Dancing with the Stars   Leave a comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 30 2010

Temp High 80°F  Low 73°F          Precipitation 1.29 ins

Today started overcast and rainy but early in the morning, the sun came out.

Over at the Bosque restaurant flocks of Golden-hooded and Bay-headed Tanagers once again made their way through the trees, never stopping for long, they arrive, then one will leave and they all will follow.

A troupe of Capuchin Monkeys approached the deck of the restaurant which resulted in the usual response from the breakfast diners who grabbed their cameras and rushed out to get the photographs.  The monkeys are used to this behavior and just continued about their business which this morning was concerned with finding breakfast of their own.  One young male was on the ground reaching up into one of the wooden light fittings by the path that illuminates the visitors’ way to the cabins at night.  The lights attract insects which then congregate and take refuge inside the shelter.  The Capuchins have a very mixed diet which includes whatever insects they can get their hands on and so this situation presented a ready supply of early morning nutrition.

It has been an infuriatingly frustrating day as despite the sun shining it continued to rain throughout and I won’t take the camera out in the rain.

As the daylight started to fade, the descending curtain of darkness was ripped apart along the length of the horizon revealing a lucid ribbon of salmon pink announcing the suns final bow before sinking out of sight and cueing up the night shift.

I took out a “Sunset Tour” at 6 pm and at this time of the year it really is dark at that time.  All the expected nocturnal fauna was in evidence: the Common Paureque, Wandering Spiders, Fireflies, Banana Frogs, Marine Toads, Smokey Jungle Frogs, Cat-eyed Snakes and Red-eyed Green Treefrogs, one pair of which was in amplexus and on their way down to the pond to lay eggs.  The previous night had seen a lot of egg laying by Banana Frogs and Red-eyed Green Treefrogs.

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

There are two species of manakin that will commonly be encountered by our guests as they walk around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo; the Blue-crowned Manakin and the Red-capped Manakin.  Manakins in general are very small birds and these two species are both no bigger than the size of a clenched fist.  The names are literally self-descriptive; the Blue-crowned Manakin is jet black with a bright metallic blue crown whereas the Red-capped Manakin is jet black but with a bright red head and bright yellow legs.

Normally in terms of bird sexual selection, the female will choose which male she is going to mate with depending on the quality and quantity of food a male presents to her during courtship allowing her to decide which of the males may prove to be the best provider.  Manakins are fruit-eating birds and should the male present fruit to the female she is not going to be that impressed as she is surrounded by a ready source of fruit and can readily obtain for herself.  In common with many other fruit eating birds, to show off the quality of their genetic material, the male manakins have evolved very ostentatious plumages and elaborate courtship dances.

Blue-crowned Manakin

All the males gather together in a lek.  The females come and watch.  Each male sets up his own dance platform and in the case of the Blue-crowned Manakin, that is very low to the ground at the bases of 2 or 3 small saplings.  Each male puts on the performance of his life, flitting and hopping between the stems like a demented little bouncy ball attached to a short piece of rubber band.  The females are a drab green in color, they need to be cryptically colored as they are going to sit on the nest, they sit around and watch the males perform.  The female decides which male has the best dance steps, gives him the nod, the male flies down, mates with the soliciting female, jumps up and starts dancing again.

There is a vertical gradient to the forest and you will find different plants and animals at different levels as you move up through the vegetative layers.  The Blue-crowned Manakin is normally found 0 – 10 feet.  Up at the next level, 10 – 20 feet, you will find the Red-capped Manakin.  He has a slightly different dance.  The male Red-capped Manakin dances on a horizontal branch some way above the ground.  He is the avian equivalent of a tiny little clockwork wind up Michael Jackson on speed.  He does a high octane version of the “Moonwalk” backwards along the branch.  He then stops and throws in a bit of flamenco.  He slaps his wings with a rapid “Clack, clack, clack, clack”.  The females again sit around watching, they select the guy with the most impressive steps, give him notice and just as with his Blue-crowned cousin, he jumps down mates and then is up dancing again.

On occasion, as you walk through the forest, you will come across a male manakin dancing on his own; there is no lek, there are no females.  He is practicing.  On Saturday night, it is the equivalent of when he goes down to the disco, if he doesn’t have the steps right, then he won’t score with the women.

If you want to see this situation taken to its extreme, look at the Birds of Paradise in Papua, New Guinea.  These are fruit-eating birds related to crows and have evolved some of the most elaborate costumes as well as unbelievable song and dance routines in an effort to attract then mate with the females.

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

Capuchin Monkey

White-nosed Coati


Nine-banded Armadillo


Red-lored Amazon

Scarlet Macaws

Purple-crowned Fairy

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Blue-crowned Manakin

Mangrove Swallow

Green Honeycreeper

Cherrie’s Tanager

Bay-headed Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Common Paureque

Roadside Hawk

Black Vulture


Golfo Dulce Anolis

Mediterranean House Gecko

Northern Cat-eyed Snake


Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Banana Frog

Tink Frog

Fitzinger’s Rainfrog

Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog


Caligo eurilochus

Eueides lybia

Heliconius erato

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Hermeuptychia hermes

Morpho menelaus

Parides erithalion

Posted October 1, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

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