Prickly Dance in Color   6 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog December 16th 2013

Felipe-del-Bosque

Summertime

There is no longer any doubt about the fact that we are in the dry season.  We are now receiving very little rain if any at all.  It won’t be long before the dry conditions stimulate the trees into flowering.  Some of the December blooms are already starting to appear.  The distinctive yellow blossoms of the Ajo Tree, (Caryocar costaricense), are beginning to fall and cover the forest paths in various areas.  Once the Ajo trees are flowering en masse, the scent of  garlic from which they derive their name can be smelled everywhere in the forest.

Towards the end of last week more and more clouds started to gather on the horizon until one morning the sun was blotted out and the rain fell continuously till lunchtime.  The afternoon remained very dark and gloomy.  In total the amount falling didn’t amount to much but it did serve to dampen anyone out walking in it.

Prickly Pig

The female White-lipped Peccary, (Tayassu pecari), still comes around every day in front of the restaurant, generally at breakfast and lunchtimes, to feed on the fallen palm fruits.  The much larger male has wandered further afield and I have been seeing him around the area at the entrance of the Zapatero Trail.

The Titi Trail is still alive with Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu), activity.  There is a large herd that can be easily seen when walking the trail.  They are no longer inclined to move too far from the path when approached.  They don’t seem to mind human presence if they can see you coming.  If they are startled then they grunt, crack their teeth and trot off into the low growing vegetation.

All the usual mammals are around the grounds but this week on the Titi Trail the cameras caught on video a Tome’s Spiny Rat, (Proechimys semispinosus).  The spiny rats are caviomorph rodents in the Family: Echimyidae and are therefore more closely related to the agoutis and pacas than to the mice and rats most visitors are familiar with, (Family: Muridae).

Tome's-Spiny-Rat

The spines that give the rat its name lie flat in amongst the fur.  Tome’s Spiny Rats also have the ability to break the tail should that be the part of the body the predator grabs.  The tail does not regenerate so more often than not spiny rats are seen with short tails or none at all.

Blurring the Lines

While out last week conducting the butterfly counts my attention was captured by some movement in amongst the vegetation of a low growing shrub.  With closer scrutiny I could see a small bird, obviously a female, hopping between the branches and plucking the snow white fruits of one of the Psychotria sp one after the other, mashing them up in her bill and swallowing the pulp.  This was the drab green female Red-capped Manakin, (Ceratopipra mentalis).  Within a few seconds she was joined by a male who ostentatiously overcompensates for his plain partner.  The male is a small jet black bird with a bright red head and fluorescent yellow legs.  It is not easy to ignore his presence.

Red-capped-Manakin         Red-capped-Manakin         Red-capped-Manakin

The manakins in general are fruit-eating birds.  Normally in terms of sexual selection with birds the female with select which male she is going to mate with depending upon the quality and quantity of food a male presents to her during the courtship period so that she can see how good of a provider he is going to be.  Being fruit-eaters if the male were to present fruit to the female she would not be particularly impressed as she is surrounded by the stuff and so it is not so hard to find.

To show off the quality of their genetic viability the male manakins, like a lot of fruit-eating birds around the world, have evolved very flamboyant plumages and very elaborate dances.  They all gather together in a lek.  Each male sets up his own dance platform.  The females sit on the ground and watch the performance.  The dance of the mle Re-capped Manakin takes place on the horizontal branch coming from the side of a trunk.  His like a tiny Michael Jackson on amphetamine sulphate moonwalking at double quick speed.  He moves very quickly backwards along the branch and then stops and throws in a little bit of Flamenco.  He raises his wings which causes a loud repeated clacking sound.  The females watching this display choose the male with the best dance moves.  They give him the nod, he jumps down mates with her and then continues to dance.

Sometimes when you are walking through the forest you will see a male manakin dancing on his own.  There is no lek, there are no females.  It is the young ones practicing their moves because if he doesn’t get the steps right he won’t score with the girls.

Sun Dancers

The clouds of Green Urania moths, (Urania fulgens) that have been prevalent over the past month have now dwindled in number.  You can still see and odd one or two which take to the air when approached, flutter around and then alight once more on a sunlit leaf.

On the sunniest of days the butterflies can be seen flying on whichever trail you are walking.  Most of the butterflies are found at the top of the canopy.  At the forest edge, essentially that area where the canopy descends to the ground, the is the opportunity to see those species that would otherwise only be seen 100 feet above your head.  There are also patches of plants around the gardens that provide an attractive supply of nectar for the butterflies.  It is not uncommon to see many individuals of many species of many families feeding from the bright orange and yellow flowers of the Lantana, (Lantana camara).  Here you will find the gaudy primary colors of the Longwings which are so visibly obvious mixed with the more subtly colored satyrs and the occasional hairstreak.  But the dry season has only just started.  By the time we get to February there will be so many butterflies to dazzle the visitors with not only a visible treat but a stunning wealth of diversity.

