Wildlife Capital of Costa Rica   3 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog November 25th 2013

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Dry Times

It could well be the the transition is occurring.  This week began with a little rain and eventually that became less and less.  The sun was shining most days and with clear blue skies to make sure the butterflies were active.

This week I have instigated the butterfly and amphibian counts again. The project that I had been collecting data for over many years needs finishing.  Many years ago I started monitoring the dynamics of both butterfly and amphibian populations.  These were being measured against temperature and precipitation figures respectively to try and evaluate as to whether the climate of the area might be changing and if it is what affect that may have on the flora and fauna of a tropical season forest such as exists at Bosque del Cabo.

Three is the Magic Number

There have been several exciting sightings at Bosque del Cabo this week.  While conducting my butterfly counts I found a Baird’s Tapir, (Tapirus bairdii), print in the soft earth near where the trail exits onto the main driveway.  The print was very obvious due to its large size and distinctive three leaf shaped toes.  The tapir is an odd-toed ungulate an order of mammals, (Perissodactyla), that also includes horses and rhinoceroses.  There have been several records of tapirs passing through the bosque property over the years but as to where they came from or where they were going is currently unknown.

If you have been following the blog you will be aware of the fact that some months ago a small herd of White-lipped Peccaries, (Tayassu pecari), appeared in the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.  Every day they would do their rounds passing in front of the restaurant just after lunch before making their way through the mango orchard.  They could also be seen and most smelled out on the trails in close proximity to the lodge.  Progressively though the numbers dwindled.  As with the tapir we are not sure how they made it here but we were certainly glad to see them as they are normally an indicator of more pristine forest conditions.

White-lipped Peccary

Now there are two, a male and a female, who have taking a liking to the garden area in front of the restaurant.  Every day they are seen feasting on the fallen fruits of the palm trees, a variety of species which are producing small red fruits at the moment.  If approached he loudly clacks his teeth, his long shaggy hair stands on end and he runs off grunting in irritated disapproval of being disturbed.  The female is a little more relaxed and tolerates close approaches before trotting off a short way before commencing feeding.  This is one of those enigmatic animals that people hike for days through Corcovado National Park with a vain hope of seeing, along with the tapir.  Here they are in the grounds of Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge for all to see while eating their breakfast.

The reason that Bosque has acquired the reputation as the wildlife capital of Costa Rica is that the 800 acres of grounds has a huge selection of habitats within which reside a phenomenal amount of biodiversity that is not too difficult to experience.  This week a three of our guests, Courtney, Che and Jermaine arrived from Texas and Los Angeles.  The first question they asked was “where can we see a Puma”.  I related a tale of a wildlife photographer who had photographed a Puma on the steps of the cabin in which they were staying.  That particular scenario was unlikely to repeat itself.  But the next day just after breakfast one of the Che was walking across the lawn and came face to face with a beautiful female Puma that was walking between cabins Congo and Mariposa.  He returned to the lodge to inform the other two guys who immediately headed over to the area where the cat had been seen, cameras in hand.  There was the Puma lying in the shade, completely indifferent to the presence of those trying to capture its image.  Many thanks to Courtney Bennett for allowing us to use the photo.


Changing Scales

There are several species of anolis lizards to be seen around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.  Some are literally everywhere, in the buildings, in the gardens and in the forest.  The most common is the Golfo Dulce Anolis, (Norops polylepis) which is small but quite often noticed due to the males extending the bright orange flap of skin under the chin which is known as the dewlap.  A slightly smaller anolis is the Common Anolis, (Norops limifrons).  It may be a  delicate looking lizard but nonetheless is very robust in defending its territory.  The males of this species have a small snow white dewlap.  If a rival male enters its territory it will bob its head up and down furiously and then chase the potential invader away.

