Galling Tales From Under a Tent   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog February 20th 2012

Baked Earth

The weather conditions, as would be expected at this time of year, continue to be hot and dry.  There have been some nights with cloud and one brief sprinkling of rain but it would be a surprise if we ended up with any measurable precipitation.  The days are clear and sunny with the temperatures constantly in the upper 90’s.

The trails through the forests are now rock hard and starting to crack up as they lose moisture at deeper levels.

Return to Camp

The Puma sightings continue all around the grounds of Bosque.  Last week a group of four friends videoed the resident half-tailed female as she walked nonchalantly past their house.  Several days later another couple found a male Puma lying asleep on the Titi Trail.  It proved too much of a perfect subject and they obtained a really nice picture.  One of our staff was busy washing her hands early one morning when she saw a male Puma walk in front of her.  She followed it shoeless and hands covered in soap along a forest trail before it left the path and headed into the forest.  Two more guests were out on an early morning walk before leaving the lodge when they saw a Puma heading down on the trail towards the suspension bridge.

Over recent weeks, the Tent-making Bats, (Uroderma bilobatum), have been finding their way back under the leaves of some of the palms near the restaurant.  The bats used the leaves every night for the first eight years of my residence here but for the next four years used the same roosts less and less, eventually stopping altogether, only making occasional returns.

Tent-making Bats

One night while out on a Sunset Tour, we had a Kinkajou, (Poto flavus), walk across the path in front of us, go to the edge of the pond and start to drink.  It is very rare to see a Kinkajou on the ground but the exceedingly dry conditions must have forced this one from the trees to get a drink.  Kinkajous are nocturnal arboreal feeders on flowers but they may also take nectar, insects and lizards.  They have a very low muscle mass and so sometimes may seem emaciated.  As this one leant forward to drink, the specialized limbs which can rotate 180° could clearly be seen with rear toes facing backwards to hold the pond edge.

Kinkajou

New Nests

The bird nesting season is well under way.  For several weeks now three pairs of Great Kiskadees have made nests around the restaurant garden area.  One of them is very obvious in the fork of a large Guanacaste tree.  In the forest there are several Scarlet Macaw, (Ara macaw), and Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, (Ramphastos swainsoni), nests.  The toucans and macaws are both cavity nesters that utilize holes in trees well above ground level but you can see them coming and going, disappearing inside the tree before emerging sometime later.  There is also a nest of a Purple-crowned Fairy Hummingbird, (Heliothryx barotti), sitting precariously on top of a leaf belonging to one of the broader leafed plants not too far from the restaurant.  At the moment it contains one jelly bean sized white egg.

There was a new first for me this week with the spotting of a Hook-billed Kite, (Chondrohierax uncinatus), during the course of a morning Primary Forest Tour on the Zapatero Trail.  I saw the bird fly through the trees and land on a branch some distance away.  These kites are normally found in forests near water feeding on lizards and snails.  We don’t have a high abundance of snails at Bosque but we certainly have many lizards.

One Year On

One of the Green Iguanas, (Iguana iguana), hatched last year has taken to sleeping nightly in some of the bushes by the pond.  It still sports the bright green coloration of a juvenile but is now twice the hatchling length.  We see the newly hatched iguanas around May and June but don’t often see the adults which tend to frequent the higher levels of trees.  The adults can reach 5 or 6 feet in length, are darker in color and the diet changes from insectivorous to more herbivorous with age.

Green Iguana

I have seen a few young Central American Smooth Geckoes, (Thecadactylus rapicauda), on the walls of several Bosque buildings.  Last week I also found the egg of a Mediterranean House Gecko, (Hemidactylus frenatus), in a tiny cavity low down in a Star Fruit Tree.

One night a young Boa Constrictor, (Boa constrictor), turned up, crossing the floor of the bar as the guests were eating in the restaurant.  Down by the pond the Cat-eyed Snakes, (Leptodeira septentrionalis), are still out but only two or three a night rather than the large numbers we find during the wet season when their main food source, frogs and frog eggs are available in abundance.

Boa constrictor

Cat-eyed Snake

This week on the Zapatero Trail we found a large Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilinotus), lying across the path.  As we approached it gave a display that nicely illustrates its other names; the Hissing or Puffing Snake.  It spreads its neck laterally giving itself a larger profile while at the same time expelling air through its glottis making a deep and intimidating hissing sound.  It is, in fact, a totally harmless but is inclined to bite and repeatedly so.

Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Wet Behind The Ears

Something stimulated the Smokey Jungle Frogs, (Leptodactylus savegei), into breeding action this week.  Two males could be heard calling in different locations.  The following evening, two females had joined the company of one of the males at the pond.

Smokey Jungle Frog

For several weeks a single male Banana Frog, (Dendropsophus ebreccatus), would emerge from the shade when the sun set and sit on top of the Water Hyacinth calling forlornly for a mate.  None came and one night the male disappeared.  The hungry Cat-eyed Snakes probably found him while patrolling the pond for froglets emerging from the water and he most likely ended up in one of their stomachs.

Banana Frog

Soft and Blurry

At the moment as you wander through primary forest, secondary forest, the gardens and the driveway, you will be surrounded by swirling masses of brightly colored wings as we reach the zenith of annual butterfly activity.

The most obvious of the butterflies are the Heliconiids or longwings.  They tend to be decked in bright gaudy colors and so are the most noticeable.  Many species can be found around the Lantana bush, a little way beyond the pond.  On the forest floor you will see some of the Satyrs or browns.  The commonest is Pierella luna, a medium sized and subtly marked butterfly that always remains close to the forest floor.  As soon as it settles, the color of the wings blend in with the background dead leaf litter and it disappears from view.  At the moment there is another brown butterfly to be seen on the Zapatero Trail, Antirrhea philoctetes.  It is not actually one of the Satyrs although it is similarly colored; it is one of the Morphinae which are well known for the spectacularly impressive Blue Morphos.

Pierella luna

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

 Galling Problem

One of the unusual things people sometimes see on the underside of leaves is small pointed fleshy projections.  These are galls and they are the result of a tiny wasp laying eggs in the plant tissue.  The wasp belongs to the Hymenopteran family Cynipidae.  There are many species of gall wasp and each one causes a different looking gall to be formed.  Even within one species of wasp, depending upon where the egg was laid, different parts of the plant can produce a different gall.  Even within the life history of the gall wasp, different generations at different times of the year can produce different looking galls.

Plant Gall

Gall wasps are so small that they are barely visible to the naked eye, you really need a hand lens to see them and in fact you are far more likely to see the galls and not the wasps.  The mechanism involved with the production of a gall is not fully understood.  The wasp lays an egg in the plant tissue; it is then possible that the wasp larva uses its saliva to cause a reaction in the undifferentiated plant cells resulting in a mass of tissue being deposited around the larva in the form of a cyst.

Plant Gall

The larva develops within the cyst to eventually emerge as a new adult.  The gall may not only house the gall wasp but a host of other small insects too including parasitic wasps of a different family and larvae of parasitic flies.

A Dose of Shingles

The forest is home to a myriad species of vines and their woody forms, lianas.  Vines and lianas have a different early life history to most plants.  When a seed germinates the young plant generally grows towards the light.  If a vine or liana was to grow towards the light, they would end up in a temporary sunfleck on the forest floor, have nowhere to go and so wither and die.  Vine and lianas initially grow towards darkness, a situation known as skototropism and it normally results in the vine growing towards the base of a tree.  When it makes contact there is a hormonal change that takes place and the vine now starts growing up towards the light.  So it has to find the platform before it can climb it.

Shingle Leaves

Many vines as they make their way up from the forest floor into the canopy they change their leaf form.  While growing along the forest floor, the stem may be leafless or have very small leaves.  At it starts to climb the tree the leaves remain small and overlap like a series of shingles.  This helps keep a constant humid microclimate close to the leaves.  The small overlapping leaves are probably all that a developing plant can support.

Philodendron sp

As the vine grows up the side of a tree, the shape of the leaf now changes.  It now becomes long stalked and has a large light gathering leaf surface.  Strangely enough it is not increased light levels that cause the leaf to change shape as the change will occur in the open where light is hitting the full length of the tree but rather the developmental age of the plant stem.

If you look carefully at lower levels of the tree trunks you will see the small overlapping shingle leaves tightly hugging the trunk.  Turn your gaze up and you will see the large leaves that you are probably more familiar with.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

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Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Tent-making Bats
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • White-crowned Parrot
  • Hook-billed Kite
  • Mangrove Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Summer Tanager
  • Rufus Piha
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Five-lined Ameiva
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog

Butterflies

  • Agraulis vanillae
  • Anartia fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Autochton neis
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema daira
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaetria dido
  • Pierella luna
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Pyrrhogyra otolais
  • Quadrus cerialis
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

Plants

  • Aphelandra golfodulcensis Flowering
  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering
  • Garlic Tree Flowering
  • Milky Tree Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Mountain Rose Flowering
  • Ox Eye Vine Fruit
  • Passion Vine Flowering and Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting

 

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