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Trip to Costa Rica, August 2012

Discussion in 'Field Trips (Natural Habitats)' started by moloch, Sep 7, 2012.

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    In August, I spent 12 days in Costa Rica with a couple of friends. It was fantastic to see this lovely country again and see the changes that have occurred since my student days in 1980. Eco-tourism has been highly successful and there were lodges and infrastructure all over the areas that we visited. We did not have much time so decided to visit areas that were not far apart to reduce the time lost to transfers. August is one of the wet months but the rain was never excessive and we always had a few hours of sun each day.

    Our itinerary included the following stops:
    1) Suena Azul, a lodge in Horquetas. We spent a single night while awaiting the tractor ride to Rara Avis the following morning.
    2) Rara Avis, a remote lodge on the southern boundary of Braulio Carillo NP. This was a beautiful place located at about 700m elevation on the Caribbean flank of Volcan Barva. It was an extremely wet place. Branches and trunks of trees were totally covered with epiphytes.
    3) La Selva Biological Station. We spent three nights at this lowland sites.
    4) Observatory Lodge, Volcan Arenal. We spent three nights at this mid-level site.

    I will begin this post with the photos from La Selva. In 1980, I spent a number of weeks here while studying birds from a canopy tower. Now, I could hardly recognize the reseach station. La Selva has a huge amount of new accommodation, labs, libraries and the like for the biologists who are studying various aspects of tropical ecology. In 1980, access to the reserve was via a boat trip up the Sarapiqui River from Puerto Viejo. Now, there is a road and bridge access. The old muddy trails are mostly paved within 2kms of the headquarters. Once I walked far back into the reserve, I reached the muddy trails that were more familiar to me. La Selva is really a top place to visit with so much to see.

    The following shot illustrates the location of La Selva. The watershed above it is protected all the way to the top of Volcan Barva.
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    La Selva is mostly covered with lowland rainforest.
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    Ted and Cindy found this stunning yellow colour phase of the Eye-lash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii). This species was at the top of my snake "wish-list" so I was very happy to see it. It certainly was not cryptic on the buttressed root but would have been harder to see on a Heliconia.
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    Norops were common lizards. Several species were possible.
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    I saw a numbert of frogs while on night walks.

