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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Panama & Costa Rica August 2012,
This is a report of our trip to Panama and Costa Rica. We started and ended our trip in Gamboa, and stayed there for a while. This was because we visited friends, Wouter and Assia, living there for one or two years. We intended to visit Darién but the region was regarded unsafe, so we went to Costa Rica instead, to see Pacific lowland specialties. Not all our bird sightings are in this report, nor does this trip report have a trip list, however, all our observations can be found on www.observado.org. We saw/heard a total of 437 bird species.
The Birds of Panama – a field guide. George R. Angehr and Robert Dean 2010 - Best bird book of Panama. I follow the English names and taxonomy of the book in this report.
A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama. George Angehr, Dodge and Lorna Engleman 2008 - Absolutely a must for the independent traveller, however, quite some information is out dated already. In this report I use this guide as a backbone.
The Birds of Costa Rica. Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean 2007 - Since we visited only Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica we did not really need this book, since only Mangrove Hummingbird and Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager are not covered in the Panama guide.
This is the rainy season. However, in the lowlands, the rain was usually restricted to a heavy shower in the afternoon. In the Western Highlands (Boquete and Fortuna) rainy season proofed to be excellent: let’s say in 75% of the cases a heavy shower at the end of the day, on the remaining days no rain. 9 Out of 10 times it was sunny in the morning. So we were in the field every day, and never experienced a full day of rain.
7/8-8/8: Gamboa Panama
9/8: Metropolitan Nature park Panama
10/8-13/8: Boquete Panama
13/8-16/8: Golfito Costa Rica
17/8-19/8: Dos Brasos (Rio Tigre) Costa Rica
20/8-25/8: Fortuna Forest Reserve Panama
25/8: Aguadulce salinas Panama
26/8: El Copé Panama
27/8-31/8: Gamboa Panama
30/8: Cerro Azul Panama
Most of the places were visited by public transport. Buses are cheap, go frequent and everywhere! We visited Cerro Azul, Aguadulce salinas and El Copé by four wheel drive.
We had a relaxed start of our trip by just walking around Gamboa, mainly seeing the more common species. We saw a perched Grey Hawk and White-bellied Antbirds at the start of the La Laguna Trail. Along the road near the Gamboa Rainforest Reserve we found Whooping Motmot, Cinnamon Becard, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Dusky Antbird (heard only), Violet-bellied Hummingbird and Flame-rumped Tanager (flames are yellow here apparently). In the late afternoon we drove past the Gamboa Rainforest Reserve to the grounds of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and from there we walked towards a look out on the Rio Chagres. Since Wouter works for the institute we could get there, I don´t know whether one can get here as a tourist. Anyway, a pleasant last our here resulted in a Muscovy Duck, Common Gallinule, Greater Ani and an adult Cocoi Heron, all lifers.
8/8 Gamboa – Pipeline Road
While getting into the car in Gamboa at 6 AM we heard a Spectacled Owl calling: a good start of the day! We birded a full morning on the Pipeline Road. The further you go, the better the forest. Birds seen here include: Green Shrike-Vireo (heard only), Spotted Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Blue-crowned Manakin, Red-capped Manakin, Southern Nightingale Wren, Bright-rumped Attila, Fasciated Antshrike, Western Slaty Antshrike, Ruddy Quail-Dove, White Hawk and Collared Forest Falcon. Around Ammo Dump Ponds we found Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Green Heron and heard White-throated Crake.
Near the start of Pipeline Road there is a Canopy Tower. It is a bit expensive: $30 for tourists! However, it closes at 4PM, I know I shouldn’t, but I just went up at 5PM. Scaled Pigeon was the only notable species.
9/8 Metropolitan Nature park
In the morning we walked a few hours in the park, before taking a bus to David at the nearby bus station. We heard Dusky Antbird, Rufous-breasted Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren. We saw Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Fasciated Antshrike, Southern Bentbill and a nice perched Tiny Hawk. We should have better prepared for where to find Yellow-green Tyrannulet here, since we didn’t find it. The rest of the day was used to travel to Boquete. First in a coach to David, from there a bus to Boquete. We arrived quite late, but fortunately the Mamallena hostel at the central square still had rooms. This is a decent friendly hostel, we paid $27 for a double.
10/8 Boquete – Culubra trail
After a long day yesterday we only went into the field at 8AM. We took a taxi ($8) to the start of the Culubra trail. The first 2 km of this trail were really good, with tanager flocks and many other birds, including: Black-bellied Hummingbird, Black-faced Solitaire, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Yellow-thighed Finch, White-throated Mountain-gem, Ruddy Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, White-naped Brush-Finch, Northern Tufted Flycatcher, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Flame-throated Warbler, Green Hermit, Black-cheeked Warbler, Prong-billed Barbet, Louisiana Waterthrush, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Barred Becard, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Ochraceous Wren, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Slaty Flowerpiercer and Western Wood-Pewee. We walked the trail for quite a while. It becomes very steep and muddy in places, and we did not see many birds when getting higher up, the first few kilometres gave most of the just mentioned birds.
11/8 Boquete – Volcan Baru
There are a few good birds waiting for you on the top of Volcan Baru: Sooty Thrush, Volcano Hummingbird, Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren. However, it is a steep 14km walk to the top. No choice, and this morning we took a taxi ($6) to the entrance of the National Park, bought tickets ($5) and just started walking. The road starts in good condition, not too steep, however, the condition deteriorates further up, and in total it took us more than 5 hours to reach the top. After some 75% of the walk, bamboo starts to appear, and sure enough playing only one song of Timberline Wren, two birds reacted, coming very close. We heard and saw different birds from here on. On the last part, where the trees become low, Sooty Thrush and Volcano Hummingbird start to appear, the former one being very common. In total we saw some 7 Volcano Hummers, including two at the very top. Only at the top there is nearly no vegetation, and here we easily found Volcano Junco. We saw the first clouds appearing, time to go down! Another 4 hours later, and we were down just before the heavy rain started. Besides the four target species we also saw the following species, mainly on the first half of the walk: 30 Rufous-collared Sparrows, 2 Ruddy Pigeons, 20 Band-tailed Pigeons, 15 Sulphur-winged Parakeets, 10 White-throated Mountain-gems, 3 Ruddy Treerunners, 1 Buffy Tuftedcheek, 1 Black-capped Flycatcher, 1 Yellow-winged Vireo, 1 Rufous-browed Peppershrike, 1 Ochraceous Wren, 20 Black-billed Nightingale-Thrushes, 10 Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers, 1 Flame-throated Warbler, 5 Collared Redstarts, 3 Black-cheeked Warblers, 7 Slaty Flowerpiercers, 4 Yellow-thighed Finches, 3 Large-footed Finches, 2 White-naped Brush-Finches, 1 Lesser Goldfinch and 5 Yellow-bellied Siskins. The Siskin and Goldfinch were seen near the guard post at the start of the trail. Fortunately we easily arranged a hitch back to town. This was a very exhausting day, in which we walked 28km through difficult terrain, but it was well worth it!
12/8 Boquete – Pipa de Agua Trail
After the long hike yesterday we woke up an hour or so later than usual, and took a taxi to the Pipa de Agua Trail. Something like 4km before reaching the start of the trail we crossed a river, a Black Phoebe perched on the bridge. At the T-junction, at the start of the trail, we found a flock, including Flame-coloured Tanager, Mountain Elaenia and Cherrie’s Tanager. According the Bird-Finding book you can just walk on the trail. There is a gate now after a few 100 meters with a sign saying you have to pay $3. Nobody to collect however, so we continued. On the first part of the stream we saw many Torrent Tyrannulets. Blue-and-white Swallows and White-collared Swifts were flying past. The trail soon goes into nice forest and after not too long the trail ends at a waterfall. In the forest we saw: 2 Hairy Woodpeckers, 2 northern Tufted Flycatchers, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, 1 Spotted Barbtail, 6 Flame-throated Warblers, 2 Golden-crowned Warblers, a pair of Blue Seedeaters, 2 Golden-bellied Flycatchers, 6 Resplendent Quetzals, including one adult male, 2 Brown-capped Vireos, 3 Spot-crowned Woodcreepers, 2 Dark Pewee, 1 Red-headed Barbet, 2 Red-faced Spinetails and 1 Silvery-fronted Tapaculo (at the forest edge). Today we realized we saw most of the species we wanted to see in the Cerro Punta area, so we decided to skip that area all together, and go to Costa Rica tomorrow instead.
13/8 Boquete, Panama à Golfito, Costa Rica
We took a 7AM bus to David, from where we took a bus to the Costa Rican border. In less than an hour we were past the border, from where we took a Golfito bound bus. In Golfito we checked in at the Cabinas Tucan, just west of the main pier. We paid $24 for a double. The rooms were clean, but also a bit depressing. Golfito itself is also not a lively town.