Norops limifrons

While the forest trails remain damp then some of the amphibian species can be seen during the day.  The Black and Green Poison Arrow Frogs can still be found in numbers on the trails by the restaurant.  On some of the longer forest trails if you watch down by your feet you will see tiny frogs of which there are several species.  These are the dirt frogs.  There are two commonly found species, Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus) and the Rough-skinned Dirt Frog, (Craugastor rugosus).

Stejneger's Dirt Frog

The dirt frogs and the related rain frogs are totally terrestrial frogs, they don’t return to the water to reproduce.  The male and female pair up, the female lays around 10-30 large yolk-filled eggs which the male fertilizes.  The whole process of development takes place within the egg so there is no free-swimming tadpole stage.  After 7 or 8 weeks a tiny copy of the adult emerges from the egg.

Something Old, Something New

The clouds of Green Urania Moths continue to increase in number on a daily basis.  Wherever you walk numbers beyond counting take to the air.  At eye level the metallic green bars on the velvet black wings glint and shimmer as they fly from shade to sunlight and back again.  Look up above your head into the sky at tree level and you will see endless black silhouettes lazily drifting to and fro.

The continuous sunshine is bringing more and more butterflies out.  The brightly colored Heliconiids or longwing butterflies gaudily dressed in contrasting primary colors of red, orange and yellow can be seen rapidly fluttering from flower to flower.  The shocking electric blue of the Morphos easily catches the eye as they drift down forest rides and stream beds.  In the adult stage the morphos feeding on fallen and fermenting fruit.  If you should find, for example, a lot of figs that have dropped from the tree tops and are covering the ground, you will invariably find several individuals of Morpho menelaus and Morpho helenor imbibing the liquid fruit cocktail.  If they scatter upon your approach they will merely circle and alight again in the same position.

Morpho_helenor_FDB0003 copy

The morphos aren’t the only butterfly to indulge in this sylvian liquor.  Some of the satyrs will join them.  The satyrs are normally brown butterflies with wing patterns that create the illusion of dead leaves.  To this effect they fly close to the forest floor which means when they land their image is absorbed into the background and they essentially disappear from in front of the eye.  Two species seen seasonally throughout the year are Pierella luna and Pierella helvina.

Pierella luna


This year I have decided to take up the data collection again regarding the project I had started some years ago.  For many years I had been monitoring butterfly and amphibian populations and trying to correlate dynamic changes in their abundance against the prevailing weather conditions in an attempt to evaluate if there is a recordable change in the climate how is it affecting the flora and fauna of a tropical lowland seasonal forest.  I started up the counts again last week.  The butterfly count takes place every Wednesday along the course of a 5 kilometer transect which is divided up into 15 habitat sub zones and is conducted once in the morning and again in the afternoon.

After observing and identifying butterflies for so long I know when I am seeing a species I have not previously recorded.  So it was last week.  A small brown object flitted from up in front of me and landed on the underside of a leaf of a low growing plant.  It would, of course, be in the muddiest part of the trail.  I sank to my knees in a in puddle of brown gooey mud and tried to lower the camera to a point where I could see the specimen which fortunately was sitting still.  I took a shot to get the all important image then slowly eased the tripod forward, shuffling along on my knees.  I progressively managed to get closer and closer each time clicking the shutter.  Due to the low aspect, dark conditions and shooting up into the light the best of the images wasn’t that brilliant but at least it gave me something to work with.

Nascus paulliniae

The butterfly could be recognized as a skipper which in themselves can be notoriously difficult to identify.  The Family is Hesperidae and this was a spreadwing skipper of the Subfamily: Pyrginae.  Now comes the difficult part, genus and species.  Not having the butterfly in my hand I have to rely on photographic comparisons in reference books.  There are lots of skippers and so many of them look the same with only minute differences in coloration or markings.  Eventually I settled on the identity of  this one being the Least Scarlet-eye, (Nascus paulliniae).  That is another new record for the lodge.

