Archive for the ‘Tropical Spider’ Tag

Bosque del Cabo June 2011 Nature Review   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog June 2011 Review

June produced some really heavy rain.  The precipitation was not consistent but rather dry periods interspersed with some very heavy overnight downpours.  Two storms in particular were responsible for bringing down a lot of trees and branches this month.

One morning a huge Milky Tree, (Brosimum utile), fell on the far side of the suspension bridge.  The tree had fallen across the path and therefore required the trail maintenance team’s attention.  As they cut through the fallen  trunk to open access once again, the freshly fallen tree bled out copious amounts of the white latex sap that gives the tree its name.

Section through fallen Milky Tree

The wood of the Milky Tree is unusually soft for a tropical hardwood tree.  That fact combined with the freely flowing sap produces a frenzy of insect activity.  Many beetles have larvae that live and grow in dead wood.  Along with termites, bacteria and fungi, the beetle larvae are one the major agents in the rapid decay of a dead tree.

Once the tree had been cut and the middle section moved from the path, within a 24 hour period a whole regime of creatures arrived.  Many of the hymenopterans use plant resins to construct structures within their nests and some almost completely so.  A variety of orchid bee species arrived post-haste, each one desperate to gather up as much of the milky white sticky latex as quickly as possible before the temporarily bounteous supply ran dry.

Orchid Bee

Beetles, most numerously the weevils, arrived too.  One large and impressive species of beetle, the Harlequin Beetle, (Acrocinus longimanus), turned up in very large numbers.  Along with the weevils, if you stood still and watched for a short time you would see them pair up, mate and the females lay eggs in holes excavated in the now dead wood.

Weevil        Weevil        Weevil

Acocinus longimanus

June provided a fair share of exotic grasshoppers, crickets and katydids.  Grasshoppers tend to be diurnal with short antennae whereas crickets and katydids tend to be nocturnal and have long filamentous antennae.

Unidentified Grasshopper        Unidentified Cricket        Unidentified Katydid

Spiders too could be found around the grounds without too much effort.  Although they do exist here, tarantulas are rarely seen.  Maybe if you venture out at night and search the holes in the banking to the roads or walk the forest trails you will be lucky enough to see one.

Unidentified Orb Spider        Micrathena sp        Orchard Spider

Tarantula

The Tendril Stanhopea Orchid, (Stanhopea cirrhata), despite being epiphytic, grows quite low to the ground, in cooler, damper areas and near to streams.  That is exactly where I found this individual which obliged me with the opportunity to photograph it by flowering several times during the course of June and July.

Stanhopea cirrhata

A lot more trees are coming into fruit this time of year which is a boon when it comes to finding help to identify the trees.  The leaves, bark and buttressed roots do not tend to be good diagnostic features as most of the trees look very similar and there are hundreds of species on the grounds.  The fruits however are generally very characteristic, if not to species, then certainly to genus.

Lacmellea panamensis                Ficus sp

Protium sp                Vochisia ferruginea

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 84°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.85 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 25.35 ins

Average Daily Temp High 28.8°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.2°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 21.5 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 644.6 mm

 

Bosque del Cabo May 2011 Nature Review   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog May 2011 Review

May is normally considered the month when the rains arrive on the south west Pacific coast of Costa Rica.  In fact all of the west coast of Central America experiences the commencement of the rains at this time of year.  In the recent past we have had that rare occasion where the first tropical storms of the hurricane season have actually formed on the Pacific and not the Caribbean coast and subsequently moving across the land and deluging it.

The rains did start this month with the same irregularity but not the ferocity of some past years.  May can be a very good time to visit Bosque as the temperatures are high, the sun is shining and the rains have both cleared the air and washed the dust from the vegetation.  That initial watering period is welcomed by the plant life as they take up the life supporting liquid and respond with a flush of new bright green foliage.

Now, many of the trees that had flowered earlier in the year will be producing fruit.  As you walk the forest trails, you will find a huge variety of weird and wonderfully exotic tropical fruits that are going to be very unfamiliar to the first time visitor.  One of the most intriguing is the nutmegs produced by a number of different species of Virola trees that grow on the grounds of Bosque.  The fruits are known as Fruta Dorada, golden fruits, due to their amber color.  When ripe the outer shell splits and the fruit opens in two halves to reveal the seed which is covered in a bright red aril that serves to attract large fruit eating birds such as toucans.  The toucans swallow the seed whole, digest the aril and then regurgitate the seed some distance from the parent.

Garcinia madruno        Passiflora fruit        Virola koschnyi

Apieba tibourbou        Apeiba tibourbou        Virola koschnyi

Some trees flower and fruit all year round.  The Monkey Comb tree is an example of which you can find the flowers and fruit littering the forest floor no matter what time of the year you visit.

Butterfly numbers are still high but are now declining from what they have been over recent months.  The explosion of breeding frogs that resulted from the first rains has now leveled and steadied.  That situation will continue through to the end of August.  An evening walk should now reward you with Milky Frogs, Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, Banana Frogs, Small-headed Frogs, Masked Tree Frogs, Olive Tree Frogs, Gladiator Frogs, Smokey Jungle Frogs, Fitzinger’s Rain Frog, Tink Frogs and Marine Toads.

This proved to be a good month for photographing spiders.  It may well have been that I had spent a little more time searching for them as I wanted some images to illustrate one of the presentations I host.  You don’t need to search too hard.  The characteristic silken webs of spiders strung between the vegetation are always a good place to start looking.  Many spiders are orb weavers and spin a web which is either permanently left in place or conversely rebuilt on a daily basis.  Even if the spider is not in the web, it is not going to be too far away and if you concentrate your efforts under some nearby leaf you will probably be able to locate the web’s master constructor.

Jumping Spider        Wandering Spider        Orchard Spider

Silver-orb Spider        Silver-orb Spider        Golden-orb Spider

Some spiders are large eyed active hunters such as the jumping spiders.  They are not very big but can be entertaining and very photogenic as they move around to look at you from a safe vantage point.  The crab spiders are a little more difficult to find as they are masters of camouflage and normally have the same coloration as flowers on which the sit and patiently await any unsuspecting insect prey that ventures too close.

Crab Spider

The Halloween Crabs are becoming progressively more active, especially at night.  There are several other species of freshwater and land crab to be found on the grounds of Bosque.  I found this small land crab close to my cabin.  I don’t often find this species and when I do it tends to be larger ones on the trunks of the trees.

Unidentified Land Crab

As ever May provided the serendipitous supply of unidentified arthropods, with everything ranging from beetles, damselflies, millipedes and the perfume seeking frenzy of a swarm of orchid bees.

Unidentified Beetle        Unidentified Beetle        Unidentified Beetle

Unidentified Damselfly        Unidentified Phasmid        Unidentified Millipede

The bees were found close to the ground near the restaurant one day.  One of the Bosque vehicles had run over the swarm and the dead individuals were now being robbed by their living counterparts for the essence they had collected and were now contained in the special holding areas of the back legs.

Orchid Bees

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 87°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.58 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 18.05 ins

Average Daily Temp High 30.6°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.7°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 14.9 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 461.3 mm

 

Bosque del Cabo February 2011 Nature Review   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog February 2011 Review

The start of February heralds the drying conditions which will now continue until the end of April.  February into March tend to be the hottest and driest time of year at Bosque.  Now the forest paths start to really harden and crack.

The amphibian life becomes harder to find, but it is still there.  It only ever takes a shower or two and all the frogs come back for at least a short time.  The butterfly numbers on the other hand start to soar.  If you really want to see as many species as possible, February is the month.

I don’t carry the camera with me when I am out on tour, it would be too much of a distraction.  Of course I sometimes regret this if I come across something I haven’t seen before and don’t get the picture, especially if I know it is an unrecorded species.  This happened last February when I had a family out with me.  We found a butterfly I had not previously recorded at Bosque.  Thankfully the family was carrying a camera and recorded the image for me.  I later identified it as a Hairstreak, (Evenus candidus).

