Peralta – great lowland location close to Turrialba

John and Milena Beer keep coming up with some really exciting finds in the Turrialba area. Back in March they did it again when they found Snowy Cotinga (Carpodectes nitidus) on a visit to the hamlet of  Peralta (elevation 383 m) on the Río Reventazón and only a short drive from Turrialba.  I finally got to see Peralta, escorted by John last week, and I now take the opportunity to introduce one of the photos he took in March of a beautiful male Snowy Cotinga, one of several individuals he and Milena found on that occasion.

Cotinga, Snowy (male, Peralta) (1)

Male Snowy Cotinga. Note the beautiful grey tones on the head.

Unfortunately, we could not find the cotingas this time, but the Peralta area is of great interest not only to all birders but also to all potential visitors and foreign tourists. From Turrialba at maybe 600-700 m elevation the road drops to a little below 400 m, giving access to lowland birds that may not be so easy to find at other area locations. Four-wheel drive is best but an ordinary car can get there (and back) in all but the worst weather.

Prior to this, I knew only three things about Peralta: it had formerly been a stop on the Turrialba-Limón railway line, before the famous earthquake; it had formerly been on one of the wild white-water rafting stretches of the  Reventazón, before the river was dammed at La Angostura; and in addition it had the reputation of being the haunt of multiple varieties of butterflies.

Tunnel Peralta

Tunel Camp

The Camp Tunnel, perhaps named for a camp for railway workers (?), is to be found after a walk of perhaps 30-40 minutes from the abandoned railway station at Peralta  along the also abandoned single-track railway line. It is now home to several thousand bats, though of what species we do not know. Any bat connoisseurs out there?

Peralta (132-2)

The bats clinging to the tunnel ceiling seemed a bit annoyed at our intrusion.

The terrain at Peralta is not particularly heavily forested, but the climate is very humid, and to the right the Reventazón, with aquatic species such as kingfishers, herons and cormorants,  is very accessible. The track, now an increasingly rough path, crosses several streams that tumble down from the forested hills to the left and provide good birding habitat for species such as Wood-Rail (more on this in my next post) and Northern Jaçana.

Sandpiper, Spotted, breeding plumage Peralta

Spotted Sandpiper in mid-stream on the Reventazón

A sighting of a Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularis) in breeding plumage made us wonder if this was one of Costa Rica’s rare summer residents rather than an early migrant from North America. Back in Peralta a large footbridge spans the river, affording majestic views both upstream and downstream, and it allows access to a footpath that leads steeply uphill to the villages of La Flor and Tres Equis on the Turrialba-Siquirres road.

Even before Peralta we found a tall vine-covered tree full of screeching Orange-chinned Parakeets (Brotogeris jugularis), a species that I simply do not see in my patch on the Turrialba Volcano slope.

Parakeet, Orange-chinned, Peralta (3)

One pair of the many Orange-chinned Parakeets with their distinctive brown shoulder

Another species that I never see here at home, despite its reputed distribution up to 1400 m elevation, is the Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus), perhaps the commonest of the antbirds. The plumage of the brown females is quite different from that of the males, one of which we found along the path to the Camp Tunnel.

Antshrike, barred male Peralta (1-2)

Male Barred Antshrike, sitting rather higher in the tree than usual

We did not stop to study the many butterflies in the area, but we were much taken with a tiny Blue Jeans Frog, otherwise known as a Strawberry Poison-Dart Frog that was hopping among the ground litter on the path.

Blue Jeans Poison Dart frog Peralta (2-2)

Poison-Dart Frog, do not touch!

And finally, here’s our bird list for the day. No rare species, but a really wonderful outing and a location to be recommended to all.

  1. Neotropic Cormorant
  2. Great Egret
  3. Cattle Egret
  4. Green Heron
  5. Green Ibis
  6. Black Vulture
  7. Turkey Vulture
  8. White-throated Crake
  9. Russet-naped Wood-Rail (we presume)
  10. Northern Jaçana
  11. Spotted Sandpiper
  12. Red-billed Pigeon
  13. Ruddy Ground-Dove
  14. White-tipped Dove
  15. Groove-billed Ani (flock of at least 11!)
  16. Vaux’s Swift
  17. Green Kingfisher
  18. Collared Araçari
  19. Keel-billed Toucan
  20. Lineated Woodpecker
  21. Crested Caracara
  22. Orange-chinned Parakeet
  23. Crimson-fronted Parakeet
  24. Barred Antshrike
  25. Streak-headed Woodcreeper
  26. Slaty Spinetail
  27. Common Tody-Flycatcher
  28. Tropical Pewee
  29. Black Phoebe
  30. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  31. Great Kiskadee
  32. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  33. Social Flycatcher
  34. Gray-capped Flycatcher
  35. Tropical Kingbird
  36. White-ruffed Manakin
  37. Brown Jay
  38. Blue-and-white Swallow
  39. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  40. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  41. House Wren
  42. Tropical Gnatcatcher
  43. Clay-colored Thrush
  44. Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
  45. Passerini’s Tanager
  46. Blue-gray Tanager
  47. Palm Tanager
  48. Golden-hooded Tanager
  49. Thick-billed Seed-Finch
  50. Variable Seedeater
  51. Yellow-faced Grassquit
  52. Buff-throated Saltator
  53. Black-striped Sparrow
  54. Great-tailed Grackle
  55. Montezuma Oropendola
  56. Yellow-crowned Euphonia
  57. Olive-backed Euphonia
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