Friday, May 3, 2019

One week in Croatia - Part Ⅰ

For the past few months, I have been working as a naturalist guide in Costa Rica and so nature has been my "office". Before I have to go back to a regular office, working as a graphic designer, I spent one week in Croatia. A European paradise for herping and nature photography.


Podarcis siculus campestris - Italian Wall Lizard

The Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus campestris) is very photogenic. I saw many of these pretty lizards. Luckily they are not very shy and they can even be curious.

Testudo hermanni "hercegovinensis" - Dalmatian tortoise

Dalmatian Tortoise (Testudo hermanni boettgeri var. hercegovinensis) is a subspecies of Hermann's Tortoise. This tortoise is spread east of the Adriatic in parts of the former Dalmatia, the Croatian coastal regions, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, the northernmost habitat of tortoises in Europe.

Balkan Whip Snake - Hierophis gemonensis

The Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis) is in my opinion one of the most underrated snakes. It has a wide range and is common within much of its range. Nevertheless, I think it's a beautiful snake!

Limenitis reducta - Southern White Admiral

I am mainly looking for reptiles, but with the macro ready, I always enjoy seeing some insects. The Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta) has a wingspan of approximately 50 mm.

Pseudopus apodus - European Legless Lizard

The European Legless Lizard or Sheltopusik (Pseudopus apodus)  consumes arthropods, snails and slugs, and even small mammals.


Emys orbicularis - European Pond Terrapin

The European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) is very shy, so you have to approach them slowly and carefully to take some pictures.

Hyla arborea - European Tree Frog

Mainly due to the loss of breeding habitats, the European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) displays a considerable decline in West and Central Europe. Luckily in Croatia I found some of these beautiful frogs in their perfect habitats.

Natrix natrix persa - Balkan Grass Snake

I was able to watch this juvenile Balkan Grass Snake (Natrix natrix persa) hunting for tadpoles.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Amphibious welcome in Germany

After three marvellous months in Costa Rica, I am back in Germany. Of course it's great to finally see my girlfriend, family and friends again. But the temperature drop was enormous and unfortunately I am not surrounded by that much nature here as I was in Costa Rica. Luckily there are still some beautiful amphibians around. Shortly after my arrival in Germany I was able to see some of those. For example the Barred Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra terrestris) and the Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris). Like most amphibians they are nocturnal, so I keep doing night tours... unlike in Costra Rica, here in Germany I don't need to watch out for venemous snakes like the Fer de Lance (Bothrops asper). 

Salamandra salamandra terrestris - Barred Fire Salamander

Ichthyosaura alpestris - Alpine Newt

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tenorio Volcano NP - Rio Celeste

Volcano Tenorio National Park is located in the north of Costa Rica. The 11,900 ha of the park include rain forest and primary cloud forest. Many different species of animals live in this park, for example the rarely seen Tapir. The main reason for a visit is the beautiful river Rio Celeste and its waterfall. What makes Rio Celeste so unique is the name-giving color: Bright turquoise-blue!

Typical "I was here" pic, next to the NP sign.
The trails can be muddy, slippery and steep... so I would recommend hiking shoes or boots (at the entrance they have boots for rent). Meanwhile, the Tenorio National Park is quite popular, so if you don't want to hang around with many tourists, you should arrive early in the morning. Especially at the waterfall, it gets quite crowded later in the day and there might be "selfie-jams". Swimming is forbidden, which protects nature and is beneficial for landscape photography.

Stairway to the waterfall
Rio Celeste - Waterfall
Surrounded by this amazing landscape, it can be hard to focus on the search for reptiles. It was funny to see almost all the other visitors walking past this small venomous snake, without seeing it. I showed the snake to people who politely asked me what I was photographing.  Also I gave them some quick information about this interesting animal.

Bothriechis schlegelii - Eyelash Viper
Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii)
It was way easier to spot the curious White-nosed Coati. Feeding wild animals is prohibited in the national park. Some people still do it anyway, so the Coatis often come close to humans, begging for food.
Nasua narica - White-nosed Coati
White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica)
Rio Celeste
Spilotes pullatus - Tiger Rat Snake
Do you see this gorgeous creature?
My favorite observation of the day was this -at least 2 meter long- Tiger Rat Snake (Spilotes pullatus). It was climbing elegantly in the trees at a height of about 4 meters. This snake is non venomous and diurnal.

