Here We Go Again   4 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog November 12th 2012

Sun Shade

I made an earlier than normal return to Bosque this year.  The wet season had seen its share of rain but now the heavy showers are interspersed with long periods of blue sky and bright sun.  Mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and butterfly sightings are good.

I keep a daily nature diary of animals and plants, (flowering and fruiting), that I have seen at the lodge.  At the end of the week the lists are added to the bottom of this blog which allows people to see what is going on in advance of their visit to Bosque or to keep in touch when they have left.  Anyone reading but not visiting can gauge the amount of activity taking place in the natural world down on the tip of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

This year I have decided to add something extra, something a little different.  Birders have their “Big Year” so I thought it might be nice to have a big year but not limiting myself to the avifauna, but rather everything.  It won’t take much more effort over and above what I already record and catalogue.  It is not competitive either, just a bit of fun.  It will enable me to post a weekly update of cumulative numbers across the board of species inventories.  The readers will then be able to see at a glance the amount of fauna and flora that can be experienced and over what period of time at Bosque.

The records will be confined to the 800 acres that constitute the grounds of Bosque del Cabo and will be based on casual observations.  Hopefully I should get some photos to post too.

Doing the Rounds

Around the grounds there are the usual mammal sightings with Agoutis, (Dasyprocta punctata), White-nosed Coatis, (Nasua narica), and Red-tailed Squirrels, (Sciurus granatensis), in the gardened areas in front of the restaurant.  Spider Monkeys, (Ateles geoffroyi), Howler Monkeys, (Allouata palliata), and White-faced Monkeys, (Cebus capucinus), can be seen just about everywhere around the grounds.  The White-faced Monkeys have been up to their usual nasty tricks.  One couple out in the garden was trying to photograph a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, (Ramphastos swainsoni), when a White-faced Monkey grabbed and dispatched the unfortunate bird.  It wasn’t the photograph they were looking for but it makes for a talking point back home.

One night, just before dinner, a Kinkajou, (Poto flavus), came into the bar, which was full of guests at the time, and made its way up one of the support poles into the roof and disappeared from view.  Kinkajous are not uncommon around the grounds of Bosque and can quite often be heard up in the tree tops at night but this was the first sighting in the bar.

Summer Calling

The Scarlet Macaws can be seen in the morning flying east to the Golfo Dulce beaches where they take up their daily occupancy of the almond trees, the nuts forming a staple part of their diet.  Later in the afternoon they can be flying this time west returning to roost for the evening.  Their strict adherence to a timetable allows guests to position their cameras to frame the sea and the sky then just wait for the macaws to fly by and fill the foreground space between.

I thought I might make it back before the migrant birds returned but they got here before me.  The very distinctive call of the Summer Tanger, (Pingara rubra) can be heard from the vegetation all around the lodge and will continue to be so for the next few months.  The Dusky-capped Flycatcher, (Myriarchus tubiculifer), is another bird with a soft yet unmistakable call which is being heard all around the restaurant area and mango orchard at the minute.

Prior to their visit, bird calls are something that a visitor to the tropics should acquaint themselves with as not only will they allow you to hear what is around, but also where it is which is essential if you want to spot them.  Looking for birds within the depth of the forest is a somewhat difficult task due to the obstructive presence of so much vegetation.  The open areas, gardens and forest edges are your best bet for seeing much of the bird life.

At the moment within the darker confines of the forest beneath the canopy the Red-capped Manakin, (Pipra mentalis), and the Blue-crowned Manakin, (Pipra coronata), are calling as well as the Rufus Piha the call of which sounds like someone giving a wolf whistle.

In front of the restaurant the Roadside Hawk ,(Buteo magnirostris), Crested Caracaras, (Caracara cheriway), and Yellow-headed Caracaras, (Milvago chimachima), are a daily sight along with the ever present Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures.

Spotted Frogs

Agalychnis callidryas

Despite the fact that it is still wet, the Tink Frogs, (Diasporus diastema), have now all but stopped calling.  Down by the pond the Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, (Agalychnis callidryas), are still present along with the Marine Toads, (Rhinella marinus) and Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savegei).  There are one or two Banana Frogs, (Dendropsophus ebrecattus), sitting on the Water Hyacinths, (Eichhornia crassipes), and the occasional call of a Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog, (Agalychnis spurelli), can be heard.  The Gladiator Frogs, (Hypsoboas rosenbergi), that were out in profusion a few months ago have disappeared.  There have been one or two Masked Smiliscas, (Smilisca phaeota), calling too and as the sun sets you can hear the distinctive “Chuck” of Fitzinger’s Rain Frog, (Craugastor fitzingeri).

