Archive for the ‘Silver-orb Spider’ Tag

Spiders: The Eighth Level of Diversity   2 comments


Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

The rainfall of April, May and June from 2016 was more or less exactly the same in terms of monthly totals for the same periods in 2107 but this week has proved to be very wet.  The rain has been incessant, both day and night with very little of the sun having been seen.  A total of 15 inches rain fell and now the creek is running quite fast, so no water problems this year.

Spiders:  Not Everyone’s Favorite

I have to admit that many people I take out would rather just walk straight past spiders and ignore their presence.  Some people, despite their revulsion, are intrigued by their natural history, they are, after all, fascinating creatures.  I find them interesting to observe, understand and photograph.  They are mini carnivores with a wealth of different life histories.  They are also ubiquitous, they can be found just about anywhere on the planet, (apart from maybe Antarctica), and in abundance.  It is often stated that at no point in your life are you any more than six feet away from a spider and I can demonstrate the proof of that fact quite adequately every evening when I take people on the night walk.

There are approximately 40,000 species of spider distributed worldwide which makes them the eighth most numerously named group of animals on the planet.  Although they are all, (apart from possibly one species), carnivores and use venom to subdue and kill their prey, they are not dangerous to humans expect for those well documented species, the numbers of which you could count on the fingers of your hands.

Spiders divide up into two broad groups.  The first group are the Tarantulas, Trapdoor Spiders, Funnel-web Spiders and the Purse-web Spiders.  The second group are all other spiders and they are subdivided depending of the mode of food capture.  There are the Web Weavers; those spiders that produce the familiar silken webs but those webs also come in different forms.  There are Orb-web weavers, Sheet-web Weavers, Tangle-web Weavers and Lace-web Weavers.  Then there are Ambush Spiders such as Crab Spiders as well as Wolf Spides, Huntsman Spiders, Lynx Spiders, Fishing Spiders, Spitting Spiders, Jumping Spiders, Woodlouse Hunters and Wandering Spiders.  All in all, if there is a way of catching prey, then spiders have it covered.

A Living Tetrahedron

I noticed this spider last week crossing the road in front of me.  The bright yellow coloration was in marked contrast to the grey grit across which it was scurrying.  As I bent down to take the photograph, the spider went into a defensive posture and tucked its legs up against the body.  This made it easy for me but gives it a somewhat unnatural pose.  I think this individual must have fallen from an overhanging tree branch, maybe escaping becoming a meal for a larger animal.  Being bright yellow might work to disguise it amongst foliage but not against the dark grey of the road surface.

Rainforest arachnid. Rainforest areneae. Costa Rica spider.

The strange tetrahedron shaped body of this unidentified spider

You can gauge how small the creature was by the size of the grit next to it which is only about 1mm across.  When looked at close-up though you can see the spider is remarkably shaped.  The body is drawn up into an almost polygonal shape, a tetrahedron, rounded along its edges.  There are raised red nodules along the rear edge.  You would think that these would make it an easy spider to identify, but no such luck.  Extensive searching has not provided an I.D.  I would hazard a guess that it is one of the many tropical orb-weavers.  If anyone has a name I would be very grateful to receive it.

A Silver Orb in the Sun

Further down the road, in an open sunny area I saw a large web with the weaver sitting in the center, its eight legs forming a cross of four pairs.  Because of its location I could not get around to the opposite side to get a dorsal view so had to settle for the ventral view.

This species I had seen before, on numerous occasions.  This was a Silver-orb Spider, (Argiope argentata).  The fluting of the body rim along with the black and yellow tiger striping of the legs are examples of disruptive form and coloration which serve to make the creature less spider-like.  It is an effective form of camouflage used throughout the animal kingdom.

Rainforest Silver-orb Spider. Rainforest animals. Argiope argentata Costa Rica. Spider web. Spider silk.

Ventral view of a Silver-orb Spider, (Argiope argentata)

The web itself is constructed from silken threads.  Silk is an amazing material and deserves a book devoted solely to that subject.  Silk is both elastic and strong.  Orb-weavers can produce upto five different kinds of silk, each variety having a different use.  Silk is produced as a liquid in the silk glands, it is then secreted from the spinnerets where it is drawn out by the hind legs into the long threads.

To construct the web, the spider first has to create a framework of threads radiating from the center.  Then starting on the outside, it spins a spiral thread, round and around towards the center.  The spiral silk is coated in a sticky hygroscopic glue which serves to catch any prey item unfortunate enough to fly or fall into it.  The elasticity of the threads takes out the kinetic energy of an impacting large flying insect and stops the web from breaking.  Silver-orb Spiders are fairly large and consequently so are their webs.  They are reasonably common in the area so it does not take too much effort to find them.

Hidden Death Dealer in the Flowerheads

Sometime ago I noticed a butterfly behaving in a very strange way on one of the Lantana flowerheads.  Further investigation revealed the butterfly was dead and the unusual movement was being caused by it being manipulated within the legs of a small but efficient killer, a Crab-spider.

Crab spiders are small squat spiders and receive their name due to their ability to walk sideways as well as forwards and backwards.  They are ambush predators.  Some have the capability of changing color over a period of weeks to match that of the flower where they are sitting and waiting for a prey item to land.  In this case the victim was a White-banded Fatima (Anartia fatima).

Rainforest Crab Spider. Unidentified Thomisidae sp Costa Rica.

Unidentified Crab Spider captures, kills and eats White-banded Fatima

The butterfly would have been totally unaware of the lethal assassin’s presence.  As soon as it landed to take a feed of nectar, the longer and stronger front two pairs of spider legs would have grabbed it.  The butterfly’s wings would have been beating frantically but taking flight was no longer possible.  At the same time, a powerful venom would have been injected through the spiders fangs into the butterfly’s body killing it almost immediately.  The spider holds on until the venom has done its work.  The wings stop beating and the now lifeless butterfly is motionless.  Digestive enzymes injected with the venom liquidize the butterfly’s innards which the spider will then suck out as a soup.  It will then let the dry and drained husk of the victim fall to the ground.

