25 February 2009
Today was our second visit to the Ammo Dump ponds and Pipeline Road in Soberania National Park. As usual we awoke well-before sunrise, had a quick breakfast, and were on our way by 6:00am. We arrived at the Ammo Dump ponds just a few minutes after sunrise, and today there was a lot of activity.
The first thing I did when we arrived was set up the tripod and scope, as scanning the wetlands, and the forest edge on the far side, was a good strategy for spotting species that were well-hidden, or for getting a great look at distant birds. We then did a quick scan of the nearby trees and wetlands and tallied a quick list of common birds: Wattled Jacanas hopping among lily pads, Great Kiskadees flying out from branches to snatch insects from the air, and Blue-gray Tanagers busily moving through the treetops gleaning unsuspecting insects from the leaves. Once we had completed scanning with the binoculars I used the scope to carefully and systematically search the main wetlands basin. Within a minute I spotted our first lifer of the day, a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, sitting low in the wetland vegetation about halfway out. Above the duck, perched on an overhanging branch protruding from a large shrub, was a Ringed Kingfisher. I then found a Green Kingfisher and a Green Heron, but I could not relocate the Fasciated Tiger-Heron we saw here a few days earlier.
On the other side of the road, where the wetland area is much smaller, we spotted very little in the way of birds, but we did get an excellent close-up view of a Capybara. In the surrounding trees the bird life was considerably better, and among the more common species we did manage to see a female Barred Antshrike (our second-ever sighting, the first being yesterday) and a Mourning Warbler (new for the trip). We wrapped up our birding at the ponds with an impressive early morning tally of 25 species in about 30 minutes.
From the Ammo Dump ponds we proceeded to Pipeline Road and parked about 200 m from the main gate. Birding between the car and gate was excellent again, and in addition to many of the more common species, we had excellent looks at several less common species such as Lineated Woodpecker, White-necked Puffbird, Blue-black Grosbeak, and Bright-rumped Atilla. Beyond the gate we spotted a Great Tinamou quietly making its way along the forest floor as several Keel-billed Toucans flew overhead. Soon after we had a great look at a Fasciated Antshirke, and above the road, maybe only two meters above our heads, we watched a pair of Scarlet-rumped Caciques weave grasses together during the early construction of a nest.
The first part of our birding morning was very good, but over the next hour it became great, with stunning looks at Squirrel Cuckoo, Olivaceous Woodcreeper (second trip sighting), Cinnamon Woodpecker (new for the trip), a pair of Green Shrike-Vireos, a Slaty Antwren (a lifer), and a White-winged Becard (another lifer). At the junction to the Rainforest Discovery Center we decided to continue along Pipeline Road a little further to see what the road less travelled, at least by us, had to offer. Unfortunately, after walking for about 15 minutes, we were caught in a sudden rain shower that lasted about 20 minutes and put a sudden end to the bird activity. We waited out the brief storm under the cover of several large palm fronds, and when the rain stopped we were bone dry. Soon after however, as the sun broke from behind the clouds, the air became even more humid than we would have thought possible.
Within minutes of the rain ending we were approached by a Park staff member who once again, as if it were a "birding in Panama custom", presented us with paperwork and a request of $5 per person. Having paid the fee we decided to head back toward the Rainforest Discovery Centre, and after being there for about 10 minutes we were again hassled for a $15 fee. We decided not to pay and began our slow walk back to the car. However, before leaving the Center we did manage to get a few "free" birds, including my best ever tally of hummingbirds: the ever-abundant White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, and a new lifer, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer.
We arrived back at the car at about 12:30pm and made our way to the hotel for a quick shower and a bite to eat. After that we went to Ancon Hill, an obvious landmark adjacent to the Panama Canal with a mirador (viewpoint) and Panama's national flag on top. From there we went to the Smithsonian Institution bookstore located at the base of Ancon Hill, and then we took a quick drive across the Bridge of Americas to a beach near Isla Venado. We didn't see much in the way of birds other than a few Laughing Gulls, Sanderlings, and Magnificent Frigatebirds, perhaps because the beach was geared entirely to weekenders, tourists, and vacation homeowners. After driving the area for about 30 minutes we then headed back to town and went for dinner on the Amador Causeway. We returned to the hotel by 7:00pm, watched a bit of TV, and had an early night in anticipation of our second visit to Achiote Road.
Total number of species seen today = 57
Total number of lifers seen today = 4
Total cumulative species seen for trip = 248
Total cumulative lifers seen for trip = 94
Number of species seen at Ammo Dump ponds today = 25
Cumulative number of species seen at Ammo Dump ponds = 43
Number of species seen at Pipeline Road today = 35
Cumulative number of species seen at Pipeline Road = 60