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Felipe del Bosque Blog August 17th 2013

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Interrupted Halcion Days

This week has followed more or less the same pattern as last week with the area experiencing warm, dry and bright days with a small amount of rain falling over night.  It is just enough to keep  the area damp with a humid atmosphere.  Towards the end of the week more and more began to fall until eventually the days turned grey and the rain persisted for more or less 24 hour periods.  Then just as we thought we might have seen the last of the sun until November, out it came once more.

That is the problem with predicting the weather here.  The national forecast can give you the weather for a wide area but locally the difference between conditions at Bosque del Cabo and only a few miles in either direction can be that of a hot bright sunny day versus an overcast chilly deluge.

Jackpot

Changing the memory cards in the cameras on the Titi Trail is always a prelude to excited anticipation.  Every Saturday the cards are removed, brought back to the lodge, inserted into the laptop and then meticulously scrutinized for whatever was taking place on the trail over the last seven days.  Any humans are immediately eliminated.  Dates and times are recorded for each species so we can build up a data base of activity.

After six weeks we know we are going to get a lot of the same animals stealing the majority of the show.  Camera #1 is place in an area where there is more dense growth around and above the camera.  Here we get a lot of videos featuring Agoutis,(Dasyprocta agouti), during the day and their cousins the Pacas, (Agouti paca), at night.  This is also the area where we find Tamanduas, (Tamandua mexicana), Nine-banded Armadillos, (Dasypus novemcinctus), Common Opossums, (Didelphis marsupialis), Red-tailed Squirrels, (Sciurus granatensis), as well as some Collared Peccaries, (Tayassu tajacu) and the occasional White-lipped Peccary, (Tayassu pecari).

M2E34L105-105R398B310          M2E1L0-0R350B300         M2E35L109-108R398B307

Red-tailed Squirrel         Paca         Collared Peccary

Camera #2 is much closer to the end of the trail. The path is much clearer and the trees above are more open crowned so it tends to be a lot lighter.  Once again we have Agoutis active during the day and Pacas at night.  But this area really does seem to be alive with White-collared Peccaries 24/7.  Peccaries of all ages, in large or small groups or even alone walk every which way on this trail.  If our guest walk this trail they can see for themselves the ground criss-crossed with hoof prints.  However this last week some of our guests saw prints that were not only distinct but huge too.  A big cat had walked this way.  He had left his mark in terms of pugmarks around various parts of the property.

So the memory cards were duly brought back and the video viewing began.  Each video is of 30 seconds duration and if when it commences you can see any of the above animals you can move on.  Sometimes the camera will have been triggered by movement of something not in shot.  If after the time is up and nothing has been seen then the video is deleted.  This week there were 600 videos to sit through.  Another Agouti, another peccary, some more visitors, all very nice but where is the special guest star?

Camera #1 had 300 videos, there was a great deal of animal life but no cat.  Camera #2 had another 300 videos to sift through.  Up to  #272 there were endless videos of some Agoutis but mostly peccaries, a great many of which were of excellent quality. Then came video #273 and BINGO, we hit the jackpot.  A fabulous video of that huge male Puma, (Puma concolor).

M2E40L148-147R412B318

You can see he looking for something.  The resident Bosque female, “Half Tail” is commonly found on that trail.  But he is also in “Peccary Alley” and there is nothing Pumas like to eat more than  tasty little peccaries.  The Spider Monkeys in the trees above are fully aware of his presence, they are giving the incessant and frantic high pitched bark that constitutes the alarm call reserved for large cats.  If ever you hear that sound coming from somewhere in the forest then you know full well what is walking on the forest floor.

The fun did not stop there.  The handsome predator goes walking past camera but the next photo shows him in full flight running back from whence he came.  The chance of snatching a single peccary that may have strayed too far from the herd might be worth the risk of a feline hunter of this size venturing into “Peccary Alley” but it is however a risk.  There are sizeable numbers of peccaries in this area.  They are not going to tolerant of something posing a threat to them or their offspring.  A defensively agitated peccary would be a fearsome adversary at the best of times but multiply that number into 10 or 20 plus and you have a potential life threatening situation on your hands, (paws).

