As the road to Siquirres climbs out of Turrialba, the first small town reached is Pavones. A couple of small bars or sodas, (typical small “restaurants” serving local food at low prices) advertise with their names that you are at the “gateway to the Atlantic”, meaning the Caribbean region. To the left, the road offers sweeping views of the Turrialba Volcano, while to the right the land rises steeply to wooded hills. One paved entrance to the right at Pavones leads to the hamlet of San Rafael but soon becomes a steep dirt road that leads ultimately to an excellent bed-and-breakfast place, the Torre Alta Lodge http://www.torrealtalodge.com/
I was very happy to accept an invitation to bird the area from skilled and enthusiastic birdwatchers Andrey Acosta and Steven Aguilar. Steven lives in San Rafael and has detailed knowledge of the area and its bird species, while Andrey is based in Puntarenas.
Much of our birding took place on the property of the Lodge, where owners Annette and Harry offered us Yorkshire tea and sandwiches! Not really what I expected! Nor did I expect the wide variety of species at a location less than half an hour from Turrialba. My records at eBird show that I picked up 5 new species (4 of them at or close to Torre Alta) for my own life list for Costa Rica: Black Hawk-eagle, Russet Antshrike, Slaty Antwren and Least Flycatcher. The latter was not really new to me in Costa Rica, but had simply gone unrecorded, but the others were definitely exciting new species. Unfortunately, my views of the antshrike and the antwren were very fleeting and I would not have been able to identify them without the aid of Andrey and Steven. The Black Hawk-eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus) was much more cooperative and soared above us, calling loudly, for a good long while.
Steven Aguilar (well-named, since águila is Spanish for eagle!)was able to catch it in the photo below:
After a recent near miss with the Ornate Hawk-eagle, this was my first look at one of Costa Rica’s three Spizaetus species. I’m going to have to check all soaring vultures very carefully in future to see if this darkly patterned bird is among them.