Archive for the ‘Terciopelo’ Tag

The Savage Death of a Velvet Cat   2 comments


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

Sunny Days are Back Again

The weather has most certainly turned a corner.  After the record-breaking deluge that occurred continually over the course of the last five weeks we now have the opposite situation, no rain.  Not a single drop of rain has fallen over the past week.  The skies have been clear and bright blue.  The sun has been shining brightly.  The temperatures are on the rise.  The night skies have been clear and filled with stars.  Just within the space of seven days, the formerly soft muddy trails have started to harden up.  There are, of course areas where the ground is stiff soft and in places water continues to run off but these are now few and far between.  One trail had a new lake form as the water was unable to run off.  Walking along a familiar path I was finding myself waist deep in water.  I imagined that this new water feature may persist for months before the ground was exposed once more.  I was wrong.  Walking the trail a few days ago, all the water had gone.  The path was very muddy but no longer submerged.

Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Zapatero Trail at Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

It was fortunate that the heavy rain stopped as the flowering season for many of the trees commences in December.  Should the trees bloom and then become bombarded with persistent downpours, the flowers can be knocked from the trees before they have been pollinated.  The result of this is a lack of fruit later in the dry season as the plants have not set seed.  There are many animals whose lives depend on the bounteous supply of mixed fruits that comprise their diet that should the flowering and fruiting seasons fail then they simply starve to death.  This happened in 2005 when substantial numbers of Spider Monkeys and Toucans were, quite literally, just dropping out of the trees.  Necropsies carried out by veterinarians showed that they were suffering from very low body fat.  They were starving to death.  Everything looks good at the moment for a bumper harvest as I have seen many trees starting to produce blooms.

Golfo Dulce. Cabo Matapalo. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

The Sun is Shining Over the Golfo Dulce Once More.

Caught in the Eye of a Cat

The frogs are still out in numbers but those numbers will start to dwindle as we head into the dry season.  There are creatures that feed on frogs and they too have been out and about at night, the snakes.  One of the commoner snakes around the pond after sunset is the Cat-eyed Snake, (Leptodeira septentrionalis).  It feeds on frogs at all stages of their life history.  More particularly it searches out clumps of Red-eyed Green Tree Frog eggs which it finds suspended beneath the leaves overhanging the water.  The gelatinous masses are stuck in position and when the tadpoles reach about 7 or 8 days in age, the jelly liquidizes allowing the tadpoles to drop into the water where they complete the initial stage of their life history before emerging as froglets.  Frogs eggs make a perfect meal for the snake, they don’t run away or fight back and are packed with protein.  At the height of the amphibian breeding season, May, June and July, there are so many egg masses that the snakes start to look well fed and bloated.  Now, because there is little amphibian reproduction taking place, the snakes also fish for the tadpoles from beneath the water surface, take froglets as the emerge from the water and if they get the opportunity they will eat the adults too.

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog.

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog, (Agalychnis callidryas)

Agalychnis callidryas eggs

Red-eyed Green Tree Frog Eggs

Cat-eyed Snake

Cat-eyed Snake, (Leptodeira septentrionalis)

Leptodeira septentrionalis

Cat-eyed Snake. Close up.

The Fatal Velvet Kiss

Whereas the Cat-eyed Snakes feed on the smaller frogs, there is a much larger snake which feeds on the larger frogs.  One of the largest frogs in Costa Rica is the Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savagei).  A huge amphibian might make a satisfying for meal for any number of creatures.  To lower the risk of being predated upon Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog has several defenses.  It has a toxic skin secretion that can cause intense irritation of mucus membranes.  Should this prove ineffective it has a secondary defensive measure.  When it is caught, it issues a loud cry not dissimilar to a crying baby.  More importantly the call resembles the distress call of young caiman.  If there any adult female caiman in the area they charge in to defend their young, which means hopefully as far as the frog is concerned, it can then make its escape as its attacker is attacked.

Savage's Thin-fingered Frog

Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savagei)

But there are predators from which there is generally no escape.  It is not uncommon to see by the pond at night some substantially large sized Terciopelos, (Bothrops asper).  They are large pit-vipers in the same subfamily as rattlesnakes.  Like rattlesnakes they have a venomous bite that spells certain death for any prey victim it strikes.  An adult female can reach up to 6 feet, (2 meters), in length.  A snake that size demands a big meal and the Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog fits the bill.

Once the sun sets out come the Terciopelos.  They place themselves around the pond where an encounter with a frog is likely.  They are ambush predators; the cryptic coloration of muted browns and greys camouflage them perfectly against the background.  They remain motionless, camouflage works best if it is still.  Frogs, being mostly nocturnal, have large light gathering eyes.  They rely on movement to find food which is usually anything smaller than themselves, particularly arthropods, but sometimes smaller frogs too.  But the only movement they will detect from a hungry coiled Terciopelo will be one that is over in a flash.