Spilotes pullatus - Tiger Rat Snake
Tiger Rat Snake (Spilotes pullatus)
Rio Celeste
Rio Celeste
The landscape with its fantastic river is a very good reason to visit the park. There is also the possibility to observe some animals. I was very happy about the sightings of the snakes! But I can reassure those who want to enjoy the landscape without seeing any snakes: if you don't look for them, it is very unlikely to see any. Of course they are around - that's the jungle.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The sixth leg

They may not be very popular in general, but I think they are extremely interesting and photogenic: Insects.
Here is a little insight into the insect world of Costa Rica. I took all these pictures with my 100mm f2.8 macro lens.

I will start with the most popular one, a butterfly. The Rosita Patch (Chlosyne rosita). Both pictures show the same animal. I especially like the looks of the underside of the wings.

Chlosyne rosita - Rosita Patch

Chlosyne rosita - Rosita Patch

I am not entirely sure about the ID of this one, but I assume it's a Leafhopper (Paromenia auroguttata). During a night-time search for Glass Frogs along a stream I found this little "false alert" creature underneath a leaf. 

Paromenia auroguttata - Leafhopper

This Lubber Grasshopper (Taeniopoda sp.) can occur in very high numbers. It was a little windy while I took the picture, so it was the best to focus on an individual on the ground, instead of the other ones shaking around in the vegetation.

Taeniopoda sp. - Lubber Grasshopper

A very pretty, golden beetle: The Shining Leaf Chafer (Pelidnota strigosa) 

Pelidnota strigosa - Shining Leaf Chafer

Most katydids are herbivores. The Rhinoceros Katydid (Copiphora cultricornis) feeds on plants too, but thanks to its mighty jaw, it is able to prey also on animals. The diet includes insects and invertebrates and even small frogs or lizards.

I don't know what species of grasshoppers those are, but they make sure, there will be offspring.

Mating Grasshopper

Monday, March 18, 2019

Frog Kindergarten

Craugastor noblei - Noble's Robber Frog

Shortly after its metamorphosis, the Noble's Robber Frog (Craugastor noblei) has quite different proportions than adult specimens. The head looks way too big for the small body.

Agalychnis callidryas - Red-eyed Treefrog

The Red-eyed Treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas) will have much more intense colors when fully grown. 

This Green-and-black Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus) already has its beautiful colors, but still the cute baby face.

Smilisca phaeota - Masked Treefrog

Maybe it is the first night out of the water for this tiny Masked Treefrog (Smilisca phaeota). Recently it used to swim in the pond as a tadpole.

Rhaebo haematiticus - Leaf Litter Toad

I also want to present a young Leaf Litter Toad (Rhaebo haematiticus). Because of their size (about 2 cm) and camouflage it is easy to overlook.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus)

Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus) moves from a tree trunk to a thin branch. As is usual for these cozy animals, this is done very carefully and slowly. Have fun watching the video:

Monday, March 4, 2019

Variable Viper

I already mentioned it in my post about the Camouflage Viper: Eyelash Vipers (Bothriechis schlegelii) are extremely variable in coloration. Here I want to share some examples of color morphs with you.

Bothriechis schlegelii - Eyelash Viper

This pale green coloration seems to be quite common. I have seen this juvenile Viper near La Fortuna.

Bothriechis schlegelii - Eyelash Viper "oropel"

When I am searching for gold in the rainforest, I am not talking about precious metals. In spanish this yellow color morph is called "oropel" (tinsel / gold).

Bothriechis schlegelii - Eyelash Viper

This light-brown to salmon colored Eyelash Viper was coiled up on a leaf of a Panama Hat Plant (Carludovica palmata), next to the trail in Cahuita National Park.

Bothriechis schlegelii - Eyelash Viper

I have never seen another viper in this extremely bright color. The camouflage is actually very good, because the snake looked pretty much like the lichens on the branches.

