Spotted Spinning Yarns in Black and White   2 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog May 1st 2011

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The rainy season would seem to have made a false start.  This week has seen no rain at all.  The ground is dry again and while the amphibian numbers have started to fall again, they are still inflated over and above that preceding the April downpours.  Having said that, May is traditionally heralds the commencement of the rains for the next seven months, so we will not shed any tears if they don’t arrive immediately.  At least we get some extra time to bask in the sun before suffering over half a year of dampness.

A Nocturnal Promenade

Normally in the evening, after having taken out 3 tours a day, carried out the field work for my research and then got as much written up as I possibly can, at that point I am generally too tired to go off searching the forest for post dinner nocturnal photographic opportunities.  But one night last week, over a new moon and with the conditions drying following the recent rains, I decided to go out and see if I could find some of the snake species that I have not seen for a while.

In the past when I have gone out at night it has been down the trail that leads to the creek.  Every so often it is possible to find several species of glass frog, which generically prefer running to still water.  I had heard them calling recently and had mentally noted that I should go and investigate.  On previous nocturnal excursions I have found a variety of snakes that I don’t usually find during the day.  But that trip was for later consideration.

I had decided that, given the high productivity of wildlife encounters during the day, the Titi Trail might give some interesting and new finds only to be revealed once the sun had set.  My hunch was not unfounded but in ways other than I had expected.

One piece of advice I will offer people is do not go looking for snakes; it can be one of the most unrewarding and thankless tasks you can indulge yourself with.  Turning over every rock and fallen log in the forest will quite often reveal nothing.  Although I went out with no expectations, I should have followed my own advice.  I only saw two snakes, both of the same species and both that I see every night at the pond, Cat-eyed Snakes, (Leptodeira septentrionalis).  I had also been hoping to see some of the forest amphibians but only caught sight of one female Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog, (Callidryas spurrelli).

The forest was full of other creatures though, small creatures, unnoticed but there if you care to look.  I had a good few roosting butterflies, one, Consul fabius, with its wings closed, has the pattern and venation which resemble nothing less than the leaves under which they sleep at night, hopefully perfectly camouflaged to escape the eyes of nocturnal hunters.  Giant phasmids, walking sticks, sit on top of the vegetation, once again, to all intents and purposes resembling the twigs on which they rest.  I am often asked if we have tarantulas at the lodge and in all honesty I reply that they are very rarely seen, but tonight there was a tarantula every hundred yards or so down on the path actively seeking out small insect prey.

Up in the tree tops there was the continual rustling that marks the presence of the Kinkajous.  Like arboreal fluffy house cats they move through the tree tops at night continually seeking fresh supplies of nectar from tree blooms.  The sound of the Kinkajous is accompanied by the calls of owls, here tonight, Crested Owls and Spectacled Owls.

Negative Comments

Quite often when people approach me with the task of naming something they have seen, I will reply that if you can literally describe that which you have in front of you, then you won’t be far short of naming for yourself.  So it was with two recent bird identifications I was asked to provide.  Both were hawks, one was white with a black bar on the tail and the other was black with a white bar on the tail.  Literally, you were looking at a White Hawk, (Leucopternis albicollis), and a Black Hawk, (Buteogallus subtilis).

White Hawk     Black Hawk

Printed Indelibely In Mud

Tapirs are large mammals, about the size of a Shetland Pony.  Around the world there are four species of Tapir and here in Costa Rica we have one, Baird’s Tapir, (Tapirus bairdii).  Tapirs are perissodactyls, odd toes ungulates, distantly related to horses and rhinoceroses.  You would think that an animal that size would be easy to find it the forest, well you would think wrong.  I have lived here 11 years and have never seen a Tapir in the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.  I know they are here because I have, on occasion seen their prints.  Last week while walking the Teak Plantation Trail I found some tapir prints in the soft earth.  Almost next to them were reasonably fresh Puma prints.

One of the arts of guiding is to get the visitors to use all their sensory apparatus in an effort to experience and appreciate what is around them.  It is not always just a case of there is a large bright noisy bird, a Scarlett Macaw, stimulating your auditory and visual receptors but sometimes something more subtle and not so obvious.  It could be a vague scent or the sound of something moving through the undergrowth.  There a many ways of experiencing the alien world of the rainforest around you.  Even if it is just your eyes, re-adjusting your focus from far to near will completely change the world in which you now find yourself, opening up a whole new spectrum of fauna and flora at which to marvel.

