Monday, January 23, 2012

Tropical Plants

Heliconia pogonantha

In addition to the great birds at Bijagual, I am always impressed with the diversity and abundance of the plants we see.  It was great to have Paul Foster, botanist extraordinaire and director of Bijagual, at hand to teach us about the plant families and to help me identify the subjects of all of these photos.

If you haven't noticed yet, I love repetition in my photos.  Repetition that changes slightly over a series is everywhere in nature (think of your backbone) and I find it both eye-catching and beautiful.  The photo below shows a fruit stalk extending from the center of this bromeliad.  When I saw this photo it reminded me of a fat, green caterpillar with its legs peaking out underneath.

OK, I know what you are thinking... "Not another dried up plant photo!", but I couldn't resist.  Just look at the amazing repetition of the bracts on this old bromeliad inflorescence (thanks for the correction Paul!)

And the next two photos might be my favorites.  The immature fruits of this bromeliad not only repeat, but they change color and twist at the same time!  It takes my breath away!

And speaking of breath, does this last photo not remind you of a lung?  It is actually a philodendron leaf that has not yet unfurled and I find it lovely and a little revolting at the same time.
Philodendron radiatum

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bird-banding at Bijagual

Birding in the tropics is always a great experience, but getting to see birds in-hand is amazing. This year we had a special treat on our trip to Bijagual.  Susan Shriner (Wildlife Epidemiologist & BFF) and George Farnsworth (Xavier Professor & hubby) put up mist-nets on the property for three days and caught 41 birds and 16 species.  In addition to taking measurements and placing a band on the birds' legs, they will test the birds' for blood parasites.

Below you can see a Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) getting his culmen measured.

This photo shows a female White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei) having a band place on her leg...

and then getting ready to be released.

Below are a few more photos with the species name above each photo.

Bronzy Hermit (Glaucis aeneus)

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica)

Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus)

Passerini's Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii)

Female White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera)

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monkey Ladder Vine

Another awesome find at Bijagual was this monkey ladder vine.  This vine was down by the river and it was about as big as my arm.  I love its twisting, aged curves.  Just imaging if you set out to carve such an would be impossible!

I also have to mention that the monkey ladder vine is a liana.  What is a liana you might ask?  It is "any of various long-stemmed, woody vines that are rooted in the soil at ground level and use trees, as well as other means of vertical support, to climb up to the canopy to get access to well-lit areas of the forest" (Wikipedia). 

The point of mentioning this is that the word for liana in Spanish is "bejuco" (pronounced [bay-hoo’-co]) and "bejuco" in my opinion ranks as possibly one of the cutest Spanish words I know. ¡Qué chiquitico!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

White-tipped Cycadians

We stayed at Bijagual Ecological Reserve in Sarapiquí for the first half of our Costa Rica trip.  On our first day at the reserve we were lucky enough to see these White-tipped Cycadians (Eumaeus godartii) coming out of their cocoons. It was amazing to see them all come out at the same time, not to mention the colors and the incredible way the wings were folded. 

You can see in the photo below how the wings looked when they first came perfectly flat origami pieces with a hidden surprise.

Below you can see the wings are starting to unfurl.  I don't think I can properly describe in words how beautiful the unfolding process was.  I suppose it is like watching a flower bloom.

Here you can see the wings are completely unfolded.

It wasn't long before their sun-dried wings took them away and all we were left with were dried cocoons.

When I googled this butterfly I came across the Butterflies of America website where there are some great photos of the caterpillars.  Oh, and if you are curious the host plant is Zamia neurophyllidia  - a cycad of course! (Many thanks to Paul Foster, reserve director, for the IDs)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dried Cecropia Leaves

I haven't posted in a while because after Christmas we (and 20 Xavier University students and faculty) went to Costa Rica!  Every year while everyone else is off looking for monkeys, jaguars, snakes, and toucans I find myself drawn to the ground in search of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful things in Costa Rica - dried Cecropia leaves.

I absolutely love their curvy repetitious arms and the way they decay.  Some of them are nothing more than a skeleton by the time I find them, but the vein structure is incredibly beautiful and delicate, like the one below. 

This bottom photo might be my favorite.  When I look at it I can't help but think that the lobes are huddled together whispering rainforest secrets known only to wise old Cecropia elders.

So next time you are hiking in the Neotropics, watch your step for snakes and these aging treasures resting right at your feet.