14 March 2010
First day of birding and who knows what surprises lay ahead. I departed the hotel at 6:30am and was at Metropolitan Park by 6:45am. The fee was still $2, which I paid at the visitor center and began the usual route - birding the fields and forest margins behind the buildings, then off to the lagoon, past the nursery and up to the Mirador. From the Mirador I returned via Cieneguita trail.
The usual suspects were behind the visitor center - Social Flycatcher, House Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Red-crowned Woodpecker, and Tropical Flycatcher. In addition I also spotted a Yellow-bellied Elaenia building a nest and two Geoffery's Tamarins moving through the trees. After that I enetered the forest, where after being bitten by two mosquitoes, I made a hasty retreat back to the car for my bug dope.
Now, back to business. Upon approach of the small lagoon I flushed to species I was very familiar with from the breeding grounds in northern British Columbia - Northern Waterthrush and Solitary Sandpiper. There was also a good variety of Panamania species, including Crimson-backed Tanager, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Blue Seedeater, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, and Blue Dacnis. Continuing along toward the information kiosk I spotted a nice-looking male Rosy Thrush-Tanager, a male Red-throated Ant-Tanager, and a Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet. My personal highlight for the day was the sighting an Olivaceous Flatbill, my second observation, the first of which was with Mae and Joanna during a tour on Plantation Road.
As I began the climb to the mirador I glimsed a quick look at a drab olive-green bird with a bright red crown flitting through the undergrowth. I quickly scanned the field guide thinking this was an easy bird to identify, but was disappointed when I couldn't find it. The bird would have to remain a mystery unless I could spot it again.
A little further along and I stopped to look at a pair of Dusky Antbirds making their way through the vines and lianas. Above them was a Green Honeycreeper, followed by a small flock of White-shouldered Tanagers. When I was about 1/3 of the way up the hill I heard a call I wasn't familiar with (but let's face it, I'm not familiar with most species' calls in Panama) and so I made a quick recording from which I would attempt to identify later from the songs I downloaded to my PSP. But, just as I was about to walk away the bird appeared - a gorgeous male Lance-tailed Manakin. Shortly after a female appeared and low-and-behold this drab olive-green bird had a red-crown, not something shown in the field guide. Upon reading the text, however, it was revealed that females occasionally sport this feature.
At the mirador was a cacaphony of birds and in the first few seconds I spotted two Yellow-backed Orioles, one Blue-crowned Motmot, a Checker-throated Antwren, and a Long-billed Gnatwren. Then, all of a sudden, everything went quiet and in came an immature Gray-headed Kite calling loudly as it alighted on a tree directly above me. The bird remained for about 10 minutes - but it was too far away and the light was poor for a photograph.
As I made my way back it was generally quiet, although I did bump into a reasonably good-sized flock of birds that had great potential until a dozen loud people came along and scared near-everything away. Among the species I did see were Squirrel Cuckoo, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Slate-colored Grosbeak, and Orange-billed Sparrow. Back near the visitor centre I spotted a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher just as I was leaving the forest, and a Common Tody-Flycatcher in a lone shrub in the middle of the main field.
I arrived back at the car at 10:30am and against my better judgement I decided to hike the Momotides trail on the opposite side of the road. My instincts told me that it was too hot and windy for the bird activity to still be good, and my instincts were correct. After walking the trail I discovered only one new species for the day - Cocoa Woodcreeper. I returned to the hotel by 11:30am, had a quick shower, and began to tally the mornings field notes.
At 1:00pm it was finally time to pick-up dad from the airport, and at 1:45pm it was mission accomplished - he had finally made it. To salvage the remainder of the day we went back to the hotel, dropped off his bags, and went to the Miraflores visitor centre for 3:00pm. We spent just under 2 hours there, and while the ships were fascinating, so too were some of the birds. Upon departing the locks we spotted at least nine Gray-headed Chachalacas in the trees next to the parking lot, and dad also got a good look at a Crimson-backed Tanager. As we left the locks I stopped briefly at the main bridge and spotted a Ringed Kingfisher, two White Ibis, and a Cattle Egret.
We returned to the hotel at 5:15pm, and after scoping a Fork-tailed Flycatcher from the hotel room window, we headed to dinner at the Garden's Restaurant at the Albrook Inn. Just before we got into the car I spotted a Yellow-crowned Amazon (parrot) sitting high up in a tree, although dad was not convinced that it had a yellow crown. At the Albrook Inn we spotted a pair of Variable Seedeaters and a Tropical Mockingbird foraging on the manicured lawns. Dinner was good, but it was like eating in a sauna; eventually we asked to have the air-conditioning turned on, and regret having not asked earlier.
Just as we were about to leave the restaurant, Carlos and Mae from Birding Panama tours walked in with a group that they had just taken to Pipeline Road. After a brief reaquaintance with Mae, because we were going out with her tomorrow, we returned to the hotel for 8:00pm, and lights out by 9:30pm.
Total species today = 67
Total lifers today = 0
Total species seen at Metropolitan Park = 45
Total species for trip = 67