Readers’ wildlife photos

July 20, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos of Costa Rica come from reader Leo Glenn. His narrative is indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Here are some photos from my recent trip to Costa Rica. We spent most of our time on the Pacific side in the northwest region, in Guanacaste Province. The Pacific side has more distinct dry and rainy seasons, in contrast with the Caribbean side, which receives considerably more rainfall year round. Although slightly smaller in land area than the U.S. state of West Virginia, Costa Rica boasts 32 national parks, over 50 wildlife refuges, and over a dozen forest and biological reserves. This creates tension, of course, between preservation efforts and ecotourism, which is the country’s largest source of income.

The view from a higher elevation, about 20 minutes from where we stayed.

The local beach, Playa Avellanas, was a short walk from our lodging via a boardwalk that traversed a mangrove swamp, comprised mostly of White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa). After an earthquake in 2012, the land along the coast rose one meter, which closed off the mouth of the river, causing the water in the mangrove swamp to stagnate and kill all of the trees (thus the many dead trees in the foreground). A restoration effort was undertaken to restore the area and replant the mangroves. It appears to have been largely successful, though it will be years before the new trees mature and the ecosystem returns to something close to its pre-earthquake state.

The shallow and drier areas of the swamp were populated by several crab species, including the Racer Mangrove Crab (Goniopsis pulchra).


The forested areas on the path to the beach were dotted with numerous small burrows,  inhabited by Red Land Crabs (Gecarcinus quadratus), which would freeze when approached, before slowly slinking backwards into their holes.

 A juvenile Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata). They were lightning fast, and very hard to photograph.

Some Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), flying over the beach. There were quite a few more in the line. Apparently, a group of pelicans can be called a pod, a pouch, a scoop, a squadron, or, if fishing as a group, a fleet.

Although colorful butterflies were abundant, I lacked the skill, patience, and hardware to photograph them, unless, as in this instance, I got lucky when one happened to land in the swimming pool. We rescued it immediately, of course, and after a few minutes spent drying its wings, it took flight. Theona Checkerspot (Chlosyne theona).

I did manage one halfway decent photo of an Apricot Sulphur (Phoebis argante).

A Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus), described on Wikipedia as “a bold, opportunistic raptor, often seen walking around on the ground looking for food,” which is exactly what this one was doing.

A nest of Northern Warrior Wasps (Synoeca septentrionalis), in a tree outside our lodging. According to Wikipedia, “It is a swarm-founding wasp that is also eusocial, exhibiting complicated nest structure and defense mechanisms.” The nest was about 30 ft up in the tree, and without a telephoto lens (or a very long stepladder), this was the best photo I could get. Its high location in the tree was a comfort to us, being so close to our rental house. Though not a particularly aggressive species, they are reported to have a very painful sting.

17 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Great you got that photo of the sand crab. Those little guys are like lightning!

    Wonderful shots. Some crabs have amazing colors and all are deeply weird critters. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Mark! Fascinating. I must admit, I thought of you when I was trying (and mostly failing) to photograph butterflies and other insects. Your images are always an inspiration to me.

      1. Thank you. Butterflies (if they are large-ish) will need a long lens. And I’ve learned over and over again that you can always crop by lot to get the composition that was wanted. It’s surprising how well they hold up on the computer screen.

    2. That is a scary sound! Like thousand of small warriors marching in cadence, just getting in position to attack. That would sure get my attention.

  2. Beautiful photos! I’ve seen some of those Caracaras in central Florida once or twice and didn’t know what kind of raptor they were. Had forgotten until I saw your pictures.

  3. Many thanks to Leo for sharing these magnificent photos! The wasp nest is especially striking. It has me wondering about the function of the horizontal ridges. Perhaps this helps improve cooling? And the overlapping, shingle-like architecture–amazing!

  4. Beautiful! The crabs are amazing and the wasp nest is scary. There must be thousands of wasps in that nest!

  5. Absolutely wonderful! From one Leo to another, you are clearly the superior Leo (at least when it comes to wildlife photography.)

  6. These were a treat, thanks. I didn’t know there was a geological difference between the Caribbean and the Pacific parts of the island. Interesting. The island has seen a lot of catastrophes in recent years…I didn’t even know about the earthquake you mentioned.

  7. Love the difference in the crabs— “Here I am!” colors vs “You are mistaken; there is no crab here.”

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