Evenus candidus by Jael Polnac

The same family was one of many fortunate people who managed to witness the Bosque Pumas up close and personal.  One morning while out on the trails before breakfast, an almost fully grown male Puma cub lay languidly over a branch in a tree above their heads on the Bosque driveway.  Thanks to Steve Groselose and Jael Polnac for the photos.

Puma by Jael Polnac

February was also the month when a renowned wildlife photographer, Suzi Eszterhas, came to visit Bosque to assess the viability of the lodge as a base from which to run a wildlife photography course.  She must have been travelling with a great deal of luck because on her first morning, just as she was taking early coffee in the restaurant, a female Puma, mother of the above cub, ran across the lawn in pursuit of an Agouti, which made good its escape into the undergrowth.  Suzi was then left with a fairly nonchalant Puma by the cabins completely oblivious to the clicking of her camera.

Read more about Suzi here:

http://www.suzieszterhas.com/

Puma Portait by Suzi Eszterhas

Puma Portait by Suzi Eszterhas

Puma Portait by Suzi Eszterhas

One of the snakes found quite regularly around the grounds and buildings of Bosque are Boa Constrictors.  Wherever there are people there are boas.  The presence of people generally is accompanied by the presence of rodents, the principal food source of the boas.  Young ones can be sometimes found in and around the restaurant area while the larger individuals are more often found in the gardens and on the forest trails.  This was a small one about 3 feet in length that I found near my cabin.

Boa constrictor

Boa constrictor

I had great fun photographing this orb spider.  I had noticed it over the course of several days tucked away in the fold of some leaves.  Every night, once it had become dark, the spider would emerge and make anew its web.  The problem for me was that the web was very close to the ground and whenever I tried to get the tripod set up so low, if it touched a strand of silk, the spider would then disappear into its hiding hole and wait for about an hour before emerging.  Once I had managed to photograph the ventral surface, I then had to repeat the process with the dorsal surface.

Unidentified Spider

Unidentified Spider

To finish this month’s review, a few more photographs from the miscellany of unidentified arthropod files.  Spiders, grasshoppers, caterpillars and skipper butterflies; even if we can’t put a name to them we can still appreciate them, each one for their unique inherent beauty.  For me, that beauty becomes more compelling the closer I look.

Unidentified Spider

Unidentified Skipper

Unidentified Caterpillar

Unidentified Caterpillars

Grasshopper Portrait

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 94°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 0.10ins

Average Daily Temp High 34.2°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.0°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.1 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 3.0 mm

A WEEK IN THE LIFE   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog Oct 10th 2011

Back to Normal

The rain has continued in typical October fashion; heavy and incessant.  I have not seen the long term weather forecast, but based on previous experience I would say this is going to stay with us for a month or so.

That is how it has remained for the past week.  Whereas previously we had bouts of dry, sunny weather interspersed with brief periods of rain, we now have torrential downpours interrupted infrequently with a little bit of optimistic sunshine.  It is never enough time to hang your washing out to dry though, the rain returns very quickly

ONE FINAL FLING

The frogs are having their last big beano before the end of the reproductive season.  There was another big breeding episode of the Milky Frogs this week.  The last time they were out in such numbers was when the rains arrived in April and May.

Flocks of the two noisy green parrot species, Red-lored Amazons and Mealy Amazons arrive in huge numbers around the grounds every morning.  Many of them have chicks which add to the din with their unremitting begging of food from the parents.  They are fully fledged, can fly and should soon be finding food for themselves.

A pair of Yellow-headed Caracaras is currently suffering the same plight, with a noisy youngster following them around demanding food at every opportunity.

One species of bird, very noticeable by its absence, or rather, silence over the past few days are the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans.  It could well be the rain has silenced them or an abundance of food which is now freely available.

