Monday, February 20, 2012

19 February 2012

In to new territory today, with a trip to Nusagandi and Bayano Lake being the furthest east I've ever been in Panama. We woke at 4:25am and departed at 4:58am. For efficiency, I ignored the GPS directions and headed straight to Balboa Ave so that I could connect with Corredor Sur and get out of the city ASAP. Trouble was, that when we got to Balboa Ave it was closed for the Carnival parade that we were not aware of. Almost instantly we were in an area not familiar to us, and with the GPS telling us to do U-turn after U-turn to join Balboa Ave, it wasn't helping. We ended up losing about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get out of the city, eventually ending up far enough east that we could avoid the road closure and be on our way. This was not a good start to the day.

We arrived at the turnoff to Nusagandi after nearly 60km of paved road and 25km of rough gravel. We then proceeded along the El Llano-Carti Road, which was paved, to Nusagandi. For a little village road it was surprisingly very busy, no doubt people travelling to some Carnival party. The road was incredibly hilly, with each dip being unpaved and deeply rutted. Our first destination was the Burbayer Lodge, about 8km along the road. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was not open and a guard dog was on duty. We proceed a bit further to the Ibe Igar trail, which in the Bird-Finding Guide to Panama is one of the better places to find Sapayoa and Speckled Antshrike - we found neither. In fact, we found nothing. The trail was dead and the wind was blowing hard. In addition, the fog was gradually rolling in and it was spitting with rain. Today's adventure was getting worse by the minute.

From Ibe Igar we decided to head to Nusagandi where another set of trails are also supposed to very good for Sapayoa and Speckled Antshrike. However, at KM 15 along the El Llano-Carti Road there was a long line of vehicles that apparently were stuck behind a vehicle that had got stuck in one of the unpaved dips. At this point we had to cut our losses, and so after waiting for about 10 minutes with no sign of movement, we turned around and started making our way to Bayano Lake.

By now you may be wondering why I haven't mentioned any of the birds we've seen - it's because we haven't seen any! We arrived at Bayano Lake a little after 9:00am where at the main bridge we pulled over and entered a private residence that for $2 you can bird the lakeshore and short trails. Immediately upon arrival at the lakeshore I spotted my first lifer of the day, Pied Water-Tyrant (photo below). That was soon followed by my second lifer, a Cocoi Heron that flew overhead. Other birds at the water's edge included Great Egret, Green Heron, Amazon Kingfisher, Least Grebe (my second ever sighting), Purple Gallinule, Neotropic Cormorant, and Common Moorhen. Along the short trail, where we suffered immensely from the heat and humidity, we spotted Golden-collared Manakin, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Dusky Antbird, Forest Elania, Blue-black Grassquit, and others.

From the private residence we drove about 6 kilometers to the Rio Mono bridge, another location cited in the bird guide as being very good for a number of local specialties. Upon arrival another birder, Tom, was scanning the area. Tom was from the San Francisco bay area and was spending 36 days in Panama. Together we scanned from the bridge and picked up Lesser Greenlet, Orange-crowned Oriole (lifer), Yellow-backed Oriole, Blue Dacnis, Plain-colored Tanager, Panama Flycatcher, and a few others. After about 20 minutes, another group of birders arrived in a small van. Myself and the group then saw White-eared Conebill (lifer), Blue Ground-Dove, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Cinnamon Becard, Black-tailed Trogron, and King Vulture. Now the day was starting to look a lot better, but with the heat of the day upon us, we decided to slowly make our way back to Panama City.

The drive back to town was largely unproductive, except for one particularly great bird, an immature Snail Kite (lifer; photo below) observed sitting in a tree just a few meters from the road. Not only was this a new species for me, but it was outside of its usual range in Panama. Virtually all sightings are from the Canal Area according to e-bird and the new Panama bird field guide, and there is just one outlier record from Tocumen Marsh. To officially document our record we posted the observation to e-bird; when I get home I'll try to see if any other agencies are tracking bird records in Panama, such as the Smithsonian or Audubon Society.

Once back in Panama City we returned to the hotel for a quick shower and a drink. By now it was 3:00pm, so I spent some time transcribing today's notes to my field diary and writing yesterday's blog posting. At 4:15pm we decided to head out to Summit Ponds, and to our surprise it was incredibly productive. The heat of the day had subsided, relatively speaking, and it was quite comfortable walking along the road under the shaded of the canopy. In and around the pond we spotted Boat-billed Heron, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Greater Ani, Collared Aracari, and Ringed Kingfisher. We then proceeded down the trail where a hive of activity was amidst the forest layers, including: Plain-colored Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Thick-billed Euphonia, Forest Elania and Scarlet-rumped Cacique. Then, the best bird of the day flew over - a gorgeous Capped Heron! It was only a fleeting glimpse, but the black cap, blue bill, and cream-colored chest are diagnostic. What a gem.

Along the rest of the trail we picked up Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, and Fasciated Antshrike. This one hour walk was very good, and ended the day on a high note. Hard to believe that a day that started out looking like a disaster, would turn out to be an all-round excellent day. We left Summit Ponds at 6:15pm, had dinner at the pub next to the hotel, and turned in for an early night (8:15pm) for tomorrow's early rise to go to Achiote Road.

Total species seen today = 67
Total cumulative species for trip = 174
Total lifers seen today = 6
Total cumulative lifers seen for trip = 14

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