Terciopelo. Crotalinae.

Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper)

The pit-viper is not so visually acute especially at night although its eyes will detect close movement.  Once the feeding response has been stimulated then the tongue comes into play, slowly flicking out then in again, each time tasting the air.  The tongue can detect parts per million of scent particles in the air and because it is forked it can pick up the gradient of a scent plume.  You and I may not know what a frog smells like but the snake does.  Then there are the pits that give it the sinister name pit viper.  These lie one on either side of the head between the eye and the nostril.  They are lined with cells that detect minute differences in background infra-red radiation.  They work best at responding to the presence of warm blooded prey such as rodents but their efficiency could also differentiate the small difference in body heat of even a cold-blooded creature such as a frog against the background temperature.

The unsuspecting frog passes by.  The snake has already drawn its head and neck into tightly sprung S-shaped.  The strike happened so fast that it would probably have been unaware, there would have been no time to react, no chance of escape.  As the snake’s head shoots forward and the jaws open, two long hinged fangs that lie flat against the upper part of the mouth now swing down.  They are simply two hypodermic syringes attached to glands that contain virulent life-ending cytotoxic venom.  The fangs puncture the skin like two needles, the force of the bite pushes them deep into internal tissues and organs.  The snake quickly recoils to avoid any retaliatory action by the victim in its final moments, not that a frog could inflict any damage but the bite of a rodent might.  The quantity of venom injected will spell doom and instant death for the unfortunate amphibian.  It probably would not feel anything from this lethal injection, the effects of which would most certainly be instantaneous.

The frog takes one or two steps forward then collapses dead in its tracks.  The snake is in no hurry.  The meal is ready whenever it would care to dine.  Lying patiently in the shadows the Terciopelo begins to smell the air with its tongue once more.  Once it is feels secure in the demise of its victim it slips forward, the tongue constantly flicking in and out over the cadaver.  It is searching for the head.  Snakes have no way of rendering a meal into small pieces and must swallow the prey whole.  Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog is a giant among amphibians, its body larger than the snakes head.  To deal with this inconvenience the snakes lower jaw disengages at the midpoint as do the upper and lower jaws where they hinge together at the side of the head.  Now the snakes gape can accommodate the huge frog body.  The snakes skin is highly elastic allowing it to stretch as it moves forward over the meal and with continuous backward moving S-shaped waves the feast is delivered finally to the stomach.  The snake moves away back into the shadow of the undergrowth where it will lie motionless for some time until it has digested the hearty dinner.

Terciopelo. Leptodactylus savagei

Terciopelo eating a Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog

Payback Time

There are times when even the top predators can become prey.  Where there are snakes then there might be snakes that eat snakes.  Sure enough on occasion by the pond where the Terciopelos lie in wait there is a hunter that actively seeks them out.  A hunter that is immune to the deadly venom.  A hunter that can overpower with impunity its adversary.  That hunter is the Mussurana, (Clelia Clelia)..

The Mussurana is a snake with a solidly muscled body.  It has a beautiful deep gloss grey color which radiates a fabulous deep blue iridescence.  The underside is a soft eggshell cream.  It is a powerful constrictor.  The teeth at the back of the jaws are strong and allow it to hold onto its writhing victim while it throws around it those ever-tightening coils.  This is a non-contest, the Terciopelo has little or no chance.  Finally, it succumbs and expires.  The hunter has become the hunted and the frogs have one less problem in their territory.

Mussurana.

Mussurana, (Clelia clelia)

Philip Davison is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based In Costa Rica

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Here Comes the Rain Again   1 comment


Felipe del Bosque Blog June 2nd 2013

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Water World

Now the rains have started and with a ferocity of a force that has been pent up for 5 months.  Over the past few weeks there were occasional showers which had   brought some light relief to the parched ground and thirsty plants but the small amount of precipitation was not really making an impact on the soil at depth.  Over recent days the skies have been dark and heavy with brooding clouds always threatening to douse the area in rain.  The threats eventually changed to action, the clouds broke and down came the deluge accompanied by bright streaks of lightning that lit up the black night sky.  Thunder was rumbling around for hours on end in the immediate vicinity and for days over a wider area as a portent of what was about to happen.

Lush Forest

The first real week of rain produced over 20 inches.  The upper layers of the soil softened after months of cracking up in dry conditions resulting in sticky mud adhering to the shoes of walkers on the trail.  The mystifying annual drying of the creek occurred as it does each year with the onset of the rains.  Those initial downpours are followed by an immediate disappearance of water from the water channels which had already been low in volume to start with.  The heavy rains were followed by lighter but more constant rain.  Now the sunny days were few and far between.  After a week of these conditions the creek began to flow once more.  But two days without rain would see it run dry once again.  It will take several more weeks before the water issues from the springs in sufficient quantity to see the creek water levels rise.

Towards the end of the week the rains lessened in both duration and volume.  We finally had a weekend with the sun shining brightly and a clear blue sky.  Let’s see how long that lasts.

Special Cases

There was one Puma, (Puma concolor), sighting last week.  A couple walking on the Creek Trail were initially concerned by the fact that they had stumbled upon a female Puma sleeping in the middle of the path.  Her presence froze them to the spot as they tried to recall the protocol for situations such as these.  There was no cause for alarm. The cat roused, lazily got to its feet and, although somewhat disturbingly for them, walked towards them, then turned and headed of unhurriedly into the forest.  The guests did manage to get a reasonable picture given their preoccupation with considering a hasty get away.  The picture revealed that the Puma was “Half-tail” a female that has been resident here for many years and raised several sets of cubs with the Bosque forests.

It was also nice to see this week the at least one of the White-lipped Peccaries, (Tayassu pecari), is walking around the grounds of Bosque.  It passed in front of the restaurant without stopping one day not long after lunchtime.  It did not seem too happy to be out in the open and made its way very quickly back into the forest by Cabina Mariposa.

There are a couple of Three-toed Sloths, (Bradypus variegatus), that can be seen in several localities near the restaurant.  One female seems to have her territory in and around the mango orchard.  She can regularly be seen in the mango trees or in one of a variety of different taller trees in the same area.  Yet another female can be seen at the tops of the trees on the Creek Trail immediately behind the bar.  The Three-toed Sloth normally only has a territory consisting of about 45 individual trees so they never venture too far from any one spot.  The trick is to find them and that is not always easy.  But if one is spotted then everyone at the lodge will be talking about it and if the conversation is taking place not long after the sighting then the chances are it will still be there for all to see.

Three-toed Sloth

Loopy for Fruit

One question frequently asked by guests to the lodge is whether the animal life shuns the rain and takes shelter while it is raining.  This is a rain forest and the animal life here is adapted to living in these conditions.  If they were to hide from the rain, which is what is does here 7 months of the year, then that would be unfeasibly long sleep.

Everything is out and about as normal, the rain has by no means hindered the animal activity.  The vegetation is drawing up the water and the now washed leaves cleansed of the layer of dust and dirt that accumulated during the dry season are looking vibrant, lush and green.

At the moment there is a lot of Spider Monkey, (Ateles geoffroyi), activity.  Troupes can be seen swinging through the tree tops, noisily making their way to some tree laden with fruit.  Several species of Fig, (Ficus spp), are currently providing an abundant crop for a variety of animal life on which to gorge themselves.

There are a number of Queen’s Crape Myrtle Trees, (Lagerstroemia speciosa), scattered throughout the garden areas of Bosque.  These are currently in flower as well as producing fruit which the Toucans appear to be enjoying.  Not only are the myrtles fruiting in front of the restaurant but there are a variety of different palm species that are also attracting the attention of the toucans.

Toucans are such distinctive birds so it is very unlikely that anyone visiting Bosque would not know what they were looking at even though they may not have seen one in the wild.  For many years the Guinness breweries featured them as part of their promotional advertising.  Children are more likely to have seen them consuming Fruit Loops.  Although they don’t have a fondness for breakfast cereal they most certainly are fruit eaters.  The only species of toucan to be found on the Osa Peninsula and consequently at Bosque del Cabo is the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, (Ramphastos swainsonii). That characteristic long bill is an adaptation allowing the toucan to reach its food.  Fruit normally occurs at the end of branches which won’t support the weight of a large heavy bird such as the toucan.  Despite its appearance the bill is hollow and very light.  This allows the toucan to sit on a part of the branch that will support its weight while reaching out to pluck the fruit.  Toucans are gulpers; they toss the fruit in the air and swallow it without masticating.  They do occasionally supplement their diet with protein by taking an assortment of small animals including rodents, reptiles and other birds’ eggs and chicks.  This occurs more frequently during the nesting season, (January-June), when the rapidly growing toucan chicks need protein in order to develop.  This time of year they can be seen in small flocks which may become periodically noisy with a loud call that resembles a rusty pulley that needs a drop of oil.

