Despite the many recent ash eruptions of our Turrialba Volcano, the upper slopes continue to be accessible for birding. This week’s excursion with friend and guide Steven Aguilar was particularly rewarding, bringing me three species that I had never seen before, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Wrenthrush and Golden-bellied Flycatcher, and good looks at many other mountain species.
The tapaculos are assigned their own family in the scientific literature. They are exclusive to Central and, particularly, South America. We have only one species in Costa Rica, the Silvery-fronted Tapaculo (Scytalopus argentifrons), which is endemic to here and western Panama. Tapaculos are weak fliers and prefer to stay close to the ground in thick vegetation, so Arnoldo is to be congratulated on achieving the photo above, which was taken in the north of the country at Hotel Villa Blanca, Angeles Norte, San Ramón. I hear the loud calls of this species with some frequency in our mountain areas, always above 1500 m, but until this week a view of it has eluded me.
The Wrenthrush (Zeledonia coronata) shares the habitat of the tapaculo and also skulks in thick vegetation close to the ground. It too is endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama and was for a long time placed in its own family, but recent genetics indicate that it is a ground-loving warbler. It certainly doesn’t look or behave like one! This lovely photograph was taken at Paraíso de Quetzales, near San Gerardo de Dota in the mountainous area just south of the city of Cartago. Congratulations and thanks to Juan Pablo! To find it, it is best to listen for the high, thin call.
My third new species for the day, the Golden-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes hemichrysus), was at the entrance to the rough path that leads from below El Tapajo and ends at Bonilla (de arriba), i.e. upper Bonilla, not to be confused with lower Bonilla, famous for its two lakes and located way down at 400 m elevation in the Reventazón valley. The pair that we saw were easy to spot because they perch prominently, looking like either a small Great Kiskadee or a large Social Flycatcher. The latter two are abundant in towns and villages throughout Costa Rica, but the Golden-bellied will be found only in mountain forest above 1400 m. To distinguish it, look for the dark lateral throat stripe.
Migrants are now in evidence everywhere and Steven helped me to find 5 different species of new arrivals, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, American Redstart and, surprisingly early, Summer Tanager.
More about them later!