Archive for the ‘Rainy Season’ Tag

Eating Thin Wet Snails   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog May 21st  2012

Inevitable Change

The wet season is truly upon us..  We are now seeing the normal pattern of rainfall, which at this time of year can be erratic; sunny for several hours followed by heavy rainfall and then more sun.  Bosque has once again turned green.

Along with all the new fresh growth goes the old growth.  Some of the larger trees that have stood in place for decades and have aged, feel the burden of weight imposed after heavy rainfall and down they go.  It is not a slow process, there will be a crack, snap and bang down goes the tree in a matter of seconds, the critical point having been reached and exceeded.  It doesn’t have to be the whole tree, more often than not it will be a large branch that breaks and falls.

The falling trees and branches at first may seem destructive.  Falling trees knock over other trees which in turn knock down more trees as they fall.  As branches tumble from the canopy they snag and tear down vines which are entwined throughout the vegetation so dislodging yet more of the plant life.  But this is all part of the succession of regeneration that has occurred on an annual basis over millennia.

The falling trees and branches open up gaps in the canopy and spaces on the ground thereby presenting an ideal opportunity for re-growth.  Those pioneering species whose seeds lie dormant within the soil are stimulated by the now increased temperature and light levels afforded by the gaping hole in the forest canopy, they germinate and rapidly grow to fill the light gap.  All of those shade tolerant saplings that grew to a certain size, stopped and then progressed to storing a lot of energy in their roots are now liberated from the confines of darkness.  They had waited in a state of suspended animation for this situation to arise and when it does up they go fuelled by the potential energy saved for this moment.

The fast growing pioneer species will have flowered and fruited several times before the shade tolerant species overshadow them.  It will then be their turn to produce flowers in the canopy, have them pollinated and then produce a wealth of fruit over many years.  But eventually the ultimate fate of death, for whatever reason, will befall them, over they will go and the cycle will be complete.

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

Slim Shady

This week was a good snake week.  The Tropical Bird-eating Snakes, (Pseustes poecilonotus), were out in force.  There were several individuals of varying size around the bar area.  Due to the excited behavior of one particular female Cherrie’s Tanager, (Ramphocelus costaricensis), I am pretty sure she had a nest in the area.  True to their name, the bird-eating snakes show up as if by magic when there is an occupied nest with potential food in the form of eggs or chicks.

One lunch time a young couple who were staying at the lodge found a snake in the same vicinity that the bird-eaters had been skulking, so when I was informed there was a snake close by, that is what I imagined I was going to find.  When I got to the low lying bush in which the snake had been seen to enter, I was pleasantly surprised to find the long, slender, cordlike body of a Brown Vine Snake, (Oxybelis aeneus).

Brown Vine Snake         Brown Vine Snake         Brown Vine Snake

As the name suggests, the vine snakes closely resemble the vegetation in which they can be found winding their way through.  For that reason, despite the fact that they are reasonably common, they are not that easy to find.

The slender body shape and brown coloration allows them to make their way stealthily towards their preferred prey, the various species of anolis lizards.  An unwary lizard will be unaware of the approaching danger until the snake strikes but by that time it is too late.

Brown Vine Snake

The body shape and color as serve to disguise the snake from its predators.  If something does get too close, the Brown Vine Snake opens its mouth wide, exposing a very dark interior and then strikes out repeatedly at its aggressor.  It is however non poisonous and poses little threat to humans.

Towards the end of the week, the new manager of Bosque, Andreas, brought in a snake that he thought might be one of the cat-eyed snake species.  When I had a look, I could see the very blunt nose of a snaileater but I didn’t immediately know which species.  The grey ground color of the body was ringed with bands of black edged in orange.  There was the clue, the diagnostic feature which allowed the snake to be literally identified as an Orange-banded Snail-eater, (Sibon dimidiatus).

Orange-banded Snail-eater         Orange-banded Snail-eater         Orange-banded Snail-eater

This was the first snail-eater I had seen in 12 years at the lodge.  One of the reasons that they may not be encountered too often is the fact that they are nocturnal and arboreal, so unless you are in the tree tops at night, the chances of seeing one are slim.  True to their name, the main item on the diet of these snakes is gastropod mollusks.

Orange-banded Snail-eater

In so many years at Bosque I am still thrilled when a new animal or plant turns up.  Many of the butterflies and snakes I have inventoried at Bosque I have only ever seen once.  I would suggest that there is probably a more thriving population than just one, although it could be with the butterflies they were just passing through, but I doubt it.  Still, the incredible diversity of these forests is brought to bear from this once in a lifetime encounters.