    Frog1
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    Frog2
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    These small toads (Bufo haematiticus) were seen a few times along the trails after night rains.
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    I saw Banded Owl Butterflies (Caligo atreus) once or twice each day in the forest interior.
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    Nymphalids in the subfamily Satyrinae were numerous in the forest. Some of these were nicely marked.
    1. Jesia Satyr (Euptychia jesia)
    2. Blue-smudged Satyr (Chloreuptychia arnaca): the lower, inner wings were blue.
    3. not certain of the species
    4. not certain of the species
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    This fulgorid was incredible. I believe that it was Phrictus quinquepartitus, one of Lanternflies.
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    Whip Scorpion or Amblypygi.
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    I liked these nicely coloured fungi.
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    More rainforest plants:
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    Monkey pot seed pod (Lecythis ampla) are relatives of Brazil Nuts. These were huge seed pods ... definitely would not want one of these to land on one's head!
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    Monkey Comb (Apeiba membranacea). These seed pods always make me think of sea urchins.
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    others ...
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    A pair of Rufous Motmots were digging a burrow for a nest right next to the trail. The size of the hole was huge which seemed quite odd. They must be vulnerable to predaceous mammals and large snakes.
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    Keel-billed Toucan: Always nice to see and hear the toucans. Chestnut-mandible and Collared Aracari were also frequent in the forest.
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    Great Tinamou. These birds are normally very shy but some near the headquarters must be use to seeing people. Their songs are a gorgeous, rich flute-like whistle. The calls at night are one of my favourite sounds in the forest.
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    Some parts of the reserve support swamp forest. Years ago, I spent many nights along trails here looking for reptiles and amphibians.
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    Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops asper) were said to be the most commonly encountered snake at La Selva. We found this single individual while we were on a night walk in the swamp forest.
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    This Hyla rufitela was discovered by day on a small plant in the swamp forest.
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    Strawberry Dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio or Dendrobates pumilio). These frogs were common in wet areas. Their body size was smaller than those at Rara Avis. I will include the latter in a subsequent addition to the post. These little guys are quite shy and are hard to photograph.
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    One of the highlights to me in the swamp forest was seeing these clear wing Satyrinae. They are almost invisible when in flight in the dark understorey of the forest. This was particularly true of the first species below. The second species was slightly more obvious in flight but I usually could only see the red patches and nothing else.
    1, 2: Dulcedo polita. The butterly jumped with the preflash in photo 2 but this illustrates how clear the wings appear.
    3. Rusted Clearwing Satyr (Cithaerias pireta)
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    Stream Anoles (Norops oxylophus) were common in the swamp forest. They readily swam and would dive beneath the surface when disturbed.
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    I liked this trail marker, "trail without a name", in the swamp forest.
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    We visited "Sendero Cantarana", the trail of the frog songs, on two nights. The trail passed through an open flooded area and was alive with frogs and songs at night.
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    Red-Eyed Tree-Frog (Agalychnis callidryas). These are one of the most attractive species of frogs in Costa Rica.
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    Yellow Blunt-headed Vine Snake (Imantodes inornatus) were frog eaters and they were numerous around the swamp of Sendero Cantarana.
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    Brown Forest Turtle (Rhinoclemmys annulata) were observed along Sendero Cantarana as well as along another trail in the reserve.
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    I spent a fair amount of time chasing butterflies. One of the best areas for butterfly photography was in the secondary plots in the southern portion of the reserve.
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    Skippers were abundant here.
    1. unknown
    2. Emerald Aguna (Aguna claxon)
    3. Spotted Flat (Celaenorrhinus monartus)
    4. Bifurcated Flat (Celaenorrhinus bifurcus)
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    Nymphalidae
    1) Malachite (Siproeta stelenes)
    2) Little Banner (Nica flavilla)
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    Heliconiinae were a beautiful subfamily of the Nymphalids. One of the prettiest was the Crimson-patched Longwing (Heliconius erato) that was feeding from a Heliconia flower.
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    Sara Longwing (Heliconius sara)
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    1. Tiger Longwing (Heliconius hecale)
    2. Tiger Longwing (Heliconius hecale)
    3. Not certain, but I think this to be an Ithomiinae, Polymnia Tigerwing (Mechanitis polymnia). Ithomiinae and Heliconiinae are both distasteful butterflies to predators. Many of these illustrate Muellerian mimicry where the distasteful species converge to the same pattern. It is interesting to see but makes the species and even sub-families hard to recognize.
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    Cydno Longwing (Heliconius cydno)
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    Metalmarks (Rhiodininae) were abundant in Costa Rica. I saw many species but was only able to photograph a few.


    Possibly Emesis lucinda. The outer wings were orange and the butterfly looked quite different in flight.
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    Calephelis sp.
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    I saw these gorgeous day-flying moths of family Uraniidae a few times.
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    This moth of family Castniidae was really odd with the clubbed antannae.
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    Big spider at night.
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    Crested Guans were frequent this year. Their numbers have certainly built up with protection since 1980. Great Currasows were also seen a few times.
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    Restaurant. This was an excellent place for birding with many nearby fruiting trees. Flocks of tanagers, thrushes and flycatchers often moved through the area. One morning, army ants raided this area. The ground was covered with ants that investigated all the nooks and crannies beneath the chairs and tables. We watched small insects running for their lives. Scarlet-rumped Tanagers and others came into the area to catch the arthropods distrubed by the ants.
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    Violaceous Trogons were common by call and occasionally seen.
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    White-collared Manakin: We watched this adult male and a juvenile male doing the manakin wing-snap and rapid flight between saplings on a number of occasions. They often displayed right next to the restaurant.
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    Tanagers: We saw many of these lovely birds.
    1. Golden-hooded Tanager (top)
    2. Palm Tanager (left)
    3. Social Flycatcher (right)
    4. Blue-grey Tanager (left)
    5. Black-faced Grosbeak (right)
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    We stayed in this house just across the river from the reserve.
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    Leptodactylus pentadactylus were frequent on the lawns at night.
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    In the old days, access to La Selva was by boat from Puerto Viejo. Now, it is just a matter of walking across the bridge.
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    The big Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) were a frequent site in trees near the bridge.
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    Ted took this photo of a Prehensile-tailed Porcupine that was crossing the bridge one morning.
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    Ted's photo of a Ringed Kingfisher
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    ... Rara Avis will be next
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012
    • Like Like x 9
  2. Philth

    Philth N.Y.H.C. Arachnosupporter

    This is probably Cuppienius coccineus. Incredible pics, I love that you took the time to include the ID's on many of them.:worship: I hope to make a return trip to Costa Rica next summer, this will be a great reference.

    Later, Tom
     
  3. dactylus

    dactylus Arachnobaron Old Timer

    Thanks for sharing the incredible photos! Beautiful country. I really like the prehensile "tailed" porcupine shot.

