Felipe del Bosque Blog November 11th 2013
October is normally the wettest month of the year at Bosque del Cabo. There are not many visitors to the lodge and the grounds tend to be sodden. It is a good time to take a vacation. It is always interesting to return after a month away as many changes may have occurred that may not have been noticeable on a daily basis but with a gap of 30 days or more are immediately apparent. The amazing rate of vegetative growth is not least amongst these changes. Over the course of a month plants can produce a tremendous amount of new tissue. That which was a neatly trimmed garden will have become an overgrown entwined mass of green stems, vines and creepers in ones absence. But not to worry as vegetative mess generally equates to greater species diversity of both flora and fauna.
It is not just the open spaces that have seen a surge in vegetative growth, the ponds that have been untended for a month became choked with Water Hyacinth, (Eichhornia crassipes), and Water Lettuce. It did not take long to remove the floating mass of choking foliage and open up a little free surface water. This in turn encourages the dragonflies to spend more time around the pond which they use as a feeding and reproducing area.
October may have been drier than usual but November has started wet. To begin with the rain was falling overnight but progressively through the week the rains became more intense and prolonged to the point where we started to receive downpours that continued for 24 hour periods. The creek running through the grounds of Bosque del Cabo which supplies water to the lodge has water running but is at a lower level than it should be. With a bit of luck if the rains continue then within a short space of time the volume flowing will be as it should before the dry season begins.
Spotting a Cat
The cameras on the Titi Trail had been left to continually record animal activity on the trail while I was away. I knew upon my return I would have a lot of material to work through. The first task would be to change the memory cards in the cameras, download the videos to the laptop and then take a quick look at each one to see if there was anything special and also delete the blanks.
The first scan through over 300 separate videos revealed some exciting footage with an Ocelot, (Leopardus pardalis) caught several times at different locations on the trail. The remaining footage was largely made up of Agoutis (Dasyprocta punctata), White-nosed Coatis, (Nasua narica), and Collared Peccaries, (Tayassu tajacu). These three species seem to be prevalent and active most of the time, both day and night along this particular trail. But occasionally something else is captured, there is a lot of other wildlife here. Over the past month there were Red-tailed Squirrels, (Sciurus granatensis), Striped Hog-nosed Skunk, (Conepatus semistriatus), Pacas, (Agouti paca), Tamandua, (Tamandua mexicana), and Nine-banded Armadillo, (Dasypus novemcinctus), walking by the cameras as well as the large ground living birds, the Great Tinamou, (Tinamus major), and the Great Curassow, (Crax rubra).
The Ocelot is caught more frequently now on the trail at night. Anyone who has been watching the daily video updates from the Titi Trail will realize that there is no shortage of food up there for cats of most sizes. The one thing that the cats have to watch out for is the heavy presence of Collared Peccaries which are more than capable of aggressively defending themselves.
In general the peccaries would be way out of the Ocelots league in terms of prey size although they have been known to take an occasional individual. Rodents are the more likely preferred prey item. Unlike many other cats which stalk their prey, the Ocelot tends to patrol and pounce on anything that crosses its path. Studies have shown that their feeding strategy is moonlight depended. They are more hunt away from the trails over the course of a full moon as the rodents, although active, shun open areas on moonlit nights to avoid the attention of owls, (or Ocelots) in places lit up by moonshine.
A New Song
One of the most noticeable changes after returning following a period away this time of year is the fact that the migrant birds will have started to return. The first bird I expect to hear is the Summer Tanager, (Piranga rubra), and sure enough on the second day back I could its distinctive call close to my cabin early in the morning. I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Prothonotary Warbler, (Protonotaria citrea), its unmistakable vivid yellow plumage contrasting with the green foliage in front of the restaurant.
