Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Costa Rica 2014: Part 4 Finca Kubicki and the CRARC

You can see Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4 here.

Our last night was spent at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center, owned and operated by Brian Kubicki and his family. Finca Kubicki has a very large number of frogs documented, and some of them are quite rare. You can stay there in a cozy casita for a very reasonable rate, and get guided hikes of the property. He has quite the eye and ear for amphibians, and knows his property very well. It would have been great to explore this two nights and not try to cram so much into one night. A huge thanks to Brian for going on a marathon slog with us!

Shortly into our hike, we started finding the herps.

Smilisca phaeota
We were a bit higher in elevation than La Selva, and there was a new Craugastor in town.

Isla Bonita Robber Frog Craugastor crassidigitus
The Tink Frogs were calling, Diasporus diastema
Some of the streams through the property contained a new species for us - Rainforest Rocket Frog Silverstoneia flotator tadpoles. I would have really enjoyed seeing an adult of this species, as they are quite striking.

We started to explore some streams and seepages along the Siquirres River, and more new frogs started to show up. Let there be glass frogs!

White-spotted Cochran Frog Sachatamia albomaculata. I wish I had photographed this frog better.
I cut my photosession short because I got distracted looking into these ghostly eyes.

Limon Giant Glass Frog, otherwise known as Ghost Glass Frog Sachatamia ilex

Palmer's Treefrog Hyloscirtus palmeri was next. This was a very uniquely shaped frog in my opinion, it's smile is endearing.

Amplectic Pristimantis cruentas
More Pristimantis cruentas
Pristimantis ridens
We were following the trail and I happened to glance to my right, noticing a head perched on top of a leaf, facing away from me.  It was about 10-15 yards off try. Pays to get lucky sometimes.

Eyelash Viper Bothriechis schlegelii
I mentioned some camera issues I had earlier. These had persisted, and I managed to just work around them. Often I was shooting without the use of my LCD to review shots, not a huge deal. Photographing this eyelash, one of Carl's Canon flashes seemed to be having major fits. The humidity really rips through camera gear. Having spent much of the week fighting through issues, I felt bad Carl had to go through a similar experience.

We turned up a couple of these awesome frogs throughout the night. This became another one of my favorites of the trip.

Rufous-eyed Brook Frog Duellmanohyla rufioculis
Another palmers.
And another.

Most of the hike we were finding frogs left and right. There were some slower times as we moved to different areas though, and we all enjoyed picking Kubicki's brain on his knowledge of his land the the herps on it. My brother was still dreaming about ugly water snakes, and Kubicki had mentioned he saw them fairly frequently in the smaller streams. Not too long after...

Costa Rica Water Snake Hydromorphus concolor. Brian was ecstatic.
Another Nothopsis rugosus was spotted crossing the trail. A week ago, we didn't even know the snake existed, and now we had seen two.

I believe this is a good looking Craugastor crassidigitus

We saw a few of yet another glassfrog species - The La Palma Glass Frog Hyalinobactrachium valerioi. They liked to call from the underside of leaves.

The frog bonanza continued. Lancaster's Treefrog Isthmohyla lancasteri was really stinking cool. Metallic looking.

We heard another species of glassfrog - Grainy Cochran Frog Cochranella granulosa, and saw an eggmass, but never saw an adult.

A Blunthead Tree Snake Imantodes cenchoa turned up along the trail.

We reached a section of the preserve where the Lemur Leaf Frog, Agalychnis lemur, was more common. A number of them turned up fairly quickly.

Our first Splendid Leaf Frog Cruziohyla calcarifer at CRARC also turned up in this area.

More lemur. Where do they get the name?

Brian Kubicki continued his quest of finding us new frogs and spotted this Gliding Tree Frog Agalychnis spurrelli from very far away. It was a huge frog with giant webbed hands and feet.

The strawberry poison dart frogs looked a little different here compared to La Selva.

By this time we had been at it for many hours. It was very late, and we were all starting to drag a bit. Every turn in the trail held something new though, and more opportunities for pictures. Some small ponds held a few more species we did not see along the streams and seepages.

Hourglass Tree Frog Dendropsophus ebraccatus

This Leptodeira septentrionalis was hunting in the vegetation the hourglass tree frogs were hanging out in.

We had been looking for salamanders all over La Selva, and we were pretty excited to have a decent shot at them here. It took almost all night, but we finally saw a few.

Cukra Climbing Salamander Bolitoglossa striatula

Another pond had yet more amphibian and reptile life.

A wary Kinosternum leucostomum
Mahogany Tree Frog Tlacohyla loquax
And the other salamander species. We found two of these salamanders getting very close to our lodging for the night.

La Loma Salamander Bolitoglossa colonnea

We made a last ditch, half asleep effort for Anotheca spinosa without success. Check it out if you have never heard of it before. A super cool frog. I guess you can't see everything in one night. We thanked Brian Kubicki for his wonderful hospitality and for sharing his knowledge. Although exhausted, we made time to enjoy a last cerveza or two. The alarms were set for early that morning, with the plan of dropping Brian at a bus stop halfway back to La Selva, and then Carl and I continuing on through the mountains and to the rental car return. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I have our final species count for the 6 days at 72. We had some overlap in species between La Selva and CRARC, but in our one marathon night at Finca Kubicki we saw 43 species! It was a great end to the trip.

Brian made it back to La Selva safely the next day after we said our goodbyes. He would still have 5 more months in Costa Rica. Carl and I navigated the mountain passes without any delays from mudslides and got our car turned back in easily. I always try and choose to not lose a night by staying in San Jose the night prior to flights out, but it invites a certain amount of risk going through the mountains the morning of your departure. Luckily, this has not been an issue on my trips so far.

The trip was a huge success. We got to visit Brian, get a feel for some of his research, and saw many of our targets. It was great to "get the gang back together". I hope we can continue to schedule trips every year or two as we have been doing. I am sure Costa Rica will be in our future again.


You can see Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4 here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Costa Rica 2014: Part 3 Breakfast Boas and finshing up La Selva

You can see Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4 here.

Carl and I slept in late this day, skipping breakfast. We woke up around 10 or 11 to a text or snapchat from Brian of a boa found in the rafters of the cafeteria. It was gone by lunch sadly. I have still yet to see a live boa in my Costa Rica trips. I hoped the pic had survived but it seems to have disappeared like the boa.

We joined Bri for lunch, and went on a short hike in the pouring rain that afternoon. I think we kept our cameras in our dry bags and didn't see much of anything. 

After dinner, the rain had let up a bit. We set out for the night, serenaded by the calls of Fleischmann's Glass Frogs Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni. They could be heard calling almost every night from high up in the canopy, but were never low enough for us to see. A few Teratohyla pulverata were also calling, but we usually could only find one or two if lucky. A few new egg masses were again seen.

Our first herp of the night was this toad. I believe it is a Wet Forest Toad Incilius melanochlorus, but may just be an odd looking Cane Toad Rhinella marina.

We saw some of the now usual subjects while hiking - Craugastor bransfordii, Lithobates warschewitzii. We also saw a few frogs with large heads. The males are pretty common throughout La Selva, and do have big heads. A female would be a true joy to find on this trip. They can be giant frogs, as Craugastors go that is.

One of my favorite Craugastors - the Broad-headed Rain Frog Craugastor megacephalus
This night we searched a different glass frog stream, in a different part of the reserve. The first stream we had been hunting previous nights was barely a trickle. This stream had deep water in areas and had some current. Upon arriving, the glass frogs were already calling.

Stream Anoles Norops oxylophus were often noted to be sleeping in overhanging branches along this stream.

And evidence of previous glass frog romance were often found.

I think these are T. spinosa eggs, laid on the underside of the leaf.

I think these are E. prosoblepon eggs as they are laid on the top of the leaf.
Of course, the E. prosoblepon were again out too.

Dreaded bullett ants were all over everything, every day, all the time. No one was shot.

After finishing the stream transect, Brian was pretty tired, and decided to mostly book it back home. Carl and I took a more leisurely route back, hoping to turn up a snake or two.  We did.

