20 February 2009
We were up reasonably early this morning and at Metropolitan Park (my 7th visit) by 6:45am. We proceeded along the usual route, starting behind the visitor centre, working our way to the mirador, and then returning via La Cienaguita trail. We went at a slightly faster pace than usual as we had to check out of the hotel by 11:00am, return the rental car, and await our 3:00pm flight to David from the Marcos Gelabert airport.
Despite our semi-rushed hike around the park we did manage to find 50 species, of which three were lifers for me. The first lifer was a Yellow-throated Vireo, which we spotted near the information kiosk just before beginning the ascent to the mirador. With the vireo was Blue Dacnis, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Philadelphia Vireo, Masked Tityra, Crimson-backed Tanager, Lesser Greenlet, and several other species, including only our second-ever sighting of a Rufous-vented Euphonia. As we began the uphill climb to the mirador my second lifer, a Slate-colored Grosbeak, was spotted near the canopy crane. The crane is used primarily by Smithsonian Institute researchers that require access into the forest canopy in order to conduct their studies.
A little further along we found Golden-winged Warbler, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Violaceous Trogon, Rufous-breasted Wren, and my third lifer of the day, Dusky-capped Flycatcher. At the mirador we spotted a Gray-headed Kite and the ever-present Black and Turkey vultures, but little else. Soon after beginning our descent we had a great look at a Dusky Antbird, and as we returned to the lagoon we had excellent views of White-necked Puffbird, Common Tody-Flycatcher, and Yellow-backed Oriole.
We arrived back at the hotel at about 10:45am and were checked out by 11:15am. We had lunch in the air-conditioned section of the restaurant to pass the time by before we had to be at the airport. We returned the car at 1:15pm and checked in at 1:30pm. Two days earlier we had confirmed our booking with Aeroperlas because, to our surprise, we learned that without a 2-day prior confirmation there was a risk that our flight would have been booked by someone else. Aeroperlas assumes that without a 2-day prior confirmation that you probably don't want to fly. We figured this was a very strange assumption, but heeded the advice to assure our booking.
The airport has no automated luggage scanning device and so upon check-in you are subject to opening your suitcase and having everything rifled through by an inspector. After that you are sent to a small holding room where passengers await boarding. Air-conditioning was present at the airport, but with the constant opening and closing of doors the air felt muggy at best. At 2:45pm our plane began boarding, and when we entered the aircraft it was disgustingly hot and humid. We felt like we had just crawled into a sauna cranked up to its highest setting. The aircraft vents were not working, and despite everybody's best efforts to try and get air, many of us settled on just sitting still and dripping. This was by far the most uncomfortable flight we had ever been on - thank goodness it wasn't a long flight.
Once airborne the air cooled slightly, but it was still uncomfortable. We landed in David about 1 hour 15 minutes later, collected our luggage, and proceeded to the National Car Rental booth. Everything went very smoothly, except I think the fellow renting a car in front of me had never rented a car in his life. He asked every conceivable question under the sun - at one point I thought he was going to ask if the car came with wheels!
By 5:00pm we were on our way. We followed the excellent directions provided to us by Barry and Jane of the Coffee Estate Inn, and made a brief stop at a grocery store to pick up some dinner, snacks, and water. We left David by 5:30pm and drove to Boquette as the sun went down. We didn't spend any time birding along the way as we wanted to get to the Inn as soon as possible.
We arrived in Boquette at about 7:00pm and made our first fatal mistake. We ignored the previously-mentioned excellent directions that were provided to us and instead followed a sign pointing the way to the Coffee Estate Inn. As we veered off the main road to cross a bridge we passed a small orange pylon in the center of the road and continued ahead, only to end up slamming on the brakes to avoid driving into the river bed. A few months earlier the Chiriqui Highlands had received record rainfalls that resulted in locally flooded buildings, blocked and slumped roads, and washed out bridges. We were at the location of one of those washed out bridges, and had we not stopped in time, I have a feeling our experience in Chirique would have been a lot different.
After briefly reflecting on our near miss, we turned around, noted that the orange pylon was drastically inadequate considering the circumstances, and proceeded to follow the directions we were given. This meant back-tracking about 2 kms to the main bridge and then following an extremely bumpy (due to the washouts) road to the Coffee Estate Inn. When we arrived Barry and Jane gave us a full tour of our bungalow and facilities, and to say that we loved the place would be an understatement. Our bungalow was comprised of two main rooms: a large bedroom with en suite bathroom, and a living room with attached kitchen and access to a private patio. The room also came with a basket of assorted fruit and fresh coffee beans that were grown on-site and roasted earlier that day.
Before leaving us for the evening Jane gave us a full list of trails and directions for birding in the area, including a checklist of birds seen at the Coffee Estate Inn. We knew we wanted to be up early to get our first taste of birding in the highlands, and most importantly, our first experience in the cloud forest. We both had a quick shower and flopped down on the king size bed. There was no air-conditioning in the room as it was unnecessary. Instead, a nice quite ceiling fan circulated the air as we drifted to sleep listening to the wind blowing through the trees. Tomorrow was going to be a treat.
Total number of species seen today = 50
Total number of lifers seen today = 3
Total cumulative species seen for trip = 154
Total cumulative lifers seen for trip = 30
Number of species seen at Metropolitan Park today = 50
Total cumulative species seen at Metropolitan Park = 80