Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow beneath a golden rain   3 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog Dec 13th 2010

Average Daily Temp High 86°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.01 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.09

Average Daily Temp High 29.7°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.0°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.33 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.29 mm

This week saw the annual return of another migrant, wildlife photographer Roy Toft.  Every December, at the start of the dry season Roy runs a photographic workshop on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.  The participants vary from accomplished photographers to complete novices.  Most of this year’s group had a fair amount of experience between them.

Having just been subject to a great deal of rain, the photographers were blessed with a week of almost total sunshine on each day of their stay.  They were also fortunate to have a great run of luck regarding their objectives, photographing wildlife.

On one occasion a female Three-toed Sloth carrying a newly born baby on her front decided to move slowly through the trees next to the restaurant at about six feet from the ground.  For a sum of about two hours the sloth leisurely went about its business seemingly oblivious to the frenzied activity occurring around it as a plethora of photographers jostled for the best position to get “the” shot while the sloth, baby hanging firmly to the mothers belly, which in sloth terms is the upperside, (they hang upside down), moved with no apparent plan around the lower branches of a tree.

One afternoon, as I was returning from an excursion of my own to photograph some orchids I had earlier seen blooming, I heard something fall out of a low growing Avocado tree.  A beautiful Tiger Rat Snake was lying at the base of the tree.  This individual was upwards of seven feet in length, a giant.  Tiger Rat Snakes are named after their stunning deep gloss black bodies, broken up with fluorescent lemon yellow half stripes.  For an animal with no legs, the rat snake is lightning fast.  Upon seeing me, the snake made off at high speed across the lawn.  I had my camera mounted on a tripod resting over my shoulder but gave chase.  I managed to catch up with the serpent but it doubled back on itself and headed in the opposite direction.  I unfolded the tripod legs, placed it on the ground and redoubled my pursuit of the fleeing reptile.  Eventually standing astride the now still snake, I waved my right hand in front of its face to draw its attention from my left hand which with many years of practice grabbed the snake behind the head.

Now I had to carry seven foot of seriously unhappy rat snake and camera equipment back to the lodge.  The means of doing so was, in fact, dictated by the snake itself.  As I picked it up, the serpentine body wrapped two or three coils around my neck leaving one hand free to carry the tripod.  When I arrived back at the restaurant, I was aided by Gerly, one of the receptionists at Bosque, in unraveling the scaly rope from around my person.

The snake’s ignominy was to continue as I dropped it into a large laundry basket which I covered with a large black bag to keep it stress free.  Next day we released it into the branches of a low growing tree where once again the photography group could get as many pictures from whatever angle they wanted as this fabulous looking snake posed perfectly still for about 45 minutes.

Along with the migrants that we have this time of year, there are also some resident birds, that despite their being present in the area, are rarely seen.  I was privileged to see one such bird recently, the Great Black Hawk.  The Mangrove Black Hawk is commonly seen around Bosque, especially on the Pacific beach where it hunts and eats the crabs that form a substantial part of its diet.  The Great Black Hawk is a much larger species with a white rump as well as a white tail bar and feeds on more active prey such as reptiles, birds and mammals.

One night after I finished working in the office and made my way back to my cabin, my attention was drawn to something noisily moving around low down in a palm tree.  Closer inspection revealed a Central American Wooly Opossum.  We have several species of Opossum which can be found around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo: the Virginia Opossum, which is not a very savoury looking animal, Grey Four-eyed Opossums, Mexican Mouse Opossums and the Central American Wooly Opossum, the latter three being far more pleasing to the eye in terms their of physical appearance.

One of the most spectacularly flowered trees briefly came into blossom for a few days, the Yellow Flowering Cortez, (Tabebuia guayacan).  The display is of short duration but stunning.  Within a 48 hour period the tree becomes covered in bright yellow flowers which contrast against the stark greens of the forest foliage.  The ephemeral show is over as soon as it began with the blooms falling to the ground as golden rain after just a few days.  The trees will sometimes flower two or three times over the course of the year though.

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

Three-toed Sloths are unusual creatures.  They belong to the same family of mammals as armadillos and anteaters, the Xenathra.  Sloths are arboreal and feed on leaves.  The sloth has a territory of about 45 trees, but sometimes fewer.  They come back regularly to a home tree which is known as the modal tree.

