Aug 27, 2016

A taste of Costa Rican Wildlife (Fauna Costaricense)

I had first hoped to show you pictures of everything we have seen in our first month or so of life in Costa Rica. But, I can't because lots of what we've seen we didn't get good pictures of, much of what"seen" we've actually only heard, and there are simply too many pictures and video and lists of birds to actually offer you a complete and timely update. Instead, here are a bunch of things we've seen that we think are awesome!

Things I can't show you yet:
Three wattled bellbird - These things are hard to spot, and sit way up high in the canopy, but their sound is unmistakable - a single sharp metallic honk, repeated every 30 seconds or so, often alternating with a more biological sounding call that is also a proper honk.
Toucan - seen a few, no pics.
Blue Morpho menelaus butterfly - These butterflies are perhaps 8 inches wide with their wings unfolded, but they are fast and hard to shoot.
Agouti - an adorable rabbit sized rodent. Well I've got a bad picture of half an agouti rump, but it doesn't count.

Okay, here's the Agouti picture. I told you. Cute, though, right?

While we are on small animals, here's an armadillo. It lives near our mailbox.

Then there are the strangler figs. They are wild life by my sights! 
First, they strangle another tree.

Then, when that tree dies and rots away the fig is now empty, but don't worry!  They have often assumed a very clever structure like a bridge truss.
 Finally, they grow some massive buttress roots, and sometime the crisscrossing structure is still visible in the center.

This is the outside of the stunning Blue Morpho.

This little crazy beauty is called an Astala 88.  Apparently in Costa Rica you can get custom markings for about $20.

The inside of the Astala 88.

A recent hike. Funny thing - it kind of felt open at the time.

This is a leaf cutter ant nest, just a few years old, and probably 20 feet in diameter.

Blue-necked toucanet. Yes, they have little toucans here too. Not the best shot yet. 

Great Kiskadees on our front yard tree.

I believe this is the violet sabre wing hummingbird - biggest in CR, and quite large.

Blue-crowned Mot Mot. Note the racket-tail, too. These guys are something else. We see them in our yard every other day this season. 

Grey-headed Chachalaca. Very social, and very dinosaurian. Large birds.

I think this is a squirrel cuckoo who was in bad shape after a rain storm (or something). Sunning itself on the front tree.

Our first full day in the house in Monteverde, this little dude ambled through the yard like it wasn't a thing. A coatimundi. Very cool. Very curious creatures. Racoon relatives.

If it's clear you can see the bay of Puntarenas, and the Pacific beyong from many spots around town, 

There are ~1700 species of butterfly in Costa Rica. We have'd IDed this one yet.

You know, a hike.

Aug 14, 2016

Manzanillo Sightings

Manzanillo is a small town at the end of the line on the very south eastern coast of Costa Rica. We were quite close to the border crossing to Panama at Sixaloa. We took a five hour bus from San Jose to Limon, Puerto Viejo, and then, at the very end, Manzanillo. We got of the bus with four backpacks and four massive, wheeled dufflebags, and proceeded to haul the a mile or so over pavement and rough rocky dirty roads only to find our house locked, night falling, mosquitoes emerging in force, and a thunderstorm coming in. We were tired and stressed, and we still needed to make dinner. After hunting down the keys and abandoning our children to a traumatizingly loud thunderstorm, Katie and I returned soaked from buying overpriced food supplies from an majorly unfriendly shopkeeper to cook a simple meal and finally bed down the family in mosquito nets for the first time. It was a stressful night, but the rest of our stay turned out rather differently.

Here are some of the things we saw, that week. Also on the list were parrot fish, vultures, hummingbirds (colibris), Pelicans, a troupe of howler monkeys on a neighbors tree, coconuts from tress on the beach tha we harvested and consumed ourselves, water, meat and all. Oh, and a conch the size of a papaya! Oh, and sea urchins!

This bamboo stand constituted a major part of our front yard. So did the water, usually.

One of Fiorella's birds. It's name was Romeo.
This was our house for the week.

A gecko!

A cangrejo (crab). Bad photo, but it's larger than it looks. Land crab, perhaps the size of a grapefruit.