Leptodactylus savagei

The Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs are still spawning and their eggs can be found in distinctive gelatinous clusters hanging beneath the leaves overhanging the pond which make an easily available food source for the Cat-eyed Snakes, (Leptodeira septentrionalis).  Once the sun sets out come the snakes.  They make their way over the surface of the pond and over the vegetation behind, tongues flicking in and out in search of that protein packed jelly.  One night I found a Terciopelo sitting above head height on a leaf behind the pond.  The occasional sleeping Basilisk, (Basaliscus basaliscus), may also be encountered but they are easily disturbed.  You make get a shot but it doesn’t take much to cause them to fall to the ground and run for cover.  While out at night you cannot fail to see, especially if looking for eyeshine, the tell tale diamond sparkle coming from the eyes of Wandering Spiders, (Cupiennius sp) sitting on top of the leaves.  One night I had fun taking some pictures of a tiny katydid down by the Bosque pond.  I have no idea what species it is but it was quite photogenic.

Agalychnis callidryas eggs

Fitzinger's Rain Frog

Smilisca phaeota

Wandering Spider

Unidentified Katydid

Only When The Sun Shines

As the weather is reasonably dry and bright, at least on some days, the butterflies take to the wing.  There are neither a huge number of species nor many individuals of each species to be seen this time of year. If you do go for a walk on a sunny day you should get to see some of the more brightly colored species around the grounds, particularly at the Lantana bush where several species of Longwings will be flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar. The earlier you go the better it is to get the photographs before they are fully warmed up and less likely to settle for any great period of time.

Dryas iulia         Heliconius ismenius         Heliconius erato

The same applies to the pond and the dragonflies.  There are very few species around at the moment.  But if you watch them, observing where they land, then you can set up your camera and wait.  With a little patience you should get a fairly good chance of a close-up shot.

Micrathyria ocellata         Micrathyria ocellata        

Fruitless Search

The end of the wet season is not the best time to find either flowers or fruit.  The rain will have ensured that the forests have a deep verdant green aspect to them.  But as we move into that transitional period from wet to dry, many of the plants are stimulated into bearing flowers.  By the time we get into December and January there will be a greater, sometimes subtle and at other times garish, display of color throughout the forest.  For now though you just have to enjoy the deep greens.  If you thought green was green you were very much mistaken.  Find a vantage point and look out over the forest.  You will see emerald, jade, olives, lime, bottle green, sea greens, pea green in fact green in every shade and hue you could imagine.

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

 A Small Problem

One of the most compelling sites of the rainforest is ubiquitous presence of the industrious Leaf-cutter Ants, (Atta sp) which seemingly never rest.  When they are not active their trails can be seen as clear cut paths that run through lawns and across the forest floor.  When they are active, the trails resemble rivers of green moving leaf fragments, which the majority of the workers heading back towards the nest are carrying in their mandibles above their bodies.

Atta cephalotes         Atta cephalotes         Atta cephalotes

Once the leaf is taken into the nest it is dropped and then the work of another caste begins.  It chops the leaf into smaller fragments.  Descending down into the depths of the nest the workers get smaller and smaller progressively cutting the leaf into ever finer fragments which by the time they reach the nest gardens are processed into a grey chewed up mulch.  The ants defecate on this which adds amino acids and enzymes.  This is now the compost on which they grow a very specific fungus that ultimately provides food and sustenance for all the ants in the colony, (upto 8 million of which exist in a mature colony).

Atta cephalotes

This last week there has been a tremendous amount of leaf-cutter activity on all of the Bosque trails and also by my cabin.  Here was a perfect opportunity to try and get some pictures.  This is never an easy task.   You have to get the camera in a position where you can see the ants passing through a plane of view.  Due to the close proximity of the lens to the subject when an ant does pass by it does so very quickly so the shutter speed has to be high.  The distance from the lens means you have a shallow field of view, so to increase your chances of getting one or two in the right plane; you have to close the aperture right down.  A fast shutter speed and a minute aperture allow very little natural light to enter so you have to provide a lot of light by way of flash.  I use 5 separate flash units.  Even then, the chances of getting one at the right exposure filing the frame are slim, most of the ants are entering or exiting the frame or are too far away or are too close.  But due to the number of them all moving in the same direction, then you should get one or two keepers, it depends on how much time and patience you have.

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 0.23 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.63 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 5.9 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 41.4 mm

Highest Daily Temp 91°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 75°F.

Highest Daily Temp 32.5°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.9°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Vesper Rat

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Tawney-winged Woodcreeper
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Green Iguana
  • Litter Skink
  • Terciopelo

 Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eurybia lycisca
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Philaethria dido
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Taygetis Andromeda
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Cananga odorata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering andFruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering andFruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Fruiting
  • Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus insipida 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
  • Lantana camara Flowering andFlowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering andFruiting
  • Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psychotria sp Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Thunbergia grandiflora Flowering
  • Virola guatemalena Fruiting
  • Virola sebifera Fruiting
  • Zammia sp Flowering
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4 responses to “Here We Go Again

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  1. Love your blogs, Philip. Almost as good as being there. Great photos aren’t so good without description and that’s where you excel. Thanks for both.

    D. J. O’Donnell

  2. Some absolutely glorious photos there, Philip. And I envy you having access to the enormous (and stunning!) biodiversity in the region.

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