I took a local bus to the soccer field a few km east, from where the radio tower road starts. Because it was nearly dark already I only birded the first few 100 m. This was however good for the first Riverside Wren of the trip. While scanning the gulf itself from near the hotel we saw Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans and Spotted Sandpipers. A surprise was the group of 6 Scarlet Macaws flying past. I found them later perched in a tree along the main road, close to the entrance of the radio tower road.
According the map in Lonely Planet, Las Esquinas Rainforest Lodge is only some 10 km from Golfito. Since Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager seems to occur here we wanted to visit the lodge today. We first took a taxi to the far northwest end of Golfito, to the start of the road to the lodge. This road is gravel, so taxi’s didn’t want to bring us. So we just started to walk, in the hope to get a hitch. However, besides the odd motor cycle there was no car passing. Bird watching along the road was good though, with forest and secondary growth. On the first 3 km we encountered: White-crowned Parrots, Baird’s Trogons (heard only)1 Bronzy Hermit, 1 male White-crested Coquette, 1 Fiery-billed Aracari, 1 Charming Hummingbird, many Black-hooded Antshrikes, 1 Orange-collared Manakin and 1 Red-capped Manakin. After some 3 km the road gets on a kind of plateau, with great views of the surrounding rainforest. We intended to bird here for a while, but just after arriving here, the first car of the day drove past, and we could get a ride to Las Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, arriving there around 10:30. We were kindly allowed to walk the well maintained trail system, but we had no idea where to find the ant-tanagers. We were also clearly just too late for good bird activity. We decided to walk the longest trail, the Fila Trail. Along this trail we found Gray-chested Dove, Stripe-throated Hermit, Black-throated Trogon, Baird’s Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Black-hooded Antshrike, Rufous Piha, Orange-collared Manakin, Blue-crowned Manakin, Red-capped Manakin and Riverside Wren. In the late afternoon we had a beer or two at the lodge, and the last hour of daylight was spent at the Riverbed Trail. No Ant-tanagers, but we did see Marbled Wood-Quail, Crested Guan and Black-crowned Tityra here. In the evening we took a guided tour to spot amphibians, we saw 12 species of frog or toed, including the famous Red-eyed Tree Frog. The young guide told us that Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager can best be searched for along the Bird Trail in the early morning. The very friendly staff arranged a 4x4 taxi back to Golfito for us for $24.
Today we had an relaxing day. We slept in and during the morning we took a $6 water taxi to Playa Cacao on the other side of the gulf. During the afternoon I made a short but quite successful walk behind the beach. From the beach I walked the path along the houses in south-western direction. When the houses end, the path continuous, into the forest. From the dried out riverbeds a few 100m up the path I came across a flock, containing 2 Golden-naped Woodpeckers, 1 Rufous-winged Woodpecker, 4 Violaceous Trogons, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Black-hooded Antshrike, Riverside Wren and great views of Little Tinamou.
16/8 Golfito and Puerto Jimenez
Before taking the ferry to Puerto Jimenez today, we first spent half a morning birding the radio tower road. We took a very cheap local bus to the entrance and walked up till a nice viewpoint. Birding was quite good here, including a group of swifts containing 2 Costa Rican Swifts. Other notable birds: 3 Golden-naped Woodpeckers, 7 Black-hooded Antshrikes, Eye-ringed Flatbill, 5 Riverside Wrens and 1 Shining Honeycreeper. Since everybody was telling us different departure times for the ferry, we just went to the pier halfway the morning. After a few cups of coffee there was a boat, and 1,5 hour later we were at Puerto Jimenez. We checked in at the very decent Las Palmas ($30 for a double) close to the boat ramp. After some relaxing we took a walk to the close by Playa Plantanares. To get there, follow the road past the east side of the airport, and take the first road to the left, ending at a nice beach. This beach also has some mangroves. They were not flowering, and we had no idea to spot a Mangrove Hummingbird here, which we thus did not found. We played the song of a Mangrove Yellow Warbler, and this bird responded immediately, giving nice views.
We found Ruddy-breasted Seedeater near the airstrip and Scarlet Macaws flew past here.
