Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooky crocodile for Halloween

Lurking in the river.
Blood without heat.
Eyes of a killer.
Trick or treat.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This is yet another heron that we saw on our recent wildlife boat trip in Palo Verde National Park. I am sorry that I do not know the exact species. My guidebook on the birds of Costa Rica has photos of 252 species, but there are more than 860 species of birds in Costa Rica, more than the USA and Canada combined.

Maybe someone more knowledgeable about birds than I am will know the type of heron in this photo. Regardless, I like the black and white pattern of its feathers.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great egret

The great egret is the largest of the egret/heron family in Costa Rica. They can reach 101 cm (40 in.) high.

You can tell the difference between a great egret and a snowy egret because the great egret has a yellow beak, but a snowy egret has a black beak.

The extra long tail feathers on this bird is a sign that it is the breeding season.

The scientific name for a great egret is casmerodius albus. They are known locally in Costa Rica as garceta grande.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

White ibis

Egrets and herons are very common, but this is a white ibis. The difference is the down-curved bill, which looks well adapted to spiking food without having to move its neck as far as would be needed for a straight beak.

The white ibis has several other distinctive features. It has a pink coloration on its face that is bare skin rather than feathers where the beak meets the face. In flight, it reveals black tips on its wings, which are hidden when walking. Its neck is also straight in flight.

White ibises are most commonly found in Costa Rica in the wetlands around he Gulf of Nicoya, which is exactly where I took this photograph. The Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park flows into the Gulf of Nicoya, which divides the Nicoya Peninsula from the area of Costa Rica nearer to San Jose.

White ibis reach lengths of 63 cm (25 in), so they are smaller than many herons or egrets. Their scientific name is eudocimus albus. Not surprisingly, they are known locally in Costa Rica as ibis blanco.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tico boys fishing

I have shown a few of the many crocodiles that we saw during our boat excursion on the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park. Here are a few local boys fishing in the same area. I hope they know how to stay out of the way of any crocodiles who swim or walk by.

Costa Ricans call themselves "Ticos." The main English language newspaper in the country is even called he "Tico Times," so it is not a derogatory term at all. It is derived from the practice of Costa Ricans of adding the suffix "tico" to the end of a word to form a diminutive version of the noun and refer to a small item of the noun.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crocodile and his teeth

I count 32 teeth in this photo. Assuming that the crocodile has the same number of teeth on the other side, that would make 64 teeth to grab, slice into and chew its prey. The extra large fourth upward tooth is distinctive of a crocodile and is a way to distinguish between crocodiles and alligators.

I am relieved that the crocodile did not attack the heron that I showed during the past few days. Fortunately, the crocodiles in the western hemisphere are not as aggressive as the Nile crocodile, but people should keep their distance nevertheless.

When people who rent our condos in Tamarindo ask about activities for their children, I always recommend the nature tours on boats in Palo Verde National Park. I describe it as being similar to the Jungle Cruise at Disney World or Disneyland, except that the animals are real, and the tour guides do not recite a memorized script of corny jokes and puns.

I think it is an enriching, entertaining and educational experience for young people, and for us adults too, to watch wild animals in their native habitat. The people who stay in our condos often tell me that they have enjoyed the excursions and that their children have returned home with enthusiastic stories to tell their friends of seeing crocodiles, monkeys and other animals in the wild.

For more photos of animals in the wild, at least the coral reef version of underwater wildlife, you may enjoy checking out our Viva la Voyage travel photo website. This week we have posted underwater photos from Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, west of French Polynesia.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Safety for the heron

Fortunately, the crocodile was more interested in going into the water than attacking the heron. Maybe the bird consists of too much feathers and bones and not enough meat to interest the crocodile.

I suspect that the bird knew that the crocodile would not attack it, as it did not fly away, or even walk down the river bank, as the crocodile moved along side the bird and then went into the water.

Tomorrow I will show you 32 of the 64 reasons that this bird should be pleased that the crocodile went right past the bird and into the water.

