Tufted Flycatchers at Bonilla Arriba

A beautiful little highland flycatcher: the Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocircus): photo by John Beer

The best local spot to find this small, crested flycatcher seems to be around Bonilla Arriba, a small dairy community on the Turrialba Volcano slope but located close to the border with the province of Limón. The area boasts considerable forested areas, almost all on the northern side of the dirt road that runs from Bonilla and peters out before reaching El Destierro or, alternatively, Ojo de Agua, not to far from La Alegría de Siquirres.

Cloud forest seen from Bonilla Arriba; photo by John Beer

Shortly after leaving Bonilla all of this trail is actually located in the province of Limón, but it’s now a fairly comfortable ride to Bonilla from my home in San Antonio because the road has been much improved. The views toward the Caribbean are very impressive. On this day we could see the coastline very clearly with the naked eye, including the little island of Uvita, just off the coast at Limón, where Christopher Columbus made landfall in 1502.

The Tufted Flycatcher prefers clearings and edges in thick montane forest; photo by John Beer

This a species that I otherwise encounter only rarely. In fact I’ve only seen it twice at any location other than this one. It can perhaps present an identification problem because of its similarity to the Ochraceous Pewee (Contopus ochraceus), another mountain species. However, the much larger pewee (7 in) is a rare bird even within its limited range, while the disparity in size should preclude confusion. The Tufted Flycatcher measures barely 5 inches from head to tail.

Although the birding was difficult at times, our latest excursion in John’s trusty Landcruiser also brought some other rewarding sightings, most particularly the endemic Sooty-faced Finch (Arremon crassirostris) and Black-bellied Hummingbird (Eupherusa nigriventris). Both of these are easily located near Bonilla. Surprisingly, we found the Black-bellied to be the commonest hummingbird in the area, although Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Violet Sabrewing and Talamanca Hummingbird all made a showing on this particular day. Be careful identifying the Black-bellied female. It’s on the left below, the one with the pure white underparts!

The best bird of the day was located in Cartago Province, however, just before Bonilla. It will feature in my next post. Now see the following link for the day’s sightings on this particular stretch of road/trail:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57324439

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