A Gripping Tale of Leathery Spiders and Lilies   1 comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog June 26th 2011

More of the Same

There has been some really heavy rain this week, with several days of continuous torrential downpours.  In fact all week has been overcast and even if not raining heavily, there has been a nonstop drizzle.  It seems to be wetter than normal for this time of year but that may even itself out by the end of the month.

He’s Back

Six months ago Bosque was fortunate enough to provide a lot of the guests with Puma sightings.  There was a resident female that had raised two cubs and they were frequently being seen, in full view, by many of our visitors.  This situation continued from last December until April, after which they appear to have moved further out into different parts of their territory.  But now at least one of the young males is back on site.

Over a period of only a few days, lots of families have seen the Puma in the vicinity of the Titi Trail, where it exits onto the main driveway.  Totally at ease, the cat has just stood allowing the guests to photograph it and they did get some good pictures.

We will wait to see if he stays around or is passing through, but for those lucky people who did see him, they are going home happy.

A Fleeting Flash of Color

One bird that I have always wanted to see, right back to my childhood, has been the Sun Bittern, (Eurypyga helias).  Obviously something about the bird struck a chord when I was young, but I had never managed to see one, not that I had ever gone out of my way trying.  But on one walk through the forest last week, I was gifted the opportunity to observe a Sun Bittern at fairly close quarters.

This tour had left the restaurant in reasonably dry, if a little overcast weather, but not so far along the path, the heavens opened and down came the deluge.  It was too late to return to the lodge so we persevered.

It was not actually me who initially saw the bird.  I was with a group of 4 and three of us had walked across a small bridge over the creek.  The last guest in line saw a bird fly up into a tree from the creek bed and settle on a branch some way off.  From the description I was given, I couldn’t think what kind of bird had been seen.  When I finally managed to see it through the binoculars, I knew immediately what I was looking at.  Unfortunately it didn’t stay for long and flew off before I could get a chance to see the spectacularly colored wing patches and I cursed my luck as well as the rain.

We continued through the oppressively drenching conditions and as I approached a stepped incline, as luck would have it, there was the Sun Bittern again, walking on the ground not too far in front of me.  This time I could see the colors as it spread its wings several times in succession giving a quick flash of orange and black.  It flew off, but not far, and this time up to a branch in full clear view so that everyone could get a look at it.

Despite the name, Sun Bitterns are not related to herons and bitterns,.  They may outwardly resemble them in form but its only distantly related relative is the Kagu of New Caledonia.  Anyway, this was one sighting that more than made up for a four hour drenching.  As far as I know, it has been the first recorded sighting of a Sun Bittern on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.

Heading for the Ocean

We are not really in turtle nesting season right now.  The main turtle nesting season here on the South West Pacific of Costa Rica is between June to December, with the peak occurring between September to November.  There are the occasional out of season nesters, so it is possible to see turtles all year.

The majority of turtles nesting on the beaches below Bosque del Cabo are Olive Ridleys, with some Pacific Greens and once in a while a Leatherback.  This week, a family on the beach caught sight of a lone hatchling making its way towards to ocean, struggling over the undulating ridges and troughs in the sand before entering the water, where it will live the rest of its life as a pelagic nomad.

The hatchling that this family had observed was a Leatherback, (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest of the marine turtles.  It will enter the sea and then if it survives, it will spend the next twenty years of its life patrolling the ocean depths, feeding on jellyfish until one day it is compelled to return to the beach of it birth to breed.

When baby turtles hatch, particles of Magnetite in the brain magnetically lock its navigational system to this area.  The specific chemistry of the water in the vicinity will then have it arrive at the same beach it left all those years ago.  Although with the Leatherbacks, they are not so selective, any beach in the area will do.  But they do prefer beaches with softer sand and fewer rocks than other turtles, on which to nest.

Out of the Comfort Zone

One day last week, one of the barmen approached me with a sealed container which contained something that he obviously was in great fear of.  At arm’s length, he gingerly lifted the lid, somewhat in the apprehensive manner of diffusing an armed device, to show me what he had caught.  Inside was a medium sized tarantula.  I assured him that he had nothing to fear and that if it did bite, which it probably wouldn’t, he was going to experience little more that a pin prick.  He had no reason to keep the creature, so I took it away to photograph before liberating it once more into the forest.


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

Pure and White

Hymenocallis sp

 Down by the pond there has been a plant for many years which most people would not notice.  It is one more, amongst a myriad of vegetative forms that give the perpetual green backdrop to the environment.  But once a year it flowers and then it becomes very obvious and distinct.  The flowers are a bright white and very elegant, like finely modeled porcelain.  Six white curling tails hang from the flower head.  This is the Spider Lily (Hymenocallis sp), normally found on the Caribbean coast but there has been one unidentified species recorded here in the Golfo Dulce area.

Hymenocallis sp

 Get a Grip

One of the features of rainforest structure that I illustrate to people who go out on the Primary Forest Tour is the presence of epiphytes.  Vines, and their woody stemmed varieties, the lianas start their lives either on the ground or in the tree tops.  Those vines and lianas that start on the ground, have the problem of then finding their way up into the light at canopy level.  When they first germinate, they exhibit a condition known as skototropism, which means they are attracted to darkness.  Invariably this will enable them to grow towards the base of a tree, which is going to be the platform they will then climb to find their way up into the tree.  Upon reaching the base of the tree, there is a hormonal change which makes the vines and lianas grow towards light.  They make their way to the top until they are in the light layer, after which they may loop from tree crown to tree crown as they make their way through the canopy.

During the ascent the vines are posed with another problem, namely how to get to hold onto the platform they are climbing.  Different species have different means by which they perform this task.  In some vines, there is a second hormonal change which causes them to spiral, thereby embracing the tree.  Other vines throw out roots laterally from the stem that penetrates any minute nook or cranny.  They then swell with water which holds them tight as they climb.  Others have tendrils that make contact and then spiral around so giving a series of small attachments.  Other vines have tiny little backward pointing barbs that allow them to climb up without slipping down.

Pleonotoma variabilis

Finally, this vine, (Pleonotoma variabilis), has tendrils which reach out like two arms bearing long spindly fingers with expanded suckers at the end.  They latch on like some alien walking stick mountaineer making a vertical ascent of the smooth barked tree trunks.

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 84°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 1.21 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 8.47 ins

Average Daily Temp High 28.4°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.1°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 27.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 216.3 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti


  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Common Paureque
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Rufus Piha
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Gray-headed Tanager
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Sun Bittern
  • Great Tinamou
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Salmon-bellied Racer


  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Olive Tree Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Aeria eurimedia
  • Anartia fatima
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Chioides albofasciata
  • Cissia confusa
  • Detritivora gynaea
  • Dryas iulia
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia everete
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Parides erithalion
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Strymon megarus
  • Tigridia acesta
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna


  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cedrillo Fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Devil’s Little Hat Fruiting
  • Dinner on a Plate Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • May Tree Fruiting
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Royal Palm Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering and Fruiting
  • Stanhopea Orchid Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

One response to “A Gripping Tale of Leathery Spiders and Lilies

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  1. Phillip,
    Love the great photography and the details about the animals and insects of Bosque. I’ve got reservations in January 2012 and would love to know what lens you carry. I have a all purpose 24-105mm, a 70-200 mm and I’m wanting to get a 180mm macro. Am I covered?


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