The Queens Crape Myrtle is a decorative non-native ornamental that graces the gardens of many properties in Costa Rica.  The tree originates in the Old World tropics of South East Asia being found as far south as Northern Australia. The name refers to the crumpled purple petals which resemble crape paper.  Within the gardens of Bosque del Cabo the Queen’s Crape Myrtle poses no problems but in open wet pastures it can become invasive.

Queen's Crape Myrtle Flower

Queen's Crape Myrtle Fruit

This individual toucan, one of a noisy flock, that I photographed from below was not entirely sure of my intentions and kept turning its head one way and then the other as it cast a watchful eye over me.  It did not seem too disturbed as it carried on preening itself for a while before taking to the air and flying off to a neighboring tree.

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

One of the large Costa Rican Royal Palms, (Attalea rostrata), is both flowering and fruiting in front of the restaurant at the moment.  The inflorescence is a huge bract bearing countless thousands of tiny yellow flowers.  These are hugely attractive to many insects which come in massive numbers to feed on the short term nectar supply.  There is the perpetual buzz of bees in particular around the flowering bract.  As the flowers are pollinated the spent blossom falls to the ground producing a small floral carpet around the base of the palm.

Attalea rostrata

The fruit that subsequently develop are large woody “nuts”.  As the palm nuts ripen they draw large numbers of Spider Monkeys and Capuchin Monkeys, (Cebus capucinus).  A good many of the fruits fall to the ground where there is another set of diners waiting to feed on the banquet dropping from above.  The large caviomorph rodents commonly seen around the grounds, the Agouti, (Dasyproctus punctata), gather around the base of the trees.  Turkey Vultures, (Cathartes aura), which are normally associated with a diet of carrion also congregate to feed on the fallen fruit.

Agouti

Turkey Vulture

Keep Your Head

There are two species of caracara the inhabit the grounds of Bosque del Cabo and it is normally fairly easy to see them both in the vicinity of the restaurant.   The Yellow Headed Caracara, (Milvago chimachima), has been a Bosque resident for many years now.  They breed readily and the adults are quite often seen with vociferous demanding youngsters constantly screeching at them for food.  The young birds are dependent upon the adults for several months until they acquire the relevant skills needed to hunt for themselves.  The adults can be as noisy as their offspring producing very high pitched screeches.

Yellow-headed Caracaras have only been recorded in Costa Rica from 1973.  They are birds of open pasture and scrubland.  Progressively as the trees were felled in Costa Rica and the forests were turned into grazing lands the Yellow-headed Caracaras found their way north from neighboring Panama.

Yellow-headed Caracara

This individual caught my eye when it was determined to catch something in the grass. I moved in as close as I could without disturbing it although it was aware of my presence and kept an eye on me, its attention was more focused on a Halloween Crab, (Gecarcinus quadratus), trying to escape being eaten.  This was a young bird still with the last remnants of juvenile plumage.  The bird would grab the crustacean in its bill and throw it a short distance, not exactly sure how to avoid the pincers.  It had not quite perfected its technique, which would come with time.

The Crested Caracara, (Caracara cherriway), is another falcon, slightly larger than its yellow-headed cousin, that is normally found in more open areas.  Some 3 or 4 years ago we had several pairs make their way into the grounds of Bosque del Cabo from the pastures a couple of miles down the road.  Conditions here obviously suited them because they have been here ever since.  They can be found most days strutting around on the lawns in front of the rest looking for grubs or whatever morsel may have discarded by another predator.  Both species of caracara are carrion feeders but would defer to the much larger vultures of which there are many individuals onsite.

Crested Caracara

The caracaras belong to the Falcon Family: Falconidae.  There is another raptor, the Roadside Hawk, (Buteo magnirostris), from the Hawk Family: Accipitridae, that is very common around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.  They can be seen sitting on the lower branches of the trees in the more open garden areas waiting for a meal to walk by which is generally one of the smaller ground living lizards, (Ameiva spp).  Although the Roadside Hawk has pleasing good looks with its grey head and shoulders, brown barred chest and vivid yellow eyes, cere and legs, it still has that less than melodious shriek of a call that is typical of many raptors.

Roadside Hawk

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

Bursting into Life

The rains have brought about an explosion in amphibian numbers, both individuals and species.  A trip to the pond at night will reward the visitor with a spectacular frog show.  Covering the Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinth are large numbers of calling male Banana Frogs, (Dendropsophus ebreccata).  These small yellow frogs with mottled skin resembling the skin of a banana call with a high pitched “eek, eek”.  The larger females will join the males selecting a mate on the quality of his call.  They lay their eggs on the vegetation floating on the water surface where they develop for 7 or 8 days before the now formed tadpoles wriggle free to complete their development in the water.

Banana Frog

Slightly higher you can hear the constant “chuck chuck” of the Red-eyed Green Tree Frogs, (Agalychnis callidryas).  It doesn’t take much searching before you will locate the gaudily colored calling male that is the darling of the Costa Rica advertisers.  Just as with the Banana Frogs the larger females seek out the calling males, they pair up and then visit the pond about three times over the course of the evening.  Each visit the female absorbs a lot of water through her skin, fills her bladder and then they go to the underside of a leaf overhanging the pond where she will lay a clutch of about 50 eggs.  Once again the tadpoles develop over the course of a week, the egg mass liquidizes and they slip into the water to complete their development.

A few weeks ago, along with the first rains, the Milky Frogs, (Trachycephala venulosa), arrived at the pond in phenomenal numbers.  This explosive breeding episode happened intermittently for several weeks and then they disappeared to where they had come.  Now there are one or two males seen in the higher levels of the plants growing around the pond but now sitting in quiet contemplation of all the other activity taking place around them.

Milky Frog

The Marine Toads, (Chuanus marinus), which are normally found everywhere around the grounds have started to congregate around the pond too.  The males, the mating call of which sounds like a mini jack hammer, sit around the pond edge at night waiting for the much larger females to turn up.  The Marine Toads pair up and lay their long strings of eggs in the water.  Marine Toads are the largest of the Costa Rican amphibians with the females sometimes attaining 3 lbs in weight.

Marine Toad

The second largest amphibians in Costa Rica are Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog, (Leptodactylus savagei).  These are handsome mottled smoky colored frogs that can also be found in large numbers around the pond at night.  The males, which are easily distinguished from the females by their huge front legs, start to call with an incessant “whoop whoop”.  The females respond to the calls and as they approach are grabbed by the males in a strong embrace until they are ready to spawn.  When the female spawns, the male fertilizes the egg mass, then using his powerful and muscular hind legs, whips the eggs up with mucus from his body and water from the pond into a white froth.  Once again the tadpoles develop in the froth for about a week, the froth then dissipates and the tadpoles exit this foam nest into the water to complete their development.

From the largest to possibly one of the smallest and paradoxically loudest of the frogs at Bosque del Cabo, the Tink Frog, (Diaspora diastema).  These tiny frogs, less than an inch in length are noticeable by their absence for 5 months of the dry season.  Like so many other amphibians, once the rains arrive they appear as if by magic in huge numbers.  With the Tink Frogs you are very rarely going to see them but you most certainly will hear them.  At the onset of the wet season the male Tink Frogs call producing the characteristic ping, not unlike the chime of a small metal bell, which can be heard all night every night for 7 months of the year.  Quite often the males call from within a hollow trunk or branch so that when you approach the sound and are quite sure you are looking directly at its origin, you can’t see what is making it because it is hidden within.

Where there is a short term abundant supply of food then it won’t take long for the predators to arrive.  Some of the major predators on frogs and their eggs are snakes.  All year round you will find Cat-eyed Snakes, (Leptodeira septentrionalis), somewhere around the pond at night.  Their location depends upon the time of year.  Now that the frogs are out in force engaged in a reproductive frenzy there is plenty free protein going in the form of frogs eggs and it is this easy food source that the Cat-eyed Snakes relish and feed upon.  They can sometimes be seen in anything up to 50 in number cruising over the leaves with their heads beneath searching for the eggs of the Red-eyed Green Tree Frog.  Lower down they will be searching for the Banana Frog eggs but should an unwary frog present itself as a target the snakes will take that too.

Cat-eyed Snake

During the dry season the Cat-eyed Snakes will be more commonly found around the pond edge.  Even though the main period of frog reproduction takes place throughout June, July and August there will always be 1 or 2 breeding outside of the season.  There is less of a supply but the snakes, now also lower in numbers, sit and pick of the froglets as they emerge from the water.

Much larger in size and much more of a concern are the Terciopelos, (Bothrops asper).  These nocturnal pit vipers are found in the dry season down by the creeks at night long after the sun has set.  This time of year they can be seen sitting by the pond where they will envenomate and consume the larger amphibians.  Although they are not always seen, there are plenty of rodents and small opossums by the pond which also provide a perfect meal for these beautiful but deadly predators.

Terciopelo

Last year seems to have been a particularly successful breeding year for the Black and Green Poison Arrow Frogs (Dendrobates auratus).  They are everywhere; hopping around on the forest floor, all around the restaurant, on the deck of my cabin and even in my shower.  They are diurnal frogs and a short walk behind the bar on the Creek Trail should reward you in a very short space of time with the sightings of several of these small neon green and black frogs.

Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog

Down in the damp creek beds the second species of dendrobatid that Bosque has, The Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog, (Phyllobates vittatus), can be seen.  The increase in precipitation has brought about an increase in activity and the soft but persistent trill of the male can be heard in most of the creeks.

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 0.23 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.59 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 5.8 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 40.4 mm

Highest Daily Temp 85°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.

Highest Daily Temp 29.1°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 23.1°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Capuchin Monkey
  • Common Tent-making Bat
  • Western Red Bat
  • Crab-eating Raccoon
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Kinkajou
  • Agouti
  • Vesper Rat
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Three-toed Sloth
  • White-lipped Peccary

Birds

  • Orange-chinned Parakeets
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Curassow
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Crested Caracara
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed Caracara
  • Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Red-Capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Fiery-billed Aracari
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • House Wren
  • Riverside Wren
  • Masked Tityra
  • White-collared Seedeater
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

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

Amphibians

  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Milky Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
  • Tink Frog

Butterflies

  • Dryas iulia
  • Eurybia lycisca
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Phoebis argante
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Strymon megarus
  • Urbanus simplicius
  • Urbanus tanna

Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Fruiting
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Attalea rostrata Fruiting
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Caryocar costaricense Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp  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 insipida Fruiting
  • Garcinia madruno Fruiting
  • Gustavia brachycarpa Flowering
  • 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 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
  • Psychotria sp Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Symphonia globulifera Fruiting
  • Voschia ferruginea 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

 

 

Mellow Yellow   4 comments


Felipe del Bosque Blog November 26th 2012

Coming to the End

This week the precipitation reduced and the sun hours increased dramatically.   In fact there were about four days without rain except for a smattering late in the afternoon.    It is too early to say whether we are in the dry season but if not then we are not so far off.

Why Change

It is difficult to better on a weekly basis that which had been seen the week before.  The diversity and abundance of both plant and animal life here at Bosque is so rich and accessible that unless something out of the ordinary happens or a set of climatic conditions change resulting in the stimulated response of some plant or animal group then most sightings are going to the same as the previous seven days.

The only new mammal sighting for the week was Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel, (Microsciurus alfari), which looks like a small dark colored chipmunk with a sparsely haired tail.  It is normally found in the forest and this week I saw them on several occasions.  The only other species of squirrel we find at Bosque is the Red-tailed Squirrel, (Sciurus granatensis).  These can be seen all around the grounds, quite often feeding on palm nuts or gnawing their way through the husks and shells of coconuts to get to the nutritious white flesh inside.

While out walking the trails, I saw three species of minute rain frogs on the forest floor this week: Stejneger’s Dirt Frog, (Craugastor stejnegerianus), the Rough-skinned Dirt Frog, (Craugastor rugosus) and (Craugastor crassidigitatus).  If you keep your eyes to the ground then every so often you should see movement down by your feet as these tiny amphibians leap out of the way of your footfall and hopefully to safety.

                 

The Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frogs, (Phyllobates vitattus) can be heard, if not seen, calling from the creek beds.  The Black and Green Poison Arrow Frogs, (Dendrobates auratus), on the other hand can generally be seen most everywhere on the forest floor.

As the weather becomes progressively drier and the plants will begin to flower.  This in turn will bring out more insects including the butterflies.  It doesn’t take much, a few sunny days with no rain and out they come.  The species accumulation curves grow at an exponential before reaching a plateau later in the season.

Spiny Coats

The mucuna vines, (Mucuna urens), have been fruiting this week.  Their spiny coated seed pods can be seen hanging from slender tendrils that weave in and out of the branches at the top of the trees.  It is best not to handle these as those spines are tiny urticating hairs which embed into the skin and become almost impossible to remove while at the same time causing intense irritation.  The distinctive seed inside is known as the ojo de buey due to their resemblance to the eye of a bull.

Another flower blooming in the tropical garden is the flamboyant flame orange blossom of the African Tulip Tree, (Spathodea campanulata).  As its common name implies it originates in tropical Africa but is commonly planted as a non-native garden ornamental in Costa Rica.  Its other name Flame of the Forest is beautifully exemplified right now.

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

Yellow Peril

I had one group of people out with me one morning walking the zapatero trail on the primary forest tour.  Not so far into the tour and so only a couple of hundred feet down the trail I was talking about rainforest ecology when one of the guests pointed out something I had completely missed and walked straight by.  Lying coiled in the leaf litter at the side of the path was a deadly venomous pit viper, a Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper).

It coloration blended the snake, which was about 4 feet long, perfectly against the background.  The unusual thing about this snake was the very yellowy hue that it had as opposed to the normal mix of browns and grays.  Strangely enough this snake was sitting amongst some fallen dead leaves that were yellow in color, which may have been little more than a coincidence.  This meant that once the tour finished I would have to come back and get the photograph.

