Archive for the ‘Beetles’ Tag

BEETLES: HIDING IN CLEAR VIEW   6 comments


Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

It has been another week of sunny days and rainy nights.  Last month the immediate area experienced almost 28 inches, (706 mm), of rain.  That is approximately 1 inch per day.  However, as to be expected, the pattern of precipitation was not that evenly spread.  There were several nights with really heavy downpours which accounted for a third of the total.  There were more nights when it rained hard but not in a deluge and then there were nights when there was no rain.

Atop Cabo Matapalo, at 500 feet, (150 m), above sea level, there is little chance of flooding, all the water is runoff.  This time of year the ground is saturated so when there is a torrential downpour the water may remain on the surface forming large areas of standing water which quickly drains away.  The creek water level is high and rushes down the channels, falling over rapids, cascades and waterfalls and finally flowing into the sea.  After a night of very heavy rainfall, the creek will have turned murky brown with the volume of sediment it is carrying.  Given a few days of sun the water will have returned to its crystal-clear state, inviting you to plunge into its cooling depths as a relief from the hot and humid atmosphere of the forest.

A Typical Rainy Season Day In The Forest

You wake in the morning, opening your eyes but still not fully conscious.  You had a good night’s sleep, restful and undisturbed, but were brought out of your slumber by a distant roaring sound.  It is still dark outside so what time is it?  Early, pre-dawn, and the roar is heard again, this time joined seconds later by a response, louder roaring but much closer to your cabin.  All of a sudden the roars are echoing around the forest.  To many, the first-time visitors to a Central American rainforest, this could only be large ferocious beasts gathering to collectively do you harm.  To the more savvy, seasoned visitor this is a familiar wake-up alarm call, Howler Monkeys, announcing their location to one another so that different troops can keep their distance during the course of the day.

It did its job as far as you are concerned, you are now fully awake.  The first light of dawn starts to brighten the sky, throwing the form of the trees into dark silhouettes.  Here you are only 8⁰ north of the equator so the dawn twilight does not last for long.  The sun rises rapidly and the grey sky turns blue.  The birds are awake now.  Flying overhead are noisy macaws and parrots heading off from their roosts to the feeding grounds.  Their squawking and screeching is not the most melodious of avian calls.  From within the forest the Chestnut-backed Antbird, Black-hooded Antshrike and the Bright-rumped Atilla are some of the first choristers to greet the new day.   The males are vocally drawing up the bounds of their territories.

It is after breakfast and the sun is now high in the azure sky.  The temperatures have rapidly risen from the cool chill from when you opened your eyes.  The air is still.  You grab your camera and head off into the shade of the forest.  The only sound is that of cicadas, their loud calls increasing in intensity, volume and pitch as the morning progresses.  Here and there from different points in the unseen depths of the forest, obscured from your vision by the trunks of the trees are more birds calling.  The familiar “Who cooks for you” of the Short-billed pigeon, the high-pitched squeaky call of the Black-mandibled Toucan, it sounds more like a rusty pulley that needs oiling than the call of a bird.

You see many things close at hand to photograph, flowers, fruit, a beetle, a praying mantis, small frogs and lizards.  Up above you the Spider Monkeys put on an impressive display of acrobatics as they swing through the tree tops.  You can’t miss Spider Monkeys with their high-pitched chattering and high-energy crashing through the tree tops.  This is in complete contrast to the languid slow moving and deeply voiced Howler Monkeys.  You come across a troop of White-faced Monkeys, more leisurely in their pursuit of a meal.  You see them peeling away bark and turning leaves, always gleaning, looking for the small creatures that make up the bulk of their diet.

It is approaching midday.  The sun is directly overhead.  Despite being beneath the shade of the canopy, the temperatures have risen dramatically.  Combined with the high humidity, conditions have become like those in a well stoked sauna.  If the air was still outside the forest, within its confines there is not a breath of air.  The sweat is rolling down your face and your clothes are now soaked.  Thankfully you brought a lot of water with you and a packed lunch.  Time to take a break for some respite in order to recover you waning energy levels.

As you sit, taking in the sounds around you, a rumbling can be heard off in the distance, thunder.  You finish your sandwiches, take a swig of water, pack everything into your bag and head off down the trail once more.  You stop to photograph a line of Leaf-cutter Ants.  You need to get close to the ground and have some patience to capture the individual caste members.  You are rewarded a little later with a swarm of Army Ants, incessant in their drive forward flushing out non-flying arthropods.  They are accompanied by a mixed flock of ant-birds, woodpeckers, woodcreepers and Grey-headed Tanagers, all in a heightened state of excitement as they feed on the flying insects driven out of hiding by the Army Ant assassins.  Lots of photographic opportunities here.

It is now much later; the almost unbearable temperatures have dropped and the sun is sinking fast towards the western horizon.  Also, that rumbling is getting louder and the sky is rapidly darkening in the east.  You have filled your memory card with images so it may be astute to pick up the pace now and head back to base.  Before too long a breeze picks up and the tree crowns begin to sway.  Loose leaves and small twigs come tumbling down from the canopy.  It is rapidly darkening and the breeze becomes a wind.  The trees are now swaying more violently and you can hear branches being snapped and crashing down.  All of the monkeys start to shriek in objection to their homes being shaken in this manner.  The advancing storm has no ears and cares not for their protestations. Light rain begins to fall.

Within a shorter time than you would have liked, the sky above you has turned black.  The rumbling thunder has become loud and explosive, now accompanied by almost instantaneous flashes of lightning.  The rain comes out of the heavens with an ever-increasing intensity.  The canopy is being lashed.  Leaves and branches are torn from the trees by the sheer weight and force of the water being poured upon them.  Lightning is cracking and fissing around you, the storm is immediately overhead, these are thunderflashes and this is not a safe place to be.  The path at your feet which moments earlier was soft and damp is now a running river albeit only a couple of inches in depth.  The question is should you stop and find shelter or should you persevere on.  You chose the latter option.

