Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and more

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and more

Post by Christopher » November 16th, 2015, 11:17 am

I spent the two months of September and October on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica working on a crocodile conservation project, and was able to get a little bit of herping in on my free time. I have realistically done more herping on a one week trip than this 2 month period since almost all my time was spent working, but for small amounts of time I got out to do some herping. In addition to the herps, I will also include photos of the scenery and other creatures encountered. All photos taken with a Canon 70D and I will try to remember to denote lenses used when changed.

My favorite observation was watching the American crocodiles hunting in the surf at the beach. Such an awesome experience and sight to behold, seeing these behemoths ride the waves, their massive dragon tails slipping over the crest of a wave made me feel like I was watching a scene from 65 million years ago. I witnessed them capture fish on multiple occasion and it is my theory that they knowingly use the fish's limited aquatic space at the crest of a wave to "corner" them, making an easier grab as opposed to when the fish has open water to escape into. Here is a photo of an adult croc swallowing down a freshly captured fish during a light rain. These photos were taken with a Canon 70D and 100-400 lens. Crocodylus acutus
Image
Image
The crocs were quite shy, here you can see this one keeping an eye on my as it swims away
Image
B&W for dramatic effect
Image
A smaller individual
Image
The fishermen went about their business but kept a watchful eye as the light began to fade
Image

On another evening I was able to get a few photos of the crocs hunting in a beautiful sunset. I love seeing crocs in the ocean, cruising the waves, mountains in the background, every time I immediately think of ancient sea-faring reptiles like Ichthyosaurs.
Image
Image
A few photos of just the sunset
Image
Image
Image
Once in darkness the crocs came closer to shore and I was able to wade out and observe them more closely, but it made photography very difficult, especially in the waves! I did manage this grainy photo though
Image
On the jungle side monkeys were very common, I saw several each time I went out hiking, mainly white face capuchins but occasionally spider monkeys as well.
This capuchin seems to be enjoying a piece of fruit
Image
Until he finds a spoiled part of it! I couldnt stop laughing at his expression here
Image
A pale billed woodpecker
Image
Agouti were abundant, and mosquitos as you can see with the cloud about it's head.
Image
Smokey jungle frogs were very common. Leptodactylus pentadactylus Photographed with a Tokina 10-17
Image
As were the red eye leaf(tree) frogs. Agalychnis callidryas photographed with 100mm macro
Image
In this close up you can see the bright eye of the female contrasted with the closed eye of the male, he is using his transparent eyelid used to cover the bright eyes of the frog while still allowing some vision
Image
Scarlet macaws were abundant, and the word abundant doesn't even begin to cover how common they are. I typically saw around 20 a day without trying to even look for birds. It is amazing to see such large and exquisitely beautiful birds as common as doves back home.
Image
They really loved sitting in a dead tree by where I was staying, allowing for many photo ops. Here they are preening
Image
Playing around upside down
Image
Image
And my absolute favorite macaw photo I have taken across many trips to Costa Rica, I have no idea what they were doing striking this pose but it made for a great photo!
Image
During one night hike I found this Sibon longifrenis, a real pretty little snake that looked like an eyelash at a distance
Image
Image
Spiders of the genus Cupiennius were common and conspicuous, and make great photo subjects. 100mm macro lens
Image
Image
One with an egg sac
Image
Imantodes cenchoa
Image
A bizarre blue caterpillar hanging by a thread of silk
Image
I have found many helmeted iguanas before so I wanted to try and get a few photos of them in a different light, literally. Corytophanes cristatus
Image
Another big beefcake smokey jungle frog, Leptodactylus pentadactylus shots with a tokina 10-17
Image
He was ready for his close-up
Image
For a break in scenery here is an amazing deserted beach right at sunset
Image
Image
Image
The same beach as a massive storm front came rolling in
Image
My girlfriend Ashley on the beach for scale
Image
Image
While walking by day green and black dart frogs were ridiculously common, so much so that I took them for granted and never bothered to take a good photo of one! My favorite find by day though was a 6ft+ bird snake that was cruising around, Psuestes poecilonotus
Image
Big and impressive, it did not seem at all concerned with me snapping away photos
Image
Lets play spot the snake. Somewhere in there is the biggest fer-de-lance I have ever seen!
Image
If you gave up, here are a few closer shots, a massive Bothrops asper. I have caught many fer-de-lances between numerous trips to Costa Rica and Peru, but this one took the cake, check out the size of the facial scales and head. I estimated her to be in the neighborhood of six feet
Image
A closer look at the face
Image
I was on a night hike by myself when I found her and she went from a tight coil to liquid snake weaving through the undergrowth, so unfortunately I was not able to get a decent shot of her uncoiled to show true size, but the size of the facial scales should give some size indication. Here is another shot with some more creative lighting
Image
Some adorable little snake food, a mouse opossum
Image
Bothrops asper was by far the most common snake species I encountered, I had several nights of finding two in a night and at least one every time I went out except once. Here is a very slim individual that did not look very healthy
Image
I also spotted this young individual coiled in ambush at about waist-chest height up a tree
Image
My guess is there is a rich rodent scent trail going up and down this limb, the head tilted up and ready for action
Image
Once the viper noticed my presence it brought it's head back down into it's coils
Image
Large marine toads were very common
Image
A molting katydid
Image
Close up of a sphinx moth species
Image
A large spider I photographed silhouetted against a leaf
Image
Mystery spikey caterpillar
Image
This was the most beautiful Bothrops I found, very vivid pattern and high pink on this individual
Image
A large male basilisk lizard
Image
Eight macaws in one tree!
Image
The same tree later after some vultures crashed the party. Goths and one bright hippy
Image
Some more monkey business, white faced capuchin
Image
An angry little capuchin
Image
And a spider monkey
Image
Ctenosaura similis were a common sight everywhwere
Image
An ambitious Cupiennius spider consuming a recently emerged cicada larvae
Image
Image
Another individual
http://www.chrisgillette.com/photos/i-F ... Mcx-XL.jpg
Speaking of ambitious eaters, check out this helmeted iguana with eyes a little big for its stomach
Image
Image
Habitat shot at a creek
Image
Another large Bothrops coiled in the buttress roots of a large tree. The same snake was coiled in this exact spot for at least a month while I was there, who knows how long it was there before I got there. I became used to seeing it whenever I was out, until one day it was gone. A good sized individual at about 4ft
Image
Image
When I got closer than she liked, she let me know by subtly arching her jaws, but keeping the rest of the body completely still
Image
A week later she had turned her head, big movement!
Image
A young Leptodeira septentrionalis
Image
And a young Imantodes cenchoa
Image
A large species of robber fly
Image
Image
Scorpion mud turtles were common and seen on every outing
Image
Image
Amplectant Smilisca phaeota
Image
A leaf mimic katydid
Image
A large caterpillar
Image
Image
A young Sibon nebulatus
Image
A large huntsman spider
Image
Young spinytail iguanas were common but difficult to get a good photo of with restraining one, I took this at night
Image
On a brief foray to the caribbean side I found a few green basilisks, I only had about two hours to herp and found many youngsters but no adult males sadly, hopefully next time! Basiliscus plumifrons
Image
Image
A disgustingly humorous invert I dubbed the Donald Trump caterpillar
Image
Image
Image
A very large orb weaver spider
Image
Another species
Image
Image
And one more spider silhouette, I love this one as it illuminates some of the spider creeping out of the shadow and into the light!
Image
My girlfriend Ashley and my trusty truck while in Costa Rica! An '88 manual Toyota hilux, a little beast of a truck!
Image
And my last photo in this chapter of Costa Rica, I should be back next month though!
Image


