Veridion Adventures. Philip Davison. Rainforest animals. Rainforest plants

Today has been in much the same vein as yesterday, overcast with showers.  There were not so many birds or butterflies out this morning on my pre-breakfast amble.  The Chestnut-backed Antbirds, (Myrmeciza exul), and Black-hooded Antshrikes, (Thamnophilus bridgesi), made their presence know with constant calls coming from the forest edge.  Scarlet Macaws,  flying in noisy duets were on their way from the roosting sites to the feeding sites.  Scarlet Macaws,(Ara macao), can quite often be found feeding in the Tropical Almond Trees lining the back of the beach at Matapalo.  Three more birds heard, but not seen, were calling from hidden vantage points in the vegetation; the Bright-rumped Atilla, (Atilla spadiceus), with its rapidly repeated “Read it, read it, read it” call, along with two manikins, the blue-crowned, (Lepidothrix coronata), and the red-capped, (Pipra mentalis).

After breakfast I had another tour in the forest.  It always takes me about an hour to get to the trail head, as I stop to point out many things as we go, the plants and the animals, as well as trying to get a feel for the level of interest and the depth of knowledge the guests I am taking out have.  The tour has a loose framework to it around which I can build information depending upon what we see.  That in turn depends not only on the time of year but also on serendipitous circumstances.  But as Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind”, so having spent the best part of my life studying all things natural, I can generally wax lyrical about anything that comes our way.  Also, the visitors may have a certain more special interest such as tropical medicines, or they may have seen a television program about ants and want me to indulge them with further elucidation of these subjects.  Occasionally the tour may take a more political or socio-economic aspect to its direction.  But this morning it was general rainforest ecology.

As we were approaching the “Zapatero Trail” entrance, we were treated to the sight of a large troupe of very vociferous Spider Monkeys, (Ateles geoffroyi), closely followed by a troupe of Capuchin Monkeys, (Cebus capucinus), a little less rambunctious by nature than their larger cousins.  As I was talking, a beautiful electric blue male, Morpho menelaus butterfly flew by.  Its flight is lazy, floppy and erratic.  It landed on some fallen fruit to imbibe the juices, allowing us to approach and enjoy a close look.  In the background the Howler Monkeys, (Allouata palliata), were raising a din about something that was disturbing them.

Terciopela: Velvet Slippers of Death

We finally made it into the forest, stopping every few yards to talk about some aspect of forest ecology, which by the time we exit 3 hour later, all the information will have fitted together to unravel what is an amazing story.  Just as we came down the final stretch of path, a shout from behind me brought me up short.  I had not seen it and stepped straight over the top of it.  The young lady following directly behind me saw it move and screamed.  Lying coiled in the centre of the path was a Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper), a deadly poisonous pit viper.  They have a reputation they don’t deserve as being very aggressive.  This one sat there totally unperturbed by the fuss it had caused, so I picked up a stick and ushered it off the path into the undergrowth were it wouldn’t solicit a hysterical response from anyone else who may be following in our footsteps.

At the end of the day as the sun started to set, its departure was accompanied by flocks of Red-lored Amazons, (Amazona autumnalis), leaving for their roosting sights, one last yahoo from the atilla and finally the plaintive call of a Great Tinamou, (Tinamus major).

As you walk around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo, whether it is in the gardens or the forest it is almost guaranteed that at some point you will come across a very weird, almost alien looking life form.  For the past two days for example I have seen a trash bug that covers itself in refuse in order to approach undetected and then assassinate its prey.  For the same covert reason, there has been a praying mantis in the restaurant that resembles to perfection a bean pod.  People quite often approach me at the lodge with a description or photo of some strange insect that they have seen.  Some of these weird bugs demand an explanation……..

The ingloriously named Peanut-headed Bug, (Fulgora lantenaria), is one of the planthoppers, a true bug in the family Fulgoridae.  Take a close look at the head.  Not many predators are going to recognize that as something so totally harmless as a species of sap-sucking bug.  That dreadful aspect is more akin to some hell-spawned daemon straight from a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  The maw, the gape, the teeth, any bird or lizard would have second thoughts about risking an encounter with such a monster.  It is however all a ruse, it is a false head, a protuberance from the front of the actual head of the insect.  If you look closely you will see the true eye and the six legs that denote it as an insect.

The Peanut-headed bug lives at the top of the trees and is rarely encountered at ground level.  They also tend to be inactive during the day and fly at night.  The alternative name Lantern bug is just as inadequate as they do not emit light of any kind.  A third name, sometimes used, is far more descriptive, the Dragon-headed Bug.

Some species of planthoppers have long waxy excrescences trailing like stiff white ribbons from the rear of the abdomen.  This one is Pterodyctia reticularis.  There is no definitive answer as to why they have these peculiar waxy plumes although they may serve as a distraction to predators, directing an attack to the tails and not at the insect’s body.



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