A NEW DECEPTION   3 comments

Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

Well, what an excellent start to the day.  I was out early this morning doing my bird count when a little flash of white caught my eye disappearing into one of the large white trumpet-shaped blooms of the Crepe Gingers. Butterflies are my specialty and I am looking at them every day.  On the Osa Peninsula I have identified hundreds of species.  But even so, I know when I seeing something that I have not previously seen and that was the situation this morning.  I did not want to scare the unidentified, and as yet,   not really seen, insect that I knew was in the flower head, which was unfortunately facing away from me.  Ever so slowly I bend forward to take a peek inside and sure enough my initial thoughts were confirmed, a little chocolate-brown skipper with a distinctive bright white patch on the trailing edge of the hindwing.  I stood looking at it, taking in the mental image for as long as it would allow me to, as regrettably I was not carrying the camera.  Then, in typical skipper fashion, it quickly disappeared.  I hurried back to my cabin to consult one of the few photographic guide books I have that cover the skippers of the Neotropics and sure enough, there it was, the Virbius Skipper, (Cobalus virbius).  I have not previously seen this species in all the time that I have been here and I may never see it again, (sadly no photographic record), which made it a red letter day for me.

Of the four species of monkey we have in the area of Cabo Matapalo: Spider, Howler, Squirrel and Capuchin, it is the latter that are normally bold enough to come in and around the area of human habitation.  That was the case this afternoon when a troop of bold and daring Capuchin Monkeys, (Cebus capucinus), came to feed on the bananas and coconuts.  For anyone who has ever tried to open a coconut, (that scene from the movie, “Cast Away” springs to mind), you will know it is no easy task.  But I always find myself looking on in amazement at the adept manipulations of the Capuchins.  One bite with those sharp teeth and strong jaws gets them through the husk, a rip with the arms and off comes the husk and finally one more bite and “voila”, they’re in.  Give it a try.  I bet you end up resorting to Tom Hank’s method.

Rainforest mammals. Monkeys. Mammalia. Primates. Cebidae. Cebus capucinus.

White-faced Capuchin Monkey, (Cebus capucinus)

The whales were enjoying themselves again today.  Two adults were breaching and a calf which would just stick its head out of the water.  No definitive answer as to why whales do that but the most plausible is because it is fun, they are enjoying themselves.

Hiding In Plain View

Those walking around the forests of the Osa Peninsula in search of some smaller life forms to photograph may find the task not to be as easy as imagined.  You may come across a rich diversity of fungal fruiting bodies, mushrooms, weird, wonderful and exquisite in form, size and shape that prove an enticing subject.  You may happen across industriously lines of the ubiquitous Leaf-cutter Ants which present an interesting challenge.  The lines of moving green leaf might be regarded as an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture brought to life.  Butterflies quite often will only sit still long enough for you to get the photograph composed before annoyingly fluttering off just as you hit the shutter button.  You can find grasshoppers, katydids and crickets, occasionally a praying mantis or walking stick.  It is never too hard to find spiders; Golden-orb and Silver-orb Spiders exist in sizable numbers all around the outsides of buildings.   They all require you to re-adjust your field of focus.

Rainforest insects. Leaf-mimicking Katydid. Orthopera. Tettigoniidae. Pseudophyllinae

Evolution in action. An amazing Leaf-mimicking Katydid

But no matter how hard you look, there are going to be certain animals right in front of your field of vision that your eyes may never be able to distinguish from the background in which they are hiding.  There are some katydids that are so cryptically colored, their bodies formed into to shapes so little resembling an insect and more like a piece of vegetation that it sometimes beggars belief.  The whole idea of cryptic coloration, camouflage, is that you don’t move because once you move you have blown your cover.

Leaf-mimicking Katydid. Orthoptera. Tettigoniidae.

The living dead. Dead-leaf Katydid among the dead leaves

Above are just a few photographs of examples taken from in and around the forests of Osa where something serendipitously happened to catch my eye.  For every example that did catch my eye there were probably thousands that did not.    The leaf-mimicking katydid whose resemblance to a dead leaf is so perfect it could not be bettered.  Even its legs are textured and colored to resemble small twigs.  The Leaf-mimicking Katydid that looks like a perfect copy in form and color of the dead leaves on the ground where I found it.

Rainforest Moth. Sphingidae. Xylophanes chiron.

Leafy Sphinx Hawk-moth, (Xylophanes chiron),

Finally a hawk moth whose body is covered with dense green hair likening it to the deep cushioned moss on tree barks where it rests.  The wings have the same moss green color and are broken up by a pattern closely resembling the underlying texture of the tree bark.  All three examples would be nigh on impossible to find except opportunistically.  So when you go out, take a second glance because everything may not be as it seems.

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica

3 responses to “A NEW DECEPTION

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  1. congrats on the butterfly sighting…too bad the camera wasn’t around your neck. don’t you know NEVER go anywhere down there without it??? One day my dream is to see a whale while there. Hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps one day. Is this the best time of year to see them???? Enjoying the blogs!!


  2. So enjoying the new blog! We’re making our first trip to BdC in December and this is a great preview. I’ve been copying and pasting your list of sightings of butterflies and birds into Google images in order to get an idea of the types we might be seeing while we are there. Again, great blog!


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