Clouded Snail-sucker Sibon nebulatus
This was found crossing the trail, and briefly repositioned for photos.

Blunthead Tree Snake Imantodes cenchoa

Searching a swamp while half asleep turned up Olive Snouted Treefrogs Scinax elaeochrous and Hourglass Treefrogs Dendropsophus ebracattus.

The next day we decided to change locations slightly. Brian had developed a relationship with Chilamate Rainforest Eco Retreat. We decided to head over there and spend a few hours hiking around on their trail system and try to explore the amphibian and reptile diversity. In a few short daytime hours we documented 8 frog and toads, as well as 4 lizards. Nothing new, but it was fun to explore some new trails.

Racing Striped Craugastor bransfordii
Dendrobates auratus were more common than at La Selva.
This night was our last at La Selva. Brian had another transect to search so we headed back out for more glass frogging.

A Smilisca was calling from a puddle in the lab clearing.

Carl and I took our time hiking out, while Brian decided to truck it ahead and start the survey. We figured we would have a better chance of turning up some snakes walking a bit more slowly. Well no snakes for us... We did hear some frogs calling, and make a mental note to return and try to locate one of them. Upon arriving at the transect, Brian asked if we saw the huge Fer-de-lance on the trail. No... Evidently he left a long piece of flagging tape that said Bothrops on it. No... We must have been looking up? The snake was stretched out, so I am pretty sure it moved off the trail. But we also missed the red flagging tape.  I doubt we both stepped over a meter long snake, but who knows?

Brian had also already found a Sibon longifrenes too. Evidently our plan wasn't very successful (for the record, it had worked on other nights).

The glass frogs were again calling.

Esparadana prosoblepon

We searched the transect rather quickly, photographing less this night. After it was done we went back to search for the calling frogs from the trail.

After quite a bit of triangulating, we finally spotted the culprit. They were buried in deep.

Sabinal Frog Leptodactylus melanonotus

Moving forward again, we were just reaching the branch of the glass frog stream and hiking along it when I noticed a flash of color on the trail. Hot dog!

Another Micrurus alleni
In our limited experience, the alleni seemed to like hunting along the smaller streams the glass frogs occupied. Brian was dreaming of the ugly Hydromorphis concolor in the streams, but this was a nice consolation.

I photographed another Craugastor bransfordii for Brian.

But honestly, the highlight of the night was a very large adult female Craugastor megacephalus. This is a big head!

And a look back at the male.
Like most nights, after our hike we returned to the hangout spot near Brian's office for some good old biologist camaraderie. After a little while, someone asked if we saw the calcarifer hanging out in a plant in the lab clearing, about 20 yards away. No...

One of my favorite frogs. the Splendid Leaf Frog Cruziohyla calcarifer.

What's so cool about this frog?

The next day we were moving locations for our last night. I think Carl and I again slept in, and packed up our things. We went for a short late morning hike just before lunch with the goal to photograph the wood turtles in the river. We had seen a few, but hadn't dedicated time to trying to stealthily get close for pictures.

Black River Turtle Rhinoclemmys funerea
After lunch, I was talking with one of Brian's friends and he mentioned an "oropel" a little over a kilometer down one of the trails. Brian had headed to his room to get his bags, and the car was all packed... Carl and I readied our backpacks though and when Brian returned he was annoyed for a sec, but took the opportunity to get some work done in his office while we sprinted out. An oropel is the gold yellow morph of the eyelash viper, and one of Costa Rica's iconic herps. We really wanted to see one!

Luckily it was just where it had been spotted earlier that morning.

golden Bothriechis schlegelii
And closer still. Super cool snake. It never moved a muscle.
Carlos doing this thing.

We had started out clean and mostly showered.

We got back fairly quickly as promised and got on the road. We had a couple hour drive from La Selva Biological Station to near Siquirres and the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center, owned and operated by Brian Kubicki. See part four, as we saw quite a lot there.

Goodbye La Selva, until next time.

You can see Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Part 4 here.