Anartia-fatima         Dryas-iulia         Corticea-corticea

Heliconius-erato         Marpesia-berania         Dione-juno

Pareuptychia-ocirrhoe         Marpesia-berania         Vehilius-stictomenes

True Colors

As I mentioned above many of the trees will be starting to flower soon.  Some of them already have.  There are a lot of plants around the grounds that flower year round, for this reason they are used as decorative ornamentals.  Not all of the plants in the grounds are native to Costa Rica, the gardens boast a variety of exotics from all corners of the tropical world.  Within both the native and non-native species there has been a great deal of selective breeding going on to produce hybrids that have more colorful and showy blooms than their natural counterparts.  Some of them have been manipulated to produce strangely shaped vegetative or flowering parts.

The Canna Lily, (Canna spp), is found in the flower beds bordering some of the paths in the tropical garden.  This is one of those ubiquitous hybrids found growing in gardens the length and breadth of  Costa Rica.  Its fancy flower with brown speckled yellow petals provides year round color to any flower border.

Canna-Lily

At the bottom of the tropical garden, in the vicinity of the pond there is currently a riot of red.  The Poro tree, (Erythrina lanceolata), is currently in full bloom.  The very distinctive clusters of shocking red scimitar-shaped flowers are held at the tip of the long slender branches.  Once the blooms have been pollinated then long reddish tinged pendulous pods housing the beans are produced.  The Poro trees are currently bearing both flowers and beans.  If you want to see hummingbirds this would be the place to go as there are a variety of species visiting the flowers.

Poro

Erythrina-lanceolata

Sometimes the fruit of a tree can be just as diagnostic as its flowers.  As many of the trees bloom at the top of the canopy it is not always easy to see the flowers.  There a several nutmeg producing trees in the forests of Bosque del Cabo.  They don’t have the same aroma or flavor of the Indonesian nutmegs, (Myristica fragrans) which we use it our kitchens but they do belong to the same family: Myrisicaceae.  The nutmegs of Bosque all belong to the genus: Virola.  There are lots of Virola species and each has one has a slightly different looking fruit.  The one that has been fruiting recently is Virola sebifera.  This produces clusters of green fruits which when they ripen then split apart to reveal the seed, the nutmeg.  This is surrounded by a bright red membrane called the aril.

Birds have acute color vision and the bright red color of the aril attracts the attention of fruit-eating birds like the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, (Ramphastos swainsonii).  The aril is very tasty and very nutritious.  Once the toucan has digested the aril it is left with a gut full of big heavy nutmegs which is not conducive to flight so they regurgitate them hence dispersing the seeds.

Virola-sebifera

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

www.bosquedelcabo.com

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Rainfall 0.03 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.19 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 0.69 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 4.85 mm

Highest Daily Temp 88°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 75°F.

Highest Daily Temp 31.2°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 25.1°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkeys
  • Greater White-lined Bat
  • Tent-making Bat
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Agouti
  • Tome’s Spiny Rat
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Collared Peccary
  • White-lipped Peccary

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Crested Guan
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Northern Barred Woodcreeper
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Basilisk
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Skink
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Terciopelo

Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Milky Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog

Butterflies

  • Adelpha cytherea
  • Anartia fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Archeaoprepona demophon
  • Battus polydamus
  • Corticea corticea
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eurema albula
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema albula
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapo
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Siproeta stictomenes
  • Urbanus tanna
  • Vehilius stictomenes

Plants

  • Anthurium salvinii Flowering and Fruiting
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Allamandra cathartica Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Aphelandra golfodulcensis Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Aristolochia gaudoti Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Attalea rostrata Fruiting
  • Baltimora recta Flowering
  • Brownea macrophylla Flowering
  • Brunfelsia grandiflora Flowering
  • Calathea marantafolia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cananga odorata Flowering
  • Canna x generalis Flowering
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Chrysobalanus icaco Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Flowering
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus osae Flowering
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Flowering
  • Cresentia alata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Crotolaria retusa Flowering and Fruiting
  • Emilia fosbergii Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus citrifolia Fruiting
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Guatteria amplifolia Flowering
  • Hedychium coronarium Flowering
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconius clinophylla Flowering and Fruiting
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia longiflora Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
  • Mimosa pudica Flowering
  • Morinda citrifolia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Musa acuminata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pandanus sp Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Rhynchospora nervosa Flowering
  • Solanum aturense Flowering
  • Stachytarpheta sp Flowering
  • Thunbergia erecta Flowering
  • Tocoyena pittieri Fruiting
  • Virola guatemalensis Fruiting
  • Virola sebifera Fruiting
  • Zingiber spectabile Flowering

 

 

6 responses to “Prickly Dance in Color

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  1. Thanks for the description of Virola and toucans. Have you seen this article: Ratiarison, S. and Forget, P-M. 2013. The role of frugivores in determining seed removal and dispersal in the Neotropical nutmeg. Tropical Conservation Science. Vol. 6(5): 690-704. Available online: http://www.tropicalconservationscience.org. Two sympatric species of nutmeg (Virola sp.) in French Guiana: “Only the spider monkey (Ateles paniscus) and three species of ramphastid toucan dispersed the large (4.8g) V. kwatae seeds. These four animal species, as well as three smaller-bodied bird species, also dispersed the small
    V. michelii seeds (2.1g).”
    I guess the spider monkeys like Virola at Bosque del Cabo too?

    D. J. O’Donnell

  2. Where are you Phil?

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