A WEEK IN THE LIFE   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog Oct 10th 2011

Back to Normal

The rain has continued in typical October fashion; heavy and incessant.  I have not seen the long term weather forecast, but based on previous experience I would say this is going to stay with us for a month or so.

That is how it has remained for the past week.  Whereas previously we had bouts of dry, sunny weather interspersed with brief periods of rain, we now have torrential downpours interrupted infrequently with a little bit of optimistic sunshine.  It is never enough time to hang your washing out to dry though, the rain returns very quickly

ONE FINAL FLING

The frogs are having their last big beano before the end of the reproductive season.  There was another big breeding episode of the Milky Frogs this week.  The last time they were out in such numbers was when the rains arrived in April and May.

Flocks of the two noisy green parrot species, Red-lored Amazons and Mealy Amazons arrive in huge numbers around the grounds every morning.  Many of them have chicks which add to the din with their unremitting begging of food from the parents.  They are fully fledged, can fly and should soon be finding food for themselves.

A pair of Yellow-headed Caracaras is currently suffering the same plight, with a noisy youngster following them around demanding food at every opportunity.

One species of bird, very noticeable by its absence, or rather, silence over the past few days are the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans.  It could well be the rain has silenced them or an abundance of food which is now freely available.

The figs are fruiting which is attracting in troops of Spider Monkeys and White-faced Monkeys whose discarded leftovers are being picked up by the White-nosed Coatis on the ground.  The coatis are perfectly capable of climbing the trees and getting fruit for themselves, and in fact often do so, but probably not with troops of boisterous young male monkeys in the trees.

Butterfly numbers remain very low in terms of both species and individuals.  While walking around the grounds you should be able to see maybe a half dozen species of longwings, peacocks and satyrs.

Caught Short

As I was returning through the forest to my cabin the other day, I came across a somewhat amusing sight.  Squatting at the base of a giant Garlic Tree, between two huge buttressed roots and holding on with its front legs to a low overhanging vine was a Three-toed Sloth attending its toilet.  It was an opportunity too good to miss so I ran for the camera.  It was late afternoon and already dark down amongst the bases of the trees.  When the first flash fired, it alerted the sloth, which was in a very vulnerable situation, that something was there.  It quickly finished its business and headed up the vine.  It was only a foot or so in front of me, but as I pressed the shutter release, no flash.  The batteries had died.  It didn’t matter as the sloth, despite its name was now well up the vine on its way back up to the top of the tree.

Three-toed Sloth

Sloths only come to the ground about once a week to defecate.  The trip to ground level and subsequent time spent evacuating its bowels leave it open to attack from any potential ground living predator such as cats, and cats we do have in some numbers in this area.  The sloth bores a shallow hole in the ground with its stubby tail, defecates and then covers it all again so as to not readily reveal its presence up above.

This one did get caught, not literally with its pants down, but certainly in a defenseless and compromising position.

One Tree Still

For this, the last week of the season at Bosque, I decided to randomly select a tree not too far from the restaurant and have a look on a daily basis to see what was there.  I thought it might give an idea of the very small distance you have to walk to find wildlife at Bosque.  As I have said many times before, it is quite often just a case of adjusting your focus and looking a little closer at the vegetation surrounding you to open up a world that you might otherwise simply walk past, oblivious to the wonders this small world contains.

The tree I selected was a Mango tree in the orchard near the restaurant car park.  There is normally a lot of wildlife traffic passing through here as well as people both watching the wildlife and the staff moving between areas.

Mango Tree

It was chosen for no other reason than it was the first tree that caught my eye as I entered the area rather than for any special reason.  Mango trees are not native to Costa Rica, they originate in Asia.  But this is not a scientific investigation where I might compare and contrast the fauna and flora inhabiting native versus non-native trees, it is simply curiosity.

MONDAY

The first day of the week provided a good haul; termites, a millipede, paper wasps, an orb spider, a harvestman, a long-legged bug and both Cherrie’s Tanagers and White-shouldered Tanagers making quite a raucous din in the branches above as they engaged in some territorial dispute. A Double-tooth Kite momentarily alights, only for a couple of seconds before flying off again, probably on the lookout for some small unsuspecting reptilian prey.  Down at ground level, at the base of the trunk, a small anolis lizard, Norops limifrons sat under a leaf, probably the best place to be with the kite up above.  These were all spotted within a matter of seconds only 2 minutes from the restaurant.

The tree also has a good covering of moss and epiphytic ferns.

Harvestman

TUESDAY

The termites, spider and millipede are still where they were yesterday.  The termites are not going to be going anywhere fast as they are in a nest on the side of the tree.  The spider is sitting in the centre of its web and the millipede doesn’t seem to have any urgency about it.