    David
     
  4. tarcan

    tarcan Arachnoking Old Timer

    great shots! Thank you for sharing them, I enjoyed going through them! Unfortunately, now I miss the field even more!
     
  5. oldmanofthesea

    oldmanofthesea Arachnoknight

    Thank you for the photographic tour. Ron
     
  6. Shrike

    Shrike Arachnoprince Old Timer

    Awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing. That eyelash viper is just stunning. Some day I'll cross it off my list.
     
  7. Kazaam

    Kazaam Arachnobaron

    I kinda want to use a monkey pot seed as a hide for a T now.
     
  8. Storm76

    Storm76 Arachnoemperor

    Awesome pictures!
     
  9. Moloch, Awesome thread! Now I can't make up my mind whether it'll be La Selva or Tiputini Lodge in Quito, Ecuador, once I'm able to go. Either way, it will definitely be totally different from anything previously experienced.

    Thanks for sharing,

    T
     
  10. Thanks very much, everyone.

    Terry, I think that you will have a fantastic time in either Costa Rica or Ecuador. I hope that you post lots of photos!

    Regards,
    David
     
  11. Amazing photos! Thanks for sharing your adventure.
     
  12. Awesome pics !
     
  13. Deftones90

    Deftones90 Arachnosquire

    Great shots! What kind of camera are you using?
     
  14. Chicken Farmer

    Chicken Farmer Arachnosquire

    Usa
    Your so lucky to of had time to go. Amazing pictures!!!!
     
  15. Thanks very much for the feedback.

    I used a Canon 40D on this trip along with Tamron 180mm macro, Canon 100mm macro, Sigma 10x20 wide angle and a Canon 50mm.

    I will continue next with photos of Rara Avia, a magical place located at about 700m elevation on the same watershed as La Selva. It is situated on the boundary of Braulio Carillo NP, a huge preserve that is not open to the public. Rara Avis is located next to one of the few trail heads into this pristine national park.

    This area was extremely wet with a high annual rainfall. Because of this, branches and tree trunks were totally covered with epiphytes. Trails were also difficult and I sometimes sank knee deep in mud. This wet forest was home to a number of localized birds and I hoped to add a few of these that I missed back in 1980. On this trip, I did see a single Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, many Emerald Tanagers and a few Ashy-headed Tanagers but birds like the Yellow-eared Toucanet, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Blue-and-Gold Tanager and Black-headed Antthrush continued to elude me.


    The journey to Rara Avis commenced from this small office in the village of Horquetas.
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    A four-wheel drive tractor ride was necessary to reach the lodge. The road was not bad at first but was absolutely shocking for the last few kms. I did not realize that a tractor could tackle such conditions. We had to hang on continuously and there was little chance to birdwatch or to take photos. Our driver did stop once to point out a King Vulture that was circling high overhead. Ted later saw another at low level at the bridge next to the lodge.
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    The road crossed farms at lower levels but higher up there were more extensive patches of forest.
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    We spent five nights at Rara Avis. The first night was in a cabin that was situated a few hundred meters up a trail from the headquarters in a secluded patch of forest. It was a lovely place with the sound of the Sarapiqui River roaring in the background. We shared the cabin with big native rats that chewed on the walls during the night. More concerning to me was awakening with a Blood-sucking Conenose (big reduviid) on an adjacent window screen. These can be vectors of Chagas Disease so I am never pleased to sleep with them.
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    The trail to the cabin was wet and slippery. Even though I was careful, I fell nearly everytime that I made the walk between the cafeteria and the cabin. This was not good for Ted who was recovering from an ankle injury so we relocated to "the hotel" on our second night. The balcony on the second floor had a great view of the surrounding forest and we often sat there and birdwatched during wet weather. We observed flocks of tanagers including Bay-headed, Silver-throated, Emerald, Golden-masked and Black-and-Yellow at close range. We also watched a small troop of White-faced Monkeys one day as they foraged in the nearby forest.
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    Here is a shot of the cafeteria. It was a great place for seeing animals. We watched many mixed flocks of tanagers as they passed through nearby fruiting trees. At night, we heard Kinkajou, Least Pygmy Owls, Pauraque and saw large forest rats. A Baird's Tapir walked into the clearing near the lodge a few times during the week before our arrival. We were not so lucky and only observed tapir tracks in the mud.
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    This Coati Mundi was often sighted near the cafeteria. It was not exactly tame but it was used to seeing people so would only run a short distance before continuing with its search for food.
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    Rara Avis was a beautiful place. One of the nicest views of the area was of the waterfalls from the Mirador lookout. This area was about a half-hour walk from the cafeteria.
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    River and habitat:
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    For me, the highlight was walking into Braulio Carillo NP. It was just so lush and beautiful. Here are a few shots of the area.

