At Yatama Ecolodge, you don’t have to venture deep into the trails to find interesting wildlife. I spent a few nights just by the sidewalk connecting the rooms to the kitchen area, searching for frogs while keeping myself close to a roof to avoid the sudden rains. I heard the characteristic, high pitched call that gives this family its name, and managed to get a shot with its inflated pouch. Sadly, every time I got closer in, it stopped calling, but I see that as an excuse to return and try again. While I can’t tell if i saw any other individual of this species, I sure heard its call along the two times I have stayed at Yatama. Now, although the color of this species is not so well suited to camouflage when resting on top of a leaf, I would not blame anyone who cannot see it, as this frog is tiny, on the order of a Strawberry Poison Dart Frog that most day hikers in the Caribbean have seen at least once in their life. If it remains motionless, chances are you won’t see a thing!
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This is a such a tiny frog! We were hiking during the day on one of Yatama Ecolodge’s trails, when I saw something jumped out of the ground. It was barely noticeable, clinging to the tip of a small brown branch that was fallen on the trail, camouflaged against the backdrop of leaf litter. I pointed to it for my parents, but they just could not see it. It was so confident on its camouflage, that I raised the branch with my hands and it just kept clinging in the same spot, that was until I hit the branch to the ground by accident, and it escaped. According to the Amphibians of Costa Rica: A Field Guide book by Twan Leenders, its coloration and skin texture is very variable and it can be easily confused with other Craugastor species that also show variation, so I can never be entirely confident this is the right species. Also the identification keys listed aren’t easily confirmed without some manipulation of the frog itself, which I prefer not to try.
Hardly would I picture myself walking through the dense forest, looking for frogs, but the time did come, and how rewarding it can be! For in my two trips to Yatama, I searched for the Ghost Glass Frog many times, even going uphill in a small rocky stream (which meant leaving the trail behind) looking for any evidence of its presence with the guides. Then in an almost bizarre twist, one night we found one and disregarded it as a Dwarf Glass Frog, given its small size. It was not until we found another Dwarf, that we understood our mistake. We came back all the way almost to the start of the trail, and sure the Ghost Glass Frog was there right where we found it earlier. To top if off, we heard another individual calling, and it actually descended to the same tree where the first individual was. Both were juveniles, but who cared now! Two of frogs of this species in a single night at the same place can only mean that I hit the jackpot.
The fact that we misidentified this frog initially is not necessarilly surprising. The Dwarf is a lot more common, and an adult Dwarf is a similar size as a juvenile Ghost. Also the eye pattern of the Dwarf is simillar, with blue reticulations on a white-yellowish background, but once inspected closely, the eyes in the pictures below don’t lie: They belong to the Ghost.
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.
We found the White-lipped Rain Frog as we hiked during the night in search of the Annulated Tree Boa at Yatama Ecolodge, a prime conservation reserve bordering Braulio Carrillo National Park. It has a brownish coloration, which would help it camouflage really well against the ground and the leaf litter which is the usual habitat for Craugastor frogs, however the one we saw was resting on top of a leaf. Both arms and legs are slightly striped, noticeable only when looking from very close. It actually was a pretty common sight in the trails around the reserve, although most frequently heard than seen.
This is a large gecko! I was in my room at Yatama Ecolodge, getting ready to sleep, when I saw a big stain on the wooden wall, and when I got closer to investigate I saw this incredible reptile. After taking a few test pictures, I brought a plastic bowl to try enclosing the lizard, expecting it to just run away, but it did not! With the bowl against the wall, I slowly lowered it trying to force its feet off the wall, but it also did not react much, until a few tries when it landed inside the bowl. I placed the lid and carried the gecko in the bowl outside, where I removed the lid and placed the bowl on the floor, and it first observed outside the bowl hesitantly and then in a explosive dash it disappeared below the floor. I supposed that it was hiding below the floor, so I came out with the camera and indeed it was there. I spent at least 20 minutes taking pictures from a variety of angles, and the gecko barely moved. This is was unexpected, given how common house geckos are wary of people.
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.
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.
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.
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.