Your step quickens, not too fast as you don’t want to slip and fall.  You hear a sharp crack above you, then a loud snap and a huge branch comes tumbling with force through the understory.  It hits the ground so hard that it stands upright as if it had been planted.  The flashes are lighting up the whole sky in a blinding white light.  Each boom of thunder causes you to flinch.  It is raining so heavily that you can barely open your eyes due to the stinging pain it causes you.  But you are almost there, the path out of the forest is up some stairs and around a bend on the trail.  The steps are now a series of cascades but the tumbling water does not hinder your stride.  You will soon be back in the dry comfort of your cabin.

Just as you step out of the forest and into the open garden area, the driving rain suddenly subsides to that of a light summer shower.  The black sky starts to lighten and the deep rumbles roll off into the distance.  Each flicker of lightning is still causing flashes but now over on the horizon.  Thankfully you had the foresight to pack all of your equipment into a waterproof camera bag before the deluge descended and it seems to have served its purpose well.  The rain becomes drizzle and finally peters out then stops.  The sky is now pale grey and the sun sinks to the point where the final rays light up the underside of the clouds in a deep orange.  You have just experienced a typical September day in a Costa Rican rainforest.

Beetles Hiding In Clear View

Beetles, there are thousands of species and yet if you go out with the intention of finding them you may become aware very quickly that they are not as obvious as you have thought.  Turning over rocks or peeling rotten bark from fallen trees may produce one or two species but nothing in profusion.  That is why when I head off into the forest it is never with the purpose of photographing anything specific, not unless I have seen something that I wanted to return to.  Some people go out having birds or mammals as their goal, I am always looking for smaller things, as regular readers of the blog will already know.  The camera will have my favorite 105mm macro lens attached and will be set to take photos of all manner of mini beasts in darker conditions.  The shots will be hand held as I only take the tripod if I have a certain subject in mind.

Last week I found two different species of beetle out in the open aspect of a sunny forest edge.  They were in separate locations but within the same area.  They were both sitting on top of a leaf, in bright sunshine and would not stay still.  I had to keep maneuvering around the subject to try and get a decent image.  Every time I had things set, they would turn their backs to me and wander off along the opposite length of the leaf.  Finally, after much repositioning, I managed to obtain some acceptable photographs.  One of the problems with photographing beetles is the hard, smooth and glossy exoskeleton that many of them have.  It reflects the light from the flash gun.  To obtain the depth of field that I prefer, with a moving subject I have to use very small apertures and by necessity I need to add extra light with flash.

The first beetle is a Pleasing Fungus Beetle, (Cypherotylus asperus), in the family: Erotylidae.  I am not sure why they are pleasing but fungus beetle refers to their main dietary item which may come as no surprise, fungus.  The bright red blotches against a black background is aposematic, or warning coloration.  If molested or attacked, the Pleasing Fungus Beetle emits a foul-smelling odor that would cause most would be predators to back off.

Rainforest animals. Rainforest insects. Rainforest Beetles. Coleoptera. Erotylidae. Cypherotylus asperus.

Pleasing Fungus Beetle, (Cypherotylus asperus)

The second beetle is a Leaf Beetle in the family: Chrysomelidae.  They typically have the domed body, clubbed antennae and are multi-colored.  But as there are almost 50,000 species in this family I have, so far, been stumped as to which species this is.  Should any beetle expert be reading this and would like to provide a name I would be most grateful.  The clue to the diet is once more in the name.  They feed on the leaves of a variety of vegetation.

Rainforest animals. Rainforest Insects. Beetles. Coleoptera. Chrysomelidae.

Leaf Beetle, (Chrysomelidae sp)

The Earth Moved

Walking through the forest you can often have your attention momentarily attracted by some small movement down in the leaf litter.  It may be ants, spiders, lizards, frogs or a myriad of other small creatures that live concealed beneath the carpet of rotting leaves.  It is the tread of your footfall that will disturb them and have them run for cover out of harm’s way.  Depending on the speed of the animal you may lose sight of it very quickly.  Some move from leaf to leaf.  Generally if any of these litter living denizens gets below the leaves it will be gone and unless you are lucky you will just have to imagine what you saw.  Occasionally though one will freeze when exposed to the light.  Last week, my size 13 boot thudding into the ground caused a tiny frog to jump out of the imminent descending disaster.

There are several small frogs that inhabit the dark and damp environment of the forest floor.  The squat body shape of this one revealed its identity almost immediately.  It was one of the rather delightfully named dirt frogs, this one being a Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus).

Rainforest animals. Rainforest amphibians. Frogs. Anura. Craugastoridae. Craugastor stejnegerianus.

A tiny Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus)

The dirt frogs are totally terrestrial frogs, they live their whole life on the forest floor and never need to go to water as many amphibians do.  They still have moist skins through which they largely breath and therefore by necessity can’t leave the confines of the damp environment under the trees.   There are several species that live in this area and Stejneger’s Dirt Frog is one of the commonest.

They belong to the family: Craugastoridae or the Fleshbelly Frogs.  Typical of this family is the reproductive habit of direct development which negates the necessity of them having to return to water to reproduce.  The frogs pair up, (I can’t say I have ever heard these frogs calling), and the female lays her eggs amongst the leaf litter on the forest floor.  There are only about 20 – 30 eggs but they are fairly large in comparison to the adults.  The egg is packed with yolk and the tadpole develops within the egg, there is no free-swimming tadpole stage.  After about 8 weeks a tiny copy of the adult emerges.

Rainforest animals. Rainforest amphibians. Rainforest Frogs. Anura. Craugastoridae. Craugastor stejnegerianus. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Dorsal view of Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus)

As you are walking through the forest, if you keep your gaze lowered scanning the ground then you will surely see a small piece of the earth move.  Given closer inspection then you will probably find you are looking at a dirt frog.  But take a photograph as they are not always easy to identify.

Fying Dragons.

