Don’t be too rash   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 12 2010

Temp High 89°F  Low 74°F          Precipitation 0.29 ins

Today has been a reasonably quiet day, overcast with no sun or rain, but with a gentle breeze constantly blowing.  The subdued atmosphere was briefly interrupted by some visitors who had been up and out walking before breakfast.  They had been over to the tropical garden area where there is a large pond.  Just before sunrise they had witnessed a frog orgy, an explosive breeding episode of the Parachuting Red-eyed Green Treefrog, (Agalychnis spurrelli).  The previous night, they had emerged on mass; throwing themselves from the tops of the trees they use the large, heavily webbed bright yellow hands and feet as parachutes to glide down to the ground level vegetation.  What the visitors had then come across were hundreds of paired up males and females laying sheets of eggs on the upper surfaces of the leaves around the pond.  For those who went a little later to see the spectacle, it was too late.  As the sun rises, the frogs make their way higher into the bushes and shrubs and then they tuck themselves up under the leaves to avoid the potentially desiccating effects of the sun’s rays.  You can still see them; they are all lined up, appearing as little silhouettes as the rising sun shines down through the plant leaves.

More or less the same species of birds and butterflies have been seen in the grounds.  There has however been another migrant turn up, one more warbler, the Yellow Warbler, (Dendroica petechia).  As the name suggests, it has a yellow head and breast, with a dirtier yellow color to the back and wings.  The distinguishing feature is the male’s breast which is streaked with a series of orange dashes.

Monkeys are a common sighting around the grounds of Bosque but there are two or three other mammals that visitors will see and quite often get mixed up even though they not related and do not remotely resemble one another.

The White-nosed Coati, (Nasua narica), is related to the raccoons familiar to most people in North America.  They have a deep rich brown fur and a little bit of white coloration around the muzzle which gives them their name.  The tail is sometimes ringed with dark and pale alternating bands and is generally held straight up in the air while the head is down foraging.   Just like their northern cousins, coatis are omnivorous and they will eat anything they can their paws on; grubs and crabs dug out of the ground, eggs and chicks from nesting birds as well as fruit.  They are accomplished climbers and today I watched one up a Coconut Palm, working away in an effort to dislodge the prized meal from its point of attachment.

The males are solitary and if you ever hear of one being referred to as a coati mundi, that is a single solitary male.  The females are gregarious and will be found in large groups accompanied by the young ones.

The other mammal commonly seen around the grounds is a large rodent, the Agouti, (Dasyprocta punctata). They are big caviomorph rodents, the closest relative of which people will be familiar with are the Guinea Pigs.  Agoutis are seed eaters.  Today there were several sitting under a large fruiting palm tree in front of the cabins, feeding on the fallen palm nuts.  Agoutis have the ability to sit on their haunches and you will quite often see then with large, tough shelled nuts, turning them in their front paws to gnaw through and get to the nutritious seed inside.  A common question I get is “What is that large rabbit-like creature with tiny ears and no tail”?  Easy, it is an Agouti.

Tonight, after dinner, as I was talking to some guests in the restaurant, there was a splat behind me.  Normally anything going splat would be a treefrog jumping, freefalling and hitting the ground.  They don’t seem to suffer from the experience.  But on this occasion it was not a treefrog but rather surprisingly a young Grey Four-eyed Opossum that had lost its footing in the roof beams and fallen.  To be honest, it looked as if the impact had killed it.  I picked it up to remove it and could feel its heart was still beating, so I took it out into the entrance, kept it warm and within 5 minutes it had made a full recovery.  Not only that but in terms of thanks, it ran up my arm and sat on my shoulder so that I could return and show the diners that the day had a happy ending.

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

One of the more surprising things about the area is that given the number of species of butterfly I have recorded, and bear in mind that number will be dwarfed by the number of moth species there are in the area, I very rarely see caterpillars.  When I do, I try to get a photo to add to the records.  A sentiment that I have now repeated on several occasions, is to bemoan the lack of adequate reference material to help identify certain organisms.  Caterpillars fall into one of two categories; very distinctive or not.  Even those you think may pose no problem in identifying turn out to be not as distinct as you first thought.  Over the past couple of weeks I have happened upon two caterpillars that have proved slightly easier to put a name to than normal.

This is the caterpillar of one of the Hawk moths, a Sphinx Moth, (Xylophanes chiron).  I found it on the underside of a leaf in the tropical garden.  The adult I found near my cabin.  The adult moth is to be found resting during the day on mossy covered tree trunks.  The body of the moth is covered in dense green “fur”.  The wings too, are a mossy green and both these features blend the moth in perfectly with its background.  The camouflage is aided by the wings having a broken band patterned as an exact copy of tree bark.

The second caterpillar is so very distinctive there should be no problem identifying it.  But there would be a big problem if you got too close.  The caterpillar belongs to yet another moth, a very insignificant small brown moth, the Saddleback Moth, (Acharia hyperoche).  The adult is the equivalent of what birders refer to as a “little brown job”.  Take a look at the caterpillar again though; its body has many protuberances bearing a covering of sharp spiny hairs.  If you touch the caterpillar, even ever so slightly, these urticating hairs deliver a chemical that will immediately result in a painful ulcerated rash that will last for several days.

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

Grey Four-eyed Opossum

Agouti

White-nosed Coati

Birds

Scarlet Macaw

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

Short-billed Pigeon

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Green Honeycreeper

White-lined Tanager

Cherrie’s Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Yellow Warbler

Mourning Warbler

Roadside Hawk

Laughing Falcon

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Reptiles

Basilisk

Four-lined Ameiva

Golfo Dulce Anolis

Mediterranean House Gecko

Northern Cat-eyed Snake

Amphibians

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Parachuting Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Smokey Jungle Frog

Masked Smilisca

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Stejneder’s Dirt Frog

Black and Green Poison Dart Frog

Butterflies

Anartia fatima

Dryas iulia

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Hermeuptychia hermes

Morpho helenor

Morpho menelaus

Pierella luna

Taygetis andromeda

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Posted September 13, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

2 responses to “Don’t be too rash

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  1. Another wonderful article! Makes me miss Bosque! 🙂

  2. Felipe,
    I loved the story of the parachuting frogs! Aren’t these commonly called “glider” tree frogs? That is exactly what I saw last time I was there. Such an incredible experience. Keep writing!

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