Lunatics Beware the Ides of March   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog March 20th 2011

Marpesia furcula

Shrivelling Earth – Wilting Trees

Now the dry season is really beginning to manifest itself.  The lawns are starting to look brown and burnt.  The vegetation is looking tired with wilting leaves being shed along with the branches bearing them.   Temperatures are consistently in the 100’s Fahrenheit.  There have been one or two little sprinkles of rain but never amounting to more than enough precipitation to only slightly dampen the ground, only to evaporate as quickly as it arrived.

Last week saw a full moon and a one that was hyped as a super full moon.  The moon was to have been at its closest point to the earth and coinciding with a full moon was spookily suggestive of going to cause all manner of catastrophe.  Don’t tell anyone but the moon is that close every month, it is just that this is the first time in 18 years that the event coincided with its position being on opposite sides of Earth to the Sun which was illuminating it full face.

It was also the Vernal Equinox, with the sun being directly over the Equator on March 21st ensuring 12 hours of both day and night.  Progressively as we move into the northern summer the prevailing climatic conditions here at Bosque change with the South Westerly Trade Winds bringing moisture laden air from the Pacific Ocean and precipitating it as rain on the west coast of Costa Rica.  Paradoxically the northern summer equates with the wet season, which here is known as the invierno or winter.

One other point of interest is that the full moon occurring just before the Equinox results in a very late Easter this year.  I am not sure as to the significance of the calculation but Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

Are You Bats?

Puma sightings continue to dominate the mammalian excitement around the lodge.  Last week there was a young couple who had only just arrived, checked in and shown to their cabin in the tropical garden.  Within very few minutes of starting to unpack their luggage, two Pumas walked past the cabin and into the exit of the Zapatero Trail.  They were lucky enough to have their camera at hand and managed to take some good photos.

Later on the same day, I had just finished my prepatory talk and demonstration with a small group of visitors wishing to do the zipline.  I was just attaching myself to the line in order to zip across the valley when one of the participants said, “There is a Puma”.  Sure enough it was the half tailed female Puma with whom we have become familiar from various trails around the grounds.  She walked straight toward us to the point where I thought she was just going to traverse the platform we were standing on.  She stopped at the base of the tree 15 feet in front of us, standing on the buttressed root; she looked at us for about 20 seconds and the continued on her way totally nonplussed by the experience of six blue helmeted pink monkeys standing looking at her.

At the moment we have the annual flowering of the Guapinol, (Hymenaea courbaril), or Stinky Toe Tree.  The resin from this tree is the source of Central American amber.  The fruits are hard shelled beans containing seeds surrounded by a soft pulp, which to all intents and purposes has the odor of smelly feet, hence the name.  While it is flowering, at night it provides the spectacular sight of the Jamaican Fruit-eating Bats which wheel and dive in hundreds, landing briefly to imbibe a feed of nectar.

Life Springs Forth Anew

Reproduction has been the real essence of the week and across the board.  One night down the pond I came across a Virginia Opossum with two well grown babies hanging onto her back.  Most of the monkey troupes currently feature females with young ones of various ages in similar attendance.  One day last week, as I walked down the road that runs through the Teak Plantation, one of our gardeners was frantically waving his hands at me from further down the path.  I couldn’t see what it was that was causing the animated excitement.  When I got to where he was, he told me that not 5 minutes earlier two very young Puma cubs had been playing together in the road.  The mother had been sitting off to one side watching him watching them.  What a shame I was not just a fraction earlier or quicker in my step, as I did have my camera in hand.  But that is life, who knows over the years how many events I was fractionally too early or two late to have experienced.

There are lots of bird nests around the grounds now.  Near the swimming pool there is a Cherrie’s Tanager nest.  In the top garden I noticed a male Masked Tityra constantly visiting a hole in a rotten Cercropia tree, probably delivering food to a female who may be sitting on eggs.  Two Great Kiskadees have a nest near the Bosque garage which they visit continually bearing insect food items.  Similarly within the forest I have also seen nesting Black-throated Trogons and Wedgebilled Woodcreepers as well as female Currasows with chicks in tow.

