Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Trip to Panama - Final Episode 12 April - 15 April 2019

12 April 2019
Canopy Lodge - Antón Dry Forest - Juan Hombron - Santa Clara - Canopy Lodge

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. 
When we see land as a community to which we belong we may begin to use it with love and respect
                                                                       Aldo Leopold

     We breakfasted early to get a good start on a full day's outing to the Pacific Coast. Miriam decided to stay behind, so the photographic record for the day is regrettably meagre.
     Danilo Sr. was our guide for the day (with Joseph along to help) and he stopped at various locations along the way where he knew certain species were likely to be located. Our first target bird was Spotted Bobwhite (Colinus cristatus) and even though we saw a little covey of half a dozen or so they were far away, well beyond the reach of photography and without a scope it is doubtful we would have seen them. While we were looking, however, a Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) perched close by.

      We stopped so frequently and even backtracked here and there that I was never quite sure exactly where we were. But when we got into the area near to Juan Hombron I was distracted by the sheer volume of trash everywhere.

     Garbage is not an issue confined to Panama but we had noticed often that it seemed to be even more of a problem than in other countries we have visited. In this area it was verging on catastrophic. You could not look anywhere without encountering plastic trash, pop cans, water bottles, discarded household items and so forth. The fact that I watched a fellow casually toss his plastic water bottle on the ground as he walked by did not lead me to believe that it is going to get better any time soon.

     We passed a pond where I was unable to see the surface of the water, it was entirely covered over with plastic and styrofoam refuse.

     It was depressing!
     I can only hope that at some point concerned citizens will start to clean up this blight on the landscape and that the populace will develop a better ethic in terms of disposing of trash and restore the aesthetic and productive values of the land. 
     It was in this area that we saw Veraguan Mango (Anthracothorax veraguensis), a very localized hummingbird, new to everyone. I was unable to get a photograph but the experience of seeing the bird would have been greatly enhanced had the bush in which it perched not been vividly festooned with plastic bags.
     Red-crowned Woodpeckers (Melanerpes rubricapillus) seem to have developed a fondness for excavating their nest holes in utility poles, for we saw it several times.

     Perhaps the wood is softer than a tree.
     Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax) is a highly sought after species in this region and after a couple of tries we were able to locate a small party of them, much to everyone's delight.

     Savannah Hawk (Buteogallus meridionalis) is a long-legged raptor favouring wet grasslands, always seeming particularly elegant to my eyes. We were fortunate to see several of them and even an active nest.

     In an area where open grassland merged with submerged gullies and swampy wetlands there were countless thousand of egrets of various species, joined by Northern Crested Caracaras (Carcara cheriway) and other species looking for easy pickings. This is an area of rice production which no doubt has something to do with the permanently wet fields.

      Arriving at Santa Clara we had lunch at a lovely beach house, mere steps from the ocean. We ate the same kind of lunch as previously when dining in the field, but the filling of the pita was made with chicken rather than tuna. It was very tasty, and Danilo even brought hot sauce, and there were ham and cheese rolls for those with more pedestrian taste.  Fresh fruit was served for dessert.
     When we had eaten we went for a short walk, and were successful in locating Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata). 
     Many North Americans have settled in Panama, with great success and happiness I assume, but the experience has obviously soured for one American.

     A short foray into town led us to a tree where Danilo knew that Tropical Screech Owl (Megascops choliba) had customarily roosted during the daylight hours.

     Our trip back to the Canopy Lodge was quicker than I had imagined, but the fact of stopping so frequently on the way to the coast masked the distance on the outbound journey.
     Miriam had had a restful day walking around as and when she wished, and showed me photographs she had taken of some of the familiar species we saw most days. 

Blue-grey Tanager
Lizard sp. (Whiptail?)

Common Tody-Flycatcher
Crimson-backed Tanager ♂
Grey-headed Chachalaca

Red-crowned Woodpecker ♂
Cocoa Woodcreeper

Clay-coloured Thrush
Orange-billed Sparrow
     While we did the checklist we were joined by Chris and Vanya, new arrivals and people we would become very close to over the next couple of days. You will meet them tomorrow!

All species 12 April: Grey-headed Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Scaled Pigeon, Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Groove-billed Ani, Veraguan Mango, Garden Emerald, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Wood Stork, Brown Pelican, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Savannah Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Tropical Screech Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Yellow-headed Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Brown-throated Parakeet, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Barred Antshrike, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Lesser Elaenia, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Panama Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, Lance-tailed Manakin, Scrub Greenlet, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Yellow-green Vireo, Grey-breasted Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Clay-coloured Thrush, Tropical Mockingbird, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Thick-billed Euphonia, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Orange-billed Sparrow, Black-striped Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Crested Oropendola, Yellow-backed Oriole, Great-tailed Grackle, American Yellow Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Red-throated Ant Tanager, Dickcissel, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Crimson-backed Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Streaked Saltator.

13 April 2019
Canopy Lodge - La Mesa - Cerro Gaital - Candelario Trail - Valle Chiquito - Canopy Lodge

     We birded a little in La Mesa on the way to Cerro Gaital with Danilo Jr. as our trusted guide and saw a nice range of species, most of which were new for Chris and Vanya who were accompanying us for the first time. And what pleasant company they were, interesting, intelligent and possessed of a fine sense of humour. We enjoyed having them along.

Summer Tanager ♀

Yellow-faced Grassquit

     Cerro Gaital was our principal destination for the morning.

     As it turned out it was extremely quiet from a birding standpoint, with not a whole lot of activity. In fact I think that the greatest movement of birds was high above our heads as large numbers of Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) migrated northwards. It was little short of awe-inspiring to watch these incredibly graceful birds moving through.
     There were some interesting insects to be seen, none of which we could identify, so if any entomologist familiar with these organisms is able to help we would appreciate it.

     I am assuming that this inhabitant of the forest floor is a centipede of some kind.

     Perhaps the moth below will be an easy ID for someone proficient in this taxon.

    This caterpillar seemed alternately fearsome and resembling a kind of of cream bun in a pastry shop!

     The following two are a bit of a mystery for us!

     As noted, birds were surprisingly absent, but this Black-faced Grosbeak (Caryothraustes poliogaster) was an exciting discovery - a bird I had never seen before.

     Danilo decided that it was time to try somewhere else given the paucity of birds at Cerro Gaital, and it was not long before we crossed paths with one of the other guides from the Canopy Lodge who advised that White-tipped Sicklebill (Eutoxeres aquila) had been seen that morning on the Candelario Trail - so that is where we headed!
     The walk into the trail traverses a field where cattle are pastured, and with cattle are Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis).

     Smooth-billed Anis (Crotophaga ani) were also present, seeming to benefit from the action of the cattle stirring up insects.

     Right at the edge of the trail as it enters the woodland we spotted a Plain-coloured Tanager (Tangara inornata).

     Walking along the path we had the incredible good fortune to view  Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo (Neomorphus geoffroyi) for the second time. This gave Miriam the chance to see this highly desirable species since she had not been with us on the previous occasion, and Chris and Vanya were thrilled too.
     But our quest was for the Sicklebill. We stationed ourselves at its favourite stand of Heliconia and we waited - and we waited - and we waited.

     But we were out of luck. Once again I dipped on this species. I may have to buy a painting or a carving! That's maybe as close as I am going to get.
     Back at the lodge we had a splendid lunch of Panamanian chicken pie, and following a break until 15h:00 we left again, this time with Moyo as our guide, to visit Valle Chiquito.
     When we first disembarked from the vehicle, I glanced at the sky and there were many Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) migrating through. Given that Barn Swallows equipped with radio trackers at SpruceHaven in St. Agatha, ON were known to have been present at the Panama/Colombia border, I could not resist a moment of irrational speculation that "our" birds were overhead and going home.
     A Streaked Saltator (Saltator striatipectus) would not be joining them!

     We saw only our second White Hawk (Pseudastur albicollis) of the trip, albeit partially hidden, but a great sighting regardless.

     In contrast to having to jockey for position to see the hawk, a Panama Flycatcher (Myiarchius panamensis) rested on the ground in full view.

     A Tody Motmot (Hyomanes momotula) is always a special bird to see and we were delighted to have one in the open.

     In the weedy, seed-laden grassy verges Variable Seedeater (Sporophila corvina) was quite common..... was Blue-black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina)

     Moyo worked hard for us and showed us a wide array of birds, including Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata) at quite close range, but we have few pictures to mark the afternoon's successes. Perhaps Miriam was energized by Vanya's company and spent time visiting with her; assuredly an enjoyable way to spend time.
     The guides at both the Canopy Tower and the Canopy Lodge were all first rate and I have nothing but praise for all of them, but I would rate Moyo No. 1. We were fortunate to spend time with him.
     We returned to the lodge, did the checklist and enjoyed happy hour. Dinner was beef, rice and beans and vegetables. I am sure there was a salad and dessert too, but I did not make note of them. We sat and chatted with Chris and Vanya until we all felt the need to call it a night and get some sleep. 

All species 13 April: Grey-headed Chachalaca, Scaled Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Grey-chested Dove, Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, Band-rumped Swift, Garden Emerald, White-vented Plumleteer, Crowned Woodnymph, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Southern Lapwing, Western Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, White Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Tody Motmot, Rufous Motmot (heard), Green Kingfisher, Collared Araçari, Keel-billed Toucan, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Barred Forest Falcon (heard), Yellow-headed Caracara, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Brown-hooded Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Slaty Antwren (heard), Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous Mourner, Panama Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, White-winged Becard, Lance-tailed Manakin, Lesser Greenlet, Black-chested Jay, Grey-breasted Martin, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Rufous-breasted Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Isthmian Wren, Bay Wren, White-breasted Wood Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Clay-coloured Thrush, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Thick-billed Euphonia, Lesser Goldfinch, Rosy Thrush-Tanager (heard), Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Giant Cowbird, Tennessee Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Canada Warbler, Dusky-faced Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Summer Tanager, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, Black-faced Grosbeak, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Plain-coloured Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Blue-black Grassquit, White-shouldered Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Thick-billed Seed Finch, Variable Seedeater, Buff-throated Saltator, Streaked Saltator.

14 April 2019
Canopy Lodge - Río Indio - Jordanal - Canopy Lodge

     After breakfast we set off in four-wheel drive vehicles for a full day of birding, with Danilo, Sr., Danilo, Jr., and Joseph as our guides.

Danilo, Sr.

Danilo, Jr.

     We were in good hands.

    At our first stop one of the incredible things we observed was a cow nonchalantly eating a plastic bag. 

     It begs the question, how often does this happen? How does it affect the cow? How does it compromise the quality of milk and meat?  It was really disconcerting to watch it. 
     Much more agreeable was this Long-tailed Tyrant (Colonia colonus) flycatching from atop a snag and putting on quite a show.

     A Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata) is a splendidly handsome bird and was viewed with great pleasure by everyone.

     The only species of Puffbird possible in Panama that I had not previously seen was Barred Puffbird (Nystalus radiatus), so I was particularly happy when we came across this bird on the day before we would be leaving for home, and it stayed for several minutes. Puffbirds have a certain inherent charm about them, although I am sure I could say that about many other families also.

     When first going to Central or South America the array of woodcreepers can seem a little daunting. It is one thing to be able to read in a field guide about the minor differences between some species, but teasing them apart in life can be quite different, especially when one sometimes has but fleeting glimpses, or the bird insists on always foraging on the far side of the tree. I was not unhappy to have our guides to help us with this Northern Barred-Woodcreeper (Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae).

     Barbets are delightful birds and we felt it a great privilege to spend sometime with a pair of Spot-crowned Barbets (Capito maculicoronatus).

       This image will give you an idea of the kind of terrain we were travelling through.

     Do you think that Chris and Vanya were enjoying it?


      And they were joined by Miriam and she looks happy too.

      Black-cheeked Woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani) is not at all uncommon, but is not always easy to photograph, at least in our experience. We are quite happy with this shot.

     We were always on the lookout for northbound migrants so a group of Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) was a joyful sight.

     Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus) rarely seemed to give us a good view of the head, more often than not being observed in flight, so we welcomed this opportunity. The light was not the best, but sometimes you take what you can get.

     Some of the mountain streams were quite lovely.

     I am sure that a nearby Rufous-crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei) agreed with that assessment.

     Blue Morpho (Morpho, sp.) are common but always on the move, floating by like spectres from another realm, and when they do alight (very infrequently), they immediately fold their wings so that the startling blue which characterizes all the species in this genus is hidden. These images are the best we have made of this supremely beautiful neotropical butterfly.

     A male Shining Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes lucidus) is very appealing, with his bright yellow legs.      

     I almost have to pinch myself, sitting back here in Canada, to realize that Bay-headed Tanager (Tangara gyrola) was a common, everyday bird in some areas.

     We were very fortunate that the guides knew of a location where Golden-collared Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) could be found, and Miriam, with considerable persistence, was able to get a picture of a stunning male.

     I am sad to report, however, that ubiquitous trash once again reared its ugly head. This is what we had to wade through and step around as we made our way into the woodland to find the bird. Somehow or other we have to find a way to combat this issue of human detritus everywhere before we bury ourselves in it. In the meantime we are marring the landscape in terrible ways.

       A wonderful bonus while searching for the manakin was the discovery of a Kinkajou (Potos flavus) with a baby. It was not in a clear line of sight and as soon as it detected our presence it was anxious to move away, but we did get a couple of shots for the record.

     Miriam and I seldom have our picture taken together, and I rarely publish them, since I do not wish to indulge in a constant serialization of narcissism, but I submit this one taken by Chris to memorialize the day.

     Barely had we spotted a Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus).....

     .....than a Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos) popped up. 

     This represents the only two members of their respective genera in Panama.
     Following our success with Barred Puffbird we were delighted to have stellar views of a White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus), reminding me of Larry back at the Canopy Tower.

     We were also incredibly happy to encounter a Plumbeous Kite (Ictinia plumbea) in full view.

     Miriam's birthday is 15 April so on the eve of her birthday, and our last night at the Canopy Lodge, I had asked Aidan if a cake could be provided for dessert. He agreed instantly and to her great surprise and delight it was delivered to her at the table complete with candles to blow out, and everyone joined in singing "Happy Birthday," and many people came over to express their greetings. It was a lovely way to end our final meal at the lodge.

All species 14 April: Grey-headed Chachalaca, Scaled Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, Band-rumped Swift, White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Green Thorntail, Rufous-crested Coquette, Long-billed Starthroat, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph,Blue-chested Hummingbird, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Southern Lapwing, Western Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Roadside Hawk, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Green Kingfisher, Barred Puffbird, White-necked Puffbird, Spot-crowned Barbet, Collared Araçari, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-headed Caracara, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Brown-hooded Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Lesser Elaenia, Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant (heard), Common Tody Flycatcher, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Long-tailed Tyrant, Panama Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher (heard), Social Flycatcher, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Masked Tityra, Cinnamon Becard, White-winged Becard (heard), Golden-collared Manakin, Yellow-green Vireo, Black-chested Jay, Southern Rough-winged SWallow, House Wren Black-bellied Wren (heard), Rufous-and-white Wren, Bay Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Clay-coloured Thrush, Tropical Mockingbird, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Thick-billed Euphonia, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, White-vented Euphonia, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Crested Oropendola, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Shiny Cowbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bay-breasted Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Blue-black Grosbeak (heard), Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Plain-coloured Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Emerald tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreepr, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Black-headed Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator.

15 April 2019
Canopy Lodge - Tocumen International Airport - Pearson International Airport - Waterloo

     Last day in Panama! Happy Birthday Miriam!
     An account of the final morning of birding has already been given here so I will not repeat it.
     We travelled from the Canopy Lodge, accompanied by Chris and Vanya who were returning to Chicago, dropping off one of the guides along the way. Procedures in the airport were smooth and I bought a chicken wrap and a bottle of water for the exorbitant price of US$16.00.
     Our flight proceeded without a hitch, and as on the flight down all the cabin staff were male. Whether there is gender exclusion or not I don't know, but I have never previously been on a flight without at least some female flight attendants.
     Those of you who have read the various stages of these reports about Panama will recall that John had indicated that he would not take us home. Obviously Geraldine had prevailed upon him but he promptly snarled, "Get out your money" and charged us $60.00 for the ride, telling us that if we did not pay right away, he would put us out on the street (it was around 02h:00 in the morning). He railed at us, swore frequently and generally made himself about as unpleasant as could be imagined. A rabid dog would have been better company - and more rational too. And let me remind everyone that this breach of a friendship came about for the sole reason that I refused any longer to join in a hand-holding public incantation of thanks to a God I do not believe in. There was no other reason. A friend of mine recently let me borrow a delightful little book about the origins of the collective terms for birds, e.g. a Parliament of Owls, a Charm of Goldfinches, etc. I think that John is a member in good standing of an ancient group called an Hypocrisy of Christians. 
     To her eternal credit Geraldine remained the Geraldine we have always known and did not change her attitudes one iota. I regret very much that she was caught in the middle of this utter nonsense.
     As always we were glad to walk through our front door, more so after our ride home than at any time before.

Final Comments
     We first visited the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge in 2007 and had always declared we would return. We are happy that we did. The birding was fabulous, the guides superb. We met first rate people like Larry, Masaru, Chris and Vanya, along with many others who stayed for a day or two at either the tower or the lodge while we were there. I am sure that lifelong friendships will result. Panama will always have a special place in our hearts.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.