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 Ecuador...it 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