Today is Sunday, so we have posted new photos on our Viva la Voyage travel photo site. This week, we have photos from the Cook Islands. We have featured some underwater photos because in the South Pacific, the beauty that you see above ground does not even scratch the surface of the beauty below sea level.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is the crocodile moving in for the kill?

As we watched the crocodile lurking in the underbrush along the muddy river bank, the crocodile slowly slithered through the mud towards the heron.

I felt like I was watching one of the episodes of the old television program Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Where was the voice of Marlin Perkins calling to Jim Fowler, 'The heron could make a tasty lunch for the ravenous appetite of the relentless predator crocodile, whose sharp teeth and gaping mouth would devour the bird in one lightening quick strike."

Did the bird see the crocodile? Should we interfere with mother nature and shout at the heron to alert her to the danger? Answers tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Danger lurks

Here is the crocodile that was lurking just to the right of the heron in yesterday's photo. Would this cold-blooded killer move in closer? Would the heron escape? You will have to return to this blog tomorrow and the next day for the answers.

Our boat in the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park idled in the river so we could watch this episode of nature play out live in front of us.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another heron in danger

Several days ago I posted a photo of a heron walking across a branch to stay out of reach of a crocodile. During the next few days I will show another series of encounters between these species.

Tomorrow, I will show you what was lurking just to the right of this photo.

Parents, please do not fear the photographs ahead. This blog is suitable for children.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monkey contemplating a banana

After the monkey took the banana piece out of my son's hand, the monkey stared at the banana piece in between bites. White faced Capuchin monkeys have pensive expressions, but I would not think that there is much reason to contemplate a banana piece.

Maybe he is meditating about why humans give him banana pieces that are already peeled, saving him the trouble of peeling the bananas himself.

Maybe he is wondering why bananas purchased in stores and given to him by humans taste different than the bananas that grow in the wild.

Maybe he is thinking that if he takes his time and acts like a cute monkey and poses for photos, the humans will hang around longer and hand out more banana pieces to him and his family.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Feeding the monkeys

Here you see a white faced Capuchin monkey who is taking a piece of banana from my older son. I like the eye contact between the two of them. The monkey stared at my son from a tree branch, assessed that my son did not pose a threat and was making a friendly hand out offering of food, then the monkey quickly scampered to the end of the branch and quickly reached out to take the banana piece right out of my son's hand, keeping eye contact with my son the entire time.

Monkeys would take banana pieces out of my son's hand so quickly that it was hard to get a photograph of the moment of contact. I told my son that getting a photo of the point where the hand of man and the hand of monkey were reaching out and making contact was a bit like the central scene in the middle of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

My son was standing on the bow of a boat on a wildlife excursion on the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park. It is a wetlands area that flows into the Gulf of Nicoya just east of the Tamarindo area. The boats will pull up to a particular part of the woods where the monkeys have trained humans to stop and, if you are so inclined, you can feed the monkeys.

Tomorrow I will show a photo of what happened right after the above exchange of a banana piece.

Monday, October 19, 2009

White faced Capuchin monkey, up close and personal

This photo of a white faced Capuchin monkey shows the pensive expression on their faces. My wife does not like them because she thinks their facial expressions are so human that she thinks it is creepy.

White faced Capuchin monkeys are very intelligent. They were the species of monkey used by organ grinders because they are so easy to train.

Tomorrow, you will see how the white faced Capuchin monkeys have trained humans.

We have posted photos from Tahiti on our Viva la Voyage travel photo site.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Crocodile lurking below

I took this photo exactly 12 seconds after the photo of the bird posted yesterday (as shown by the time data of my digital camera). With a crocodile like this lurking in the water, it is smart for the bird to be very careful when walking on the branch that extends over the water.

During a wildlife boat trip in Palo Verde National Park recently when this photo was taken, we saw dozens of crocodiles, all from the safety of a boat.