Well Spotted

One lucky couple walking the Titi Trail this week came upon a herd of Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu), some distance in front of them.  This in itself is not an unusual event, but this particular herd of peccary were being closely observed by a spotted cat from just off to the side of the trail.  As the couple approached a little closer, the cat took flight, but not too far, only about 6 feet up a tree.

The first thing our visitor noticed about the cat was the size of the paws, huge.  They were looking at a Manigordo, fat hand, or Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis).  It is unlikely that the Ocelot would have been hunting anything as large as a peccary, which normally fall as prey to Pumas, but it may just have been watching them, or it may be our guests saw the peccary and not what the Ocelot was hunting which may have been an Agouti.

It is not that common to see an Ocelot out during the day, so whatever situation was playing out in front of them, they were very lucky to get so close to a beautiful spotted cat.

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

 Having been out one night and seen so many Tarantulas I decided to take the camera and see if I could capture an image of one not too far from the restaurant, on the bank at the side of the road.  I had seen at least one individual sitting outside one the holes in the muddy wall so off I went.

Searching the bank side, there was a lot of activity; Leaf-cutter Ants, Crickets, Tailless Whip Scorpions and any number of Halloween Crabs.  I did not need to look for long before finding the subject of the photoshoot.  Sitting mostly inside a hole with just its legs jutting out, was a Tarantula.  But there was a problem, the hole it was occupying was just behind a long straggly tree root running the length of the vertical bank surface and I could not get the camera, mounted on a tripod maneuvered into a suitable position to get the picture I wanted.

With a little bit of persistence, I managed to get the lens close to the spider, which on several occasions when I disturbed it, retreated into the hole so I had to wait till it re-emerged, but it never did in a position that was any  the better than the one it left.  I tried to get the flash units into place but there was too much vegetation in the way.  I wasn’t happy but had to do the best I could and started firing off shots, one after the other, each time moving the flash units to try and light up the back of the tunnel.  All to no avail, the Tarantula was happy where it was, so my opportunities were limited.


While I was struggling to get the image I wanted, a small movement to the left caught my eye.  I shone the flashlight to find a tiny spider moving along a silken thread.  This spider was little more than a speck, about 3mm long.  As the light beam hit the body, it appeared to have metallic red markings.  I knew I wasn’t going to have a great deal of luck with the Tarantula so I readjusted the position of the tripod and tried to focus on this mere pinhead sized arachnid.  I pressed the cable release, four flash units illuminated the subject, and when I looked at the resulting image on the camera screen, I was delighted to find the most exquisitely colored nimblest of eight-legged hunters, silk being extruded from its spinnerets and coated in sticky globules.


As with many of my spider photos, I cannot identify the species, but a name doesn’t strictly matter when you look like this.

After some searching of websites and a little bit of luck I can now identify this spider as an Orchard Spider, ( Leucauge venusta).

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 90°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 75°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.8 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.9 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.0 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Virginia Opossum
  • Kinkajou
  • Tayra
  • Ocelot
  • Collared Peccaries


  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Great Currasow
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Collared Forest Falcon
  • Crested Caracara
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Bronzy Hummingbird
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • Little Tinamou
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • King Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Green Iguana
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Parrot Snake


  • Marine Toad
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Milky Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Anartia fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Anatrytone potosiensis
  • Anthanassa ardys
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Arteurotia tractipennis
  • Astraptes egregious
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Battus polydamus
  • Chloreuptychia arnica
  • Cissia confuse
  • Colobura dirce
  • Dione juno
  • Doxocopa clothilda
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eurema albula
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excels
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Panthiades bitias
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pompeius pompeius
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Remella rita
  • Tigridia acesta
  • Turesis basta
  • Urbanus proteus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna


  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Balsa Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering
  • Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Fruiting
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Guanacaste Tree Fruiting
  • Gustavia Flowering
  • Hog Plum Flowering
  • Inga Fruiting
  • Lady of the Night Orchid Flowering
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Milky Tree Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Passion Vine Flowering
  • Pochote Tree Fruiting
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Rosa de Monte Flowering
  • Royal Palm Fruiting
  • Rubber Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Sombrerito Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

2 responses to “Spotted Spinning Yarns in Black and White

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  1. What a beautiful spider. Great photo!


  2. Love the spider shots Philip. We are all packed and fly out tonight, we will be there Sunday afternoon for a full week of (fingers crossed) good wildlife sightings. Hopefully, we will get a little rain so that the frogs come back out since I would love to see them in numbers.


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