A few weeks ago I managed to photograph a dragonfly with black bases to the wings, a Black-winged Dragonlet, (Erythrodiplax funerea).  This week I managed to capture another dragonfly but with the inverse situation of having black tips to the wings, the Large Woodskimmer, (Uracis fastigiata).  This one was found in a different area to the previously mentioned species but they had been there for several weeks.  This species was found in secondary forest, in a light gap and always close to the ground.  Once again my attempts to take a picture were always doomed to failure because every time I lifted the camera to my eye, they would fly off.  But as we know with photography patience is a virtue and finally after several weeks I got lucky.  This one stayed still long enough for me to get several pictures.

Rainforest animals. Rainforest Insects. Dragonflies. Odonata. Libellulidae. Uracis fastigiata

Large Woodskimmer, (Uracis fatigiata)

Unlike the dragonflies which can be found in open sunny locations around a body of water that have fast flight and hover, these forest species seem to be more sedentary and perch on low vegetation and only seem to move if disturbed.  Having excellent eyesight adapted to detect movement it does not take much to disturb them.  It could be that they are sit and wait predators just diligently watching for the right sized meal to pass by before taking off to capture it.

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica

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THE SMALLER MAJORITY – PIOTR NASKRECKI   Leave a comment


Philips’ Book Reviews

THE SMALLER MAJORITY – PIOTR NASKRECKI

Piotr Naskrecki is very much a man after my own heart; he likes small things.  In this book, The Smaller Majority, he takes you on a journey through the world that lies all around you but not so often explored.  It is a world that is not hidden; it just requires a change in perception and perspective to bring it to the fore.

Most people when they visit a new area or the first time whether it be visiting a country or a previously unfamiliar habitat such as a desert, coral reef or rainforest, they see the big picture.  The cities are new and exciting, the people are exotic and there may be so many strange plants and animals.  Your senses can be overloaded with experience of the unknown.

After a period of time though, if you start to look closer, you will find a myriad of fantastic and amazing forms of life right in front of your eyes, life that we sometimes take for granted and may even consider pests; insects, arachnids and fungi.

Piotr Naskrecki takes us into this small world with the aid of some spell binding photography.  Through his lens we get to view at close quarters so many animals that would normally remain hidden from our sight.  The book is lavishly illustrated with macro photographs of crabs, frogs, beetles, katydids, (he has a special interest in katydids), spiders, ants and butterflies.

The expertly written text provides a compelling insight to the natural history of these animals.  Piotr has a lifelong interest in his subject and that is reflected in the prose.  He is also a scientist but his style is not dry, rather eloquent and entertaining.  He has also been fortunate to pursue his studies and photography all over the world providing a wonderful cross section of small life forms inhabiting rainforests, savannahs and deserts.

There is a small chapter at the end of the book that details equipment and techniques to help you enter the small world for yourself.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable book which once you have finished reading it will sit as an attractive coffee table book enticing other readers to enter a world that they not have realized existed.  I would recommend the Small Majority to anyone, familiar or not with its subject matter as a first step into this microcosm.

http://www.amazon.com/Smaller-Majority-Piotr-Naskrecki/dp/0674025628/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330021309&sr=1-1

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.

Bosque del Cabo January 2011 Nature Review   5 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog January 2011 Review

 

January is the time when we see blue skies almost every day at Bosque del Cabo.  There is still a little rain but for the most part the days are clear and bright.  The forest floors are starting to dry out significantly and small cracks appear as the relatively thin soils lose their moisture content.  The vegetation however continues to retain its post wet season verdant coloration.  Now a lot of the plants are in bloom.  Flying into Puerto Jimenez from San Jose, as you cross over the Osa Peninsula, you will see the multifarious colors of blooms that cannot be seen from the forest floor, at least not until they fall to the ground, at which point they will have faded to a shade less vibrant than in the canopy.

Water Hyacinth Blooming at Pond

This is a good time of the year to see the orchids bloom, but as most of Costa Rica’s orchids are epiphytes growing on the uppermost part of a tree trunks and branches then that is where you will have to be to see them.

The air will be pervaded by various strange odors, some of which you would not always attribute to flowering plants. The January forest air normally hangs heavy with the scent of garlic.  The bright yellow flowers of the Garlic Tree, (Caryocar costaricensis),  are the source of that scent.  Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers in a tropical rainforest and rather than being attracted to sweet smells, they prefer those musky smells that are prevalent now, one of which is that garlicky odor that attracts the nectar feeding bats.

The year started for me in a somewhat exciting manner.  On the night of the first, when I returned to my cabin, I found a Bark Scorpion on the wall, low to the ground.  I illuminated the scorpion with the black light and set the camera to a 30 second exposure @ f/16.  The creature did not move at all and so I managed to obtain a nice image of the fluorescence from the exoskeleton that scorpions are famed for when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Centruroides bicolor

As ever beetles are there if you look.  Here is another couple of Longhorn species that I managed to get close up to.  The Hooded Mantis, (Choeradodis sp), makes an excellent photographic subject.  Mantis’s have a habit of turning the head to look at you and the structure of the eye gives the impression, a false one, that the eye has a pupil.  It is similar to the concept of the eyes of a portrait that follow round a room.  Photographed from beneath the insect, the eponymously expanded thorax adds extra character to the picture.

Longhorn Beetle     Longhorn Beetle     Longhorn Beetle

Hooded Mantis

If you take a short walk down to the pond you will see several species of dragonfly.  Each individual has its own perch and if disturbed and then left for a short period of time, it will return.  Just like butterflies, dragonflies are very sensitive to movement, so if you want your photograph, sit still, have the camera set and when it re-alights, just hit the shutter button.

The butterflies have now started to appear in larger numbers.  Only a few yards further down the path from the pond is a patch of Lantana camara, a native bush with orange/yellow flowers that certain species of butterfly such as the longwings find irresistible.  Unlike the dragonflies, which when perched, tend to stay in that position for a while, the butterflies are continually moving.  The best policy here is to choose a blossom and then keep and eye on any approaching individual which may then visit several blooms on the same flower head.  You will need a faster shutter speed and maybe some flash to freeze the motion.  If you are lucky the individual will settle for a second or two but don’t count on it being any more than that.

