Wet White Witch With a Frog in her Throat   1 comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog April 16th  2012

Damp Earth

The temperatures are still high but over the past two weeks the rains have started.  Whereas recently the forest in general and the lawns in particular seemed to be suffering from the lack of water, as soon as the skies opened, a change was obvious.  Those greens that were tinged with yellow and edged with brown have now become verdant green again.  Within days, the lawns had changed from burned and crispy in texture to lush and soft once again.  The Calabash trees with their trunks covered in ferns and orchids, last week appeared to be enveloped in a shaggy brown coat of withered, twisted leaves.  All it took was one overnight downpour and the resurrection ferns transformed into a rich thick mass of luxuriant foliage carpeting the tree trunk.

The initial rains, along with the promise of more to come, did not continue.  All the crabs and amphibians that had appeared en masse progressively over the following nights lessened in numbers once more.  It won’t be long before the rainy season does kick in and so all those creatures dependent upon or preferring wetter conditions may only have to wait a short time before they can re-emerge.  The plants have had an early drink to quench their 4 month enforced thirst but within the next few months their roots will be soaked in water.

They Are Where They Are

People often question where and when they can go and see animals.  Unfortunately nature is not compliant with our wishes to observe it.  One of the most important aspects inherent to Bosque del Cabo, is that it represents a wonderful microcosm of all that can be found in Costa Rica: the plant and animal diversity is phenomenal.  It does not take most visitors long to appreciate that they have found themselves in a special place.  Within hours of arriving visitors may have seen all 4 species of monkey, agoutis, coatis, macaws, toucans, poison dart frogs.  The trick is seeing all of these animals is to be in the same place at the same time as they are and that is just a question of luck.

Sometimes you don’t need to venture further than your own cabin, other days you just have to choose a trail and walk.  Quite often if a trail was seemingly devoid of life one day, 24 hours later it will be teeming with life.  If there happens to be a particular tree producing copious amounts of fruit, then you might expect to find a great many fruit eating animals feasting in that tree for several days.

The best time to watch birds is early morning and late afternoon.  Most people head out into the open garden areas bordered by a forest edge as these tend to be frequented by many species of bird.  Amphibians are best observed as the sun sets.  At that time out come the male frogs which can, as with the birds, be heard as well as seen, allowing you to home in on their location.

Time of year and weather both have a profound effect on certain animal behaviors and therefore your ability to see them.  Hot dry days will encourage more butterflies to take to the wing than colder wetter days.  It is amazing how many amphibians will appear as if by magic given a night of heavy rain following months of little or no precipitation.

So, in answer to the question where can we go to see wildlife, it is where it is, just pick your trail and walk.  The diversity of life here is so intense that you will see something, we generally can’t say go to this place at this time and there you will find such and such because invariably it won’t be there.  But what better way to start your day than to head out without any expectations and enjoying the serendipity of discovery.  I have been here for 12 years and I still find new creatures two or three times a week.  Bosque del Cabo forms an endless source of natural intrigue.

Up, Down and All Around

The rains that came over several nights in succession had the amphibian life emerging in huge numbers.  One of the first frogs to respond is the Milky Frog, (Trachycephala venulosus), the largest tree frog in Costa Rica.  Following one night of heavy rain the pond was full of calling males.  The sound was so loud it could be heard from the restaurant.  The next morning, the pond was full of Milky Frog spawn.  They continued to call for several nights after but not with the initial frenzy of the first evening’s activity.

The Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, (Agalychnis callydryas) had been noticeably absent over the past few months.  Normally at least one or two can be heard calling throughout the course of the dry season but this year not a sound.  With the rains came the frogs, not many but the familiar “chuck, chuck” sound could be heard at the top of the vegetation all around the pond.  Some males had even made their way down to the lower levels where they could easily be seen.

Several other frogs that had not been seen for 3 or 4 months also re-appeared.  Masked Smiliscas, (Smilisca phaeota), with their distinctive “Mwaa” calls, turned up at the pond in small numbers.  A lone Gladiator Frog, (Hypsoboas rosenbergi), also turned up for several nights in succession announcing itself with the characteristic “Toc Toc” call somewhat reminiscent of two pieces of wood being knocked together.  From deep in the forest that little bell like chime that one closely associates with the wet season, the call of the Tink Frog, (Diasporus diastema), could be heard from one or two individuals.

Fleeting Glimpses

We had two Puma, (Puma concolor), sightings on the grounds this week.  One occurred in the early evening not too far from the construction work area.  Some of the staff saw what seemed to be a very young Puma walking away from them.  One the workers had a telephone and caught the image.  Later on the same day, some the guests to the lodge who were walking along the Golfo Dulce Trail to go to the beach, saw a large male Puma standing momentarily staring at them before heading off into the forest.  Unfortunately the moment passed too quickly for them to get the photograph.

One night after dinner as a guest was settling his bill, he had to quickly return to his cabin to fetch his wallet.  He was greeted at the front of his cabin by the sight of two eyes glowing in the beam of his flashlight.  He remained still and waited to see the form of the creature appear in full.  What he found was a beautiful Ocelot, (Leopardus pardalis), standing looking at him.  It remained long enough for him to see the fabulous painted markings of its fur before it too turned and slowly walked into the dense vegetation at the back of the cabin.

Young and Old

Last week I showed photographs of an adult Salmon-bellied Racer, (Mastigodryas melanolomus), that I had found.  This week, I happened across a juvenile not too far from my cabin.  It was a perfect opportunity to compare the markings of the young and mature forms.  One of the things that is difficult in identifying young snakes is that they are quite often so completely different in markings and coloration to the adult form.  With this one you can clearly see the horizontal stripe of the mature snake but also the distinct brown banding of the juvenile too.  The belly as yet lacks the deep salmon pink so noticeable in the adult form.

Salmon-bellied Racer - juvenile

Salmon-bellied Racer - Adult

Salmon-bellied Racer - juvenile

Over the past week I have seen several other snakes; the Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilonotus), two species of Litter Snake, (Rhadinea decorata and Coniophanes fissidens), and the Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper).

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

 That’s No Bat Man!

One night as I returned to my cabin there was a large moth, in fact the largest species of moth that exists, resting on one of the posts of my bathroom.  I hurried to get my camera but when I returned it had already flown off.  The moth in question, a Birdwing or White Witch Moth, (Thyania agrippina), is not that uncommon in these forests but this one had been at eye level rather than high up on a tree trunk which would have lent itself to a good photograph.

Birdwing Moth

The Birdwing Moth is an impressive Noctuid moth with a wingspan of some 12 inches.  They align themselves so the wings are place parallel to the trunk of the tree.  The light grey background color is patterned with dark wavy lines so that they closely resemble the striations of tree bark.  The forewings are much longer than the hind wings which draw the patterning out.  The trailing edges of the wings are crenulated serving to breaking up the outline and blending it in perfectly with the tree bark rendering the lepidopteran almost invisible to the casual observer.  They do have a habit of taking flight if approached though and many people are convinced they have seen a large floppy bat fly off into the forest.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Common Opossum
  • Agouti
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Vesper Rat
  • White-nosed Coati


  • Red-lored Amazons
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Currasow
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Rufus Piha
  • Mangrove Cuckoo
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Green Honeycreeper
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Buff-rumped Warbler
  • Great Tinamou
  • Little Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Slaty-tailed Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • King Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


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


  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Milky Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Agraulis vanillae
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Caligo atreus
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Philaetria dido
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogryra crameri
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Temenis laothoe


  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
  • Hog Plum Flowering
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Monkey Comb Tree Fruiting
  • Mountain Rose Flowering
  • Passion Vine Flowering and Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting


One response to “Wet White Witch With a Frog in her Throat

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  1. hi Philip!
    i tried to post earlier, but not sure if it took 🙂 Forgive me if it did make it through and i am repeating myself!
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since my visit to BDC some weeks back. I came to the lodge from Playa Zancudo (where i am living for the winter) with my father and husband and experienced the thrill of taking your 4 hour guided walk. What an awesome eye opening morning that was. You graciously fielded my (perhaps annoying) questions about the consciousness of plants and the Gaia theory. You gave me a reading list and i have already downloaded “Tropical Nature” to my Kindle. I love it. Although i know bats are not your specialty i am hoping you can give me some advice about how to deal with bats in my roof here on the beach! I have asked around here, but i get mostly shrugs and offers to insert poison of various kinds under my eaves. I’m not afraid of bats, and don’t really have a problem with having them in the roof–but have read that the guano can accumulate in great quantities and can pose health and other problems if not properly dealt with. I will say it’s a bit like having teenagers in my house again: They leave the house around dinner time–stay out all night–return during the wee hours with a fair amount of banging and chattering–and then, of course, sleep all day. Then wouldn’t you know it! They do it all over again the very next night! Anyway..i’m hoping you can pass along some words of wisdon, or perhaps the name of a knowledgeable bat person who can help me out. Hope to return to Bosque next winter!


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