The Aerial Orange Vortex

Over the past few weeks there has been little change in the number of butterflies but a big change in the species of butterflies making up those numbers.  Over a month ago we had huge numbers of the White-banded Peacock, (Anartia fatima), emerge, and they are still around in sizable numbers.  This was followed a few weeks later by a huge increase in the numbers of Carolina Satyrs, (Hermeuptychia hermes), a tiny little brown butterfly, again always here in decent numbers but as of late, substantially increased.  Now it is the turn of the Sharp-winged Longwing, (Eueides lybia).  These tend to be absent for large parts of the year, but explode in numbers during February and March.  They are primarily an understory butterfly, so as you walk through the Titi Trail or Zapatero Trail, you will be treated to the sight of swirling masses of these medium sized orange and black butterflies.

Recording New Species

The daily hot, dry weather ensures that the butterfly figures remain high.  Just a brief walk around the perimeter of the Tropical Garden will reward the visitor with phenomenal numbers of butterflies from a myriad of species.  This week’s butterfly count resulted in yet another new species record for the lodge, Yanguna cosyra, a pretty orange skipper evocatively known as the Burning Firetip.

Yanguna cosyra

The two damp nights encouraged the Halloween Crabs to abandon their holes in the ground and emerge to forage enmasse.  Halloween Crabs are detritus feeding land crabs, about 2 inches across, with a bright purple shell bearing two orange spots which gives them the appearance of a Halloween mask.

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 night when I walked into the bar, a gentleman staying at the lodge asked me if I could identify a beetle he had kept to show me.  The previous night as he lay in bed he could feel something crawling on his skin so he got up and went to look in the mirror to see what it was.  On his cheek was a large black beetle which he put into a bag in order to identify and photograph.

Longhorn Beetle Longhorn Beetle Mystery Beetle

Sometimes people fail to understand the numbers that exist in terms of biodiversity in the tropics.  Those numbers can be exemplified by looking just at beetles. Beetles are the most numerously named group of animals on the planet.  We have named in the region of 320,000 species of beetle.  Costa Rica has 47,000 species of beetle give or take one or two.  It is estimated that 70% of all insect species are beetles and that 40% of all animal species are beetles.

Mystery Beetle

Despite their numbers and the myriad forms and colors in which they appear, most people could recognize a beetle, the problem is which beetle.  Perusing all of my reference literature followed by extensive internet searching, I could find no match for this particular species.  I would have, in fact, amazed myself if I could have put a species name to it, and even then I would have done so with some hesitation.  All I am left with is an unknown beetle; I cannot even put it into a family, so I feel a trip to the National History Museum in San Jose may well prove prudent in an effort to elucidate this individual’s identity.  Once I have that I might be able to find information as to its life history and the story behind those fearsome mandibles and why they are lined with those orange brush-like structures, unless, of course there is someone out there reading this who can provide that information for me.

Mystery Beetle

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 94°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.11 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.80 ins

Average Daily Temp High 34.4 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.7 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.0 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Jamaican Fruit-eating Bats
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Virginia Opossum
  • Puma
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Great Currasow
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Crested Caracara
  • Mangrove Blackhawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Crested Owl
  • Rufus Piha
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Mangrove Swallow
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Purple-crowned Fairy
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Great Tinamou
  • Little Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Basilisk
  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Terciopelo

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Milky Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Anastus naeris
  • Anthoptus Epictetus
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Arteurotia tractipennis
  • Battus polydamus
  • Callicore lyca
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Cissia confusa
  • Colobura dirce
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excels
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia alcibiades
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Mechanitis lysimnia
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Melinaea scylax
  • Mesosemia telegone
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morpho theseus
  • Morys valerius
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Staphylus mazans
  • Taygetis Andromeda
  • Tigridia acesta
  • Turesis basta
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Yanguna cosyra

Plants

  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Heisteria fruiting
  • Passion Vine Flowering
  • Rubber Tree Fruiting
  • Almendra Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Flowering and Fruiting
  • Guanacaste Tree Fruiting
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One response to “Lunatics Beware the Ides of March

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  1. I love reliving our time at Bosque through this blog. I contine to be amazed about the education Philip gave us and pass on this information, or what I can recall, to friends, family and co-workers.

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