Three-toed Sloth

Three-toed Sloth baby

Leaf is very difficult to digest and the sloth has a very low basal metabolism.  One of the favorite modal trees of a sloth is the quick growing Cecropia tree.  It has a wide open crown in which the sloth takes advantage as a good place to sunbathe.  The suns energy helps warm up the body of the sloth increasing its ability to digest its leaf diet.

Three-toed Sloth

Three-toed Sloth - Mother and Baby

It can take several weeks for the food to pass through the digestive system of a sloth.  Unlike monkeys which defecate from the top of the trees and then move on very quickly, were the sloth to do this it would not be going anywhere fast.  Any predator would see fresh fecal material on the ground, look up and there would be its meal hanging upside down on a branch.  So it stores the fecal material in the body and for such a slow animal it will then take a once a week hazardous journey to the ground to defecate.  With its short stubby tail it bores a hole at the base of the tree, defecates, covers the evidence and then returns to the tree tops.

In eighteen years of visiting and living in Costa Rica I have never seen a small Tiger Rat Snake, (Spilotes pullatus), or Mica as they are known in Spanish.  All the individuals I have ever come across are six feet plus.  It could well be that the smaller and juvenile ones frequent the higher branches of trees searching for bird and lizard prey.

Tiger Rat Snake

The body is a glossy jet black with a deep luster.  The head is boldly emblazoned with striking yellow markings which continue along the length of the body as half or completed stripes.  They are very quick diurnal hunters and the adults will take lizards, birds and mammal prey.

Tiger Rat Snake

When disturbed, the Tiger Rat Snake vibrates its tail very rapidly, not unlike many other snakes which behave in a similar fashion when threatened.  Tiger Rat Snakes are not adverse to striking out either and can leave a series of profusely bleeding bite wounds.

Tiger Rat Snake

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Species List for the Week


Howler Monkey

Spider Monkey

Capuchin Monkey


White-nosed Coati


Central American Squirrel Monkey

Central American Wooly Opossum

Collared Peccary


Crimson-fronted Parakeets

Red-lored Amazon

Great Currasow

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Crested Caracara

Great Black Hawk

Laughing Falcon

Roadside Hawk

Yellow-headed Caracara

Magnificent Frigatebird

Purple-crowned Fairy

Long-billed Hummingbird

Rufus-tailed Hummingbird

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Common Paureque

White-tipped Dove


Bay-headed Tanager

Cherrie’s Tanager

Golden-hooded Tanager

Summer Tanager

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Great Tinamou

Side-striped Woodcreeper

Bright-rumped Atilla

Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee

Tropical Kingbird

House Wren

Riverside Wren

Black Vulture

King Vulture

Turkey Vulture


Cat-eyed Snake

Tiger Rat Snake

Clawed Gecko

Mediterranean House Gecko

Central American Whiptail

Barred Ameiva

Four-lined Ameiva

Common Basilisk

Golfo Dulce Anolis


Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Milky Frog

Masked Smilisca

Fitzinger’s Rain Frog

Rough-skinned Dirt Frog

Stejnegers Dirt Frog


Anartia fatima

Anthoptus Epictetus

Arawacus lincoides

Caligo eurilochus

Dryas iulia

Eueides lybia

Glutophrissa drusilla

Heliconius cydno

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius sapho

Hermeuptychia hermes

Magneuptychia libye

Mesosemia zonalis

Morpho helenor

Morpho menelaus

Parides erithalion

Perophthalma lassus

Phoebis argante

Pierella helvina

Pierella luna

Turesis basta

Urbanus tanna


Yellow-trumpet Vine flowering

Calabash flowering

Monkey Comb Tree fruiting

Dutchman’s Pipe Flowering and Fruiting

Yellow Cortez Flowering


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

3 responses to “Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow beneath a golden rain

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  1. PHILLIP, i was there to see that 3 toed mother sloth and it had to be one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen and this trip to Bosque I saw more wildlife that I have ever seen in all of my many trips. It only gets better. Thanks for all of your wonderful posts and get education. Keep posting.


  2. Hi Phillip, I am enjoying catching up on your older posts. Regarding the Tiger Rat Snake, is this the same species as an Oriole Snake?



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