To find crab spiders you have to search diligently among the flower heads.  Sitting patiently without moving and having the same color as their ambush position makes them difficult to spot.  Sometimes the only clue to their presence is the telltale sign of strange behavioral anomalies of their victims.

Rainforest Crab spider. Thomisidae Costa Rica. Rainforest animals. Rainforest Spiders.

Death hidden by beauty. Crab Spider waits at tip of a flower for a meal to arrive

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

Cat Scratch Fever   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog August 17th 2013

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Interrupted Halcion Days

This week has followed more or less the same pattern as last week with the area experiencing warm, dry and bright days with a small amount of rain falling over night.  It is just enough to keep  the area damp with a humid atmosphere.  Towards the end of the week more and more began to fall until eventually the days turned grey and the rain persisted for more or less 24 hour periods.  Then just as we thought we might have seen the last of the sun until November, out it came once more.

That is the problem with predicting the weather here.  The national forecast can give you the weather for a wide area but locally the difference between conditions at Bosque del Cabo and only a few miles in either direction can be that of a hot bright sunny day versus an overcast chilly deluge.

Jackpot

Changing the memory cards in the cameras on the Titi Trail is always a prelude to excited anticipation.  Every Saturday the cards are removed, brought back to the lodge, inserted into the laptop and then meticulously scrutinized for whatever was taking place on the trail over the last seven days.  Any humans are immediately eliminated.  Dates and times are recorded for each species so we can build up a data base of activity.

After six weeks we know we are going to get a lot of the same animals stealing the majority of the show.  Camera #1 is place in an area where there is more dense growth around and above the camera.  Here we get a lot of videos featuring Agoutis,(Dasyprocta agouti), during the day and their cousins the Pacas, (Agouti paca), at night.  This is also the area where we find Tamanduas, (Tamandua mexicana), Nine-banded Armadillos, (Dasypus novemcinctus), Common Opossums, (Didelphis marsupialis), Red-tailed Squirrels, (Sciurus granatensis), as well as some Collared Peccaries, (Tayassu tajacu) and the occasional White-lipped Peccary, (Tayassu pecari).

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Red-tailed Squirrel         Paca         Collared Peccary

Camera #2 is much closer to the end of the trail. The path is much clearer and the trees above are more open crowned so it tends to be a lot lighter.  Once again we have Agoutis active during the day and Pacas at night.  But this area really does seem to be alive with White-collared Peccaries 24/7.  Peccaries of all ages, in large or small groups or even alone walk every which way on this trail.  If our guest walk this trail they can see for themselves the ground criss-crossed with hoof prints.  However this last week some of our guests saw prints that were not only distinct but huge too.  A big cat had walked this way.  He had left his mark in terms of pugmarks around various parts of the property.

So the memory cards were duly brought back and the video viewing began.  Each video is of 30 seconds duration and if when it commences you can see any of the above animals you can move on.  Sometimes the camera will have been triggered by movement of something not in shot.  If after the time is up and nothing has been seen then the video is deleted.  This week there were 600 videos to sit through.  Another Agouti, another peccary, some more visitors, all very nice but where is the special guest star?

Camera #1 had 300 videos, there was a great deal of animal life but no cat.  Camera #2 had another 300 videos to sift through.  Up to  #272 there were endless videos of some Agoutis but mostly peccaries, a great many of which were of excellent quality. Then came video #273 and BINGO, we hit the jackpot.  A fabulous video of that huge male Puma, (Puma concolor).

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You can see he looking for something.  The resident Bosque female, “Half Tail” is commonly found on that trail.  But he is also in “Peccary Alley” and there is nothing Pumas like to eat more than  tasty little peccaries.  The Spider Monkeys in the trees above are fully aware of his presence, they are giving the incessant and frantic high pitched bark that constitutes the alarm call reserved for large cats.  If ever you hear that sound coming from somewhere in the forest then you know full well what is walking on the forest floor.

The fun did not stop there.  The handsome predator goes walking past camera but the next photo shows him in full flight running back from whence he came.  The chance of snatching a single peccary that may have strayed too far from the herd might be worth the risk of a feline hunter of this size venturing into “Peccary Alley” but it is however a risk.  There are sizeable numbers of peccaries in this area.  They are not going to tolerant of something posing a threat to them or their offspring.  A defensively agitated peccary would be a fearsome adversary at the best of times but multiply that number into 10 or 20 plus and you have a potential life threatening situation on your hands, (paws).

The photo was that of the rear end of the Puma fleeing for its life.  The next video showed why.  Irate peccaries numbering in groups of 3 or 4, one group after another, all charging along the trail, the hair on their bodies bristling, the scent gland exposed, grunting and huffing, but more particular the clacking of the teeth.  The action was fast and furious.  The Puma had no chance, it was so outnumbered.  Once the excitement had died down and the peccaries were satisfied the predator had been shown the true order of world they returned to “Peccary Alley”.  The next few videos show the self-congratulatory individuals of the repulsive warrior force rubbing against one another sharing in an exchange of glandular secretion to bond the herd.

Slow to Show

One group of creatures very noticeable by their absence in these tropical forests are the mollusks. It has  been suggested that the soils in the area have low levels of calcium and therefore lacking in shell building material.  There are no shortage of marine mollusks but then there is no shortage of calcium in the sea.  The land crabs are crustaceans and so have an exoskeleton composed of calcified chitin, a protein, the calcium initially coming from the crabs formative time in the ocean and the subsequent visits to the ocean on the annual reproductive migration.  Many of the snails to be found in these forests are carnivorous, (feeding on other snails), but tend to be small with translucent thin shells.

Tropical Land Snail

This particular mollusk had a very thick large shell.  On thirteen years of walking through the forests of Bosque del Cabo I very rarely see mollusk and this particular species I have only seen live on 2 or 3 occasions. Identifying the species has proved somewhat difficult by I will keep searching.

