Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bats of Bosque del Cabo

Our first night here we saw bats (not sure of the species) flying around at dusk right outside the back of our bungalow, lots of them! And they would fly very near us! What an experience!

bats outside Lapa at dusk

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Some nighttime views from our bungalow's observation deck...

Off to bed...

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At dawn, you could sit out on the observation deck and observe the bats finding their way back home. What an early morning treat!

bats outside Lapa at dawn

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Bosque del Cabo has (that I currently know of):
(note: common names link to photos of species found online - not necessarily taken at BDC - and scientific names link to informative sites)

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See a nice Costa Rican trip report with lots of bat photos

related posts:
Bosque del Cabo Sunset Tour
The Disk-Winged Bats of Lapa Rios

next post >> Dolphin Watching on the Golfo Dulce
previous post << Primary Forest Tour at Bosque del Cabo

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Primary Forest Tour at Bosque del Cabo

December 31, 2009

The Primary Forest Tour is about a 4 hour long hike through primary rainforest of Bosque del Cabo's grounds. Again, this tour completely brought to life what I'd been reading in Tropical Nature.

Philip Davison was once again our tour guide. I thought I'd be smart and snap photos of everything, that would then jog my memory of the stories and interesting tidbits that Philip provided - because there were so many! What I ended up with was a lot of interesting photos that unfortunately do not jog my memory because I waited so long to write about them! I apologize in advance for the lack of information. Nonetheless...


Spix's Disc-winged bats (Thyroptera tricolor) use the furled leaves of the heliconia to roost. They have been observed at Bosque, but we were not that fortunate.


Whenever you see cecropia trees, take a good look - with binoculars if you can. This is where you're likely to find sloths (who eat the leaves and buds) and squirrel monkeys, various birds and some fruit-eating bats (who like to eat the tree's fruit). Azteca ants have a symbiotic relationship with cecropia, defending it against many herbivores.

gigantic leafcutter ant mound

Ant tidbits from previous posts:
  • Ants far outweigh humans in terms of biomass - in fact, in terms of biomass, they outweigh all animals!
  • Leafcutter ants don't actually eat the pieces of leaves that they carry into the underground chambers of their nest. They use the leaves to cultivate a fungus, and they eat the fungus. Also, they maintain a sort of compost heap outside of their underground nests - workers transport the waste to the heap then the heap-workers organize and shuffle the heap to aid decomposition.
Philip holding the stem of a large leaf devoured in a short time by leafcutter ants

monkey crossing

colorful new growth

prop roots

with spikes!

tree sap (whose use I forget)

This set-up was used by a nature photographer, who sat up there patiently to try and catch a few minutes of footage of a puma for a documentary, I believe. Many scientists use Bosque's grounds for their research, and it's a nature lover's dream for the ease of which animals can be observed.

don't run into this tree - it'll pierce you with some nasty bacteria

I believe this was the vine (above) where when you try and move your thumb and index finger down the stem, it's smooth, but when you move them up the stem, you can't. The vine uses this to climb up the trees.

another gigantic ant mound

an ant biting Philip

I didn't snap the picture of his bleeding finger afterwards - that's dedication!

another manner of tree sap (whose use I also forget)

attempting to cut down a tree with a pocketknife (kidding)

telling a story of an all-too-curious guest...

that got a bit too close to this animal hideout

demonstrating how the strangler fig (Matapalo) strangles its host tree

The Matapalo (which means "tree-killer") begins its life as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on other plants or objects) at the tops of trees. It then slowly grows its roots down the host tree - eventually into the ground - while also growing upward. It essentially ends up "strangling" the host tree, sometimes actually killing it, making the core of the strangler fig hollow, where the original tree had been. Many animals take up residence in this hollow core.

decaying base of a strangler fig

one day it will fall - precisely on a very well-hiked trail!

the towering Matapalo

walking tree

The last night we were at Bosque, we briefly met the guy who researches these "walking trees." They are said to move up to a meter each year, and they have a lifespan of 30 years! (Others say this is just a local legend.)

I forget what these are - I like the photo though

ants and their plants


I guess these were some sort of mushrooms growing on the tree. It appeared so otherworldly with the white outline on the edge.

example of secondary forest

secondary forest is one that has been disturbed in some way and is in the process of regenerating.