Many of the palm species around the Bosque restaurant are currently fruiting in profusion which is supplying a copious and readily available food supply for the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, (Ramphastos swainsonii). They are present in large noisy flocks which makes for an easy subject for any photographers visiting the lodge. The Golden-naped Woodpeckers, (Melanerpes chrysauchen), have also been taking advantage of the fact that the fruit is attracting insects which they fly in and pick off.
On several occasions over the past week the Army Ants, (Eciton spp), have been on the move. When in the feeding phase of their cyclic behavior their insatiable ravenous hordes move through the forest in vast numbers in a wave of death that is the final doom of any small creature unable to get out of their way quickly enough. The location of these terrestrial killer swarms is normally announced by the presence of so many excited birds which pick off those creatures fortunate enough to avoid the ants but not so lucky to end up as a tit bit for an avian poacher. Not least amongst these are the woodcreepers which are arrive on the scene in sizeable numbers of different species. One of the species I found at one swarm this week was the Long-tailed Woodcreeper, (Deconychura longicauda), which is by no means common. Woodcreepers typically fly to the base of a tree trunk and then make their way up before flying down to the base of another. In this instance they were just waiting for scattered insect prey to land in front of them.
The relatively dry conditions prevalent in October made for a pleasant surprise upon my return. The butterflies were out in larger than normal numbers for his time of year. The gardens have been particularly full of the brightly colored longwings. Flying among them there have been several nymphalids and pierids while in the forest it has been possible to see a small variety of satyrs. The Lantana camara bush flowers continually throughout the year and provides a constant nectar source for the butterflies.
Yet another obvious difference that has occurred over a month away is that an invasion of stunningly colored black and metallic green day flying moths, the Green Urania, (Urania fulgens), has taken place. Wherever you walk around the grounds of Bosque at the moment you will find clouds of these elegant moths fluttering at all levels like green tin foil confetti. They will be flying overhead in the gardens or light gaps in the forest canopy. The slightest disturbance will have them take off from their resting spots, they flit and spiral up, flutter and circle back down then land on the leaves bathed in sunlight, initially head up but then turn 180º to face down. If you wait a moment until they settle then with patience you should be able to get a photograph. Many people return to the lodge, head up into the library and endeavor to find the identity of such a fabulously colored winged jewel in the guide to butterflies of Costa Rica only to be flummoxed by the lack of its inclusion. The reason is simple the creature is a moth.
The Green Urania is a migratory moth. The moth migration is driven by the larval foodplant, Omphalea Vine which is a particularly abundant on the Osa Peninsula growing in large patches at the top of trees. When the moths move into an area to reproduce, the eggs are laid on the vine leaves. When the larvae hatch the stress on the plant resulting from having a huge number of gregarious moth caterpillars devouring its leaves is to produce defensive toxins. Over the course of three generations, when the larvae pupate and the third generation of adult moths emerge the toxins will have become so concentrated that they cannot feed on the vines in that area. The female moths can discriminate between the toxic and non toxic vine leaves. They consequently have to migrate to an area where they have not visited for some time and so the vines are once again palatable. These migrations pass up and down throughout Central America over the course of several years. Right now it is the turn of the Osa Peninsula to host these beautiful scintillatingly iridescent insects.
While returning from a walk to photograph one of the vines I noticed a small spider-like animal sitting in the fork of a tree fairly low down. The animal in question originally had eight legs but some of them were missing so we know it is an arachnid. The legs are exceptionally long in comparison with the small oval body that they support. This is one of the Harvestmen, (Order: Opiliones). Many visitors to the lodge repeat the same story that these are the most venomous creatures on the planet but the mouthparts are too small to inject the venom through human skin. In point of fact Opilionids do not possess venom glands. They also lack silk glands but do possess odiferous glands which in some species create a stench that is vile to anyone with a half decent sense of smell.
Although most people know what a Harvestmen or Daddy Long Legs looks like they are largely overlooked which is a shame as there are somewhat more than 6400 globally distributed species which vary in shape, size and color. As with many other forms of animal life the greatest expression of diversity is found in the humid tropics.
