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Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 9 2010

Temp High 91°F  Low 74°F          Precipitation 0.0 ins

Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the birds and butterflies were out not only in force but in equal numbers, 35 species of each recorded for the day.  It looked as if the sunny conditions might hold out all day and so following a successful bird count in the morning I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to complete what may be the final butterfly count of the season.

We have a small photographic group staying at Bosque at the moment and they echoed the sentiments of the group that was leaving as they arrived, namely, in the one afternoon and morning that they had been here, they were stupefied by the sheer number of animals they were seeing.  I gave them some advice as to where they should go to photograph the various subjects they were after, left them to it and off I went to walk my transect.

Add a little sunlight to warm air temperatures and out will come the butterflies.  They must exist in numbers that are inactive during periods of inclement weather because today they appeared almost spontaneously.  It was nice to see three species of Sulfur; medium sizes yellow butterflies that grace the open garden areas.

In the forest, on the Titi Trail, I knew there was an Agouti and White-nosed Coati nearby because of the fresh tracks on the ground.    For the same reason, I knew there was a herd of Collared Peccary not too far ahead.  As I walked up a muddy incline, listening to the soft trilling call of a Black-throated Trogon, my attention became redirected to a clacking sound that I know very well.  Up on top of the ridge were the peccaries, the males snapping their teeth together in a signal of alarm.  Peccary, like the coati, have exceptionally bad sight and hearing but an excellent sense of smell.  If you are downwind of them they quite often have no idea that you are there.  If you are upwind of them they will pick up your scent immediately.  And so it was with this herd of about ten or twelve, they knew I was there, but also probably had no real fear as they have not been hunted on the grounds of Bosque for the past ten years.  As I continued to walk up the hill they just walked off into the forest to continue about their business.

There were two other noteworthy sightings today, one a new species of butterfly and the other an occasionally seen species of damselfly.  The butterfly was one of the Firetip Skippers, Myscelus assaricus, the forewing divided between orange and black in color with a broad white band.  The most eye-catching feature though is the fast “buzzy” flight so typical of some of the skippers.  That now makes three new species of butterfly in one week.  The damselfly was the Helicopter Damselfly, one of the largest damselflies on the planet.  There are several species but this was the impressively large Megaloprepus coerulatus.  Helicopter Damselflies are named after their flight pattern, the four transparent wings tipped, in this species, with opaque white and a dark blue/black band, appear to move in the fashion of a helicopters rotors.  They are specialized feeders on spiders.  They can be seen hovering vertically up and down or horizontally in and out searching spider webs for their occupants.  When they find one, they grab it, reverse away from the web nip off the head and legs and then consume the soft body parts.

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.

http://www.bosquedelcabo.com

Photo Feature

When people think of a flowering plant, it brings to mind something with roots, a stem, green leaves and when in season, flowers and fruit. Flowering plants evolved 100 million year ago and from that time to this have evolved into thousands of forms, the nearest estimate being in the region of 250,000 species.  There are as many as 90,000 species of flowering plants in the Neotropics of which 9,000 species occur in Costa Rica.  Flowering plants have flowers; sometimes they are large, showy and colorful, yet other times totally inconspicuous.  In shape they make exhibit what we imagine as a typical flower but others may be a bizarre as visual copies of the sex organs of a female bee.  Some flowers have a delicious perfume while others may emit the somewhat less attractive odor of rotting flesh.  But whatever their size, shape, color or scent, flowers are a plants way of manipulating, amongst other things, insects, birds and bats to do their bidding in terms of bringing about pollination.

Now that is a typical flowering plant, but as with everything else, there are going to be some atypical forms.  I will quite often have people come into restaurant at Bosque in the evening and ask me to identify some of the plants and animals they have been photographing during the course of the day.  One puzzling sighting is a weird little mushroom they may have found growing at the base of a tree.  The plant in question is not a fungus, although it takes a lot of convincing of that fact before people will believe it, but rather a strange looking flowering plant, Helosis cayennensis, belonging to the family Balanophoraceae.  Arising from subterranean tubers, Helosis cayennensis is a root parasite of other flowering plants.  They lack chlorophyll and have a uniform tan color.  It is not uncommon to see them but they only occur sporadically at the bases of trees.

Take a look at the photographs and try to decide if having seen this, you would have identified it as a flowering plant.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Species List for the Day

Mammals

Howler Monkey

Spider Monkey

Capuchin Monkey

Agouti

Collared Peccary

Birds

Red-lored Amazon

Scarlet Macaw

Rufus-tailed Hummingbird

Stripe-throated Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Woodnymph

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Bright-rumped Atilla

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

Western Wood Pewee

Tropical Kingbird

Short-billed Pigeon

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Blue-crowned Manakin

Red-capped Manakin

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Bananaquit

Green Honeycreeper

Cherries Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

White-lined Tanager

Mourning Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

House Wren

Riverside Wren

Black-crowned Tityra

Roadside Hawk

Laughing Falcon

Crested Caracara

Yellow-headed Caracara

Great Tinamou

Black-throated Trogon

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Reptiles

Basilisk

Central American Whiptail

Barred Ameiva

Four-lined Ameiva

Golfo Dulce Anolis

Mediterranean House Gecko

Litter Snake

Northern Cat-eyed Snake

Amphibians

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Smokey Jungle Frog

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Gladiator Frog

Black and Green Poison Dart Frog

Butterflies

Anartia fatima

Arawacus togarna

Archaeoprepona demophon

Caligo eurilochus

Cissia confusa

Diaethria astala

Dryas iulia

Eueides aliphera

Eueides lybia

Euphyes vestries

Eurema albula

Glutophrissa drusilla

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Heraclides cresphontes

Hermeuptychia hermes

Junonia everete

Magneuptychia libye

Mechanitis polymnia

Morpho helenor

Morys valerius

Myscelus assaricus

Pareuptychia metaleuca

Parides erithalion

Phoebis agarithe

Phoebis argante

Phoebis sennae

Pierella helvina

Pierella luna

Pyrgus oileus

Saliana longirostris

Staphylus mazans

Urbanus simplicius

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

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