Smiles Like a Reptile   6 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog July 2nd  2012

Up and Down

This has been another week of sunny days and stormy evenings.  We have had some spectacular thunderstorms with terrific lightning shows and heavy downpours but thankfully later in the day or in the evening.  There was enough rain to start filling up the creek again which has gone from dry with a few puddles to a slow trickle of water and then back to dry again.

Lounge Lizards

When it comes to reptiles, I always seem to manage to take pictures of snakes.  This is generally because they are not seen so often and therefore when one does turn up it seems like an opportunity that should not be lost.  But the area is also home to many species of lizard some of which are fairly ubiquitous and so don’t stimulate that sense of urgency to photograph them.  Really I could do it anytime, except that I don’t.

Anyway, I was out on several occasions this week walking the trails with the intention of capturing more butterfly images when it occurred to me that if I should see any lizards lying in the sun I should at least try and get a few pictures for the wildlife portfolio of the area.  It was not as if I needed to look too hard, they tend to lie in the sun flecks on the forest trails everywhere.

So it was that as I walked along, I happened upon many of the whiptails languidly soaking up the sun’s rays but, contrary to my wishes, they didn’t want their pictures taken.  As I slowly approached, using my best butterfly capturing stealth technique, off they would go, scuttling across the forest floor.  Tantalizingly they would rapidly run to the next patch of sunlight off trail amongst the leaves on the forest floor, making a surreptitious approach impossible.  I was set up for doing macro shots so the best I could get were from some distance.

Four-lined Ameiva

There are several species you will see as you walk through the forest.  The ameivas or “whiptails” are the ones that you will see lying on the ground but at your approach they will more often than not run for shelter.  On the sides of the trees you may notice some movement which will betray the presence of the anolis lizards.  Moving like small, highly polished torpedoes through the leaf litter you may catch the occasional glimpse of the litter skinks and water tegus.  Almost certainly by the ponds and creeks you will see basilisks or “Jesus Christ” lizards while if you are lucky you might spot one of the green iguanas in the open areas.  Once the sun sets, the geckos appear, announcing their presence with the “Cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep” calls.  Also if you are out and about at night there is a good chance you will see one or more of the diurnal lizard species sleeping at the end of a leaf or branch.

Central American Smooth Gecko         Pug-nosed Anole         Litter Skink

There are 3 species of whiptail that can be found commonly around Bosque; the Central American Whiptail, (Ameiva festiva), the Barred Whiptail, (Ameiva leptophrys) and the Four-lined Whiptail, (Ameiva quadrilineatus).  They are all diurnal sun loving lizards that can be seen basking on most of the forest trails.  The ameivas are insectivorous.  They all have a fairly long head and tail.  The 3 species can be distinguished by their coloring.  The Central American Whiptail has a broad yellow line running down its back which runs the length of the tail where it is blue in the juveniles.  The Barred Whiptail has distinct brown blocks down the sides of the body which give the barred effect.  The description of the Four-lined Ameiva speaks for itself; it has 4 long yellow lines running the length of the body.  The latter is the commonest of the whiptails, being seen everywhere around the restaurant area.

Barred Ameiva

Consuming 100 Legs

I did find one snake this week though that I had only ever seen once before and strangely enough in more or less the exact same spot but 5 or 6 years earlier.  It was actually one of the guests out walking with me that spotted it on the path in front of us and as we had only just left the restaurant, I was able to “bag it” and take some pictures later.  The snake in question was a Coral Crowned Snake, (Tantilla supracincta).  Looking at the colors, those bands of red, black and yellow, it superficially resembles a deadly poisonous coral snake, but if you look a little more closely you will find the bands don’t meet on the dorsal surface.

Coral Crowned Snake         Coral Crowned Snake         Coral Crowned Snake

The reason not many people find these snakes is that they are so small and burrow into leaf litter, moss and soft earth, which is exactly what this individual did as I tried to photograph it.  The Coral Crowned Snake is a venomous rear-fanged specialist feeder on centipedes.  It probably feeds on other invertebrate prey too but not too much is known about its natural history.

Coral Crowned Snake

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

 Broken Chain

While out photographing butterflies on the Titi Trail, I was distracted by a strange and almost luminous glowing ring lying what looked liked eggs on top of a leaf.  I took a closer look and found that it was indeed eggs but eggs that had hatched and the nymphal stage of some insect had formed a ring around the empty egg cases which now contained nothing more than some clear liquid.  The nymphs had formed a ring around their hatchery but there was a missing link.  Strangely enough, one nymph had yet to break free of its confining shell and the space in the chain appeared to be one nymph short.  I don’t know if it was coincidence or a correlation between the number of eggs and circumference that would make the complete ring but it was certainly eye catching.

Homoptera nymphs

I am pretty sure that the eggs belonged to an insect in the order Hemiptera – the true bugs, all of which have piercing mouth parts modified for sucking fluids whether it be of animal or plant origin.  Furthermore I think they belong to the suborder Homoptera – true bugs with equal wings.  It is a fairly diverse group of animals and so the exact identity of the weird luminescent pea-green nymphs will have to remain a mystery for now.  But they certainly catch the eye.

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 0.26 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.05 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 6.5 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 45.2 mm

Highest Daily Temp 90°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 73°F.

Highest Daily Temp 30.7°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 22.7°C.

Species List for the Week


  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Common Opposum
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Three-toed Sloth


  • Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • Red-lored Amazons
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • White-collared Swift
  • Spotted Woodcreeper
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • White-shouldered Tanager
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Streaked Flycatcher
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Basilisk
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Coral Crowned Snake
  • Five-lined Ameiva
  • Green Iguana
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Northern Cat-eyed Snake


  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Olive Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smoky Jungle Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Ascia monuste
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Chlosyne theona
  • Cithaerias pireta
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Euptoieta hegesia
  • Eurema daira
  • Eurybia lysisca
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia evarete
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia berania
  • Morpho helenor
  • Pareuptychia occirhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Polites vibex
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Quadrus cerialis
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Sostrata bifasciata
  • Staphylus mazans
  • Strymon megarus
  • Taygetis andromeda
  • Temenis laothoe
  • Urbanus proteus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna
  • Urbanus teleus


  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Anthurium salvinii Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Aspidosperma spruceanum Fruiting
  • Astrocaryum standelyarum Fruiting
  • Atrocarpus heterophyllus Fruiting
  • Averrhoa carambola Fruiting
  • Brownea macrophylla Flowering
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering
  • Chamaedorea costaricana Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Dipsis lutescens Fruiting
  • Ficus citrifolia Fruiting
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Gustavia brachycarpa Flowering
  • Hedychium coronarium Flowering
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
  • Ipomoea Flowering
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lacistema aggregatum Fruiting
  • Lacmellea panamensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Flowering and Fruiting
  • Mangifera indica Fruiting
  • Miconia argentia Flowering
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering and Fruiting
  • Naucleopsis uliae Fruiting
  • Pandanus tectonus Fruiting
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Psidium guajava Flowering and Fruiting
  • Stachytapheta frantzii Flowering
  • Terminalia catappa Flowering
  • Tocoyena pittieri Flowering and Fruiting
  • Virola koschnyi Fruiting
  • Vochysia ferruginea Fruiting

6 responses to “Smiles Like a Reptile

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  1. Excellent blog as ever Philip. I especially liked the nymphs around their hatchery picture. I think the one remaining unhatched nymph adds greatly to an already fascinating picture. Can I ask, do you use a flash for most of your photographs? I notice that even in your daylight shots, such as the lizards in your recent blog, you always manage to get a ‘catchlight’ in the creatures eye, something which really enhances the appeal of the pictures.


    • Hi Ian
      Yes I do use flash. I tend to shoot at very small apertures to get the depth of field so sometimes I am using 5 wireless controlled flash units hence the “catchlight”. Nice to hear that you are enjoying the blogs.
      Cheers, Philip


  2. Great post Philip. We love all the lizards around the lodge especially the anoles. Fantastic shots of the Coral Crowned Snake as usual.


  3. Hi Phillip,
    It was great meeting you and learning more about the incredible diversity on the Osa Peninsula. Thanks for sharing some of your knowledge with us over the past week.
    Kind regards,


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