No change in the weather this week. We have had another seven days of hot, sunny weather. There were two days when the clouds had formed and the sky remained overcast but no rain resulted although the temperatures plummeted from 104⁰F to 96⁰F.
The butterfly numbers are increasing but still way below what would be expected for this time of year which is normally the peak of butterfly activity. Around the pond at night, the Savage’s Thin-fingered Frogs are starting to gather in greater numbers. The pond is the last remaining damp area on site. The flowering period for many of the trees has finished and now some of them have started fruiting.
The major excitement this week has been the presence of a female Puma, (Puma concolor). She had been seen in several different locations around the grounds. The high-pitched barking alarm call of the Spider Monkeys is always an indication of where the cat is passing by. One day, as the sun was setting, the alarm calls of agitated monkeys and agoutis started the fill the air. The cat was on the prowl.
She left the cover of the forest and walked through an open garden. That is where I spotted her. She was in no hurry and it was patently obvious that she could see me. She crossed the driveway and made her way into some dense vegetation. The monkeys settling down in that area for the evening were suddenly stirred into action and more alarm calls began to build eventually reaching a fever pitch.
She emerged from the tangle of dense vegetation and slowly walked toward the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. An Agouti that was in the same vicinity saw the cat, let out a loud shriek and ran off with its hair stood on end. The cat immediately looked alert but then just as quickly lost interest. She sat down and started to clean herself before lying down for a few minutes. She then rose to her feet, turned her back on me and walked off into the rapidly darkening forest.
There was another predator that I managed to get very close to this week. Very close. While I was out conducting my butterfly counts I found a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, (Buteo platypterus), sitting on a low cut tree stump on a trail through an open area of forest. It was an ideal opportunity to take a photo. I fully expected the bird to take off and fly away but it remained where it was and just looked at me. I approached closer and closer but very slowly, each time taking a photo. Eventually I ended up lying on the ground within touching distance but the bird never even flinched. I kept a wary eye to my surroundings as it was not beyond the possibility that the parent birds would be keeping watch and attack should I get too close but nothing happened.
Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, (Buteo platypterus)
Broad-winged Hawks are migratory throughout North, Central and South America. They tend to hunt in the understory of the forest from where they swoop down and take small rodents and lizards from the ground. The broad wings and short tail are a good visual identification feature.
Close up of Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, (Buteo platypterus)
A New Passion For Flags
Along the forest trails there are several species of Passion Vine currently in flower but this week I found one species that I had never seen before. I returned with the camera and took photos for the record and to identify this new species. –
There are sixteen species of Passion Vine to be found in the forests of the Osa Peninsula. One is seen throughout the year at Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge, the Scarlet Passion Vine, (Passiflora vitifolia). It is hard to miss the bright red flowers suspended on thin, fleshy, green stems that grow up from the ground and entwine the vegetation. Two others flower only occasionally.
The new species, Passiflora pittieri, is normally found in primary forest but at the top of the canopy or in light gaps. The flower is very distinctive with its pale cream petals and a corona of yellow-tipped orange filaments and pink-flushed anthers. This one appears to be insect pollinated as I could see bees visiting the blooms.
The leaves of this species are highly cyanogenic. When physically damaged they release cyanide which would normally deter most creatures from eating them. But where there is a system then there is a way round the system. There are many species of longwing butterfly the larvae of which feed on the leaves of various species of passion vine. The larvae have an enzyme that allow them to sequester the cyanide molecule and use it in turn as a toxic defense. The caterpillars can only eat the young leaves as the older leaves will have become too unpalatable.
Cydno Longwing, (Heliconius cydno)
Sapho Longwing, (Heliconius sapho)
Another insect associated with passion flowers are the flag-legged bugs. These phytophagous, or leaf-eating, members of the Order: Hemiptera, Su
border: Heteroptera and Family: Coreidae can usually be found clustered around the flowers of passion vine. Their rearmost legs have a large expanded flat and colored section.
Flag-legged Bug, (Anisoscelis flavolineata)
Flag-legged Bug, (Coreidae sp)
If a predator approaches a Flag-legged Bug, then the insect will wave one of its two brightly colored expanded rear legs. This provides a target for the attacker which will end up with little more than a leg for its efforts while the bug will have flown away. Many Flag-legged Bugs will be observed with either one or both rear legs missing.
The Pit of no Escape
This time of year with the ground having become very dry and friable, there are many small crater-like pits that have appeared all over the trails. It would appear as if a miniature meteor storm had hit the area. Further investigation, more particularly by disturbing the sides of the crater wall, will result in small grains of sand erupting upwards towards the source of the disturbance. Buried and hidden at the bottom of the pit is a larva of an insect closely related to Lacewings and Owlflies, the Antlion, and it is this larva which is responsible for throwing the sand grains.
