Animals, animals everywhere

I started to write about some of this in my last Costa Rica update post, as part of a snapshot into our daily life here, but it got so long that I realized it needed to be its own post. You already know that Costa Rica is famous for it’s wildlife, and we’ve not been disappointed! Here’s a bit about animals near our house, as well as some we’ve gone out of our way to see.

Frog in the swimming pool in Sámara
Frog friend rescued from the swimming pool by Bird Nerd and relocated to the jungle.

If you didn’t read about the sea-fari we went on, where we saw sea turtles, whales, and a pod of spotted dolphins, you can check it out here.

Black-headed vultures
Black-headed vultures are everywhere here. Nemo (our bonus dog) loves to chase them when they take over the road.

Our neighborhood, which is surrounded by jungle (I’ve learned that it’s considered a “dry tropical forest”, btw), is full of wildlife. There are countless species of birds. Some of our favorites are the smallish, bright yellow-breasted songbirds that like to dive into our swimming pool in the afternoon for baths. They’re super noisy, and we usually hear them before we see them, yelling at us from nearby. As I type this, there are two yelling at me from our mango tree. I’m not sure what I’m doing to offend them. Other birds I’ve seen while sitting outside typing this post, include a deep purplish-scarlet hummingbird eating from the flowers, and a huge, pure white egret that flew right in front of my face!

Great kiskadee bathing in the swimming pool in Sámara, Costa Rica
Great kiskadee taking its afternoon bath in our pool. You can see its two friends on the lights above the pool, but you can’t hear how they were yelling at us the whole time!

Other animals here include the strangest-looking squirrels I’ve ever seen, who love to shout very loudly at each other from across the treetops. And the lizards. Tons of lizards. Iguanas all over the place, outside; geckos all over the place, inside and outside (their actual name is House Gecko, so that should tell you a lot); and other lizards I know nothing about, but frequently see. Our neighbor even has 3 bats living on her porch, much to her chagrin. I told her I would take them if I could, to eat the mosquitos, but I don’t know the first thing about transporting a bat. Plus, we didn’t get rabies vaccines.

Fancy squirrel in Sámara, Costa Rica
Fanciest squirrels I’ve ever seen! The kids tried to pet this one. Did I mention we didn’t get our rabies vaccines?

Probably the most “exotic” of our animal neighbors, at least for my kids, are the howler monkeys. They are fairly small, mostly black monkeys, with very BIG voices. Hence their name. They’re constantly howling at each other, which I guess can be described as a mix between a sustained hoot and a grunt. They live in the forest around our house, sometimes using the power lines to get from tree to tree.

Howler monkeys in Sámara, Costa Rica
Howler monkey mama and baby across the street from our house. The troupe male was keeping a very close eye on us, peeing the whole time. Pro tip: never stand underneath a howler monkey male.

There are also the very non-exotic cows and horses in the neighborhood, however, they’re not in pastures. They’re basically free-range cattle, and roam around wherever they please, pooping all over and eating the forest, until their owners round them up for the evening. They especially love the empty lot next to our house, with all of its delicious jungle plants. Our housesit dog, Nemo, really enjoys barking at them when they go walking by.

Nemo and friend in Sámara
The neighbor puppy wandered over to play with Nemo the other day, until her owner tracked her down. They were so cute together!

Outside of our neighborhood, we took a trip to the ARA Project, a conservation group working toward repopulating Cost Rica with its native scarlet macaw. We learned about how deforestation for cattle ranches almost wiped them out, as well as their great green macaw cousins, and how their greatest threat now is poaching for the pet trade. We saw several of the birds who have been released, but still need to be fed by the ARA Project. It was sad, informative, and hopeful, all at the same time.

Scarlet macaws at the ARA Project in Costa Rica
Two of the scarlet macaws bred and released by the ARA Project.

And then a torrential downpour cut short our visit, and we got our first experience with driving on already-bad dirt roads made terrifying by flooding. But that’s another story that I may or may not recount. Let’s just say that four wheel drive is a necessity on dirt roads during rainy season in Costa Rica, and we do not have that. An even better idea is to just not drive on those dirt roads during a downpour.

Iguana un Sámara, Costa Rica
This guy lives on our outdoor shower.

*For those who are interested, Bird Nerd would insist I properly identify all of the birds I mentioned. The yellow-breasted ones are the great kiskadee, the scarlet hummingbird is the snowcap, and the egret is the snowy egret.

Do you have any stories to share involving animals on your travels?

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