Breakfast was early this morning, boiled eggs and a little fruit, with coffee of course. We were heading to Cerro Azul for the day - higher elevation birding, refreshing, more temperate.
Here is our transportation for the day.
Lots of room for five birders; Alex was the driver and Beto rode shotgun.
It was a pleasant drive and we were continually gaining elevation. When we stopped for Alex to register at the office before proceeding farther, and to take advantage of the washrooms, a totally different topography spread itself before our eyes.
It was pleasantly cool, almost light sweater weather. The breeze was dry and not laden with humidity.
As we travelled through the Cerro Azul area, it was clear that this was a relatively well-to-do region, with substantial homes and well tended gardens. The colour was spectacular and ubiquitous.
Each house seemed to compete with the next for vibrancy.
It was obvious that this Yellow-throated Euphonia (Euphonia hirundinacea) found everything to his liking.
Several euphonias are very similar in appearance, with subtle, yet distinctive, differences and it was one of our challenges to learn the field marks. One is quickly reminded by such teasers that one is birding away from home, where distinctive field marks in sparrows, for example, are recognized in an instant. It's all part of the enjoyment of the experience, however.
And we had Alex, our trusty, hard-working and knowledgeable guide, to help us though any identification difficulties.
I should say a word here about the guides at the Canopy Tower and the Canopy Lodge. Raul has assembled a first class cadre of individuals drawn from the local community and they have responded to the opportunity provided them. They are consummate professionals with a high level of skill, and are good will ambassadors for the Tower and the Lodge, as well as for Panama in general. I found none of them lacking in any regard.
There are so many moths and butterflies in Panama, but few it seemed were willing to land. This moth was an exception.
I will make it a point to ascertain its name and add it to the post as soon as possible.
A Crimson-backed Tanager (Ramphocelus dimidiatus) was a bird we saw often, on most days several times in fact, but never did we become blasé about it.
One has the same reaction to a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) at home; it may be familiar but it is always a show stopper.
This Black-striped Sparrow (Arremonops conirostris) darted around in the foliage, but with a little persistence Miriam managed to get a picture.
Rufous-capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons) is a resident species, familiar and frequently seen, but surely of of the most appealing adornments to our day. When it sang it was an added bonus.
The range of flowers verges on overwhelming for a non-botanist. I am showing just some of them below and perhaps those with far greater expertise than I will be able to identify them
And here are a few more.
What I can say, without fear of contradiction, is that the beauty all around us was appreciated by everyone.
If I am not mistaken, this spider is in the Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila) family, but if anyone can identify the species I will be happy to add the name. It was impressive to say the least.
Throughout the day we saw Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) several times, the first being this female.
Chestnut-headed Oropendolas (Psarocolius wagleri) were frequently seen flying from one stand of trees to another and there was a colony of impressive size, with many pendent nests.
The only place we saw Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata) during our entire two-week visit was at Cerro Azul, and to the best of my recollection one individual only.
Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus) was far more common.
I always find Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) to be a delightful little bird, and I was very happy when we encountered this species for the first time since arriving in Panama.
We derive a great deal of pleasure from seeing butterflies, and Panama is blessed with many, but our knowledge is woefully inadequate, and I do not have a field guide to the lepidoptera of Central America. I will try to ascertain the identity of this species and add the name, but if anyone can help, please leave a comment below. It never unfolded its wings while perched so we only saw the upperwing as it flitted off away from us.
Throughout our stay we were always interested to see the many migrant birds heading north, getting some field experience of the phenomenon of migration from the opposite end of the scale so to speak. We saw phalanxes of Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) quite frequently, and were gobsmacked repeatedly at the exhibition of grace and beauty above our heads. I never tired of watching them.
I mentioned above that Gartered Trogon was frequently observed in this area and Miriam captured pictures of this male.
Contingas in general are not easy birds to find, so to have stellar views of this male Blue Cotinga (Cotinga nattererii) was a moment of great delight.
The patches that appear black in the picture are in fact a deep wine colour, or magenta perhaps. Pictures generally do not match the experience of the bird, but in this case it is magnified. This encounter was one of the highlights of the entire adventure for me.
The Canopy Tower has developed a working relationship with Jerry and Lynda Harrison, an American couple living in Cerro Azul, to visit their house to take lunch and watch their hummingbird feeders. Lunch was brought with us but laid out in the kitchen of the Harrison home, and taken to the veranda at the rear of the house to be enjoyed while watching hummingbirds and other species.
It was a very pleasant experience and all of the pictures that follow were taken from that vantage point.
A Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia edward) was a common visitor.
Honeycreepers of course were also drawn to this bounty of sugar water and these Green Honeycreepers (Chlorophanes spiza) missed no opportunity to get their share.
|Green Honeycreeper ♂|
|Green Honeycreeper ♀|
Red-legged Honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus0 were no less determined to get their seat at the table.
|♂ with White-necked Jacobin|
This little lizard was concerned with nothing so much as climbing up the legs of one of the chairs.
Back at the sugar water feeders a Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) waited its turn and sipped advantageously as it was able to gain a place at a feeder.
And this Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola) found food to its liking too.
And so we are back to hummingbirds.
Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) had no trouble muscling its way to the sweet bounty.
.....whereas Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacati) was already familiar.
But the prize of the day was a tiny Rufous-crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei), a bird barely larger than the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) of Cuba, the smallest bird in the world.
As can be seen above it often fed on the underside of the feeders, presumably sipping drips of sugar water that had run down from above. It had no competition by maximizing this location and was too small to compete with the larger species on the upper surface.
It is a remarkable little bird and we felt very fortunate to be able to view it at such close range.
Soon it was time to pack up and leave for the Canopy Tower and we said goodbye to Jerry and Lynda with our thanks for hosting us at their home.
It was an uneventful drive back, and we met shortly after our arrival for Happy Hour and the completion of the checklist for the day.
It had been a glorious outing indeed.
All species 05 April: Grey-headed Chachalaca, Rock Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, White-collared Swift, White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Rufous-crested Coquette, Long-billed Starthroat, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumleteer, Crowned Woodnymph, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, White Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Gartered Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Blue-headed Parrot, Spotted Woodcreeper (heard), Southern Beardless Tyrranulet (heard), Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, Blue Cotinga, White-ruffed Manakin, Grey-breasted Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Wren (heard), Clay-coloured Thrush, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Thick-billed Euphonia, White-vented Euphonia, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Black-striped Sparrow, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Baltimore Oriole, Shiny Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Rufous-capped Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Summer Tanager, Carmiol's Tanager (heard), Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Plain-coloured Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Black-and-yellow Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Buff-throated Saltator, Streaked Saltator.