Today is Sunday, so we have again posted new photos on Viva la Voyage, our travel photo site. This week we are featuring photos of Papeeta, Tahiti. If you have not stayed in an over-water bungalow, come visit the website and enjoy the view.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heron watching his step

This bird is walking very carefully across this branch in the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park. Why? Tomorrow I will show you a photo that I took exactly 12 seconds after I took this photo. It will show why this bird has a very good reason not to make a misstep on this log.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Juvenile bare throated tiger heron

I love the delicate colors and patterns visible in this photo of a bare throated tiger heron. This is a juvenile. He can be compared with the adult bare throated tiger heron, which I have shown in the past and am showing again below so that you can compare an adult and a juvenile side-by-side.

The juvenile has more pronounced and thick black stripes against a buff/brown background, whereas the adult has much thinner and more subtle stripes. The adult also has a graying color on his back and yellow on the front.

Bare throated tiger herons are among the larger members of the heron/egret family. They are most common in Guanacaste, which is our area of northwest Costa Rica.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bats on a tree

A group of bats cling to the trunk of a tree and rest during the day. They seem to have perched themselves in the shape of a cross. I showed a close up of a single bat resting on a tree truck a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would show this grouping of bats today.

Bat populations are in decline around the world due to loss of habitat, the ingestion of pesticides in the insects that they eat, and the lack of human support to maintain bat populations. Costa Rica, a world leader in environmental protection, has again taken strong and far-sighted action in this area.

About 15 years ago, Costa Rican conservationists realized that part of the reason that bats are in decline is the bad image bats have among the public. Costa Rica initiated a 17-month long campaign to educate the public about the benefits of bats and the importance of maintaining bat populations. The campaign included planting favorable stories about bats in the news media.

I have mentioned in the past that Costa Rica has set aside a larger percentage of its land area -- 25% -- for national parks and nature reserves. Costa Rica is also regarded as the country with the greatest biodiversity for its size on earth. It is also believed to be the only nation on earth that has a government agency that is tasked with the job of making an inventory of every single plant and animal species within its borders -- and there are about one million! I guess it takes such a country to think about conducting a public relations campaign on behalf of bats.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Iguana in a tree (3)

There are many reasons that it pays to look up into the trees when walking around in Costa Rica. There could be monkeys, birds (there are more species of birds in Costa Rica than in the USA and Canada combined), sloths, or iguanas. Lots of iguanas.

The iguanas are often well camouflaged. I have seen them brown, grey, green or orange. The green ones like this one are especially difficult to see up in the trees. The can climb as high as 40 meters (65 ft.) up in the trees.

The tease for tomorrow is that it will be something else to be seen in a tree. And, yes, they are alive.

Green iguanas lay eggs in December or January in batches of about 40 at a time. The female will dig a burrow 1 - 2 meters (3 - 7 ft.) long, and will fill up the hole with dirt and pack it down with her nose.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baby howler monkey

As I promised yesterday, today's photo is another howler monkey in the same group, but this one is a child. I would not describe this as a baby because usually we see baby howlers clinging to their mother's backs and riding along. This one was climbing and hanging out on his own, although he looks a little worried.

Usually when you see a pack of howler monkeys there will be 1 or 2 babies among the 10 - 15 monkeys traveling together.

My wife took the best photo of a howler monkey that I have seen. I have shown it before, but am posting it again for those who have not been following this site for a long time. She was able to get a camera angle where there was no sky in the background so she could get a better exposure than the typical photos of howler monkeys silhouetted against a light sky.

My younger son, Stuart, who is the technical consultant to assist me with this website, got a great video of some howlers. We stopped along side the road when we saw a group of howlers walking across the telephone wires. He saw where the group was jumping from one tree to another and staked out a spot where he could get videos of the monkeys flying through the air.

The tease for tomorrow is that I will show something else that commonly hangs out in the trees in Costa Rica.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Howler monkey gazing in the tree

Here is another of the pack of howler monkeys that I showed yesterday and the day before. Unlike the monkey yesterday who was draped over the branch resting, this guy is sitting up and seems to be contemplating something in the distance.