Adelpha cytherea     Marpesia petreus     Dione juno

Anartia fatima     Lantana camara     Dione juno

The adult butterflies may be easy to locate but in my experience, the larval form, the caterpillars are not.  Many caterpillars are beautifully and subtly colored.  As so many of the caterpillars I do find are those of moths, they remain just that, unidentified moth caterpillars.  There are some though that do stand out quite markedly.  The green caterpillar is that of a very indistinct little brown moth, the Saddleback Moth, (Sibine stimulea).  The caterpillar is found on the undersides of some broad leaved shrubs such as the Calathea.  It is armed with an array of urticating spines, bristles and hairs that cause a severe rash even with the slightest touch.  But even that heavy duty defense can be breached as has been the case with the example of an individual covered in the cocoons of a parasitoid wasp, the larvae of which had been consuming the now deceased caterpillars living flesh before pupating.

Unidentified Moth Caterpillar     Saddleback Moth Caterpillar     Parasitised Saddleback Moth Caterpillar

Saddleback Moth Caterpillar

The forest floor was still damp enough for some of the rainfrogs to be found.  The rain frogs are generally colored in muted tones that blend into the background of the soil and leaf litter hues.  One frog commonly seen on the forest floor of Bosque is the Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog.  Its bright neon green stripes contrast with the black markings rendering it as almost glowing against the dull backdrop of dead leaves.  The very visible coloration is not there to invite potential predators to an easy meal but rather to warn them of the toxic and potentially deadly skin secretion exuded by the amphibian in times of distress.  Frogs make superb photographic subjects if you take your time and move slowly in their vicinity.

Craugastor stejnegerianus     Craugastor rugosus     Dendrobated auratus

Snakes on the other hand require a great deal of patience and luck to photograph.  In the spirit of self preservation snakes don’t want to be where you are, they will make every effort to go move in exactly the opposite direction from your lens.  They move so fluidly and gracefully, not to mention rapidly for an animal with no legs.  The young Northern Cat-eyed Snake, (Leptodeira septentrionalis) featured here eventually settled, snakes exhaust easily and it was only 8 inches long.  The Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilinotus), was a different proposition.  They are fast and agile as well as irritably belligerent.  Not everyone is comfortable handling snakes, particularly of an unfamiliar species, but knowing your subject helps with the chances of a good photo.  Again my advice would be slow and fluid movements and get ready to move out of the way should the snake take offence to your close proximity.

Leptodeira septentrionalis     Pseustes poecilinotus     Pseustes poecilinotus

These little Clawless Geckoes abound in the buildings of Bosque but are so small that they are going to be overlooked by most people.  This species is Sphaerodactylus graptolaemus, the name being longer than the creature.  The spine over the eye is one of its distinguishing features.

Sphaerodactylus graptolaemus     Sphaerodactylus graptolaemus     Norops pentaprion

Whereas the Clawless Gecko is hard to find due to its size, the Lichen Anole, (Norops pentaprion), is not so easily spotted because it blends in so well with the color of the tree bark.  It is one of several different Anole species to be found on the grounds of Bosque.  This is one of the larger, more solidly bodied anoles.  It is less inclined to run and will stay put until the last minute before heading up and around the opposite side of the tree to yourself.  When you go around to find it, more often than not, it will have miraculously disappeared.

The grounds of Bosque are a bird lover’s delight.  All manner of avian fauna can be found here.  For those with a particular liking for raptors, there are Peregrine Falcons, Bat Falcons, Barred Forest Falcons, Laughing Falcons, Solitary Eagles, Ornate Hawk Eagles, Black and white Hawk Eagles, Roadside Hawks, White Hawks, Mangrove Black Hawks, Great Black Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Crested Caracaras, Swallow-tailed Kites and Double-toothed Kites, just to name a few.  I don’t normally have the camera set for bird or mammal photos and so these are the exception rather than the rule.

Crested Caracara

Mangrove Black Hawk

Once again, Pumas have been the talking point of Bosque this year.  In January, before the ground started drying, it was still possible to see pug marks in the damp earth.  Never very far from the cat tracks you could find without too much endeavor, at least one or two individuals of the Pumas diet, in this case a Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu).  Collared Peccaries can sometimes be found in herds of up to 20 individuals on the Titi Trail.  The reputation of their dangerous nature is saved for the larger White-lipped Peccary which is very rarely seen on the grounds of Bosque.  The collared cousins do not pose a danger and will move off huffing and puffing if disturbed.

Puma Pug Mark on Titi Trail

Collared Peccary on Titi Trail

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 86°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.20 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 6.22 ins

Average Daily Temp High 30.0°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.3°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 5.1 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 158.0 mm

 

Click For Green Protection   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog Oct 3rd 2011

 

A Wet Outlook

At the beginning of this week the metrological office of Costa Rica promised that the rain we had not received so far in this wet season would in fact arrive with Friday being the designated day.  They were not wrong.  It had remained fairly bright and sunny up until dusk of Thursday, but everyone awoke Friday morning to a thunderous downpour.  This cleared later in the day only to be repeated over the weekend in a similar fashion.

I don’t know how far into the future the prognostication goes but at this moment the weather does seem to be taking a change to that which we would normally expect this time of year.

My Precious

While I was engaged taking photographs of a katydid, out the corner of my eye I saw something moving and then stop then move again.  It repeated this action in a series of rapid motions.  When I turned my attention away from the katydid, I found I was looking at an ant which was carrying something almost as large as itself in its mandibles.  At this point it was almost in front of the lens so I could not resist the opportunity to capture its image.

Ponerine Ant

Ants are notoriously difficult to identify, which is a fairly typical situation with most tropical insects as I explain below with the beetles.  One of the problems with the ants is not the sheer number of species, which doesn’t approach that of the beetles, but rather the fact that each species, particularly the highly organized social ants, have many castes within the nest carrying out different tasks, allowing the nest to function as a single unit.  Many of the different castes are morphologically differentiated from one another, adapting them to sometimes very specialist roles.  All of these different caste members, no matter how different they may look from one another, are nonetheless of the same species.

I think this particular ant was one of the large ponerine ants whose species boast some of the large hunting ants.  People are probably familiar with stories of the Bala or Bullet Ant.  These are large ponerine ants whose bite can result in hospital treatment.  The larger ones are found on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, but here on the Pacific we have some smaller versions which are equally as capable of packing a painful sting.

It looked like this ant was carrying a cocoon, possibly containing an all but fully developed adult ant.  It was being seriously molested by a small Solenopsis ant which appeared to be attacking it or trying to drive it out of the area, hence the rapid jerky movements.  If you want to know how much of a sting a Solenopsis ant can pack, try standing in a Fire Ant nest.

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

Verdantly Coy

Green Click Beetle

There are lots of species of beetle.  Anyone who has previously read my blog will now know there are thousands, nay hundreds of thousands of beetle species around the world.  There are in the region of 320, 000 named species of beetle and that number is probably way short of the actual total due the many species of beetle that have not yet been found and named.  An estimated 1 in every 4 or 5 species of insect found during expeditions to the Amazonian rainforests will have previously been undiscovered and a great many of those will be beetles.

Costa Rica has approximately 47,000 named species of beetle on its records and so when you find a beetle that you can easily identify, you are very fortunate.  I know for some the challenge of identification is all part of the fun of field work, but when time is limited and you are dealing with a wide range of organisms, the easier the better.

Green Click Beetle

So when I found this beetle walking around on a rotting tree stump I was happy that I knew what it was immediately or at least what type of beetle if not species; a Green Click Beetle.  It belongs in the Family Elateridae, the Click Beetles of which there are approximately 1,200 species in Costa Rica.  The name literally describes the beetle; it is a beautiful rich metallic verdant green.  The click refers to the fact that in defense, the beetle will drop to the ground.  If it should fall on its back or in an effort to escape a predator, the beetle has a modified mechanism on its back which under muscular action will allow itself to “click” or jump itself right side up or away from danger.  As if to confirm my identification, the beetle obliged me by clicking and falling immediately to the ground.

Green Click Beetle

In order to photograph the beetle, I picked it up and put it back on its log but had it shut down, drawing in its legs and just lying still.  As time progressed, and after I had fired off a few shots, it eventually became active once again, finally moving to the edge of the branch, opened it elytra, or wing cases and took to the air.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 90°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.75 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 5.23 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.7°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.9°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 19.0mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 132.8 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Spix’s Disc-winged Bats

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Mangrove Black Hawk
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Golden-naped Woodpecker
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Red-crowned Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucans
  • Bananaquit
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Golden-hooded Tanager
  • White-shoudered Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Western Pewee
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Boa Constrictor

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Dryas iulia
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Marpesia berania
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri

 Plants

  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Golden Trumpet Vine Flowering
  • Hog Plum Fruiting
  • Ox Eye Vine Flowers
  • Protium Fruits
  • Santa Maria Fruiting
  • Water Hyacinth Flowering

 

Falling into Danger   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog June 12th 2011

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

After the erratic start to the rainy season, things have now more or less settled into the usual pattern for this time of year.  The days are bright and sunny but every night, generally earlier in the evening, the rain comes down.  Most visitors to the lodge are relatively happy with this scenario as it allows them to get out and enjoy activities during the day and they are normally in bed while it rains.

If it does rain during the day, I always suggest it is a good idea not to don rain jackets.  You will get just as wet as without them because of your profuse sweating.  Skin is the most waterproof thing you have and once that gets wet, you are not going to get any wetter and the one thing that you are not going to die of here is hypothermia.

Fungus

The wet conditions caused a sudden flush of fungal fruiting bodies.  In the lawns around the restaurant over a period of several days, we observed the appearance of Swiss Cheese Stinkhorns, their long phallic shapes having the holes which give them their name.  The tip is covered in a gray gelatinous spore carrying mass that stinks of carrion.  The smell attracts flies that land and finding no food, fly off, but by that time they have become coated in spores, and consequently act as unwitting disperses for the fungus.

Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn

In the forest, bracket fungi proliferate, their woody fruiting bodies appearing as multi-colored saucer shaped shelves from the side of the trees.  There are the more familiar mushroom like forms ranging in size from tiny to huge.  Fungi for the most part are saprophytes feeding on dead or decaying material.  Some are club or finger-shaped, looking nothing remotely like the mushrooms people are familiar with.

Bracket Fungus     Unidentified Fungus    Titan Mushroom

As with everything else, the fungi diversity is very high, but with no real adequate reference to identify them, it is sometimes only possible to classify them as far as family level.  They still provide an interesting sighting on the trails though.

Wasps in Bees Clothing

There was one incident last week that thankfully had a happy ending.  Some guests were waiting to leave after breakfast, everyone had said their goodbyes, but as they awaited their taxi, something crashed to the ground behind the kitchens.  Heavy rain the night before had destabilized a Paper Wasp nest, huge in dimensions, which had been constructed over many years at the top of a Mayo Tree.  This particular morning, the bottom half fell away, carrying a great number of wasps with it.  There is nothing worse than having their house fall apart to raise the ire of these stinging antagonists.  They proceeded to launch a savage assault on anyone or anything in the vicinity, mattering little to the wasps that the objects of their wrath were innocent of any crime against them.

In situations like this, your best option is to run, fast and far. Do not head for the swimming pool, which is where the staff and guests unfortunately made a beeline for.  Upon surfacing for air, the yellow banded assassins will simply continue their attacks; you are a sitting, or swimming target.  Fortunately no serious damage was done and the guests left, damp, laughing and with a tale to tell.

The initial blame was laid at the door of “Africanised Bees”, but when I returned and looked up at the remains of the nest I could see it was in fact the Paper Wasps that had been responsible.  About a week later, one night and without further disturbance to anyone, the remaining inhabitants of the broken shell just disappeared.

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

Free Bee Building Materials

The huge Milky Tree that fell last week, continued to exude copious amounts of sap for days on end.  This has provided a huge amount of interest for many of the forest insects.  As you approach the tree, which was cut into sections to clear the trail, the hum of insects involved in a sap collecting frenzy can be heard.  It doesn’t take a great deal of close scrutiny to evaluate what is going on.  Bees, of many different species belonging to a whole variety of genera from many different families, can be seen, busily collecting the exudates.  It is the females, their rear legs, normally used for pollen collection but now heavy with the procurement of resins that they will use to manufacture combs or construct nests.  It is a risky business though, landing on a sheet of soft white sticky glue which is leaking from the tree.  The area looked not unlike a miniature modern day version of the La Brea tar pits that ensnared many an unfortunate prehistoric mammal.  Bees of all sizes that had landed before the resin had set were simply stuck and covered by more of the viscous latex.

Female Orchid Bee Collecting Resin     Orchid Bee

Female Orchid Bee Collecting Resin

One other insect, rarely seen, until a Milky Tree falls and then they appear as if by magic in large numbers, are the Harlequin Beetles, (Acrocinus longimanus).  Named after the red and black costume of that devils advisory, Harlequin, you would think the beetles, given their large size and color would stand out against the tree trunks.  Exactly the opposite is true; the cryptic coloration blends in perfectly with the background color of lichens covering the bark of the trees.  Unlike their namesake, they are far from nimble, the long legs, (latin: longimanus), causing them to scramble and climb in an ungainly lumbering manner, not unlike a grounded bat.  Harlequin Beetles are Longhorn Beetles, (Family: Cerambycidae), named as such because of their very long antennae.

Harlequin Beetle

They appeared to be feeding on the plant sap and because there were males and females, it could well be that they were there to mate, their larvae boring into and feeding on dead wood.  If you touch one of the beetles, they make a loud hissing sound, raise their elytra and take to the air.  Such a large heavy beetle, only flies clumsily short distances before landing again, but hopefully out of harms way.

Over a 24 hour period, the bees had succeeded in removing all of the resin which for several days had been leaking from the tree in gallons.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 86°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.11 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.75 ins

Average Daily Temp High 29.6°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.8°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 2.7 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 19.1 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • White-nose Coati
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti
  • Collared Peccaries

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Crested Caracara
  • Great Currasow
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Magnificent Frigatebirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Rufus Piha
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Great Tinamou
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Common Basilisk
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Milky Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog

Butterflies

  • Aeria eurimedia
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Callimormus radiola
  • Catonephele numilia
  • Chioides albofasciata
  • Chlosyne theona
  • Cissia confusa
  • Colobura dirce
  • Cupido comyntas
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Euphyes vestries
  • Eurema albula
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Marpesia petreus
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Mesene phareus
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra otolais
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Taygetis andromeda
  • Telemiades delalanda
  • Temenis laothoe
  • Urbanus proteus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

 

Plants

  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • May Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting and Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

Lunatics Beware the Ides of March   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog March 20th 2011

Marpesia furcula

Shrivelling Earth – Wilting Trees

Now the dry season is really beginning to manifest itself.  The lawns are starting to look brown and burnt.  The vegetation is looking tired with wilting leaves being shed along with the branches bearing them.   Temperatures are consistently in the 100’s Fahrenheit.  There have been one or two little sprinkles of rain but never amounting to more than enough precipitation to only slightly dampen the ground, only to evaporate as quickly as it arrived.

Last week saw a full moon and a one that was hyped as a super full moon.  The moon was to have been at its closest point to the earth and coinciding with a full moon was spookily suggestive of going to cause all manner of catastrophe.  Don’t tell anyone but the moon is that close every month, it is just that this is the first time in 18 years that the event coincided with its position being on opposite sides of Earth to the Sun which was illuminating it full face.

It was also the Vernal Equinox, with the sun being directly over the Equator on March 21st ensuring 12 hours of both day and night.  Progressively as we move into the northern summer the prevailing climatic conditions here at Bosque change with the South Westerly Trade Winds bringing moisture laden air from the Pacific Ocean and precipitating it as rain on the west coast of Costa Rica.  Paradoxically the northern summer equates with the wet season, which here is known as the invierno or winter.

One other point of interest is that the full moon occurring just before the Equinox results in a very late Easter this year.  I am not sure as to the significance of the calculation but Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox.

Are You Bats?

Puma sightings continue to dominate the mammalian excitement around the lodge.  Last week there was a young couple who had only just arrived, checked in and shown to their cabin in the tropical garden.  Within very few minutes of starting to unpack their luggage, two Pumas walked past the cabin and into the exit of the Zapatero Trail.  They were lucky enough to have their camera at hand and managed to take some good photos.

Later on the same day, I had just finished my prepatory talk and demonstration with a small group of visitors wishing to do the zipline.  I was just attaching myself to the line in order to zip across the valley when one of the participants said, “There is a Puma”.  Sure enough it was the half tailed female Puma with whom we have become familiar from various trails around the grounds.  She walked straight toward us to the point where I thought she was just going to traverse the platform we were standing on.  She stopped at the base of the tree 15 feet in front of us, standing on the buttressed root; she looked at us for about 20 seconds and the continued on her way totally nonplussed by the experience of six blue helmeted pink monkeys standing looking at her.

At the moment we have the annual flowering of the Guapinol, (Hymenaea courbaril), or Stinky Toe Tree.  The resin from this tree is the source of Central American amber.  The fruits are hard shelled beans containing seeds surrounded by a soft pulp, which to all intents and purposes has the odor of smelly feet, hence the name.  While it is flowering, at night it provides the spectacular sight of the Jamaican Fruit-eating Bats which wheel and dive in hundreds, landing briefly to imbibe a feed of nectar.

