Thursday, September 25, 2014

19 August 2014

Our adventure today was a trip to Canopy Tower, something we planned four days previously while at Canopy Lodge. Our tour of the tower included breakfast, lunch, and a guided hike down Semaphore Hill. To begin the tour we first had to wake at 5:00am, drop Amelia off with Simon’s wife Joanna at 5:30am, (the tower wouldn't allow young children and Joanna was willing to take care of Amelia…thanks so much), and make the short 20 minute drive to the tower. The tower was an old US Air Force radar facility that has since been converted to an “ecolodge”. The ground floor has a very spacious yet basic lobby, and as you proceed up the spiral staircase around the inside perimeter there are oddly-shaped guest rooms and shared bathrooms. At the top is a large communal dining area, a library, several chairs, desks, and hammocks, and the kitchen. There are also several windows that provide views into the upper canopy of the surrounding forest.

From the dining area a small hatch with a ladder leads to the roof of the tower. Here birders are treated to an above-canopy view of the surrounding forest which provides a unique perspective and opportunity to observe birds at eye-level. This a is a great reprieve from typical tropical forest birding which usually results in birders-neck and a visit to the chiropractor. From the viewing platform, early observations included Thick-billed Euphonia, Green Honeycreeper, Black-cheeked Woodcreeper, Plain-colored Tanager, and Red-lored Amazon. We also spotted our familiar American friend from Canopy Lodge.

As we continued birding from the tower other great birds continued to appear including Band-rumped Swift, Lesser Greenlet, Blue Cotinga (female), Scaled Pigeon, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Mealy Parrot, Piratic Flycatcher, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Tropical Gnatcatcher, and my first lifer for the day, Brown-hooded Parrot. We then added Paltry Tyrannulet and Blue Dacnis before heading for breakfast at 7:30am.

Following breakfast we all headed downstairs to commence our walk down Semaphore Hill. At the entrance to the tower were two hummingbird feeders which had Blue-chested and Violet-bellied hummingbird in attendance; an Eastern Wood-Pewee was also near the main entrance. Shortly after beginning our descent we spotted Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird, Blue-crowned Manakin, and Dusky Antbird. The next bird, an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, was a lifer for me. This was soon followed by another lifer, Golden-crowned Spadebill…now this was a smart-looking little bird. Next was a Spotted Antbird, one of my favourite birds for its striking appearance. The birding continued to be very good, with new trip-list birds being Purple-crowned Fairy, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Bicolored Antbird, Yellow-margined Flycatcher (lifer), Song Wren, and Black-tailed Flycatcher.

At the bottom of Semaphore Hill the daytime temperature and humidity were peaking. A Canopy Tower truck, named “Shrike-Vireo”, met us at the bottom with cold drinks and snacks. After having those, we climbed into the open-back seating and were driven back to the tower. We then sat waiting for lunch, but on inspection of the number of places set at the tables we determined we might not be getting any. However, following a short intervention it was clarified that we were indeed having lunch and new places were set and more food magically appeared. A highlight while having lunch was the appearance of several Geoffery’s Tamarind monkeys just outside the open windows.

We returned to Gamboa resort at about 1:30pm and saved Joanna from Amelia. Joanna (my Joanna), Amelia and I then headed to the bookstore at the Smithsonian Institute, and then to the Amador Causeway. Here we saw several Blue-footed Booby (about 60), Brown Pelican (about 30), Magnificent Frigatebird (about 50) and one Royal Tern. Then the rain began and we returned to the resort, had dinner, and turned in early. Tomorrow was to be the earliest rise of the trip, at 4:00am, not including the first travel day when we got up at 3:30am.

2014 Panama Birding SummaryTotal species today: 61
Total cumulative species for the trip:  286
Total lifers today:  4
Total cumulative lifers for the trip: 39

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