14 February 2009
Five months - that's how long we've been waiting for this trip (actually, I've been waiting since the day I returned from the last trip, but we booked our tickets five months ago), and now the day of departure has arrived. As mentioned earlier, our first day of travel was short, really short, as all we had to do was travel from Victoria to Vancouver. We caught the 5:00pm ferry, enjoyed our dinner in the Pacific Buffet, and arrived at the hotel in time for an early night, or correspondingly, for an early morning. We kept track of the birds we saw during our short trip from home to Vancouver (15 species), but these won't count towards our "Panama" tally. As far as predicting how many species we would see in Panama, we set our sights high and decided we would try to get 300 species - nearly twice as many as I saw on the first trip.
15 February 2009
We awoke at about 7:30am, had a light breakfast in the hotel lobby, and caught the hotel shuttle to the airport located just 5 minutes away. We checked in at 10:00am and the first leg of journey was on-time. As we taxied along the runway we spotted seven Northern Harrier's hunting over the adjacent grassy fields before we were whisked into the sky. A short 3.5 hours later and we were in the Los Angeles International (LAX) airport where we had interesting outdoor shuttle ride from one terminal to another. We had a 6-hour layover at LAX before our connecting flight to Miami. Like so many other airports we didn't see many birds from behind the glass, but the sighting of a Red-shouldered Hawk was our first "new" bird since leaving home. Again, however, such sightings won't be added to the Panama tally. We departed LAX on-time and arrived in Miami at the very early hour of 5:00am - we barely slept on the plane, and all we had to look forward to was a 7-hour layover in the Miami terminal.
16 February 2009
We both tried sleeping on the floor or on benches, but as the morning progressed and the airport got busier, sleeping became increasingly difficult. I tried to pass some of the time by resorting to "birding through the windows", which again was generally unrewarding with the sighting of a few Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, Common Grackles, and Mourning Doves. Our flight to Panama was on-time and at 12:30pm we were on our way. A few hours later we landed at Tocumen International Airport, and after paying the $5 tourista fee and passing through customs, we proceeded to rent our car. Everything went very smoothly - we even had an English speaking customer service representative at the National Car Rental booth, which made everything very easy.
So now the birding begins, and although we weren't expecting a great deal during the drive to the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised with 11 species, of which three were lifers for Joanna: Magnificent Frigatebird, Tropical Kingbird, Orange-chinned Parakeet. Before checking in at the Albrook Inn we first stopped at the Esso gas station across from the Marcos Gelabert airport to pick up some bottled water and some snacks. Next to the gas station is a vacant field which I recognized from 2008 as being the one with the Southern Lapwings. I made a quick scan of the field and sure enough I spotted two of them - another lifer for Joanna. We continued on to the Albrook Inn, a quaint hotel tucked away in a semi-residential neighbourhood, but backing onto some young forest. We hadn't been there for two minutes until I got my first lifer for the trip, a Fork-tailed Flycathcer! We checked in, had a quick shower, and went to the indoor/outdoor restaurant attached to the hotel. From there we tallied another nine species, of which eight were new for Joanna.
We returned to our room for an early night. The room was generally quite clean, although a few essential upgrades were necessary. The air-conditioner was very loud, and if it wasn't for the earplugs we had brought with us, we probably would have moved to a different hotel. It was about 8:00pm when we went to bed, and although I was coping, Joanna was exhausted, especially given her delicate condition and morning sickness en route.
Total number of species seen today = 21
Total number of lifers seen today = 1
Total cumulative species seen for trip = 21
Total cumulative lifers seen for trip = 1