The Lizard Kings   Leave a comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 22 2010

Temp High 88°F  Low 72°F          Precipitation 0.03 ins

This morning was bright and sunny again.  Those daily heralds of the dawn, the Chestnut-backed Antbirds, were announcing the rising of the sun and it wasn’t long before they were joined in chorus by a myriad of other avian performers.  Unlike the U.K. where the birds greet the day with melodic songs and warbles, here in the tropics the bird calls are more squawks, chirps and chips.

Those velvet black and metallic green day flying moths, the Green Uranias, are increasing in numbers every day now.  Small flurrying clouds take momentarily to the air as you walk by and disturb them from their basking sites on top of the leaves.  It won’t be long before you will be engulfed in a whirling mass of flashing viridian once they arrive in thousands on their migratory journey down through the country.

On the side of a fruiting Guapinol tree, (Hymenaea courbaril), I noticed another Paper Wasp nest, this one constructed flat with the entrance at the bottom.  The Guapinol tree bears fruit that look like large hard-shelled auburn colored beans.  The flesh inside, covering the seeds, is edible, but they have the aptly named title of “Stinky Toe” which doesn’t leave much to the imagination as to how they smell.  The clear yellow sticky sap from the Guapinol becomes fossilized and can sometimes be found on the beaches as Central American amber.

Another shrub in flower at the moment is the Rose del Monte, (Brownea macraphylla).  Although its range reaches from South America into Panama, it is not native in Costa Rica, so the ones we have in the garden are ornamentals.  The flower buds are produced on the trunk and the branches, and then erupt into a starburst of fiery orange.

Soaring up above are the ubiquitous Black and Turkey Vultures.  Today soaring with them are the very distinctive shapes of Magnificent Frigate birds.  They have long forked tails but the most obvious diagnostic feature is the long thin wings.  This high aspect ratio aerofoil give the frigatebirds an amazing aerial capability which they use to good effect; these are the pirates of the air.  They hassle and bully other birds such as pelicans and Ospreys into dropping their freshly caught fish which the frigatebirds snatch out of the air so claiming the reward of a stolen meal.

Around the pond there were the Basilisks and dragonflies, all in their usual situations.  The Banana Frogs had been busy last night as there were freshly laid egg masses on top of the leaves of the Water Hyacinth, some of which had showy blue blooms opening today.

Over at the Crepe Gingers, bright metallic green Orchid Bees were entering the open bleached white flowers in search of a sugary feed from the plants nectar supply.  Close to the ground, perched on the side of a tree was a large Owl Butterfly.  It displayed the typical condition of having most of the hind wing around the area of the eye spot, missing, already pecked or bitten by a bird or lizard mistaking it for some larger tasty morsel.

Over by the entrance to the “Pacific Trail” I noticed a lot of excited bird activity.  I watched a heavily mottled female Black-hooded Antshrike in the lower vegetation taking insects from under the leaves.  Up above, a Plain Xenops indulged in the same type of activity.  A Streak-headed Woodcreeper flew in to the base of a tree trunk and then carried out its characteristic ascent, always peeling away the loose bark looking for a tasty morsel to eat.  Flitting from branch to branch were a variety of tanager species including, Cherrie’s, White-lined, White-shouldered and Bay-headed.  Two Streaked Flycatchers flew off into a distant tree which, for now, was home to a Masked Tityra.  Dipping in and out of some bright red Hibiscus flowers, was a small Stripe-throated Hermit seeking out that essential nectar supply, the ample consumption of which allows the hummingbird to sustain prolonged hovering with those rapid, blurred wing beats.

On the walk over to my cabin I came across some mating Barred Ameivas, the largest of the whip-tailed lizards that we have in the area.  As I walked the final stretch back through the forest, a Pierella luna was there to greet me flying close to the ground but always just a yard in front.

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

Today I thought I might have a look at some of the scaled creatures that rather having no legs generally have four, the lizards.

As you walk on the forest trails, an occasional movement may catch your eye but you did not see whatever it was that moved.  There are a lot of little lizards that jump out of your way or wriggle through the leaf litter down by your feet, but their cryptic coloration disguises them and hides them from view once they stop moving.

Litter Skink

There may be a flash of bronze, which if you are lucky, will have frozen against a tree trunk.  Stoop slowly and fluidly without any jerky movements and you will see, suspended in animation, a small skink, its head maybe cocked to one side looking at you.  This is a Litter Skink, (Sphenomorphus cherriei).

Pug-nosed Anole

These small insectivorous skinks generally forage and hide beneath the leaves on the forest floor.  Skinks have hard, bony, highly polished scales.  Any predator that catches a skink in its mouth may find it difficult to hold on to it as those polished scales prove to be very slippery.

There are many species of Anolis lizard.  At Bosque we have 4 or 5 species that people regularly see.  The Pug-nosed Anole, (Norops capito), is one of the larger species.  Its name is self evident as it has a short snout.  You will find them on the sides of the trees, but it is not easy to see them unless they move.  Pug-nosed Anoles are mottled green and brown, so they blend in perfectly with their background.  This allows them to hide from potential predator and prey.  They may be fed upon by birds, snakes and larger lizards.  They in turn will sit motionless waiting for their prey to pass by, be that smaller lizards or insects.

Many lizards have the ability to change color.  It is not always to blend in with the background.  There are other factors which influence the lizards color; temperature, health, excitability and stress amongst them.  If you do disturb the Pug-nosed Anole, you will see it change from the mottled colors to a very dark chocolate brown almost in front of your eyes.

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

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Streak-headed Woodcreeper

Bright-rumped Atilla

Great Kiskadee

Streaked Flycatcher

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

Plain Xenops

Masked Tityra

Magnificent Frigatebird

White-tipped Dove

Stripe-throated Hummingbird

Blue-crowned Manakin

Red-capped Manakin

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan


Green Honeycreeper

Cherrie’s Tanager

White-shouldered Tanager

White-lined Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Mourning Warbler

Roadside Hawk

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture



Four-lined Ameiva

Barred Ameiva

Northern Cat-eyed Snake


Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Smokey Jungle Frog

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog


Anartia fatima

Caligo eurilochus

Dryas iulia

Glutophrissa drusilla

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius sapho

Hermeuptychia hermes

Morpho Menelaus

Phoebis argante

Phoebis sennae

Pierella luna

Siproeta stelenes

Posted September 23, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: