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Mysteries of the Natural World   Leave a comment


Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Frog Chorus

The week has been dry and sunny but with the clouds progressively becoming a more frequent feature.  Increasingly the skies are becoming overcast and the azure blue of the dry season has been replaced by a blanket of grey.  The sun manages to peep through for a while but then is lost once more behind an obscuring haze, only the faint outline of its orange disc visible to the naked eye.

The amphibian population is gathered and ready for the real rains to begin.  There are more male frogs setting up territories at each location around the pond.  The Savage’s Thin-fingered frog and the Marine Toads prefer the pond edge.  The Banana Frogs and the Small-headed Frogs situate themselves on the vegetation floating on the water.  A little higher up the Milky Frogs have taken up their positions on the upper surfaces of the leaves overhanging the water.  Finally the Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs can be heard calling from nearer the tops of the vegetation.  When the rains do arrive, with the typical early May deluges, the activity around the pond will increase exponentially.  More species will arrive, particularly the ones that reproduce directly in the water.  It is just a matter of time.

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog. Hylidae. Phyllomedusinae.

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog, (Agalychnis callidryas). Male. Calling.

Skipping Over Marked Metal

Butterflies exhibit a variety of dimorphisms.  They may be sexually dimorphic, strongly or otherwise, males and females may look like completely different species. They maybe seasonally dimorphic, wet season forms differing from dry season forms.  They may be geographically polymorphic with one species varying in size, color and markings over a wide geographical range to the point where you would once again think you were looking at totally different species.

One of the more commonly seen riodinids, or metalmark butterflies, in the forests of Bosque del Cabo is Metacharis victrix.  I regularly see the fiery orange females but not so often the males which are much more of a deep brick red.  They have the frustrating habit of perching on the underside of leaves so to capture the image you have to get on the ground, lie on your back and point the camera upwards.

Metacharis victrix. Riodinidae. Riodininae

Metacharis victrix. Male.

They are frequently found in bright understory light gaps.  The larval food plant is any one of the Heisteria species of which, Heisteria accuminata, is very abundant in this area.

Heisteria accuminata. Olacacea

Heisteria accuminata. Fruit

The skippers are a difficult family of butterflies to identify too.  A great many of them are very small, sometimes no bigger than an adult human fingernail.  To add to the problem of identity, there are so many of them and they quite often they are muted shades of brown.  It does take a certain level of expertise to identify them to species level.

Last week I had one land close to me and fortunately stay still.  Skippers are prone to taking flight at the slightest disturbance and are also averse to the camera flash going off.  This individual was the Perching Saliana (Saliana esperi).  The earthy brown of the hindwing underside has a contrasting creamy flash.  There are two pale windows in the dark half of the wing.

Perching Saliana. Hesperiidae. Hesperiinae.

Perching Saliana, (Saliana esperi)

It’s a Mystery

As much as I would love to study moths as well as butterflies, time does not allow this luxury.   There are up 14,000 species of butterfly and moth in Costa Rica, the majority being moths.  Many of the moths we have no idea of their life histories.  So when a moth does turn up that I can take a photograph of, if I cannot arrive at an identity then I do not fret over the fact, I just enjoy it for what it is, a beautiful thing to behold.

Unidentified Moth. Philip Davison.

Unidentified Moth

Actually that holds true for many insects.  Costa Rica has an estimated 365,000 named species of insects within its territory, that is 1,000 species for every day of the year, which would require exceptional identification skills.  Identity to species level is best left in the hands of those who specialize in a particular group.  I found a stinkbug sitting on a leaf that made a wonderful subject but I have not been able to name it to species level.

Stinkbug. Hemiptera. Heteroptera.

Unidentified Stinkbug

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

A Burning Change   Leave a comment


Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

The dry season continues unrelentingly.  The daytime temperatures are still hitting the 100⁰F, (40⁰C), mark.  There was a fleeting downpour one lunchtime that lasted little more than an hour.  That same evening, with the momentary increase in humidity as the ground remained damp, the Halloween Land Crabs responded by emerging from their burrows in large numbers.  The following night however they were once again noticeable by their absence as whatever precipitation had fallen once again evaporated and the bone-dry situation persisted.

The gardens are visibly showing signs due the effects of the extreme heat and arid conditions.  The lawns are now more or less devoid of any greenery, all that exists is a broad area of parched brown burnt grass.  The herbaceous plants are suffering too.  Many of them have lost leaves and if they have not fallen over and died then they are most certainly looking limp and in distress.  They will have to wait for a while yet for any relief as the rains do not normally start until mid-April or May.

Buggy Surprise

Many of the creatures I photograph are found serendipitously.  I rarely go out to photograph something specific unless it is a plant or animal that I have seen while out walking that I think will remain in place until I return with the camera.  The weekly blog is written from the point of view of accidental discovery.  I never know what I am going to write about until I find it.

This week I came across two different species of bugs on the same day.  One was a Big-legged Bug of the family: Coreidae and the other was a stinkbug nymph of the family: Pentatomidae.  The term big-legged bug perfectly describes these heteropterans.  The femur of the rear legs is stout and bear spike-like projections.  The tibia is flattened.  They are herbivores and can sometimes become a pest feeding in large numbers on crops.  This individual belongs in the genus: Acanthocephala but I am not sure of the species.  There are twenty-four named species of Acanthocephala of which seven species live in Central America.

Big-legged Bug. Hemiptera. Heteroptera. Philip Davison.

Big-legged Bug, (Acanthocephala sp)

The stinkbugs are named after their ability to produce a repugnant smelling secretion from glands in the abdomen.  They are sometimes called shield bugs due to the body shape.  I found this particular species in the nymphal stage.  There were several of them living gregariously together sucking sap from the leaves of a passion vine. The stinkbugs go through five nymphal stages before becoming adults.

Stinkbug. Pentatomidae. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Stinkbug, (Family; Pentatomidae)

Flower and Fruit

The Guacima tree, (Gauzuma ulmifolia), is found growing at the forest edges here at Bosque.    It is easy to miss the flowers but the fruits are more visible.  Currently they are lying all over the ground in the areas where the trees are growing.  The fruits are very hard and are only occasionally fed upon by White=faced Monkey.  The tree is more commonly found growing along roadsides where livestock feed on the fallen fruits.

Guacima.

Guacima, (Guazuma ulmifolia). Fruit.

A tree that is flowering throughout the forest at the minute is the Jacaranda, (Jacaranda copaia).  The bright lilac-colored bell-shaped flowers are covering large areas of the forest floor like a violet carpet.  Jacaranda as well as Guacima are both native to Central America.

Jacaranda

Jacaranda, (Jacaranda copaia). Flower

The Mayo Trees, (Vochysia ferruginea), have started to flower.  The crowns of the mature trees in the canopy are covered in an umbrella of bright yellow.  The Mayo Trees are so named because they supposedly flower in Mayo but that has not been my experience in the last seventeen years of living in Costa Rica.  Soon the canopy will be awash with patches of bright pastel colors like a giant watercolor painting.

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

Posted March 20, 2017 by felipedelbosque in Philip's Nature Diary

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