It had been unseasonably dry in the beginning of the summer of 1997. Summer is the wet season in Costa Rica. We were near Piedras Blancas National Park, where we were to study the biology of a lagoon. The handful of photographers on the trip were disappointed at the lack of frogs as compared to previous years. The lagoon was low... Still it was an interesting place to see. It was home to some caiman, a small relative of the crocodile, and many "Jesus Christ" lizards (Basilicus basilicus). We saw the younger J.C. lizards running on top of the water as they are famous for.
One day another student and I were hiking up in the hills. Soon the sky clouded up and it started to rain. We heard the thunder clapping off in the distance. It moved closer and closer until it was cracking loudly over our heads. It scared this California girl so much I became momentarily nauseous. We quickly made our way back the cabins where we watched 5 inches of rain pour down that afternoon.
The next morning my cabin awoke to the calls of Chelin, our Costa Rican guide. He was yelling "Ojos rojos, Ojos rojos!!!!!" Well, we didn't really understand him, as none of us spoke Spanish very well. Besides, it was 6 o'clock in the morning. He was very excited and was motioning for us to follow him. So, we grabbed our cameras and ran after him on the trail towards the lagoon.
As we reached our destination we could hear the clucking of frogs getting louder and louder. We followed him to the lagoon wondering what was the matter. When we got there we noticed the water had risen considerably from the day before. There among the crescendo of calls, were frogs, red eyed tree frogs, thousands of them, dripping from the trees... everywhere. Our jaws dropped in awe. They were crawling all over each other, mating on every branch overlooking the water. It was as if the leaves of the trees themselves were in motion. We wondered where they'd all come from. Occasionally you would hear a splash as one fell in the water. A fatal mistake if a caiman happened to be close by.
The lense of my video camera soon fogged up from the humidity and then the camera began to malfunction. I was very frustrated! I took what I could of this rare phenomenon. Chelin, a 40 year resident of the area, had only seen this happen in such a mass, once before.
Hear the Red Eyed Tree Frogs. [91kb .wav file]
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