Antlion, (Myrmelon sp), Pit
The Antlions belong to the Family: Myrmeleotidae within the Order: Neuroptera. Only antlions of the Genus: Myrmelon create the pits. The larva excavates the steep-sided pit and places itself at the bottom, just beneath the surface and covers itself with the fine sand. They don’t just feed on ants, any small insect venturing within the crater rim will find itself struggling to leave. The more it struggles to climb out, the more loose material it will dislodge causing it to slip towards the bottom. The predatory larva lying in wait will now begin its performance of death to bring down the final curtain on the life of its victim.
Mandibles of Antlion, (Myrmelon sp), Larva Grabbing Hapless Ant
Using the front legs the larval antlion flicks sand up at the ant desperately trying to escape the steep sided crater. This serves to drag it further down towards the bottom of the pit. When it finally slips all the way down, then the mandibles of the larva snap shut around the prey’s body. This is what I was observing. The unfortunate ant was struggling to escape the deadly grip of the mandibles but to no avail. Sharp projections on the inside of the mandibles pierce the ants body and the larva sucks the juice out of the ant. Once it has finished the remaining dry and drained carcass is flicked out of the pit while the larva awaits a fresh potential food item to enter.
Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica
Felipe del Bosque Blog May 28th 2012
It has been a mixed bag with the weather this week. There have been showers, sun and cloud cover. This week has also seen the first violent thunderstorm of the season. In the small hours of Thursday morning, for two hours the sky was lit and the buildings were shaken by the thunder and lightning directly overhead. This was accompanied by an inch and a half of rain. But as dawn broke and the sun rose, so did the clouds eventually disappear and it turned out to be a beautiful day.
We had a couple staying this week that were evaluating the potential of Bosque del Cabo as a suitable location for clients booking holidays through their travel agency. Their clients are more nature oriented, which fits the profile of most of Bosque’s visitors; people come because of Bosque’s reputation as one of the best and most biodiverse rain forest lodges in Costa Rica.
Having completed the hotel inspection, it was time to hit the trails. It wasn’t long before their eyes were opened as to why Bosque has achieved its renowned status. Once again, as so many visitors before them, they were walking the Titi Trail watching an abundance of monkey activity, when from down the trail came walking towards them a Puma, (Puma concolor). The cat came closer and closer, it then stopped, looked at them, turned and walked off into the forest. From the description, “It had a short tail”, it was almost certainly the resident female Puma “Half tail”.
The excitement was not over for the day though. After relating the tale of their amazing experience over dinner, they returned to their cabin only to be attracted to something making a noise in the tree outside. They went out onto the deck and there was a Northern Tamandua, (Tamandua mexicana), using its powerful front legs and long sharp claws to rip into the bark of a tree in order to access and feed on the termites inside. They didn’t manage to get a picture of the cat but they did get a good photograph of the anteater.
The Titi Trail seems to be an endless source of great wildlife sightings. Not long after the Puma episode, one of the Bosque staff was working on the trail when he had waddling down the path towards him a large animal about the size of Shetland Pony, with small ears and a long snout. This description fits only creature, Baird’s Tapir, (Tapiris bairdii). I have been walking the trails of Bosque for 12 years and have occasionally come across tapir tracks, even as close as my cabin, but I have never seen a tapir in the flesh on the grounds.
Tapirs are odd-toed animals related to horses and rhinoceroses; they all belong to the mammalian order Perissodactyla. Baird’s Tapir is the only odd-toed mammal native to Central American. They are browsers, feeding on low lying vegetation and fruit. Water is essential to the life of the tapir, they like pools in which they can wallow. Bosque is at the top of a hill and there is no lying water so this individual was probably a transient on its way somewhere else.
The mango trees are now hanging with fruit which is starting to ripen. This is attracting the attention of many fruit eating animals or those that would just take the opportunity of partaking of the frugivorous feast. One night while I was walking near the mango orchard I could hear a lot of movement coming from the uppermost branches. As I stood watching, a creature fell to the ground with a bump along with several of the mangoes. Initially all I could see was the bright orange eye-shine reflecting back from my flashlight beam. The fall did not seem to have caused it any trauma as it progressed to climbing back into the tree.
By the time it made its way up in the branches again I could see what it was, a Kinkajou, (Poto flavus). This one was not alone; several more made their presence know, not by coming into view, but by the distinctive nasal snort followed by short high pitched whistles. There must have been 3 or 4 above my head which may have been a family all gorging themselves on the abundance of succulent mango flesh surrounding them.
It might come as no surprise but when the rains arrive it stimulates the rain frogs into calling. The rain frogs can be heard throughout the year but with increasing wet conditions, more species and more individuals are induced to call. This time of year, all night long you will hear the Tink Frogs, (Diasporus diastema), with the distinctive metallic “tink” song. As the sun sets, you will quite often be aware of soft “chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck” sounds coming from a variety of locations. These are male Fitzinger’s Rain Frogs, (Craugastor fitzingeri), both calling for a mate and telling other males to stay away. Unfortunately, the calls also alert those night time predators on frogs, the Fringe-lipped Bats, (Trachops cirrhosus). The calls usually echo back and forth with a regular time interval which makes it difficult for the bat to isolate where the call is coming from.