The legs of most Opilionids are the most striking and distinctive feature although I hasten to add that there are many species that do not possess outrageously long limbs. Quite often each pair of the eight legs is different lengths. The second pair of legs do tend to be long and are used in a way not dissimilar to antennae as sensory apparatus. The legs can be easily shed off if the harvestman is caught but they do not have the ability to regenerate lost legs.
Opilionids are omnivores and can quite often be seen scavenging on dead animals. They will also take fruit, vegetative material and fungi. Those species inclined to a more carnivorous diet are generally nocturnal ambush predators taking small invertebrate prey that have reasonably thin exoskeletons. There are those that play a very dangerous game as kleptoparasites, stealing the freshly caught prey of spiders. As they don’t have venom glands the prey is eaten alive, being torn up by the chelicerae.
Unlike many arachnids the harvestmen can be quite social with large numbers of unrelated individuals of the same species being found in groups. This may be a defensive measure to reduce the chances of any one individual being lost to a predator. A peculiar habit found within these large groups is the response upon being disturbed to bounce rapidly up and down. There is a body of opinion that suggests the rapidly moving body becomes a blur thereby lessening the accuracy of a deadly attack by a predator.
It was not just the butterflies bringing color to the unseasonably dry gardens and forests of Bosque del Cabo, there have been a lot of flowers in bloom too. Just looking out from the deck of the Bosque restaurant and letting your eye sweep the garden there will be a blaze of color greeting you. Some of the plants are large and showy with bright gaudy flowers while others are more subtle.
The heliconias are very noticeable plants with their abundant displays of red, orange or yellow flowers. The colors are designed to attract hummingbirds which are the main pollinators of many heliconia species. They can be found growing in large groups at most points around the garden and along the pathways.
More plants with bright red flowers are the gingers and the related costas. You will find clusters of low growing Beehive Ginger, (Zingiber spectabile), Red Ginger, (Alpinia purpurata), and the Torch Gingers, (Etlingera elatior), scattered all around the grounds. The bright showy red flowers of the Hibiscus, (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are also to be seen at every twist and turn on the garden paths.
At the other end of the spectrum you can find small bushes of King’s Mantle, (Thunbergia erecta), around the edges of the gardens and on the paths leading to the cabins. The flowers look like those of Morning Glory but they are not related. Like so many other plants growing in the grounds of Bosque this is a non-native species, its origins being in West Africa.
Once you enter within the forest you will find the monotony of green is regularly punctuated by the occasional flash of red. At the moment there are two plants that immediately catch the eye, Aphelandra golfodulcensis which is endemic to the south west of Costa Rica and the very distictive Poro, (Erythrina gibbosa). Slightly less obvious is the deep purple fruit of the Cafecillo, (Psychotria solitudinum).
Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.
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 1.04 ins. Total Weekly Rainfall 7.272.82 ins
Average Daily Rainfall 26.4 mm. Total Weekly Rainfall 184.6 mm
Highest Daily Temp 90°F. Lowest Daily Temp 73°F.
Highest Daily Temp 32.5°C. Lowest Daily Temp 22.8°C.