17/8 Puerto Jimenez and Dos Brasos
We woke up by the noise of 7 Scarlet Macaws next to the bedroom! At Puerto Jimenez we could not find any good forest. In order to see some good forest birds we were told to stay in the small village of Dos Brasos, and this proofed to be an excellent idea. The village is also called Tigre, after the Rio Tigre that runs through it. This is the village where the Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge is situated as well. This lodge is a bit very expensive, but you can stay for way less in the village itself. We stayed at the super friendly Los Mineros Guesthouse, got a very cosy room and paid only $25 per night for the double (http://www.losminerosguesthouse.info/). This place is well recommended! Two minibuses a day (6:15AM and 12:15MD, 30 min) go to Dos Brasos from Puerto Jimenez on week days only, but you can also take a taxi (should be between $20 to $30). The village is very small, but has two small shops (closed on Sunday!). The village is surrounded by primary rainforest, and Scarlet Macaws are flying over the village frequently, this is absolutely a lovely place! In the afternoon we explored the surroundings of the guesthouse and saw 2 Blue-black Grosbeaks, 5 Fiery-billed Aracaris, 3 Blue Ground-Doves, 2 White-winged Becards and many Cherrie’s Tanagers.
18/8 Dos Brasos
Today we made a long hike in the mountains and forest near Dos Brasos. We walked on the trail system of the Bolita Jungle Hostel (http://www.bolita.org/). You can stay at this hostel for only $10 a night. You have to pay a few dollars to use their trails. However, there was nobody at the hostel when we were there, and thus paid nothing. To get there: when leaving the Los Mineros Guesthouse, take a left on the main road (instead of going right, to the shops and Puerto Jimenez) . After a kilometre or so, the road ends at the river. Put off your shoes and wade the stream. The stream might be more easy to cross in the dry season? From here the path goes steep uphill. When finally uphill, you are at the hostel grounds. There was nobody, and we made a photo of the trail system map. We first took a trail called ‘Banana’, then continued on ‘Valle Frijol’, afterwards on ‘Fila Quemada’, from where we took another road back to Dos Brasos. This all makes sense when looking at their trail maps when you are there. The highlight of the walk were certainly the Black-cheeked Ant-Tanagers. Unexpectedly, they are common here, we saw some 15 individuals! Most were seen at ‘Banana’ and ‘Valle Frijol’. Another highlight was a pair of Spot-crowned Euphonias at ‘Fila Quemada’. Besides this we saw today: 1 Baird’s Trogon (at our own guesthouse), 1 Stripe-throated Hermit, 15 Black-hooded Antshrikes, 4 Orange-breasted Manakins, 1 Blue-diademed Motmot, 6 Riverside Wrens, 1 male Blue-throated Goldentail, 1 Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Charming Hummingbird, 3 King Vultures, 2 Double-toothed Kites, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Band-tailed Barbthroats, Golden-crowned Spadebills, and Black-bellied Wren. We returned to the guesthouse in the early afternoon. After some relaxing in the hammock we had a late afternoon stroll through the village, resulting in 10 Scarlet Macaws, 1 Costa Rican Swift, 1 Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, 1 Charming Hummingbird and 2 long-billed Starthroats.
19/8 Dos Brasos à Puerto Jimenez
Our final morning in Dos Brasos, we explored the main road in the other direction than Bolita. So turning right on the main road seen from the guesthouse. We walked the road till the end of the village, from where the road follows the river. In order to follow the road you have to wade the river several times, after 3 times we gave up. In the meanwhile we had great views of the rainforest and saw a Bat Falcon, Crimson-fronted Parakeets, heard Baird’s Trogon and saw 2 Pale-billed Woodpeckers. Since there are no buses on Sunday, we had to hitch back to Puerto Jimenez instead (you can also order a taxi).
20/8 Puerto Jimenez à Fortuna Forest Reserve
We travelled most of the day. First an early boat to Golfito, from there a bus to the border. The border crossing went very smooth, within 20 minutes we were back in Panama, jumping on a just departing coach to David. From David a Bocas bound bus brought us around 3PM to Fortuna Forest Reserve. We stayed at the Lost and Found Hostel (http://www.lostandfoundlodge.com). This place is conveniently located IN the forest reserve. It is not in the Bird-Finding Guide to Panama. On the map on page 192 it is located east of the main road between Quebrada Alemán Trail and Valle de la Mina. It is well signposted. From the main road it is a 15 min walk uphill to the hostel. For $2,50 the staff can carry your gear uphill. It is built in the middle of the forest, with a great communal veranda overlooking forest and Volcan Baru. On average we paid $24 per night for a double. They have a communal kitchen and sell basic food. They often cook for dinner, you have to sign in if you want to join($6). The atmosphere is great here, and so are the birds. For instance, from a hammock I saw my first (and last) Blue-throated Toucanet! They also have a trail system around the lodge, this place is really paradise! If you are not staying here, but still want to use the trail system, you pay only $4. The last hours of the day we walked the trail system around the lodge: 25 Swallow-tailed Kites, Chiriqui Quail-Dove (prolonged views while walking on the trail, near the highest point of the trail), 1 female Purple-throated Mountain-gem, 1 Black-banded Woodcreeper, Prong-billed Barbet and White-naped Brush-Finch. We arrived back at the hostel at dusk, just in time to see some Green-crowned Brilliants on the hummer feeder.
21/8 Fortuna Forest Reserve
From the hostel it is quite a distance to the Continental Divide Trail. Since we don’t have our own transportation we had the hitch. It took a few cars, but soon enough we got a ride. Finding the road of the trail was not too easy. According Where to Find Birds in Panama, there is a guard post on the Continental Divide. 20 Meters before the guard post you have to go left on a gravel road. Things have changed: there is no guard post anymore, and the road to the left is paved now. There are signs still, informing you that you leave Chiriqui and entering Bocas del Toro, so finding the turn of to the Continental Divide should still be no problem. From here the directions to the Continental Divide Trail are still up-to-date. We walked a full day on the trail. The forest is in great shape and the views are breath taking. During hours of hiking up and down the trail we met no one else. The trail is steep and slippery in places. Here you can also walk an hour without seeing a bird, but trust me, just if you get nervous where they are, you will bump into a flock! Birds seen today on the Continental Divide Trail: 1 Zone-tailed Hawk (perched), 10 Green Hermits, 2 Black-bellied Hummingbirds, 3 Purple-throated Mountain-gems, 1 male Orange-bellied Trogon, 3 Prong-billed Barbets, 2 Lineated Foliage-gleaners, 1 Brown-billed Scythebill, 1 Rufous-rumped Antwren, 1 Olive-sided Flycatcher, 2 Golden-bellied Flycatchers, 1 Ochraceous Wren, 3 Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrushes, 2 Mountain Thrushes, 1 Pale-vented Thrush (both thrushes very shy), 3 Three-striped Warblers, Emerald Tanager, 2 Speckled Tanagers, 2 Chestnut-capped Brush-Finches, 1 Hepatic Tanager, 5 Tawny-capped Euphonias and one gorgeous male Golden-browed Chlorophonia. On the walk back from the highway to the hostel we saw Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush.
22/8 Fortuna Forest Reserve
Today we stayed around the hostel. Why go far if the hostel is in the reserve? In the morning shift we only walked up and down the hill above the hostel: 1 Green-crowned Brilliant, 1 Purple-throated Mountain-gem, 6 Prong-billed Barbets, 6 Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaners, 1 Brown Scythebill, 1 Olive-striped Flycatcher, 3 Brown-capped Vireos, 1 Rufous-breasted Wren, 3 Rufous-and-white Wrens, 3 White-throated Thrushes, 1 Blackburnian Warbler (immature female though), Blue-and-gold Tanager, 3 Flame-coloured Tanagers, 3 White-winged Tanagers, 1 male Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Black-breasted Wood-Quail (heard only). During midday Wouter and Assia (and a car J) arrived, joining us for the rest of our stay here. In the afternoon we checked the surroundings of the hostel: Golden-olive Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and 4 Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrushes, while we spotted a Blue-throated Toucanet from the veranda.
23/8 Fortuna Forest Reserve
Another morning at the Continental Divide Trail. While walking from the hostel down to the road we ticked Sulphur-winged Parakeets, Black-breasted Wood-Quail (heard only) and Blue-throated Goldentail. At the Continental Divide Trail much of the same, but new compared to previous time: Wren Thrush, a very nice Black Guan, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Antthrush and near the start of the trail a flock of 15 Black-faced Grosbeaks. On the way back, between the Continental Divide Trail and Fortuna Reservoir we saw a much appreciated White-bellied Mountain-gem during a brief stop. During lunch at the village of Valle de la Mina we saw a Rufous-capped Warbler. In the afternoon we walked the hostel trail system. Behind the hostel the path goes steep up, and after the top steep down, to the Rio Hornito. Here we hoped to find American Dipper. We were not disappointed, within minutes after arrival we found American Dipper indeed! Also new to the trip were White-tailed Emerald and White-throated Spadebill.
24/8 Fortuna Forest Reserve
The male Orange-bellied Trogon on the hostel grounds was a good start of the day.
Our plan to be at first light at the Verrugosa Trail failed a little, and it was only 8:30 when we found the trail. Finding the trail was not easy by the way. The km markers along the road are nearly all gone, which is unfortunately certainly true for the 63 km marker. Also, the odometer of our vehicle was only accurate on km level, making it more difficult to measure 900 meters from the Continental Divide. This is essential, since there are quite some places where the area adjacent to the road has been scraped flat. To stop at the right place, try to measure 900 meters from the Continental Divide, increasing your chance to find the right place to stop. this might help a little: near the trail start, there is a very small kind of source or stream coming down the rocks right of the main road. We parked the car here, and a small area has been scraped flat on the left hand side of the road. Just after the flat area (thus going down the road) the trail starts on your left, going directly into the forest, deep downhill. After going down for a kilometre or so the path levels out and soon ends. Especially the flat part of the road was productive: 2 King Vultures, 1 White-bellied Mountain-gem, 2 Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, 1 Golden-olive Woodpecker, 2 Spot-crowned Antvireos, 1 Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Atilla, Rufous Mourner, 5 White-ruffed Manakins, Ochraceous Wrens, 1 Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, 1 Tropical Parula, 5 Yellow-throated Bush-Tanagers, 3 Ashy-throated Bush-Tanagers, 1 Black-and-yellow Tanager and 2 Slate-coloured Grosbeaks.
After lunch somewhere along the Oleoducto road we headed to the lowlands. Our destination was Two Tanks Road. The directions given in the Where To Find Birds in Panama are very good. Some things have changed for the worse however, since there is a refuse-dump along the road now! It is exactly where the book describes a culvert from where a path leads in the bush, after 600 m along the 2.2 km road. It is a very unpleasant and depressing sight, including people searching the garbage for something useful. We passed nonetheless, and eventually reached the end of the road, but we won’t do it again. Anyway, we walked the dike circling a marsh with tall trees. It was midday and very hot, not the best time to visit this site. After a while we found a flock however, including species like 8 Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Red-eyed Vireo, 5 Passerini’s Tanagers and 2 Olive-backed Euphonias. We also heard Black-throated Wren and Stripe-breasted Wren singing briefly. We stopped on one occasion on the way back, between the marsh and the refuse-dump: 1 Montezuma Oropendola, 1 Melodious Blackbird (not in the bird book!), heard only White-throated Crake and Cinnamon Becard.
In the late afternoon we saw ourselves back at the Oleoducto road, and we stopped for an hour at the Willy Mazu Lodge. The lodge is not open anymore and in bad condition. There was an old man at the lodge, probably guarding the property. We asked permission to enter the trails, but it was impossible to understand him, he might have drunk a little. We considered his muttering a yes and soon found a flock a few 100 m behind the lodge including 5 Dusky-faced Tanagers and 5 Tawny-crested Tanagers. Near the lodge itself we found a male Bronze-tailed Plumeteer.
25/8 Fortuna Forest Reserve to El Copé via Aguadulce salinas
Since we were a bit late at the Verrugosa Trail yesterday we decided to bird there an hour or so at first light. We left the hostel when it was still dark, hearing a Mottled Owl. Unfortunately we could not locate a single flock at the Verrugosa Trail. One of us heard a Lattice-tailed Trogon (not me) and one of us heard a Three-wattled Bellbird (Damn, again not me). We did see a Chiriqui Quail-Dove and a Rufous Mourner at the more level part of the path. On the way back to the hostel we saw 2 Chestnut-collared Swifts at the Fortuna Dam. After breakfast at the hostel we left the Fortuna area and spent most of the day travelling to Aguadulce. From the car we noticed Pearl Kite, Brown-throated Parakeet and Fork-tailed Flycatcher. In the late afternoon we birded Aguadulce salinas. The directions in the Bird-Finding Guide are very good, so we found the coastal mudflats without difficulties. It was low tide and we found a flock of 30 Black Skimmers roosting on the mud flats. An immature Common Black Hawk perched in the nearby mangroves. The salinas as described in the Bird-Finding Guide were very productive: 5 Roseate Spoonbills, 2 Southern Lapwings, 2 Collared Plovers, 30 Black-necked Stilts, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, many Lesser Yellowlegs, 10 Least Sandpipers, Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitcher and 3 Wilson’s Phalaropes, while a flock of Cliff Swallows flew over the salinas. On the fringes of the salinas we found a Common Ground-Dove, 4 Plain-breasted ground-Doves, 5 White-winged Doves, 5 Fork-tailed Flycatchers, 2 Blue-black Grassquits, 2 Eastern Meadowlarks and 3 Yellow-crowned Parrots. We found most of the just mentioned species by taking a dirt road to the left from the main road directly after the last salinas coming from the coast. It was nearly 6PM already, time to go to El Copé. From El Copé it was an half hour drive up the hill to the park office. It is a dirt road, but with our four wheel drive it was no problem. We arrived when it was already dark, and because there was no place anymore at the cabins near the visitor centre we could stay in the ranger station at the entrance of the park itself, a few 100m before the cabins. From the veranda we heard Mottled Owl and Tropical Screech Owl calling.
26/8 El Copé
At first light we were in the field, on our quest for Snowcap. We birded the Snowcap Trail, directions on how to find the trail in the Bird-Finding Guide are good. The trail is in bad state however. It is clearly not in use anymore, and a few landslides make the road nearly impassable at some places. We carefully checked every hummer we encountered and after a while we found a female Snowcap, some 2 km down the path, just after the toughest landslide. It was calling to another bird, must have been a male, but could not locate that one. The rest of the day we would not find them anymore (although we saw a purple flash flying by once or twice) so we have to accept that we only saw a female. We birded the trail a full morning, for 3 kilometre or so. Later during the morning flock activity clearly increased. Most flocks held tanagers, but there were also flocks mainly containing antbirds/-vireos/-wrens. Carmiol’s and Tawny-crested Tanagers were the most common birds in the flocks. Other birds seen here: 5 Crested Guans, 3 Black Guans, Black-breasted Wood-Quail (heard only), Purplish-backed Quail-Dove (heard only), 1 female Green Thorntail, 1 Orange-bellied Trogon, 3 Rufous Motmots, 4 Spot-crowned Antvireos, 6 White-flanked Antwrens, 2 Slaty Antwrens, 1 Streak-chested Antpitta (heard only), 4 White-ruffed Manakins, 2 Black-and-yellow Tanagers and 1 female White-throated Shrike-Tanager (in a flock of mainly Carmiol’s Tanagers). The veranda of the ranger station has a rusty hummer feeder, which still attracted Bronze-tailed Plumeteers during our lunch. During the afternoon we drove back home to Gamboa. We were lucky that two Crested Bobwhites crossed the road from El Copé to the Inter Americana, and 2 Pearl Kites sat in the wires along the roadside here as well.
27/8 Plantation Road
Back in the Gamboa area, this morning I birded Plantation Road. I easily got a ride from Gamboa to the entrance of the road, arriving there only at 9:30AM or so. I walked the road for some 2 km up and down: 1 female Black-throated Trogon, 1 Slaty-tailed Trogon, 1 Rufous Motmot, 4 White-whiskered Puffbirds, 1 Cinnamon Woodpecker, 1 Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Spotted Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Olivaceous Flatbill, 8 Grey-headed Tanagers, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Yellow-billed Cacique and Chestnut-headed Oropendola. At midday I walked the 1.5 km from the Plantation Road to the start of the Old Gamboa Road. Birding the southern section, behind the Summit Ponds was good: 1 Rufescent Tiger-Heron, 1 Crane Hawk, 1 Plumbeous Kite, 1 Broad-billed Motmot, 1 Black-tailed Flycatcher, 1 Panama Flyatcher, 2 males Golden-collared Manakin and a group of 6 Yellow-backed Orioles. Around the Summit Ponds I spotted 4 Greater Anis, 1 Amazon Kingfisher, 2 Green Kingfishers and1 Lesser Kiskadee.
28/8 Pipeline Road
Another day at Pipeline Road. Wouter dropped us of some 10km up the road, and we walked back. Birds seen during the walk included: 1 Zone-tailed Hawk, 15 Band-rumped Swifts, 1 White-tailed Trogon, Rufous Motmot, Broad-billed Motmot, 2 Pied Puffbirds, 4 Collared Aracaris, 1 Cinnamon Woodpecker, 2 Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, 1 Black-striped Woodcreeper, 2 Fasciated Antshrikes, 1 Moustached Antwren, 5 Checker-throated Antwrens, 2 Olivaceous Flatbills, 2 Southern Bentbills,1 Rufous Piha, 1 Speckled Mourner, 2 females Blue Cotinga and 2 Blue-crowned Manakins. Back in Gamboa we saw 2 males Flame-rumped Tanagers.