I wonder what he is thinking? Maybe "I can't see the forest for the trees." Or, more likely, "I wish these humans would move on and stop staring at us with their cameras. Maybe if we answer their feeble attempts to hoot at us with some of our loud howls, they will then be satisfied and leave us alone."

Jarart of Prescott Area Daily Photo left a comment two days ago asking about the howl of howler monkeys. A pack of howler monkeys let out a low guttural howl so loud it can be heard 3 km. away (1.8 miles) through the forest. It is an amazing and thrilling experience. It is miraculous that an animal so small could vocalize a noise so deep and so loud.

My tease for tomorrow's photo is to let you know that it will be similar to today's, but cuter.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Howler monkey hanging on a branch

Howler monkeys like to hang out in trees. This is a typical pose. They are not particularly energetic because their diet consists primarily of leaves, which of course do not have a lot of nutritional value and do not give them a lot of energy.

Howler monkeys are content to sit or hang in the trees and stare at humans who stare and take photos of them.

This photo illustrates the challenge of trying to get a good photo of howler monkeys. Usually you are pointing the camera up at bright sky and the howler monkeys are very dark. The back lighting causes the monkeys to appear even darker. The trick to being able to photograph their features is to move to an angle where the background behind the monkey is mostly leaves and there is not as much sky in the frame.

Today is Sunday, so that means that we have posted new photos on our Viva la Voyage travel photo site. This week we are showing some photos of Budapest, Hungary.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A tree full of howler monkeys

Trees in Costa Rica can be full of delights and surprises. Birds, iguanas, monkeys or sloths might be hanging around. When driving on secondary roads or taking a walk though the forests, you should take the time to look up into the trees. Here is an example.

This large tree was a resting place for a group of howler monkeys. This photo illustrates how they travel in extended families of a dozen or so. How many monkeys can you find in this tree? There were more monkeys in this group than you can see in this photo. It is common for groups of monkeys to occupy adjacent trees as they move from tree to tree through the forest, stopping to eat and rest.

Tomorrow and the next few days I will show some closer photos of some of the monkeys in this group.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Beachfront massages

Yesterday I asked what would feel good after a day of surfing, and our good friend Sharon of Phoenix Daily Photo and Glenda, my mother-in-law, left comments recommending a massage. Well, they were right.

After a day of surfing, why not have a massage on the beach? The Tamarindo Diria Resort has several massage tables set up on their beachfront for guests of the Diria hotel and condos.

There are also several day spas in Tamarindo where people can get massages and other services for less than half the price you would expect to pay in the USA.

I will start a new series of photos tomorrow. After these surfing photos, I will give you a change of pace and show more of Costa Rica's wildlife.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Done surfing

Near the end of the afternoon, with the sun turning the sea to silver before it turns the sky gold and takes its nightly dip into the Pacific, a surfer has decided to call it a day and walk along Tamarindo beach, back to wherever he lives or is staying.

Just as he is done surfing, this photo will conclude this little series of surfer photos that I have been showing during the past week.

My tease for tomorrow photo is to ask what do you think would feel good after an afternoon of surfing?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Waiting for a wave

While waiting for the next wave, why not fix your hair? It will stay in place and look nice until the next wave comes.

I walked out and took this series of photos of the surfing lesson in the calm part of Tamarindo Bay, which is partially sheltered from the larger ocean waves by an off shore volcanic reef.

As I mentioned, I am not a surfer. In fact, I have never been on a surf board. I used to snow ski (and took 29 stitches in my head from a skiing accident). I imagine waiting on a wave for a surfer is like waiting for a lift line or riding up the ski lift for a skier, except the next wave comes a lot more quickly. In Tamarindo and Playa Langosta, the waves usually roll in one right after another, with barely the time to fix one's hair.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Surfing form

In contrast to the beginning surfers taking their surfing lessons that I have shown during the past few days, this surfer came zipping past me showing the speed, form, agility, maneuverability, balance and coordination of an experienced surfer.
My tease for tomorrow's photo is that I will show the form of another surfer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Surfing lesson success

Success. The beginning surfer shown in yesterday's photo has advanced from riding a wave lying down to jumping up to her feet.

