A walk uphill from the Guayabo National Monument to the junction of the Santa Cruz-Torito road covers 4 km, starting from 1000 m at the Monument picnic grounds and reaching around 1500 m at the road junction. You never know quite what to expect. I set out carrying rain gear but despite the recent torrential downpours this day remained merely damp.
The first hour, which I spent on the lower stretches of the road close to the entrance to the National Monument, was surprisingly unproductive in terms of birds. Happily, I was able to see sloths in two separate locations, one of them in a guarumu close by the picnic grounds. There are no photographs from this day because I have no camera and was unaccompanied, so all photos reproduced here are from other dates and locations. The road was at times too noisy because traffic to Turrialba had been re-routed uphill because of a landslide that cut the main road. A small walk off along a minor path just outside the Monument grounds brought a flurry of activity and a nice look at a persistently calling Orange-billed Sparrow (Arremon aurantiirostris). This is a common but handsome species from the coast up to around 1200 m, but I have not yet found it at home in San Antonio where we have too much deforestation and pasture land.
Leaving the heaviest woodland behind, I was surprised at a marked improvement in sightings. First up was a fine adult Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) perched in a tree right next to the road. John Beer’s photo shows a similarly plumaged adult at a much lower elevation in Aquiares, though the reddish bars across the breast are barely visible because of the perched position of this individual:
As you climb, the Rio Guayabo is down in the valley to your left and the Rio Lajas, much more heavily forested, is similarly located, but on your right. When I stopped to talk briefly with local farmers, surprise number two arrived in the shape of a stunning male American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) showing lots of rufous on back and tail. This was my first sighting close to my home of this common North American species. In Costa Rica it is found in many parts of the country as a migrant but is generally hard to find. Below is Larry Waddell’s photo of the kestrel that appears annually (but so far not this year!!) lower down at Florencia near the Angostura Dam.
If you then turn left towards Santa Cruz it’s about another 6 km, mostly downhill, to La Piapia, a rustic bar and eating place with a great view. On this stretch, lots of nice species began to appear, highlights being Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima), Red-faced Spinetail (Cranioleuca erythrops) and Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher (Ptyligonis caudatus).
John is also responsible for the next photo, of a beautiful Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher in the Los Santos region at San Gerardo de Dota. On my hike, I found a small flock of this highland species feeding on the yellow berries of the fruta de paloma. This seems to be its preferred food, since I see it in my garden only when those berries ripen, generally from November to January.
Finally, the walk ends after a steep downhill and then the turn-off left for San Antonio. This is at the sign for the very pretty trout restaurant and bar of El Gavilán y Las Truchas, which is up a steep hill on your right. On the last stretch down to San Antonio and home, I usually check for Sunbittern, Russet-naped Wood-rail and American Dipper in the stream below on my left, and for a pair of Tropical Mockingbirds at a dairy a little lower down.
My day’s list is in two parts, and can be found at: