The Eyelash Palm-Pitviper is an arboreal venomous snake, found in Central and South America, with a diverse array of skin colors, the yellow color potentially being the most impressive and rendering them unmistakable, which gives them one of its most recognizable nicknames: “Oropel”, whose root is “oro” that means gold. It shares its genus with the Side-striped Palm-Pitviper.
It is called Eyelash due to the scales right on top of the eyes. They grow up to 82 centimeters in length, which is not very long between viper species. Its head is triangular in shape and its tail is prehensile, helping it grab branches to maintain its balance. They hunt by ambush, waiting in a spot for prey, particularly birds during the annual migration.
This species has a mostly green body, with light blue patches in some dorsal parts. The eye is yellow with an horizontal black pupil. The disks at the end of the fingers are expanded, featuring a yellowish coloration. The best field mark for identification is the red webbing between its fingers, just like its name suggests. It is mainly nocturnal, hence not commonly seen during the day. It is curious how the skin color of this frog species changes from day to night time. During the day, the color is similar to a turquoise, while in the night the skin turns yellowish.
A friend of mine found an individual on the edge of the trail that leads to the Agami colony at Pacuare Reserve. It was late in the day, so it was still sleeping and let me have a half-hour photoshoot session with it without a single sign of being disturbed. One of the shots was taken only using natural light during a fairly strong wind that constantly moved the leaf up and down. I thought of artificially creating the night, although the frog was still sleeping. To create the black background on the second picture, I lighted the frog from very close using a bike lantern. The light did not need to be very powerful, since at macro distances the difference between the light intensity at the subject and the background can be exaggerated.
The Yellow-bellied Seedeater seems to be a bad name for a species that has a white belly. In a true seedeater fashion, it is found eating seeds from the grass. Its upperside is gray, with a darker head. Its pale bill is short but very strong, enabling it to crack bigger seeds. It shows some dark patches on the flanks and on the separation of throat and chest.
Euphonias are among the most difficult species to identify, particularly the females since most of them are equally alike with olive coloration and not a single field mark. When they travel in pairs it is easier, since once the male is identified, one can assume the species of the female relatively safely. In this species, the male is identified by having a yellow forehead that extends back to the nape, and showing a blue/black mask and throat. The upperparts are also blue-black depending on the light, while the chest and belly are bright yellow.
The Slate-throated Whitestart is part of the Myioborus genus that includes also the Golden-fronted and Collared Whitestart or Redstart, as are called sometimes. It is a varied genus of warblers that are present in all of the American continent, in different species. In Costa Rica, the Slate-throated is also found along with the Collared species, although here they are called Redstarts instead. They forage very actively on the ground or low in the bushes, flashing their tail to frighten insects that are then caught in the air. Their upper parts and throat are dark grey, while their underparts are yellow in the south, and red on the northernmost part of their range. It also shows a dark red crown that’s difficult to see unless in good light.
The Saffron-crowned Tanager is very confusing, since its plumage coloration can change a lot depending on the prevailing light. One thing that not changes and that really identifies this species is the yellow head with black mask. The body is either turquoise with green patches, or light green with turquoise patches. Whichever the color seen, it has a spotted appearance on the back and black wing feathers with turquoise/green linings. The belly and vent are white. In terms of body shape, it is very similar to the Gold Tanager, but with a very different coloration; this made them unmistakable even though they often shared the same feeder at Finca Alejandría.
The Saffron Finch is pretty conspicuous, since it has a bright yellow coloration and forages on the ground in groups of three or more, making them easy to spot against the green grass. The adult has an orange patch on the front of the head. The juvenile is streaked on the back and wings, and have a lighter yellow coloration on the belly. They are often kept caged by people, and when free they frequent suburban areas and are very tolerant of human presence.
This bird is a beauty, one that we can find in some spots around Costa Rica like Cinchona and Braulio Carrillo. I first met it during this trip to Colombia in Finca Alejandría, where a pair of this species would come and go from the feeders frequently. It is bigger than most tanagers, however it is rather small when compared with how I imagined it. It is the sole species of the Eubucco genus that is found in Costa Rica, with Colombia also hosting the Lemon-throated Barbet. They are related to the toucans, and as such they eat a lot of fruit, however they do not share the Toucan’s behavior of raiding other birds’ nests for eggs and hatchlings. The male and female only share the green body and yellowish beak, with the male having a red face with a white ring separating it from the back, a belly that transitions from deep orange to yellow as it goes down, and flanks that are streaked green and light yellow. On the other hand, the female features a black face with light blue cheeks, orange half hood and patch on the chest, light yellow belly and again streaked flanks in green and light yellow.
The Purplish-mantled Tanager was a great sight as we traveled down the trail at Tatama National Park. We were in search of the Gold-ringed Tanager, an endemic specialty of the zone, however this tanager also surprised us a few times with its presence. Its body is blue, with a heavier tone on the face, chest and head, and has a bright yellow-orange throat that creates a lot of contrast. The bill is short but wide. Its diet is mainly composed of insects, however it also eats some of the berries found on the mossy forest that covers the medium elevations of Pereira. They inhabit the cloud forests of the Andes and forage at a relatively low height. They move very rapidly from branch to branch.
When we heard the name of this species, we immediately held high expectations of it, and when we finally saw it, we were not disappointed. The male has a striking combination of dark yellow, light yellow, black, brown, light blue and green, which means six colors in a single bird. Although the female lacks the black patch in the belly and the light yellow back, it is still pretty colorful. It is a bit larger than most other tanagers we saw in Finca Alejandría. It was curious how the pair of birds would return every now and then to the same exact feeder and after drinking some sugary water, disappeared without a trace. Most other species chose more than one feeder, but this one only returned to the same one time after time. It is endemic to Colombia and its population is heavily endangered, as their numbers have been declining. It is a shame that such a beauty of nature is being erased from our world.