When you’re in our area of Costa Rica, here in the mountains near the Turrialba Volcano, water birds are at a premium. Most chances are afforded on the rocky streams that rush down from the volcano, because larger bodies of water are very few and far between. Pretty soon you learn that even on these streams, which have very small fish populations because the beds are scoured out so thoroughly and regularly by heavy rains, only certain species can be expected.
Perhaps chief among these are the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) and the Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea). A recent visit to the truly spectacular waterfall, La Muralla, close to home here, brought great views of both these species as I rested by the Rio Guayabo just below the falls with Larry and Vera Waddell. Both Larry and Vera were highly impressed by the majesty of this location and Larry took some beautiful photographs of both the scenery and the birds.
The path down to the waterfall is now quite different. It has been cleaned and widened and it looks as if they are preparing for tourist access. This will be positive for the local tourist industry and for the numerous tourists who will now be able to see this magnificent waterfall. It could, of course, have negative consequences if tourists bring noise and trash to what is an almost unspoiled location. Access still goes through cow pastures and you still pay 1000 colones per person at the green house to obtain the key to the gate.
Our pair of dippers flew constantly, calling loudly, between a spot several hundred yards below the waterfall to a big vertical crevice on the left of the wall of the waterfall, into which they disappeared each time, presumably to a nest within. However, Stiles & Skutch gives nesting dates for this species beginning in late February, so perhaps these are initial exploratory forays.
A pair of Torrent Tyrannulets, a tiny grey and white bird that alights on rocks mid-stream and on overhanging boughs, posed frequently in the river close by, occasionally flattening themselves on top of the boulders and fanning their tails, as Larry’s photo below shows.
If you visit La Muralla, be sure to take along a short length of rope with which to tie up, at the top before you descend, any pesky dog that tries to accompany you, entirely unwanted, on your walk. The one that came with us could not be dissuaded, even by thrown stones, and prevented any chance of finding the only two large river species to be expected here, namely the Fasciated Tiger-Heron and the Sunbittern. Otherwise, however, this was a beautiful and memorable day, ending with trout dinner at nearby beauty spot El Gavilán y Las Truchas