Saturday, August 30, 2014

10 August 2014

5:30am! Ack! Just 6.5 hours of sleep following a 17.5 hour travel day...these birds had better be good!

In the lobby at 6:00am were two familiar faces...Simon and Howard, enjoying the delights of the complementary mini-croissants and coffee...ok, maybe 'enjoying' is a bit overstated, but there were no other food choices. And did I mention how hot and humid it was at 6:00am?

We departed the Gamboa Rainforest Resort a little after 6:00am and headed toward Pipeline Road in Soberania National Park. The resort, also located in the Park, was a mere 10 minutes away from this birding mecca. Very quickly the bird list started to grow, even before we started walking, with early additions including Tropical Mockingbird, Crimson-backed Tanager, Cattle Egret, Gray-necked Wood-Rail (foraging on the road), Thick-billed Seedfinch, Wattled Jacana, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, and Blue-gray Tanager. Once out of the car we got the characteristic mini-flocks of Red-lored Parrots moving from their roosts to daily feeding locales, and Black Vultures were beginning to take to the slowly developing thermals.

Our walk began not at the beginning of Pipeline Road, but rather at the junction to where access to the Rainforest Discovery Centre is (about 3 kms down the road). Historically, Simon and I have found that the road beyond this junction tends to have more birds that are typical of interior wet humid tropical forest. Our first good bird of the day was Shining Honeycreeper, followed shortly after by White-flanked Antwren, Western Slaty-Antshrike (now known as Black-crowned Antshrike), Dot-winged Antwren, and White-breasted Wood-Wren. Further along we found Slaty-tailed Trogon (there were actually four at the parking area when we returned). Our first adrenaline rush was the sighting of a Gray-headed Tanager, a species typical of being associated with ant swarms. Close by, we also found Spotted Antbird and Black-faced Antthrush...we were sure we were going to score big, but after going into the forest a short distance, we couldn't find or hear any additional activity.

Back on the trail we added Long-billed Gnatwren, White-whiskered Puffbird, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Blue-crowned Manakin, Black-striped Woodcreeper, and Black-breasted Puffbird. Things were going very well...and just about to get better. Simon quickly yelled out "Cuckoo on the trail" and in a glimpse I added my first lifer for the trip; a Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo. Much to my chagrin, I was to be ribbed about this "sighting" for the next several days. Sure, it wasn't a great look, but it was a look nonetheless. I reminded Simon and Howard of their "check" of a silhouetted parrot flying overhead in squawked, the guide called Scaly-naped Parrot, and two checks of the list could be heard in stereo! (ok, to be honest, after much discussion, I added a check too). The remainder of the walk was relatively unproductive in terms of new species for the day, although we did add Red-capped Manakin, Long-billed Hermit, and a Rufous Motmot at a nest.

Back at the resort by 12:00pm, we spent the remainder of the afternoon hanging out at the pool...with binoculars of course, for looking at birds (feathered birds that is). The resort was remarkably 'birdy', with common species on the grounds including Golden-hooded Tanager, Palm Tanager, Orange-chinned Parakeet Gray-breasted Martin, Plain-colored Tanager, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, and Social Flycatcher. Black Vulture was ubiquitous, but amongst the soaring birds were Turkey Vulture, Magnificent Frigatebird, and an early migrant Swainson's Hawk. The plan for the late afternoon was to head to Amador Causeway to chase two potential lifers, but before then Joanna, Amelia and I went for a walk around the grounds. Here we added to the day list such highlights as Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Shiny Cowbird, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Lesser Greenlet, Southern Lapwing, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Barred Antshrike, and Neotropic Cormorant. We also say several Agouti and a group of four Capybara.

We departed for the Amador Causeway at 3:30pm and arrived a little later 4:00pm. Within minutes we had both of our target birds: Blue-footed Booby and Peruvian Booby; check, and check. We ended the day at a nice restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a small marina where we had our only Saffron Finch for the trip.

2014 Panama Birding SummaryTotal species today: 75
Total cumulative species for the trip:  75
Total lifers today:  3
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 3

9 August 2014

And so it fifth trip to Panama...13 days of hot, humid, sticky, amazing birdwatching. This time, the trip includes my wife Joanna, daughter Amelia, birding friends Simon and Howard from the UK, their wives Joanna and Jane respectively, and Simon's daughter Melissa.

My portion of the trip began at the un-Godly hour of 3:30am. Fortunately, all we needed to do was load the car and scoop Amelia up (she didn't even wake). My dad picked us up at 4:00am and we were on our way five minutes later to Victoria airport. Our flight departed on time at 6:00am and we landed in Seattle just 35 minutes later. After clearing security we had a nasty breakfast (scored 2 out of 10), then headed for our connecting flight to Atlanta which departed on time at 9:00am. We each passed the time watching movies, reading, and playing games.

We arrived in Atlanta a little before 5:00pm, where once again we had to clear security and continue on to our connecting flight to Panama. We had a little less than an hour to make the connection, so we were relatively rushed given we had never been to this airport before and had to get from Gate A to Gate E. We arrived at our gate with about 5 minutes to spare, so quickly bought some sandwiches and drinks and then boarded the flight.Two and a half hours later we were in Panama, a little past 8:00pm. We cleared security, picked up our luggage, and got our car in record time...just one hour. I quickly programmed the GPS to get to the resort, and 45 minutes later we were there. By the time we were in our room it was a little after 10:00pm...we had been on the go for 16.5 hours; 17.5 hours by the time it was lights out. Fortunately for Joanna and Amelia, they had the luxury of sleeping in the next day. As for me, I was meeting Simon and Howard in the lobby at 6:00am to go birding down Pipeline Road; yes, a birding vacation is more work than work itself...oh, the sacrifices.

Birding highlights today were, well...Northwestern Crow and Glaucous-winged Gull. Hard to pick the best of those. Tomorrow's birding should be somewhat better...I determined about a week ago that if I saw 40 lifers on this trip, the trip would be a huge success; time will tell.

2014 Panama Birding Summary
Total species today: 0
Total cumulative species for the trip:  0
Total lifers today:  0
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 0