Setting the Forest Ablaze   Leave a comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog December 3rd 2012

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Always Take Your Umbrella

This week the precipitation reduced and the sun hours increased dramatically.   The rain has not stopped completely and some people were fooled by the beautiful summer-like conditions when the rain momentarily returned with a vengeance dumping 6 inches within 2 days.  But once the front passed over, the sun came back and it looks like we are into the dry season.

Hard to Spot

There were several new mammal sightings to record this week.  One night when I was out on a night tour with a couple of guests to the lodge a large caviomorph rodent, a Paca, (Agouti paca), walked across the lawns in front of us.  I initially spotted it due to the bright orange eye shine reflecting back within the beam of my flashlight.  Although I could see the eyes I could not make out the animal.  There are several commonly seen creatures in this area at night, the most frequently seen being the Common Opossums, (Didelphis marsupialis).  It continued moving towards us despite being caught in the beams of three flashlights.  As it approached more closely I could see that its coat was patterned ruling out an opossum but giving momentary optimism that it might be an Ocelot, (Leopardus pardalis).  I still couldn’t make out the body shape or whether it had a tail.  It disappeared into the vegetation surrounding the grey water filtering system.  I asked the two guests to remain where they were and I would go around the back to try and get a close look.  It turned round and headed back from whence it came so I came around the front again and we managed to finally illuminate it enough to get the identity.

Pacas are related to Agoutis, (Dasyprocta punctata).  The former are nocturnal and the latter diurnal.  The Pacas are fruit and seed eaters but will turn to more leafy material and roots if fruit becomes scarce.  They form monogamous pair bonds but quite often forage singly.  They are very secretive as in many parts of their range they are hunted for what is considered one of the best tasting meats you can eat.  Locally they are known as Tepezcuintle.

Driving Me Bats

The next morning I was with the same two guests on the Zapatero Trail.  As we walking towards a large hollow Milky Tree, (Brosimum utile), a very large bat took to the sky.  We had spooked it and it was now flying in circles above us, its dark body and outstretched wings silhouetted against the sky.  It briefly landed then took to the wing once more before returning a second time to fly up and disappear into the cavernous centre of the tree.  I did not have either the time or the diagnostic features with which to make an identification except for the striking size, a wingspan of well over 9 inches.  Costa Rica has a total of 111 species of bat, 80 of which reside on the Osa Peninsula.  In terms of size alone the options are limited but I simply didn’t obtain a good enough look to be able to say for sure what this one was.

Early Call

I caught my first sight of a Prothonotary Warbler, (Prothonotaria citrea), for the season.  Its stunning bright yellow plumage is so distinctive in amongst the background of leafy green vegetation.  The Summer Tanager, (Pingara rubra), remains the most vocal of the migrants around the grounds immediately adjacent to the main lodge area.  The Bright-rumped Atilla, (Atilla spadiceus), can now be heard calling just about every morning after an absence of some months.  If you do rise with the sun you will be greeted by a myriad of bird calls.  Some, such as the Chestnut-,mandibled Toucan, (Ramphastos swainsoni), don’t seem to stop, their calls can be heard throughout the day.


The change in the weather brings about changes in animal behavior.  It is getting more and more difficult to find amphibians at night but easier to find butterflies during the day.  I had some interesting sightings this week.  One butterfly that is not recorded as being on the Osa Peninsula most certainly is as I have seen it alive twice and dead once.  This week I found only a forewing but that constitutes further evidence that it does live here.

On several consecutive mornings I found in exactly the same spot on the Zapatero Trail a White-tailed Longtail, (Urbanus doryssus).  It is another of those butterflies that I have never seen before and unfortunately did not have my camera with me and so will probably never see again.

Leaf-cutter Ant

For the past month or so with it being damp but not soaking and sunny but not too dry the conditions have been perfect for the Leaf-cutter Ants, (Atta cephalotes) to be working assiduously day and night.  Now as the ground and air start to become a little drier the ants have started to change their foraging strategy.  They tend to limit their cutting and carrying of leaf to after sunset in the dry season.  The distance over which they have to carry the leaf means that it can dry out.  Any toxins the leaf contains, as it desiccates then they become more and more concentrated.  From here on in there will be less Leaf-cutter Ant activity during the day.

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

 A Bright Splash of Color

Red is a very important color in the forest.  It is the complementary color to green and whereas green is a very cool color, red is a very hot color.  Birds have acute color vision and will see red a mile off in the forest.  Butterflies see at the red end of the spectrum as well as the ultraviolet end of the spectrum which is where most insect’s vision is concentrated.  Consequently the plants use red for their flowers to attract in pollinators.  Fruit when it ripens normally turns from green to red so attracting the fruit eaters which in turn act as seed dispersers.

Around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo at the minute are some very bright flashes of red on display is several flowering plants.  Out in the Tropical Garden there are several trees currently bearing fiery red blooms.  These are the African Tulip Trees, (Spathodea campanulata).  Its name gives away its origins but it is planted in parks and gardens throughout Costa Rica due to its tendency to flower year round providing 12 months of stunning color.  It is also known as the Flame of the Forest and one look would suggest why.

African Tulip Tree

Another distinctive and brightly colored flower can be seen growing directly from the trunk and branches of a several trees scattered around the lodge grounds, Rosa de Monte, (Brownea macrophylla).  Although not native to Costa Rica its distribution is closer being found in Panama.  The hemispherical orange flower is quite often used as a decoration on the tables at the Bosque restaurant.

Rosa de Monte

Just about everywhere you look around the Bosque gardens you will find Hibiscus, (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis).  The flowers are so distinctive that they could never be confused with anything else.  It is an easy to grow showy shrub and so will be seen in most areas of Costa Rica.  The petals can be anything from poppy red to pastel pink and appear on the plant year round.  A long protuberance issues from the centre of the flower.  At its tip are five fuzzy pincushion-like stylets.  Beneath this is a collar of finely stemmed yellow pollen bearing stamens.


Venture out of the gardens and into the forest this time of year you will find a tall red spike of a plant.  It is an endemic to the area, not found anywhere else, only on the Osa Peninsula, Aphelandra golfodulcensis.  Every day it produces 2 or 3 long tubular scimitar-shaped flowers.  It has a very specific pollinator, the hummingbirds with the long sickle-shaped bills of which there are two species commonly seen in this area, the Long-billed Hummingbird, (Phaethornis longirostris), and the Stripe-throated Hummingbird, (Phaethornis strigularis).  The hummingbirds hover in front of the flower, insert the bill which is a perfect match in terms of shape.  They take the nectar and at the same time the bill becomes coated in pollen which is transferred when they visit the next plant.

Aphelandra golfodulcensis

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 0.83 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 5.81 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 21.09 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 147.66 mm

Highest Daily Temp 85°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 28.4°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 22.9°C.

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Kinkajou
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Paca


  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Double-toothed Kite
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Green Honeycreeper
  • Summer Tanager
  • White-shouldered Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black Vulture
  • King Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Anolis
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Skink
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Parrot Snake


  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
  • Stejneger’s Rain Frog


  • Anartia Fatima
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Dryas iulia
  • Drusilla glutophrissa
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Philaethria dido
  • Pierella luna
  • Taygetis andromeda


  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering and Fruiting
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Caryocar costaricensis Flowering
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • 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 Flowering
  • Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus insipida 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
  • 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
  • Zammia sp Flowering




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