And just as a treat, it might not be herps but I think you will appreciate a few photos from my trip to Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. I had a great time out there with the great whitres, such enormous and majestic animals that move through the water effortlessly despite their massive size. An incredible experience to be in the water with them!
Over the course of four days spent at Guadalupe we saw around 15 different individual sharks with the largest being in the 15-16ft range. Onboard the Sea Escape with Eli Martinez. Photographed with a Canon 70D, 10-22mm wide angle lens, Aquatica housing and Inon strobes. Carcharodon carcharias with and without cage
Image
This one had an awesome frown face on his side like an emoticon saying mark of bad mofo shark!
Image
Image
This one looked decidedly more friendly
Image
There were also many yellowfun tuna around 150lbs
Image
Image
Image
A view from the surface
Image
We were also visited by some dolphins
Image
Back on shore in California I checked out a few sea lions too, Zalophus californianus
Image
Split level shots are very challenging but the most rewarding!
Image

Image

I think we need a shark forum!

In any case, I hope you all enjoyed my photos from Costa Rica and a few from Mexico as well. If you enjoy my photos I always read and appreciate comments, also feel free to share and see more at my website http://www.ChrisGillette.com where I have full albums from many trips and photos for sale as well.
Thanks for viewing!
-Chris

User avatar
Kyle from Carolina
Posts: 221
Joined: May 3rd, 2012, 7:12 pm
Location: western MA and NC

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by Kyle from Carolina » November 16th, 2015, 11:54 am

Awesome shots. I think the non-herp photos might actually be my favorite, particularly the one with the vultures and macaw in the tree. How scary was it to get that close to a great white without a cage?

User avatar
TJA
Posts: 26
Joined: September 2nd, 2015, 11:52 am

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by TJA » November 16th, 2015, 1:30 pm

So many terrific shots and wonderful creatures. Gotta love the Trump caterpillar...

bgorum
Posts: 618
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by bgorum » November 16th, 2015, 1:32 pm

Beautiful stuff! I especially loved the gracefulness of the macaws hanging beneath the branches and the first split level seal shot was uniquely amazing!

User avatar
chrish
Posts: 3295
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by chrish » November 16th, 2015, 2:56 pm

Wow. Spectacular photographs, top to bottom.

But the photo that has me shaking my head the most was the photo of the Imantodes. That is one of the best photos I've ever seen of an Imantodes, mostly because they are a PITA to photograph. Amazing you got it to stop long enough to fire off a decent shot!

