Monday, March 8, 2010

2009 Trip Synopsis

28 February 2009
Our last day in Panama, and with only a few hours to get a little more birding in, we headed to the tried and trusted Metropolitan Park. We arrived at about 7:00am and decided to walk the Momotides trail on the opposite side of the main road that bisects a corner of the park. Generally we were quite rushed as we had to check out of the hotel by 10:30am, and we hadn't yet finished packing from the night before. The first bird we spotted was a Rufous-and-White Wren, followed shortly after by Rufous-breasted Wren. I’m not sure if the birding was particularly quite today, or if our species tally was suffering either because we were exhausted from 12 days of non-stop birding, or we were in too much of a hurry to bird properly.

We did spot a good variety of common species, such as Cocoa Woodcreeper, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and Black Vulture. A few highlights included Scarlet-rumped Cacique, White-bellied Antbird, Bright-rumped Attila, and Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher. At about the halfway point around the loop trail Joanna spotted the best bird, and a lifer, a Pheasant Cuckoo, walking slowly through the sparse undergrowth only a few feet from the trail, and as it would turn out, this was my last lifer for the trip.

We returned to the hotel at about 9:45am, completed our packing, and departed at about 10:45am. We still had about 1.5 hours before we had to be at the airport, so we decided to take one last drive out to the Amador Causeway, and then wiggle our way through the historical part of Panama City. On the causeway we spotted a few of the regular species, and three new trip species: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Whimbrel, and Royal Tern. The Night-Heron was Joanna’s last lifer for the trip, and in old-town Panama City we spotted our last new trip species – House Sparrow!

We arrived at the airport at about 12:30pm, returned the car, and checked in. Now all we had to was wait for our flight, which at 1:30pm departed on time for Miami. Once in Miami we had about 45 minutes to catch our connecting flight, but first we had to clear US Customs. We proceeded through the lines and were expecting to have no problems – we couldn't have been more wrong. The US Customs official that was helping us said there was a problem, and without revealing any details we were shuffled off to a holding room with about 60 other people. Our hearts immediately sank as we thought that there was no way we would make our connecting flight with this many people in front of us. After about 15 minutes another US Customs official announced that our bags had been pulled from the plane, as these were not allowed to travel without us. Then after another 15 minutes, to our surprise, we were called ahead of about 40 people that were there waiting before we arrived. The customs official that served us said, almost jovially, “I bet you know why you’re here”. We responded seriously, saying “We have no idea”.

It turned out on our way to Panama, when US Customs took my fingerprints and photo, which at the time I thought was unusual for a Canadian citizen but figured the security rules had changed, they accidentally added my information to Joanna’s profile. Thus, when they scanned Joanna’s passport on her return entry, my photo appeared on their screen. With no word of apology they returned our passports and indicated that if we were lucky, we might still catch our flight – we had 12 minutes.

It turned out that we were lucky. We quickly checked our bags that had been yanked from the transfer and then proceeded to run to the next terminal – both exhausted, and Joanna very hungry, stressed, and uncomfortable. When we arrived at the gate the plane was about 10 minutes late, just enough time for Joanna to grab a sandwich. We departed shortly after and arrived at the Dallas International Airport at about midnight. Given our exhaustion we decided to stay at the airport hotel as our next connecting flight was not until 8:30am the next morning. Soon after entering the room were both out as fast as lights.

Total number of species seen today = 24
Total number of lifers seen today = 1
Total cumulative species seen for trip = 291
Total cumulative lifers seen for trip = 116
Number of species seen at Metropolitan Park today = 17
Total cumulative species see at Metropolitan Park = 84

1 March 2009
We woke at about 7:00am and made our departure gate on-time for our flight to Vancouver, and soon after collecting our bags we grabbed a taxi to the BC Ferries terminal for the last leg of our journey. Once on Vancouver Island we then caught a taxi from the ferry terminal to our work office where we had parked our car, and 45 minutes later we were home. We were both absolutely wiped, and with Joanna now into her 11th week of pregnancy, the trip had taken its toll.

Overall we were both extremely pleased with our trip, with the obvious exceptions being the long fragmented flights, long layovers, and the US customs hiccup. In total we saw 291 species and were only nine shy of our goal; but we weren't going to worry about it. I saw 116 new species, which was surprisingly very close to the 131 lifers I saw in 2008. We weren't sure when we would next visit the tropics as our current and future focus was on the expectation of our first child, which was due in late September. So, until next time...happy birding wherever you may be.

Trip Synopsis
Total number of species seen = 291
Total number of new species for the trip = 116
Maximum number of species seen in one day without guide = 83
Total species seen with Mae (Birding Panama) = 94
Total length of trip = 13 days
Total full days available for birding = 12
Birding destinations visited = Metropolitan Park, Pipeline Road, Achitote Road, Cerro Azul and Cerro Jeffe, Chiriqui Highlands, Amador Causeway, Old Gamboa Road, Plantation Road, Summit Gardens, Ammo Dump Ponds
Number of days with bird guide = 1

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