Life Springs Forth Anew

Reproduction has been the real essence of the week and across the board.  One night down the pond I came across a Virginia Opossum with two well grown babies hanging onto her back.  Most of the monkey troupes currently feature females with young ones of various ages in similar attendance.  One day last week, as I walked down the road that runs through the Teak Plantation, one of our gardeners was frantically waving his hands at me from further down the path.  I couldn’t see what it was that was causing the animated excitement.  When I got to where he was, he told me that not 5 minutes earlier two very young Puma cubs had been playing together in the road.  The mother had been sitting off to one side watching him watching them.  What a shame I was not just a fraction earlier or quicker in my step, as I did have my camera in hand.  But that is life, who knows over the years how many events I was fractionally too early or two late to have experienced.

There are lots of bird nests around the grounds now.  Near the swimming pool there is a Cherrie’s Tanager nest.  In the top garden I noticed a male Masked Tityra constantly visiting a hole in a rotten Cercropia tree, probably delivering food to a female who may be sitting on eggs.  Two Great Kiskadees have a nest near the Bosque garage which they visit continually bearing insect food items.  Similarly within the forest I have also seen nesting Black-throated Trogons and Wedgebilled Woodcreepers as well as female Currasows with chicks in tow.

The Aerial Orange Vortex

Over the past few weeks there has been little change in the number of butterflies but a big change in the species of butterflies making up those numbers.  Over a month ago we had huge numbers of the White-banded Peacock, (Anartia fatima), emerge, and they are still around in sizable numbers.  This was followed a few weeks later by a huge increase in the numbers of Carolina Satyrs, (Hermeuptychia hermes), a tiny little brown butterfly, again always here in decent numbers but as of late, substantially increased.  Now it is the turn of the Sharp-winged Longwing, (Eueides lybia).  These tend to be absent for large parts of the year, but explode in numbers during February and March.  They are primarily an understory butterfly, so as you walk through the Titi Trail or Zapatero Trail, you will be treated to the sight of swirling masses of these medium sized orange and black butterflies.

Recording New Species

The daily hot, dry weather ensures that the butterfly figures remain high.  Just a brief walk around the perimeter of the Tropical Garden will reward the visitor with phenomenal numbers of butterflies from a myriad of species.  This week’s butterfly count resulted in yet another new species record for the lodge, Yanguna cosyra, a pretty orange skipper evocatively known as the Burning Firetip.

Yanguna cosyra

The two damp nights encouraged the Halloween Crabs to abandon their holes in the ground and emerge to forage enmasse.  Halloween Crabs are detritus feeding land crabs, about 2 inches across, with a bright purple shell bearing two orange spots which gives them the appearance of a Halloween mask.

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

One night when I walked into the bar, a gentleman staying at the lodge asked me if I could identify a beetle he had kept to show me.  The previous night as he lay in bed he could feel something crawling on his skin so he got up and went to look in the mirror to see what it was.  On his cheek was a large black beetle which he put into a bag in order to identify and photograph.

Longhorn Beetle Longhorn Beetle Mystery Beetle

Sometimes people fail to understand the numbers that exist in terms of biodiversity in the tropics.  Those numbers can be exemplified by looking just at beetles. Beetles are the most numerously named group of animals on the planet.  We have named in the region of 320,000 species of beetle.  Costa Rica has 47,000 species of beetle give or take one or two.  It is estimated that 70% of all insect species are beetles and that 40% of all animal species are beetles.

Mystery Beetle

Despite their numbers and the myriad forms and colors in which they appear, most people could recognize a beetle, the problem is which beetle.  Perusing all of my reference literature followed by extensive internet searching, I could find no match for this particular species.  I would have, in fact, amazed myself if I could have put a species name to it, and even then I would have done so with some hesitation.  All I am left with is an unknown beetle; I cannot even put it into a family, so I feel a trip to the National History Museum in San Jose may well prove prudent in an effort to elucidate this individual’s identity.  Once I have that I might be able to find information as to its life history and the story behind those fearsome mandibles and why they are lined with those orange brush-like structures, unless, of course there is someone out there reading this who can provide that information for me.

Mystery Beetle

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 94°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.11 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.80 ins

Average Daily Temp High 34.4 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.7 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.0 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Jamaican Fruit-eating Bats
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Virginia Opossum
  • Puma
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Great Currasow
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Crested Caracara
  • Mangrove Blackhawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Crested Owl
  • Rufus Piha
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Mangrove Swallow
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Purple-crowned Fairy
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Summer Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Great Tinamou
  • Little Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Basilisk
  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Terciopelo

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Milky Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Anastus naeris
  • Anthoptus Epictetus
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Arteurotia tractipennis
  • Battus polydamus
  • Callicore lyca
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Cissia confusa
  • Colobura dirce
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excels
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia alcibiades
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Mechanitis lysimnia
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Melinaea scylax
  • Mesosemia telegone
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morpho theseus
  • Morys valerius
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Staphylus mazans
  • Taygetis Andromeda
  • Tigridia acesta
  • Turesis basta
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Yanguna cosyra

Plants

  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Heisteria fruiting
  • Passion Vine Flowering
  • Rubber Tree Fruiting
  • Almendra Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Flowering and Fruiting
  • Guanacaste Tree Fruiting

Typically Tropical   4 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog Jan 24th 2011


A Riot of Color

The dry season is now well and truly upon us.  The daily temperatures are now reaching into the nineties and the rain has all but stopped.  The skies are cloudless and azure blue giving you the feeling of a typically tropical day.

The rising temperatures and drying air have resulted in a profusion of color.  Many of the trees are in bloom and even if you can’t see the flowers because of their lofty position at the top of the canopy, you can certainly see them when they fall.