The figs are fruiting which is attracting in troops of Spider Monkeys and White-faced Monkeys whose discarded leftovers are being picked up by the White-nosed Coatis on the ground.  The coatis are perfectly capable of climbing the trees and getting fruit for themselves, and in fact often do so, but probably not with troops of boisterous young male monkeys in the trees.

Butterfly numbers remain very low in terms of both species and individuals.  While walking around the grounds you should be able to see maybe a half dozen species of longwings, peacocks and satyrs.

Caught Short

As I was returning through the forest to my cabin the other day, I came across a somewhat amusing sight.  Squatting at the base of a giant Garlic Tree, between two huge buttressed roots and holding on with its front legs to a low overhanging vine was a Three-toed Sloth attending its toilet.  It was an opportunity too good to miss so I ran for the camera.  It was late afternoon and already dark down amongst the bases of the trees.  When the first flash fired, it alerted the sloth, which was in a very vulnerable situation, that something was there.  It quickly finished its business and headed up the vine.  It was only a foot or so in front of me, but as I pressed the shutter release, no flash.  The batteries had died.  It didn’t matter as the sloth, despite its name was now well up the vine on its way back up to the top of the tree.

Three-toed Sloth

Sloths only come to the ground about once a week to defecate.  The trip to ground level and subsequent time spent evacuating its bowels leave it open to attack from any potential ground living predator such as cats, and cats we do have in some numbers in this area.  The sloth bores a shallow hole in the ground with its stubby tail, defecates and then covers it all again so as to not readily reveal its presence up above.

This one did get caught, not literally with its pants down, but certainly in a defenseless and compromising position.

One Tree Still

For this, the last week of the season at Bosque, I decided to randomly select a tree not too far from the restaurant and have a look on a daily basis to see what was there.  I thought it might give an idea of the very small distance you have to walk to find wildlife at Bosque.  As I have said many times before, it is quite often just a case of adjusting your focus and looking a little closer at the vegetation surrounding you to open up a world that you might otherwise simply walk past, oblivious to the wonders this small world contains.

The tree I selected was a Mango tree in the orchard near the restaurant car park.  There is normally a lot of wildlife traffic passing through here as well as people both watching the wildlife and the staff moving between areas.

Mango Tree

It was chosen for no other reason than it was the first tree that caught my eye as I entered the area rather than for any special reason.  Mango trees are not native to Costa Rica, they originate in Asia.  But this is not a scientific investigation where I might compare and contrast the fauna and flora inhabiting native versus non-native trees, it is simply curiosity.

MONDAY

The first day of the week provided a good haul; termites, a millipede, paper wasps, an orb spider, a harvestman, a long-legged bug and both Cherrie’s Tanagers and White-shouldered Tanagers making quite a raucous din in the branches above as they engaged in some territorial dispute. A Double-tooth Kite momentarily alights, only for a couple of seconds before flying off again, probably on the lookout for some small unsuspecting reptilian prey.  Down at ground level, at the base of the trunk, a small anolis lizard, Norops limifrons sat under a leaf, probably the best place to be with the kite up above.  These were all spotted within a matter of seconds only 2 minutes from the restaurant.

The tree also has a good covering of moss and epiphytic ferns.

Harvestman

TUESDAY

The termites, spider and millipede are still where they were yesterday.  The termites are not going to be going anywhere fast as they are in a nest on the side of the tree.  The spider is sitting in the centre of its web and the millipede doesn’t seem to have any urgency about it.

Termite Nest

The heavy rainfall yesterday and last night seems to have caused the wasps to relocate, the small, several celled pendulous nest is gone and have the harvestman and the anolis lizard.  The bizarre long-legged bug is still clinging to the underside of a leaf though.  Later in the day the two Long-waisted Wasps returned forlornly looking for the nest that no longer exists.

Conspicuously, a pale gray weevil is taking shelter near the base of the tree, its light body color contrasted against the dark green of the fern leaves and the shadows they cast in the gloomy weather conditions.  One of the Reduviid bugs busily patrols the leaves while an unidentified ant does the same down the trunk.

WEDNESDAY

The homeless pair of wasps were still in the vicinity of where the nest used to be.  I think the heavy rainfall over the past few days has sent most things into hiding.  One strange little wasp which seems to have a nest in a curled up leaf will occasionally show itself, running around on the surface of the leaves, its antennae constantly in motion and its white tipped wings flicking open and closed.

By the afternoon the wasps had selected a site close to the last location and had started to build a new nest and already several cells had been added.  There was another new visitor, a small leafhopper sitting not too far from where the wasps were working.

THURSDAY

The wasps initial construction has gone once more, but they still occupy the same area.  A Thread-legged bug is under a leaf.  This actually is its name, once again literally describing the organism.

The Thread-legged Bug is one of the Reduviid Hemipteran, (True Bugs), or Assassin Bugs.  They hunt down their insect prey which they stick with a long piercing mouthpart.  They then inject saliva which contains a paralyzing toxin and digestive juices.  The resulting predigested liquefied innards of their unfortunate victim are then suck out of its now dead exoskeleton.

Thread-legged Bug

FRIDAY

The wasps are endeavoring to make a new nest and this one seems to be meeting with yesterday’s aborted attempt. Apart from the wasp activity, all else seems quiet on our tree this morning.

SATURDAY

After that initial burst of activity on the first day, things have quietened down.  The Long-waisted Paper Wasps continue about egg laying in the newly constructed nest.  Another one of the paper wasps, this time a much smaller Polybia sp is hovering not too far away, probably in search of insect prey to take a the covered nest nearby.

Paper Wasp

SUNDAY

On the final day, when I went to visit the tree, during heavy rain, the only inhabitants visible were the wasps which this time had secured their nest under the shelter of a fern leaf,  and hopefully that would provide adequate security and refuge to raise the offspring.

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

www.bosquedelcabo.com

 Photo Feature

Unfeasibly Long Narrow Waists

Wasps are Hymenopterans which means narrow waists and the Long-waisted Paper Wasps are certainly that.  The Order Hymenoptera includes bees, wasps and ants, most of which are social insects to a greater or lesser degree.  The Long-waisted Paper Wasps belong to the genus Mischocyttarus of which there are 186 named species.  They belong entirely in the Americas, most of them being inhabitants of more tropical regions.  They are morphologically distinct with a long narrow “waist”.

Paper Wasp

As with other wasps belonging to the genus Polistes they make nests which have pendulous downward facing uncovered cells.  These generally hang from a stalk which they sometimes cover in a secretion which acts as an ant repellant.

There is generally one dominant breeding female who lays the eggs and she is supported by closely related submissive females whose task is to help raise the larvae.  Sometimes the submissive females revolt and drive the dominant queen away allowing a new individual to take over the role.

Colorful Poison Sticks in Your Throat

The Micrathena orb weavers are easy to identify by their bright coloration and spiny bodies.  The highly visible black and yellow coloration warns potential predators to stay away.  Should a naïve lizard or more particularly a bird ignore the bright warning signal, the thorns and spines on the body of the spider lodge it in the bird’s bill.  The now distressed avian predator cannot extricate the spider which gives off an obnoxious tasting secretion from its skin.  When the bird finally does manage to dislodge the spider from its beak, the lesson will have been learned and it will never go near anything black and yellow again.

Micrathena breviceps

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 88°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 76°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.61 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 4.29 ins

Average Daily Temp High 30.9°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.5°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 15.6mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 109.0 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Crested Caracara
  • Double-toothed Kite
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Purple-crowned Fairy
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Tropical Gnatcatcher
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • White-shouldered Tanager
  • Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Plain Xenops
  • Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  • House Wren
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Boa Constrictor

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Olive Tree Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia fatima
  • Heliconiius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Clusia rosea flowering
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Golden Trumpet Vine Flowering
  • Hog Plum Fruiting
  • Inga Flowering
  • Ox Eye Vine Flowers
  • Protium Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering and Fruiting

 

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