A Fer-de-Lance Snake and Poison Frogs On The Bogarin Trail
Seeking a different experience from one we had a couple of days prior, Bob and I opted to revisit a small patch of rainforest on the outskirts of La Fortuna. It was late afternoon when we signed up for a guided walk on the Bogarin Trail.
At the entrance to the Bogarin Trail, a feeding station with ample amounts of fruit attracts a good selection of birds such as this family of Gray-headed Chachalacas.
With newly-hatched fledglings under their care, the adults were kept busy feeding copious amounts of papaya to their young.
A Tropical Mockingbird along with a good variety of other colourful species paused at the feeder allowing us good views.
As we bided our time, another tour group returned to the entrance. One member mentioned having seen a Fer-de-Lance snake, so we were eager to get going.
The Bogarin Trail is in the Bogarin Forest Reserve which covers a 20-hectare area with several trails that crisscross the patch of rainforest.
This re-naturalized piece of land is quite the marvel given how it came into existence. Originally farmland that was finally deemed too swampy for farming, it came under the care of Giovanni Bogarin in 2000. Seeing its potential, Giovanni decided to create a refuge for local wildlife.
Giovanni worked tirelessly planting native trees and other plants confident that nature would take its course and the plants would flourish. As the forest gained a foothold, the birds and animals came. A frog pond was added to the already wet land, and it was in the vicinity of that pond that our guide surprised us by locating a Red-eyed Tree Frog.
Red-eyed Tree Frogs are native to Costa Rica. They mate and reproduce near ponds that are found in lowland wet areas of tropical rainforests.
The bright coloration of a Red-eyed Tree Frog makes them desirable subjects for photographers. Our group observed this individual for only a few minutes, but it was highly rewarding.
A Red-eyed Tree Frog is not poisonous. Its bold colours serve as a distraction to ward off predators in what is called the “startle reflex”.
Throughout the day, a Red-eyed Tree Frog uses its green back as camouflage to hide from predators among the jungle vegetation. Its red eyes are covered by a transparent nictitating membrane to provide further disguise when the frogs are sleeping. When our group walked along the trail, our knowledgeable guide spotted this Red-eyed Tree Frog where it was hiding in plain sight.
If a predator approaches a sleeping Red-eyed Tree Frog, the frog is alerted by the changing light seen through the nictitating membrane and will promptly wake up. Flashing its red eyes, bright orange feet and striped sides serves to startle any threat giving the frog a few seconds to get away.
Red-eyed Tree Frogs are nocturnal. They are also carnivorous. At nighttime, they hunt for insects sometimes even capturing a small amphibian.
Most often, a Red-eyed Tree Frog will be found on the underside of a leaf. Using the suction cups on their feet enables the frogs to hold on tight.
As we observed, the suction cups also enable a Red-eyed Tree Frog to be quite the contortionist!
Moving on along the Bogarin Trail, it wasn’t far before Giovanni drew our attention to a Black-and-white Owl on its daytime roost. It was just beginning to stir as it prepared for its nighttime hunt.
Black-and-white Owls are considered wood owls. Characteristic traits are pitch black eyes and a round head. Since these owls prey almost entirely on flying insects, most of their hunting occurs in the canopy.
As we moseyed along, everyone was full of questions for Giovanni. He patiently responded to each one. At one point, Giovanni interrupted and pointed to the side of the trail. Neither Bob nor I could see anything in the dim light of the waning afternoon.
We all stood there trying to discern what it was that Giovanni saw, and then finally, the shape of a coiled serpent grew into our awareness. It was a Fer-de-lance Snake. I had to adjust the exposure on my camera and post-editing to make the snake more visible.
I was glad that the snake was not on the move. Fer-de-lance means spearhead in the French language since it is befitting of the shape of the snake’s head. In this photo, the snake’s head appears as the chestnut-brown arrow shape.
Fer-de-lance Vipers range from northeast Mexico into South America. In some countries, the Spanish word for these snakes is barba amarilla which means “yellow chin”.
These extremely venomous vipers are pit vipers distinguished by the small sensory pit between each eye and nostril. A Fer-de-lance Viper can grow up to 8 feet long (2.5 metres) and weigh in at 13 pounds (6 kilograms) making them the largest species of pit viper.
A strike by a Fer-de-lance Viper is quite often fatal because of the length of its fangs, size of the snake and potency of its venom. We were relieved to leave the area of the viper since they can move very, very fast if they decide to strike.
As do almost all of the guides, Giovanni carried a scope on the tour that enabled each guest closeup views of birds in the treetops.
It became increasingly difficult to see birds within the Bogarin Reserve as dusk approached. A Crimson-collared Tanager perched atop a tree made a very pretty sight where it sat in the last glow of late afternoon sun.
Nearing the end of our 2-hour tour, Bob and I had about given up hope of seeing anything else. When an unexpected spot of red was noticed on top of a broad leaf, it was time to move in for a closer look. It was a tiny Strawberry Poison-dart Frog.
Strawberry Poison-Dart Frogs come in a wide range of colours. The individual we saw is an example of one colour morph, in this case a Blue-jeans morph so called because of its blue legs.
Poison-dart frogs acquired their name because indigenous people used to rub their arrowheads onto the skin of these frogs to coat them with poison. It is the diet of poison-dart frogs that causes their skin to become toxic.
Bob and I made a brief stop back at Bogarin Trail the following morning before heading off to ride a gondola up towards the top of Arenal Volcano. With rain in the forecast, we were there very early.
Even though we were only at the entrance for a few minutes, we saw creeping out from the underbrush a Uniform Crake, a new species to add to our Life List of birds. All in all, Bogarin Forest Reserve had really delivered.
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean