We signed up for the Sunset Tour the first night we were there. It's a relatively short walking tour of the grounds near the restaurant, that occurs right before dinner.
It is astounding that we have no idea what is really going on out there in the darkness. Unless, of course, we venture out - with a knowledgeable guide - and see it for ourselves. I mean, we could have just as easily not signed up for this tour and headed straight to dinner, complacent but completely unaware of all the activity and wonder that was happening around us...
We met up with Philip Davison, the resident biologist and ever-so-knowledgeable tour guide, with flashlights in hand and - under a blue moon - off we went into the darkness...
The first stop was at some palms, under which the tent-making bats will sometimes roost. Tent-making bats! (I got so excited!) Bosque del Cabo has tent-making bats! We didn't see any though, only evidence that these palms were once their home. What they do is make bites in the palm so that it will bend to create a tent. (That is so awesome!) Philip pointed out they are crepuscular and have different day and night roosts that they change daily to avoid predators. (see a short youtube video of a tent-making bat)
By the way, there are 80 species of bats on the Osa Peninsula!
palms under which tent-making bats roost
We do have something here though...
a wasp nest
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As we moved on across the grass, Philip told us to hold our flashlights at eye-level right against one side of our face, shining it out in the distance at the grass... (Yes! I knew what we were doing!)
Immediately a thousand glistening eyes were looking back! I was just captivated! They were the eyes of spiders in the grass! I would've never imagined - that there were that many! From here on out, my husband and I were like children, playing with this technique for the rest of the tour - and the rest of our nights here!
What this is is the light of the flashlight reflected back to you from the membrane behind the spiders' retina - animal eyeshine. I have a post on it (see link at the end), as ever since I had read about it, I've been fascinated. This is how biologists locate and even identify nocturnal animals that they otherwise couldn't see. They can identify the animal by the distance between the pupils, the manner of the blinking, the movement of the eyeshine, and the height at which it is coming from. Typically certain colors are associated with certain animals. (Though why a particular animal displays a particular color is not yet known.)
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Next we came upon what is know as the Chanel No. 5 tree...
the ylang-ylang tree
The ylang-ylang (ee-lang ee-lang) is native to Indonesia and the Philippines. Its fragrant, five-pointed flowers are used to make Chanel No. 5 perfume!
Philip pointing to something on the calabash tree...
a calabash flower about to bloom
The calabash tree - not to be confused with the calabash vine - has musky flowers that open for one night. Bats are attracted to the musky odor - it smells like them! - and pollinate it. I've since read that bats of the genera Glossophaga and Artibeus (the tent-making bat) - both leaf-nosed - are the bats that pollinate it. And because the flowers grow on the tree's trunk - which is referred to as cauliflory - it provides convenient access for its bat pollinators. (Read more about bat pollination in the link at the end.) Philip said that he has seen bats pollinating these flowers many times. Unfortunately, there weren't any out that night or the subsequent nights when we tried to locate this tree in the dark ourselves.
an inviting opening for a little bat
After pollination occurs, the fruit begins to develop.
the fruit of the calabash tree
The calabash tree is native to southern North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. It will flower and fruit at any time of year. Once the fruit has fallen to the ground, horses are the only animal that can break open the hard shell with their mouths and eat the pulpy fruit inside (no New World herbivore can break the shell). The seeds are then dispersed through the horse dung. The hollowed-out shell can be used as a container. (I read that in Africa, it is called the Tupperware Tree!)
inside of the fruit
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I think it was somewhere in this vicinity where Philip mentioned that at a certain time of year, this area of trees becomes dimly illuminated by hundreds of fireflies! The way he described it made it sound so beautiful and otherworldly - something we must see in the future!
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Now we come to the pond area... (Philip mentioned this pond is teeming with life in the rainy season.)
smokey jungle frog
baby jesus christ lizard
golden orb spider
With Philip's help, we spot this bird nesting on the ground by its eyeshine. Even then it's so greatly camouflaged.
bird nesting on the ground
Back to the pond...
frog eggs on a leaf
Philip then hears the call of the red-eyed green tree frog, so he endeavors to find it for us...
somebody's watching us...
it's the red-eyed green tree frog
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This is one tour you should not miss! In fact, we did it twice when we were here! For us - an ex evolution & ecology grad student (husband) and a nature nerd (me) - this is a nighttime playground filled with awe and wonder.
And Philip enriches you with so much information! The next day I jotted down a few hopefully correct notes from the tour, but it's difficult to remember everything. So I apologize if anything is incorrect and that many critters are not identified.
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more about the calabash tree from Backyard Nature (nice photos)
interesting link on bat-pollinated flowers
Philip's Blog - gorgeous photos and accounts of life at BDC
next post >> Magical Mornings of Bosque del Cabo
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