Termite Nest

The heavy rainfall yesterday and last night seems to have caused the wasps to relocate, the small, several celled pendulous nest is gone and have the harvestman and the anolis lizard.  The bizarre long-legged bug is still clinging to the underside of a leaf though.  Later in the day the two Long-waisted Wasps returned forlornly looking for the nest that no longer exists.

Conspicuously, a pale gray weevil is taking shelter near the base of the tree, its light body color contrasted against the dark green of the fern leaves and the shadows they cast in the gloomy weather conditions.  One of the Reduviid bugs busily patrols the leaves while an unidentified ant does the same down the trunk.

WEDNESDAY

The homeless pair of wasps were still in the vicinity of where the nest used to be.  I think the heavy rainfall over the past few days has sent most things into hiding.  One strange little wasp which seems to have a nest in a curled up leaf will occasionally show itself, running around on the surface of the leaves, its antennae constantly in motion and its white tipped wings flicking open and closed.

By the afternoon the wasps had selected a site close to the last location and had started to build a new nest and already several cells had been added.  There was another new visitor, a small leafhopper sitting not too far from where the wasps were working.

THURSDAY

The wasps initial construction has gone once more, but they still occupy the same area.  A Thread-legged bug is under a leaf.  This actually is its name, once again literally describing the organism.

The Thread-legged Bug is one of the Reduviid Hemipteran, (True Bugs), or Assassin Bugs.  They hunt down their insect prey which they stick with a long piercing mouthpart.  They then inject saliva which contains a paralyzing toxin and digestive juices.  The resulting predigested liquefied innards of their unfortunate victim are then suck out of its now dead exoskeleton.

Thread-legged Bug

FRIDAY

The wasps are endeavoring to make a new nest and this one seems to be meeting with yesterday’s aborted attempt. Apart from the wasp activity, all else seems quiet on our tree this morning.

SATURDAY

After that initial burst of activity on the first day, things have quietened down.  The Long-waisted Paper Wasps continue about egg laying in the newly constructed nest.  Another one of the paper wasps, this time a much smaller Polybia sp is hovering not too far away, probably in search of insect prey to take a the covered nest nearby.

Paper Wasp

SUNDAY

On the final day, when I went to visit the tree, during heavy rain, the only inhabitants visible were the wasps which this time had secured their nest under the shelter of a fern leaf,  and hopefully that would provide adequate security and refuge to raise the offspring.

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

Unfeasibly Long Narrow Waists

Wasps are Hymenopterans which means narrow waists and the Long-waisted Paper Wasps are certainly that.  The Order Hymenoptera includes bees, wasps and ants, most of which are social insects to a greater or lesser degree.  The Long-waisted Paper Wasps belong to the genus Mischocyttarus of which there are 186 named species.  They belong entirely in the Americas, most of them being inhabitants of more tropical regions.  They are morphologically distinct with a long narrow “waist”.

Paper Wasp

As with other wasps belonging to the genus Polistes they make nests which have pendulous downward facing uncovered cells.  These generally hang from a stalk which they sometimes cover in a secretion which acts as an ant repellant.

There is generally one dominant breeding female who lays the eggs and she is supported by closely related submissive females whose task is to help raise the larvae.  Sometimes the submissive females revolt and drive the dominant queen away allowing a new individual to take over the role.

Colorful Poison Sticks in Your Throat

The Micrathena orb weavers are easy to identify by their bright coloration and spiny bodies.  The highly visible black and yellow coloration warns potential predators to stay away.  Should a naïve lizard or more particularly a bird ignore the bright warning signal, the thorns and spines on the body of the spider lodge it in the bird’s bill.  The now distressed avian predator cannot extricate the spider which gives off an obnoxious tasting secretion from its skin.  When the bird finally does manage to dislodge the spider from its beak, the lesson will have been learned and it will never go near anything black and yellow again.

Micrathena breviceps

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 88°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 76°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.61 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 4.29 ins

Average Daily Temp High 30.9°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.5°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 15.6mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 109.0 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

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

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Crested Caracara
  • Double-toothed Kite
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Purple-crowned Fairy
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Tropical Gnatcatcher
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • White-shouldered Tanager
  • Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Plain Xenops
  • Yellow-bellied Elaenia
  • House Wren
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Boa Constrictor

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Anartia fatima
  • Heliconiius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Clusia rosea flowering
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Golden Trumpet Vine Flowering
  • Hog Plum Fruiting
  • Inga Flowering
  • Ox Eye Vine Flowers
  • Protium Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering and Fruiting

 

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One response to “A WEEK IN THE LIFE

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  1. Very interesting post again Philip. Love the “caught in the act” photo. We were thrilled to see the same thing last May when that juvenile sloth was hanging around the lodge.

    Like

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