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Felipe del Bosque Blog Jan 3rd 2011

Average Daily Temp High 85°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.01 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.07

Average Daily Temp High 29.3°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.1°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 2.54 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 17.78 mm

Thankfully the NOAA predictions of rain through until spring have not, as yet, proved to be founded.   The New Year has started as the old year finished, bright and sunny.  This is causing a change in some of the animal and plant behavior.

After a very slow start to the dry season with butterfly numbers being way below normal, we are now starting to see much greater numbers, both in terms of species and individuals.  What could make a more perfect summer day than to have dazzling displays of these constantly shifting small winged jewels complementing the clear blue cloudless skies.  It has to be the ideal feel good situation.

There have been several good sightings for me this week.  One of the swallowtail family, Battus belus, was seen feeding at the Lantana bush.  Like the swallowtails and cattlehearts they never settle, always hovering rather than settling, at any of the nectar producing blooms.  Out on the Zapatero Trail, I came across a small colony of recently emerged Antirrhea philoctetes, the subspecies we have here being endemic to the area.

The birds certainly have the feel good factor as we move into breeding season.  Now is a good time to visit the Osa Peninsula as the male birds set up their territories and commence the courtship behavior.  Significantly some of the more obvious of the courtships are those of the various species of manakin, of which we have two common species at Bosque del Cabo; the Blue-crowned Manakin and the Red-capped Manakin.  Now is the time when the males lek, setting up dance platforms and performing in competitive routines to show off their best moves in the hope of impressing a watching female.  The Long-billed Hermits are now lekking too.  These are understory hummingbirds for the most part, and they form loose leks of calling males under the canopy.

One of the latest migrants to arrive can currently be seen at the pond in the Tropical Garden.  A female Belted Kingfisher, (Ceryle alcyon), has taken up temporary residence in the low vegetation from which it can fish for tadpoles, of which there is an abundant supply.

I had two excellent views of a White Hawk, (Leucopternis albicollis), this week.  One was sitting at head height on a branch as I crossed the suspension bridge.  Close by was a small troupe of Spider Monkeys.  The White Hawks tend to follow monkeys which as they move through the forest scatter a lot of insect life which the hawk then swoops to pluck from the air.

Both the Red-lored Amazons and Scarlet Macaws are being seen more frequently as they noisily renew pair bonds and search for adequate nesting sites.

One of the most noticeable features of having lived on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo for ten years is the acclimatization to humans by the animals.  This seems to be an exponential change in animal behavior as the much of the wildlife will continue to go about its daily business without any concern as to your physical presence.  Animals in the past that would have been wary and shunned localities haunted by humans now remain in full view allowing themselves to be photographed.

At the moment there are large flocks of Great Curassows, turkey sized birds, wandering freely around the lodge.  On the trails the peccaries just stand and look, then move slowly out of the way.  Spider Monkeys and Capuchin Monkeys, while never previously very shy, now remain unconcerned within almost touching distance.  Coatis, agoutis and even Smoky Jungle Frogs, which when I first arrived would disappear as soon as a flashlight beam fell upon them, all appear totally fearless, nor do you have any need to fear them.

I re-iterate that Bosque del Cabo is not a petting zoo, you cannot interact with or feed the animals but it is a great place to see wildlife up close and intimate.  You will get fantastic photos without all the hours of endless patience normally required to get the best shots.

There are several species of Passion Flower growing vine-like throughout the grounds of Bosque.  The most commonly seen is the bright scarlet red bloom of the Passiflora vitifolia.  Every once in while you will happen across one of the other short lived blooms though and this week I found some of the spent blossoms of Passiflora quadrangularis littering the ground on one of the hidden trails.  Their large, deep purple and white striped flowers are unmistakable.  The name quadrangularis refers to the very distinctive square section to the stems.

The grounds were packed with numerous mammals this week.  All the usual such as four species of monkey, Coatis, agoutis, peccaries, as well as the less often seen, Virginia Opossum, Tome’s Spiny Rat, Vesper Rat, Tayra, Nine-banded Armadillo and Spix’s Disk-winged Bats.

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

One morning just after I had arisen and was completing my ablutions in advance of a busy day ahead, I had a call to rescue Kim and Ben from impending instant death at the fangs of a deadly poisonous snake.  I got dressed and headed off in search of the adventure, but I was still sleepy and somewhat in trepidation of handling a large venomous reptile so soon after regaining my morning consciousness.  When I arrived at the house there was not the air of fear and anxiety that I had expected to find.  One of the workers had already dropped the fearsome reptile into a bucket.  Upon examination I found that rather than being a harbinger of instant mortal demise, there was a juvenile Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilinotus), sitting in the bottom of the bucket.

