Snakes and Ticks

There are two creatures I have encountered a lot but haven’t blogged about yet. I was waiting for my mom to visit before I gave too much information about my snake sightings. Before moving to Costa Rica I had very few encounters with snakes in nature. I have always been fearful of snakes and knew this was a fear I had to face in order to live in Costa Rica. I have seen countless snakes since moving onto our property and my fear is beginning to fade. Mario showed me where the snakes like to hide. He uncovered many in habitats that I had naively created. Most of the snakes I have seen are on trails, slithering away from me as I walk by. That type of encounter doesn’t bother me, it’s the surprises that I don’t like.

A while ago I decided to liberate a cactus that was in a pot filled with coconut fiber. I had seen a rock nearby where this type of cactus grew and I thought that would be a good place to leave it. I put on a pair of gloves to protect myself from the thorny plant and carried the pot about 100 meters to the rock. After I found the perfect spot I gently tipped the pot on its side to see how easily the plant was going to come out. Just as I set the pot on its side a snake began to slither out of the pot. In an instant I dropped the pot, gave a little scream and backed away from the area. I was completely surprised to find a snake in that way.

Our workers have our OK to kill any venomous snakes they encounter. We also kill any that come near our house. The picture above is me holding a skin from a Fer-de-Lance. Mimo found and killed the large serpent. He brought it back to our house, carefully tied to the end of a long rope. I wasn’t exactly sure why he brought it back, maybe to show the work hazards they face. We decided to skin the snake and save the hide for identification education.

The other creatures I don’t write about much are ticks. When Spencer first arrived I worked diligently for several months to get rid of his tick infestation. Until that time I really didn’t know much about the tick life cycle. The only ticks I had seen are the large adults. I was unaware of how many eggs one tick lays and how tiny those babies are. There were several days in a row that I pulled 50 or more ticks from Spencer’s body. Today things are different. Both dogs have been on tick and flea medication for so long that we only occasionally find one on them.

Lately though, seed ticks have taken a liking to me.  The first time it happened I thought I had brushed up against a spot of freshly born spiders. I tried to squish one and realized it was a tick. This happened a few more times until I got serious about finding where they were coming from and ways to keep them off my body. I discovered they were clinging to me on my morning walks with Spencer. I even narrowed it down to certain areas they seemed to like to hang out. Now I tuck my pant legs into my socks and check my socks and pant legs very often. Ticks are hard to kill with your fingers so when I find one during a walk I just brush or flick them off of me and hope something comes along to eat them. 

On a more pleasant note I had a new toucan sighting this week. We frequently see the Keel-billed Toucan and I am very familiar with the frog like croaking song they sing. I thought that was the only type of large toucan that lived in our area. Earlier this week, when I was at the very far corner of our property, I heard a new, unusual and very loud bird call. As I heard the sound a toucan flew over my head. I thought it was strange that I had never heard the toucan make that sound before. A few days later I was back at the same spot and heard yet another different, loud bird song. I could tell the bird was in a tall tree but I couldn’t see it. I hoped it would fly so I could get a look. It continued to make its call and I waited and waited for it to fly but that didn’t happen so I walked towards the music. As I got closer to the call it stopped, he knew I was there. I stopped, looked up and saw a toucan fly out of the tree. Now my curiosity was sparked because of the variety of songs I had heard from the toucan. When I got back home I looked in the bird book and did some research on the internet to conclude that I saw the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan. I’m glad to know both of the large Costa Rica toucans frequent our property.

The construction workers were busy painting last week and installing light and plumbing fixtures. Late last week the guys took the welding machine out of the bodega. Soon thereafter I heard noises of cutting metal. We have a lot of scrap metal left over from demolishing the old house and I thought I had seen someone going through the scrap metal pile earlier that day. A while later I spotted these newly constructed ladders that were used to paint the steel beams on the ceiling above the patio. I suppose, why buy one or go through the trouble to transport one here when you can make one for “free”.

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