The First Dozen Creatures… Costa Rica 2016#12


When people stay in one place they can get so used to the world that surrounds them that they stop noticing and tune out. Besides, everything they see already has a name, and  they’re awfully busy and preoccupied. It’s a natural tendency to filter out the usual.

A change of scene  takes you away from what is familiar, and pulls you out of your habits. Away from your accustomed routines, everything becomes unusual and noticeable again. You have to pay attention. Where are you? Where are you going? What is that? Why is that there? What IS that????

When we get to Costa Rica, our surroundings change. We don’t hear much English. If we want to be understood, we have to speak Spanish. Our former day-to-day busyness is replaced with the process of learning about and adjusting to a new place, another country, another culture.

The very air is different. The temperature is not ten below zero, it’s ninety-three degrees above. We no longer see dark shades of gray and brown and white, we see greens with splashes of color. The sun beats down with a light that’s hot, bright, and strong. There’s so much to see.

When we’re here we always notice the creatures. They’re not like the ones back home. The bugs are different bugs, the birds are different birds. We notice these new critters, and take pictures of them. Here are our first dozen creatures of this year’s visit.

Right after we set our suitcases and backpacks down, a turkey vulture soared by.


These birds are wonderful gliders.

In front of us, at the edge of the porch, was a butterfly in the flowers.


If this blog had smell, you could sniff these flowers. They have a vanilla aroma.

Later on, down at the main house, we heard a scream.

Someone had found a scorpion under the outside sink.


After being photographed, the scorpion met its fate — a smartly wielded sandal.

Some birds are hard to see. We almost didn’t notice this one, slowly and stealthily sneaking into the rapids above a river pool we’d gone to for our first swim. Later, we looked our bird books and identified it as a tiger heron.


You can find it. Keep looking.

Every night before we go to bed we like to take our flashlights and patrol the perimeter of the house to see what might be found. You almost always find a toad or two.


Always shake out your shoes before putting them on. Sometimes you’ll shake out toads.

Up there…frog!


These little frogs are champion jumpers, and on a painted concrete wall they stick like glue when they land.


These critters make a nifty sound. My wife describes it as a “trill”, and says that when she hears one, she always first thinks it’s a bird.

There’s seldom a night when one of these wee sleepyheads hasn’t settled in atop a rafter.


Safe for the night (it hopes) under the roof of tinned steel.

Insects are attracted to our lights at night. You never know what will show up.


This one’s a “skipper” butterfly, but I can’t tell you which species.

On day two we went to the beach. One of my favorite silhouettes was above us.


The frigate bird. They’re magnificent. They’re built for life in the air. They’re so finely evolved for soaring that their feathers weigh more than their skeleton.

Behind the beach, along a marshy area, were basilisks. The basilisk of mythology is part rooster, part snake, and part lion. Don’t look at it! It can turn you to stone with its gaze.

But not this basilisk, which is just plain lizard.


Basiliscus basiliscus

On the way out, where the beach road crosses a stream, I suddenly begged, “Stop the car!”. I interrupted in order to try to take a photo of this wading bird. The photo suffers from having been taken through dusty glass, but I’ve worked on the image enough so you can see some of its beauty.


The gray-necked woodrail, or chirincoco. Just before dawn, these birds make some of the most astonishing noises you’ll ever hear, especially if they’re near your open window. The Cornell bird site describes their sound as “pop-tiyi pop-tiyi co-co-co-co-co, or chitico chitico cao-cao-cao”. I don’t think that even begins to approach what the sound is like.

The next morning we saw creature number twelve.

An iconic Costa Rican critter, Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii.

P1010862 (2)

Costa Rican names include: Quioro, Dios-te-dé, and Gran curré negro

The chestnut-mandibled toucan.



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