Hello everyone, sorry for not posting anything for so long! Moving to London and starting a new job just took up so much time that I’ve barely been able to keep up. This is the first time I have been able to sit down and just relax. So forgive me for my lack of activity!
Being so busy has also meant that I have not seen much in the way in wildlife around London. In fact, the only new things I have seen are various water birds similar to cormorants, which I can see where I work at Canary Wharf. I haven’t been able to get a photo or identify them yet, but I will try!
However, to make up for having nothing new to tell and for generally being so rubbish at posting updates, I am going to write about the day I spent at Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica, in September 2011. Hopefully you will find it interesting! Please note though, the photos are all of a bad quality because I was using my old Panasonic camera.
We had been in Costa Rica for about a week at this point, so had got used to incredible environments. Manuel Antonio was lauded in so much of the tourist literature that we knew we just had to go there. We opted for a guided tour through the main route, followed by wandering around by ourselves and this was definitely the best way to do it. The guide showed us so much we would have missed by ourselves.
The usefulness of the guide was apparent as soon as we entered the park. He had a quick look at the rafters of the tourist kiosk and pointed out this cool frog to us. The photo is very poor, but you can see it is pale white. It reminded me of a ghost. Apparently it is a Gladiator Frog, although I have not been able to identify the exact species because there are so many!
We began to walk down the main path that people use and to be honest, it was very busy, really showing how popular a tourist destination the park is. However, this did not stop the wildlife being everywhere and we were literally stopping every couple of metres to have a look at something the guide had spotted. For instance, these stink bugs we found on a bush. I really like the colours in this photo, because they are so vibrant and bright, which captures what the Park was like for me. You can see the bug in the bottom right crawling down the stem has a really exciting pattern of orange and green on it.
There were so many insects on every bush that it was hard to keep track. They all varied so much in size and colours. There were not just insects though. Some of the more interesting species along the first part of the walk were the varieties of land crab hiding in the undergrowth, both seen below.
We next saw a two-toed sloth climbing in a tree. The guide had a telescope, which I was able to take a photo through – it is apparently uncommon to see a sloth moving as much as we did! Indeed, the other sloths we saw elsewhere didn’t move at all!
I particularly like this photo because of the effect of the black circle, but also because I think it looks like the sloth is grinning. Although you can’t actually see it’s mouth, so perhaps this is just my imagination! The sloths were a lot smaller than I had expected – probably about the size of a large cat, maybe? For some reason, I thought they were quite a bit bigger.
As well as this energetic sloth, we were lucky enough to see this:
I think this is one of the coolest things I have ever seen and I still am amazed when I look at it. The frog in the web is not a small frog either, it was fairly sizeable. The spider was so big and the web is just so strong that it could catch the frog. The spider also has some really interesting markings on it, with stripes and spots going through various shades of red, purple, yellow and green – or at least, those are the colours I see! By examining the web, you get an idea of the strength of the threads – some of them are bent at angles without being supported by other threads, showing that they are more like a metal wire than traditional spider web.
We also came across this (live) frog, cleverly disguised on a leaf. It is a similar genus to the gladiator frog we first saw but is a very strong green colour with a little black mask on its face. It has the descriptive, but not very imaginative, name of Masked Tree Frog. I think the Zorro Frog would be a much more interesting name.
Moving back to the arachnids, the guide pointed out this Jumping Wolf Spider living in a curled up leaf with it’s young. It’s definitely more threatening than the wolf spiders in my parents garden and one reason for the bad quality photo is that I did not dare get closer with the camera! I think that this spider is one which allows the young to eat it once they reach a certain age, which seems so strange.
We saw some cool cricket and grasshopper type creatures in Costa Rica, in particular some purple and orange ones I will put up at some point. The most brightly coloured though was definitely this one. Unfortunately I cannot remember at all what the guide called it! For some reason, I think it was something to do with guns, like ‘Bullet Cricket’ or ‘Rifle Cricket’, but that could be my imagination entirely. Either way, I particularly like the metallic blue colour and the way that the red makes the legs look swollen.
Below I have posted two photos of birds. On the left is a Double-toothed Kite and on the right are Black Bellied Whistling Ducks.
I have posted these together because I think it’s really funny that you can get such amazing and varied wildlife in exotic places like Costa Rica, but you can also get these two species. This isn’t too say that they don’t have their own qualities. Watching birds of prey hunt is always exhilarating and the ducks do look quite majestic standing on one leg in a tropical swamp (I don’t think I have ever described a duck as ‘majestic’ before). However, in plumage and appearance, they are so similar to the birds you can find in any European country. In a way, this perhaps shows how well adapted for survival these birds are, because they can fill these same niches all over the planet. But I know I definitely wouldn’t have paid the plane fare if all the wildlife was like this!
After this, we saw quite a lot of Capuchin Monkeys, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. They were very numerous in the park and we spent a lot of time just watching them play in the trees. Monkeys were not the only mammals we saw, but unfortunately I was too slow with my camera to catch most of them. The guide pointed out these bats to us, which were sleeping in the branches of a tall tree. The fact that they were sleeping made them quite easy to photograph! I cannot remember if the guide identified the species for us and it is too difficult to try just from this photo.
Shortly after this, me and my friend had stopped for a rest on the edge of a cliff looking out to the sea and were lucky enough to see a Humpback Whale surfacing. Not only this, but it had a calf with it! I didn’t get a photo but I was trying to keep watch of where it was. Having seen whales before from a ship, it was really strange seeing them from land.
At this point, our guide had left us and we were in a pretty quiet part of the park. The absence of people worked to our advantage and we came across a Common Agouti with a baby hiding in the bushes nearby.
Again, the photos I took were rubbish. But we spent a lot of time just watching the animal foraging for food in the undergrowth and paddling through a little pool. It paid little attention to us and because of this, this was one of the best moments in Costa Rica. I have some videos of the Agouti moving around and will upload them when I write a page about agoutis. They are a very strange creature. At first, I was reminded of pigs, I think because of the legs. However, they are actually a rodent and when they eat their food, they look like squirrels.
While I was watching the agoutis, another mammal appeared at the little pool we were at. I had no idea what it was at the time, because it was large, with a long tail and had distinctively red-tinged fur. However, I have since identified it (I think) as a White-nosed Coati. Unfortunately, another pair of tourists came along the path at that point, talking quite loudly, and the coati ran away.
After our wanders through the jungle, we decided to go swimming in the Pacific. This was basically about an hour of being knocked down by waves and washed up on the beach, while the local pensioners went for seemingly easy paddles around us. However, our swimming was rudely interrupted by the appearance of a Crab-Eating Raccoon sneaking on to the beach and in to my rucksack! By the time I had run out of the water, the raccoon had managed to unzip my rucksack and was pulling out clothes. I didn’t really know what to do without hurting the raccoon, so I just stood there while it took out the fresh loaf of bread and ran way in to the trees – leaving us with some stale jam sandwiches! Having graduated from one of the best universities in the world, having my lunch stolen by a raccoon was certainly a low-point. To top it off, I didn’t have time to take a photo either, but I thought you might enjoy the story anyway!
And that was pretty much it for Manuel Antonio! We went for a few more hikes around the rainforest and saw animals all around, but I was often too slow to get a photo and I think the ones I have shown you are the most interesting. I hope you enjoyed the photos and also the stories – I definitely enjoyed it all at the time. I cannot make any promises about when I will next post, but will definitely be posting when I have some time which does not involve shopping, working, cleaning, paying bills etc etc. Have a good week!