Archive for the ‘Rainforest’ Tag

THE SMALLER MAJORITY – PIOTR NASKRECKI   Leave a comment


Philips’ Book Reviews

THE SMALLER MAJORITY – PIOTR NASKRECKI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

Sticking With The Rain   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 5th 2011

I have taken a few weeks off from the blog due to the number of different project I am trying to get written up before I go away for a month in October.  If anyone reading these blogs is not already aware my main reason for being in Costa Rica, it is to carry out research into climate change and its affect on the fauna and flora of a tropical rain forest.  I am not affiliated to any academic body or institution, my work is all my own.  I do not receive funding to help with studies, so in order to maintain a base from which I can work, for the past 11 years I have been doing guided tours for Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Over the past eleven years I have accumulated vast data sets based on continual monitoring of butterfly and amphibian populations as well as measuring just about every climatic variable you could think of.  It is now time to stop the data collection and start the process of analysis.  Next year I hope to have all that work completed in order to publish the results and conclusions.

As I am not beholden to anyone for the results of my work, the intention is to release it on a dedicated website so that it has a wider general audience.  As I have been using standardized techniques, then my findings hopefully will become comparable with and complement anyone doing similar studies anywhere around the world.

As if all of that is not enough, I have been writing several books to act as souvenir guides to Bosque.  Due to not having the luxury of much time to myself, it has taken many years to take the photographs and write the text but with a little determination these too should be completed within the coming year.

And on top of all that I try without exception to get a weekly blog out so that anyone interested can tap into the amazing location that is Bosque del Cabo, keep in touch with the comings and goings of the plants and animal life here, maybe plan a trip based around the weather reports and species lists or just join us vicariously as I regale with tales from Bosque del Cabo and its incredible natural history.

A Little Summer Rain

The first two weeks of July would have had the visitors to Bosque thinking that this was October.  The rain was very heavy and incessant.  We had nearly 24 inches of rain for the first 14 days.   But then things changed.  For the next two weeks, the rains more or less stopped and the visitors were treated to long days of bright, sunny, dry weather.  Whatever precipitation did occur was experienced at night.  This was a situation that suited most of our guests.

This time of year we experience what is known as a “Veranillo” or little summer.  We are right in the middle of the wet season but conditions dry up for two weeks.  It always occurs sometime around the end of July/beginning of August, you can never be sure exactly which two weeks it is going to be.

Those conditions continued through August we have had sunny days with rain at night, but some of those nights have provided visitors the opportunity to experience just what the rain part of rain forest means.  One night we had over 7 inches of rain.  That substantial weight of water being delivered to the top of the trees in a short space of time saw a lot of trees fall.  The following morning, all of the trails at Bosque were blocked along their path by not only large fallen trees but also by a great many trees crowns that could not support the burden of water.  That provided enough extra work to keep our trail maintenance team busy for a while.

Crawling with Cats

Some weeks ago, I was returning from the Primary Forest tour with a couple of visitors and on the final stretch of the trail across the suspension bridge, below us a Jaguarundi was standing in a forest clearing.  Whether it saw us or not it did not seem to be unduly concerned.  It moved off in that typical fluid feline motion over a large buttressed root and without even casting a glance our way disappeared behind the tree and that was the sighting over.

Jaguarundi’s are small sleek cats somewhat larger than a large house cat.  They come in several color forms, the one we get at Bosque being the very dark grey, almost black.  About a month after our sighting another couple saw one crossing the path by the Titi Trail and just the other day a visiting biologist saw one in the same area.

This maybe the Chinese year of the cat, but here at Bosque it most certainly has been the year of the Puma.  The number of times people have seen Pumas this year is incredible.  Now, into September, this situation continued unabated. We have been having, on occasion, multiple Puma sightings on one day.  Most, as with earlier this year, if not on the Titi Trail, have occurred in that vicinity.  The last encounter, just a few days ago, happened when a couple of guests found themselves walking along the trail with a Puma nonchalantly ambling along in front of them.

Good for Some

The Milky Tree that fell last month has now started showing signs of drying out.  All the milky resinous sap that initially leaked out has gone, mostly taken by bees of various species for nest construction.  Now we have the first level of obvious decomposers moving in, the beetles.  Rather than the adults, it is the larvae that feed on the dead wood, hastening its decomposition.  At the minute though lots of species of beetle are pairing up on the face of the now exposed heartwood which is where they will lay their eggs.

The Long-billed Hermit, (Phaethornis longirostris), that had started to construct her nest by the kitchen entrance last week has completed her task and is now incubating eggs.  She is completely unperturbed by the constant comings and goings of the lodge staff in the area, and the traffic is constant all day long.  It could well be that is why she opted to build the nest in that particular location.  The human non-predators may well be seen as keeping any potential predators of her, the eggs or her chicks at bay.  Having said that though, many of the birds’ nests that are built in or around the restaurant area, sooner or later attract the attention of the Tropical Bird-eating Snakes, and they too have little regard for the big pink monkeys wandering around the concrete and stucco jungle.

Not So Good For Others

Following the heavy rainfall and the subsequent fall into bright sunny weather for the past two months has seen the area subject to but a few severe overnight convection storms.   About one month ago, there was an instance where we suffered over 7 inches of rain falling overnight.  For many trees, that burden of weight was simply too much.  The following day, it did not matter which trail you walked, the way was blocked with large fallen trunks.  It took the trail maintenance team several days to finally cut their way through them all and clear the paths.

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

Prayer Sticks

I think most people are familiar with the Phasmids and Mantids, but rather under different names, Walking Sticks and Praying Mantises.  They have a basic body form that would be instantly recognizable, but only if you could see them.  And that is the problem, they have evolved to blend in perfectly with the background vegetation, firstly to avoid predation and secondly, most certainly in the case of the mantises, to stop their potential prey from seeing them.  Over the course of the year I will find at least one or two species serendipitously.  If I spend a little more time closely examining the vegetation I can generally find one or two species more.

Unidentified Phasmid

Phasmids, or Walking Sticks are vegetarian, many species being host plant specific.  Their body form typically resembles a dead twig, long and thin with spindly legs, and many a time you may find yourself looking directly at the animal but unable to see it.  Some have wings, particularly the females.  Should a potential predator get too close, the Walking Stick has several other methods of completing the deception of crypsis; swaying like a twig in the breeze, remaining motionless, flying off or falling to the ground, flashing brightly colored wings, rattling the wings and some release a noxious chemical spray.

Unidentified Phasmid

Mantids on the other hand are strictly carnivorous.  Instantly recognizable by the prey catching front legs held distinctively in the position of someone at prayer.  The mantids can sometimes be a match for the phasmids when it comes to disguise not only bearing the colors of vegetation but also have the morphological appearance of anything from sticks to leaves to bean pods to flower heads.  It would take a sharp-eyed potential prey item to see its nemesis sitting in wait amongst the vegetation.

Unidentified Mantid

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 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.64 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 4.51 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.0°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 24.1°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 15.2 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 106.7 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Squirrel Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Nine-banded Armadillo

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Great Currasow
  • Black-hooded Antbirds
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Tinamou
  • Riverside Wren
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

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

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Chloreuptychia arnica
  • Cissia confusa
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Panoquina panoquinoides
  • Parides erithalion
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Urbanus tanna

 Plants

  • Black Alligator Tree Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Dinner on a Plate Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Flowering.
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Lechoso Fruiting
  • May Tree Fruiting
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering and Fruiting
  • Yayito Fruiting

Falling into Danger   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog June 12th 2011

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

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

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

Fungus

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

Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn

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

Bracket Fungus     Unidentified Fungus    Titan Mushroom

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

Wasps in Bees Clothing

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

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

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

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

www.bosquedelcabo.com

 Photo Feature

Free Bee Building Materials

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

Female Orchid Bee Collecting Resin     Orchid Bee

Female Orchid Bee Collecting Resin

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

Harlequin Beetle

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

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

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

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

Average Daily Rainfall 0.11 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.75 ins

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

Average Daily Rainfall 2.7 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 19.1 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

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

Birds

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

Reptiles

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

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

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

 

Plants

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

How The Mighty Have Fallen   3 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog June 5th 2011

 

Right on Time

You could hear it coming, like a distant train rapidly advancing, the sound got louder and louder.  The Howler Monkeys became perturbed and started to loudly voice their disapproval.  And then it hit, a wall of water, thrashing the vegetation as it fell with great force from the sky.  All sounds of nature were now obliterated by the torrential downpour.  Only this downpour lasted most of the day.  Eventually having delivered 3 inches of rain from the time when it started in mid afternoon, to when it let up late into the evening.

This is the kind of precipitation we can expect for the next few months.  Thankfully it normally occurs in the evening when everyone has sat down to eat in the restaurant.  But it does mean that the paths are now going to become sticky.  This was the first occasion of 2011 when I have had to don the rubber boots.

Over the following nights, the intensity of rain never lessened.  One night, overnight, there was just over 6 inches of rain adding to a 24 hour total of 10 inches.  The ground, already being saturated, could not hold any more water and so the run off was flowing like a shallow river over the lawns.  By morning the rain had stopped and the sun was shining once again.

Fading Out The Sound

The butterfly numbers continue to decrease as we advance further into the wet season.  The amphibian numbers remain high.  Tink Frogs and Banana Frogs are out in force every evening, their distinctive calls audible only until the rain comes down, when they tend to get drowned out.

One of the events triggered by the increasing precipitation is the nuptial flights of the ants and termites.  The reproductive termites leave the nest at dusk and their nuptial swarms will congregate anywhere where there is a light source.

The Leaf-cutter Ant reproductives tend to leave the nest early in the morning following a night of torrential rain.  At the beginning of the wet season, the established queen in the nest lays eggs which will be taken away by the queen’s attendants to brood chambers where the prevailing environmental conditions result in genetic masking of certain genes thereby causing the development of the new queens.  The new queens are huge, bearing little resemblance to the other ants in the nest.  They also have wings, which the other ants do not.

At the same time as the new queens are being raised, the resident queen also starts laying unfertilized eggs which will become the males, they too are winged.  Coming as they do from unfertilized eggs, the males only have one set of chromosomes, the new queens have two.

When conditions are right, the new queens and the males leave the nest together and the air is filled with huge flying ants.

May in June

The eye-catching bright yellow blooms of the Mayo Trees that decorated the forest canopy for the past few months have faded and died.  Their work has been done though, attracting insect pollinators, as those same trees are now starting to produce fruit.

There are still many fruits to be found on the forest floor.  The bright red aril surrounding the nutmeg of the Fruta Dorada instantly stands out.  The yellow pyramidal blooms of the Santa Maria continue to blossom in the lower levels and forest edges.

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

Recent heavy rains have caused a lot of tree fall.  Many of the trees that become unstable during the dry season still have the benefit of being “cemented” into the ground by the hard soils.  Once the rains do arrive they soften up the ground.  Trees that were precariously balanced now have the rains adding a burden of weight to the crown that often results in the tipping of that balance and down the tree goes, all of a sudden and without warning.  This is what happened last week when a huge Milky Tree, (Brosimum utile), fell across the path to the Tropical Garden.  The falling botanical behemoth knocked down four other trees as it crashed to the forest floor.

Giant Milky Tree Falls

The trail maintenance team was quick off the mark.  Armed with chainsaws and long levers, they cut a section through the tree which they rolled to one side, once again opening up the path even before lunch was over.

Quick Path Clearance

Milky Trees are named from the copious sap they exude when the bark is damaged.  It is bright white in color and has the runny consistency of cream rather than milk.  It is used by native peoples who tap the tree, collect the sap, which upon hardening is used like chewing gum, one of the original sources of chicle.  The bark is also taken off in large sections, steeped in the water for several days until it is leached.  The bark is then dried and beaten with sticks until it becomes soft and pliable with a nap not too dissimilar to towling, at which point it can be used as blankets or in the making of ceremonial clothing.  One recent discovery of interest is that the sap from the root bark has yielded a cytotoxic isoflavone, which has subsequently been found to be an effective treatment for breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.

This is why it is called a Milky Tree

Anyway, I took the opportunity to photograph the now fallen giant.  As the wood has no great value outside of very light construction and laminates, the Bosque construction team had no interest in the tree other than clearing the section from the path. The rate of decay here is very rapid.  High temperatures and humidity provide an excellent incubator for bacteria and fungi which launch a nonstop attack on the fallen wood.  Then you add to the mix the beetle larvae and termites which will help reduce a solid tree to mush in matter of two years or so.

I will try to photographically record the progressive rotting of the tree by taking a picture at the start of every month.  It will be interesting to see just how quickly the recycling takes place.

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 83°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 2.33 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 16.32 ins

Average Daily Temp High 27.8°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.3°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 59.2 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 414.1 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Currasow
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Lineated Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Green Iguana
  • 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
  • Cupido comyntas
  • Detritivora gynaea
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excels
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • 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.
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Inga Fruiting
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Rosa del Monte Flowers
  • Rubber Tree Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

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

 

Milk Is Not the Solution   4 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog April 24th 2011

The last few weeks have been so busy that it has been almost impossible for me to sit down and write up my daily nature diaries in the form of a blog.  Now, with spring break and Easter over, I should be able to get back to normal.  This blog is the summary of all that has happened in the natural world forming my immediate surroundings over the last three weeks and so the species lists and total rainfall figures may seem somewhat inflated compared with my recent weekly summaries.

Curious Cats and Kinkajous

Over the past three weeks, there have been several Puma, (Puma concolor), sightings at various locations around the grounds.  Leaving the hotel one night after work, the restaurant employees saw a young male Puma on the main driveway by Casa Miramar.  He stood in the middle of the road and then headed into the undergrowth and watched the departing staff from the safety of the dense low growing vegetation.  Some visitors saw a Puma on the Titi Trail and yet another one, or perhaps the same individual, was spotted in the Citrus Garden behind the restaurant.

Kinkajou, (Potos flavus), activity has started to increase; their noisy whistles and honks adding to the nightly rustlings in the trees above your head.  After dinner, if you hear the sound of something moving in the vegetation above you, and you then direct the beam of your flashlight upwards, invariably a curious Kinkajou will run down the branch to take a look before disappearing quickly into the tree tops again.

Several mammals tend to be seen following the sunset rather than during the day.  The commonest of these are the Nine-banded Armadillo, (Dasypus novemcinctus), and the Virginia Opossum, (Didelphis virginiana), both of which I regularly observe on nightly outings with people on the Sunset Tour or when undertaking my nocturnal amphibian counts.

One morning, a noise which I had heard on many previous instances, was coming from outside my cabin, an arrhythmic thump, thump thump.  I went outside to find the cause of the sound which I knew, in fact, would be a large caviomorph rodent, the Agouti, (Dasyprocta punctata).  When danger threatens, in the same fashion as frightened rabbits, the Agouti thumps its foot against the ground.  On most other occasions this has revealed, upon closer scrutiny of the area around the disturbed rodent, a snake, generally a Boa of greater or smaller dimensions.  This time I could not find the subject of the Agoutis consternation but I am sure it was going to be around somewhere.

After The Deluge

The past three weeks has experienced some of the first heavy downpours of the impending rainy season.  There were several nights when we were subjected to some early evening deluges.

Milky Frog

The resulting reaction to this saturating stimulus is an explosion in amphibian numbers, both in respect to individuals and species.  We had two particularly intense drenchings separated by a week or so.  Both occasions drew the same response, a huge number of Milky Frogs, (Trachycephala venulosus), which seemingly arrive from nowhere, their numbers been very limited on normal count nights.  Following the heavy rain, they appear in dozens, the surface of the pond hosting a dreadful cacophony of calling males whose sole intention is to quickly find a single available female with whom to mate.  Many of them obviously succeed because the following morning the pond and floating aquatic vegetation is covered with their small black eggs.

Most frog eggs in the tropics hatch after a period of about a week, but not so the Milky Frog.  Their eggs are remarkable in as much as they hatch within 24 hours, after which the pond will be filled with small black tadpoles.  Following a further 6 – 8 weeks, the newly metamorphosed golden green colored froglets emerge from the pond.

Last year we had the first time appearance of Olive Tree Frogs, (Scinax elaeochroa), at the pond.  Their presence was of brief duration, but enough to fox me for several nights with the new calls I could not recognize until seeing one out in the open calling with gusto.  Their temporary occupation of the pond must have been successful as I have just seen a juvenile in amongst all the other pond regulars.

