Long Nosed Damsel Smells of Death   2 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog March 18th 2013

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The weather continues to be hot and dry.  The skies are clear blue during the day and filled with stars at night.  The cracks in the forest floor are widening and deepening.  There is a certain amount of dust in the air being raised from the parched roads.  It is settling on the vegetation giving it that drab and tired look.

The White-lipped Peccaries, (Tayussu pecari), are still making their daily circuits of the grounds around the main lodge area.  They have now been here two weeks and show little sign of leaving.  Their habit of slowly walking around the grounds with little concern regarding the attention of the visitors makes them an easy photographic subject.

The Puma was seen one night by the staff as they left the lodge.  It was crossing the road by the Titi Trail. There is a large Fig Tree, (Ficus citrifolia), fruiting in the gardens in front of the restaurant.  This is attracting the attention of lots of animals particularly monkeys and toucans.

The pond is still full of Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savagei), and Marine Toads, (Chaunus marinus).  It is one of the few remaining damp areas around which they can congregate.  One pair of Savage’s Thin-fingered Frogs paired up and spawned this week producing the characteristic foam nest that looks like a patch of whipped cream that has been deposited on the water surface.  The Marine Toad males have been calling as has a lone male Banana Frog, (Dendropsophus ebreccatus).

Early one evening the Halloween Crabs, (Gecarcinus quadratus), were out in force even before the sun had set.  It has been very dry and those weather conditions normally keep the crabs confined to their burrows where the air has slightly higher moisture content.  Several weeks ago when the crabs became active it heralded the onset of rain.  This occasion was no different as a few hours later the heavens opened and down came .09 inches of rain.  That might not be much but it was enough to dampen the ground for a couple of days and bring the crabs out en masse the following morning.

Trooping of the Monkeys

If fortune favors you then it is not too hard to find all four species of monkey that inhabit Costa Rica on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo within little more than a few hours.  Where there is an abundant supply of food from the fruiting trees it may be possible to predict the time of their daily visits.  Over the last week one group of White-faced Capuchin Monkeys, (Cebus capucinus), has been passing through the grounds every afternoon on their way to a Guaba tree that has a copious supply of bean pods.

White-faced Monkey         Cebus capucinus         Capuchin Monkey

The Capuchin Monkeys usually travel as a mixed sex and mixed age troop in anything up to 30 in number.  They prefer the mid levels of the forest but can be found in the canopy and on the ground.  They have a varied diet consisting of flowers, fruit and young leaves but 65% of the diet is insects, frogs and lizards which they obtain by gleaning the leaves as the move through the forest.  But the Capuchins will also take bigger prey.  At Bosque they are frequently seen catching and eating the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, (Ramphastos swainsonii), if front of the restaurant.

Cebus capucinus

This particular troop has several females carrying young of differing ages.  The female is sexually mature at about 4 years and will have one or rarely two young every 2 years.  The grey-furred babies are born in the trees and from that moment have to hang on tight as the mother jumps from tree to tree.  By 6 months old the offspring will be moving around independently.  The male mature at 8 years and head to join a new troop, in the other 3 species of monkey it is the females that leave the troop to find a new one into which they will be accepted.

In this troop one of the young males was taking a definite interest in the very new looking baby.  It could well be that he was the females last youngster and has lost out as her attention is devoted to the new arrival.

Unexpected Opportunities

Sometimes an animal appears at an opportune moment to photograph.  It could well be that you are out searching for a specific subject or perhaps just set off on a trail with nothing in particular in mind hoping to capture whatever comes your way.  I generally have a mix of those two situations going on.  I will head off to photograph something that I may have seen earlier or I need an image to complement a piece I may have been writing.  I am always aware that I may happen across sometime else on my journey so usually carry several lenses.  As most of my work is macro photography then it will invariably be several macro lenses.

Last week when I was out I saw a pretty little damsel fly which kept flying off but returning to settle in the same place.  I thought I could get quite close to it and if I did disturb it I was reasonably sure it would come back.  That is what happened.  When I got the pictures back I went through my reference material to identify what species I had.

Agria sp

Damselflies and dragonflies belong to the order Odonata.  Dragonflies tend to be larger, have joined eyes and hold their wings out to the sides.  Damselflies tend to be smaller, have distinctly separate eyes and hold their wings above them when at rest.  Both are aerial predators and feed on a variety of arthropods many of which are caught with lightning quick speed on the wing.  This one had beautiful powder blue stripes.  Wing veination is important in identifying these creatures and I am pretty sure this one is of the Family: Coenagrionidae, (Pond Damsels).  It was by the pond where I found it so the description is accurate.  Beyond that identification becomes more difficult and so I would say it is of the genus Agria but I am not sure what species as they are all so similar.  It is a fairly common genus of damselfly but like so many other forms of life here in Costa Rica their natural history has not been adequately studied.

One day on the underside of a heliconia leaf on the path to the Bosque restaurant I noticed a strange cluster of minute globules each one suspended on a microfilament stalk.  I had seen them before and knew what they were but had never taken a picture.  It was the eggs of an Ant Lion.  The eggs are suspended on the thin threads as opposed to directly on the leaf surface to stop foraging ants from finding them.

Ant Lion Eggs

When the eggs hatch and the larvae emerge they fall to the ground where they burrow in and set about constructing a crater of death.  The crater has steep sides and has been excavated in a substrate composed of loose grains such as sand or soil.  The sides then become very friable and any hapless creature stumbling into this depression in its efforts to escape will find itself dislodging grains and slipping further down the slope.  There awaits the ravenous assassin, the Ant Lion larva.  It has fearsome mandibles that are set open like a man trap.  With its front legs it flicks more sand grains at the struggling victim.  It slides further and further down the slope until finally it hits the bottom and the trap springs shut around it.  The Ant Lion larva sucks out its preys internal juices and discards the freshly drained cadaver.

Ant Lion Trap

Ant Lions belong to the Family: Myrmeleontidae of the insect Order: Neuroptera.  The adult Ant Lions have long thin abdomens but characteristically of this order the wings which are only half the length of the body feature a complex network of fine veins.

Beetles are the most numerous named group of animals on the planet.  The Order:  Coleoptera contains approximately 320 000 named species.  Costa Rica has 47 000 named species of beetle.  Within the Coleoptera the Weevils Family: Curculionidae is the most numerous named family of either plant or animal boasting more than 50 000 species worldwide with 7 500 species found in Costa Rica.  As with most beetles I can quite often identify them to Family level but beyond that takes more of a dedicated coleopterists skills.

Tropical Weevil         Curculionidae sp         Tropical Beetle

The most distinctive feature of the weevils is the long slender snout which is an elongation of the head.  The antennae are borne on the snout where they are supported on the sides but then angle forwards at 90°.  The end of the snout is tipped by the strong mandibles which allow the weevil to eat their way into the seeds and nuts which make up the staple of their diet.  Many weevils feed on plant material as well as fungi.  The larvae of some beetles can become pests burrowing throughout and feeding on living plant tissue.


One day last week when I was walking the Zapatero Trail, the man responsible for trail maintenance approached me and asked if I had seen the Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus), sitting on the nest.  I had walked past without noticing until he showed me a broken off rotten tree about 5 feet high with a hole in it.  I could clearly see the male trogon sitting on the nest so headed back for my camera and returned to take the pictures hopefully without disturbing the bird.  The images weren’t great but I wasn’t prepared to stress the animal in pursuit of a photograph.

Black-throated Trogon

More Flowers and Fruit

The grounds of Bosque are still producing many flowers and fruit to captivate the interest of most casual visitors.  At entrance of the Zapatero Trail the fruits of the Guacimo, (Guazuma ulmifolia), Family: Sterculiaceae, can be found on the ground.  This is one of the fruits that the peccaries seek out when other food becomes scarce.  When crushed the fruits give off a sweet aroma.  Guacimo belongs in the same family as Cacoa, (Theobroma cacao).


In front of the restaurant is a small tree with distinct red flowers that resemble brushes used for cleaning bottles.  For this reason it has been named the Weeping Bottlebrush, (Callistemon vitiminalis).  It is a native of Australia and belongs in the same Family as the Eucalyptus, Mytaceae.  It is widely planted throughout Costa Rica as a decorative ornamental as well as an attraction for hummingbirds many species of which will visit the flowers which are in bloom most of the year.

Weeping Bottlebrush

One of the plants growing around the restaurant gardens produces flowers that are used most nights to decorate the tables.  Not only are they attractive to look at but they also emit a pleasantly scented perfume.  Frangipani, (Plumeria rubra), Family: Apocyanaceae, is a plant recognized by anyone who has visited Hawaii as one of the main components of the leis.  It is in fact a native of Central America not to Hawaii where it is grown as a decorative ornamental.  The plant is used medicinally as a cure for a number of internal and external conditions.  The sweet scent is an attractant for Hawk Moth pollinators that are fooled into visiting the plant with the promise of nectar.  As they move from flower to flower they transfer the pollen but the plant doesn’t live up to expectations as it does not expend energy producing a feed for the moth.


Along with the fruiting fig there is another tree near to the restaurant that has been the location of a daily visit by the White-faced Capuchin Monkeys Guaba, (Inga thybaudiana).  This is one of the Family: Fabaceae – Mimosoideae which when fruiting produce long bean-filled pods.  There are many species of Inga and these ones seem to be liked by the monkeys which use their sharp teeth and strong jaws to tear off the shell and get to the beans inside.


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

The Powerful Smell of Death

Two very common birds seen at Bosque del Cabo, either on the ground or in the air are the Turkey Vulture, (Cathartes aura), and the Black Vulture, (Coragyps atratus).  On the ground they are easily distinguished by the color of the head which in the Turkey Vulture is bright red while in the Black Vulture is black.  While soaring on the thermals above the lodge the outstretched wings of the Turkey Vulture are overall grey with a black leading edge while those of the Black Vulture are overall black with a pale patch towards the tip of each wing.

Turkey Vulture

Old World vultures have acute vision and can spot a dead animal on open grassland from some distance and from some height.  New World vultures have sometime of a problem; trees.  It is impossible to view a dead animal lying on the ground underneath the canopy.

Black Vulture

When an animal dies the subsequent decomposition of its tissues release certain chemicals that are associated with the scent of death.  As this scent plume rises it is dispersed by wind currents forming a scent gradient over a given distance.  The olfactory lobe of the brain in the Turkey Vulture has been shown to be much larger than other birds and the birds have been demonstrated as being able to follow this scent plume to its source.  The Black Vulture and the occasionally seen massive King Vulture, (Sarcoramphus papa), do not possess this ability but rely on the Turkey Vulture to locate the carrion.  They follow the Turkey Vultures to the forest floor where being more dominant, Black Vultures, or much larger, King Vultures, force the Turkey Vultures off the meal.  Although they are equipped with a keen sense of smell the Turkey Vultures have a weak bill that cannot tear through hide especially the way the king Vulture can.  So despite the fact that they defer to the other vultures, the carrion is rendered into a form that the scavenging Turkey Vultures can later manage.

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 0.00 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 0.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.0 mm

Highest Daily Temp 92°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 33.3°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.7°C.

Species List for the Week


  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkey
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Common Tent-making Bat
  • Western Red Bat
  • Agouti
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Kinkajou
  • White-lipped Peccary


  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Mangrove Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • White Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Rufus Piha
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-Capped Manakin
  • Spectacled Owl
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Barred Ameiva
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Common Basilisk
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Skink
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Pug-nosed Anole


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


  • Agraulis vanillae
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Chlosyne theona
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Marpesia berania
  • Mesosemia zonalis
  • Morpho helenor
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Urbanus simplicius


  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Fruiting
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Attalea rostrata Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Caryocar costaricense Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
  • 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
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Flowering and Fruiting
  • Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
  • Inga spp Fruiting
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering and Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Pachira quinata Flowering
  • 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

2 responses to “Long Nosed Damsel Smells of Death

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  1. You have some amazing pictures, Mr. Davison. I have a classified ad website for exotic pets located at http://exoticpetshq.com and landed on your page while doing a search for capuchin monkeys. But, I was taken aback by the diverse assortment of pictures you have posted.


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