Areas of the forest floor are now carpeted with the spent blooms of the trees, around the trunks of which they form brightly colored circles which contrast with the dark browns of the rapidly decomposing leaves and the deep reds of the iron rich soils.  The Golden Cortez has flowered for the second time since the rains have diminished.  The Ajo or Garlic Trees are flowering throughout the forest and their discarded bright lemon yellow flowers break up the monotony of the forest floor.  They emit the faint odor of garlic, from which they derive their name, evoking thoughts of French and Italian cuisine as you walk the forest trails.  Fruits of the Heisteria Trees dot the ground here and there.  Commonly known as “Dinner on a Plate”, the bright green fruit sits at the centre of a circular scarlet fleshy veil.  The red color attracts small fruit-eating birds such as manakins whose attention is rewarded with a juicy fruity nutritious pulp, the consumption of which results in the transport and distribution of the plants seeds.

Many of the plants have weird and wonderful looking flowers and fruits, two of which are in evidence everywhere at the moment; the spiny sea urchin like fruits of the Monkey comb Tree and the small doubled layered ear-like flowers of the Hule, or Rubber Tree.

Entomologists Delight

Butterflies, like a kaleidoscope of color against the bright blue sky are everywhere now.  Out in the open areas the gaudy warning colors of many Heliconiids, or Passionflower Butterflies, are swirling around the flame orange and red flowers of the Lantanas.  A host of Satyrs, with their more subtle but nonetheless, captivating colors can be seen flitting in abundance just above the level of the forest floor. The impressively giant and highly iridescent Blue Morphos fly along the forest trails and drying stream beds, erratic flight paths with opening and closing wings give the stroboscopic effect of flashing electric blue lights.  Their equally imposing cousins, the large Owl Butterflies fly in late afternoon.  They look like large bats floppily haunting the forest edge in the dying light.

Around pools, streams and ponds there are now a multitude of Dragonflies and Damselflies.  Aerial acrobats and proficient hunters briefly perching on the vegetation, then off at high speed to pursue some unsuspecting insect prey or chase rival males, their presence is announced by a variety of colors.  The large Helicopter Damselflies, stealthy hunters of spiders, never fail to amaze anyone witnessing their distinct seemingly rotational wing beats.

Predator and Prey

Last week I saw a large Tiger Rat Snake which had been basking on the trail from the Tropical Garden.  The snake saw me at the same time as I saw it, but was a lot quicker than myself and disappeared very quickly into the undergrowth.

Not long afterwards I could hear the Hee Haw sound of a Laughing Falcon which seems as if it will continue forever.  They are specialist snake feeders and so it could well have been to Tiger Rat Snake’s advantage that it was me disturbing it, rather than be caught up in a terminal grasp of its aerial predator.

Now that some of the trees are coming into fruit, the small rogue company of Capuchin Monkeys that were eating the toucans and stealing food from the bordegas have made themselves scarce.  I have seen them moving through the forest, although I would not swear it is one and the same troupe.  But having been a daily feature, they are somewhat noticeable by their absence.

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

There are in the region of 320,000 species of named beetle around the world, making beetles the most numerously named group of animals on the planet.  The tiny country of Costa Rica is almost unique in the diversity of its fauna and flora.  Within the confines of its borders 47,000 species of beetle have been named.  As with many other groups of plants and animals here there is a distinct lack of reference material to help you make positive identifications, and Costa Rica is far better than most other tropical countries at providing keys, guides and references.  Anyway, I am happy as a non specialist coleopterist, if I can identify some of my photographic subjects down to family level.

Longhorn Beetle Longhorn Beetle Chrysomelidae larva

The first two photographs are of two different species of Long Horn Beetle, family Cerambycidae.  If the adults are difficult, the larvae are impossible.  This red one I am convinced is the larva of a Tortoise Beetle, family Chrysomelidae but I would be happy to stand corrected.  I noticed it climbing up a tree trunk and the first thing that struck me was its superficial resemblance to the totally unrelated trilobites that last inhabited the earth 250 million years ago.  Although we see trilobites as fossils lacking any color, I wondered if it might be that they displayed such flamboyant colors such as this bright red beetle larva.

As you walk through the forest, if you care to look at the ground down by your feet, you will become aware of many things moving through the leaf litter.  Occasionally a tiny little frog will jump out of your way, only to blend in perfectly with its background.  Closer examination will reveal one of several different species.  This one is a juvenile Rough-skinned Dirt Frog, (Craugastor rugosus).   Close up and in profile leaves you in no doubt as to its name.

Craugastor rugosus

Craugastor rugosus

Finally I have just included some random photographs that I took around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo today just to try and capture the colors of a tropical summer day.

White-banded Peacock Flambeau Sapho

Orchid Tree Lantana Water Hyacinth

Dragonfly Giant Owl Butterfly Dragonfly

Please feel free to leave comments about any of the content, your experiences in Costa Rica or if you think you can provide identies to the beetles.  See you next week.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 89°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 72°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.01 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.06 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.8 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.1 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.2 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.5 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Agouti
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Red-tailed Squirrel

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Currasow
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Rufus Piha
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Crested Owl
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-throated Goldentail
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Mangrove Swallow
  • Brown Pelican
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • House Wren
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Pug-nosed Anolis
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Tiger Rat Snake
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Milky Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog

Butterflies

  • Adepha basiloides
  • Adelpha cytherea
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Battus belus
  • Battus polydamus
  • Caligo atreus
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Charis auius
  • Cissia confuse
  • Cogia calchas
  • Consul fabius
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Epiphile adrastra
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Euptychia westwoodi
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Lerodea eufala
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia albiciades
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia petreus
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Moeris submetallensis
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morpho theseus
  • Panoquina evansi
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Polites vibex
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrisitia proterpia
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Pyrrhogyra otolais
  • Remella vopiscus
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Staphylus mazans
  • Temenis laothoe
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

Plants

  • Yellow-trumpet Vine flowering
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree flowering and fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Flowering
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Golden Cortez Flowering
  • Hule flowering
  • Heisteria fruiting
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