Spider (araƱa con parasol according to Fiorella)

Ah, the land of coconuts. What an amazing and special tree and fruit!

Hibiscus flowers outside our house.

The coast.

A sunset.

Bananas too. Also amazing plants and fruits and flowers.

 Hermit crabs!

Serious leaf cutter ants with many different sizes/shapes. Here a group of them were securing a secondary vine that crossed the main branch the colony used as a road. They formed a bridge with their bodies over which hundreds of others crosses as we looked on.

Here, a trail of leaf cutter ants has cleared a trail through the forest, defoliating all the little plants in their way. Reid was exploring the source!

This volcano of ant droppings is but a small pile of many on a giant leafcutter mound the size of your kitchen. Well, not YOUR kitchen, a really large extravagant kitchen.

An eyelash pit viper we saw on a tree at about eye level. Poisonous. Yikes.

Katie's hand is in focus, but the spider is only 5 inches closer to the camera. The size of her palm.

Lagartija (lizard) who clearly has lost and re-grown a tail!

Migratory species of large sedentary primate with odd body hair patterns!

Snake on the road. I don't THINK this was a pit viper.

Two toed sloth about 15 feet from the road we walked on every day.  We watched this one over the course of 3 days. One day it ate. One day it slept and we saw it had a child with it. Another day it moved 5 feet and then one day it was gone.

Three juvenile primates play in some sort of temporary nest.

Better picture of one of the inland crabs.

Tree frog. Sleeping.

Cocoa pod hangs from a cocoa tree in an old (and now over grown) cocoa orchard.

Juvenile primate eats coconut meat opened by a larger member of their small troupe using rocks and sticks.

One tree getting killed by a strangling vine.

Oh, and, the Caribbean.

Aug 11, 2016


Our arrival in Manzanillo was somewhat traumatic. It was a late and tiresome night with a lot of challenges. When we woke up the next day, however we saw a young neighbor playing in the ditch near our house. We looked on has she fashioned a fishing line, pole and bob from materials she found at hand. We could tell that she was angling to find some playmates. That was how we met Fiorella.

Fiorella was 8, right between Liam and Reid, but with a natural ability to explore and use her environment which made playing with her so fun.

For the rest of the week we and the kids shared meals with Fiorella, built sandcastles, went swimming, went snorkeling, caught crabs with our bear hands, and built ingenious slingshots from palm leaves and young coconuts, played jail, went body surfing, ate coconuts from the trees, and tried to understand her non-stop mile-a-minute Spanish. Katie and I tried like mad to understand her, but mostly ended up just smiling and following her lead.  Liam and Reid did likewise, but without sweating the grammar. We invited her over and encouraged the kids to play. Soon she was swinging from the rafters, pretending to be a mono (monkey) or a perezoso (sloth).

Early on, we just invited her in for breakfast. Meals became a pattern.

Her she is showing us something neat, perhaps those thigmotropic (touch reactive) plants, or leaf cutter ants, or something. The place is positively teeming with life.

Sandcastles, naturally.

In the afternoons, after a morning of adventuring, swimming, and running, and after a meal and a nap (perhaps) Fiorella would often join us for some low-key activities. She was a natural at Legos. (As an aside there are now some very high quality ripoff Chinese Legos).

Her school alternated between morning and afternoon, oddly. So we got to play with her almost every day.  Another day, another beach exploration with Fiorella.

Liam was inspired by her fishing set up, and refashioned it to bring along.

Getting trounced by the waves - nothing like it.  Oh, and yes, this is a real location, not a matte painting.

Eventually Liam realized he had found a good friend.

We all did.

Fiorella describes a huge bocadillo (sandwich).

Another afternoon, another down time activity: drawing.
Another game: jail time for Liam and Reid. Fiorella was the policia. Liam was the main bad guy. Reid was the accomplice. There was lots of shooting and screaming. Her Fiorella is taking Liam away to jail in the caro (police car).
Some of our favorite Fiorella phrases include: "Mis Cocos!" and simply "Oh!"

Finally, Fiorella even helped us leave, shortcutting the mile-long bad drag by leading us through the neighbors yards, and even dragging of of the bags herself. It easily weighed as much as she.

We miss you Fiorella!