Fog and Stinging Rain   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 16 2010

Temp High 88°F  Low 74°F          Precipitation 1.7 ins

Once again, today was a day of continuous alternating extremes.  The morning started bright and sunny but by mid morning a mist had arrived.  It drifted slowly through the trees from where it emerged and swirled into the clearings. Suddenly everything was enveloped by its damp clinging embrace.  It is the kind of mist you will find higher in the mountains, that perpetual cloud that gives cloud forest its name, only here it does not bring with it that cooling quality that will chill you down to the bone.  As the grounds of Bosque turned from vibrant green to grey, the mist continued to seep into every open space but by now its nature changed.  It became denser and started to fall as drizzle, at first slight but within a short time more heavily as rain.  And that is how it continued; rain gave way to bright sunshine but never with more than enough time to get out before the rain arrived once more.  As I sit and write, it is 3 O’clock in the afternoon, the sky is black, the rain is falling and the sound of thunder echoes around not too far off in the distance.

Until the arrival of that insidious mist curtailed my daily rounds, it was proving to be quite a productive day.  A post breakfast stroll around the garden in front of the restaurant was rewarded at first with sound of Roadside Hawk somewhere in a tree, announcing its presence with the typical raptor high pitched “kree, Kree”.  I walked over to the area from which the sound was emanating and the bird took flight, little more than gliding over to a neighboring tree.

A leafless tree crown in the corner of the grounds generally provides a perfect perch from which some of the flycatchers can sally forth to catch unwitting insect prey.  Sure enough, there were two Tropical Kingbirds, taking it in turns fly out in that circular path and back to the vantage point.  One took off and seconds later returned with a large cicada, the life of which was extinguished by repeated beatings against the branch.  Higher up in the tree sat another flycatcher, the Western Wood Pewee.  In the uppermost branch a female Black-crowned Tityra was calling with that peculiar sound that always reminds me of a wooden ruler being twanged and drawn across a desk top.

At the forest edge, up in the denser growth, a male Purple-crowned Fairy, was rapidly buzzing up and down between different layers, suddenly darting in to snatch an insect from its refuge on the underside of a leaf.  Possibly the hummingbird had young and needed to supply a continual source of protein to the ever hungry chicks.

A soft high pitched “Chip, chip” heralded the arrival of some of the Tanagers, a mixed flock containing Golden-hooded, Bay-headed, Cherrie’s, White-lined and Palm Tanagers.  Flitting amongst the branches, picking off more insects were those migrants, the subdued colored Mourning Warbler and the more brilliantly colored Pronothotary Warbler.  There was also a scintillatingly viridian colored male Green Honeycreeper.  His black hooded head and bright yellow bill make him unmistakable.  As ever the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans were feeding noisily in the fig trees.  Another bird related to and somewhat resembling a toucan, the Fiery-billed Aracari was also calling.  I always think that if Picasso had been given a white bird as a blank canvas, then the aracari would have been the end result, its fiery red bill and the golden breast bearing a large black rhomb in the centre.

A little further over in the forest behind the garage a Grey-necked Wood-Rail was calling, that frenetic “Tick-tock, Tick-tock”.  The ubiquitous calls of the Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-hooded Antshrike and Blue-crowned Manakin were coming from the same location.  A little Bananaquit flitted from flower to flower, piercing the base of each bloom to rob it of its energy rich nectar supply.

One dead tree towering above the Bosque pond always has the Black Vultures sitting, wings spread out, soaking up the sun.  Today they were accompanied by Yellow-headed and Crested Caracaras.

Around the pond itself, agile Micrathyria occellata dragonflies launch occasional sorties from their territorial perches.  Basilisks, the Jesus Christ Lizard, named from their ability to run across the surface of the water without breaking the surface tension, sit sunning themselves, but quickly disappear into the undergrowth as you draw near.  Under the leaves of a Screw Pine, some Paper Wasps have made their globular carton nest.  A large white silken cross, a stabilimentum, woven into the web of a Silver-orb Spider marks its presence for any bird that may otherwise have flown though and destroyed the web, inadvertently covering itself in sticky silk at the same time.

Butterflies, lots of butterflies bearing brightly colored wings, the Heliconiids, flit from flower to flower on the Lantana bush.  A male Morpho menelaus now flies by, his electric blue iridescent wings flashing in the sun.  Howler Monkeys were voicing their disapproval of something in the background.  The excitable Spider Monkeys, their large orangey brown bodies swinging through the tree tops while they argue amongst themselves with that high pitched psychotic screeching and screaming.  A male Coati is searching around the pond for something to eat.

Then came the mist, seeping out of the forest, enshrouding me in its clammy grasp and that was that.  But you have to agree it was a very productive half hour.

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.

www.bosquedelcabo.com

Photo Feature

Every week when I set off to walk my butterfly transect, I always carry the camera.  It is a kind of insurance policy in case I happen across a species of butterfly I haven’t seen before and I need to capture the image for identification and recording purposes.  But there are many occasions when something else, of a non Lepidopteran nature will catch my eye.  I don’t carry the same amount of equipment that I do when going out on a photographic excursion.  I normally only carry with me on butterfly counting days, the camera fitted with my favorite 105mm macro lens and a flash unit.  That should suffice for any serendipitous encounter.

That is what happened earlier this year when by chance as I was walking the “Titi Trail” on the side of a tree I noticed that something was being busily constructed, some Armadillo or Drumming Wasps were building a nest.  Generally the shape of the nest is diagnostic of the species of wasp building it and these nests are very characteristic with the shape resembling the shell of an armadillo, hence the name.  The wasps use chewed up wood pulp to create the paper that ultimately makes the nest.  The combs are attached to the tree and the nest built up around them eventually culminating in an oval corrugated structure with the entrance at the top.

A colony is formed when a swarm leaves an old nest to form a new colony.  There will be one dominant female who lays eggs.  All the other wasps are female but these are repressed by inhibitory pheromones released by the dominant queen.

The alternative name of Drumming Wasp refers to their habit of rhythmically vibrating the nest from within if disturbed.  Should the perpetrator of the disturbance ignore the sound, the wasps will pour out of the nest, covering its surface while raising and lowering the wings.  Should that not prove to be enough of a deterrent the wasps will attack.  They have powerful venom and a barbed stinger.  The stinger will only be used under extreme duress as its use will mean the subsequent loss of life for the wasp employing it.

They didn’t seem to mind me getting up close to take photographs.  I find that if you always take your time, move slowly, fluidly and retain respect for your subject, then you can generally approach very close without provoking an aggressive response.

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

White-nosed Coati

Birds

Red-lored Amazon

Mealy Amazon

Scarlet Macaw

Grey-necked Wood-Rail

Purple-crowned Fairy

Tropical Kingbird

Western Wood Pewee

Short-billed Pigeon

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Blue-crowned Manakin

Fiery-billed Aracari

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Bananaquit

Green Honeycreeper

Cherrie’s Tanager

White-lined Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Prothonotary Warbler

Mourning Warbler

Black-hooded Tityra

Crested Caracara

Yellow-headed Caracara

Roadside Hawk

Black Vulture

Reptiles

Basilisk

Northern Cat-eyed Snake

Amphibians

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Smokey Jungle Frog

Masked Smilisca

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Butterflies

Dryas iulia

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Heraclides cresphontes

Hermeuptychia hermes

Morpho Menelaus

Phoebis sennae

Pierella luna

Pyrgus oileus

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Posted September 17, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

One response to “Fog and Stinging Rain

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  1. I’m hooked! Reading your blog is like an addiction! I love it!

    Like

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