south Pacific. It also includes the Plain-capped Starthroat, which is mostly seen in the north Pacific, central valley and some valleys in the south Pacific.

Both Starthroats have longer than average bills which are straight, although both species have similar bills. The main difference between the Long-billed and Plain-capped is that the former displays a colorful blue-green forecrown, while the latter lacks that crown. To aid in identification, it can be noted that the Long-billed has a postocular spot, while the Plain-capped has a postocular strip. Other than those two specific traits, the two species are very similar, with olive upperparts and gray to white underparts, and a magenta throat that is iridescent. The tips of the tail feathers are white, which can be seen the most dramatically during flight.

Sometimes I feel like I am not close enough, but I still take the shot. This is one such scene. While not the close up portrait that I strive for, it has a beauty of its own, by including a little bit of the environment this hummingbird is in. This individual always returned to perch to the same leaf, for reasons that I could not determine. Most probably it was his / her territory.

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus)

Purple Gallinules are some of the most brightly colored birds that you can see walking in Costa Rica. Indeed while they can also fly, they more commonly wade in shallow waters and in dense grass plains, looking for prey. I have seen them in Palo Verde in big numbers, and spotted individuals in Rio Frio, where they join chickens and forage in the backyards of houses; indeed I was able to see two adults rearing four young hatchlings, which were still covered in black fluffy hairs, getting along with the chickens just fine. The underside and head is entirely purple with a metallic look, showing a small light blue patch on the forehead. The beak is mostly bright red, with a yellow tip. The upperparts show blue to olive green hues, particularly on the wings. The yellow legs are long, letting them to wade in shallow edges of lagoons without having to swim.

This Gallinule is so accustomed to human visitors in Maquenque, that it let me take this picture with a 50mm lens. This implies I was crouching about half a meter away from the bird. Normally birds like this are very wary of people, so I would have struggled to get a similar portrait with a 600mm lens (think 12 times more zoom than the 50mm).
The same individual crouched as it waded into the shallow waters. The lagoon in which it was hunting was dry back on May, but in August due to the heavy rainfalls now covers a large extent of terrain.
Purple Gallinules are commonly seen foraging on the edge of rivers and small lagoons, where their long legs and feet let them stand on water lilies and similar broad-leaf aquatic plants.

Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher (Phainoptila melanoxantha)

The Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher is one of the four species in a unique family around the world, with the Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher being the only other species to be seen in Costa Rica. The male shows a combination of yellow rump, chest and undersides, with gray belly and vent; its throat and head it black, as well as it tail and wings. The Female has a gray throat with a black cap, olive chest, wings and tail. Their shape is similar to other Costa Rica thrushes, as they look rather plump when compared with the Long-tailed. Although Flycatchers by name, they prefer to eat fruits, specializing in berries that are abundant in the highlands; indeed their range is restricted to Guanacaste, Tilaran, Central and Talamanca Cordilleras. They are endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama, thanks to the fact that the Talamanca Cordillera stretches out into Panama.

This male stood on the branch without moving for quite a while, just like the lethargic state that hummingbirds enter in after vigorously feeding nectar on the flight.

Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)

Green Iguanas are the biggest species of lizards in the world, reaching lengths up to 1.5 meters including the tail. They are abundant in Costa Rican lowlands, and can be found in most of America’s continent, either naturally occurring or as established populations of escaped pets, as they are a very frequent target among pet lovers. They can be found in many beaches, around rivers, high in the tree canopy or walking slowly on the grass. Their diet is composed mostly of leaves, flowers and fruits, although some individuals have been observed eating insects and rodents.

Green Iguanas are not necessarily green in color, instead they have a lot of variability in their range. In some areas they are green, others brown or red, even blue in Peru. The back of the male is covered with spines, a defense mechanism to keep predators at bay, and they feature a dewlap, which is a fold of skin that starts at the front of the lower jaw and ends at the junction where the front limbs start. The dewlap is normally hanging, although it can be displayed as a sign of aggression.

The male Green Iguana is lighter in coloration than the female and has a heavier body. It also has a long dewlap that hangs from the throat.
A small green iguana resting on a green leaf, most probably waiting until its body is warmed up.