Leaf Hopping to Green Sphinx   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog August 13th 2012

Sun Shade

This, as expected this time of year, has been another week of ever changing cloud, sun and showers.  Towards the end of the week the rain started to increase in intensity.  Normally the thunderstorms develop during the day and then down comes the rain sometime late in the afternoon or early in the evening.  At the present time, the storms are beginning in the early hours of the morning and stop before lunch time.  Our most recent guests have been woken from their sleep not by the usual morning chorus of the Howler Monkeys but rather by the proximal crash of thunder.

Unmasked

The week started with a nice surprise.  While out on the night tour I saw a small mammal moving its way round the top of some of the Costa plants.  At first I thought it was a rodent of some sort but when I managed to get close, I could see it was an opossum.  We regularly see a variety of opossum species around the grounds, the Common Opossum, (Didelphis marsupialis), the Central American Wooly Opossum, (Caluromys derbianus), the Grey Four-eyed Opossum, (Philander opossum), and the Mexican Mouse Opossum, (Marmosa mexicana).  It was the latter that I was now looking at.

Not all opossums are blessed with good looks, (a very subjective statement I know), but the Mexican Mouse Opossum is quite a pretty little creature.  It is found throughout Central America and as its name suggests, Mexico too.  Whereas it may at first appear mouse like, when it is seen moving through the vegetation you can see it using one thing a mouse doesn’t have, a prehensile tail.  They have a fairly cosmopolitan diet of insects, fruit, lizards, frogs, eggs and chicks.

The following night when returning from the night tour I saw a Common Opossum on the ground in the mango orchard.  The opossum saw us in turn and disappeared but I had an idea as to where it may have gone.  Sure enough without too great an effort we found it up the top of a tree, lying along a limb and looking down at us, its orange eyes reflecting back as eyeshine from the flashlights.  Common Opossums are not nice-looking having sparse dark hair covering the body and a long naked rat-like tail.  Its diet is similar to that of the mouse opossum, which is essentially anything it gets its paws on.

There was one Puma, (Puma concolor), sighting this week.  As one of the guests left the lodge early in the morning on his way to catch the first flight of the day to San Jose he saw the cat at the far end of the Bosque driveway.  Two of our regular visitors to the lodge, Chris and Nicole, were back again last week seeking more images to add to their already extensive portfolio of wildlife at Bosque.  Their prize sighting for the week was a Crane Hawk, (Geranospiza caerulescens), that spent an hour or so around the area of the pond.  They managed to procure some excellent photographs of the bird along with a host of new photos and video footage of some of the animals they hadn’t been able to get on other occasions.  The Crane Hawk has distinctly piercing dark red eyes, long orange colored legs and when it flies displays a strong white crescent-shaped mark at the wing tips.

Mystery Revealed in Fortuitous Find

Over the years I have found some strange objects in the forest and despite all my years of studying biology I do not know what it is that I may be looking at.  Every so often I find on the leaves creamy colored oval masses with tapered ends that are covered in small protuberances.  I could find no reference to them at all.  I could only imagine, because of their size and shape, that they may be the heavily parasitized cocoons of a moth but was never certain of that fact.  Last week though, I had the good fortune to see the animal that is responsible for the object actually in the act of making it.

Unidentified Leafhopper

By my shower one morning I watched an unidentified species of leafhopper produce an egg mass that was encased within the off-white casing of an almost spongy-like material which was covered in small knobs.  This is what I had been seeing over the years and so now the mystery was solved.

Leafhopper Eggcase

Leafhoppers are true bugs of the order Hemiptera, suborder Homoptera.  They feed on plant sap which they obtain by piercing into the vascular system of a plant with a long sharp beak or rostrum and sucking out the liquid.  They sometimes occur in large numbers and can become a pest in certain areas.  As with most insect orders there are a great many species particularly in the tropics and as ever there is no adequate or freely available reference material to aid in their identification.  So although the mystery of the strange cocoons has been solved, the exact name of the creator, at this time, remains unkown.