Bothriechis schlegelii - Eyelash Viper "christmas tree"

I conclude with my favorite: The "christmas tree" color morph. Such a stunning snake!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

King of the Cloud Forest

Cloud forests occur within tropical or subtropical mountainous environments, where the atmospheric conditions allow for a consistent cover of clouds. These forests are very rare and cover only approximately 1% of the world's forests. The rich variety of flora and fauna includes many rare and endemic species.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Probably the most famous representative of the Central American cloud forest is the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). This beautiful bird is found in southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and western Panama. The population has greatly decreased due to factors such as deforestation, hunting, and capture of these birds for trade. Luckily, in Costa Rica hunting is forbidden by law and national parks have been set up to protect this endangered bird.
My first observation of a male Quetzal during my trip to Monteverde was breathtaking and filled me with awe! Thanks to the 500mm lens, I was able to capture this unforgettable encounter. After cheking my pictures on the camera screen, I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Pharomachrus mocinno - Resplendent Quetzal

After I stumbled during the continuing hike, still distracted by the quetzal observation, I laughed and told my friend Andres, who accompanied me on this trip: "I could fall now and break my leg, it would still be a fantastic day".

Pharomachrus mocinno - Resplendent Quetzal

It is our commitment to protect this amazing bird and its unique habitat. The mystical beauty of the cloud forest and its inhabitants is unprecedented.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Tiny transparent treasure - Glass Frog

Members of the amphibian family Centrolenidae (order Anura) appear only in Central and South America. While the general background coloration is primarily lime green, the abdominal skin of some species is transparent. The internal viscera are visible through the skin. That's why they are called glass frogs. Glass frogs are aboreal and measure only 2 - 3 cm (0.8 - 1.2 in).

For a long time I wanted to show the phenomenal details of a glass frog. Now I finally had everything I needed: camera, tripod, plastic lid and most importantly... the glass frog itself. During a night hike along a river I was able to discover a Reticulated Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium valerioi).

Since I was traveling alone, nobody could assist me and there was not any well-planned set up. So I had to improvise: I put two thin branches on a root so they could hold a leaf. I put my flashlight under the leaf to take a picture of the shine-through frog.

Hyalinobatrachium valerioi - shine-through

Even more spectacular is probably the abdominal view of the frog. To get this picture, I carefully made the frog climb on a transparent plastic lid. I put the plastic lid on a plant so that I had a clear view of the frog past the leaves. From a low angle, I photographed the transparent frog from below.

Hyalinobatrachium valerioi - transparent

I also took a "regular" picture. Compared to the other two, it was easy to take this one. But it is also very important to show you the beauty of this amazing amphibian.

Hyalinobatrachium valerioi - Reticulated Glass Frog

I had to take the "making of" pictures with my cell phone. This is quite old and therefore the quality is unfortunately pretty low. Very important: I have made all manipulations of the frog very carefully in order not to harm the frog! During the strenuous shootings, I sweated a lot and ate accidentally a dozen mosquitoes, but I am very happy with the result. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Two-toed Sloth with baby

The gestation period of the Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) is between 11 and 12 months and results always in the birth of a single young. The mother will nurse the baby about 1 month. I was very fortunate to see the caring mother with her cute and fluffy baby:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day!

I would not call myself a romantic guy and I've never paid much attention to Valentine's Day. In addition, the distance to my girlfriend is currently almost 10.000 km. So there is no fancy dinner, candlelight, and... you know what. Nevertheless, I would like to seize the opportunity to show some happy couples. Frog couples.

Smilisca phaeota - Masked Tree Frog

Smilisca phaeota is a relatively large frog with adult size reaching up to 78 mm (3.1 in). The dark brown patch that starts at the tip of the snout and continues through the eye and the eardrum, along the frog's face, is the reason for their common name: Masked Tree Frog.

Teratohyla spinosa - Spiny Glass Frog

This rarely seen Spiny Glass Frog (Teratohyla spinosa) messures only about 2 cm (0.8 in). It is found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

In most frog species the males are smaller than the females, because when they mate the female carries the male on its back. This is called Amplexus (Latin "embrace"). The sexual dimorphism is particularly evident in this pair of Chiriqui Robber Frog (Pristimantis cruentus). Remarkable how small the male is in relation to the female

To conclude, I want to show you a cool observation of Red-eyed Tree Frogs (Agalychnis callidryas). The female attaches a clutch of eggs to the underside of a leaf and the male is about to fertilize them.
Leenders, T. 2001 A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica Zona Tropical
Savage, J. 2002 The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica