Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Trip Report Panama - Part 3 (05 April 2019)

Canopy Tower - Cerro Azul - Canopy Tower

     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.

     Cotingas are an enigmatic family of birds, with stunning beauty and diversity. I would recommend David Snow's landmark book The Cotingas, (1982) as essential reading for anyone interested in this family, followed by the more contemporary Cotingas and Manakins by Guy M. Kirwan and Graeme Green (2011). But I digress.
     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.

     And both were joined by Shining Honeycreepers (Cyanerpes lucidus) too.

♂ 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.

          There were feeders other than sugar water and a Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani) permitted very close inspection.

     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.

     We saw Bronze-tailed Plumleteer (Chalybura urochrysia) for the first time.....

     .....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.


  1. These birds are so magnificently colored that it is hard to believe they are real. Truly gorgeous and the photos show them off to the best. I'm really glad that you are also showing us the insects and blooms of the region, too. I doubt this is a spot I'll ever get so stepping into each photo is a real joy and a bit of travel, too! Thanks, David (and Miriam!)

  2. I was captivated the whole way through. The Honeycreepers blew me away with their funky colors. I have a happy heart indeed after all this good stuff!
    Thanks once again, David and tell Miriam I think she is a whiz with her camera.

  3. No child with a colouring book and pens could come up with as much dazzling variety as has been achieved by nature in Panama. Thank you for sharing such beauty.

  4. Un maravilloso reportaje amigo David y mis felicitaciones a Miriam por tan buenas fotografías.
    Es un reportaje de pájaros todos ellos maravillosos, es difícil el decantarse por uno o algunos de ellos, todos, tienen unos colores excepcionales de extraordinaria belleza. Esa zona debe de ser un paraíso en belleza.
    Esta vez sí he podido reconocer algunas plantas ya que son de muy fácil identificación, creo que no tiene ningún mérito ya que cualquiera podría identificarlas. Una de ellas es un ejemplar de Heliconia, las otras son Hyppeastrum e Hibiscus, son plantas que se suelen encontrar en muchos jardines aún no siendo tropicales.
    Gracias por mostrarnos y comentar tanta belleza.
    Recibir un caluroso abrazo desde España David y Miriam.

  5. Fabulous! The star of the show for me, David, was the male Crowned Woodnymph - the colours are stunningly gorgeous. I don't know how long it's taking you to put these blog posts together but, at the speed you're publishing them, it's becoming a full-time occupation reading them! Looking forward to the next installment.

    My love to you both - - - Richard

    1. Keeps you from sitting around twiddling your thumbs!

  6. An amazing selection of photos, the Blue Cotinga is stunning and I love the Red-legged Honeycreeper. I recognise the Bananaquit from our trip to Nevis, but most of the hummers we saw there are different to the ones you have here. The Rufous-crested Coquette is amazing so small!
    Have a good day, Diane

  7. Absolutely amazing! The Gartered Trogon captured my attention the most. The eye is gorgeous. The blue of the Cotingas is stunning too. What a feast for the eyes that you got to experience.

  8. Hello, another great trip report. The blossoms and flowers are gorgeous. The birds are all beautiful and lovely sightings. I have been to viewing area for the hummingbirds there, it was an awesome experience to have all the hummingbirds flying around us. Great photos. Happy Birding!

  9. Bonsoir,

    Quel plaisir que de découvrir l'ensemble de vos merveilleuses photos. Je suis sous le charme.
    Tous ces magnifiques emplumés sont fascinants.
    Gros bisous

  10. David, that is a remarkable trip! I would get into this wonderful van that it would bring me to the birds world. Nature is so beautiful, so inviting. The birds have vivid rich colors and so attractive that it's difficult to take your eyes from them. I am sure your everyday was filled with joy!

  11. The hanging nests were most interesting. I’m guessing there is an entrance on the other side, or is it on top? And more curiosity — why are the hummingbird feeders numbered??

    1. Hello Cynthia: The entrance to the nest is at the top where the nest is anchored to the branch. As for the numbers on the hummingbird feeders it is simply to facilitate directions, e.g. Rufous-crested Coquette on feeder No. 4, Crowned Woodnymph on No. 6 etc.

  12. Sooooo much eye candy. I think I would have been too busy looking in awe and womder to remember to take photos. Huge thanks to those who had more presence of mind than I could muster.


  13. Maybe I can help you with some of the plantnames, David. The big pink flower is a hibiscus. The next one is Hippeastrum/Amaryllis. I'm not sure of the rest of them.
    I'm in love with the Snow-bellied hummingbird :)

  14. Hari om
    Nature's array!!!

    The first bloom is one of the heliconia species and Marit beat me to it with the next two. The tree is delonix regia (flamboyant tree), but the yellow blooms ard unfamiliar to me. YAM xx

  15. What another spectacular day of nature at its finest. But I just can't help creeping out about that spider, ah!
    Who couldn't be in awe of that Rufous-crested Coquette. So small, but so stunning.

  16. ... just fantastic!! I was in awe all the way from top to bottom, and the little Coquette was def the big bang finish!

  17. Wow. Those birds are sure amazing.

  18. yes, the color of flowers so spectacular...
    thank you for sharing beautiful series of photos...

  19. Ett magnifikt reportage David från denna artrika miljö. Du har fått med så mycket, fåglar, fjärilar och växter. De hängande fågelbona är något jag bara läst om för länge sedan. Den arkitekten kan vara mer än stolt över sin unika byggkonst.
    Underbart vackert!

