The village of San Antonio de Santa Cruz lies in a valley formed by the small, rocky rivers Guayabito and Quebrada La Loca. Most of the village houses overlook the Rio Guayabito, but access to the river itself is not so easy. This week I decided to slog along a path through a very muddy cow pasture, cross the river and climb the steep, wooded hillside up to the neighbouring village of El Carmen. It’s a path that I used to take with some frequency years ago, when it had produced a couple of species not to be easily found elsewhere in my patch.
The cow pastures en route often attract swallows, but the hoped-for early migrants did not show. The river itself offers very attractive habitat for the Sunbittern, a much sought-after species that is often found there, hopping from rock to rock in mid-stream. Strangely, the Torrent Tyrannulet and the Buff-rumped Warbler, species also ideally suited to rocky mountain streams, have been recorded neither here nor on Quebrada La Loca.
I think that this trail might offer great interest if visited in the first hours of the day. Only my advanced age and the excellence of Costa Rican coffee have so far prevented me from finding out. The wooded hillside actually forms the largest forest patch close to my house and it seems to offer the same species as at don Martin’s lot on Quebrada La Loca, plus a few more. White-breasted Wood-wren and Golden-crowned Warbler were relatively easy to find, but I also had glimpses of the Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons). This pretty, resident warbler is much more a Pacific coast species, and here it is at the far eastern end of its Central Valley range. I have seen it only occasionally in our area so far.
The final more unusual species for our area was a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus), which is usually found at slightly lower elevations. This is, I believe, the only woodcreeper species that I have seen in the San Antonio area apart from the common Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Woodcreepers are notoriously difficult to sort out. For example, my recent sighting of the Strong-billed Woodcreeper (see earlier post), despite being accompanied by a photo, is now seriously in doubt. However, because of its small size and short bill, the Wedge-billed is more likely to be confused with a xenops or a foliage-gleaner, neither of which have appeared in San Antonio. The slightly upturned bill is not always easy to spot. Here’s a photo taken in Costa Rica by friend Karel Straatman: