Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

The Eastern Meadowlark is an inhabitant of grass plains in Central Valley and the Caribbean areas. I have seen this species at my home in San Rafael de Alajuela, at La Guacima, at the Santa Ana Windmills (that’s 1,600 meters above sea level!) and most recently in San Bernardino, near Guápiles. Sometimes they perch in fence posts, other times they just find a comfortable place in the grass where they forage. Their song is very high-pitched and far-carrying. Indeed, many times I have been able to spot them as I bike through by listening to their song. Their belly is bright yellow, while their back is streaked in cream and dark brown. A key characteristic is the plump body, more similar to the antpittas than to any yellow-bellied flycatcher. When startled, they fly away and land on another patch of grass where they feel safe, the continue foraging. The juvenile is somewhat duller and never strays too far from its parent.

Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus)

The Gartered Trogon is another relative of the Resplendent Quetzal, being part of this conspicuous family. To distinguish from other similar yellow-bellied trogon species occurring in the country (Black-throated and Black-headed), look for the yellow orbital skin in the male and fine barring on the wings in the female. The blue throat of the male can look deceivingly black inside the forest, and in juveniles might not be bright enough yet to be noticeable. Also the Black-headed is bigger to the Gartered, while the Black-throated is the same size. The pattern on the underside of the tail, likely to be seen as the birds perch relatively high, can also be a telltale sign, with the Black-headed lacking any barring on the undertail. A metallic green back completes the look of the male, while the female is duller, with gray head and back.

Rufous-naped Wren (Campylorhynchus rufinucha)

The Rufous-naped Wren is a commonly seen bird close to people’s homes at urban towns in the Central Valley, in Costa Rica; the House Wren is smaller and more common in the countryside, and the Rufous-naped is more colorful, with its black and white pattern on the back and the whitish underside. Compared to that, the House Wren is featureless. Rufous-naped Wrens are very noisy, usually found in pairs or small groups that climb to roofs. I have seen them build their nests under the roof or even in metal doors.

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat (Geothlypis poliocephala)

The Gray-crowned Yellowthroat is a member of the Warbler family. Its body is generally yellow, with a small black mask and gray crown in the male, features which are much smaller in the female. They have a longer tail and thicker bill than the other Yellowthroat species that occur in the country. The Gray-crowned Yellowthroat is resident and occurs throughout most of the country, while the Masked Yellowthroat is confined to a very small territory in San Vito, and the Olive-crowned Yellowthroat is only found on the caribbean lowlands and mid elevations. The Common Yellowthroat, on the other hand, is a passage migrant, seen from mid October to early April, with some individuals spending the whole winter in the country.

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.

Eyelash Palm-Pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii)

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.

Northern Scrub-Flycatcher (Sublegatus arenarum)

The Northern Scrub-Flycatcher is a resident species, similar to the members of the Myiarchus family, which is notably difficult to identify at a species level. Like its name might imply, this small bird prefers scrub habitat, which is composed of small trees and tall grass. We found an individual at Tárcoles River, in the swampy area that surrounds the river. It was full of mosquitoes, which is probably the reason species like this one like the area. It was interesting to see this individual raising its crest, most probably a display to let us know we were in his/her territory.

Red-webbed Tree Frog (Hypsiboas rufitelus)

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.

Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Euphonia concinna)

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.