Archive for the ‘Black-throated Trogon’ Tag

A Gruesome End   2 comments


Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Life as Normal

The weather pattern has now been set for the next three or four months.  The sun shines during the day and the rain comes down at night.  At least that has been the situation over the past week and if records from previous years tell us anything then that it how things should more or less remain until September.

Life continues here irrespective of the weather conditions.  One question I am asked a lot is “What do the animals do when it is raining?”  The animal life here is adapted to living in a rain forest so what happens is that everything continues as normal.

At the moment there are large groups of White-nosed Coatis, (Nasua narica), around the grounds.  The coatis are related to raccoons and like their cousins will feed on just about anything they find whether it be grubs and land crabs that they dig out of the ground, eggs and chicks stolen from birds’ nests or simply the abundance of fruit that has fallen to the ground.  The males are solitary and I found this one engrossed in a feeding frenzy with the jack fruits that were littering the ground beneath the tree that had produced them.  He was so preoccupied with the sweet treat that my presence was of no concern.

Nasua narica Carnivora Procyonidae

White-nosed Coati, (Nasua narica)

The females are gregarious and can be found in large groups which consist of the adult females and young of varying ages.  They are a little more wary than the males and if approached will run for the cover of dense vegetation.  This week some visitors to the lodge were greeted in the early morning by White-faced Monkeys, (Cebus capuchinus), in the tree over the cabin and a large group of White-nosed Coatis on the lawn in front.  All of a sudden the monkeys went berserk, barking a frantic alarm call.  The coatis bolted for the forest. That was a bad mistake as a few moments later a female Puma, (Puma concolor), emerged carrying one of the baby coatis in her mouth.  The guests experienced mixed emotions of being both sad and thrilled at the same time.

A few weeks ago I had a fledgling male Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus), land beside me as I walked through the forest.  This time it was the turn of a female.  The females are not as vividly colored as the males.  The back is a soft brown and the belly is a pale yellow although it still has the eye ring and the black and white barred tail.

Trogon rufus. Trogonidae

Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus) Female

Eaten Alive

Over many years of having lived in the area there are creatures that I have seen but have never been fortunate to take a photograph of.  It may well have been that I was not carrying the camera or that the sighting was too fleeting or that the subject would not stay in one spot long enough.  For whatever the reason the result was the same, a feeling of frustration.

One such insect that had evaded me for so long was one of the most predatory hymenopterans with a gruesome life history, the Tarantula Hawk.  These are impressively large wasps and one you most certainly not want to be stung by.  The female is the predator and she is constantly on the move in search of prey for her offspring, the living flesh of a spider.  As I am walking around, I have encountered over the years, individuals that land, with the antennae and wings in constant motion.  She alights and then takes flight almost immediately giving no chance of taking a photograph.  They are distinctive in size and tend to be bluey/black in color with bright orange wings.  This one also had orange antennae.

Pepsis aquila. Hymenoptera. Pompilidae. Pepsinae.

Tarantula Hawk, (Pepsis aquila)

This week I was lucky.  I found one resting at night, immobile and easy to trap, with the intention being of photographing her the next morning.  Once the sun rose I chose a suitable spot, set up the camera and tipped her onto the log in front of the lens.  I managed to snap a few images before she warmed up, cleaned herself, climbed up the tree trunk and took to the air.

Tarantula hawks belong to the family Pompilidae which has a large number of species many of which are spider hunters.  The genus Pepsis consists of about 300 species mainly distributed throughout Central and South America.  The adults are commonly seen taking nectar from flowers.

The large size of the Tarantula hawk enable it to hunt larger prey, as the name suggest, tarantulas.  It is thought that the females are particular about the species of tarantula that they hunt.  When a female finds a victim she will touch it with her antennae, the spider has a particular chemical odor that will identify it as the unfortunate chosen one.

Having made her selection the killer wasp grabs the tarantula by the leg and attempts to turn it over so she can inflict the paralyzing sting to the underbelly.  This is not without some danger to the wasp as its large prey can occasionally reverse the role and kill the killer.  Invariably though she delivers the coup de grace and the now immobilized spider can be dragged by the wasp to the spiders own burrow, there she lays a single egg, buries the victim and leaves it to its grisly fate.  While grappling in this life or death battle with the spider, the female wasp emits a pungent odor, the scent of imminent victory, whose real function is unknown.

As if being buried alive was not dismal enough, the egg hatches and because the spider is only paralyzed, not killed, the larva begins to consume the living flesh of the spider.  Eventually, once the feast is concluded, the larva spins a silken cocoon, pupates and sometime later a new assassin will emerge and repeat the process.

I see many smaller Pompilid wasps as I walk the trials.  I have watched them catch, sting and drag Wandering Spiders, (Cuppienius spp), to a burrow in a similar fashion.  Normally they are solitary but last week I noticed a group in a collective frenzy on the forest floor.  There seemed to be something at the center of the group that had captured their attention but I could not make out what it was.  The wasps were tumbling over each other to get at the object of interest but whatever it might have been will remain a mystery.

