Monday, December 15, 2014

Herpetofauna of the Nicoya Peninsula

Our primary objective while were here in Costa Rica is focused on ornithology research, but that doesn't mean we don’t delve into other subjects.  Much is still unknown about the distribution and abundance of reptiles and amphibians here on the Nicoya Peninsula .  Over the past few years we have taken a lot of notes and data points on where we have found various species of snakes, lizards, frogs, and turtles across the Peninsula.   
As we've been going along, I've been using the Meet Your Neighbors photo studio technique to isolate subjects on completely neutral backgrounds. It serves a dual purpose of having very clear record shots, and also will hopefully go into a guide of sorts for the herpetofauna for the Peninsula at some point. 
Our first day came with an interesting discovery -- On our way from the ferry to the Finca, Tyler spotted something sliding back and forth across the road: a Green Ratsnake  (Senticolis triaspis). This Colubrid is in the same family as our Black Ratsnake at home, and they share very similar behavior and diet. 

Green Ratsnake  (Senticolis triaspis)  

Later on in the first night as we were walking around the Finca, Tyler spotted something on the side of one of the buildings. It was a large frog, apparently scanning the property from a high perch. We quickly grabbed a butterfly net and lowered him down for identification.  It turned out to be the ever-interesting Common Milk Frog (Trachycephalus venulosus). These frogs can secrete a noxious mucus-like chemical from their skin when disturbed.   

Common Milk Frog (Trachycephalus venulosus) 

The latest species we encountered was Costa Rica's poster-child of fauna, the Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas).  We had heard them in the past at the Finca, but could never locate them. The other night, we set out on a mission to finally locate them and get photographic documentation. After what some might call an intrepid adventure, we located between 6-7 individuals.  As you can see, it was well worth it -- "charismatic" doesn't even begin to describe these frogs. Interestingly enough, they are very variable in coloration, depending on if you’re on the Pacific or Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  The frogs from the Caribbean side are more colorful, but the Pacific variant has their own unique charm. 

Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

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