Bosque del Cabo's tropical gardens

There's a funny story to these screened lightbulbs (below) that illuminate the suspension bridge at night. The staff was always having to replace the lightbulbs because they'd go missing. It was a mystery. Later it was discovered that mischievous monkeys were unscrewing the lightbulbs and then dropping them on the forest floor below! Thus the screen.

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Philip's Blog - gorgeous photos and accounts of life at BDC

related posts:
Lapa Rios Osa Trail
The Disk-Winged Bats of Lapa Rios
Monteverde Cloud Forest

previous post << The Lowland Tropical Rainforest

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Lowland Tropical Rainforest

Part of what goes into making a forest a tropical rainforest is the climate, which is very warm and very humid but not necessarily very hot. In the tropics, daylengths are more-or-less the same throughout the year, so there are no opportunities for heat to build up or be lost; therefore, you have more-or-less consistent temperatures throughout the year. What differs throughout the year is the rainfall: there is a marked rainy and dry season. Tropical rainforests generally receive at least 80 inches of rain per year.

So what is it that is so appealing about the warm and humid tropical rainforest?

For me, there's something about the ecologic complexity, the incredible biodiversity, the interdependency of the plants and animals, and the quietly dynamic personality of the rainforest. And then there's the enveloping exoticness, otherworldliness, and the captivating lushness that closes you off from the rest of the world.

This "lushness" however is somewhat deceiving. As I had read in Tropical Nature (Forsyth and Miyata) - the book I had brought along on the first trip and reread on the second - the Europeans who came and prospected for farmland in the lowland tropical rainforests found that despite this seeming lushness, the soils were in fact weak. The prospectors cut down trees and planted their crops, but nothing grew. It turns out that only a tiny amount of nutrients ever penetrate more than an inch or two into the soil. The majority of the nutrients are tied up in the trees.

But then one thinks, how can such a weak soil support the towering trees found in a rainforest? The answer is in the fungi of the forest floor that forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the plants, referred to as mycorrhizae. And you'll notice that the trees are often buttressed, spread out more horizontally across the ground than vertically into the ground.

The fungi of the forest floor are great at recycling potassium and phosphorus - two of the three main nutrients a plant needs to survive - and the third, nitrogen, is taken from the rain. Nutrient-rich animal waste also plays a big part in this nutrient-scarce environment, and there are many interesting accounts of this in the Tropical Nature chapter "Fertility".

It's mentioned in Tropical Nature that "common species are rare and rare species are common." Upon first glance, some of the trees might look the same, but if you observed them from the canopy, you'd discover that they are in fact different species. Another example is that you'll see one species of poison dart frog, then you'll see another species of poison dart frog, then another, but never the same species in a given area. It's an intricate, interdependent system - some species of animals only feeding on one species of plant!

Scientists believe that this narrow specialization, along with the tropical rainforest's stable climate, is what creates such astounding biodiversity. A mere 7% of the world is rainforest, yet 50% of the world's plant and animal species inhabit the rainforest!

That being said, in such an interdependent system, just as the climbing vines intertwine among the other flora in the rainforest, so do all the organisms in the rainforest, and damaging one affects the others.

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related posts:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Morning Coffee at Bosque del Cabo

After breathing in the sunrise, we'd take a short walk to the restaurant for coffee...

 it's bananas!

past the pool and bar area 

hairy heliconia

this spider's making darn sure she's having lunch today! 

the artist 

the restaurant and reception 

this bird was perched here every morning 

inside the restaurant and reception area

library/meeting area upstairs 

Then we'd either drink the coffee here, take it back to the bungalow, or take it with us while exploring the grounds around the restaurant...

What I wanted to do was see the things that Philip pointed out to us during the Sunset Tour. It was actually quite hard to find some of these things in daylight.

found the wasp nest

Then I photographed various palms.

I believe these are the ones the tent-making bats use

Not sure if these are the same species, but these palms (above and below) remind me of the Traveler's tree of Madagascar in which the sucker-footed bat roosts.

I think this is a termite nest

the path to our Lapa bungalow 

coffee on the observation deck

squirrel monkey observation from the deck

lizard on the door

moth observation inside