A Forest Bacchanal   Leave a comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 20 2010

Temp High 87°F  Low 74°F          Precipitation 0.18 ins

In a reversal of the past few days, today started off bright and sunny but progressively as the morning wore on the clouds gathered and finally after lunch down came the rain.

I was out on the “Zapatero Trail” this morning after an absence of about a week.  The entrance of the trail was the scene of several male Morpho menelaus, one of the Blue Morpho butterflies, flapping slowly around, descending to feed on the fallen fruit lying on the ground.  One flew over and alighted briefly on the peak of my cap.

There had been a lot of leaf fall and these produced perfect conditions for some of the small rainfrogs.  There are two tiny frogs living on the forest floor that might catch your eye as they hop out of the way of your descending footfall.  Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus), which has a finely granular skin and a black mask through the eyes, is commonly found on all of the trails, but given its small size is probably overlooked.  The Litter Rainfrog, (Craugastor rugosus), is normally nocturnal but it’s rough and ridge skinned juveniles can be seen jumping around amongst the fallen leaf litter.

It was nice to see some of the forest butterflies that you don’t normally see flying outside of the confines of the forest.  Two of the Satyrs which stay close to the forest floor and blend in perfectly once they settle were flying today, Pierella luna and Pierella helvina.  When Pierella helvina opens its wings there is a bright flash of red on the upper side of the hind wing.  A nice little, Metacharis victrix, landed momentarily on top of a leaf, its orangey brown and darkly bespeckled wings opening wide to soak up the sun.

Here and there you could see bright splashes of color provided by flowers and fruit of various plants serving to break up the monotony of monochrome brown and green.  There were bright red flowers of Erythrina berteroana some still on the small tree, others fallen like scarlet floral scimitars to the forest floor.  A Rubber Tree, (Castilla tunu), had also dropped some of its distinct yellow knobbly ear-shaped flowers to the ground.  There were other flowers, lying there too, the yellow ones of the Monkey Comb Tree, (Apeiba tibourbou).  Ripe hog plums and figs had fallen and would probably supply a good meal to any passing peccaries.

A Helicopter Damselfly, its four wings moving in a manner suggesting helicopters rotor blades, flew straight past my head.  The largest damselfly on the planet, its mission is to find, extract from their webs and consume any spiders they may find as they peruse the forest trails.

In the afternoon I was up in the forest canopy on the tree platform.  You never know what you are going to see when you are perched 100 feet up in the tree tops.  Generally it will be monkeys, for the most part Spider Monkeys.  Spider Monkeys are fruit eating monkeys that inhabit the upper levels of the forest canopy.  Being fruit eaters they forage over a wide area, and so move very quickly through the trees.  They can come and go in an instant.  One minute you are surrounded by monkeys, the next minute they have all gone, their excited screaming and screeching becoming less audible as the disappear down the valley. If Howler Monkeys are there, they are generally there when you arrive and will still be there when you leave.  Being leaf eaters, Howler Monkeys don’t move too far, too fast.  On the odd occasion, Capuchin Monkeys will move through the vegetation beneath you and entertain with their antics.

Nine years ago, I had a group of people up on the tree platform with me when a Harpy Eagle flew by.  At the time Harpy Eagles were considered extinct on the Osa Peninsula, but that particular year two had been observed nesting in Corcovado National Park and one bird, probably the self same individual we observed, had been seen at several localities in close proximity to Bosque del Cabo.

On another occasion, a group of visitors on the platform watched as a Puma stepped out of the forest, made its way quietly and stealthily along the creek bed beneath them and then disappeared into the forest.  We will never know if the cat knew it was being watched from above.

Today, there were no monkeys, eagles or pumas, just mist.  It hung at the level of the uppermost branches, causing the tops of the trees to pass in and out of view, providing a magically atmospheric mood to the forest.

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

I think by now everyone knows how much I like butterflies.  Rather than large gaudy, brightly colored butterflies I am more captivated by the subtle beauty of the browns.  Today as I was walking through the forest I was captivated by the sight of these tiny winged ballerinas dancing their way across the forest floor, settling briefly before up and off again.  Viewed in close-up their muted tones resemble a landscape artist’s palette of earthy ochre, russet, umber and tan, all then delicately and almost imperceptibly fused and blended together and finally interspersed with soft lines and false eyes.  The result is illusion, as they alight amongst the jumble of dead leaves, as if by magic, they disappear from in front of your eyes, only to re-appear once more as they take flight,  skipping and gliding only inches from the ground.

They are very aptly named.  However, the “browns” is a barely adequate and somewhat harsh term for such delicate beauty.  They belong to the Lepidopteran subfamily Satyrinae within the family Nymphalidae.  In Greek mythology, nymphs were nature goddesses, usually associated with the life giving qualities of spring water.  Satyrs were the roaming followers of Dionysus, always surrounded by music and pursuing the Nymphs with whom they loved to dance.  Satyr is a far more evocative name for these pretty little butterflies whose presence goes largely unnoticed to most, but just like the nymphs, dryads and satyrs of the Ancient Greeks, there are some of us who can see them and hear their music.

Chloreuptychia arnaca

Cissia confusa

Hermeuptychia hermes

Taygetis andromeda

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-lored Amazon

Scarlet Macaw

Grey-necked Wood-rail

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Bright-rumped Atilla

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

White-tipped Dove

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Green Honeycreeper

Mourning Warbler

Roadside Hawk

Great Tinamou

Black Vulture



Four-lined Ameiva

Barred Ameiva

Golfo Dulce Anolis

Litter Snake

Northern Cat-eyed Snake


Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Parachuting Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Stejneger’s Dirt Frog

Litter Rainfrog


Anartia fatima

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Hermeuptychia hermes

Metacharis victrix

Morpho menelaus

Pierella helvina

Pierella luna

Pyrgus oileus


Posted September 21, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

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