A beautiful forest walk; Buff-rumped Warbler and White-ruffed Manakin at La Esperanza de Atirro

From the sugar-cane fields in the lower Río Atirro valley a dirt road follows the river uphill to the hamlet of La Esperanza, where accommodation is offered at Casa Quijote Boutique. A short distance beyond, the road is no longer passable and you must ford the Rio Oro. This is probably very difficult if there is heavy rain. Some distance further, the trail crosses the Río Atirro on a substantial bridge next to the ruins of a former hotel.

Today’s walk explored a forest reserve [Neotropica – a large Costa Rican foundation dedicated to the protection of the environment] on a ridge shortly after the Río Nubes. This is a very steep uphill walk in thick forest. As is usual with such dense vegetation, we heard quite a few birds but actually saw very few. The exploration was well worth it, however.

We began at around 850 m and reached probably only around 1150 m, but John calculates that continuing to the very top of what is called Fila Rincón de Esperanza [Esperanza Corner Ridge] would bring you to about 1900 m and many more highland species.

Most of our sightings were lower down. We began with Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea)….

Tiny Torrent Tyrannulet puffs out his (or her) chest

….and Buff-rumped Warbler (Myiothlypis fulvicauda) at Río Oro.  We were quite surprised to find so many of the latter species, which at the end of the day we continued to see as it hopped along the road as we exited La Esperanza. This bird is generally found in or near gloomy stream beds where its bright rump is very conspicuous. On first impression it seems that the tail end of the bird is actually the head!

Warbler, Buff-rumped, Esperanza, Rio Oro (4)

Buff-rumped Warbler stopped wagging its beacon-like tail for an instant; photograph by John Beer

Many bird families were curiously absent on our walk: no hawks, vultures, swallows, swifts, pigeons, parrots, ducks, shorebirds, thrushes or warblers! Nonetheless the expedition was a distinct success, with much to observe in addition to the birds. At the Rio Atirro our visit aroused the curiosity of a little girl armed with rubber boots and machete.

Esperanza, Rio Atirro little girl(3)

Niña, by John Beer

In our area the manakin that is mostly seen (and its wing-poppings heard) is the White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei), but on this occasion we saw at least four White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera), a species that is found on both coasts but at slightly higher elevations. Here’s John’s photo from this excursion:

Manakin, White-ruffed male Esperanza, Rio Nubes (133-0) (3)

White-ruffed Manakins, male and female, at La Esperanza

To appreciate how pretty a bird this is, here is a close-up of another male taken on another occasion at the nearby Rio Tuis:

Manakin, White-ruffed, male Rio Tuis (2)

Male White-ruffed Manakin, courtesy of John Beer

Female manakins of most species have greenish plumage and are rather duller:

Manakin, White-ruffed female Esperanza, Rio Nubes (134-0) (3)

Female White-ruffed Manakin at La Esperanza; photo by John Beer

At least six tanager species, fruit-eaters as are manakins, were also present. The most prominent was the Tawny-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus delatrii), a species that almost always is found in small flocks. Several other species tagged along this time, including Bay-headed, Emerald and Silver-throated Tanagers. Here’s a Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata), a fairly common middle-elevation species but one which I rarely see close to home:

Tanager, Speckled, Esperanza, Rio Nubes

Speckled Tanager at La Esperanza; photo by John Beer

Finally, the hummingbird of the day was the Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica). This female gave John a good opportunity for a photo:

Hummingbird, Woodnymph, Crowned, female, Esperanza, Rio Nubes (2)

Female Crowned Woodnymph shows the pale grey of its throat and breast

We picnicked and stayed in this beautiful place until dusk:

La Esperanza dusk view to Turri Volcano

Dusk at La Esperanza, with the Turrialba Volcano in the distance

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