New Ways of Falling from Grace   3 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog July 16th 2012

How The Mighty Have Fallen

So far the wet season has proved to be a little unpredictable.  Up until the beginning of the week we still had not had a great deal of rain.  The days were bright and sunny followed by 2 or 3 days of heavy cloud cover but still no rain.  Towards the end of week that all changed.  There were 3 or 4 nights in a row where the visitors were treated to the most spectacular thunderstorms.  The storms came straight in off the sea and so the thunder and lightning were simultaneous.   The rain was subsequently measured in several inches for the period of one cloud burst.

One evening at the normal 6:00 pm downpour time, a terrible roaring sound started low down near the cliff edge.  The sound intensified until it sounded like a freight train was heading straight for the bar.  Wind of this ferocity is normally a portent of exceptionally heavy rain that is following in behind.  It did rain but not with the deluge we were expecting, the wind too eventually died down.  We thought we had been spared what potentially could have been a serious ravaging.  It wasn’t until a few days later when I went for a walk on the Zapatero Trail that I could see that had not been the full story.  The main event had hit the forest and as I made my way around the trail, every 100 yards or so my path was blocked by a fallen tree.  Between the fallen trees the path was littered with dead branches.  Off the trail yet more massive arboreal giants had tumbled, their huge forms now laid prone by the force of the short lived squall.  In 12 years of walking the trails on an almost daily basis I had never seen so much sylvan devastation.

The trail maintenance teams went to work clearing out all the fallen timber.  These occasional catastrophic events are all part of the cycle in the forest.  Now there are large gaps in the canopy so the microclimate at the forest floor will have changed; temperature goes up, light levels increase and humidity drops.  All of this acts as a spur for the germination of a lot of the pioneering species of tree which are lying as dormant seeds in the ground just waiting for this situation to occur before rapidly growing to fill the gap which they do within in a very few years.

All the saplings of those shade tolerant tree species have, over many years, stored a lot of energy in their roots systems and then waited patiently in that state of suspended animation for this kind of event to take place.  They are spurred into re-growth, eventually overshadowing the pioneering species as they make their way up to the uppermost level of the forest where their crowns spread and to block the light from penetrating to the forest floor.  There they will stand in statuesque grandeur until perhaps 100 years from now they will ultimately suffer the same fate as those forest giants that preceded them.

Something New

This week there have been no actual Puma sightings but that does not mean there are not around.  The alarm call of the Spider Monkeys has been heard echoing around the grounds at various different locations so even if we haven’t seen them from the ground, the monkeys have certainly been able to see them from the tree tops.

This week a new bird turned up and that was not hard to see.  Standing in the restaurant one morning I could hear a call that I was not familiar with and it was coming from just outside in a Guava Tree.  I went out to take a look and there was one of the Euphonia species but this one was strangely unfamiliar.  Looking through the binoculars I could see it had a small yellow cap but the most distinctive feature was that the whole of the neck was yellow, there was no continuous purple collar.  This limited the choice and I was pretty sure I was looking at a Yellow-throated Euphonia, (Euphonia hyrundinacea), which is exactly what is was.  From the day of its arrival it has been in the same location in the Guava Tree every morning.  It is not alone; there is a female companion who has a slightly different call.  In fact they appear to have made a nest in a palm tree next to their perch.  It is described as very rare in Pacific Lowlands so we are lucky to have it take up temporary residence within earshot of the restaurant.

The Euphonia was not the only new record for the lodge this week.  One night when I went back to my cabin, I proceeded to open up the laptop and do a little more writing before going to bed.  I noticed on the wall to my left a small roosting butterfly that had settled for the night.  Just the same as the Euphonia, I did not immediately recognize the tiny nocturnal squatter, I could see it was one of the Riodinids or Metalmarks but not one I had ever seen before.  As it was motionless no more than 2 feet from my arm it made an easy photographic opportunity.  So I picked up the camera, took the shots, put the camera away and continued my writing.

Calospila martia

Next day the butterfly was flying up and down against the screen of my window so held out my hand and let it settle on my finger whereupon I took it outside and liberated it to fly off into the forest.  Later I looked at the photos with the intention of making an identification.  The butterfly, although small, was distinctly marked with large orange bars traversing the forewings.  It didn’t take long to arrive at the species name, Calospila martia.  The interesting thing is that, according to Philip J. DeVries in his book “The Butterflies of Costa Rica Volume II the Riodinidae”, this butterfly has only ever been recorded from one location on the Atlantic lowland rainforest of Costa Rica, never from the Pacific.  It is found in Panama and its distribution suggests it should be found in this area too, but there are no records.  It could well be that Bosque del Cabo has the first recorded sighting of this species for Costa Rica outside of its only other previous known location.  I await confirmation.

Calospila martia

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

 Fighting For Attention

Activity at the pond at night is cyclic in its intensity.  Some evenings the area and vegetation around the water’s edge is full of calling frogs.  If a lot of spawning has taken place, over the following nights the amphibian activity may die down but they their presence has been replaced by large numbers of Cat-eyed Snakes which venture forth to feed on the now freely available food source.  Generally on a nightly basis you can still find Marine Toads, Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, Banana Frogs and Smoky Jungle Frogs.  One or two other species may be thrown into the mix; Olive Tree Frogs and more particularly Gladiator Frogs.  The predators of the frogs and their eggs will be around in greater or lesser numbers too; the already mentioned snakes but also large Wandering Spiders.

Last week when I was out and about on one of my nocturnal walks I found a Salmon-bellied Racer settling down for the night on top of a leaf.  Young Basilisks are always found sleeping on vegetation over the water.  My mission on this particular evening was to photograph some of the Amblypygids or Tailless Whip Scorpions.  Once the sun has gone down there are normally a good few sitting on the exposed banks on the side of the road.  I duly arrived at the spot where I thought I might find the subjects and sure enough there they were, grotesque denizens of the dark world, ominously hanging around the entrances of holes in the sheer walls waiting for their supper to arrive in the form of unsuspecting insects.  Unfortunately the ground where I would have to stand and set up the tripod was alive with swarming masses of Army Ants.  So my dilemma was to suffer the painful bites of a myriad enraged ronchadores or come back on another night.  I decided on the latter.

Gladiator Frog

While walking past the pond on my way back to the restaurant I could hear several male Gladiator Frogs calling.  I didn’t want to go back with no results for my efforts so decided to go and take a look.  As luck would have, there was one male sitting on a palm leaf stem at eye level 6 feet off the ground, (my eye level).  It duly obliged by posing perfectly for its profile.  So even if the shot you want is not always available, there is always something else you can get if you look.

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 0.14 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.00 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 1.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 7.1 mm

Highest Daily Temp 89°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 31.4°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.4°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Kinkajou
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Nine-banded Armadillo

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazons
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Great Curassow
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Blue Dacnis
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Golden-hooded Tanager
  • Red-legged Honeycreeper
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Tropical King Bird
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Yellow-throated Euphonia
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Basilisk
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Five-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anole
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Northern Cat-eyed Snake
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Salmon-bellied Racer
  • Tiger Rat Snake
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Colobura dirce
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eurema daira
  • Euptoieta hegesia
  • Euselasia
  • Eurybia lysisca
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Saliana longirostris
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Staphylus mazans
  • Strymon megarus
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • 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
  • 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

 

 

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3 responses to “New Ways of Falling from Grace

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  1. Reading your blog on the 7:19 East Grinstead – London Bridge commuter train, Costa Rica seems a long, long way away and hard to believe we will be visiting you next week!!! Absolutely fantastic picture of the Gladiator frog – he was certainly very obliging.

  2. You really aren’t setting the bar to high there Philip!!!

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