Archive for the ‘Frogs’ 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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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

 

A Bouquet For The Grave Robbers   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog May 23rd 2011

 

Rainy Days

I guess it is official, we are now in the wet season, or el invierno as it is called locally.  The rains have become progressively more frequent, of greater duration and more intense in volume.  The lucky thing has been that the rain has been falling at night when everyone is tucked up in bed.  The following morning, although overcast and with the ground wet, the days have remained relatively precipitation free allowing the guests to Bosque del Cabo to enjoy time on the beach, hiking or relaxing by the pool.

Comings and Goings

The Halloween Crabs that emerged on masse four or five weeks ago seem to have departed on their annual reproductive pilgrimage to the ocean.  There are still a few around but not in the numbers recently experienced.  They will be back though, and soon.

The butterfly numbers are now dropping precipitously as we move into the wet season.  Along with the crabs, they are still here, but the number of species and individuals doesn’t even come close to those encountered during February and March.

The amphibian numbers are high now, the conditions for frogs should be perfect for the next five or six months.  Most of the guests to Bosque will see the Black and Green Poison Arrow Frogs as they can currently be found on just about any of the property trails during the daylight hours.  But it is once the sun sets that the amphibian life comes into its own.  The heralds of the evening amphibian activity are the rarely seen but continually heard Tink Frogs and Fitzingers Rain Frogs.  The Milky Frogs, their explosive breeding episode now over, have retreated to the tree tops until next May, but that doesn’t mean the pond has been vacated.

Every night there are huge numbers of calling Marine Toads, Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs and Banana Frogs with lesser numbers of the Masked Smilisca, Gladiator Frog, Small-headed Frog and Smoky Jungle Frogs in evidence.

Most bird breeding has been completed by now and so the patterns of behavior change.

Flowers and Fruit

Some of the trees are still in flower.  Around the restaurant, the fragrant blooms of the Ylang Ylang, give off their night scented perfume.  The Heliconias, Costas and Gingers which decorate the borders of the gardens bloom all year round with their hummingbird attracting red, orange and yellow blossoms.  The weird and wonderful flowers of the Cannonball Tree and the stinky blooms of the Calabash Tree can be found not too far from the restaurant.

There are many fruits still to be found on the forest trails, the main ones at the moment are the Nutmegs and Manroño.  Mangoes litter the ground in the mango orchard, and as they rot and ferment give off the heady aroma of over ripe fruit.  The Fig Trees are also producing copious amounts of fruit, attracting the attention of, amongst others, of the Spider Monkeys, Blue Morph and Malachite butterflies.

Nutmeg     Manrono

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

 Stealing From The Dead

 Orchid Bees

A few days ago as I made my way from my cabin to the restaurant, I noticed the Chef, Roger, using his video to capture something that was happening on the ground in front of him.  Getting closer I could see a several small shimmering metallic blue balls, their forms shifting in an almost mesmerizing fashion.  Just in front of this strange phenomenon was a patch of glistening chips on the ground, as if someone had discarded polished pieces of anodized titanium and scattered amongst it fractured fragments of sapphire and emerald.  I had to investigate.  What I found was the scene of apian carnage

Orchid Bees

One of the Bosque vehicles had driven over a swarm of Orchid Bees, crushing many individuals and leaving their smashed remains spread across the ground.  Those that had survived were frantically trying to sequester the perfume making ingredients from the legs of their fallen comrades.  Two or three ping pong sized balls composed of frenetic bees seemed to move, hovering just above ground level, each one endeavoring to oust its neighbor in an effort to get to the disseminated body parts of the bejeweled cadavers.

Orchid Bees

Orchid Bees are tropical bees and although related to social bees such as the honey bee, familiar to most people, they are, for the most part, solitary by nature.  The females make a nest and provision the brood chambers with food, but do not look after the larvae.  The males live independently in the forest.  The male bees are perfumers par excellence.  Their lives are dedicated to finding and accumulating volatile and aromatic substances that act as a chemical base for perfume production.  The fragrances are stored in the greatly enlarged but hollow and internally matted hind legs.  In an attempt to find these chemicals, the bees will travel colossal distances during the course of the day.

Orchid Bees

Despite their bright and alluring appearance, Orchid Bees are something of an enigma. A lot of what they do and why they do it is not fully understood.  The behavior I was witnessing today has not been adequately explained.  Like many bees, the Orchid Bees visit flowers for pollen and nectar gathering.  The females seek out resins leaking from damaged trees to construct nests.  And as seen above the males are compelled to find perfumed scents.  One theory suggests that the amount of different aromatic odors collected by the males become more complex as the bee gets older.  The more substances it has collected the further it must have ventured.  So a male carrying a large number of different scents is therefore older and well traveled, thereby exhibiting all the attributes any female bee would want as genes for her offspring, essentially he is A SURVIVOR.

