The Night Walk

It was 3:00 Pm and I was as excited as a kid in a candy store. The way I felt as a 6 year old on Christmas eve, barely able to contain myself while waiting for Santa Claus to come. Showered and shaved, all my equipment was ready for tonight’s adventure.  The destination wedding in Tamarindo and the rains from Arenal were now a distant memory. I was now deep into Costa Rica at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center located on a private reserve of 121 acres in the Caribbean foothills looking over the small town of Siquirres.  I’d be staying in their guest house for the next four nights.

Guest house at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center

Guest house at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center

The view looking east from CRARC

The view looking northeast from CRARC

Tonight I’d be herping with Brian Kubicki, the world’s foremost authority on Central American glass frogs

Brian Kubicki and me

Brian Kubicki and me

Of course sometimes when you get this amped up the actual event can be a bit of a let down.  But not tonight…not in this case.  It had been unusually dry recently and Brian was worried that the frogs may not be active.  But within the first ten minutes down the trail he spotted a frog.  One of the craugastor frogs that doesn’t even have a common name.

Craugastor persimilis (I believe)

Craugastor persimilis (I believe)

It lives in tropical moist lowland and montane forests of the Caribbean slope. Soon after this we encountered a second craugastor species - Craugastor crassidigitus

Craugastor crassidigitus

Craugastor crassidigitus

which is recognizable by the webbing between some of its toes.  You can see the webbing in this close up view.

Craugastor crassidigitus -shows the webbing between the toes

Craugastor crassidigitus -shows the webbing between the toes

Finished photographing this guy I slug my camera over my shoulder and continued to walk down the trail.  Not more than twenty-feet further Brian said in a very calm voice “Fer-de-lance”.  I froze.  This is one of the most feared animals in Latin America!  There it was – a small one crawling through the short grass.

Fer-de-lance crawling through the grass

Fer-de-lance crawling through the grass

A large adult can reach over 8 feet long and stretch across the trail we were on.  This was a small individual but still able to deliver a lethal bite with its fangs.

Fer-de-lance face to face

Fer-de-lance face to face

That encounter got my heart rate going!  After that there was so much action that the exact sequence of events is a blur so here are some random photos from the first night walk.

Hour Glass Tree Frog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus)

Hour Glass Tree Frog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus)

Blue Jeans Frog or Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates pumilio)

Blue Jeans Frog or Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates pumilio)

Rana warszewitschii - identified by the yellow marks on the posterior of the hind legs

Rana warszewitschii – identified by the yellow marks on the posterior of the hind legs

Frog_small_760_unidentified_IMG_5455One of the more interesting things from the night was this scorpion that Brian showed me. Chactas exsul had not been collected for fifty years until Brian found them at CRARC.  Three boards placed upright provided the perfect habitat.  Notice how broad the pincers are.

Scorpion Chactas exsul

Scorpion Chactas exsul

One of our main targets for the night was to find the critically endangered Lemur Leaf Frog. Populations have declined severely in recent years, due at least in part to the chytrid fungus. This species occurs in Costa Rica and Panama, and marginally in Colombia, but populations now occur only in a few localities on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

In 2003 both artificial and semi-natural breeding sites for the Lemur Leaf Frog were created in attempts to increase the size and viability of the small population within the CRARC reserve.  Numerous small artificial ponds, ranging from 1-2 meters in diameter were created in addition to placing plastic tubs ranging from 20 to 40 gallons in size at strategic points within the forest of the reserve.  Within some of the tubs small numbers of tadpoles (25-50) of A. lemur were introduced to serve as breeding founders at these specific sites

Artificial pond created by Brian using a bobcat

Artificial pond created by Brian using a bobcat

These ponds also provided habitat for other herps.  We found this White-lipped Mud Turtle at one of the ponds.

White-lipped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon leucostomum)

White-lipped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon leucostomum)

And a Smoky Jungle Frog at the same pond. This big bull frog is the largest frog in Costa Rica.

Smoky Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus savagei)

Smoky Jungle Frog (Leptodactylus savagei)

A year after the conservation project was started breeding adult Lemur Leaf Frogs were being observed on a regular basis in vegetation surrounding the newly created sites.  We had little trouble finding several of these fascinating tree frogs.

Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalchnis lemur)

Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalchnis lemur)

Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalchnis lemur)

Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalchnis lemur)

Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalchnis lemur)

Lemur Leaf Frog (Agalchnis lemur)

On the return hike we looked on every fern we could find for one of the two salamanders found in the CRARC reserve.  On about our 100th fern we found what we were looking for.

La Loma Salamander Bolitoglossa colonnea

La Loma Salamander Bolitoglossa colonnea

A great way to end the evening.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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5 Responses to The Night Walk

  1. Jim Vanderpoel says:

    Wow! First fer de lance and first poison dart frog for the family. Very cool.

  2. Chris Hiatt says:

    Gotta love Costa Rica! Just got back Thursday from birding Caurillo Bariullo, La Selva, Tirimbina Lodge (choclate tour is way interesting), Monteverde and rode dirtbikes above San Jose among mixed forests and coffee fields! Rented a car and just went for a week. Very nice people. In Sarapiqui near La Selva Bio Station, I didn’t have colones at one place for lunch and she didn’t take dollars so she said just come back and pay me tonight. Very nice people. Saw the respl. quetzal, 5 trogon sp., 4 motmot sp.great time! What do you think on Hayward’s big year? Just tied the record.

  3. Jim Vanderpoel says:

    John,

    first salamander outside of the United States I think.

  4. John Vanderpoel says:

    Hi Chris,

    I think Neil Hayward is having a remarkable Big Year. I doubt that the Eurasian Sparrowhawk will be accepted. However, Neil is not counting Aplomado Falcon which both Sandy and I counted. To keep apples to apples he should too. What is his current total at?

  5. Chris Hiatt says:

    745, after getting the La Sagra’s flycatcher he must have boogied out to Homer for the Rustic bunting. He hasn’t posted it yet, but is on his list. 746 technically. He got real lucky in Alaska the last time, coming away with 3or4 ticks I believe.

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