Wednesday 27 January 2016

Panama - Day 16 (March 15, 2014)


We left our hotel located in the hills above Panama City and completed the short drive to Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe. 

The birding was excellent and as the morning wore on the mist receded from the higher elevations. One of our target species, the Tawny-faced Quail, was quickly ticked as several were calling from the surrounding hillsides. 

Species diversity wasn't the highest at Cerro Jefe but what we lacked in quantity we made up for in quality. Violet-capped Hummingbird is practically endemic to Panama, though its range does span some of the mountains along the Colombia border. Cerro Jefe is one of the best places to find this bird, and after inspecting quite a few suitable looking flowers we were treated to decent views of two of them. Success!!

A couple of Slate-colored Grosbeaks was a new bird, but our best find was a couple of Tacarcuna Chlorospingus, a dull olive-coloured tanager found in the nearly inaccessible Tacarcuna mountain range of eastern Panama but also in Cerro Chucanti and Cerro Azul and surrounding area. We had to work hard before we finally encountered this species.

We only had a few hours in total to bird this area before having to leave to drop Dave off at the airport. As we were leaving, we ran into another vehicle carrying some birders - it happened to be the same group of Brits that we had met in Gamboa at the start of the trip! We got out to chat with them, while also observing the mixed flock of birds in the roadside trees. Suddenly, we heard a suspicious call, and seconds later a Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker flew in! This is a Panama endemic and one that we thought we were going to miss after striking out in the Darién and Nusagandi. 

Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker - Cerro Azul, Panama

A total of four Stripe-cheeked Woodpeckers were in the area - quite the pleasant surprise for all of us!

Stripe-cheeked Woodpeckers - Cerro Azul, Panama

Before long it was time to go and head for the airport to drop off Dave. Steve and I still had the whole afternoon available so we decided to check out the coast near Panama City; in particular, Costa del Este. This is the location where we had observed thousands of gulls and shorebirds on our quick driveby on the way to the Darién.

Steve on the lookout - Costa del Este, Panama

Mixed flocks of shorebirds sprawled out over the extensive mudflats, probing in the mud between piles of garbage for whatever morsels they could find. It certainly wasn't the most picturesque way to study shorebirds - I have never seen so much garbage piled up high along the shore and in the mangroves.

shorebirds - Costa del Este, Panama

Whimbrel - Costa del Este, Panama

As I was scanning the big flock of Laughing Gulls a smaller, daintier bird with a lighter mantle stood out. It was a species I was quite familiar with from back home - a Bonaparte's Gull. This is a rarity in Panama with only a handful of records so I made sure to document the bird with photos.

Bonaparte's Gull (right) - Costa del Este, Panama

The most numerous shorebirds here were Western Sandpipers, followed by Short-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwits, Black-bellied Plovers, Willets and Whimbrels.
mostly Marbled Godwits and Short-billed Dowitchers - Costa del Este, Panama

shorebirds - Costa del Este, Panama

Several Southern Lapwings at close range provided some great photo opportunities.

Southern Lapwing - Costa del Este, Panama

Southern Lapwing - Costa del Este, Panama

Southern Lapwing - Costa del Este, Panama

Additional trip birds we discovered here included Elegant Tern, Caspian Tern, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Northern Scrub-Flycatcher.

Black-necked Stilt - Costa del Este, Panama

As the sun slowly began to set, Steve and I set out for an area of Panama City near the famous Parque Natural Metropolitano, a 265 hectare green oasis in the middle of the city.

Andrew Keaveney was in Panama City as well, as he had just began his adventure across the country. The three of us ended up going out for dinner with Jenn Sinasac, a friend who had relocated to Panama from Ontario and who had provided us with a lot of valuable information on our trip. Thanks Jenn!

The following morning Steve was flying back to Canada, while I was not departing until the evening. Steve, Andrew and I made plans to bird the Parque Natural Metropolitano at dawn with hopes of seeing one or two more target species. I was really hoping to encounter a Yellow-green Tyrannulet, a Panama endemic that can be found at the park. 

Total bird species so far: 490

1 comment:

Alan Wormington said...

I hope Steve was wearing underwear while scanning for those shorebirds!