Costa Rica. Stop 8: Tirimbina & La Selva

Tirimbina Lodge was a pleasant surprise. Tucked inside a protected patch of beautiful rainforest it serves as a research station as much as a lodge. It is home to Costa Rica’s longest suspension bridge that stretches for 262 meters over Sarapiqui River.

Tirimbina is well known for its population of White Honduran bats, but as luck would have it, the recent floods have destroyed the patch of Heliconia where the bats used to roost, and the chances of finding them elsewhere on the property were pretty slim. 

Hoffmann's two-toed sloth

Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth

We decided to stay anyway and tagged along to the spotlighting walk to see what critters were out and about. The walk started with the crossing of the bridge, which was quite unnerving in the dark. The bridge had definitely seen better days when the wooden planks comprising the floor were not missing and the rails didn’t open into the black void now and then. But we did come across a Northern raccoon (and thwarted his bridge crossing plans!) and a Hoffman’s two-toed sloth in a tree by the side of the bridge.

Glass frog

Emerald glass frog

Amphibians were out in force: Emerald glass frogs, Brilliant forest frogs, Broad-headed rain frogs and Dink frogs. We also spotted both: a Fer de lance and a False Fer de lance, as well as a White-headed snake.

Brilliant forest frog

Brilliant forest frog

Broad-headed rain frog

Broad-headed rain frog

Cat snake

False Fer de lance or Cat snake

The following morning we decided to return to the suspension bridges for some bird watching. But before we got to the birds we finally found our first poison arrow frogs. These guys were very high on the wish list, particularly the Strawberry poison frogs with their vividly red bodies and bright blue legs. There were dozens of them on the lodge grounds. They were just impossibly small, slightly bigger than my thumb nail, and therefore difficult to find in the leaf litter. But their camouflaging techniques were no match for Pete’s legendary spotting skills and soon we became experts at finding them.

Strawbery poison dart frog

Strawberry poison dart frog

Strawberry poison dart frog

Strawberry poison dart frog

Once we’ve seen enough Strawberry poison frogs to last a lifetime we headed for the canopy bridge. That bridge, while not as long as the one over the river, stretches across rainforest canopy and puts you right next to the birds.

Canopy suspension bridge

Canopy suspension bridge

The most entertaining canopy dwellers were White-fronted nun birds that looked exactly like little nuns. There were also Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Black-crowned tityra, Shining honeycreeper, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Montezuma Oropendola, Rufus moaner, Bronze tailed plumelater, Purple throated fruit crow, Olive backed ethonia and a Squirrel coockoo.

Nun bird

White-fronted Nun bird

Woodpecker

Woodpecker

Back at the lodge we had great views of Collared aracaris and Black-mandibled toucan sharing a tree with a Green iguana.

Collared aracaris

Collared aracaris

Black-mandibled toucan

Black-mandibled toucan and a Green iguana

Green iguana

Green iguana

After breakfast on advice of our guide we headed to La Selva Biological station to try our luck with the bats. Once we told our new guide what we wanted to see, he seemed to know exactly where to go. We passed a young Mexican porcupine well concealed on a branch over the trail and  a very photogenic Broad-billed Motmot

Broad-billed Motmot

Broad-billed Motmot

Once we reached a particular spot on the path, the guide lead us off the trail to a Heliconia plant where a family of eight white fluffy bats was roosting under a large leaf. White Honduran bats at last. We didn’t stay long, so that we wouldn’t disturb the bats, but it was great to see them. They are by far the best looking members of the microbat family.

Honduran white bats

Honduran white bats

Another pleasant surprise at La Selva was the Black and greed poison frog. Not much bigger than the Strawberry poison frog, it is almost as colorful.

Green and black poison frog

Green and black poison frog

After a quick lunch in town and some more bird-watching at Tirimbina, where we spotted some Keel billed toucans, we returned to La Selva for the night walk. It started off slowly – Bull frogs, Common Mexican tree frog, Common rain frog and a few sleeping insects.

Keel billed toucan

Keel billed toucan

Sleeping butterfly

Sleeping butterfly

Sleeping butterfly

Sleeping butterfly

Sleeping glass wing butterfly

Sleeping glass wing butterfly

Savages Bull frog

Savages Bull frog

What I wanted to see the most was the Red-eyed tree frog. This species is usually quite common at La Selva, but its been avoiding us all night. Eventually I picked up an eye-shine half way up a tree that turned out to belong to the critter we were looking for.

Red-eye tree frog

Red-eye tree frog

Red-eye tree frog

Red-eye tree frog

As we were crossing a small bridge I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a Common opossum climbing out of sight with unexpected speed and determination.

Woolly opossum

Woolly opossum

Narrow-headed tree frog

Narrow-headed tree frog

Sleeping lizard

Sleeping lizard

The following morning we went back to the canopy bridge and while we were staring away from the bridge a Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth female with a young clinging to her belly approached us along the top cable of the bridge. The full story is here.

Two-toed sloth with a young

Two-toed sloth with a young

More Images in Costa Rica Gallery

Species List for Tirimbina and La Selva

 

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