The photo was that of the rear end of the Puma fleeing for its life.  The next video showed why.  Irate peccaries numbering in groups of 3 or 4, one group after another, all charging along the trail, the hair on their bodies bristling, the scent gland exposed, grunting and huffing, but more particular the clacking of the teeth.  The action was fast and furious.  The Puma had no chance, it was so outnumbered.  Once the excitement had died down and the peccaries were satisfied the predator had been shown the true order of world they returned to “Peccary Alley”.  The next few videos show the self-congratulatory individuals of the repulsive warrior force rubbing against one another sharing in an exchange of glandular secretion to bond the herd.

Slow to Show

One group of creatures very noticeable by their absence in these tropical forests are the mollusks. It has  been suggested that the soils in the area have low levels of calcium and therefore lacking in shell building material.  There are no shortage of marine mollusks but then there is no shortage of calcium in the sea.  The land crabs are crustaceans and so have an exoskeleton composed of calcified chitin, a protein, the calcium initially coming from the crabs formative time in the ocean and the subsequent visits to the ocean on the annual reproductive migration.  Many of the snails to be found in these forests are carnivorous, (feeding on other snails), but tend to be small with translucent thin shells.

Tropical Land Snail

This particular mollusk had a very thick large shell.  On thirteen years of walking through the forests of Bosque del Cabo I very rarely see mollusk and this particular species I have only seen live on 2 or 3 occasions. Identifying the species has proved somewhat difficult by I will keep searching.

Black and Yellow Peril

Scattered throughout the gardens of Bosque are several specimens of a plant native to Central America but more familiar to those guests who have visited Hawaii where it is not in fact native and that in fact is Frangipani, (Plumeria rubra).

This week it was noticed that the Frangipani was host to a plague of very large caterpillars munching their way through the leaves.  The caterpillars were so distinct, not only due to their large size, but also the eye-catching velvety black and yellow banding and the vivid red heads.  They were without doubt moth caterpillars whose identities are not always easy to arrive at given the number of species. These ones posed no such problem though, they are the larval stage of the aptly named Frangipani Moth, (Pseudosphinx triota).

Frangipani Sphynx Moth

The caterpillars are so spectacularly large and so brightly colored it would seen as if they were just a meal waiting to be consumed by any bird or lizard.  They also have the habit of lifting the front end of the body and waving the head violently from side to side which is not the  exactly behavior of an animal trying to remain hidden from view.  In point of fact black and yellow is the most visible color combination that exists and animals bearing this most acutely bicolored attire want you to be aware of and shun their presence.  Think of it, bees, wasps, hornets all sport these colors as do many poisonous butterflies, spiders and snakes as well as some species of poison dart frog.  This is aposomatic coloration otherwise known as warning coloration.

Psuedosphynx triota

The caterpillars of The Frangipani Moth before consuming the Plumeria leaves bite through the base of the leaf stalk.  A white milky latex leaks out thereby stemming the flow into the leaf.  But  some of the latex the caterpillar imbibes.  It contains alkaloids which then render the caterpillar distasteful, and cyanogenic glycocides, (cyanide), which render it downright poisonous, to any unsuspecting and naive predator.  Better take notice of that warning coloration.

Banana vs Small-heads

Over the past few blogs I have posted information and photos separately of two small yellow frogs found by the pond this time of year.  Below I have posted two photographs to show the two species in juxtaposition.  The top photo is the Banana Frog, (Dendropsophus ebreccatus), and the bottom photo is the Small-headed Frog, (Dendropsophus microcephalus).  These two individuals were photographed on the same evening very close to each other.  The Banana Frog is handsomely marked with large blotches of yellow and tan.  The Small-headed Frog is more uniformly colored with stripes down the length of the body.  However the two species are not always so distinctly marked which causes the confusion in identity.

Banana Frog

Small-headed Frog

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

Legging It

The past few weeks have been good for spiders which may or may not be good news depending how you feel about these creatures.  Arachnids in general seem to have a polarizing effect on peoples behavior.  In these forests there are a great many spider species and they are not that easy to identify sometimes. There are 2 commonly seen species of bark scorpion and a night it doesn’t take much searching before you will find tailless whip scorpions.

I always find that spiders make a good subject for photography as they are generally stationary, either on the vegetation like the wandering spiders, disguised amongst the flower heads such as the crab spiders or suspended in a web such as the orb spiders.  Macro photography and orb spiders pose a little bit of a problem as the spider is not compact, having eight spread legs and any slight zephyr of wind will move the web in an out of focus including, of course, the spider itself.

I you choose to look it won’t take too long before you start to notice that Bosque is not short of spiders of any sort.  The Golden Orb Spiders, (Nephila clavipes), are perhaps the most noticeable as they make very large webs of bright yellow silk and in areas very close to or in the restaurant and around the cabins.  The spider itself is impressively large.

Golden-orb Spider

You will notice the large and seemingly complex web is made from two types of silk.  The orb is made from a sticky silk.  Outside the forest the silk is much brighter yellow in color.  This attracts in bees so 60% of her diet outside of the forest is bee.  Inside the forest the web is made from a much paler silk which largely remains invisible to a lot of insects.  The orb is being held in place by a non sticky silk which has a tensile quality half that of the finest steel.

Normally with orb spiders when something lands in the web they approach it, wrap it in silk and then deliver the lethal bite.  With the Golden Orb Spiders she approaches the stuck prey, bites first then wraps in silk.  So if she gets something such as a large aggressive ant or wasp trapped in the web she will not take it on in fear of being stung or bitten before she can deliver her kiss of death.

Close inspection may reveal other spiders living in her web.  The female sits in the centre and normally sitting in attendance above her is a small brown spider which is the male.  The male remains small but the female grows huge.  At the periphery of the orb there are tiny little spiders living a precarious existence.  These are kleptoparasites and they live by stealing her silken wrapped food parcels of predigesting prey left dangling from various locations in the web.  The female will tolerate kleptoparasites to a certain degree, they are adapted to living in her web and avoiding her, but once they become too numerous she will depart and build a new web elsewhere.

The female Golden Orb Spider can grow very large and may appear to be very intimidating but in fact she is totally harmless.  If you should be walking the trails and didn’t see the web, go crashing through it and end up with the spider climbing up your arm, it will not harm you, all you need do is pick it up and place it back on a leaf.

Another commonly seen spider that superficially resembles the Golden Orb Spider is the Silver Orb Spider, (Argiope argentatum).  The web is not as complex and is made of the more typical white colored silk familiar to most people.  They are reasonably large spiders and quite often have a telltale feature to the webs in the form of a large white cross.  This is known as a stabilimentum and can be visible for some distance from the web.

Silver-orb Spider

Much smaller in size and quite pretty as far as spiders go is the Orchid Spider, (Leucauge venusta).  They are Long-jawed Orb Weavers, Family: Tetragnathidae, but the spider is tiny and consequently the webs tend to small to, inserted as they are between the leaves of one plant as opposed to the two species above which can have their webs extended between two different plants.  Orchid spiders typically construct two types of web, the more commonly seen orb and another web which is produced as sheets of horizontally placed silken lines.  It was in just such a horizontal web that this Orchid Spider was photographed.

Orchard Spider

Studies of the Orchard Spider has shown that as the females mature they build their web in vertically higher strata of the vegetation.  The lower webs catch more insects but smaller in size than the higher webs which capture fewer insects but larger in size.

Although it spins a network of silk, the Lynx Spider, Family: Oxyopidae, are active daytime hunters.  They have excellent eyesight and use vision as the means by which to detect prey upon which the jump and dispatch before consuming.  This one was found in the Tropical Garden finishing sucking the juices out of its victim, one of the bee species. The opisthosoma, (body), is quite elongated and the legs are long and held in a basket-like grasping fashion.

Lynx Spider

Just walk around the grounds, keep your eyes open and re-adjust your point of focus and a whole different world, an amazing small world, will be revealed.

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 0.69 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 4.82 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 17.5 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 122.4 mm

Highest Daily Temp 87°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 30.8°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.5°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Squirrel Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkey
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Tamandua
  • Common Tent-making Bat
  • Western Red Bat
  • Common Opossum
  • Kinkajou
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Paca
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Underwood’s Pocket Gopher
  • Collared Peccary
  • White-lipped Peccary

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Gray-necked WoodRail
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Rufus Piha
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Red-Capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Coral Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Common Anolis
  • Common Basilisk
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Snake
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Salmon-bellied Racer
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Marine Toad
  • Milky Frog
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
  • Small-headed Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Colobura dirce
  • Consul fabius
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Mesosemia zonalis
  • Morpho cypris
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Siproeta stelenes

Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowring
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Attalea rostrata Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering
  • Clusia vallerii Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • 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 Fruiting
  • Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
  • 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
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Zammia sp Flowering

 

 

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