Black and Yellow Peril

Scattered throughout the gardens of Bosque are several specimens of a plant native to Central America but more familiar to those guests who have visited Hawaii where it is not in fact native and that in fact is Frangipani, (Plumeria rubra).

This week it was noticed that the Frangipani was host to a plague of very large caterpillars munching their way through the leaves.  The caterpillars were so distinct, not only due to their large size, but also the eye-catching velvety black and yellow banding and the vivid red heads.  They were without doubt moth caterpillars whose identities are not always easy to arrive at given the number of species. These ones posed no such problem though, they are the larval stage of the aptly named Frangipani Moth, (Pseudosphinx triota).

Frangipani Sphynx Moth

The caterpillars are so spectacularly large and so brightly colored it would seen as if they were just a meal waiting to be consumed by any bird or lizard.  They also have the habit of lifting the front end of the body and waving the head violently from side to side which is not the  exactly behavior of an animal trying to remain hidden from view.  In point of fact black and yellow is the most visible color combination that exists and animals bearing this most acutely bicolored attire want you to be aware of and shun their presence.  Think of it, bees, wasps, hornets all sport these colors as do many poisonous butterflies, spiders and snakes as well as some species of poison dart frog.  This is aposomatic coloration otherwise known as warning coloration.

Psuedosphynx triota

The caterpillars of The Frangipani Moth before consuming the Plumeria leaves bite through the base of the leaf stalk.  A white milky latex leaks out thereby stemming the flow into the leaf.  But  some of the latex the caterpillar imbibes.  It contains alkaloids which then render the caterpillar distasteful, and cyanogenic glycocides, (cyanide), which render it downright poisonous, to any unsuspecting and naive predator.  Better take notice of that warning coloration.

Banana vs Small-heads

Over the past few blogs I have posted information and photos separately of two small yellow frogs found by the pond this time of year.  Below I have posted two photographs to show the two species in juxtaposition.  The top photo is the Banana Frog, (Dendropsophus ebreccatus), and the bottom photo is the Small-headed Frog, (Dendropsophus microcephalus).  These two individuals were photographed on the same evening very close to each other.  The Banana Frog is handsomely marked with large blotches of yellow and tan.  The Small-headed Frog is more uniformly colored with stripes down the length of the body.  However the two species are not always so distinctly marked which causes the confusion in identity.

Banana Frog

Small-headed Frog

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

Legging It

The past few weeks have been good for spiders which may or may not be good news depending how you feel about these creatures.  Arachnids in general seem to have a polarizing effect on peoples behavior.  In these forests there are a great many spider species and they are not that easy to identify sometimes. There are 2 commonly seen species of bark scorpion and a night it doesn’t take much searching before you will find tailless whip scorpions.

I always find that spiders make a good subject for photography as they are generally stationary, either on the vegetation like the wandering spiders, disguised amongst the flower heads such as the crab spiders or suspended in a web such as the orb spiders.  Macro photography and orb spiders pose a little bit of a problem as the spider is not compact, having eight spread legs and any slight zephyr of wind will move the web in an out of focus including, of course, the spider itself.

I you choose to look it won’t take too long before you start to notice that Bosque is not short of spiders of any sort.  The Golden Orb Spiders, (Nephila clavipes), are perhaps the most noticeable as they make very large webs of bright yellow silk and in areas very close to or in the restaurant and around the cabins.  The spider itself is impressively large.

Golden-orb Spider

You will notice the large and seemingly complex web is made from two types of silk.  The orb is made from a sticky silk.  Outside the forest the silk is much brighter yellow in color.  This attracts in bees so 60% of her diet outside of the forest is bee.  Inside the forest the web is made from a much paler silk which largely remains invisible to a lot of insects.  The orb is being held in place by a non sticky silk which has a tensile quality half that of the finest steel.

Normally with orb spiders when something lands in the web they approach it, wrap it in silk and then deliver the lethal bite.  With the Golden Orb Spiders she approaches the stuck prey, bites first then wraps in silk.  So if she gets something such as a large aggressive ant or wasp trapped in the web she will not take it on in fear of being stung or bitten before she can deliver her kiss of death.

Close inspection may reveal other spiders living in her web.  The female sits in the centre and normally sitting in attendance above her is a small brown spider which is the male.  The male remains small but the female grows huge.  At the periphery of the orb there are tiny little spiders living a precarious existence.  These are kleptoparasites and they live by stealing her silken wrapped food parcels of predigesting prey left dangling from various locations in the web.  The female will tolerate kleptoparasites to a certain degree, they are adapted to living in her web and avoiding her, but once they become too numerous she will depart and build a new web elsewhere.

The female Golden Orb Spider can grow very large and may appear to be very intimidating but in fact she is totally harmless.  If you should be walking the trails and didn’t see the web, go crashing through it and end up with the spider climbing up your arm, it will not harm you, all you need do is pick it up and place it back on a leaf.

Another commonly seen spider that superficially resembles the Golden Orb Spider is the Silver Orb Spider, (Argiope argentatum).  The web is not as complex and is made of the more typical white colored silk familiar to most people.  They are reasonably large spiders and quite often have a telltale feature to the webs in the form of a large white cross.  This is known as a stabilimentum and can be visible for some distance from the web.

Silver-orb Spider

Much smaller in size and quite pretty as far as spiders go is the Orchid Spider, (Leucauge venusta).  They are Long-jawed Orb Weavers, Family: Tetragnathidae, but the spider is tiny and consequently the webs tend to small to, inserted as they are between the leaves of one plant as opposed to the two species above which can have their webs extended between two different plants.  Orchid spiders typically construct two types of web, the more commonly seen orb and another web which is produced as sheets of horizontally placed silken lines.  It was in just such a horizontal web that this Orchid Spider was photographed.

