Typically Tropical   4 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog Jan 24th 2011

A Riot of Color

The dry season is now well and truly upon us.  The daily temperatures are now reaching into the nineties and the rain has all but stopped.  The skies are cloudless and azure blue giving you the feeling of a typically tropical day.

The rising temperatures and drying air have resulted in a profusion of color.  Many of the trees are in bloom and even if you can’t see the flowers because of their lofty position at the top of the canopy, you can certainly see them when they fall.

Areas of the forest floor are now carpeted with the spent blooms of the trees, around the trunks of which they form brightly colored circles which contrast with the dark browns of the rapidly decomposing leaves and the deep reds of the iron rich soils.  The Golden Cortez has flowered for the second time since the rains have diminished.  The Ajo or Garlic Trees are flowering throughout the forest and their discarded bright lemon yellow flowers break up the monotony of the forest floor.  They emit the faint odor of garlic, from which they derive their name, evoking thoughts of French and Italian cuisine as you walk the forest trails.  Fruits of the Heisteria Trees dot the ground here and there.  Commonly known as “Dinner on a Plate”, the bright green fruit sits at the centre of a circular scarlet fleshy veil.  The red color attracts small fruit-eating birds such as manakins whose attention is rewarded with a juicy fruity nutritious pulp, the consumption of which results in the transport and distribution of the plants seeds.

Many of the plants have weird and wonderful looking flowers and fruits, two of which are in evidence everywhere at the moment; the spiny sea urchin like fruits of the Monkey comb Tree and the small doubled layered ear-like flowers of the Hule, or Rubber Tree.

Entomologists Delight

Butterflies, like a kaleidoscope of color against the bright blue sky are everywhere now.  Out in the open areas the gaudy warning colors of many Heliconiids, or Passionflower Butterflies, are swirling around the flame orange and red flowers of the Lantanas.  A host of Satyrs, with their more subtle but nonetheless, captivating colors can be seen flitting in abundance just above the level of the forest floor. The impressively giant and highly iridescent Blue Morphos fly along the forest trails and drying stream beds, erratic flight paths with opening and closing wings give the stroboscopic effect of flashing electric blue lights.  Their equally imposing cousins, the large Owl Butterflies fly in late afternoon.  They look like large bats floppily haunting the forest edge in the dying light.

Around pools, streams and ponds there are now a multitude of Dragonflies and Damselflies.  Aerial acrobats and proficient hunters briefly perching on the vegetation, then off at high speed to pursue some unsuspecting insect prey or chase rival males, their presence is announced by a variety of colors.  The large Helicopter Damselflies, stealthy hunters of spiders, never fail to amaze anyone witnessing their distinct seemingly rotational wing beats.

Predator and Prey

Last week I saw a large Tiger Rat Snake which had been basking on the trail from the Tropical Garden.  The snake saw me at the same time as I saw it, but was a lot quicker than myself and disappeared very quickly into the undergrowth.

Not long afterwards I could hear the Hee Haw sound of a Laughing Falcon which seems as if it will continue forever.  They are specialist snake feeders and so it could well have been to Tiger Rat Snake’s advantage that it was me disturbing it, rather than be caught up in a terminal grasp of its aerial predator.

Now that some of the trees are coming into fruit, the small rogue company of Capuchin Monkeys that were eating the toucans and stealing food from the bordegas have made themselves scarce.  I have seen them moving through the forest, although I would not swear it is one and the same troupe.  But having been a daily feature, they are somewhat noticeable by their absence.

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 in the region of 320,000 species of named beetle around the world, making beetles the most numerously named group of animals on the planet.  The tiny country of Costa Rica is almost unique in the diversity of its fauna and flora.  Within the confines of its borders 47,000 species of beetle have been named.  As with many other groups of plants and animals here there is a distinct lack of reference material to help you make positive identifications, and Costa Rica is far better than most other tropical countries at providing keys, guides and references.  Anyway, I am happy as a non specialist coleopterist, if I can identify some of my photographic subjects down to family level.

Longhorn Beetle Longhorn Beetle Chrysomelidae larva

The first two photographs are of two different species of Long Horn Beetle, family Cerambycidae.  If the adults are difficult, the larvae are impossible.  This red one I am convinced is the larva of a Tortoise Beetle, family Chrysomelidae but I would be happy to stand corrected.  I noticed it climbing up a tree trunk and the first thing that struck me was its superficial resemblance to the totally unrelated trilobites that last inhabited the earth 250 million years ago.  Although we see trilobites as fossils lacking any color, I wondered if it might be that they displayed such flamboyant colors such as this bright red beetle larva.

As you walk through the forest, if you care to look at the ground down by your feet, you will become aware of many things moving through the leaf litter.  Occasionally a tiny little frog will jump out of your way, only to blend in perfectly with its background.  Closer examination will reveal one of several different species.  This one is a juvenile Rough-skinned Dirt Frog, (Craugastor rugosus).   Close up and in profile leaves you in no doubt as to its name.

Craugastor rugosus

Craugastor rugosus

Finally I have just included some random photographs that I took around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo today just to try and capture the colors of a tropical summer day.

White-banded Peacock Flambeau Sapho

Orchid Tree Lantana Water Hyacinth

Dragonfly Giant Owl Butterfly Dragonfly

Please feel free to leave comments about any of the content, your experiences in Costa Rica or if you think you can provide identies to the beetles.  See you next week.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 89°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.01 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.06 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.8 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.1 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.2 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.5 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Agouti
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Red-tailed Squirrel


  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Currasow
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Rufus Piha
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Crested Owl
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-throated Goldentail
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Mangrove Swallow
  • Brown Pelican
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • House Wren
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anolis
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Tiger Rat Snake
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake


  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Milky Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog


  • Adepha basiloides
  • Adelpha cytherea
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Battus belus
  • Battus polydamus
  • Caligo atreus
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Charis auius
  • Cissia confuse
  • Cogia calchas
  • Consul fabius
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Epiphile adrastra
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Euptychia westwoodi
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Lerodea eufala
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia albiciades
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia petreus
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Moeris submetallensis
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morpho theseus
  • Panoquina evansi
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Polites vibex
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrisitia proterpia
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Pyrrhogyra otolais
  • Remella vopiscus
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Staphylus mazans
  • Temenis laothoe
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna


  • Yellow-trumpet Vine flowering
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree flowering and fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Flowering
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Golden Cortez Flowering
  • Hule flowering
  • Heisteria fruiting

4 responses to “Typically Tropical

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  1. I stumbled on your blog by searching for photos of butterflies and frogs for an art project and your photos are a bonanza of color and beauty! Thank you for your talent and for posting. Have you traveled to Peru? I’d love to see how and what you see there.


    • Hi Sabrina
      I’m glad you liked the pictures.
      I have not traveled to Peru, but it is high on my list of places to go. I live in Costa Rica and have been to Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador.
      Did you go to my facebook site?


      • I am not on facebook. I was but managed to escape for good the second time around!

        I have spent a good amount of time in Peru and hope to return there possibly to live in the near future. It is gorgeous.


  2. We have a short billed pigeon (s) which awaken us daily at about 5:45 by flying into and/or pecking on our windows, all around our house. This has gone on over a year and we’ve tried owl pictures, string strips on the windows but to no avail. Are you aware of any devices or applications which would keep the birds away from the windows.
    I understand the birds are trying to defend their territory but its become quite an early morning problem for us.
    Any thoughts or assistance is greatly appreciated.


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