Costa Rica Forests and Rivers

When I started to learn landscape photography, I was disappointed that Costa Rica did not have any of the impressive mountains and ridges of North America and Europe. I compared the green forests covering a great portion of the natural environment in Costa Rica, to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and thought that in all the green of the country, there were no landscapes worth shooting. How misleading that thought was! In fact, nowadays I think that Costa Rica is exciting for landscape photography precisely due to all that green. The trees and forests take so many shapes and the rivers that go through them create sinuous lines that can only be found here. I still love the Rockies, but I love Costa Rica the most, and I am always searching for more interesting compositions to showcase its beauty.

Costa Rica Sunrise and Sunset

When the sun is going down and up, Costa Rica’s landscapes transform with color. Sometimes you see purple, sometimes red and orange, other times it is yellow or a combination of them all. Add to that mystical forests shrouded in mist, and plenty of clouds that cover the sky, and you get the most fascinating sunrises and sunsets. Also the country’s geography is unique, in that you can see sunrise from the Caribbean side in the morning, and sunset from the Pacific coast in the evening, to finally be amazed by the stars dotting the dark sky with light. Getting up early and staying late in the night to see these wonders pays off, with the most memorable scenes firmly recorded on your mind, and your camera.

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Costa Rica has too many waterfalls to count. Some waterfalls are well known and relatively easy to reach like Rio Celeste and Peace Waterfall Gardens, while others are secluded and take some effort hiking through mountains and forests, like the small waterfall that hides in Yatama Ecolodge. There’s even the Bajo del Toro area, where you find an entrance to a waterfall hike every kilometer or so. The largest might measure 100 meters from head to bottom, while the smallest barely falling from 2 meters high, yet the sight of a waterfall at the end of trail is very rewarding for people. A dip into the water is all people need to forget how sorting obstacles through the rain forest draws away your energy, and fills you with happiness. And the silky water effect is a great addition to any landscape photo.

White Hawk (Pseudastur albicollis)

We found the White Hawk one a day as we hiked through the entrance road at Yatama Ecolodge. We went down in search of the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, to no avail. As we were getting close to the lodge, we watched a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a Cecropia tree, which I had seen a few times before. We spend about 10 minutes just watching the bird, and it suddenly went away, so we continued walking to the entrance, when a big white bird flew across the road, and perched on a branch where it started to vocalize. Our theory is that the Sapsucker flew away because she spotted the hawk as it was approaching the area, but we will never really know.

White-lipped Rain Frog (Craugastor talamancae)

We found the White-lipped Rain Frog as we hiked during the night in search of the Annulated Tree Boa at Yatama Ecolodge. It has a brownish coloration, which would help it camouflage really well against the ground and the leaf litter. Both front and back legs are lightly striped, just barely noticeable when looking from very close. It actually was a pretty common sight in the area, although most frequently heard than seen.

Red-capped Manakin (Ceratopipra mentalis)

This little pretty bird is sought after by many birders in Costa Rica, myself included. Like the White-collared Manakin, it is found in the Caribbean lowlands and foothills, but given that its preferred habitat is dense rain forest undergrowth, it is difficult to find and even more difficult to photograph. But then one can be lucky, and for me that means finding one male whose home habitat was very close to a fruiting tree, located right by the window of my room at Yatama Ecolodge; it actually came every single day to feed on the little purple fruits, sometimes having fights with a female Violet-headed Hummingbird which came to drink nectar from the tree’s white flowers. What’s even better, a female also visited a few times. We also heard other individuals as we hiked through the trails, although spotting them there is a lot more work.

Pygmy Rain Frog (Pristimantis ridens)

The Pygmy Rain Frog is one of the most commonly seen frogs at Yatama Ecolodge. Many times we saw individuals jump to get out of the trail we were hiking through, and hide in the safety of the leaf litter. A few other individuals were resting on leaves close to the ground like the one below. All individuals we saw were tiny, similar to the size of a Strawberry Poison Dart Frog which is probably more familiar to most of us. While it may similar in form to the Chiriqui Robber Frog, look at the very bright yellow color of the individual in this picture versus the more brownish color of the Chiriqui; also the size difference and the iris color are telltale signs to differentiate between both species.

Mottled Snail-eater (Sibon longifrenis)

After a two-hour long night walk in search of the Ghost Glass Frog at Yatama Ecolodge, we were getting ready to go to sleep, when our guide found this Snail-eater close to the entrance gate. Using a stick, he tried to grab it from a branch and succeeded, but the snake became active and only wanted to go away. He managed to carry it away and put it on a leaf close to the ground, where it coiled and became calmer. I approached it with my macro lens and snapped plenty of pictures from many angles. This species has an overall olive color, with red blotches delineated with Black and a few white blotches in between. The eye is large and protruding, with a vertical elliptical iris that becomes circular when entirely open. Like most snakes in the country, they are not venomous and should not pose a threat to humans, however it is best to exercise caution and only handle them if you are trained.

Green Tree Anole (Anolis biporcatus)

We saw this Green Tree Anole right by the reception area at Yatama Ecolodge. It moved very slowly and deliberately, taking about 10 minutes just to traverse a plantain leaf from base to the tip, and when it did not find anywhere else to go, it jumped to an old heliconia flower that was hanging below the leaf. It continued moving towards the lower tip of the heliconia flower, and then it stayed at the lowest end for as long as we observed. Along all that movement, it gradually modified its skin color, becoming more yellowish-brownish when clinging to the heliconia and more lime green when walking through the leaf. It gave me plenty of time to snap many pictures in ever so slightly different positions; such a collaborative subject is not usual when it comes to wildlife photography.

Russet-naped Wood-Rail (Aramides albiventris)

The Russet-naped Wood-Rail was recently split from the Gray-cowled, with which it obviously has a lot of similarities. As its name indicates, the differentiating feature versus the Gray-cowled is the brownish patch on the back of the neck. The rest of the body is essentially the same, starting with the yellow bill, gray neck, rufous chest and back, deep red eyes and pink legs. These are noisy birds that are usually found in pairs, presumably male and female. A pair of these birds frequently arrived to forage close to our room at Yatama Ecolodge; most of the time they would make a weird low frequency sound, similar to the noise your throat makes when drinking water very fast.