It is thought that the huge aggregations of humming metallic brilliance that are the bee swarms is most probably something to do with mating but there has, as yet, been no research carried out to confirm this idea.  It has been found though that the bees will jostle to gain an advantage in procuring the coveted scents when another male dies.  They steal his stash.  I am pretty sure that is what was happening here as some of the dead individuals were at the center of all the frenzied attention.

The Sweet Smell of Death

I picked up several of the unfortunately crushed victims to take away and photograph.  Within a short space of time after placing the dead bee on a perch, the odor of decay attracted the attention of some ants.  A small, unidentified ant species suddenly emerged in numbers and started trying to cut the bee body up and transport it away.  The ant numbers were overwhelming so it was me that had to change location for the photographs.

Why Orchid Bees?

While I was photographing one of the dead bees, I could see something attached to the bee’s head which I recognized immediately.  It was the pollinaria from an orchid.

Dead Bee With Pollinaria Attached to Head

Orchids are the most numerously species rich family of plants on the planet; 20,000 globally and 7,000 species in the Neotropics, 10% of which are pollinated by Orchid Bees.  Orchids have some weird and wonderful of getting themselves pollinated and with the bees, the primary attractant is scent.  Most flowers offer a reward of nectar to attract in the pollinators, but the orchids supply perfumes, and they do that in great quantity and complexity.  In come the males, their sensory apparatus finely tuned to the location of these sweet scents, the greater the quantity and complexity the better.  As the bee visits the orchid, the plant glues a pollen bearing structure, the pollinaria, on a part of the bee’s body, exclusively targeted by that species of orchid.  This ensures any one bee could pollinate a variety of orchid species.  On the individual I was photographing, the pollinaria had been attached to the right frontal side of the bees head.

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 75°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.75ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 5.26ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.2°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.5°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 19.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 134.8 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Virginia Opossum
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti

 

Birds

 

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Currasow
  • Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Stripe-throated Hummingbird
  • Violet Woodnymph
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Marbled Wood Quail
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Masked Tityra
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

 

Reptiles

 

  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • 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
  • Small-headed Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Tink Frog

 

Butterflies

 

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Ascia monuste
  • Cupido comyntas
  • Detritivora gynaea
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excelsa
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morpho theseus
  • Morys valerius
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Perophthalma lassus
  • Pierella luna
  • Polites vibex
  • Pompeius pompeius
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Strymon joyoa
  • Urbanus proteus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

 

Plants

 

  • Astrocaryum Palm Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Devil’s Little Hat Fruiting
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Mandroño Fruiting
  • Membrillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Pasmo Fruiting
  • Passion Vine Fruiting
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Rosa del Monte Flowers
  • Royal Palm Fruiting
  • Rubber Tree Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

 

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

FROGS OF COSTA RICA: LARGEST AND SMALLEST   Leave a comment


 

Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

The sun sets rapidly in the tropics; there is no real twilight or dusk to speak of.  Last night as the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky darkened and stars started to appear for the first time in weeks.  At this time, sitting low in the west but just above the level of the trees we are treated to the sight of Venus which is by far the brightest light in the currently moonless sky.  Venus is closely accompanied by Mars which is a little lower and has all but disappeared from view by the time it is dark.  As the evening progresses and Venus slips from view, another bright light will have risen in the east, Jupiter, which will make its way across the heavens to set before sunrise.  If the clouds permit, then the Milky Way is a phenomenal sight this time of year, arching like a translucent creamy smudge across the sky from north to south.

Today started as last night ended, not a cloud in the sky, and apart from a few scattered showers throughout the morning, that is how things stayed.  This time of year we have the daily dawn chorus of Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Black-hooded Antshrikes, Bright-rumped Atillas and the raucous din of the Scarlett Macaws.  All of this has, of course, been preceded by the early morning wakeup call provided by the Howler Monkeys.  The ruckus is normally complemented and completed by the arrival of large numbers of Red-lored Amazons, whose higher pitched squawking simply adds to the cacophony.

Walking through a rainforest after a shower certainly gives the overall impression of dampness.  It has been raining since April and so the creeks and rivulets in the forest have a constant supply of running water.  The ground is both soft and sticky under foot.  With the addition of a shower, the vegetation already dripping with moisture, now most certainly completes the visitors’ expectations of how a tropical rainforest should look.

After returning from the four hour “Primary Forest Tour” I went off to the staff canteen to get some lunch.  That was followed by a leisurely stroll around the grounds to see if any new birds and butterflies had turned up.  One did, a butterfly I had not seen before, and guess what; once again I was not carrying my camera.  Here in front of me on vegetation close to the ground was a very conspicuously patterned Metalmark.  These are small and generally insignificant butterflies, but here was one with a dark background with a concentric series of white dashes and a bright red border to the hind wing, a White-stitched Metalmark, (Napaea eucharila).  I ran over to my cabin to get the camera but when I returned, it was gone.  So, I have found two new species in one week and no images to prove it.  At least I have the images in my head and the records in my diary.