    Branches and tree trunks were totally covered:
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    wet forest
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    Bromeliads were numerous:
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    ... as were the lovely Heliconia flowers including a species with yellow flowers:
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    I very nearly stepped on a Fer-de-Lance here about noon one day. There had been a torrential shower for an hour or so earlier in the morning. Finally, there was a break and the sun re-emerged. I was about an hour's walk into the park and was heading back quickly towards the headquarters. I put my boot down right next to a Fer-de-Lance that was crossing the trail. These are normally nocturnal snakes but this one was perhaps disturbed by the rain. The snake fortunately crawled rapidly into cover without biting me.
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    Fer-de-Lance were certainly hard to see. After nearly stepping on this one, it headed into a sheltered area and the coiled while still keeping an eye on me:
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    I saw Cope's or Blunt-headed Vine Snakes (Oxybelis brevirostris) on a couple of occasions.
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    I saw this big Bird-eating Snake (Pseutes poecilonotus) one afternoon along the "El Plastico" trail.
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    Water Anoles (Norops oxylophis) were common along creeks and even at the cafeteria. One of these displayed at me while I took its photo.
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    Rainbow Ameiva (Ameiva festiva) were common near our accommodation
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    Rara Avis produced a couple of species of frogs that I really wanted to see on this trip. The top of my frog wish-list was for a Crowned Tree-Frog (Anotheca spinosa). I was lucky and found one of these rare frogs on my first night. It was about the first frog encountered and wow, what an amazing creature it was! It hardly moved at all while I took photos.
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    Glass Frogs (Centrolenella ilex) were also high on the wish list. We hired a guide who showed us several of these gorgeous creatures. Their bodies are translucent, hence the name.
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    Dwarf or Spined Glass Frog (Teratohyla spinosa).
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    Strawberry Dart Frogs (Oophaga pumilio or Dendrobates pumilio) were seen a few times. Their body size was noticeably larger than those at La Selva. These little guys were quite wary and usually jump away and then hide beneath leaves when disturbed.
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    These pretty Smilisca phaeota were seen near the cafeteria is a small pond.
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    Common Rainfrog (Craugastor fitzingeri), were seen a couple of times:
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    Broad-headed Rainfrog (Craugastor megacephalus)
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    Brilliant Forest Frog (Rana warszewitischii)
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    Crowned Woodnymphs were the most abundant butterfly near the verbenna flowers. This was a male. In the second photo, the bird was drying itself after a heavy thundershower.
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    Spotted Woodcreeper. I saw many woodcreepers but they were often hard to recognize.
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    More flowers from Braulio Carillo:
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    "Hot Lips"
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    One of the most exciting encounters was with this animal one afternoon. I walked about an hour from the headquarters to a small stream. I stopped just before reaching it to check for butterflies. A Puma suddenly jumped onto the rocks from the opposite bank. It had not seen me and was walking towards me. I thought that it might panic if it was too close when it detected me so I clapped once. The animal heard the sound but did not know the sou
    rce. It looked up and down the creek and this gave me the chance to lift the camera and focus. I took this shot when it looked in my direction. The flash frightened the lion and it turned and raced away. What an experience! I could not help but look over my shoulder often on the return trip. My imagination also was animated when on lone night walks.
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    These Satyrs (Pierella helvetia) were one of the most common butterflies in the forest interior. They tended to fly just a few cms above the surface of the ground and were hard to follow. They had lovely rose patches on their hindwings but usually would snap their wings closed after a beat or two following landing.
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    Rusted Clearwing Satyrs (Cithaerias pireta) were fairly common in the forest understorey.
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    ... more tomorrow
     
    • Like Like x 4
  16. Storm76

    Storm76 Arachnoemperor

    Awesome set of pictures. Love the Puma!
     
  17. khil

    khil Arachnobaron

    phenomenal pics!
     
  18. Petross

    Petross Arachnosquire Arachnosupporter

    Nice pics.
     
  19. DavisG

    DavisG Arachnopeon

    Love the O. pumilio, my favorite frog to keep, other than Oophaga granulifera.
     
  20. Wadew

    Wadew Arachnobaron Old Timer

    Excellent photo's,I love the Crowned tree frog! Thank you again moloch.

    -Wade
     
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