I returned after lunch and the snake was still lying exactly where it had been in the morning.  I set up the tripod and camera, selected the exposure I wanted and shot off a couple of photos.  I was using four flash units and all that light was too much for the poor reptile which proceeded to uncoil and slither away in the opposite direction from the bothersome creature firing bolts of light at it.  It moved off through the leaves and headed between a V at the base of a plant.  There it stopped.  I thought I had missed my opportunity but as it remained unmoving I thought I might be able to get on the downward slope and get some nice portrait shots of the snakes head looking directly up at it.

I folded the tripod and struggled through the undergrowth until I was facing the snake head on.  Very slowly and without making too much disturbance I managed to place the tripod so the camera was now positioned about six inches from the deadly venom delivering weaponry housed in the head of the snake.  I focused and “Poof” off went the flashes.  I was in deep shade and needed a lot of light.  The snake did not flinch.  I knew I was fairly safe as the body was in a straight line with no striking potential.  Another minor adjustment and I was now within just a few inches.  The snakes tongue flickered in and out, it knew I was there.  Those two pits on either side of the head between the eye and the nostril house very sensitive sensory apparatus that allow the snake to detect very small differences in background infra red radiation, it knew I was there alright.

I wasn’t concerned as I didn’t think the snake was showing any visibly obvious behavioral signs of being threatened.  Like many other things in life you get to know your subject through experience, although having said that it is sometimes complacency that gets you into trouble.  Still I managed to get the pictures I wanted and as soon as I had finished, the snake glided silently away down into the heavy cover of the vegetation on the forest floor.  It was another occasion where I felt privileged to have been so close up to one of evolutions most fabulous creations.

The Terciopelo is a pit viper of the subfamily Crotalinae which also includes the rattlesnakes.  They have a reputation as being very aggressive but as this individual demonstrated that is patently not true.  I do come across these snakes with a certain regularity and remove them to safety within the forest.  I can honestly say I have never had one act in an aggressive fashion towards me.

The problems occur due to their amazing crypsis or camouflage.  It is almost impossible to see them, even large ones on the forest floor amongst the leaf litter.  As was demonstrate by the individual above, you can stand right beside them and they won’t move, they won’t give themselves away.  They don’t bear you any malice, they can’t eat you and in a confrontation with something much bigger than themselves they will probably die.  So they lie stock still hoping you don’t see them.

Unfortunately they can be found in areas where people are working in the fields and if stepped on may retaliate to that form of provocation by biting.  Even then if bitten by a terciopelo it is quite often a dry bite, only 1 in every 7 or 8 bites results in a full envenomation.  So as long as you stick to the trails and don’t go wandering off through the undergrowth you should never see one let alone get bitten by one.  As for me I still feel that frisson of excitement when happening upon one and more especially if I get a close encounter such as this.

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 0.03 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 2.09 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 7.6 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 53.1 mm

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

Highest Daily Temp 30.2°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 22.6°C.

Species List for the Week

Mammals

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

Birds

  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Great Curassow
  • Black Hawk
  • Crested Caracara
  • Great Black Hawk
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Rufus Piha
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Blue-crowned Manakin
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Buff-rumped Warbler
  • Green Honeycreeper
  • Summer Tanager
  • White-shouldered Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Golden-crowned Spadebill
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • Masked Tityra
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture

Reptiles

  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Smooth Gecko
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Anolis
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Skink
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Parrot Snake
  • Terciopelo

 Amphibians

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

Butterflies

  • Anartia Fatima
  • Dryas iulia
  • Eurema albula
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Magneuptychia libye
  • Mechanitis polymnia
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho Menelaus
  • Perophthalma lassus
  • Philaethria dido
  • Pierella helvina
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Pyristia nise
  • Theope publius
  • Urbanus simplicius

 Plants

  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Bauhinia variegata Flowering
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
  • Citrus spp  Fruiting
  • Clusia rosea Flowering andFruiting
  • Clusia vallerii Flowering and 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
  • 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 andFlowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering andFruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psychotria sp Fruiting
  • Spathodea campanulata Flowering
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Zammia sp Flowering

 

 

TERCIOPELO: VELVET SLIPPERS OF DEATH   Leave a comment


 

Veridion Adventures. Philip Davison. Rainforest animals. Rainforest plants

Today has been in much the same vein as yesterday, overcast with showers.  There were not so many birds or butterflies out this morning on my pre-breakfast amble.  The Chestnut-backed Antbirds, (Myrmeciza exul), and Black-hooded Antshrikes, (Thamnophilus bridgesi), made their presence know with constant calls coming from the forest edge.  Scarlet Macaws,  flying in noisy duets were on their way from the roosting sites to the feeding sites.  Scarlet Macaws,(Ara macao), can quite often be found feeding in the Tropical Almond Trees lining the back of the beach at Matapalo.  Three more birds heard, but not seen, were calling from hidden vantage points in the vegetation; the Bright-rumped Atilla, (Atilla spadiceus), with its rapidly repeated “Read it, read it, read it” call, along with two manikins, the blue-crowned, (Lepidothrix coronata), and the red-capped, (Pipra mentalis).