Fitzinger’s Rain Frog is not a very large amphibian but despite its size is quite robust. It has a mottled fawn and brown skin with small black spots and covered in small raised warts. As with many frogs they are mostly nocturnal. The rain frogs also don’t need to return to the water to reproduce. They pair up and then deposit 10-30 large, yolk-filled eggs in the leaf litter on the forest floor. The larvae develop within the egg, (there is no free-swimming tadpole stage), until about 8 weeks and then emerge as fully formed but tiny copies of the adults.
This individual I inadvertently disturbed early in the morning. I took advantage of the good lighting and the fact that he didn’t seem too keen to hop away, or at least not till I had taken some good profile shots of him.
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.
Sadly, as far as I am concerned, with the rainy season the butterfly numbers are past their peak. There are still enough around but the figures are on the downturn. One morning, the sun was shining and didn’t have a tour, so I decided to head out with the camera and see what may be around. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular just whatever happened to be there. At one point I came across at longwing passionflower butterfly, (Heliconius cydno), flitting from flower to flower searching for and feeding on the nectar that provides the butterfly with energy for flight. I also noticed that this individual had its proboscis coated with a large deposit of aggregated pollen.
Butterflies of the subfamily Heliconiinae are known as “passion vine butterflies” as many species use the genus Passiflora as a larval host plant. But they are also the only butterflies known to also feed on pollen, specifically from several species of the cucumber vine family, Cucurbitaceae. The passion vine butterflies have excellent eyesight and color vision allowing them to find the cucumber vine flowers in the forest. Nutrients in the pollen are essential for egg production and to maintain the health of the females‘ovaries which subsequently enable multiple matings. Daily feeding on pollen, from which amino acids are derived also allow the Heliconius butterflies to live anything upto 9 months which is almost Methuselah-like in butterfly terms. They are also metabolized into the production of defensive toxins stored in the butterflies’ body. The bright colors worn by the Heliconiinae are warnings, (aposomatic coloration), signaling that the insect is not a suitable food item.
Heliconius butterflies are trapliners, visiting several plants, but over the same route, every day. However if the food plants are in short supply, they become more stationary and defensive of their particular patch of vine.
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 0.53 ins. Total Weekly Rainfall 3.68 ins
Average Daily Rainfall 13.3 mm. Total Weekly Rainfall 93.2 mm
Species List for the Week
- Howler Monkey
- Spider Monkey
- White-faced Monkey
- Red-tailed Squirrel
- Vesper Rat
- Mealy Amazon
- Red-lored Amazons
- Scarlet Macaws
- Grey-necked Woodrail
- Great Curassow
- Black Hawk
- Crested Caracara
- Great Black Hawk
- Laughing Falcon
- Roadside Hawk
- Yellow-headed Caracara
- Golden-naped Woodpecker
- Lineated Woodpecker
- Pale-billed Woodpecker
- Chestnut-backed Antbird
- Black-hooded Antshrike
- Streak-headed Woodcreeper
- Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
- Common Paureque
- Brown Pelican
- Short-billed Pigeon
- White-tipped Dove
- Long-billed Hermit
- Blue-crowned Manakin
- Red-capped Manakin
- Fiery-billed Aracari
- Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
- Golden-crowned Spadebill
- Great Kiskadee
- Great Tinamou
- House Wren
- Slaty-tailed Trogon
- Masked Tityra
- Black Vulture
- King Vulture
- Turkey Vulture
- Central American Whiptail
- Central American Smooth Gecko
- Common Basilisk
- Five-lined Ameiva
- Golfo Dulce Anolis
- Green Iguana
- Litter Snake
- Northern Cat-eyed Snake
- Mediterranean House Gecko
- Snub-nosed Anolis
- Tropical Bird-eating Snake
- Banana Frog
- Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
- Gladiator Frog
- Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
- Marine Toad
- Masked Smilisca
- Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
- Smokey Jungle Frog
- Anartia fatima
- Eueides lybia
- Glutophrissa Drusilla
- Heliconius erato
- Heliconius hecale
- Heliconius ismenius
- Heliconius sapho
- Hermeuptychia hermes
- Marpesia berania
- Metacharis victrix
- Morpho menelaus
- Opsiphanes tamarindi
- Parides erithalion
- Philaetria dido
- Phoebis argante
- Phoebis sennae
- Pierella luna
- Pseudolycaena damo
- Pyrgus oileus
- Strymon megarus
- Bamboo Orchid Flowering
- Lacmellea panamensisFruiting
- Crestentia alata flowering and fruiting
- Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
- Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
- Clusia valerii Fruiting
- Gustavia brachycarpa Flowering
- Apeiba tibourbou Flowering and Fruiting
- Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
- Symphonia globulifera Fruiting
- Virola koschnyi Fruiting