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 0.56 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 3.93 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 14.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 99.8 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

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

 

Birds

 

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazons
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Crested Caracara
  • Great Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Long-billed Hummingbird
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Rufus Piha
  • Buff-rumped Warbler
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

 

Reptiles

 

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Brown Vine Snake
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Common Basilisk
  • Five-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Northern Cat-eyed Snake
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

 

Amphibians

 

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

 

Butterflies

 

  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Parides erithalion
  • Philaetria dido
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

 

Plants

 

  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Lacmellea panamensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia valerii Fruiting
  • Gustavia brachycarpa Flowering
  • Apeiba toubouru Flowering and Fruiting

 

 

Wet White Witch With a Frog in her Throat   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog April 16th  2012

Damp Earth

The temperatures are still high but over the past two weeks the rains have started.  Whereas recently the forest in general and the lawns in particular seemed to be suffering from the lack of water, as soon as the skies opened, a change was obvious.  Those greens that were tinged with yellow and edged with brown have now become verdant green again.  Within days, the lawns had changed from burned and crispy in texture to lush and soft once again.  The Calabash trees with their trunks covered in ferns and orchids, last week appeared to be enveloped in a shaggy brown coat of withered, twisted leaves.  All it took was one overnight downpour and the resurrection ferns transformed into a rich thick mass of luxuriant foliage carpeting the tree trunk.

The initial rains, along with the promise of more to come, did not continue.  All the crabs and amphibians that had appeared en masse progressively over the following nights lessened in numbers once more.  It won’t be long before the rainy season does kick in and so all those creatures dependent upon or preferring wetter conditions may only have to wait a short time before they can re-emerge.  The plants have had an early drink to quench their 4 month enforced thirst but within the next few months their roots will be soaked in water.

They Are Where They Are

People often question where and when they can go and see animals.  Unfortunately nature is not compliant with our wishes to observe it.  One of the most important aspects inherent to Bosque del Cabo, is that it represents a wonderful microcosm of all that can be found in Costa Rica: the plant and animal diversity is phenomenal.  It does not take most visitors long to appreciate that they have found themselves in a special place.  Within hours of arriving visitors may have seen all 4 species of monkey, agoutis, coatis, macaws, toucans, poison dart frogs.  The trick is seeing all of these animals is to be in the same place at the same time as they are and that is just a question of luck.

Sometimes you don’t need to venture further than your own cabin, other days you just have to choose a trail and walk.  Quite often if a trail was seemingly devoid of life one day, 24 hours later it will be teeming with life.  If there happens to be a particular tree producing copious amounts of fruit, then you might expect to find a great many fruit eating animals feasting in that tree for several days.

The best time to watch birds is early morning and late afternoon.  Most people head out into the open garden areas bordered by a forest edge as these tend to be frequented by many species of bird.  Amphibians are best observed as the sun sets.  At that time out come the male frogs which can, as with the birds, be heard as well as seen, allowing you to home in on their location.

Time of year and weather both have a profound effect on certain animal behaviors and therefore your ability to see them.  Hot dry days will encourage more butterflies to take to the wing than colder wetter days.  It is amazing how many amphibians will appear as if by magic given a night of heavy rain following months of little or no precipitation.

So, in answer to the question where can we go to see wildlife, it is where it is, just pick your trail and walk.  The diversity of life here is so intense that you will see something, we generally can’t say go to this place at this time and there you will find such and such because invariably it won’t be there.  But what better way to start your day than to head out without any expectations and enjoying the serendipity of discovery.  I have been here for 12 years and I still find new creatures two or three times a week.  Bosque del Cabo forms an endless source of natural intrigue.

Up, Down and All Around

The rains that came over several nights in succession had the amphibian life emerging in huge numbers.  One of the first frogs to respond is the Milky Frog, (Trachycephala venulosus), the largest tree frog in Costa Rica.  Following one night of heavy rain the pond was full of calling males.  The sound was so loud it could be heard from the restaurant.  The next morning, the pond was full of Milky Frog spawn.  They continued to call for several nights after but not with the initial frenzy of the first evening’s activity.

The Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, (Agalychnis callydryas) had been noticeably absent over the past few months.  Normally at least one or two can be heard calling throughout the course of the dry season but this year not a sound.  With the rains came the frogs, not many but the familiar “chuck, chuck” sound could be heard at the top of the vegetation all around the pond.  Some males had even made their way down to the lower levels where they could easily be seen.

Several other frogs that had not been seen for 3 or 4 months also re-appeared.  Masked Smiliscas, (Smilisca phaeota), with their distinctive “Mwaa” calls, turned up at the pond in small numbers.  A lone Gladiator Frog, (Hypsoboas rosenbergi), also turned up for several nights in succession announcing itself with the characteristic “Toc Toc” call somewhat reminiscent of two pieces of wood being knocked together.  From deep in the forest that little bell like chime that one closely associates with the wet season, the call of the Tink Frog, (Diasporus diastema), could be heard from one or two individuals.

Fleeting Glimpses

We had two Puma, (Puma concolor), sightings on the grounds this week.  One occurred in the early evening not too far from the construction work area.  Some of the staff saw what seemed to be a very young Puma walking away from them.  One the workers had a telephone and caught the image.  Later on the same day, some the guests to the lodge who were walking along the Golfo Dulce Trail to go to the beach, saw a large male Puma standing momentarily staring at them before heading off into the forest.  Unfortunately the moment passed too quickly for them to get the photograph.

One night after dinner as a guest was settling his bill, he had to quickly return to his cabin to fetch his wallet.  He was greeted at the front of his cabin by the sight of two eyes glowing in the beam of his flashlight.  He remained still and waited to see the form of the creature appear in full.  What he found was a beautiful Ocelot, (Leopardus pardalis), standing looking at him.  It remained long enough for him to see the fabulous painted markings of its fur before it too turned and slowly walked into the dense vegetation at the back of the cabin.

Young and Old

Last week I showed photographs of an adult Salmon-bellied Racer, (Mastigodryas melanolomus), that I had found.  This week, I happened across a juvenile not too far from my cabin.  It was a perfect opportunity to compare the markings of the young and mature forms.  One of the things that is difficult in identifying young snakes is that they are quite often so completely different in markings and coloration to the adult form.  With this one you can clearly see the horizontal stripe of the mature snake but also the distinct brown banding of the juvenile too.  The belly as yet lacks the deep salmon pink so noticeable in the adult form.

Salmon-bellied Racer - juvenile

Salmon-bellied Racer - Adult

Salmon-bellied Racer - juvenile

Over the past week I have seen several other snakes; the Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilonotus), two species of Litter Snake, (Rhadinea decorata and Coniophanes fissidens), and the Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper).

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

 That’s No Bat Man!

One night as I returned to my cabin there was a large moth, in fact the largest species of moth that exists, resting on one of the posts of my bathroom.  I hurried to get my camera but when I returned it had already flown off.  The moth in question, a Birdwing or White Witch Moth, (Thyania agrippina), is not that uncommon in these forests but this one had been at eye level rather than high up on a tree trunk which would have lent itself to a good photograph.

Birdwing Moth

The Birdwing Moth is an impressive Noctuid moth with a wingspan of some 12 inches.  They align themselves so the wings are place parallel to the trunk of the tree.  The light grey background color is patterned with dark wavy lines so that they closely resemble the striations of tree bark.  The forewings are much longer than the hind wings which draw the patterning out.  The trailing edges of the wings are crenulated serving to breaking up the outline and blending it in perfectly with the tree bark rendering the lepidopteran almost invisible to the casual observer.  They do have a habit of taking flight if approached though and many people are convinced they have seen a large floppy bat fly off into the forest.

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 mm

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Common Opossum
  • Agouti
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Vesper Rat
  • White-nosed Coati

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazons
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Currasow
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Rufus Piha
  • Mangrove Cuckoo
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Green Honeycreeper
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Buff-rumped Warbler
  • Great Tinamou
  • Little Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Slaty-tailed Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • King Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Common Basilisk
  • Five-lined Ameiva
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Snake
  • Northern Cat-eyed Snake
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

 Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Agraulis vanillae
  • Anartia Fatima
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Caligo atreus
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Calycopis isobeon
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Marpesia berania
  • Marpesia furcula
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Philaetria dido
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogryra crameri
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Temenis laothoe

 Plants

  • Bamboo Orchid Flowering
  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cannonball Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cashew Flowering and Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
  • Hog Plum Flowering
  • May Tree Flowering
  • Monkey Comb Tree Fruiting
  • Mountain Rose Flowering
  • Passion Vine Flowering and Fruiting
  • Stinky Toe Fruiting

 

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