Saturday, October 4, 2014

21 August 2014

In the words of Jim Morrison, "This is the end...".

My last day of a 12-day birding adventure in Panama with friends Simon and Howard. We've pretty much exhausted all of the best birding locations around the canal area, and so today we decided to visit the area around Cerro Azul. As you may recall, Joanna and I scoped this area out three days ago, and so I had a good idea as to where we could go and where some decent flocks of birds were. We departed the Gamboa Resort at about 5:00am and made our way through the growing rush-hour traffic heading east through the city. Within an hour we had arrived at the base of Cerro Azul, and there was just enough light to start birding. The usual roadside birds flitted about, such as Clay-colored Thrush. As we approach Cerro Jeffe National Park, at an elevation of about 800m, the fog started to roll in and visibility quickly diminished. Also diminishing was the quality of the road, as we pressed on further than Joanna and I did. We stopped occasionally to check for birds, but it was tough going in soup-like fog. We did add Keel-billed Toucan, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Blue-black Grassquit, Bay-headed Tanager, and several Clay-colored Thrush.

At the top oft he hill, where several communication towers were located, the road abruptly ended. We had hoped the road would connect through to Cerro Azul, as we knew there was a road not far away that looped back into the private housing estate. Sadly, we were out of luck, and so turned around and gradually descended out of the fog. Along the way we added Tropical Pewee, Eastern Meadowlark, Crimson-backed Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Our next stop was Los Nubes, a small rural housing estate where I previously had some great birds. However, the weather was not cooperating and the fog and drizzle came and went along with brisk wind. We did find Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Scaled Pigeon, Shiny Cowbirds, and several other common species, but it wasn't as good as in previous visits.

A tad frustrated, and exhaustion clearly setting in from being on the go for 12 days, we headed to Tagua, another area with a few dirt tracks leading to communication towers. Here the birding was a bit better, and we quickly added White-shouldered Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Red-crowned Woodpecker, and Fulvous-vented Euphonia in a good-sized mixed feeding flock. A bit further along we found another mixed feeding flock where we added Green Honeycreeper, White-flanked Antwren, Collared Aracari, and a lifer for Howard, the Hepatic Tanager. The remainder of our birding on this road was pretty good, with additions such as Yellow-green Vireo, Lesser Goldfinch, Paltry Tyrannulet, Gartered Trogon, Blue Dacnis, and Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant. Back at the car, and just prior to our departure, another mixed species flock appeared. Here we added Black-throated Trogon, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Lesser Greenlet, Red-throated Ant-Tanager (which were seriously ticked off at something on the ground), Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Long-billed Hermit.

It was now about 1:00pm and time to head back to the resort. Along the way we drove across Corredor Sur, a stretch of highway that traverse a muddy bay where several near-shore marine and shore birds often reside. The unfortunate part is that there is nowhere to stop and view the birds, so at about 80km/h, we added Anhinga, Wood Stork, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, and Magnificent Frigatebird. Back at the Gamboa Resort it was time to wind down and pack for our return journey back to Victoria. We added a few common birds for the day while glancing out the window, including Common Gallinule, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Scaled Pigeon, and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.

Our last piece of this excellent adventure was to go on a 45-minute guided night tour. The tour began at 7:00pm, and so as soon as we finished dinner we jumped onto the open-sided, but covered, trolley. The rain was pouring and the lighting and thunder were cracking, but within five minutes the rain subsided and the tour proceeded. In just 45 minutes we saw Three-toed Sloth, Caiman, Capybara, and our last new trip bird, Common Pauraque. Back at the resort by 7:45pm, we said our good-byes to friends, completed our packing, and went to bed early. We had a long day ahead of us tomorrow, with a wake-up at 5:00am and our first flight at 8:10am. We would arrive home 15 hours and 35 minutes later.

Will I visit Panama again? I've said no at least twice before, but I keep getting drawn back. So, until next time, happy birding wherever you may be.

2014 Panama Birding Summary
Total species today: 65
Total cumulative species for the trip:  316
Total lifers today:  0
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 50