Another skipper that turned up amongst the more brightly colored butterflies at the Lantana was a Perching Saliana, (Saliana esperi).  These are small delicate looking butterflies with handsome two-tone wings.  The leading front half of the underside of the hindwing has a rich cream color with a diffuse curved border blending into the soft warm brown of the trailing half.

Saliana esperi

Trampled Underfoot

Every day I while walking around the trials or the gardens I make notes of everything I see and hear which leads to the production of the species lists below.  These are all casual observations, there is no scientific methodology as there is with the above project.  You tend to encounter the larger, louder, brighter and more obvious species more than those that don’t advertise themselves as readily.  To that end I went out to photograph some of the plants that we have around the grounds that most people would walk by and not even notice.

When it is fruiting the Monkey-comb Tree, (Apeiba tibourbou) produces the very distinctive spiny globular fruits that many people make comment upon when they find them on the forest floor.  This time of year all you will find are the old spineless shells.  But you know the new fruits will soon be appearing as the trees are bearing flowers.  The petals are a bright yellow with very hairy sepals.

Apeiba tibourbou         Crotalaria retusa         Gallinita

Another yellow flower is that borne by the Gallinita, (Crotalaria retusa). It is very reminiscent of the Lupins found in English country gardens and in fact belongs to the same family: Fabaceae.  This is normally a plant you would find in open sunny situations.  The pods look like small fat peapods.

There are several purple flowered plants in bloom around the grounds at the minute.  Brunfelsia grandiflora is a small shrubby bush native to South America that is planted in gardens throughout Costa Rica.  When they open the flowers are at first purple but these then fade and eventually end up as white.  It flowers all year long which is why it is a garden favorite.

Finally there are the sedges and grasses which are very difficult to identify to species level unless you can find a good key.  The only one that I photographed that was easy happened to be a sedge with distinct white bases to the bracts which give it the name Little Star, (Rhynchospora nervosa).

Unidentified Sedge         Rhynchospora nervosa         Unidentified Sedge

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 0.48 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 3.38 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 12.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 85.9 mm

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

Highest Daily Temp 33.3°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.1°C.

Species List for the Week


  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkeys
  • Common Tent- making Bat
  • Common Opossum
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Agouti
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Northern Raccoon
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Collared Peccary
  • White-lipped Peccary
  • Baird’s Tapir
  • Puma




  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Curassow
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Golden-naped Woodpecker
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Green Honeycreeper
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture




  • Basilisk
  • Barred Ameiva
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Anolis
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • 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
  • Milky Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
  • Tink Frog





  • Adelpha cytherea
  • Anartia fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Chloreuptychia arnaca
  • Cithaeria pireta
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapo
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hypna clytemnestra
  • Junonia evarete
  • Laparus doris
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Nascus paullinieae
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Taygetis andromeda




  • Anthurium salvinii Flowering and Fruiting
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Allamandra cathartica Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Attalea rostrata Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Brassovola nodosa Flowering
  • Brownea macrophylla Flowering
  • Brunfelsia grandiflora Flowering
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus osae Flowering
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Fruiting
  • Cresentia alata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus citrifolia Fruiting
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Hedychium coronarium Flowering
  • 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
  • Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
  • Morinda citrifolia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Musa acuminata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pandanus sp Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Rhynchospora nervosa Flowering
  • Spondias mombin Flowering
  • Stachytarpheta sp Flowering
  • Thunbergia erecta Flowering
  • Thunbergia fragrans Flowering
  • Tocoyena pittieri Fruiting
  • Zingiber spectabile Flowering




3 responses to “Wildlife Capital of Costa Rica

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  1. hi phillip,
    I was curious where the golfo dulce poison dart frogs are found? that is very cool. amazing how much more wildlife continues to be seen at bosque del cabo.


    • Hi Henry

      Bosque is an amazing oasis of concentrated biodiversity. The animal life is so familiar with people that nothing moves away anymore. Do you want to know the distribution of the Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog or its preferred habitat?


  2. Enjoyed. Keep them coming. Ron Allison

    Ronald Allison ronald34997@gmail.com



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