Serpentine Portraits   1 comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 10 2010

Temp High 83°F  Low 74°F          Precipitation 0.29 ins

The weather is being kind again, another sunny day.  Rather than go scouting around the forest, I decided that I would try and get some photographs of the ornamental plants in the Bosque gardens.  It is always best to try and achieve this before the sun is too high in the sky otherwise you are going to be fighting against very bright light and the harsh shadows that creates.  So with that in mind I made an early morning start but now I encountered another problem, the light breeze that was blowing and causing the plants to gently sway back and forth.  I had really wanted some long exposure shots to nicely blur the background behind the featured blooms but that was not going to be possible.  I did, however, managed to take some photographs that I was happy with, particularly of the flower heads and there is always later in the day when the sun has passed overhead, to try again.

There was a good variety of birds around today, as usual, but nothing out of the ordinary to report.  A dead tree with bare leafless branches was making a good vantage point for three of the tyrannid flycatchers; a Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird and a Streaked Flycatcher.

After lunch as I was walking back to my cabin, another photo opportunity occurred.  On front of me on the forest floor was a young Barred Forest Racer.  Lowering myself slowly to the ground I managed to maneuver myself into a position where I could get some nice close up head shots.

Just a few feet further on, I saw flying very close to the forest floor, a beautiful little Satyrid butterfly, Cithaerias pireta.  It has transparent wings with a translucent red patch on the rear edge of the hind wing.  It is not easy to see a butterfly with wings as clear as glass, but that faint hint of red will catch the eye sometimes for long enough to see just where it has landed.

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.

Photo Feature

Snakes, I know, are not everyone’s favorite creature, but I think I have established the fact in previous blogs that I like snakes.  They are not always the easiest things to photograph; they do have the annoying habit of disappearing very quickly.  Even if you can get one to stay still for a period of time, they are so linear that it is akin to trying to take a detailed image of a long piece of string.  So I settle on trying to get the portrait shots.

The Barred Forest Racer, (Dendrophidion percarinatum), is a diurnal frog eater.  It has those beautiful huge eyes and typically hunts with its head raised above the forest floor.  The name “Racer” would suggest that the snake is capable of a fair turn of speed and it is.  The barred markings running along the length of the body make focusing on that rapidly moving linear form almost impossible.  Although there is no hard data, herpetologists are currently concerned about globally declining snake numbers.  After many years of very rarely seeing these pretty snakes, this year I have encountered more than in total for the past nine years.  They have not all been sightings in one area, but all over the grounds.  This one posed very calmly for its portrait before disappearing into the undergrowth.  Apart from the eyes, the other stunning feature is that striking bright yellow upper lip.

The Northern Cat-eyed Snake, (Leptodeira septentrionalis), is a nocturnal snake.  It has those large eyes with vertical pupils that resemble cat’s eyes which give it the literal name.  They are specialist feeders on frogs and frog’s eggs, so once the sun sets they emerge around the pond to search for prey.  They are venomous, but rear fanged.  The venom is about as toxic as required to subdue a frog and it is almost impossible to induce one to bite.  But once the sun goes down, out they come, cruising over the vegetation surrounding the pond, their heads under the leaves, searching for the eggs of Red-eyed Green Treefrogs which have been laid on the undersides of the leaves overhanging the pond.  For a snake, frog’s eggs are a nice protein packed meal that neither fight back nor run away, so in essence, a perfect food package.  Some nights around the Bosque pond, especially during the height of the amphibian breeding season, there can be up to 50 Cat-eyed Snakes, all searching for those frog eggs.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Species List for the Day


Howler Monkey

Spider Monkey

White-nosed Coati

Red-tailed Squirrel


Red-lored Amazon

Mealy Amazon

Scarlet Macaw

Rufus-tailed Hummingbird

Purple-crowned Fairy

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Bright-rumped Atilla

Streaked Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee

Tropical Kingbird

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

Tropical Kingbird

Short-billed Pigeon

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Blue-crowned Manakin

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Green Honeycreeper

Cherries Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Palm Tanager

Mourning Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

House Wren

Riverside Wren

Variable Seedeater

Spectacled Owl

Roadside Hawk

Yellow-headed Caracara

Great Tinamou

Black Vulture



Four-lined Ameiva

Golfo Dulce Anolis

Mediterranean House Gecko

Barred Forest Racer

Northern Cat-eyed Snake


Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Smokey Jungle Frog

Tink Frog

Masked Smilisca

Black and Green Poison Dart Frog


Anartiaf fatima

Cithaerias pireta

Eueides aliphera

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecal

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Morpho menelaus

Phoebis sennae

Pierella luna

Pyrgus oileus


Posted September 11, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

One response to “Serpentine Portraits

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  1. Great picture of the Barred Forest Racer, Grace thought this snake more attractive than the cat eyed snake probably due to the striking bright yellow upper lip but she prefers the eyes of the cat eyed snake to the Barred Forest Racer, we are learning so much from your Nature Diary and can’t wait to buy your book. My work colleagues really enjoyed the Costa Rica book and the Osa book by R Toft but your photographs are equally as good. Watch out for that high tide today.


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