Now, she just has to get her balance more confidently so that she can stand up straighter and does not have to use her hands as much. I predict that advancement will come soon. Then, she will advance to larger waves.

And when she goes back home from vacation, I am sure she will have lots of stories to tell her friends about how great she did surfing, and she did.

Tomorrow, I will show even better surfing form.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Learning to surf

Here is one of the students in the surfing lesson that I showed yesterday. She is obviously just progressing from the stage where she is riding the waves while lying down to where she will attempt to stand up.
Do you think she will make it to ride the waves while standing? If you are a regular reader of this blog, I am sure you have anticipated that I am setting you up for the answer -- tomorrow.

Today is Sunday, so we have posted more photos on our Viva la Voyage travel photo site. Similar to last week we have posted another set of photos from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Group surfing lesson

Here is a surfing lesson in progress. You can see a row of beginning surfers all lined up catching the same wave, but none is yet standing up.

I took these photos with a little "point-and-shoot" waterproof camera, which explains the limitations in the quality of these surfing photos. The camera enables a vantage point that I could not get with a regular camera, as I could walk out in the middle of the surfers.

I have found that with a waterproof camera, it can be tricky to take photos that are in focus because it is hard to stay still when you are being pushed around by waves. The same problem happens underwater as well. It is hard to hold the camera steady if you are swimming trying to catch up with a fish to photograph.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Surfing lesson

This is a "student" getting a surfing lesson at Tamarindo beach. Tamarindo is an ideal place to learn to surf for several reasons.

First, the beach slopes very gently out to sea, so you can stand up right where you surf. You can see that in this photo. The instructor is standing and is ready to give the student a push to help her catch a wave.

Second, you can regulate the size of the waves you want to surf. To the north end of the beach, there are bigger waves that roll in from the open ocean into Tamarindo beach. On the southern end of the beach, the waves are smaller because there is an off-shore island and a volcanic reef under the water that partially shelters the southern end of Tamarindo Bay from the full force of the ocean waves. (The partial protection from the island and reef is what enables boats to be moored in the waters of the southen part of Tamarindo Bay, as you can see in this photo.)

Third, Tamarindo has lots of surf shops where visitors can rent surfboards and get surfing lessons. I often see small groups of tourists getting surfing lessons and progressing from riding the waves while lying down, to kneeling on hands and feet, to standing up.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Contrasts: Forest, town and condos

For today's Monthly Daily Photo Theme of "contrast," here is a view of Tamarindo that shows the contrast between the green, natural beauty and forest of Tamarindo, and the large condo buildings that have emerged above the tree line. The contrast is particularly stark in the case of the new, white condo in the center of this photo.

The main part of Tamarindo is in the foreground, with the southern end of Tamarindo Bay on the right. San Francisco point is visible in the distance, and Playa Langosta is at the top of the photo.

The large white condo in the middle of the photo is called Pacific Park, and its advertising theme is that it has brought "New York style" to a Costa Rica beach. On the top right is another new condo, called Crystal Sands, that is on the beach. At the top left are several condos set back about two blocks from the beach at the entrance to Playa Langosta, which are called Naxos and the Peninsula. All of those condos are 7 or 8 stories high.

I have written in the past about the challenges faced by Costa Rica in managing the growth of the Pacific beach resorts. Limits are now in place that prevent the construction of condos like these so close to the beach. Elsewhere in Costa Rica there is a condo building under construction that claims to have the world's largest penthouse. I don't remember exactly, but I think it will have 10,000 square feet on three levels.

To see how other Daily Photo bloggers have interpreted the theme of "contrast," Click here to view thumbnails for all participants
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