Scary Monsters   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 26 2010

Temp High 80°F  Low 71°F          Precipitation 1.65 ins

Well, what can I tell you, it is raining.  There was a brief moment this morning when I thought it might brighten, but no.  I was sitting looking at the satellite images of the impending rain clouds on the screen of my laptop but really did not need to do much more than swing around 180° and look out of the window.  Advancing towards the coast was a solid grey wall.  The horizon disappeared and the grey obscured the ocean.  Suddenly we were engulfed in that heavy fog, a portent that something is about to happen.  Sure enough it did, and it has not stopped, a constant nonstop deluge.

I did notice while I was out that the Pochote Trees, (Bombacopsis quinata) have leafed up.  These trees are not native to this area, being trees from tropical dry forest regions in the north west of the country.  The wood is excellent for furniture making and so many had been planted around the grounds of Bosque to that effect.

There are several features that people note about the Pochotes and immediately return to the lodge seeking answers to questions that are puzzling them.  The first would be during the dry season, the Pochotes shed all of their leaves.  This is an unusual situation here where the trees tend to be broad-leaved evergreens and hold on to their leaves year round.  Along with the pale bark, the lack of leaves in the dry season gives the impression that the trees are dead.  The “Golfo Dulce Trail” runs through a large stand of Pochote Trees and so a lot of visitors in the dry part of the year imagine that they are walking through an area of forest that is tainted by some dreadful contagion.  Coming from parts of Costa Rica which experience a great deal less rain than the Osa Peninsula, the trees tend to be deciduous, so it is nothing more insidious than they are genetically preprogrammed to lose their leaves once a year, making them appear different to the surrounding vegetation.

The other name for the Pochote is the Silk-cotton Tree.  The flowers which appear around May are shaped like a sparse and straggly shaving brush.  The flowers are pollinated by bats.  A little later when the fruits develop, they look like an elongated green pear which subsequently splits releasing an off-white cottony fluff which drifts on the breeze carrying away the small embedded seeds.

The most eye catching feature of the Pochote is that the pale grey trunk is covered in long sharp thorns.  There is a theory that these may have provided defenses against large herbivorous mammals that inhabited the Americas before the coming of man: Giant Ground Sloths, mastodons and glyptodonts.  These were the American equivalent of the large herbivorous megafauna that can be found in Africa today; elephants, giraffes and rhinoceros.  As man moved across the Bering Straits and down through the Americas, most of the larger mammals declined in numbers and species then eventually disappeared altogether.  The trees never seemingly lost their defenses though.

By the time evening had arrived the rain had stopped and although the grounds were sodden, I could at least get out to count the frogs.  There were lots of Parachuting Red-eyed Green Treefrogs calling so I am expecting a big breeding explosion soon.

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

We have spiders at Bosque del Cabo, lots of them if you care to look.  The most obvious are the large orb weavers of various species.  There are smaller orb weavers too.  At night you will come across wandering and wolf spiders.  But there is another spider, one with a reputation that it does not deserve, that you will only rarely find around the grounds, the tarantula.

Tarantula

Tarantulas terrify people, but for no good reason than they look big, gruesome and dangerous.  Big they certainly can be, gruesome depends on the beholder but dangerous they are not.  There are no documented cases of anyone being killed by a tarantula.  However, they are venomous and use the venomous bite to subdue and kill prey such as crickets, cockroaches and in the case of some of the large species lizards and small rodents.

Scene from a 1950’s Science Fiction Horror Movie

More of a concern than the bite would be the ability of some tarantulas to flick from the rear of the abdomen with their hind legs, small barbed urticating hairs.  Anyone having these hairs lodge in their eyes will suffer severe discomfort.

Not Dangerous At All!

In other parts of Central America, visitors may be familiar with gazing into holes at night and seeing tarantulas.  Here at Bosque over the past ten years I have seen only two or three tarantulas and rather than in holes in the ground more in openings in trees.

This particular individual didn’t seem to be unsettled by the proximity of the camera, so I was able to get very close for the portrait shots.

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

Agouti

Virginia Opossum

Birds

Red-lored Amazon

Scarlet Macaws

Bright-rumped Atilla

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

Great Kiskadee

Short-billed Pigeon

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Green Honeycreeper

Cherrie’s Tanager

Palm Tanager

Riverside Wren

Crested Caracara

Yellow-headed Caracara

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Reptiles

Basilisk

Northern Cat-eyed Snake

Amphibians

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Parachuting Re-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Tink Frog

Butterflies

Heliconius erato

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

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Posted September 27, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

One response to “Scary Monsters

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  1. Spiders indeed have a bad reputation. What I want to know: Is there a good rule of thumb regarding which spiders can pack a punch? Is it the web weavers or non-webbers??

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