Orchard Spider

Studies of the Orchard Spider has shown that as the females mature they build their web in vertically higher strata of the vegetation.  The lower webs catch more insects but smaller in size than the higher webs which capture fewer insects but larger in size.

Although it spins a network of silk, the Lynx Spider, Family: Oxyopidae, are active daytime hunters.  They have excellent eyesight and use vision as the means by which to detect prey upon which the jump and dispatch before consuming.  This one was found in the Tropical Garden finishing sucking the juices out of its victim, one of the bee species. The opisthosoma, (body), is quite elongated and the legs are long and held in a basket-like grasping fashion.

Lynx Spider

Just walk around the grounds, keep your eyes open and re-adjust your point of focus and a whole different world, an amazing small world, will be revealed.

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 0.69 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 4.82 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 17.5 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 122.4 mm

Highest Daily Temp 87°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 30.8°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.5°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Squirrel Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkey
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Tamandua
  • Common Tent-making Bat
  • Western Red Bat
  • Common Opossum
  • Kinkajou
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Paca
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Underwood’s Pocket Gopher
  • Collared Peccary
  • White-lipped Peccary

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Gray-necked WoodRail
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Rufus Piha
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Red-Capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Barred Ameiva
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Coral Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Common Anolis
  • Common Basilisk
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Snake
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Pug-nosed Anole
  • Salmon-bellied Racer
  • Terciopelo
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake

Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Masked Smilisca
  • Marine Toad
  • Milky Frog
  • Parachuting Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
  • Small-headed Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Colobura dirce
  • Consul fabius
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eueides aliphera
  • Eueides lybia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Mesosemia zonalis
  • Morpho cypris
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Siproeta stelenes

Plants

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

 

 

Hidden In The Full Light Of The Sun   5 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog February 11th 2013

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Arranging Dried Flowers

There was no rainfall at all over the past week.  That is not unusual for this time of year; February and March are normally the two driest months.  The grounds of Bosque and the surrounding forest still look lush despite the lack of rain.  One of the features that I use to indicate just how dry it the conditions are, is the creek.  At the moment, although the level is down, the water is still flowing quite freely.

More of the trees have started to flower.  Some of the Ajo Trees, (Caryocar costaricense), are already flowering for a second time this season.  The Pochote trees, (Pachira quinata), are dropping their distinctive shaving brush flowers.  The fruit of the Milky Tree, (Brosimum utile), also known as breadnuts, are raining down from the canopy where ever these trees are found.  The monkeys are particularly fond of them but being wasteful feeders take one bite of the fleshy rind and throw the remainder away.  The Monkey Comb, (Apeiba tibourou), is littering the forest floor in areas with its distinctive spiny ball-like fruits.

Rarely What It Seems

Costa Rica is a very biodiverse country.  It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about families of plants or animals you will find the numbers staggering in comparison to a temperate country.  All of that diversity is held within a country that covers only 0.03% of the earth’s land surface.  Even with well studied groups such as beetles or butterflies and moths it is not always easy to identify individuals down to species level.  You could spend your life in this special little country and dedicate yourself to trying to make an inventory of the life that exists here and you would barely scratch the surface.

When something new turns up it is always exciting.  I am continually thrilled to find a species that I have never seen before.  It is all the more satisfying when I find a species that has not previously been recorded on the Osa Peninsula or more so if it has only been recorded a few times in Costa Rica.  Occasionally a weird creature will turn up that I have never seen any species of anywhere before.  That is what happened earlier this week.

I was heading out to one morning to meet the guests that were about to go for a walk through the forest with me.  On the ground outside my cabin, making its way at a fast pace between the fallen dead leaves littering the pathway was a strange looking scorpion.  I had not seen anything like it but there was something about the way it was moving that just did not seem right.  Every time I lifted a leaf it would quickly run under yet another.  Finally I managed to wrangle it into an open area for a closer look.  I could see now that it was not a scorpion but appeared to all intents and purposes to be a spider mimicking a scorpion.  Its front two legs seemed to be held out in front like a pair of pincers and the body was elongated but lacking the segmented tail and the sting.  It was like no spider I had ever seen before.  I was late for my tour so placed a jar over the top of it so that I could photograph and hopefully identify it when I returned.

I arrived back at my cabin in the afternoon and could now scrutinize more closely the strange creature I was holding in an insect jar in front of me.  I had been pretty sure it was not a scorpion but rather a spider until under magnification I could see it most certainly was an arachnid but astonishingly not something I had been expecting to see.  It had eight legs and what I had originally mistaken as pincers I could now see were two blunt tipped pedipalps.  This was a Solifugid or Sun Spider.  They are not actually spiders but a separate Order: Solifugae within the Class: Arachnida.  The elongated fiery orange prosoma, (head), was tipped with two fearsome looking chelicerae.  Two black spots marked the eyes.

Solifugid

Solifugae is Latin for hiding from the sun which is strange given the common name of these creatures is sun spider.  They are carnivores and actively hunt small arthropods.  Some desert living species can grow to an impressively large size, (not as large as newspapers would have you believe though).  I remember being both fascinated and horrified by some preserved specimens my grammar school biology teacher liked to terrify the kids with.  Those chelicerae are perfectly capable of delivering a nasty nip.

Despite extensive searching I could find almost no literature regarding solifugids in Costa Rica.  I have been visiting the country for over 20 years and lived here for 13 years and this is the first species of solifugid I have seen.  At least I have the photographs so that future investigation may reveal a little more about it but for now it will just have to remain a nameless enigma.

What is the Meaning of This

Spiders are very prevalent at the moment both around the grounds and in the forest at Bosque.  The two most obvious spiders seen largely due their size are the Golden-orb Spider, (Nephila clavipes), and the Silver-orb Spider, (Argiope argentata).  You don’t have to wander too far from the confines of your cabin or the restaurant to locate either of these two species.  The Golden-orb Spider has a very obvious web, the orb, made from a bright yellow silk which gives it the name.  It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to assume the Silver-orb Spider has a white colored silken orb.

