Bosque del Cabo January 2011 Nature Review   5 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog January 2011 Review


January is the time when we see blue skies almost every day at Bosque del Cabo.  There is still a little rain but for the most part the days are clear and bright.  The forest floors are starting to dry out significantly and small cracks appear as the relatively thin soils lose their moisture content.  The vegetation however continues to retain its post wet season verdant coloration.  Now a lot of the plants are in bloom.  Flying into Puerto Jimenez from San Jose, as you cross over the Osa Peninsula, you will see the multifarious colors of blooms that cannot be seen from the forest floor, at least not until they fall to the ground, at which point they will have faded to a shade less vibrant than in the canopy.

Water Hyacinth Blooming at Pond

This is a good time of the year to see the orchids bloom, but as most of Costa Rica’s orchids are epiphytes growing on the uppermost part of a tree trunks and branches then that is where you will have to be to see them.

The air will be pervaded by various strange odors, some of which you would not always attribute to flowering plants. The January forest air normally hangs heavy with the scent of garlic.  The bright yellow flowers of the Garlic Tree, (Caryocar costaricensis),  are the source of that scent.  Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers in a tropical rainforest and rather than being attracted to sweet smells, they prefer those musky smells that are prevalent now, one of which is that garlicky odor that attracts the nectar feeding bats.

The year started for me in a somewhat exciting manner.  On the night of the first, when I returned to my cabin, I found a Bark Scorpion on the wall, low to the ground.  I illuminated the scorpion with the black light and set the camera to a 30 second exposure @ f/16.  The creature did not move at all and so I managed to obtain a nice image of the fluorescence from the exoskeleton that scorpions are famed for when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Centruroides bicolor

As ever beetles are there if you look.  Here is another couple of Longhorn species that I managed to get close up to.  The Hooded Mantis, (Choeradodis sp), makes an excellent photographic subject.  Mantis’s have a habit of turning the head to look at you and the structure of the eye gives the impression, a false one, that the eye has a pupil.  It is similar to the concept of the eyes of a portrait that follow round a room.  Photographed from beneath the insect, the eponymously expanded thorax adds extra character to the picture.

Longhorn Beetle     Longhorn Beetle     Longhorn Beetle

Hooded Mantis

If you take a short walk down to the pond you will see several species of dragonfly.  Each individual has its own perch and if disturbed and then left for a short period of time, it will return.  Just like butterflies, dragonflies are very sensitive to movement, so if you want your photograph, sit still, have the camera set and when it re-alights, just hit the shutter button.

The butterflies have now started to appear in larger numbers.  Only a few yards further down the path from the pond is a patch of Lantana camara, a native bush with orange/yellow flowers that certain species of butterfly such as the longwings find irresistible.  Unlike the dragonflies, which when perched, tend to stay in that position for a while, the butterflies are continually moving.  The best policy here is to choose a blossom and then keep and eye on any approaching individual which may then visit several blooms on the same flower head.  You will need a faster shutter speed and maybe some flash to freeze the motion.  If you are lucky the individual will settle for a second or two but don’t count on it being any more than that.

Adelpha cytherea     Marpesia petreus     Dione juno

Anartia fatima     Lantana camara     Dione juno

The adult butterflies may be easy to locate but in my experience, the larval form, the caterpillars are not.  Many caterpillars are beautifully and subtly colored.  As so many of the caterpillars I do find are those of moths, they remain just that, unidentified moth caterpillars.  There are some though that do stand out quite markedly.  The green caterpillar is that of a very indistinct little brown moth, the Saddleback Moth, (Sibine stimulea).  The caterpillar is found on the undersides of some broad leaved shrubs such as the Calathea.  It is armed with an array of urticating spines, bristles and hairs that cause a severe rash even with the slightest touch.  But even that heavy duty defense can be breached as has been the case with the example of an individual covered in the cocoons of a parasitoid wasp, the larvae of which had been consuming the now deceased caterpillars living flesh before pupating.

Unidentified Moth Caterpillar     Saddleback Moth Caterpillar     Parasitised Saddleback Moth Caterpillar

Saddleback Moth Caterpillar

The forest floor was still damp enough for some of the rainfrogs to be found.  The rain frogs are generally colored in muted tones that blend into the background of the soil and leaf litter hues.  One frog commonly seen on the forest floor of Bosque is the Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog.  Its bright neon green stripes contrast with the black markings rendering it as almost glowing against the dull backdrop of dead leaves.  The very visible coloration is not there to invite potential predators to an easy meal but rather to warn them of the toxic and potentially deadly skin secretion exuded by the amphibian in times of distress.  Frogs make superb photographic subjects if you take your time and move slowly in their vicinity.

Craugastor stejnegerianus     Craugastor rugosus     Dendrobated auratus

Snakes on the other hand require a great deal of patience and luck to photograph.  In the spirit of self preservation snakes don’t want to be where you are, they will make every effort to go move in exactly the opposite direction from your lens.  They move so fluidly and gracefully, not to mention rapidly for an animal with no legs.  The young Northern Cat-eyed Snake, (Leptodeira septentrionalis) featured here eventually settled, snakes exhaust easily and it was only 8 inches long.  The Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilinotus), was a different proposition.  They are fast and agile as well as irritably belligerent.  Not everyone is comfortable handling snakes, particularly of an unfamiliar species, but knowing your subject helps with the chances of a good photo.  Again my advice would be slow and fluid movements and get ready to move out of the way should the snake take offence to your close proximity.

Leptodeira septentrionalis     Pseustes poecilinotus     Pseustes poecilinotus

These little Clawless Geckoes abound in the buildings of Bosque but are so small that they are going to be overlooked by most people.  This species is Sphaerodactylus graptolaemus, the name being longer than the creature.  The spine over the eye is one of its distinguishing features.

Sphaerodactylus graptolaemus     Sphaerodactylus graptolaemus     Norops pentaprion

Whereas the Clawless Gecko is hard to find due to its size, the Lichen Anole, (Norops pentaprion), is not so easily spotted because it blends in so well with the color of the tree bark.  It is one of several different Anole species to be found on the grounds of Bosque.  This is one of the larger, more solidly bodied anoles.  It is less inclined to run and will stay put until the last minute before heading up and around the opposite side of the tree to yourself.  When you go around to find it, more often than not, it will have miraculously disappeared.

The grounds of Bosque are a bird lover’s delight.  All manner of avian fauna can be found here.  For those with a particular liking for raptors, there are Peregrine Falcons, Bat Falcons, Barred Forest Falcons, Laughing Falcons, Solitary Eagles, Ornate Hawk Eagles, Black and white Hawk Eagles, Roadside Hawks, White Hawks, Mangrove Black Hawks, Great Black Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Crested Caracaras, Swallow-tailed Kites and Double-toothed Kites, just to name a few.  I don’t normally have the camera set for bird or mammal photos and so these are the exception rather than the rule.

Crested Caracara

Mangrove Black Hawk

Once again, Pumas have been the talking point of Bosque this year.  In January, before the ground started drying, it was still possible to see pug marks in the damp earth.  Never very far from the cat tracks you could find without too much endeavor, at least one or two individuals of the Pumas diet, in this case a Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu).  Collared Peccaries can sometimes be found in herds of up to 20 individuals on the Titi Trail.  The reputation of their dangerous nature is saved for the larger White-lipped Peccary which is very rarely seen on the grounds of Bosque.  The collared cousins do not pose a danger and will move off huffing and puffing if disturbed.

Puma Pug Mark on Titi Trail

Collared Peccary on Titi Trail

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 86°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.20 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 6.22 ins

Average Daily Temp High 30.0°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.3°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 5.1 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 158.0 mm


5 responses to “Bosque del Cabo January 2011 Nature Review

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  1. Love the longhorned beetles. The spotted one appears to be in the tribe Eburiini, but I can’t figure out which genus.


  2. After a little more checking, I think this could be Eburia hovorei.


    • Thanks for that Ted. As I said, I like beetles but would make no pretence at being a coleopterist. It looks good to me so Eburia hovorei it is. Any beetle i.d.s you care to put my way I would be very grateful.


  3. No problem – any beetles (period!) you care to put my way I would be very grateful 🙂


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