Bonilla Arriba, monkeys and lots of birds

What a great place for mountain scenery, lots of beautiful birds and even White-faced Monkeys! Bonilla Arriba is a tiny collection of dairy farms on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano and only a few kilometers from my home here in San Antonio. How have I managed to avoid going there in all these years?

From the village of Torito, the dirt road becomes a little rougher as it passes the even tinier community of La Fuente, crosses the Rio Colima and eventually lands at Bonilla (Arriba). This location is not to be confused with the Bonilla of the Lagunas de Bonilla, which are located much further downhill just off the Turrialba-Santa Teresita-La Alegria road.

John Beer, Larry Waddell and I enjoyed a beautiful day’s birding, having set off from San Antonio in search of the Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus), a photograph of which was badly needed for Larry’s photo collection. We began at El Alto de los Castillos, where I had guaranteed a sighting. Having heard but not seen our target species there, we persevered at every likely spot and finally struck gold at the Rio Colima, a short way before Bonilla.


Larry Waddell’s photo shows clearly the blue throat of the Costa Rican race of the Emerald Toucanet


Here’s a shot that John Beer took of the same bird

With heads down in the thick roadside foliage and our backsides pointing towards the road, we found a pair of Zeledon’s Antbirds  (Myrmeciza zeledoni) together with a Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush (Catharus fuscater), several of which sang sweetly as we scanned the forest scenery.


Here’s the male Zeledon’s Antbird, courtesy of John


And here’s Larry’s take.

Nobody got a pic of the brown female but she shares the male’s blue orbital skin and is also an attractive bird if you can get a good view as she moves at ground level in thick foliage. These antbirds can be spotted in their dark habitat because of their movement when they repeatedly raise and lower the tail.

Here’s the Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush:


Middle-elevation songstress, the Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, courtesy of Larry Waddell

The staring eye of this thrush helps to identify it, as does its pale belly. It is a beautiful singer but I am still having difficulty differentiating its high flute-like song from that of the Black-faced Solitaire, which is generally found rather higher up the mountain.

At the end of this post you will find the full list of sightings from this trip. The Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) is a common enough raptor in our area, but I cannot resist including here two fine photos of an adult that we encountered:

Hawk, Broad-winged, Bonilla Arriba (3).JPG

Broad-winged Hawk at Bonilla Arriba, courtesy of John Beer


Larry’s shot of the same Broad-winged Hawk

The prize for the most beautiful bird seen that day must go, however, to the stunning male White-winged Tanager (Piranga leucoptera) that briefly appeared, accompanied by the yellow female. Unfortunately, they did not pose for a photo op, but Larry managed to shoot the following images:

White-winged Tanager

Male White-winged Tanager


The somewhat duller, female White-winged Tanager

In recent years and months, I am now becoming accustomed to coming across monkeys, usually, though not always, White-faced Monkeys. We saw several on this visit, and John took this final photo at the same spot near the Rio Colima on his return trip the following day:

Monkey, White-faced, Bonilla Arriba.JPG

Hmm.. I think I’ve scratched myself

At our road’s end (for that day at least) we found an extremely pretty river running through a meadow. This is a lovely picnic spot and we were able to find some bird species typical of rocky mountain rivers (American Dipper, Black Phoebe), as well as a male Black-bellied Hummingbird (Eupherusa nigriventris) that proved difficult to photograph. On some future excursion to Bonilla Arriba, I hope to try and get through to the Caribbean lowlands from there, either by car or on foot.

Sightings for the day can be found at:

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