Monday, 22 April 2019

Trip to Panama - Part 2 (04 April 2019)

04 April 2019
Canopy Tower - Semaphore Hill - Plantation Road - Old Gamboa Road and Summit Pond - Canopy Tower

     We were both awake fairly early and anxious to get up onto the observation deck to see what might be around. At about 05h:00 the Mantled Howlers (Alouatta palliata) were in full voice, either closer than usual or more vociferous this morning.
     Even before we left our room we were treated to a wildlife display, with this fire beetle (Pyrophorus sp.) enlivening our stay in the bathroom.

     The two luminous organs varied in light intensity as the beetle moved around and it is claimed that placed on a newspaper the beetle sheds enough light to read the print. The primary purpose is to attract prey, although one would surmise that predators would be equally drawn to them. An adaptive balance has obviously been achieved and we found it quite fascinating to observe this creature.
     We arrived on the deck just as sunrise was about to occur.

   And here is what it looked like a few minutes later.

     The air was redolent with unfamiliar scents, howlers roared in the background, parrots squawked and a chorus of unfamiliar bird song resonated in our ears. It was good to be in this tropical paradise and our hot, aromatic coffee was both welcome and appropriate.
     A Mealy Amazon (Amazona farinosa) surveyed the world from a lofty perch.

     Cinnamon Woodpecker (Celeus loricatus) is not uncommon but seldom cooperates as much as this individual did, remaining on the same exposed perch for several minutes.

     I could not help but think that it seemed a precarious position, a sitting target for a passing hawk or large falcon, but it certainly delighted all the onlookers on the deck.
     This familiar Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) was doubtless migrating north and will soon be seen and heard in the woods and on the trails near our home.

     There are at least two distinct advantages to watching birds from the observation deck; the first is that the birds are often very close and the second is that Canopy Tower guides are there to help clinch the ID of birds most of us see very infrequently. We were happy to have Jorge confirm the identification of this Brown-capped Tyrannulet (Ornithion brunneicapillus).

     Mostly when I have seen Bright-rumped Attila (Attila spadiceus) on previous journeys to Central America it has been low to the ground, or right on the ground, often foraging. It was therefore very agreeable to observe this individual perched at eye level in the canopy.

     A Black-breasted Puffbird (Notharchus pectoralis) was no less welcome, especially for people newly arrived, having their first experience of daybreak on the deck.

     Red-lored Amazons (Amazona autumnalis) were quite common, and unlike some of the other psittacids were prone to perch and feed where we could clearly see them and enjoy their exploits.

     Very often our hummingbird shots are taken around feeders, such as these images of White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga melivora).

     But the shots Miriam achieved from the deck are far more pleasing, showing the bird in its natural setting.


     I doubt that hummingbird feeders have any serious impact on pollination, but there is a school of thought that considers them deleterious to the health of the forest ecosystem. Hummingbirds obtaining their sugar from feeders are obviously not carrying out their role as pollinators.
     After a good breakfast we left in the birdmobile, casting a backward glance at the Canopy Tower receding behind us.

     We birded a little going down Semaphore Hill, but mainly we were on a mission to get to Plantation Road to explore the treasures that awaited us.

     That mensch, Larry, was all set to go, with Jorge as our expert, friendly guide.

     Trogons are known to exploit termite nests to excavate their own nest cavities and this is what appears to have been done here, although the species  remains unknown.

     Red-tailed Squirrels (Sciurus granatensis) were common, but entertaining and delightful, despite their proclivity to raid bird feeders. To see them peel a banana and hold it in their front paws to eat it was to view an exercise in efficiency and dexterity.

     This bug looked very interesting.....

     ..... and this damselfly no less so.

     As always, ID help would be appreciated.
     Larry held the mantle of puffbird spotter par excellence and I am sure he was delighted to see this White-whiskered Puffbird (Malacoptila panamensis) to add to his repertoire.

     Jorge's keen eyes spotted a Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) moving in the dense undergrowth and we were able to follow it, losing it for a moment, regaining contact another. When it settled down to rest Jorge was able to get it in the scope and digiscoped this image on Larry's smart phone. 

     It's not much but it is a coup to take any kind of picture of a tinamou.                                                                                 Having spent several minutes on the observation deck checking out the finer points of Cinnamon Woodpecker it seemed especially interesting to discover this individual at a nest cavity.

     Other than for parrots, it is amazing how often one sees a pair of birds perched side by side, yet not looking at each other. These White-necked Jacobins seemed to prove the point.

     One of the most spectacular tanagers is Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) - in a family where spectacular is the default adjective - and we were very happy to find this one on a nest.

     We had a great morning of birding and returned to the Canopy Tower for lunch, following which it was siesta time until 15h:00 when we left for the Old Gamboa Road and Summit Pond. Alex was our guide once again, accompanied by Beto Dominguez.
     As we started our walk we heard lots of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas (Psarocolius wagleri) although we saw very few. There was quite a large nesting colony and as might be expected a Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucocephalus) was in attendance.

Nests of Chestnut-headed Oropendola

     A Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) seemed oblivious to all else going on around him/her.

     Southern Rough-winged Swallows (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis) were seen daily, seldom in large numbers, but putting on a show of aerial efficiency. Miriam was fortunate to capture this image of a perched bird; they did not perch for long.

     A female Slaty-tailed Trogon (Trogon massena) was more likely to remain on the same branch for a longer period.

     A Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) zoomed back and forth, barely perching for an instant, and even when it did in less than perfect situations for photography, but Miriam finally managed this shot.

     A Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) was more sedentary and easier to photograph.

     A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was in the same vicinity.

     Numerous Common Sliders (Trachemys scripta) had hauled out onto logs and were basking in the afternoon sun.

     Panama is host to an incredible variety of plants; perhaps my good friend Juan Tarrero Sarabia will be able to identify this one.

     We returned to the lodge for Happy Hour and a chance to complete the daily checklist and chat about the day's successes, followed by dinner, after which Larry and I shared a couple of bottles of wine with other guests and generally had a fine time enjoying the companionship of fellow naturalists all enthralled with Panama. Names, addresses and emails were exchanged, friendships forged, bonds made. 
     Sleep came easy, perhaps with dreams of avian pleasures still to come.

All species 04 April: Great Tinamou, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Pale-vented Pigeon, Scaled Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Short-tailed Swift, White-necked Jacobin, White-vented Plumleteer, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Anhinga, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, King Vulture, Western Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Gartered Trogon (heard), Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Black-breasted Puffbird, White-whiskered Puffbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker (heard), Yellow-headed Caracara, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Brown-hooded Parrot, Red-lored Amazon, Mealy Amazon, Fasciated Antshrike, Black-crowned Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Jet Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird (heard), Bicoloured Antbird, Scaly-throated Leaftosser, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Forest Elaenia (heard), Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Southern Bentbill, Olivaceous Flatbill, Bright-rumped Attila, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Masked Tityra, Blue-crowned Manakin (heard), Golden-collared manakin, Red-capped Manakin, Scrub Greenlet, Green Shrike-Vireo, Lesser Greenlet, Mangrove Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Rufous-breasted Wren (heard), Rufous-and-white Wren (heard), Isthmian Wren (heard), Tropical Gnatcatcher, Clay-coloured Thrush, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Orange-billed Sparrow, Chesnut-headed Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Yellow-backed Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Northern Waterthrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Palm Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Plain-coloured Tanager, Grey-headed Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Variable Seedeater.


  1. What a wonderful, wonderful trip. Thank you so much for sharing the enchantment with us. Kudos to the photographers too. Birds, particularly small birds, make greased lightening appear slow and predictable.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful pictures.

  3. Hari om
    I have new favourite bird, the Cinnamon Woodpecker! YAM xx

  4. The sunrise is very beautiful! Colors are amazing! Birds are so wonderful, big and small. I was impressed by all of them and especially by a Boat-Billed Heron and a Green Heron.

  5. Wondrous words and pictures.

  6. Tusen tack David för din guidning i detta gröna paradis. Jag ser Rhododendron på en av de första bilderna.
    Jag får lära mig så mycket genom att läsa dina spännande inlägg, inte visste jag att det finns så otroligt många arter av Woody Woodpecker i vår värld. Alla är de så färggranna och vackert tecknade.

  7. As always beautiful photos, David! It's nice to start the day with them.

  8. Hello David and Miriam, first my compliments to Miriam for making these most wonderful photos of the birds and other creatures you encounterd. Those birds are so plentyful and the colours are so amazing. I am glad that in this part of the world there is plenty to see. I can not say this or that bird is nicer but the Cinnamon Woodpecker I find very special.

  9. More and more amazing birds! Thanks for sharing them all with us :)
    I bet the dawn chorus there would have been awesome - although probably very overwhelming for me!

  10. I enjoyed reading that (without the assistance of any fire beetles!) and all the wonderful photos of these exotic species. I'm interested in your comment about the woodpecker and its vulnerable position. There seem to be a number of birds here that bother little about camouflage or hiding themselves - woodpeckers, kingfishers, oystercatcher among them - these all have formidable beaks and I wonder if birds of prey avoid attacking them for fear of getting "one in the eye". Just a thought, for which I have very little evidence.

  11. Hi David.

    You show beautiful nature.
    What a beautiful bird, some so beautifully colored.


    Greeting from Patricia.

  12. Hi David - no wonder you're delighted to be back in Panama ... I love the Cinnamon Woodpecker - but all of them are just so delightful to see - Miriam does an excellent job taking photos. Gorgeous - cheers Hilary

  13. What a load of birds, what a trip. Beautiful.

  14. Maravilloso reportaje de nuevo, como siempre amigo David. Preciosas fotos las realizadas por Miriam. Todo en su conjunto es de extraordinaria belleza.
    Tu amigo Juan no puede identificar esa planta, mi fuerte amigo David precisamente no son las plantas tropicales, no cabe duda que es una maravillosa flor pero desconozco a que planta pertenece.
    Como siempre es un placer contemplar tus reportajes así como la lectura de tu narrativa.
    Un fuerte abrazo mis buenos amigos desde Alicante-España.

  15. Hello David,
    another fine trip of tropical birdwatching. I can imagine you enjoyed tremendously.
    This canopy deck looks fantastic; especially to sit there at sunrise and feel the day coming to live.

    Best regards, Corrie

  16. Otro precioso reportaje, me ha encantado ver tantas aves. La flor roja parece una passiflora. Besitos.

  17. Very beautiful pictures, some of the birds have such flaming feathers and the white-whiskered puffbird is lovely. It's always a pleasure to follow your trip.

  18. You've now got me dreaming of a visit to Panama, David! There being no mention of John after your initial note in Pt.1, do I take it that you went your separate ways thereafter, or did you travel about together in stony silence? I'm looking forward to Pt.3!

    My love to you both - - - Richard

    1. I covered only what was important on the trip! John was part of the same group but only physically. As I said in my reply to your last comment there were birds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, new friends, great guides, warm, wonderful people, the chance to practice my Spanish. And Miriam and I had each other for support, and that was the most important thing of all.

  19. That beetle is amazing! What a handsome fellow the Cinnamon Woodpecker is. It must have been amazing to be so close to many of these birds. We put out a feeder for the hummingbirds but have also planted flowers in our butterfly garden that they are supposed to enjoy. Hopefully they will go to the flowers too! I love the contrasting white bellies of these in Panama.

  20. A beautiful start to another great day of birding, it's a special place for sure. The Cinnamon Woodpecker seems to be taking in the sun, warming up maybe!?

  21. Miriam, your capture of that sunrise is simply stunning. It must have provided a very tranquil start to David's eloquent account of a fascinating day of birding.

  22. Hi Both,
    Miriam has yet again supplied some wonderful images for us all to enjoy, and what a variety.
    I have been through the post several times and still keep forgetting some of the birds, mind that could be an age thing.
    Superb and interesting post.
    All the best, John

  23. Wow, your words and the photos tell a fantastic story.
    Thank you for sharing this great post.

  24. awesome pictures! so lovely birds


  25. A lot of species you have observed, as it was quite logical to wait in such a lush tropical paradise, I can imagine the large number of colorful species and photos of your publication delight us with those jungle feathered wonders. I'll wait for the other round of photos and trip story , just coincided with my last trip abroad, something I already uploaded on the blog.
    A hug

  26. Your photos are excellent, as always, and the Kingfisher is my favorite. I love that big bill.

  27. It's fantastic to see hummingbirds> The ruby throated is exciting, but seeing other species is always amazing. And that kingfisher looks so tiny compared to the local ones.

  28. David - I am always mesmerized by your trip reports. Thorough, so much variety and high quality photos of everything. My favorite in this group has to be the Cinnamon Woodpecker!

  29. There is something here that you only touch upon David, the number of eco-tourists in yours and other parties in the places you visited. The fact that so many North Americans visit Panama and other birding destinations brings money and employment as guides and accommodation to people that otherwise would probably have less or very little. I rarely use guides but the few times I have in West Africa it was so obvious that the type of employment was never available in the past to the parents of the mostly young people in the current crop. Also, these people show great pride in their countries and the special environments that they are so lucky in which to live and take great delight in sharing their treasures.

    Now go and set those nets. By my reckoning, that's a 5am start.

  30. Hello David, wonderful sightings of the Panama birds. I love the Black-breasted Puffbird and the hummingbirds are amazing. Love the Trogon! They are all beautiful birds, great photos. Happy Birding. Enjoy your day!

  31. Preciso amanecer e interesantes fotos David.
    Un abrazo.

  32. Hi David,
    To explore the nature of Panama is like always a pleasure with the help of a dedicated guide, who knows the environment. It absolutely brought a number of fine encounters to make this days a success.
    Greetings, Kees

  33. What an amazing trip, such beautiful birds.
    A joy to see all of your photographs.

    All the best Jan

  34. The birds, of course, are glorious. Each and every one! But that beetle that lights up -- wow, what a surprise! I'm curious about the newspaper reading. Doesn't sound as though either of you gave it a try!

  35. Just for grins, I opened the Cornell fruit feeder cam from Canopy Lodge, so I can listen to the sounds of Panama while I enjoy your photos. Like others, I found the cinnamon woodpecker particularly appealing. It's interesting to look at the scientific names and see specific epithets that also are used with plants. Aestiva was in a previous post; here, it was farinosa. It makes sense that such similarity would exist, of course. I've just never paid attention to it.

    1. My word you leave interesting comments with cogent observations. Thank you so much!

    2. And let me just add one thing more. I am pleased that you use the term "scientific" name and not "Latin" name, for there is, of course, a lot of Greek in the basis for some of these names.

  36. HI David,
    This must have been again a fine trip of tropical birdwatching . Miriam did well, outstanding captures! Lovely colorful birds!
    Regards, Maria