As I mentioned in the previous post, Laura and I had plans to visit Bocas del Toro province in northwestern Panama. Most tourists who visit this region do so for the white sand beaches, turquoise waters and nightlife. While we also anticipated some quality beach time, we were more interested in some of the "other" nightlife like snakes, spiders and moths. The birding in this province can be quite good as well. Many of the recent additions to the Panama bird list are from Bocas del Toro and I was looking forward to adding several species to my Panama list.
|Our preferred kind of nightlife|
We had a few options for lodging in Bocas. Most birders who visit from other countries stay at the Tranquilo Bay Ecolodge, located on the archipelago. This was way out of our budget, though I have heard that it is quite nice (and with a canopy tower as well). There were other cheaper options on the archipelago, but since we had a rental car we were more interested in staying on the mainland. It looked like our options would be limited to cheap hotels in the city of Changuinola, but our friend Carlos Bethancourt recommended the property of a friend of his, Miguel Ibarra. Called the Snowy Cotinga House, Miguel's property is located near the town of Charagre and surrounded by forest and woodland, with a river running nearby. Miguel is still in the process of readying the property for guests but he was happy to allow us to stay for three nights.
|Snowy Cotinga House - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
The house suited our needs, with a fully equipped kitchen (and stocked fridge thanks to Miguel), spacious bedroom and bathroom with air conditioning, and a hammock on the porch outside. I strung up my moth light outside as well.
We had an absolute blast staying here. The eponymous Snowy Cotingas were noted on several occasions in fruiting trees in the yard, some of the 100+ bird species we encountered on the property in just a couple of days. Miguel has cut a small trail system in the forest behind the house, perfect for night-hikes (which were quite productive, too!). And of course, birding and hanging out with Miguel was a lot of fun as well. He knows the area better than anyone and was happy to provide tips on exploring nearby. If anyone reading this is planning a birding trip to Bocas del Toro, the Snowy Cotinga House comes highly recommended by us. Reach out to me and I can put you in touch with Miguel.
|Entrance road near Snowy Cotinga House - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
October 9, 2021
Each year, eBird coordinates a Global Big Day that takes place sometime in early May, while during the last few years, eBird has also organized a Global Big Day during October. This autumn, the day fell on October 9.
The goal of the Big Day is a coordinated effort in which birders around the world upload their sightings to eBird from a set 24-hour time period. As the day progresses, one can see the sightings roll in, in real time. The last Global Big Day was on May 8, 2021 and over 50,000 participants submitted over 140,000 checklists, representing 7,331 total bird species! As Laura and I had the full day free to explore in Bocas del Toro, we tried to see as many species as reasonably possible.
|Passerini's Tanager - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
Several other teams of birders were participating in Bocas del Toro province. Laura and I set off on our own and we were pretty pleased with how our day went!
We ate breakfast at dawn, had a short delay while the skies opened with heavy rain, but by 7 AM were exploring the road near Snowy Cotinga House. Sightings came in hot and heavy and included many of my targets for this region of Panama: Pale-billed Woodpecker, Black-cowled Oriole, Bronzy Hermit, Olive-backed Euphonia and both Crimson-fronted and Olive-throated Parakeets.
|Pale-billed Woodpecker - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
As I binned a flock of Pale-vented Pigeons in a bare tree, a strange looking bird revealed itself as a female Snowy Cotinga. Like some of the above-mentioned species, Snowy Cotinga is a Bocas del Toro specialty for Panamanian birders.
|Snowy Cotinga - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
Luckily, the rain held off. After an hour or so of birding towards the river, Laura and I retraced our steps and continued to explore down the road in the other direction.
|The road near Snowy Cotinga House, Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
We passed Snowy Cotinga House and then the small village of Charagre, adding a bunch of open country species including our first Morelet's Seedeaters of the trip. Our list was approaching 80 species.
|Short-tailed Hawk (dark morph) - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
We birded along a gravel road that ascended into some low hills just outside of town. The eBird hotspot for this road is titled "Camino a Carbón". Laughing Falcon, Northern Bentbill and Piratic Flycatcher were some of the additions here, though we dipped on the Band-backed Wren that Mario Ocaña had tipped us off about. Still, it was great to meet Mario and chat for a few minutes about birds.
|Baleja flavoguttata - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
The sun was coming out and with it, a whole bunch of neat insects. I kept birding when I could, though there were frequent distractions with the insects that Laura was bringing to my attention! Some neat ones, for sure...
|Edessa rufomarginata - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Macrocopturus sp. - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Agrosoma sp. - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Dyar's Swallowtail (Battus ingenuus) - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Xylophanes loelia - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (Oophaga pumilio) - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Canebrake Wren - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Canebrake Wren - Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Ruddy Turn-banana - Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Shorebirding at Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Western Sandpiper - Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Least Sandpiper - Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Pectoral Sandpiper - Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Baird's Sandpiper - Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|White-tailed Kite - Basurero de Finca 30, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Birding at Basurero de California, Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama|
|Masked Treefrog (Smilisca phaeota) - Snowy Cotinga House, Charagre, Bocas del Toro, Panama|