So after great anticipation our entire crew finally arrived at the Lodge at Pico Bonito just as sun was setting. We were eager to explore but the birds had all retired for the night and we still needed to get checked in and make our way to our cabins.
With rum punch in hand, we sat at a large table set up in the registration area and quickly registered and got the keys to our respective cabins. Some took advantage of massage services to ease away the long travel (particularly our guests from the far side of the Atlantic Ocean), while others were shown to their private individual cabins. A porter followed behind with my bags as we strolled down the gravel pathway.
I quickly settled in for a week of splendor, unpacking some of my bags finding my trusty rechargeable flashlight and preparing my camera for action. We were to meet back at the restaurant for our dinner in less than 20 minutes, but this gave me ample time to spot the first of the abundant wildlife species here. After all, we were in the tropics and at the edge of a large natural rain forest preserve, so critters should be easily found.
The first critter detected was when I heard a familiar call “chak-chak-chak-chak-chak” coming from the deck of my fabulous private cabin. It was a Common House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), a species I know well from my own backyard in Florida. House Geckos are non-native in the Western Hemisphere. Originally found throughout the South Pacific, this successful species has spread throughout many areas in the world likely hitching rides on freight. They average around 4 inches long.
However, while looking for the House Gecko, I found a pair of native Gecko species, the Turnip-tailed Gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda). Much larger and easily twice as long as the smaller House Geckos. I enjoyed watching these critters before making my way to the restaurant for my first delicious meal at the lodge.
On the way to the restaurant I encountered the large Cane Toad (Rhinella marina). Also known as the “Marine Toad”, this large species is native to Central America and often reaches sizes much larger than two fists wrapped together. Their prodigious girth makes them easy to hear as they clumsily and loudly hop on the leaf litter.
They have been introduced in other areas and pose hazard to domestic pets. Slow and obvious, they are easily caught, but carry large amounts of toxins in the large swollen glands behind their eyes (note below).
At dinner we were distracted by small nectar feeding bats that would hit the hummingbird feeders that surrounded the lovely veranda where we ate our meals, but we never saw them long enough to make a positive ID to species.
Following dinner we made our way to a moth sheet that sat in a clearing at the edge of the forested trails. Here we observed an amazing array of moths and insects attracted to the glow of the light on the white sheet stretched between two upright posts.
While here I spied another who had taken interest in the mass of moths and insects here. A Great Potoo, a large nocturnal, insectivorous bird species, perched high above on a dead snag. Sadly I did not bring my spotting scope this night to digiscope this magnificent bird but I wouldn’t make that mistake again on subsequent “night hikes”.
The light attracted all sorts, sizes and shapes moths ranging near microscopic to enormous and everywhere in between. We did not have ample guides with us to place species names to these but still enjoyed them all the same!
There were plenty of “non-moths” encountered as well though. Sometimes we’d find Butterfly species like Admiral/Sister species or the Red-bordered Pixie shown below.
Spectacular species of beetles including the familiar Rhinoceros Beetle, and odd longhorn beetle species with extremely long antennae were seen.
As well as multiple mantis species, enormous green Katydids (up to 5″ in length), large Dobson Flies among so many others. From the “Moth Sheet” the lodge’s “Frog ponds” were just a short jaunt along a heavily forested rain forest trail that proved amazingly productive for wildlife!
The main draw at the Frog Ponds is the amazing Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas), a species so synonymous with Central American Rain Forests that it can be found on nearly any tropical brochures and is an unofficial “mascot” of these forests. An arboreal species, they can be hard to find when hiding with eyes half closed (above), but when active with eyes open it’s a very different situation.
One night we even noted a rarely seen juvenile Red-eyed freshly emerged from the pond (below)!
We found other “less glamorous” (or perhaps with worse publicists) amphibian species throughout the property during our stay as well. Unfortunately, I have found inadequate resources to identify most of these to species (including time).
The largest frogs we noticed were (I believe) the Smoky Jungle Frog above.
The images above and below show another interesting tree frog species we saw. It was likely 2-2.5 inches in length.
The frog shown below was observed possibly laying eggs in the frog pond. It was the same size as the individual above and may be another member of the same species.
Smaller frogs like the one seen below were barely larger than my thumbnail!
The toad species above was prevalent around the grounds as well. They showed distinctive black markings between the eyes and prominent row of whitish, spike-like protuberances coming off their sides. I believe these could be the “Gulf Coast Toad” but am not certain.
As well as the amphibians we ran into numbers of snakes as well. Ranging in size from the beautiful little Red Coffee Snake (Ninia sebae) at about 10″ in length…
…to large Common Boa Constrictors near 8 feet in length…
…and everywhere in between.
We were thrilled to see a brilliantly-colored Coral Snake but were also sure to keep our distance.
Of course, they weren’t all creepy crawlies. Mottled Owls were calling nightly and the individual above, drew me out of my cabin at 2:30 AM. The bird remained well hidden by the dense tropical foliage at most times even though obviously close, but it did allow me to discover this Central American Woolly Opossum.
This was but one of the amazing arboreal mammal species our crew would find.
On our first trip to the frog ponds we would not find our targeted Tree Frogs but did spot a Kinkajou peering down at us from the tree canopy high above us (below).
On the following day we’d discover another Woolly Opossum (below)…
…and a Hairy Dwarf Porcupine along this same section of trail, The two were visible from the same spot!
The low lighting conditions made it difficult for the phones to capture the images well, but the views through the spotting scope alone were exquisite! In all, while we lost some sleep and burned the candle at both ends meeting predawn most days for birds and creeping through the woods ’til the wee hours, we were all thrilled at the wondrous biodiversity we encountered. The tropics are always wonderful and the property at the Lodge at Pico Bonito was wonderfully productive as it sits on the edge of the rain forest preserve! Happily, we’ve all been able to catch up on some of our lost sleep since returning home!