A relaxing day, and after sleeping late, I made a short walk to the La Laguna Trail: Greater Tinamou, 7 White-bellied Antbirds and 5 Golden-fronted Greenlets. In the late afternoon we visited first the Ammo Dump Ponds: 4 Rufescent Tiger herons and Lesser Kiskadee. Hereafter to the canopy tower near Pipeline Road. Same trick: closed at 4PM, so we just walked in at 5PM, saving $30 per person. A Great Black Hawk perched in a tree top, and so did a gorgeous male Blue Cotinga. Other birds seen here: 1 Eastern Kingbird, 3 Piratic Flycatchers and 2 Scaled Pigeons. At dusk, on our way back home we heard a Collared Forest-Falcon at the start of Plantation Road.
30/8 Cerro Azul
Our last full day of bird watching, we went to Cerro Azul to see some birds mainly confined to the eastern parts of Panama. We departed at 5 AM, the be ahead of heavy traffic in Panama City. This worked out fine and we were in Cerro Azul at 7AM. Cerro Azul is a gated community, and it is important to call ahead, otherwise you are not permitted to enter the gate. See the Bird-Finding Guide how to arrange this. We decided to first walk the Xenornis Trail. According the book the start of the trail is hard to find, and that is right. However, the way the book explains it, is also a bit complicated. I think the situation must have changed a little and I would describe the current situation as follows: at the T-junction, turn left, where the road ends after 1.1km. The road ends at a small grassy (parking?)area and in the far right end corner (seen from the end of the road), the track starts. It first goes down very steep, than levels out a little, and after 1 km or so, the track ends. We twice bumped in a flock, and we managed to see 1 Speckled Antshrike, 1 Lesser Elaenia, 2 Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaners, 1 Thrush-like Schiffornis and 1 Black-and-white Warbler here.
Next destination was the Vistamares Trail. The first kilometre goes through an area with low trees, which we found not very productive. The path goes then through taller forest, and after some 2 km, there is a shed from where we had great views all the way to the Caribbean. We heard Bay Wren singing here and a Tanager flock held a Rufous-winged Tanager and a Sulphur-rumped Tanager. In a flock in the taller forest we found Carmiol’s Tanagers, a male Cerulean Warbler and Black-and-yellow Tanagers.
We missed Violet-capped Hummingbird so far, time to head to Birders’ View lodge. The Where To Find Birds Book says that Birders’ View lodge can give you directions how to get to their property, but by using the map in the book we found the house without much problems. The house was not occupied, so we just could walk to the many hummer feeders hanging here. Many, many hummers, including different Violet-capped Hummingbirds 3 Bronze-tailed Plumeteers, 2 White-vented Plumeteers and a female Sapphire-throated Hummingbird. We wondered whether there might be just a bit too many feeders here….
Mid-afternoon now, we decided to try Calle Maipo. Compared to the Xenornis Trail, the forest here is certainly less nice. Also nearly no birds here. But out of the blue, at the end of the track, there was a female Yellow-eared Toucanet sitting quietly in a tree. White-vented Euphonias, Rufous-winged Tanager and a Green Shrike-Vireo here as well. The last 1 to 2 hours of the day we decided to try Vistamares Trail once more, for Tacarcuna Bush-Tanager and Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker. No luck, only a White-ruffed Manakin and incoming rain forced us to go. We drove back, but not before seeing Black Phoebe on the bridge over the Rio Vistamares.
31/8 Plantation Road
Our last day in Panama, I decided to try Plantation Road once more, in the hope to find Yellow-green Tyrannulet. I was told that they can often be found in a large cashew tree just after the waterfall, less than one km up the road. I checked this large tree, and other large trees nearby. I twice saw a good candidate, but the distance high up the tree was too large to get satisfying views. Despite being here at first light today, activity seems lower compared to previous visit. Highlight this morning was a Sunbittern seen between 1.5 and 2 km (there are signs along the road every 500m). After the 1.5km marker, walk another few 100 m, until the stream fringes the path. Soon, the stream fringes the path again, and in the stretch of the stream between I found the Sunbittern. Also saw a Black Hawk-Eagle, 3 Olivaceous Flatbills, 1 Blue-crowned Manakin, 2 Purple-throated Fruitcrows and 2 Grey-headed Tanagers here.
On our way back to The Netherlands we had a few hours to kill at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. We took the subway from the airport, went off at the first station (College park) and walked some of the nearby streets seeing 2 Northern Mockingbirds, 6 Blue Jays, 1 Northern Parula, 3 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 5 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Rubby-throated Hummingbird, 50 Chimney Swifts, 4 Mourning Doves and 1 Northern Flicker. A smooth flight departing in the evening brought us back to Amsterdam the following morning.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: sanderbot at yahoo.co.uk.