After breakfast I had another tour in the forest.  It always takes me about an hour to get to the trail head, as I stop to point out many things as we go, the plants and the animals, as well as trying to get a feel for the level of interest and the depth of knowledge the guests I am taking out have.  The tour has a loose framework to it around which I can build information depending upon what we see.  That in turn depends not only on the time of year but also on serendipitous circumstances.  But as Louis Pasteur said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind”, so having spent the best part of my life studying all things natural, I can generally wax lyrical about anything that comes our way.  Also, the visitors may have a certain more special interest such as tropical medicines, or they may have seen a television program about ants and want me to indulge them with further elucidation of these subjects.  Occasionally the tour may take a more political or socio-economic aspect to its direction.  But this morning it was general rainforest ecology.

As we were approaching the “Zapatero Trail” entrance, we were treated to the sight of a large troupe of very vociferous Spider Monkeys, (Ateles geoffroyi), closely followed by a troupe of Capuchin Monkeys, (Cebus capucinus), a little less rambunctious by nature than their larger cousins.  As I was talking, a beautiful electric blue male, Morpho menelaus butterfly flew by.  Its flight is lazy, floppy and erratic.  It landed on some fallen fruit to imbibe the juices, allowing us to approach and enjoy a close look.  In the background the Howler Monkeys, (Allouata palliata), were raising a din about something that was disturbing them.

Terciopela: Velvet Slippers of Death

We finally made it into the forest, stopping every few yards to talk about some aspect of forest ecology, which by the time we exit 3 hour later, all the information will have fitted together to unravel what is an amazing story.  Just as we came down the final stretch of path, a shout from behind me brought me up short.  I had not seen it and stepped straight over the top of it.  The young lady following directly behind me saw it move and screamed.  Lying coiled in the centre of the path was a Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper), a deadly poisonous pit viper.  They have a reputation they don’t deserve as being very aggressive.  This one sat there totally unperturbed by the fuss it had caused, so I picked up a stick and ushered it off the path into the undergrowth were it wouldn’t solicit a hysterical response from anyone else who may be following in our footsteps.

At the end of the day as the sun started to set, its departure was accompanied by flocks of Red-lored Amazons, (Amazona autumnalis), leaving for their roosting sights, one last yahoo from the atilla and finally the plaintive call of a Great Tinamou, (Tinamus major).

As you walk around the grounds of Bosque del Cabo, whether it is in the gardens or the forest it is almost guaranteed that at some point you will come across a very weird, almost alien looking life form.  For the past two days for example I have seen a trash bug that covers itself in refuse in order to approach undetected and then assassinate its prey.  For the same covert reason, there has been a praying mantis in the restaurant that resembles to perfection a bean pod.  People quite often approach me at the lodge with a description or photo of some strange insect that they have seen.  Some of these weird bugs demand an explanation……..

The ingloriously named Peanut-headed Bug, (Fulgora lantenaria), is one of the planthoppers, a true bug in the family Fulgoridae.  Take a close look at the head.  Not many predators are going to recognize that as something so totally harmless as a species of sap-sucking bug.  That dreadful aspect is more akin to some hell-spawned daemon straight from a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  The maw, the gape, the teeth, any bird or lizard would have second thoughts about risking an encounter with such a monster.  It is however all a ruse, it is a false head, a protuberance from the front of the actual head of the insect.  If you look closely you will see the true eye and the six legs that denote it as an insect.

The Peanut-headed bug lives at the top of the trees and is rarely encountered at ground level.  They also tend to be inactive during the day and fly at night.  The alternative name Lantern bug is just as inadequate as they do not emit light of any kind.  A third name, sometimes used, is far more descriptive, the Dragon-headed Bug.

Some species of planthoppers have long waxy excrescences trailing like stiff white ribbons from the rear of the abdomen.  This one is Pterodyctia reticularis.  There is no definitive answer as to why they have these peculiar waxy plumes although they may serve as a distraction to predators, directing an attack to the tails and not at the insect’s body.

 

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