Images from Costa Rica

Tom Davis

Last modified: July 7, 2003
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These are photos from Costa Rica taken over a period of three years from 1995 through 1997.

Larger versions are available for all of the images. To view them, simply click on the images in this file.

Other Costa Rica Pages

Butterflies of Costa Rica (Photos)
Weird Moths of Costa Rica (Photos)
Birds + Other Adventures (Lots of photos)
Travel Story—1998
Travel Story—1997
Travel Story—1996

Here is a collection of new digital images taken in Costa Rica in 2003, many of which are far better than those on this page. Take a look!

The Images



I shot this anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) from a boat in the canals near Tortuguero National Park. He was sunning himself to dry his wings. Anhingas are closely related to cormorants, and behave in much the same way.

Female Basilisk

Female Basilisk Lizard

This lizard (Basiliscus plumifrons) was also shot from a boat on the Tortuguero canals. You can tell it's a female because it does not have a crest on its head (compare with the male, below).

Male Basilisk

Male Basilisk Lizard

This is the male Basiliscus plumifrons, with a prominent crest. These lizards are also known as "Jesus Christ lizards" because they can literally walk on water. They run very rapidly across the surface, and their feet are big and are shaped exactly right for this purpose. They're not tiny lizards, either -- I've seen them 70 or 80 cm long.

They run so fast across the surface that it's almost a blur. About the only thing you're sure of is that the lizard disappeared from one side and reappeared on the other, and the surface of the water is disturbed where its footsteps were.


Red-Eyed Tree Frog

We saw this frog (Agalychnis callidyras) a "night hike" in Tortuguero. On a night hike, you go wandering around in the jungle at night with a flashlight, and you see a completely different world from what you see in the daytime.

This is not one of the "poison dart frogs", but we did see some of those. I like the coloration -- the eyes, feet, and blue striping on the undersides of the legs is spectacular.


Emerging Katydid

This was another "night hike" discovery in Tortuguero. We watched the adult form pull out of the shell of its previous self. The entire process took about an hour as it slowly pulled out each leg.

The most amazing thing was the extraction of the antennae -- they're far longer than the rest of the body, and were the last to come out. To get them out, the katydid stretched its head forward as far as it could, and pulled out a tiny loop. Then it repeatedly pulled its head back, grabbed the antennae in its jaws and pulled its head forward again. Each cycle pulled out another half millimeter or so.

When everything was finally out of the old shell, the new wings had to be pumped up, and that took so long we finally went to bed without seeing the job completed. But in the morning when we returned to the site, the katydid was gone, and so was the old shell. Many insects eat their old shells so as to waste nothing.

Helmeted Basilisk

Helmeted Basilisk

This lizard, known as the Helmeted Basilisk (Corytophanes cristatus) was sitting in a tree just outside our window when we were staying at Wilson Botanical Garden, 6 km south of the town of San Vito, near the Panamanian border.

It stayed there for 3 days, through sun and rain, and never moved more than a couple of inches. There was some disagreement among experts as to the name of this lizard, but now I am quite sure that the identification in the previous paragraph is correct.

Leafcutter ants

Leafcutter Ants

These leafcutter ants were carrying their leaves through Wilson Garden. They often can be found in long trails, sometimes hundreds of meters long. They cut chunks out of leaves and then carry the leaves back to their nests. They're "normal" sized ants -- perhaps 4 mm long.

What's interesting is that they don't eat the leaves -- they chew them up and use them to grow a fungus, and then they eat the fungus. The ants never eat anything but the fungus, and the fungus is found nowhere except in the nests of leafcutter ants. It's clear that the partnership has been evolving for quite some time.

White-faced monkey

White-faced Monkey

This is a wild monkey (but just barely) in Manuel Antonio National Park. There are dozens of them, and since the park is one of the most popular weekend destinations of Costa Ricans, they're used to lots of people.

This guy had just stolen some mango from picnicers, and you can still see the juice smeared all over his face and chest.

They are far more dangerous than they appear. Luckily, I was photographing them with a 300 mm lens, but my friend had a little point-and-shoot camera, and had to get quite near to get decent shots. His subject was completely tame, but he didn't notice that his head was directly underneath another monkey who proceeded to defecate all over him. It took quite a bit of time fully clothed in the surf to get rid of most of the smell!



When we had an extra day in San Jose, we took a trip to the neighboring town of Cartago, partly to see the Lankester Botanical Gardens, and partly to see if we could figure out how the bus system worked.

The gardens are amazing! There are hundreds of species of orchid, and plenty of other interesting plants as well. I don't know the species here, but I loved the geometrical form.

Keel-billed Toucan

Keel-billed Toucan

We ran into this Froot Loops bird (Ramphastos sulfuratus) in a restaurant near Carrera Park. He lived in a tree just outside the open-air restaurant, and came in to finish off any fruit left behind on the plates of the customers. When this photo was taken, he had already chowed-down quite a load of papaya and was pretty docile. There are two species of large toucans in Costa Rica; the other is the Chestnut-mandibled.


Ringed Kingfisher

My wife is a neurologist, and one of the more bizarre and interesting neurological diseases is called "kuru" -- it's found in New Guinea, and is passed when people eat the uncooked brains of their dead ancestors who died of the disease. It's related to "mad cow disease", and is probably caused by a prion -- a protein-based infectious agent.

So what does that have to do with the ringed kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata)? Well, when we were trying to decide where to go, we found a nature reserve called "Curú", and it was obvious to my wife that we had to visit it. We saw lots of great animals there -- wood storks, roseate spoonbills, ctenosaurs, et cetera, but the only decent photo I got there was of this kingfisher.

Blue-crowned Motmot

Blue-crowned Motmot

It's hard to capture the beautiful irridescence of the blue feathers on the head of this bird (Momotus momota), but it's not hard at all to show the classic motmot tail. Every bird is missing some of the barbs on the tail feathers leaving a tennis-racquet-like feather. Different species of motmot are missing different amounts of feather.

Nobody knows whether the bird pulls off the barbs itself, or whether the barbs in those areas are naturally worn off because the feathers rub together in a funny way.

Green Honeycreeper

Green Honeycreeper

I found this bird (Chlorophanes spiza) in a bottle-brush plant (Hawaiian) in the Wilson Garden. And to answer your question: No. I did not get those colors by running the image through Photoshop. The bird had those colors itself.

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