Species List for the Week
- Mantled Howler Monkey
- Spider Monkey
- White-faced Capuchin Monkeys
- Nine-banded Armadillo
- Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
- Common Tent-making Bat
- Northern Raccoon
- White-nosed Coati
- Collared Peccary
- White-lipped Peccary
- Mealy Amazons
- Red-lored Amazons
- Scarlet Macaw
- Great Curassow
- Great Black Hawk
- Roadside Hawk
- Yellow-headed Caracara
- Golden-naped Woodpecker
- Lineated Woodpecker
- Pale-billed Woodpecker
- Black-hooded Antshrike
- Chestnut-backed Antbird
- Dusky Antbird
- Short-billed Pigeon
- White-tipped Dove
- Long-billed Hermit
- Purple-crowned Fairy
- Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
- Blue-crowned Manakin
- Red-capped Manakin
- Fiery-billed Aracari
- Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
- Long-tailed Woodcreeper
- Ruddy Woodcreeper
- Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
- Golden-hooded Tanager
- Green Honeycreeper
- Palm Tanager
- Summer Tanager
- Bright-rumped Atilla
- Dusky-capped Flycatcher
- Golden-crowned Spadebill
- Great Kiskadee
- Prothonotary Warbler
- Black-throated Trogon
- Violaceous Trogon
- Great Tinamou
- Little Tinamou
- Black Vulture
- Turkey Vulture
- Barred Ameiva
- Four-lined Ameiva
- Cat-eyed Snake
- Central American Smooth Gecko
- Clawless Gecko
- Common Basilisk
- Golfo Dulce Anolis
- Green Iguana
- Litter Skink
- Mediterranean House Gecko
- Banana Frog
- Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
- Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
- Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
- Masked Smilisca
- Marine Toad
- Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
- Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
- Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
- Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
- Anartia fatima
- Anartia jatrophae
- Archaeoprepona demophon
- Astraptes fulgerator
- Caligo eurilochus
- Calycopis isobeon
- Dione juno
- Dryas iulia
- Eueides aliphera
- Eueides lybia
- Glutophrissa drusilla
- Heliconius erato
- Heliconius hecale
- Heliconius ismenius
- Heliconius sapo
- Hermeuptychia hermes
- Heraclides cresphontes
- Magneuptychia libye
- Mechanitis polymnia
- Mesosemia zonalis
- Morpho helenor
- Morpho menelaus
- Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
- Philaethria dido
- Phoebis agarithe
- Phoebis argante
- Pierlla helvina
- Pierella luna
- Pompeius pompeius
- Pyrgus oileus
- Pyrrhogyra crameri
- Quadrus cerialis
- Urbanus tanna
- Anthurium schlechtendalii Flowering
- Alpinia purpurata Flowering
- Allamandra cathartica Flowering
- Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
- Aphelandra golfodulcensis Flowering
- Arachis pintoi Flowering
- Arundina graminifolia Flowering
- Attalea rostrata Fruiting
- Bauhinia variegata Flowering
- Brownea macrophylla Flowering
- Brunfelsia grandiflora Flowering
- Calathea marantifolia Flowering
- Canna sp Flowering
- Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
- Castilla tunu Flowering
- Citrus spp Fruiting
- Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
- Clusia vallerii Flowering
- Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
- Costus laevis Flowering
- Costus speciosus Flowering
- Couroupita guianensis Fruiting
- Cresentia alata Flowering and Fruiting
- Cyclanthus bipartitus Flowering
- Erythrina gibbosa Flowering
- Etlingera elatior Flowering
- Fius citrifolia Fruiting
- Ficus inspida Fruiting
- Guaterria amplifolia Flowering and Fruiting
- Genipa americanum Flowering
- Hedychium coronarium Flowering
- Heisteria accuminata Fruiting
- Heliconia chartacea Flowering
- Heliconius clinophylla Flowering and Fruiting
- Heliconia latispatha Flowering
- Heliconia longiflora Flowering
- Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
- Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
- Heliconia rostrata Flowering
- Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
- Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
- Ixora coccinea Flowering
- Lacmellea panamensis Fruiting
- Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
- Morinda citrifolia Flowering and Fruiting
- Musa acuminata Flowering and Fruiting
- Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
- Ochroma pyramidale Flowering
- Pandanus sp Fruiting
- Piper hispidum Flowering and Fruiting
- Piper nigrum Fruiting
- Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
- Plumeria rubra Flowering
- Psychotria solitudinum Fruiting
- Spathodea campanulata Flowering
- Spondias mombin Flowering
- Stachytarpheta sp Flowering
- Thunbergia erecta Flowering
- Thunbergia fragrans Flowering
- Tocoyena pittieri Fruiting
- Virola sebifera Fruiting
- Zingiber spectabile Flowering