  20. Wow, wow wow, what a beautiful trip you've made!! So many beautiful birds on the photo's.
    A treasure to my eyes!!
    Have a wonderful day

  21. Hi David - absolutely glorious shots ... and one day I'll take a course to see how birds evolved all these incredible variant shades ... blue with red legs, turquoise with brown, blue with yellow, and rainbow with pale lemon yellow legs ... incredible - let alone the beaks - which one can sort of work out. Fascinating ... thanks to you both - cheers Hilary

  22. Really excellent, the birds, Lizard, and the van, nice one.

  23. Hi David.

    I really enjoyed what you show all of the beautiful nature.
    Animals and birds.
    So nice to see species that are so beautiful in color.


    Greeting from Patricia.

  24. Otro gran reportaje David, me encantan tanto los pájaros como las flores, he disfrutado mucho con los colibrís. Muchos besos.

  25. Mundo maravilhoso da biodiversidade!

    Um passeio lindo a mando da vontade das aves, e dos insetos, porque eles é que comandam.

    Eles estão atentos ao perigo.

    As plantas não fogem :)

    Um abraço e boas viagens!

  26. Amazing birds, gorgeous flowers, pretty colours and a wonderful report.
    Thank you, David.


  28. Some beautiful and vivid colours with these birds.

  29. "It had been a glorious outing indeed."

    I couldn't agree more.
    A stunning post with such amazing and colourful birds, and equally gorgeous colour flowers.

    Thank you so much for your excellent trip reports.

    All the best Jan

  30. Wow . . . those birds are absolutely beautiful, and I must say, you're a great photographer!

  31. I think I could happily spend all day watching Hummingbirds!

    1. I suspect that would be true for many birders, Pam, especially those who do not get to see them regularly.

  32. Hej igen David! Idag är en stor dag för mig för plötsligt satt han där i det gamla äppelträdet, den svartvita flugsnapparen (Filedula hypoleuca) som flugit från tropiska Afrika för att landa här hos mig i min trädgård. Är det inte fantastiskt?
    Ville bara berätta det för dig för du förstår känslan..

    1. It is a wonderful day indeed, Gunilla, when an old friend returns.

  33. Spectacular pictures of a very colorful country!

  34. Impresionante la cantidad de aves coloridas que puede haber en tan pequeño lugar, también deslumbrante la variedad de mariposas y flores. Muy buena nota contando los pormenores de tu viaje.

  35. What a fascinating landscape and all these stunning birds and flowers. I would love to see all of this. I saw honeycreepers in Hawai'i, but I think they were different ones (I'm by far not as knowledgable as you are). Ah, those hummingbirds - we have lots of hummers here and of course I feed them (and the Hooded oreoles love the nectar, too). Some of them even stay during the winter. I simply love them and never get tired of them.

    1. In Hawaii they are honeyeaters, Carola, not honeycreepers - totally different family of birds.

  36. I can see that your bird watching trip was an exciting one from the beautiful pictures of the surrounding areas and colourful exotic birds. Happy weekend.

  37. Hi David,
    It is getting more and more clear that Panama has a lot to offer for nature lovers. The abundance of beautiful coloured birds is impressing. The colours of the flowers bring something extra, not only for flora lovers. Even when the temperatures are a bit lower than you hoped for you can't do anything else than having a good time.
    Greetings, Kees

  38. Hello David and Miriam, before I forget I want to compliment Miriam for the wonderful photos she makes. Than your discription of the area where you have been and the birds you find there is interesting stuf to read David. So manny different birds and those colours are amazing. Everybody loves ofcourse those Hummingbirds with their metalic colours and their small size. I alwas wonder if by feeding these birds the flowers in nature do not suffer from it. It is by drinking the honey from those flowers they get fertelized? For the human beeing it is ofcourse a great oppertunaty to observe these cratures in a easy way. Comes to my mind that someone must come up with a better and more natural design for those plastic feeders.
    Warm regards,

    1. Thanks for taking the time to compose this detailed comment, Roos, made even more remarkable by the fact that you are not doing it in your own language. You are quite right if course, hummingbirds that habitually patronize feeders are in some measure not filling their role as pollinators, but in my experience few, if any, use the sugar water feeders exclusively. There is no doubt an impact but I suspect that it is not great.

  39. Beautiful birds, blooms and butterflies. I always enjoy the hummingbirds. Great sightings and photos. Thanks for sharing your post with my critter party. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thanks for leaving me a comment too.

  40. Fabulous photos as always! Loved the hummingbirds and the bright flowers are gorgeous.

  41. You had a great bird watching trip!
    So many beautifyul birds and flowers.I would like to see all of your photos,especially Green Hinycreeper is my favorite.
    Have a good weekend.

  42. Hello. Wonderful post. All of these birds are new to me. Interesting birds. Red-legged Honeycreepers and Rufous-capped Warbler looks so beautiful. The photo of Gartered Trogon is great. Thank you.

  43. Super birds again David. Just as impressive were the butterflies and assorted animals. I think the spider is absolutely stunning. You certainly got the most out of your trip.

  44. So many amazing pictures and animals. I picked the Green Honeycreeper as my favourite though. So many to chose from though.

  45. It is fascinating to follow your blog and see so many different birds and of great beauty, they have an incredible plumage.
    On the flowers, there are Hibiscus and Amaryllis, I do not know anymore.
    Many kisses!

  46. The male green honeycreeper's my favorite in this group. There's much to admire about them all, but that color makes my heart happy. Just below your pink hibiscus and the various amaryllis, I think those brilliant red flowers might be acacia, or perhaps Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia). The mimosa-like leaves are a clue.

  47. Hi David,
    It's great to see all these beautiful flowers. The birds have really stunning colors!
    Nice photo report, again!