User avatar
walk-about
Posts: 567
Joined: June 14th, 2010, 11:04 am
Location: 'God's Country' aka western KY
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by walk-about » November 16th, 2015, 5:38 pm

WoW Chris! You have taken your photography to an entirely different level. Man! That was one of the best, if not THE best post I have ever seen on FHF. Beyond spectacular. Those Great Whites were the icing on the cake for me. I will be back on this post for weeks to come. Thank you sir!

Dave Frymire

User avatar
Antonsrkn
Posts: 971
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 1:38 pm
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by Antonsrkn » November 16th, 2015, 7:05 pm

Top notch photography. Were the surfing crocs at Corcovado? I witnessed them doing the same thing there 2 afternoons in a row, I would find areas with clouds of birds overhead and go there, the birds were picking up small fish that had also attracted larger fish as well, and the crocs were facing the waves with their mouths open grabbing the larger fish hunting the smaller ones. I witnessed them catch and eat several larger fish out in the water until one eventually caught a 3 ft black snook and brought it to land. Still one of my favorite wildlife experiences ever even years after. I have posted the photos from that a few times over the years.

Very fun to look through, I really liked the Bothrops, I have seen a fair amount but never a beastly one like the first huge one you posted. Awesome!

User avatar
SurfinHerp
Posts: 653
Joined: October 18th, 2010, 7:55 pm
Location: San Diego, CA
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by SurfinHerp » November 16th, 2015, 11:38 pm

Awesome post Chris!

Costa Rica is probably my favorite herping destination and the inspiration for my username: Surf in the morning, herp mid-day, surf in the evening, then herp at night. Doesn't get any better than that!

Did you and Ashley catch any waves while you were there?


Your photos of crocs in the surf are definitely cool, but also make me wonder how common crocs are near surf breaks. I saw some near Witches Rock at night in the lagoon, but thankfully not in the surf during the day.

I hope you caught one of those big tuna off Guadalupe! My friends that have fished there say the sharks steal them from your line sometimes. I guess that's why the big sharks are there: to fatten up on tuna? Or are they feeding on seals and sea lions as well?

Love the split shots of sea lions off the coast of California too...very reminiscent of one of my favorite snorkeling spots in La Jolla.


Looking forward to more of your posts in the future!!


Jeff

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by Christopher » November 19th, 2015, 5:30 pm

Thank you for the replies!

Kyle, the great whites were actually very calm and not the least bit aggressive, it was a lot of fun.

bgorum that seal shot was one of my favorites too!

Chris, as you know those snakes can be just awful to photograph, I took that shot before touching it and the ensuing madness

Thank you Dave!!

Antonsrkn the crocs were not far from Jaco, next trip I would love to spend time at Corococado, that sounds awesome!

Surfinherp we did not get to do any surfing this time but I did on my trip before this, its a great place for it. The crocs seem to be near anywhere where a river meets the ocen, I don't think they hang out on the open ocean beach much. And good eye, the sea lions were at La Jolla!

User avatar
Josh Holbrook
Posts: 2195
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Location: Western North Carolina
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by Josh Holbrook » November 19th, 2015, 6:39 pm

Good stuff Chris - as always. I thought you were relocating to Costa Rica permanently?

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by Christopher » November 20th, 2015, 7:41 am

Josh, not permanently but I will be back and forth(possibly for extended periods). I am leaving this Thursday on a new tropical adventure, then back to Fl, then back to CR soon after

User avatar
Josh Holbrook
Posts: 2195
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Location: Western North Carolina
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by Josh Holbrook » November 20th, 2015, 11:36 am

Christopher wrote:Josh, not permanently but I will be back and forth(possibly for extended periods). I am leaving this Thursday on a new tropical adventure, then back to Fl, then back to CR soon after

Good stuff, keep the pictures coming and look me up if you ever get the urge to see snot lizards.

VICtort
Posts: 687
Joined: July 2nd, 2010, 5:48 pm
Location: AZ.

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by VICtort » November 22nd, 2015, 1:46 pm

Wow! These are just terrific, really nice. I love the pair of Macaws in the tree, and so many others.

I especially liked the Yellow Fin Tuna photos. The first photo of them posted, two of them...notice the lower one, the upper lobe of its caudal (tail) fin is damaged. I wonder why/how? Maybe entangled in fishing line? You were really close, were you free diving or SCUBA?

Your peaceful encounters with the white sharks must have been exciting, some divers at Guadalupe have had hair raising experiences with them. Interesting interactions with them, they do indeed take tuna from both divers and anglers.

Thanks for posting this, really enjoyable.

Vic

User avatar
ClosetHerper
Posts: 72
Joined: October 22nd, 2013, 2:32 pm
Location: Alaska
Contact:

Re: Costa Rica '15, surfing crocs, bunches of Bothrops and m

Post by ClosetHerper » November 25th, 2015, 11:35 am

Makes me want to go back to Costa Rica. Awesome photos. Helmeted iguana and Bothrops of any size have eluded me on our trips. The sharks and tuna are icing on the cake and beautiful photos of them, as well!

Post Reply