There is one very distinctive feature of the Silver-orb Spider’s web that makes it even more visible.  Scattered at intervals throughout the vegetation you will see what appear to be large white X shapes.  Further investigation will lead you to find that these X shapes are in the centre of a spider web.  More often than not you will see the spider responsible for the construction of the X sitting right at its centre, the Silver-orb Spider.

Silver-orb Spider

The inclusion at the centre of the web is known as a stabilimentum and there is no definitive answer as to why the spiders spin them.  There are several theories, any one of which may be correct.  Many spiders at the end of every day take their webs down and build a new one just before sunrise.  There are other spiders that leave their webs permanently in place, the Silver-orb Spider being one of them.  To prevent birds flying through the web thus destroying it, getting covered in sticky silk and causing the spider to construct a new web, the stabilimentum may mark the position of the web to prevent that from happening.  I have no data to show the frequency with which birds fly through non stabilimentum webs.  The spider is an arachnid; it has eight legs which divide up quite nicely into four pairs.  You will generally see the spider sitting in the centre of the web with one pair of legs aligned along the four bars of the cross.  If the sun rises and the light hits the cross the spider will take shelter behind the cross.  If you disturb the spider it will disappear from in front of your eyes to be found later hiding behind the cross.  The silk the spider uses to make the stabilimentum is highly reflective of ultra violet light.  Insects are attracted to a source of ultra violet light and so the web now becomes an active trap luring the insects in.  Birds, unlike ourselves, see ultra violet and so the X is not white but ultra violet to the bird’s eyes.  Each of the theories has its own credibility but no one has yet solved the puzzle of the stabilimentum.  It could be that each and every one of the theories has some merit.

Argiope argentata

Unexpected Visitors

Last week I mentioned the myriad of animals that visit my cabin day and night.  I am never short of house guests.  I returned one night last week to find a handsome hawk moth clinging to the mesh screening of the cabin door.  Hawk moths belong to the Family Sphingidae.  They are reasonably easy to recognize to family level due to the long narrow forewings which tend to be triangular in shape.  They are fairly longed lived as adults in comparison with some other Lepidoptera.  In Costa Rica there are somewhat in the region of 145 species hawk moth.  I was not sure what particular species it was that had decided to grace my cabin with its presence but I am always happy to see something new, photograph it and hope to make the I.D. sometime later.

Unidentified Hawk Moth

Ginger Snap

Around the grounds of Bosque you will find many plants growing that are not native to the country.  The gardened areas are just that – gardens containing exotic tropical ornamental plants from far flung areas of the globe.  They are there as decorative specimens, a lot of them grown for their fabulous flowers, perfumed scents or the amazing leafy displays.

Growing in borders near the bar and swimming pool are a variety of prettily flowered and heavenly scented plants one of which is the White Ginger, (Hedychium coronarium).  Due to its predilection for damp shady areas it is grown in areas where other showy scented blooms will not.  But despite its attractiveness and sweet smell, it is regarded in many parts of the world as an invasive plant.  It is a member of the ginger Family Zingiberaceae and originated in the Nepalese Himalayas but is now grown extensively almost everywhere with suitable conditions.  Where growing conditions are right it can spread from underground rhizomes and can become a weedy pest very quickly.  Here at Bosque it is solely confined to the flower beds around the swimming pool.  The sweet perfume that it issues at night brings in hawk moths which hover in front of the flower and use their long proboscis to imbibe the nectar and subsequently transfer the pollen.  Given that information then perhaps its other name of Butterfly Lily would be more appropriate.

White Ginger

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

Side Step

Last week while walking the Zapatero Trail with a couple of guests, we were approached by two other visitors to the lodge who were walking on their own slightly in front of us.  On the path they had spotted a venomous snake, a Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper), and had wanted to warn us of its presence in the middle of the trail.  When we arrived at the spot where the snake lay coiled on the ground I could see that it was only a juvenile and its position tucked in at the base of an exposed tree root crossing the width of the trail suggested it posed little danger to anyone.  So I decided to leave it without disturbing its peace and return later in the day to take its picture.

Terciopelos are ambush predators and will sometimes just sit in the same position for days on end without moving.  The small ones feed more on frogs, lizards and small rodents while the adults prey on much larger rodents.  The adults can get to over 7 feet, (2 meters +), in length.  They are very cryptically colored, the body having a base of grey with the dorsal surface suffused with a mottling of soft browns.  Along the sides are dark brown triangles that meet at the apices.  These triangles are outlined with a pale cream border that when viewed from above give the impression of a series of X’s running down the snakes back.

Terciopelo

The Terciopelo is sometimes referred to as the Fer-de-Lance, which strictly speaking is a South American snake Bothrops atrox.  The name is French and translates into iron lance head due to the obvious triangular shape of the head.  The head is dark above and pale below; in some specimens the head is yellow below giving it the other colloquial name, Barba Amarilla or yellow beard.

The Terciopelo is a pit viper.  The head houses everything the snake needs to detect its prey and then deliver that deadly venomous cocktail that will be injected resulting in almost instantaneous death.  The eyes with their elliptical pupils allow the snake to see but most snakes do not possess the visual acuity equal to that of some other predators such as birds.  But what they lack in respect of eyesight they more than make up for with two other pieces of sensory apparatus.  The tongue is essentially an organ of scent in snakes. It can pick minute quantities of scent particles in the air or on the substrate.  Due to the tongues forked structure the snake can pick up a scent gradient in the air, it can detect from which direction the prey or potential predator is moving.  They sometimes locate and sit on a rodent trail which is more than likely where its prey is going to come by at some point.  Between the eye and the nostril is another depression on the head which houses sensory organs that allow the viper to detect small changes in background infra red radiation.  This is the characteristic pit which gives pit vipers their name.  Any approaching mammal or bird will be registered as a signal change suggesting dinner has arrived.