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

 Green Sphinx

One night at the bar after the sun had set, the same guests who had found the Crane Hawk discovered yet another flying creature, albeit much smaller, in an alcove housing decorative pre-Colombian artifacts.  Not having warmed up its flight muscles and so sitting motionless on the shelf was a beautiful hawk moth.  The colors were sublime, gorgeous hues of deep greens broken into irregular patches by lines of soft grey, the pattern achieving symmetry across the two wings.  Running horizontally across the width of the wings was a bar of grey which when you glanced looked for all the world like a small twig.  Under the wings the ventral surface of the abdomen was a fiery flame orange that burned with a ferocity under the glow of a flashlight.

Green Hawk Moth

The stunning beast we were looking at was the hawk moth Oryba kadeni.  The hawk moths, also known as sphinx moths, have long narrow wings.  They are fairly long lived for moths in the adult stage and feed from the nectar of night-scented flowering plants.  Some of the hawk moths possess a very long proboscis which allows it to access nectar held deep within long tubular shaped flowers that would not be available to other animals.  One common hawk moth pollinated flower that you can find on the grounds of Bosque is the night perfumed orchid, Lady of the Night, (Brassavola nodosa).   Hawk moths have the ability to hover in front of flowers while feeding on the nectar and for some of those species found flying during the daylight hours, they are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds, (there is a species called the Hummingbird Hawk Moth).

Green Sphinx Moth

I thought it might be good to get a photograph of the moth while it was in this restful state.  I carried it over to my cabin so that I could place it at a convenient height on a tree to obtain a good image.   I set up the camera and placed it on the tripod and throughout this the moth continued to stay without the slightest flicker of movement clinging to the side of the tree.  Once the camera was ready and put in place it started frantically vibrating its wings.  Moths are myothermic and need to warm up the wing muscles by rapidly vibrating them before they are capable of flight in the evening.  It spiraled to the ground, the wings as yet not fully powered.  I took the camera off the tripod and tried to get at least a couple of photos before it disappeared.  I did manage one or two before it took to the air and flew off into the night.

Oryba kadeni

That was not the end of the photography session for the night though.  I had been out with Chris and Nicole searching for a few of the nocturnal creatures that they wanted to add to the portfolio.  One of the subjects we found was a Tink Frog, (Diaspora diastema) which was sitting at the perfect height on a large flat Maranta leaf.  I returned on my own a little later and it was still there so I got the pictures and decided the evening had not been entirely unsuccessful.

Tink Frog

Tink Frogs make a very piercing “tink” sound that is audible for some distance.  For 7 months of the year they can be heard calling from sundown to sunrise, more energetically and vociferously if there has been some early evening rain.  Despite their loud metallic tinking they are not the easiest frogs to observe as they quite often call from inside the hollow trunks and branches of trees out of the way of hunting frog-eating bats which home in on their calls.

Hooded Mantis

Returning to my cabin from this mini expedition I was delighted to find the moth that had eluded me earlier had returned and was perched on the screen covering the window to my cabin.  It was not alone; sitting just beneath it was a Hooded Mantis, (Choerododis rhombifolia), whose green and “bean-shaped” body affords it the same kind of camouflage that the green patterning of the moth offered.

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 1.01 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 7.05 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 26.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 182.1 mm

Highest Daily Temp 87°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 75°F.

Highest Daily Temp 30.4°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.6°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Crab-eating Raccoon
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Common Opossum
  • Mexican Mouse Opossum

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Golden-hooded Tanager
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Boa Constrictor
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Parrot Snake

 Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Gladiator Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Marine Toad
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Smoky Jungle Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Cithaerias pireta
  • Dryas iulia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Astrocaryum standelyarum Fruiting
  • Averrhoa carambola Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegate Flowering
  • Brassavola nodosa Flowering
  • Cananga odorata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Fruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering andFruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus citrifolia Fruiting
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Gustavia brachycarpa Fruiting
  • Heisteria accuminata Fruiting
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
  • Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lacistema aggregatum Fruiting
  • Lacmellea panamensis  Flowering andFruiting
  • Lantana camara Flowering andFlowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Mangifera indica Fruiting
  • Miconia argentia Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering andFruiting
  • Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Pandanus tectonus Fruiting
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psidium guajava Fruiting
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Symphonia globulifera Fruiting
  • Terminalia catappa Flowering
  • Thunbergia grandiflora Flowering
  • Virola guatemalensis Fruiting
  • Virola koschnyi Fruiting
  • Zammia sp Flowering

 

 

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