Not long after the vocal manifestation of the Rain Frogs heralded the approaching rainy season, the first actual rains encouraged out of hiding for the first time in five months the nightly sound of little ringing metal bells, that particular sound created by the Tink Frog.  Noticeable by their absence during the dry period, we will now have seven months of dusk till dawn chiming, their calls infinitely preferable to the dreadful din of the Milky Frogs, which thankfully only occurs once or twice at the onset of the rains.  In Spanish the Tink Frog is known as the Martallito, the little metal hammer, because its call closely resembles the tinny ring of a small hammer hitting an anvil.

One other frog to emerge in rain induced numbers are the Banana Frogs which will now be present in greater or smaller numbers at least until December.

Mating Banana Frogs

Fading Beauty

The butterfly season is on the downturn now.  Most numbers of individuals and species occur throughout February and March.  The start of the rains can severely deplete numbers seen but extended periods of sun between the showers will see the numbers rise once again but not to the peaks of the dry season.

One thing that I will notice though is the frequency at which I will encounter a few species of butterfly that I will only see maybe once or twice during the course of the year.  It is always nice to renew this re-acquaintance as well as recording species that I have previously not monitored on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.

The swirling and frenzied clouds of Green Urania Moths are now diminishing in numbers too.  They will have mated, laid eggs, the adults are dying and the resulting new offspring upon emergence will fly off is search  of new Omphalia vine hence continuing that verdant migration back and forward throughout Central America.

One particular moth has been capturing the attention of some of the visitors walking the trails if only for its initial shock value, the Bird Wing Moth, (Thysania agrippina).  When disturbed it vacates its perch on the side of a tree trunk, taking to flight some enormous floppy bat flying away from you down the forest path only to suddenly disappear from in front of your eyes as quickly as it appeared.  If you approach slowly, you will see the moth has alighted on the trunk of the tree, its wings aligned up to down, its body horizontal.  The wings are patterned with a series of wavy lines that look to all intents and purposes like the bark of the tree.  Only the visually acute will spot them in this position.

Broken Blossoms

There is a constantly changing flux of plants flowering and fruiting.  The recent blooms of Lady of the Night Orchid have momentarily faded.  Walking through the forest you will happen upon many fallen blooms and fruits from vines, trees and their associated epiphytes.

Minute white flowers of the Hobo or Hog Plum, (Spondias mombin), carpet the forest floor like confetti from a secretive woodland wedding ceremony.  The Legato Negro is also in flower, its blooms appear to a rich prize for the Leaf-cutter Ants which harvest them from the tops of the tree crown, descend and carry them over large distances, finally returning to the nest where they will be processed into compost along with any other plant material that enters the subterranean Attine domain.

In recent weeks I have seen the bases of Ajo trees, (Caryocar costaricense), littered with their fallen green fruits.  The fruits have an oily nutritious pulp that the rodents enjoy eating.  The presence of high rodent numbers can attract in another, less welcome by some, visitor to the base of the trees, snakes, in particular, the Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper).  These large pit vipers are ambush predators that sit and wait, sometimes for days on end, for a meal in the form of a small furry creature to pass by.  It is one reason why you should check the base of trees before complacently stepping in to have your photograph taken against some of the giant buttresses.

Two species of Nutmeg Trees have recently been producing the “Golden Fruits” that give the trees their name, Fruta Dorada.  The golden fruits are the hard shelled nuts that upon ripening and splitting reveal the seed that is the nutmeg and the bright red membranous aril that surrounds it.

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 shorted and stuttered rain induced breeding frenzy of the Milky Frogs was witnessed by many of the visitors to Bosque, some of whom could not contain their curiosity and simply had to go and investigate what was causing the unfaltering ruckus they were hearing over the course of their dinner.  For one young boy the effect was overwhelming, reducing him to tears, seriously disturbed by a sight he, (as far as he is concerned), hopefully will never witness again.

Milky Frog

It is almost impossible for me to give the spoken part of the Sunset Tour over the top of such a din, and I often have to retire to the quieter confines of the garage across the road before I can make myself heard.

Milky Frogs are the largest of the Costa Rican Tree Frogs.  They are sometimes referred to as Marbled Tree Frogs because of the handsome mottled browns and beige of the body color.  As documented above it is an explosive breeder.  I only count it in small numbers, if at all around the pond, but they are obviously there because as I have mentioned, with the first torrential rain, they come out in force, up to 50 or 60 individuals.  It is another frog that has the ability to glide from the tree tops to ground level using widely spread and heavily webbed fingers and toes.  This allows the frog to take advantage of perfect breeding conditions very rapidly.  Significantly other frogs such as the Smoky Jungle Frog were present in much smaller numbers than normal while the one off Milky Frog invasion occurred.  The males grab anything that moves and I think that overzealous behavior may have kept other amphibians at bay.