Bothrops asper

This particular Terciopelo was a young female.  She looked liked she was well fed as her body was quite plump.  I placed the tripod on the ground in front of her, composed the shot and got the photograph.  I then moved around to the side and got the full body profile picture.  Despite the fact that I was shooting with a lot of flash the snake never flinched.  I was only a few inches away from it.  The whole point of the cryptic coloration, the camouflage, is that you don’t move because as soon as you do so you have blown your cover.  I now moved in even closer to get the whole head filling the frame.  The snake was obviously aware of my presence and the tongue started to taste the air but it did not move a muscle.  I was now about 2 inches away.  Click, I got the head.  Now I needed just one more image.  I moved the tripod so that I could place the camera directly above the snake and get a plan view.  That was it, I was satisfied and the snake was probably relieved to have an end to all those explosions of light flashing in front of it.  I packed everything up and took as small twig to lift the subjects head slightly off the ground.  It uncoiled and slipped slowly into the leaf litter at the side of the trail leaving the path clear and safe for anyone who might be walking on it later in the day.

Terciopelo

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 0.0 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 0.0 mm

Highest Daily Temp 96°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 33.2°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.4°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkey
  • Kinkajou
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Pygmy Squirrel
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Three-toed Sloth
  • Collared Peccary

Birds

  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Crested Guan
  • Great Curassow
  • Black Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Spectacled Owl
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Brown Pelican
  • Plain Xenops
  • Rufus Piha
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Buff-rumped Warbler
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Bananaquit
  • Golden-hooded Tanager
  • Palm Tanager
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

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

Amphibians

  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Dione juno
  • Dryas iulia
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Marpesia berania
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Parides erithalion
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pygus oileus
  • Pyrisitia nise
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Urbanus simplicius

Plants

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

 

 

Confused Cattleheart in Silver Trap   Leave a comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog August 13th 2012

Sun Shade

The rains have started to increase in frequency.  We have had several dry days but the rain comes in the evening and as it has done for several months now, in the form of violent thunderstorms.  We have early morning rain too, which seems to clear before the sun has risen too high in the sky.  As we approach the end of August visitor numbers to the lodge start to decrease but normally the rain increases.  By the time we get into September the downpours become heavier and heavier.  The creek, which almost completely dried up not so long ago, now has constantly running water.  Over the next month or so, depending upon the amount of precipitation the area receives, it will transform from babbling brook to raging torrent which will cascade over the waterfall on its way to the sea.  By the end of the week, the sun was shining, if not for all of the day, at least in the morning and a good way through the afternoon.

Laughing at Dinner

There was another Puma sighting this week and it occurred more or less in the same place as last week’s sighting, near the end of the Bosque driveway.  There were 3 people in a car on their way to surf early in the morning when they saw the cat so that made for a good start to the week.

This week the surf has been huge with massive waves making entrance to the swimming areas on the gulf beaches hazardous even for experienced surfers.  That has been the situation all the way up the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

One night when I went down to the pond to see what was around, I found 4 Parrot Snakes, (Leptophis ahaetulla), all sleeping in different locations at the top of the vegetation.  Next day when I revisited the area I watched as a Laughing Falcon, (Herpetotheres cachinnans), flew off carrying one of the Parrot Snakes in its talons.  Laughing Falcons are specialized predators of snakes and over the years I have observed them feeding on a variety of different species.

Which Frog is Witch

The Bosque pond has been very active recently with an influx of Gladiator Frogs, (Hypsoboas rosenbergi).  There are generally 1 or 2 of these frogs present throughout the year but at the moment they seem to have arrived in large numbers.  Just after sundown you can hear their distinctive calls from some distance and over the past week there have been many pairs in amplexus.

The Smoky Jungle frogs, (Leptodactylus savegei), too have been breeding with several of their large foam nests being found not only around the pond but also in the drainage ditches.  Red-eyed Green Tree Frog, (Agalychnis callidryas), egg masses have been found in greater numbers this week hanging on the underside of leaves overhanging the pond.

The last remnants of what has been a bumper mango harvest this year are now left rotting under the trees on the ground in the orchard.  When you go out at night, fiery bright orange eyes can be seen reflecting from the fallen fruit and if you follow it in you will find yourself looking at the Black Witch Moths, (Ascalapha odorata), imbibing the fermenting fruit juices.  On one walk this week we saw a White Witch Moth, (Thysania agrippina), on the side of a tree remaining motionless and blending in perfectly with the pale background bark.

Bleeding Cattleheart

The butterfly numbers are down this time of year, but it only takes 1 or 2 days of sun and a slight increase in temperature to bring a few more individuals out of their torpor.  If you head off out while the sun is shining overhead there are still several species of longwings, sulphurs, peacocks, skippers, swallowtails and cattlehearts to be seen.

Around the upper garden near the Titi Trail there is always the good chance of bird sightings as there are a lot of large rotten trees full of holes which attract in woodpeckers, tanagers, toucans, aracaris, tityras, macaws, parrots and a number of birds of prey.  Also scattered around the gardened area are small patches of Lantana camara the glowing red and orange blooms of which are visited by a wide variety of butterfly species.  Along the forest edge around the periphery of the garden is also the favorite haunt of many butterflies.

It was while I was walking out of the garden, where the soaring temperatures and glaring light were proving to be a little overwhelming for me, that I found a Variable Cattleheart, (Parides erithalion), fluttering along the ride in a dappled shade more suitable for an Englishman abroad.  It flitted up and down, landing and then taking to the air again but not showing any intentions of settling.  I followed it for a short way until it alighted on a leaf, folded it wings closed and stopped to rest.  Approaching slowly and without any jerky movements I fixed in the viewfinder and managed to fire off a few shots.  The butterfly didn’t move and continued to remain motionless as I walk away to leave it in peace.