Pompilid sp. Hymenoptera. Pompilidae. Pepsinae.

Pompilid sp Searching for Something

One final wasp that I saw last week, or rather the nest of a wasp, was the unmistakable construction of a Mud-dauber Wasp belonging to the family Sphecidae.  These wasps are found globally but only six of the known species are native to the Neotropics.  What they may lack in species diversity they make up for in numbers, they are very common.

The tubes are made from mud that the wasp has collected from damp ground and fashioned into elongated cells.  These wasps, like the two species mentioned above are spider feeders.  These ones hunt smaller spiders which are dispatched in the same fashion.  Each of the mud cells is packed with paralyzed victims upon which an egg has been laid.  When the cell is full it is sealed and the spiders are left to suffer in immobilized silence.   These cells I noticed on the side of a tree but it is not uncommon to find them on the outer walls of buildings.

Sphecidae sp. Hymenoptera. Sphecidae.

Mud-dauber Wasp Nest – Cells of Lingering Death

Nameless Wonders

The fungi continue to produce their distinctive fruiting bodies.  Some of them are very eye-catching and some of them are compelling due to their strange appearance.  The stunning yellow mushrooms were found growing from the soil beneath the bamboos.  They were large but brittle, when touched they fell over.  Mushrooms appear overnight and only last a short time as they release the fungal spores into the air.  I found the second group of fruiting bodies growing from a dead branch on the forest floor.  They look like miniature branched corals reaching up and pointing to the heavens.  They were very small but the gregarious, monochrome white-tipped black stipes certainly attracted attention.

Agaricales sp. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Unidentified Mushroom

Xylaria sp. Xylariaceae.

Candle Snuff Fungus, (Xylaria sp)

Looking But Not Seeing

Harvestmen or Daddy Long Legs are strangely fascinating creatures.  They are, along with the spiders and scorpions, arachnids.  There are approximately 5,000 species of Harvestmen in the Order: Opiliones and most of them are found in the Neotropics.  Many people are familiar with these odd-looking creatures with the small globular body suspended between eight long filamentous legs.  The pedipalps at the front of the head are small and have weak claws at the tips.  They are commonly found on tree trunks where they hunt and feed on small arthropods such as mites and springtails.  They have the undeserved reputation of being one of the most venomous animals on the planet.  There is no factual basis for that claim but once one person says it and another repeats in then it becomes a fact with no standing in reality.

Opiliones

Daddy Long-legs with Legs Covered in Mosquitoes

They would appear to be very vulnerable to predation but they do have ways of avoiding becoming a meal.  They are generally nocturnal and cryptically colored so they blend in with the background.  If physically attacked then they can drop the leg that has been caught, (appendotomy).  The leg continues to twitch serving to hold the attacker’s attention.  They also have repugnatorial glands on the body from which they release a variety of foul smelling chemicals which repel a continuing attack.  If predatory ants are on the hunt, the harvestman lifts itself as high as the legs allow and then remains motionless.  The ants will only attack if they detect motion.

Having taken the photograph and then looked at it in detail I noticed something that I had not seen when I was looking at the animal on the tree, it’s legs were being covered by what appeared to be blood-sucking mosquitoes.  Searching online I could find very few records of mosquitoes feeding on the blood of other arthropods.  Obviously the harvestman has not developed a means by which to keep these specialist predators at bay but without further investigation it may well be that the mosquitoes were simply using the legs as a place to rest.

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

Advertisements

Long Nosed Damsel Smells of Death   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog March 18th 2013

title copy

Open Wide

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

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

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

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

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

Trooping of the Monkeys

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

White-faced Monkey         Cebus capucinus         Capuchin Monkey

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

Cebus capucinus

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

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

Unexpected Opportunities

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

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

Agria sp

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

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

Ant Lion Eggs

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

Ant Lion Trap

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

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

Tropical Weevil         Curculionidae sp         Tropical Beetle

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

Coleoptera

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

Black-throated Trogon

More Flowers and Fruit

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

Guacimo

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

Weeping Bottlebrush

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

Frangipani

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

Guaba

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

The Powerful Smell of Death

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

Turkey Vulture

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

Black Vulture

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

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 0.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.0 mm

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

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

Species List for the Week

Mammals

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

Birds

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

Reptiles

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

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

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

Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Fruiting
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Attalea rostrata Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Caryocar costaricense Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus citrifolia Fruiting
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Flowering and Fruiting
  • Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
  • Inga spp Fruiting
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering and Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Pachira quinata Flowering
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psychotria sp Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Zammia sp Flowering

WEIRD PLANTS: BALANOPHORACEAE   Leave a comment


 

Veridion Adventures. Philip Davison.

Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the birds and butterflies were out not only in force but in equal numbers, 35 species of each recorded for the day.  It looked as if the sunny conditions might hold out all day and so following a successful bird count in the morning I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to complete what may be the final butterfly count of the season.

We have a small photographic group staying at the moment and they echoed the sentiments of the group that was leaving as they arrived, namely, in the one afternoon and morning that they had been on the Osa Peninsula, they were stupefied by the sheer number of animals they were seeing.  I gave them some advice as to where they should go to photograph the various subjects they were after, left them to it and off I went to walk my transect.

Add a little sunlight to warm air temperatures and out will come the butterflies.  They must exist in numbers that are inactive during periods of inclement weather because today they appeared almost spontaneously.  It was nice to see three species of Sulfur; medium sizes yellow butterflies that grace the open garden areas.

Rainforest insects. Butterflies. Cloudless Sulfur. Pieridae. Coliadinae. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Cloudless Sulfur, (Phoebis sennae)

On the forest trail, I knew there was an Agouti, (Dasyprocta punctata), and White-nosed Coati, (Nasua narica), nearby because of the fresh tracks on the ground.    For the same reason, I knew there was a herd of Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu), not too far ahead.  As I walked up a muddy incline, listening to the soft trilling call of a Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus), my attention became redirected to a clacking sound that I know very well.  Up on top of the ridge were the peccaries, the males snapping their teeth together in a signal of alarm.  Peccary, like the coati, have exceptionally bad sight and hearing but an excellent sense of smell.  If you are downwind of them they quite often have no idea that you are there.  If you are upwind of them they will pick up your scent immediately.  And so it was with this herd of about ten or twelve, they knew I was there, but also probably had no real fear as they have not been hunted on the grounds for the past ten years.  As I continued to walk up the hill they just walked off into the forest to continue about their business.

Rainforest Mammals. Artiodactyla. Tayassuidae. Collared Peccary. Tayassu tajacu. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu)

There were two other noteworthy sightings today, one a new species of butterfly and the other an occasionally seen species of damselfly.  The butterfly was one of the Firetip Skippers, Myscelus assaricus, the forewing divided between orange and black in color with a broad white band.  The most eye-catching feature though is the fast “buzzy” flight so typical of some of the skippers.  That now makes three new species of butterfly in one week.  The damselfly was the Helicopter Damselfly, one of the largest damselflies on the planet.  There are several species but this was the impressively large Megaloprepus coerulatus.  Helicopter Damselflies are named after their flight pattern, the four transparent wings tipped, in this species, with opaque white and a dark blue/black band, appear to move in the fashion of a helicopters rotors.  They are specialized feeders on spiders.  They can be seen hovering vertically up and down or horizontally in and out searching spider webs for their occupants.  When they find one, they grab it, reverse away from the web nip off the head and legs and then consume the soft body parts.

Rainforest Damselflies. Odonata. Zygoptera. Pseudostigmatidae. Helicopter Damselfly. Megaloprepus caerulatus. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Helicopter Damselfy, (Megaloprepus caerulatus)

 

 

Weird Plants: Balanophoraceae

When people think of a flowering plant, it brings to mind something with roots, a stem, green leaves and when in season, flowers and fruit. Flowering plants evolved 100 million year ago and from that time to this have evolved into thousands of forms, the nearest estimate being in the region of 250,000 species.  There are as many as 90,000 species of flowering plants in the Neotropics of which 9,000 species occur in Costa Rica.  Flowering plants have flowers; sometimes they are large, showy and colorful, yet other times totally inconspicuous.  In shape they make exhibit what we imagine as a typical flower but others may be a bizarre as visual copies of the sex organs of a female bee.  Some flowers have a delicious perfume while others may emit the somewhat less attractive odor of rotting flesh.  But whatever their size, shape, color or scent, flowers are a plants way of manipulating, amongst other things, insects, birds and bats to do their bidding in terms of bringing about pollination.

Rainforest Plants. Balanophoraceae. Helosis cayennensis. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Helosis cayennensis

Now that is a typical flowering plant, but as with everything else, there are going to be some atypical forms.  I will quite often have people come into restaurant at Bosque in the evening and ask me to identify some of the plants and animals they have been photographing during the course of the day.  One puzzling sighting is a weird little mushroom they may have found growing at the base of a tree.  The plant in question is not a fungus, although it takes a lot of convincing of that fact before people will believe it, but rather a strange looking flowering plant, Helosis cayennensis, belonging to the family Balanophoraceae.  Arising from subterranean tubers, Helosis cayennensis is a root parasite of other flowering plants.  They lack chlorophyll and have a uniform tan color.  It is not uncommon to see them but they only occur sporadically at the bases of trees.

Take a look at the photographs and try to decide if having seen this, you would have identified it as a flowering plant.

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

 

%d bloggers like this: