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Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 24 2010

Temp High 87°F  Low 73°F          Precipitation 0.03 ins

Today was a grey, overcast and drizzly day.  That is just about par for this time of year.  I did manage to see a few things in the brief time I had this morning.  I thought as I probably wasn’t going to get out and get much done that it might be more prudent to take a trip into town.  I had not seen my friend and fellow biologist Mike Boston for a while so this would be a good time to maybe sit down and enjoy a chat.

I walked to the end of the Bosque drive to wait for the collectivo, a private truck that runs between Puerto Jimenez and Carate twice a day, every day.  As I sauntered along the driveway a troupe of Squirrel Monkeys made their way from one side of the drive to the other using the overhanging trees as a bridge.

Squirrel Monkeys are the smallest of the Costa Rican monkeys and they are also the most carnivorous.  The prey is insects, small lizards and frogs gleaned from the vegetation, as well as any tent-making bats they may find roosting under some of the leaves as they forage their way through the forest.  Squirrel Monkeys are the only Costa Rican monkeys that do not have a prehensile tail so they jump from branch to branch.  Where you see one, you will tend to see many as the troupes are relatively large, anything up to 90 in number.  They are small tan in color with a black tip to the tail and a white “Pierrot” mask on the face.  They prefer secondary forest, low down in the forest and quite often can be found at the forest edge.

On the ride into town I could see a whole variety of birds we don’t get on the grounds of the lodge; ibises, herons, egrets and kingfishers.  A lot of the area between Bosque del Cabo and Puerto Jimenez is pasture.  Grazing in the pasture are Brahma cattle closely attended by Cattle Egrets who pick off any flushed insects as the cattle slowly move through the grass.  Originally a bird from Southern Europe and Africa, Cattle Egrets were first recorded in Costa Rica in 1958 and since then have become common throughout North, Central and South America.

Serving as support for the containing barb-wire around the pastures are living fence posts of various fig trees and the Naked Indian Tree, so called because its green trunk is permanently shedding off its peeling red bark.

Mike Boston was the second person I met when I started at University 34 years ago, the first was the girl I should have married but never did, but that’s a totally different story.  At the time Mike was not too dissimilar in character to me, a long haired biker with a passion for the natural world.  Out of a class of 60 students, Mike and I were the only two who wanted to be field biologists, so it was somewhat inevitable that we would become friends and have remained so ever since.  It is also no co-incidence that we both find ourselves living in Costa Rica.

Philip Davison and Mike Boston

Mike and I have a long history some of which may seem a little insane to those outside observers.  For instance, when we were much younger, we had a kind of loose competition to see which of the two could receive the worst bite possible from any kind of animal, (don’t forget we were in our early twenties and exhibited the kind of non-rational and potentially life-threatening behavior inherent in guys that age).  With neither one wanting to back down from the challenge, we both subsequently suffered a whole series of excruciatingly painful episodes courtesy of the jaws of one creature or another.  This ignominious lunacy was brought to an abrupt end when I was bitten, (not intentionally), by a Canebrake Rattlesnake.  It was considered that to continue beyond this point may be straying into the realms of the suicidal.

Anyway here we both are, we may still get bitten by various beasts, but not with the ill considered lack of self interest we once displayed.  Mike has worked for many years as a guide in Corcovado National Park.  He is also instrumental in arranging and overseeing parties of high school students from both the U.S.A. and Europe who may be studying tropical ecology as part of their university degree program.  His own personal research is a population census of American Crocodiles on the Osa Peninsula.  Have a look at his website to read more about his Corcovado adventure tours:

www.osaaventura.com

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

If you are visiting Bosque del Cabo around January or February and you take a walk on the “Titi Trail”, you come across a vine with a strange flower.  The flowers bloom from the stem of a woody vine and have a peculiar shape, color and smell.

Dutchman's Pipe

The flowers appear to be bent double with an expanded sac-shaped bottom and a wide upward facing opening which give the overall impression of looking like an old tobacco pipe from whence the receive their name; the Dutchman’s Pipe Vine, (Family Arisolochiaceae).  The flowers have a very strange purple reticulated pattern to them, reminiscent of rotting meat.  That effect is added to by the scent it emits, a fetid odor which reminds one of some decomposing animal.  Flies love this stuff and are attracted to what they deem to be a carcass.

Dutchman's Pipe

Take a look down the “throat” of the plant; it is lined with an internal wall of downward pointing hairs.  Flies that have been attracted to this insidious bloom make their unwitting way down into its depths.  Their bodies may be dusted with pollen from visits to previous flowers.  Once inside they cannot escape, those backward pointing hairs prohibit an exit, they are trapped.  The pollen on their bodies is rubbed off on the plants stigma which is encased within the prison.  The plant does not want the insect to die, it has further use of it and so it produces an energy rich meal of nectar to sustain the captive.  Once pollination is assured, the anthers ripen and dust the entrapped insect afresh with pollen of its own.  The flower wilts, the hairs in the neck of the bloom become flaccid and the fly is now at liberty to leave, only to be fooled once again by another bloom.  This elaborate system is cunningly designed to avoid the plant becoming self fertilized.

Pipevine swallowtail

The leaves of the Dutchman’s pipe are extremely toxic and carcinogenic.  As with many other poisonous plants, they do have animals that have evolved a means by which they can neutralize the toxins are therefore feed on them.  Several species of butterflies in the swallowtail family feed on Aristolochiaceae vines in the caterpillar stage.

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

Spider Monkey

Agouti

White-nosed Coati

Birds

Red-lored Amazon

Bright-rumped Atilla

Long-billed Hermit

Chestnut-backed Antbirds

Black-hooded Antshrike

Fiery-billed Aracari

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Green Honeycreeper

Prothonotary Warbler

Laughing Falcon

Roadside Hawk

Great Tinamou

Black Vulture

Reptiles

Basilisk

Northern Cat-eyed Snake

Amphibians

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Parachuting Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Olive Treefrog

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Butterflies

Anartia  fatima

Glutophrissa drusilla

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius sapho

Hermeuptychia hermes

Pyrgus oileus

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Posted September 25, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

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