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.
Tonight I’d be herping with Brian Kubicki, the world’s foremost authority on Central American glass frogs
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.
It lives in tropical moist lowland and montane forests of the Caribbean slope. Soon after this we encountered a second craugastor species – Craugastor crassidigitus
which is recognizable by the webbing between some of its toes. You can see the webbing in this close up view.
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.
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.
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.
One 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.
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
These ponds also provided habitat for other herps. We found this White-lipped Mud Turtle at one of the ponds.
And a Smoky Jungle Frog at the same pond. This big bull frog is the largest frog in Costa Rica.
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.
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.
A great way to end the evening.