As I write, the sun is sinking one more time.  It is amazing how time flies when you are enjoying yourself.  It is a brilliant sunset, a blaze of bright red which is bathing the forest in a deep luminescent orange glow.  It is now time to head out and see what the evening brings.

Costa Rican Frogs: The Largest and the Smallest

Here we are looking at two extremes; one of the largest and one of the smallest frogs on the grounds of Bosque.

Rainforest amphibians. Frogs. Leptodactylidae. Leptodactylus savagei. Savage's Thin-fingered Frog. Felipe del Bosque. Veridion Avdentures.

Male Savage’t Thin-fingered Frog

Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savagei), is a veritable behemoth of a frog, second only in size to the female Marine Toad.  They are the only amphibian we know of that eats scorpions, but they are opportunistic feeders and will eat smaller frogs, snakes, really anything smaller than themselves.  Like the Marine Toad, it is very poisonous, having skin secretion called Leptodactylin.  If you handle the frog it is very uncomfortable, but if you then rub your eyes, nose or mouth, in fact any mucus membrane it can be become a very distressing situation.  They do have predators though, more or less the same predators as Marine Toads, i.e. Opossums and snakes.  To that effect they have a secondary defense.  When you catch one it will scream like a baby.  The screaming may shock the predator into letting it go or the commotion could attract the attention of any other predator in the area which subsequently may attack whatever is trying to eat the frog, but most importantly, the screams very closely resemble the alarm calls of young caiman.  If there any adult caiman in the area, they will charge in and attack the frog’s predator which will hopefully, as far as the frog is concerned, allow it to make its escape.

Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog is a foam nester.  The male comes to the water first.  He has massive front legs and gives emits a “Whoop, whoop” call.  The female joins him later, he grabs on to her with his massive front legs, he has two sharp spines on his chest which also help secure her until she is ready to lay eggs.  Once the female has spawned, the male fertilizes the egg mass and then using his hind legs he whips the eggs up with water from the pond and mucus from his body to produce froth.  The eggs develop in the froth until about 8 days at which point the froth dissipates and the tadpoles as they now are have to complete the normal tadpole stage in the water.

Rainforest amphibians. Frogs. Craugastoridae. Stejnegers Rain Frog. Craugastor stejnegerianus. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Stejnegers Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus)

Closely related to the huge Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog is probably one of the smallest frogs in Costa Rica, the tiny Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus).  These are tiny frogs that live terrestrially on the forest floor.  If you ever spot a slight movement down by your feet as you on the forest trails, close examination will quite often reveal a frog no bigger than your fingernail.

Stejneger’s Dirt Frog is one of the rainfrogs.  They do not need to come back to the water to breed.  They pair up and lay only 10 – 30 yolk filled eggs, fairly large in comparison to the frog, in the leaf litter on the forest floor.  The whole process of development takes place within the egg so there is no free swimming tadpole stage.  After about 8 weeks, you will find emerging from the egg a tiny copy of the adult.

So there you have it, the little and large of the amphibian world.

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

FORAGING FOR DEAD MAN’S FINGERS   2 comments


Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

Today started overcast, continued to be overcast and finished overcast.  At breakfast the monkeys decided to put on a show, not uncommon.  First Howler Monkeys, then the Spider Monkeys and finally the Capuchin Monkeys came right up in front of the restaurant.  Capuchins are the only one of the four species that will come to the ground on a regular basis and so it was this morning.  The principal photo opportunities were being provided by the antics of a number of young monkeys some of whom were copying the adults in teeth baring displays, not very intimidating coming from the youngsters though.

The visitors to the lodge were entertaining themselves today, so my services were not required.  There was the feeling of a typical Sunday, both quiet and relaxed.  So, I decided to do what any right-minded person would decide to do on a quiet September Sunday, head off into the forest on a fungi foray.

There was a certain plan that had formulated  following a tour that I had conducted through the forest on the “Zapatero Trail” several days earlier.  As I was talking to the participants on the tour, my eyes kept being drawn to the presence of  fruiting fungal bodies on the path.  I started to take mental notes of where everything was with the intention of returning to take photographs.  Today provided me with the opportunity.  The one fungus I had seen that I really wanted an image of was the somewhat gruesomely named “Dead man’s fingers”.  The name is derived from its physical resemble to said item, poking out from the dead wood.

