Every Picture Tells a Story   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog January 16th 2012

A Very Special Year

Last year was a remarkable wildlife year at Bosque del Cabo.  Costa Rica is renowned for its biodiversity.  It is a small country covering less than .02% of the planets land surface but plays host to 5% of the planets fauna and flora.  In a country the size of the state of West Virginia or Nova Scotia it has 2600 species of tree in comparison with less than 700 to be found throughout the whole of the North American continent, (the U.S. and Canada combined).  Costa Rica is 66% the size of Scotland and yet more species of ant may be found on one tree trunk than inhabit the total land comprising the U.K.  There are 44 species of bat in the U.S and 18 species in the U.K.  Costa Rica is home to 111 species of bat, 12% of the world’s bat diversity.

It is, therefore no surprise that anyone visiting Bosque will be immediately awestruck by the sheer number of plants and animals, many of which are so easy to observe within a short walking distance from the cabins.  You can witness all four species of Costa Rican monkeys; Spider, Howler, Capuchin and Squirrel in front of the restaurant.  White-nosed Coatis, Agoutis and Red-tailed Squirrels inhabit the same area as do Chestnut-mandibled Toucans and Scarlet Macaws.

At night, a walk around the grounds of Bosque will reward the visitor with a wealth of sightings, from frogs, toads, spiders, bats, the occasional owl or Kinkajou.  Invertebrate life proliferates both night and day if you just re-adjust your focus and field of vision.  Choose any shrub, bush or tree; take a close look and with patience a completely new world will open up to you.

For those who have an appreciation of natural beauty, the grounds are awash with the myriad kaleidoscopic colors of hundreds of species of butterfly.  Hummingbirds can be seen quickly flitting from flower, their scintillating radiant iridescence catching the eye before disappearing in the blink of an eye. Moth, those more subtly colored relatives of the sometimes garish butterflies can be found taking nectar for night scented blossoms.

But despite this luxury of life’s most wonderful expression of form and color, people still harbor a desire to see some of the world’s enigmatic top predators, the cats.  For so many people visiting Bosque del Cabo this year, those desires were realized but sometimes under unforeseen circumstances.  This blog is to tell the stories behind some of the photographs taken by those fortunate to have a camera in hand when the opportunity presented itself.

CAUGHT IN A TRAP

Over many years at Bosque, Pumas have been seen on occasion by visitors to the lodge.  Each event was momentous for the lucky observer.  It was not something that happened with same kind of regularity as monkey sightings or even armadillos, sloths or anteaters, but we were aware of their presence.  During the rainy season, particularly on the Titi Trail, which runs more through advanced secondary forest, when the trail is wet and the ground is soft, it is possible to see what has been around before you from the tracks and prints they leave behind.  So it was when a young Costa Rican biologist Aida Bustamante Ho came to Bosque requesting permission to place some remote camera traps around the grounds in order to monitor the movements of various cat species, she asked me where I thought might be a good location.  As I had been conducting my research by walking the trails for many years I was acutely aware of what was around and where.  I suggested to Aida that the back end of the Titi Trail before it exits onto the main drive might produce fruitful results based on my observations.  Subsequently that has been the case.  Out of all the camera traps the Yaguara project have placed all over the Osa Peninsula, the Titi Trail camera has proved to be the most productive.  You can read about the fascinating research of these three young local biologists at:

www.yaguara.com

                 

                 

                 

NO COMPETITION

One afternoon last February, (2011), a professional wildlife photographer, Suzi Eszterhas, turned up at the lodge on a mission to scout out a good place to bring a photographic group.  There were two basic requirements; lots of wildlife and easy access.  Suzi informed me that she had been to other lodges and had been impressed so the competition would be stiff.  I promised to take her out and show her around after lunch with the intention of locating the best areas for wildlife photography.  In front of the restaurant we had identified Scarlet Macaw sites, toucan feeding areas, the usual plethora of monkeys and other mammals as well as Poison Arrow Frogs.  The deal was almost sealed within the hour.

        

Next morning, Suzi awoke early to watch birds.  She was sitting in the restaurant having a pre walk coffee, camera by her side and staring over the lawn when out from the forest edge ran an Agouti.  It pelted at high speed across the open area trying to make it to cover.  In hot pursuit was a female Puma, lean and sleek, it running at high speed to catch its selected prey.  She wasn’t quick enough, the Agouti went to ground.

        

Suzi had spent 4 years photographing wildcats in the Masai Mara reserve, Africa.  This was too good an opportunity to miss.  The female Puma having missed her intended meal stopped to take a breath on the steps of Cabina Manglillo.  Suzi, with camera in hand, left her coffee and walked across the lawn.  She snapped one delightful image after another as the cat walked nonchalantly through the grounds before retreating back into the forest.

We know the identity of this particular female as she has the very distinctive tip of her tail missing.  She has been resident here for many years and has raised several sets of cubs on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo, more of which to follow.  To see some more of Suzi’s work look here:

www.suzieszterhas.com

ALL GROWN UP

The female Puma last year had two cubs and all three were seen together on various occasions at different locations around the property.  The cubs were both male and it wasn’t long before they started to outsize their mother.

        

Last March we had a family visiting us from Texas, who early one morning before breakfast, went for a walk on the Titi Trail.  As they were returning, on the way down the hill, they noticed above them a large male Puma, one of the now almost fully grown cubs, languidly draped over a branch 30 feet above their heads.  The mother, Jael Polnac, fired off several excellent pictures of the indolent young cat.