Tropical Bird-eating Snake - juvenile

Adult Tropical Bird-eating Snakes can grow a good 6 feet or more in length.  They are a light green color with red banding on the skin between the scales.  The top of the head tends to be black.  It is a snake noted for its irascible disposition when disturbed as evidenced by its other common names of the Hissing or Puffing Snake.  If cornered or feels threatened, it will flatten its neck laterally and hisses, striking out repeatedly.

Tropical Bird-eating Snake - juvenile Tropical Bird-eating Snake - juvenile

The juveniles have the same irritable behavior and despite their small size will draw the head back into the same posture and strike out without any hesitation.  This is exactly what this feisty little individual did, not only at me but at the camera as I took its photographs.

Tropical Bird-eating Snake - juvenile

Tropical Bird-eating Snake - juvenile - Threat Posture

One night, upon returning to my cabin, I was greeted by the sight of a large Bark Scorpion, (Centruroides bicolor), resting on the wall.  The camera was at hand as was my scorpion hunting equipment, a hand held ultra violet light.  I set the camera up for a 30 second exposure at f/16 and hoped the scorpion would remain motionless.  It did so for about 2 minutes and then moved off but by that time I had 3 exposures.

One technique widely used around the world for finding scorpions at night is to use ultra violet light.  Once the sun sets, a walk into the forest holding a hand held black light out in front of you will very quickly reveal the presence of any scorpion out foraging.  You can pick out the eerie bluey/green glow from some distance.

The fluorescence is caused by the structure of the outer exoskeleton layer, the hyaline layer of the cuticle and its chemical makeup.  Only scorpions with hardened exoskeletons glow, newly molted scorpion don’t.

There is no definitive answer as to why the scorpions fluoresce under U.V. although there are a number of theories ranging from aiding scorpions to see one another, attracting prey or being a relic sun block for ancestral diurnal scorpions.  None of these theories have been tested and proven.  It could well be that the fluorescence is simply a consequence of the chemical makeup of the exoskeleton and has no particular evolutionary function what so ever.

Bark Scorpion under ultra violet light

Nonetheless I am sure will agree it is a great party trick, especially out here in the rainforest.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Species List for the Week

Mammals

Howler Monkey

Spider Monkey

Capuchin Monkey

Agouti

Nine-banded Armadillo

Tamandua

White-nosed Coati

Red-tailed Squirrel

Vesper Rat

Tomes Spiny Rat

Virginia Opossum

Tayra

Central American Squirrel Monkey

Collared Peccary

Spix’s Disk-winged Bats

Birds

Red-lored Amazon

Scarlet Macaw

Great Currasow

Pale-billed Woodpecker

Roadside Hawk

White Hawk

Yellow-headed Caracara

Long-billed Hummingbird

Rufus-tailed Hummingbird

Black-hooded Antshrike

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Common Paureque

White-tipped Dove

Red-legged Honeycreeper

Cherrie’s Tanager

Palm Tanager

Summer Tanager

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

Great Tinamou

Bright-rumped Atilla

Great Kiskadee

Streaked Flycatcher

Tropical Kingbird

House Wren

Riverside Wren

Masked Tityra

Belted Kingfisher

Black-throated Trogon

Tennessee Warbler

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

Cat-eyed Snake

Clawless Gecko

Mediterranean House Gecko

Central American Whiptail

Barred Ameiva

Four-lined Ameiva

Common Basilisk

Canopy Anolis

Golfo Dulce Anolis

Amphibians

Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog

Marine Toad

Red-eyed Green Treefrog

Milky Frog

Fitzinger’s Rain Frog

Rough-skinned Dirt Frog

Butterflies

Adelpha basiloides

Anartia fatima

Antirrhea philoctetes

Battus belus

Dione juno

Dryas iulia

Eueides aliphera

Eueides lybia

Eurema albula

Glutophrissa drusilla

Heliconius cydno

Heliconius erato

Heliconius hecale

Heliconius ismenius

Heliconius sapho

Heraclides cresphontes

Hermeuptychia hermes

Historis odious

Junonia everete

Magneuptychia libye

Mesosemia zonalis

Metacharis victrix

Morpho helenor

Morpho menelaus

Pareuptychia ocirrhoe

Parides erithalion

Philaethria dido

Phoebis argante

Phoebis sennae

Pierella helvina

Pierella luna

Pyrgus oileus

Pyrisitia nise

Pyrrhogyra crameri

Siproeta stelenes

Plants

Yellow-trumpet Vine flowering

Calabash flowering

Monkey Comb Tree flowering and fruiting

Dutchman’s pipe Flowering and Fruiting

Cannonball Tree Flowering

Rosa de Monte flowering

Heisteria fruiting

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