Milky Frog

When disturbed, the Milky Frog gives off from glands in its skin, a thick white secretion that can prove to be highly irritating especially if making contact with mucus membranes such as mouth, nose and eyes.  In fact it can cause temporary blindness.

It occurred to me that I should go along after dinner and photograph the event.  So after I finished up in the office, I returned to the pond at 11:00 pm.  Just as I arrived, an incredible thing happened, as one all of the frogs stopped calling.  It was so simultaneous that it seemed like an off switch had been hit.  Not only that, but as I tried to compose some exposures, the frogs made a mass exit from the water and ran up the side of the trees like small mice on amphetamine sulphate.  Within a matter of minutes the pond have had been vacated with the same alarming rapidity with which it was occupied only a few hours earlier.

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog Spawning     Red-eyed Green Tree Frog Spawn     Red-eyed Green Tree Frog Spawn

It was while I stood marveling at the truly amazing scene unfolding in front of my eyes that I noticed a pair of amplected Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs that had made their way, despite their boisterous co-inhabitants, under a low lying leaf and they were beginning to lay eggs.  I couldn’t quite get in at a good angle to record the event but managed to get at least several shots.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 86°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 74°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.32 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 6.73 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.2 °C.  Average Daily Temp Low 23.0 °C.

Average Daily Rainfall 7.9 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 166.4 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Agouti
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Kinkajou
  • Tayra
  • Puma
  • Collared Peccaries

Birds

  • Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Great Currasow
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Mangrove Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • White Hawk
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Stripe-throated Hummingbird
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Chestnut-backed Antbirds
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Spectacled Owls
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Masked Tityra
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Slaty-tailed Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • King Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Green Iguana
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Boa constrictor
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Litter Snake
  • Salmon-bellied Racer
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Adelpha cytherea
  • Adelpha heraclera
  • Adelpha serpa
  • Aeria euromedia
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Anastrus naearis
  • Anatrytone potosiensis
  • Anthoptus Epictetus
  • Antirrhea philoctetes
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Astraptes egregious
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Battus polydamus
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Callicore lyca
  • Callimormus radiola
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Catonephele numilia
  • Cissia confusa
  • Colobura dirce
  • Copaeodes minima
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Euphyes vestris
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurema daira
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Hyalyris excelsa
  • Junonia everete
  • Laparus doris
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia berania
  • Mechanitis lysimnia
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Melinaea scylax
  • Mesosemia zonalis
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Morys valerius
  • Nastra Julia
  • Panoquina evansi
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis agarithe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Polites vibex
  • Pompeius pompeius
  • Pseudolycaena damo
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Quasimellena balsa
  • Rhetus arcius
  • Saliana fusta
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Temenis laothoe
  • Tigridia acesta
  • Urbanus proteus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

 Plants

  • Almendra Fruiting
  • Balsa Fruiting
  • Barrigón Fruiting
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Garlic Tree Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering.
  • Cannonball Tree Fruiting
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Guanacaste Tree Fruiting
  • Gustavia Flowering
  • Hog Plum Flowering
  • Inga Fruiting
  • Lady of the Night Orchid Flowering
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Passion Vine Flowering
  • Pochote Tree Flowering
  • Psychotria Fruiting
  • Rubber Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering
  • Sombrerito Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting
  • Ylang ylang Flowering

Lunatics Beware the Ides of March   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog March 20th 2011

Marpesia furcula

Shrivelling Earth – Wilting Trees

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

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

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

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

Are You Bats?

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

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

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

Life Springs Forth Anew

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

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

The Aerial Orange Vortex

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

Recording New Species

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

Yanguna cosyra

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

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.

www.bosquedelcabo.com

Photo Feature

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

Longhorn Beetle Longhorn Beetle Mystery Beetle

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

Mystery Beetle

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

Mystery Beetle

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

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

Average Daily Rainfall 0.11 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.80 ins

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

Average Daily Rainfall 0.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.0 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

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

Birds

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

Reptiles

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

Amphibians

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

Butterflies

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

Plants

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