Past Meeting, Nov 2021: Bob Ferguson – Tropical Rainforests


November 21, 2021 by lancasterherp

The Lancaster Herpetological Society (LHS) wants to thank everyone who attended November’s digital meeting this past Friday! It was our first meeting in a few months, so we were all very excited.

I can think of no better person to herald the return of meetings than Bob Ferguson. The LHS has been fortunate to have him speak to us numerous times, describing his herping adventures and delighting us with his incredible photography of those adventures. This year he spoke about herping in the tropical rainforest in seven different regions!

If you were not able to attend the meeting, you can watch a recording of it on the Forgotten Friend Youtube channel (CLICK HERE).

The first region Bob spoke about was the Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras. The experience for him was an eye-opening one for more than just the incredible animals he was able to see. The level of poverty in that portion of Central America was unlike anything he had seen before, and helped put into perspective many of the things we take for granted. The first herp that he saw on the trip was a Mexican Climbing Salamander on the vegetation behind the lodge he was staying! Another striking find was the brilliantly colored Red Coffee Snake, which is about the size of a ring-neck snake. They were so common that the locals paid them no notice.

Mexican Climbing Salamander
Red Coffee Snake

After Bob’s first visit out of the country herping, he decided that he was not going to spend another year of his life without doing more world exploring. His second trip was to El Valle/Cerro Gaital National Park in Panama. He spent time in the cloud forests and found some Red-webbed Treefrogs living around a pond at a lodge famous for birding. These little frogs were not something that he was aware of beforehand, but with the red webbing of their feet and the blue tinge of their underside, it is surprising they aren’t more well-known! Another amazing find was the Two-lined mushroom salamander, which is renowned for its climbing ability. He found one crawling upside down under a leaf! To make matters even more interesting, they have long tongues which they shoot out to catch their prey.

Red-webbed Treefrog
Two-lined Mushroom-toed Salamander

His third trip to the tropics was to La Fortuna/Hacienda Baru in Costa Rica. One of the first lodges he stayed at had a pond behind it that was teeming with frogs, including the Hour-Glass Tree Frog. Always the good Samaritan, Bob was able to rescue an Olive Keelback Snake that had become ensnared in some milkcrates. It was dehydrated and agitated, and it bit him a number of times as he used a wire cutter to free it. After its liberation, he took it back to his room and turned on the sink, from which it drank for a few minutes!

Hour Glass Treefrogs
Olive Keelback

His next trip was to the Maya Forest on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The most unique frog that Bob saw on the trip was the Casque-headed Tree Frog, which were plentiful by a well that he found in a rural area. While driving around at night looking for snakes, he was thrilled to find a Central American Milk Snake with its stunning color pattern!

Casque-headed Treefrog
Central American Milk Snake

At the start of the pandemic, Bob took a trip to the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In the week that he was there, he walked 63 miles and found zero snakes. Despite this, he saw tons of frogs and lizards. He was fortunate to find a Marsupial Tree Frog, something that his guide had not seen before, despite studying amphibians in the region since 2008. Another exciting find was the Bahia Forest Frog which spends most of its life underground. As such, they are rarely seen. Fortunately, heavy rain brought out around 12 of them, something that even his guide had never seen before.

Marsupial Tree Frog
Bahia Forest Frog

As a solo trip, Bob visited Mindo in Ecuador, a destination which is primarily known for birding. Finding frogs was hard because of the ever-present mist, but putting in the effort was worth it. Due to this damp weather, Mindo has an abundant population of Rain Frogs. The Spring Rain Frog has bumps on its skin that it can retract as a defense mechanism, allowing it to slide out of the grasp of a predator. Mindo is home to four different Anole species, including the vibrantly colored Hippie Anole (I wonder if they are Grateful Dead fans?).

Spring Rain Frog
Hippie Anole

Of all of the places Bob has been, his favorite is the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. He went with his oldest son, Wes, and stayed in a cabin right against a pond. For the showers, water was pumped directly from the pond, unfiltered. The first herp that they found was a Pale-thighed Poison Frog which was hopping around in their cabin! And right outside their cabin, Giant Monkey Frogs were climbing about. The highlight of the trip was when Bob came upon a South American Bushmaster while hiking by himself around midnight. Rather than trying to put it in a pillowcase to bring back to show the group, he ran back to the camp to summon everyone. Luckily, by the time the group got to the spot, the Bushmaster had not moved and people could get pictures of it. The Bushmaster is the most sought-after snake in the Amazon. It is the largest pit viper and the only egg laying pit viper. Furthermore, it is extremely venomous, to the point where 80% of those bitten succumb to the venom.

Pale-Thighed Poison Frog
Giant Monkey Frog
South American Bushmaster

Over the past 10 years, Bob has been creating calendars with his superb photographs and donating all of the profits to wildlife conservation. For the last three years, he has donated the money to the Rainforest Trust, which is a non-profit organization focused on the protection of tropical lands. Last year, he donated $10,000 to the Rainforest Trust! This money is used to purchase land to prevent it from being clear cut by loggers. Presently, the Rainforest Trust is trying to buy land in the Peruvian Andes to save it from destruction. This land costs only $3.40 an acre, so the just buying a single $30 calendar from Bob can make a significant difference. You can find his calendars on his Etsy page. Make sure to buy a few and help protect threatened habitats. They make great gifts. Even if your relatives are not fans of snakes, he has a plethora of other calendars, including the Songbirds and the animals of Africa.

As always, it was wonderful to have Bob Ferguson speak with us at the Lancaster Herpetology Society. Thanks again for all who attended the meeting. We will not be having a meeting next month, as the ongoing Pandemic prevents us from having the customary potluck event. Happy Holidays and stay tuned for word of upcoming events next year.

-Gregory Wier


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