Sunday, January 25, 2015

Treasure Hunt in the Tropical Rainforest

"We can't spot any birds or animals when it rains" my guide said "so we might as well just walk fast for the rest of the hike."

When I asked him why, he explained that looking for movement and listening for sound is the key to spotting the wildlife.  Suddenly, I understood how he could point out 20 different species of birds and animals in the 50-yard stretch between Tirimbia's parking lot and main building that I had walked past without noticing a thing (except the enormous plants that dwarfed us).

For instance, I was stunned when he turned his spotting scope on the top of a tree, and suddenly I could see the Iguana resting there.

He pointed out monkeys, and sloths (which they charmingly call "perezoso" or "lazy"), like this one:

And the tiny strawberry poison frog, saying that some people like to add the word "dart" to the name because indigenous peoples put poison from these and other frogs on the tips of their darts and arrows.

And lots of birds, like this Slaty-Tailed Trogon, which is related to Guatemala's national bird (the Quetzal).  The Quetzal is also the name of Guatemala's currency, and is a great symbol of freedom because they say it will refuse to eat rather than live in captivity.

Since my guide thought we couldn't find more animals in the rain, I diligently followed him, walking rapidly on the trail until a man behind us cried out that we needed to stop and look at the ground near our feet.  There we found a hog-nosed viper, that we'd nearly stepped on, startling it enough that it moved allowing the man to see it.    

Watching it slither not far from my feet and learning that it was poisonous suddenly made me feel a little insecure.

I felt insecure earlier, too, when the guide poked a stick into a nest of bullet ants, bringing out an angry 1.5 inch long ant that paced so rapidly up and down the stick that I struggled to catch a photo of it.  (It's right above his right arm in this photo).  They're called bullet ants because their bite is as painful as being hit by a bullet.  So when the guides instructed us to avoid touching any of the plants around, since they harbor insects and animals that can get on us, I tried really hard to obey! 

One of the guides was a tease, enjoying gently touching a leaf to the back of my neck to see my reaction.  He also thought it was funny to make the suspension bridge rock back and forth.  I didn't.

He also found this pair of centipedes mating and wanted me to put them in my hand.  I'm not a fan of touching creepy stuff like that, I told him.

I did, though, pet this spiny caterpillar that moved just like the ones in Alice in Wonderland.

They say that although Costa Rica less than 1% of the world's land mass (.3% actually), it has about 5% of the worlds animals, fungi, and plants (over 500,000 species).  Awesome!


Jodi Orgill Brown said...

Great pictures!

HW said...

The biodiversity was one of my very favorite parts of our short visit to Costa Rica. Amazing stuff!