Parides erithalion

On one other occasion when the sun was shining brightly I headed off after lunch to walk a trail that I had not visited for some time, the path through the teak plantation.  In the past this has always been a lucrative hunting ground for a variety of species of all manner of animal life I don’t see anywhere else on the grounds.  All was quiet walking through the forest to the plantation.  As I exited from the wooded trail into the open area of the plantation, I was hit by an immediate increase in both temperature and light levels.  That change suited some of the butterflies though.

The Satyrs or browns are butterflies normally found in darker and damper conditions found under the canopy.  Their subtle brown coloration and habit of flying close to the forest floor make them difficult to see at times.  A common brown, the Confused Satyr, (Cissia confusa), seemed to be just that on this occasion, here it was resting on the path in full sun out in the open.  I slowly sank to my knees and then lay out flat on the muddy path while holding the camera in front of me and trying to focus on the beautiful creature I had in front of me.  I took one shot but as the flash went off it caused the now startled butterfly to return to the undergrowth.  The one shot was not a bad one though.

Cissia confusa

A little further on as I turned on to the main road running back towards the lodge, I was greeted by the sight of  several swallowtail butterflies flying in typical manner, fast and erratically along the forest edges bordering the road.  They are notoriously difficult to photograph as they never settle but today my luck was in.  One of them circled several times around the area I was standing then came to rest on a leaf at ground level and there it stayed, wings outspread displaying bright yellow horizontal bands which handsomely contrast with the jet black background.

Tropical Swallowtail Butterfly

The cattlehearts and swallowtails both belong to the family Papilionidae and the species are very difficult to separate one from the other in the field.  The cattlehearts larvae feed on Aristolochia vines which are poisonous.  The adults exhibit Mullerian mimicry whereby closely related species of poisonous butterflies are almost identical in markings and coloration.  The name Variable Cattleheart refers to the slight variations in markings within the one species making it even harder to identify on account of the fact it resembles a variety of other cattleheart Mullerian co-mimics.

The swallowtail offers the same degree of diagnostic difficulty; there are 2 species which are almost impossible to tell apart except for the diet of the larvae.  Heraclides cresphontes feeds on a wider range of host plants including citrus, Rutaceae and peppers.  Heraclides thoas, which as an adult is all but indistinguishable from the former, feeds only on peppers.

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

 A Flash of Hidden Silver

This is definitely the time of year for those arachnologists to visit.  At night there are Wandering Spiders all over the vegetation, their diamond starburst eyeshine revealing their whereabouts.  Along all of the trails, there are the giant webs of the impressive but harmless Golden Orb Spiders.  I have seen Crab-like Spiders and Spiny Spiders in webs close to the restaurant.  The latter 2 are very small and take some finding.  One other commonly seen spider is the Sliver Orb Spider, (Argiope argentata).  Its web is not as large as its yellow silk producing relative, the Golden Orb Spider, (Nephila clavipes), which also dwarfs it in body size.  Nonetheless the can be quite impressively sizeable.

Argiope argentata

As the name suggests they produce a web of a more commonly observed white color.  Whereas the web may not be immediately obvious because of its size or color, it is quite often easily found because of a large white cross, the stabilimentum, that the spider spins within the centre of the web possibly to mark its position so birds don’t fly through it, to attract in insects or for the spider to use as a cover behind which it can hide.  This spider had placed its web in the middle of a patch of lantana that was being visited by a host of nectar seeking butterfly species.  The gossamer trap must have been successful in providing food for the spider as was evidenced by several detached wing remnants floating on small pieces of silk not too far from its location.

Orb Weaver Spider

The next day on my walk through the teak plantation I found another spider but this time in a more clandestine location under a leaf.  As with the Silver Orb Spider I it was placed so that only the ventral side was visible.  Globally spiders are a very diverse group of animals and like so many other classes in an area of high diversity like Costa Rica, the reference material allowing you to identify your finds to species level is not always possible.  So for now this one will go into the file marked “Unidentified Spider”.

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 0,4 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.79 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 10.1 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 70.9 mm

Highest Daily Temp 89°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 31.4°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.1°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
  • Red-tailed Squirrel

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Curassow
  • Grey-necked Woodrail
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Violet-crowned Woodnymph
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • House Wren
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Terciopelo

 Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Gladiator Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smoky Jungle Frog

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Arawacus lincoides
  • Archaeoprepona demophon
  • Cissia confusa
  • Consul fabius
  • Glutophrissa Drusilla
  • Heliconius cydno
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia evarete
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Parides erithalion
  • Perophthalma lassus
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Taygetis Andromeda
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

 Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Averrhoa carambola Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Brassavola nodosa Flowering
  • Cananga odorata Flowering and Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Fruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering andFruiting
  • Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
  • Costus speciosus Flowering
  • Couroupita guianensis Flowering and Fruiting
  • Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
  • Etlingera elatior Flowering
  • Ficus insipida Fruiting
  • Heisteria accuminata Fruiting
  • Heliconia chartacea Flowering
  • Heliconia latispatha Flowering
  • Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
  • Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
  • Heliconia rostrata Flowering
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
  • Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
  • Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
  • Ixora coccinea Flowering
  • Lacmellea panamensis  Fruiting
  • Lantana camara Flowering andFlowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Mangifera indica Fruiting
  • Miconia argentia Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering andFruiting
  • Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Passiflora vitifolia Flowering
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psidium guajava Fruiting
  • Psychotria sp Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Symphonia globulifera Fruiting
  • Terminalia catappa Flowering
  • Thunbergia grandiflora Flowering
  • Virola koschnyi Fruiting
  • Zammia sp Flowering

 

 

Bosque del Cabo November 2010 Nature Review   2 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog Nov 2010 Review

I start my year, not as most people do on the first of January, but rather as the wet season ends and the dry season begins which is when I return to Bosque del Cabo.  During the height of the rains, I leave Costa Rica and spend some time in Nicaragua.  This affords me the opportunity to catch up on my writing, photographic processing and the data analysis of my projects.

When I do return, I endeavor to produce a weekly blog which serves as a weekly summary of my daily nature diaries.  As I am based at Bosque, it allows potential visitors to the lodge a glimpse of what is happening around the grounds in advance of their stay.  It may even sway people’s decision as what time of year to visit depending upon their interests.  For those people who have visited, it gives them the opportunity to stay in touch with the constantly changing nature of the lodge.

This coming season I will be starting my twelfth year at Bosque.  This past year, I finished collecting data and now I want to start publishing the results and conclusions.  The main aim of the work was to monitor the climate over a period of time and compare those figures against any changes in numbers of both individuals and species of butterflies and amphibians, the local populations of which were monitored over the same period of time.

To support the work I have been giving guided tours at Bosque del Cabo.  Having been a biologist since the age of 3 and with a lifelong interest in tropical rainforests, I can generally wax lyrical about most aspects of tropical biology.  But when you work in the forest, the amazing amount of fauna and flora that you experience really brings home the numbers.  Identification of the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians poses few problems but once you start looking at the smaller stuff, and regular readers of this blog will already know that is where I am generally looking, sometimes it is hard to get beyond family level.

Some years ago, I decided not only to help visitors understand the complexity of rainforest ecology through guided tours but also to write the information down.  At this moment in time, I have several prepublications almost ready.  To illustrate the books I bought a camera and started taking pictures.  As my interest is in the small things I concentrated on macro photography.  I had no previous experience and basically worked it out as I went along.  So, in essentially the review is a photographic record of some plant and animal life that may or may not have been covered in my blogs over the past year.  I hope you enjoy them; you can always leave a comment to let me know.

Scorpions you may find at any time of the year.  This one I found not too far from my cabin.  As scorpions are nocturnal and it was daytime, this individual was fairly inactive and consequently didn’t move while I was setting up the lighting to take its picture.  I like taking close up pictures of scorpions because a lot of body detail is revealed, details that you miss, especially with scorpions when your thoughts may be more concerned with the eradication of the creature.

Bark Scorpion (Centruroides limbatus)

I only ever encounter two species of scorpion at Bosque, both Bark Scorpions of the genus Centruroides.  This is Centruroides limbatus.  There are only 17 species of scorpion native to Costa Rica and none of them are particularly dangerous although they can deliver a very painful sting.

Bark Scorpion (Centruroides limbatus)

 

 

 

 

Spiders, as with scorpions, if you overcome your prejudices, make fascinating subjects to photograph.  Not only the interesting details of their life history, but their morphology and the use of silk.  Even if you can’t face getting too close to spider, many of them use silk to create ingenious food traps, so the webs can be photographed as stand alone features.

Silver-orb Spider (Argiope argentatum)

Butterflies abound at Bosque, especially if you visit in the dry season months of February and March.  In November the numbers of species and individuals will be low.  The longwings are long lived in butterfly terms and may survive for about 6 months.  At the end of that period though, they will be looking at little worse for wear as does this Postman, (Heliconius erato).  The colors of this butterfly are bright and attractive, which serve as a warning to stay away.  This is known as aposematic coloration.  Why would you best leave this butterfly alone?  It is packed with cyanide, so its consumption would not be so beneficial to you, nor to the butterfly if it was being eaten, so best for both parties to have that information broadcast.

Postman (Heliconius erato)

Even though I have spent my life studying butterflies, the numbers of species, the degree of mimicry and the lack of adequate reference material make them hard to identify.  Skippers are a particular problem.  They are small, fast flying, shades of brown and don’t like flash photography.  To capture their image requires a great deal of stealth and patience backed up with a lot luck as well as having your equipment set to the right settings before you embark on attempt.

Unidentified Skipper

The Automeris moth featured here was dead when I found it but nonetheless provided an opportunity to display the aposematic shock colors.  The bright eyes on the upper side of the hindwings are normally hidden beneath the dull colored upperwing.  Should a potential predator get too close, the bright eye coloration is revealed and hopefully allows the moth a few extra seconds to make good its escape.

Automeris moth sp

The larvae pose even worse identification problems than the winged adults.  The number of butterflies in dwarfed by the number of moths, most of whose life histories have not been documented and so the caterpillars remain a mystery.

Unidentified Moth Caterpillar

Fungi, despite their ubiquitous presence throughout the forest, once again may not prove to be the easiest things to identify down to species level.  But take a close look at the subtle color and texture of the fungal flesh and that in itself is worth a photograph.

Unidentified Fungus

One fungus found growing on dead wood in the forests of Bosque as well as all around the world, is the Jews Ear, (Auricularia auricular-judae).  Its jelly-like fruiting body is shaped uncannily like an ear.  Jews Ear derives from the fact that it is commonly found growing on elder trees, that which supposedly Judas Iscariot hung himself.

Jews Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)

Lizards will be found at every level of the forest from the tops of the trees to burrowing in the ground.  This is one of the most commonly encountered forest lizards, the Golfo Dulce Anolis Lizard, (Norops polylepis).  The males have a bright orange flap of skin under the chin, the dewlap, which they can extend.  It acts as a flag to either intimidate or scare rival males out of his territory or on occasion to court the females.

Golfo Dulce Anolis Lizard (Norops polylepis)

Pumas have been the big talking point at Bosque this year.  Unfortunately whenever I crossed paths with one of the cats, I never had my camera with me.  But only many separate occasions while out walking, I would see fresh tracks. This time I did have my camera.  In the following months we had so many guests staying at Bosque who did see the cats and did have their cameras.  Even if I did, I am sure it would be set up to take photos of something much smaller.

Puma print

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming books:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

The Small World of Bosque del Cabo

The Colors of Bosque del Cabo

A Children’s Guide to Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge

Temperature and Rainfall

Average M Temp High 84°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 1.04 ins.  Total Monthly Rainfall 31.18 ins

Average Daily Temp High 28.7°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.6°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 25.7 mm.  Total Monthly Rainfall 770.2 mm