I didn’t manage to get out till a little later in the afternoon, by which time the light under the forest canopy was fading fast .  Still I had a good idea of the whereabouts of my intended subjects.  Now I have walked the “Zapatero Trail” almost every day for many years and this afternoon I walked it in reverse to my normal direction.  I felt confident I could remember where everything was, but looking at things from back to front was throwing my memory.  Then, at last the first fungus, then another and another.  But the one I wanted, I couldn’t find, the Dead Man’s Fingers.  Where had I seen them?  I tried to retrace the tour in my mind in an effort to recall where exactly the fingers were.  The light really was diminishing now and to add to the problems a light drizzle had started.  Finally, the persistence paid off and there they were, the fingers, reaching up from the corpse of a rotten log hidden beneath some low growing shrubs.  I got the photographs and returned before the sun had set.

Tonight when I went out to carry out my nightly amphibian count, I was able to witness something that I have only experienced twice before in all my years on the Osa Peninsula; a Cat-eyed Snake breeding ball.  This is not something that Cinderella would attend.  When a female snake becomes sexually receptive, she releases a sex pheromone which attracts  every male in the area.  That is what happened this evening around the pond.  There were snakes everywhere, males so wholly pre-occupied with getting to the receptive female that my presence was not noticed.  There were snakes slithering along branches and through the undergrowth, from all directions, all with only one intention in mind, to be the first to get the girl.

Foraging For Dead Man’s Fingers

Rainforest fungi. Costa Rica. Agaricales.

One of many fungi I have not been able to identify in Costa Rica

Fungi, along with bacteria, termites and beetle larvae are responsible for the rapid breakdown of organic material in a rainforest.  The warm damp conditions make the forest a perfect incubator for fungal growth.  You generally cannot see the main body of the fungus; it exists as a series of threads, called a mycelium, permeating throughout the substrate, whether it be the ground or dead and dying trees.  Many plants have a relationship with a fungus specific to that particular species. They grow in association with the roots in which case the mycelium now becomes known as a mycorrhiza.  Plants such as orchids cannot live without their specific mycorrhizal symbionts.

A question asked regularly by our guests is, “Why there are so few fungi?  It is not that they are lacking in number, it is just that here conditions are right all year round so they can throw up fruiting bodies, (familiar to most people as mushrooms and toadstools), throughout the year.  Back in the U.K. October was always my favorite month as there was a sudden short lived explosion of mushrooms and toadstools, their ephemeral beauty providing some wonderful photographic experiences.

Rainforest fungi. Sarcoscyphaceae. Orange-cup fungus. Cookeina speciosa. Cookeina tricholoma.

Two species of Orange-cup Fungi. Cookeina speciosa, left and Cookeina tricholoma, right.

There is no mistaking the literally described Orange-cup Fungus, (Cookeina speciosa), for any other type of fungus.  It is fairly common, with the small obvious bright orange cups to be found throughout the year growing out from recently fallen dead branches and trees.

Rainforest fungi. Tricholomataceae. Titan Fungus. Macrocybe titans. Costa Rica. Philip DAvison. Veridion Adventures.

One of the largest gill mushrooms on the planet, Titan Mushroom, (Macrocybe titans)

The fruiting bodies of the Titan Mushroom, (Macrocybe titans) are not a sight you are going to forget in a hurry.  They are typically found growing on top of Leaf-cutter Ant nests.  After a week or so, the mature mushroom cap can be up to almost 3 feet across.  Unfortunately their edibility is uncertain otherwise one cap may have provided accompaniment for a great many servings of bacon and eggs.  Commonly found as a symbiont on Leaf-cutter Ant nests.

Rainforest Fungi. Phallaceae. Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn. Staheliomyces cinctus. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures. Costa Rica.

Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn, (Staheliomyces cinctus)

The Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn, (Staheliomyces cinctus), is found growing in soil rich with rotting vegetative material.  Once again it is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else.  The grey collar is in fact a glutinous mass containing the spores.  Like so many other species of stinkhorn, it gives off a stench resembling well rotted carrion.  The smell attracts in flies which then get their feet covered in the sticky grey gel, they fly off and consequently disperse the fungal spores.

Rainforesst fungi. Dead Man's Finger. Xylariaceae.

Dead Man’s Finger, (Xylaria sp).

Finally, the reason for my foray into the woods today, The Dead Man’s Finger, (Xylaria sp – possibly).  As with a great many diverse groups of plants and animals, the reference material to identify exactly what you have found is not readily available or simply may not exist.  That is the case with my prize for the day.  I have no idea what species it is.  I am not even sure that the genus is correct.  But for all that, it was fun going out, retracing my steps to find it and then photograph it.  Hopefully sometime in the future I will be able to put a name to it.

Rainforest Fungi. Xyliaceae. Dead Man's Finger Fungus. Costa Rica.

econd species of Dead Man’s Finger, (Xyliaceae sp)

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

 

 

 

 

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