        

Jael’s arrival back at the lodge and subsequent showing of the photos to the breakfasting diners, resulted in a rapid mass exodus in the direction of the tree with guests all eager to capture similar images.  They weren’t disappointed.  The young male was in no hurry to go anywhere and obliged by remaining in the same spot until lunchtime providing many guests with the opportunity to immortalize him, in at least their photo albums for posterity.  Welcome to Bosque del Cabo – the Wildcat Capital of Costa Rica.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE

Not long after the above event, one of Bosque’s regular visitors over many years, Deliah James, was in the same area and once again, there was the cub in the same spot.  Deliah captured some great shots of the now large handsome male.  He was showing off a fine set of teeth.

                 

WHAT A RUSH

Some of our visitors, who after breakfast had been walking the Titi Trail taking in the diverse flora and fauna, emerged onto the driveway and started back towards the lodge. They were stopped in their tracks by a female Puma running at speed towards them.  The Puma had no interest in them but in a reverse of form from chasing prey, she herself was being chased, by a group of serious unhappy White-collared Peccaries, which are not too dissimilar in appearance to small wild boar.

        

As they stood in disbelief, fumbling for a camera, the Puma jumped up into a tree to escape its disgruntled adversaries.  The peccary, their intentions of doing the cat harm, foiled by their inability to climb, surrounded the base of the Puma’s tree of refuge and waited, impatiently snorting and grunting.  After a short period of time the peccaries’’ limited patience gave out and off they trotted into the forest content enough that they had seen the predators threat diffused.

When the cat deemed it safe enough to descend, it jumped down from the tree and made a hasty retreat into the safety of cover.  Meanwhile the astonished group of visitor had captured the event on camera.  They returned to the lodge with a tale to tell that is probably being repeated to this day back home.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Some months later, one visitor was walking in that same area, the exit of the Titi Trail onto the driveway, when a male Puma leisurely stepped out of the forest on one side of the road, crossed and disappeared into the opposite side.

        

On many occasions, our staff as they are leaving the grounds of Bosque at night to return to Puerto Jimenez has seen Pumas crossing this way.

LEFT BEHIND BUT NOT ALONE

At the beginning of December, the internationally renowned wildlife photographer, Roy Toft had a photographic workshop at Bosque.  On the final day, Roy left with the group to go and photograph subjects at the Golfo Dulce beaches.  One of the participants had previously hurt his back and did not relish the thought of a steep walk down, so decided to stay behind, relax and process some of his images.

        

Sometime around midmorning a ruckus broke out amongst the Spider Monkeys in the tree above his cabin, Sol.  He grabbed his camera to take photographs of what he was sure would prove to be an ensuing monkey fight.  It wasn’t aggressive interaction between the monkeys that was causing them scream and screech, but rather something moving on the ground about below them.

        

Astounded, amazed and fortuitous, the infirm photographer had a Puma walk in front of him about 4 feet below the front of his cabin deck.  He managed to take images that would be the envy of his colleagues who had endured the long beach walk.

To see some of the images captured on Roy’s photo safari as well as his other trips look at:

www.toftphotography.com

SAY CHEESE

Christmas Eve 2011 provided an early present for two visitors to Bosque, Keita and Kazuko Iida.  Once again, they were walking the Titi Trail going up an incline, when a female Puma appeared at the crest of the rise.  Not wanting to miss the opportunity to capture the image, he pointed the camera and click.  But the camera did not have the correct settings.  The moment was the important issue and at least they had something.  However, the moment was not over, as a male Puma consort appeared by her side.  Click, click, click, more photos.  The cats were not moving so a few re-adjustments to settings and a fantastic picture was taken, only of the male, the female had gone.  Now that moment will live on for a long time.

                 

EPILOGUE

I mentioned at the start that these were to be the remarkable stories behind some of the fabulous photographs that have been taken over the past 12 months, unofficially ‘THE YEAR OF THE PUMA” at Bosque.  There were many other visitors who would witness the cats at close quarters but did not have a camera or were too excited by the experience to even think of taking pictures.  I, myself have seen Pumas close up on several occasions last year.  Despite the fact that I have live here for 12 years, the thrill of being so near to a large top of the pyramid predator still caused that frisson to run up your back.

We can’t ever make any guarantees, but one thing is certain, if you aren’t here you won’t see them.  Even if you are not one of the lucky ones, Bosque del Cabo is still one of the prime wildlife locations in the whole of Costa Rica.  Whatever is your interest, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates or plants, you will be surrounded by a luxury of biodiversity.

DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, COME AND SEE FOR YOURSELF.

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

2 responses to “Every Picture Tells a Story

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  1. Loved reading all about the pumas and it’s great to know that the chance of seeing a puma is not a one off but a regular occurance and can just happen in an instant when least expected, how exciting! I didn’t see a puma whilst at Bosque Del Cabo but I’m still talking about all the fabulous wildlife I did see all around me, something new every day. I’m sure that any holidays I have in the future will never beat the wonderful, perfect and amazing experience we shared on our memorable holiday at Bosque Del Cabo. Diane Abrahart

  2. Great post Philip. It was fun reading about the stories behind the photos. We plan to keep coming back until we too have some puma pictures and a story of our own. See you in a few months.

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