Sunday, March 5, 2017

Las Minas Trail (AM) - 27 Feb 2017

The mountains of Northern Coclé Province in Panama are the easternmost place where a large continent of the endemics of the Talamanca Range can be found (Angehr, 2008). The two main foothills for birding in Coclé are El Valle de Antón (El Valle) and Omar Torrijos National Park (El Cope). El Valle, where we are, is a small mountain town located in the caldera of of an extinct volcano. Elevation is 600 m (2000 ft). The picturesque and luxurious Canopy Lodge is located just off the main road on the east side of the caldera and is just minutes from our first destination of the trip. 

We were up by 6 am and ready for our first full day of birding. I headed down to the stream to see if the Sunbittern would make an appearance. It did not. So I consoled myself with scope views of a Buff-rumped Warbler in the middle of the stream flashing its rump in the pre-dawn light. 

Flame-rumped Tanager
Sunrise appears here with a vengeance! One minute it was dark and the next minute it was sunny. A quick breakfast gave me time to check the feeders and get in some digiscoping. A stunning male Flame-rumped Tanager was perched in a vine overhanging the stream and displaying its bright yellow rump feathers. The Silver-throated Tanager made an appearance, as did numerous Crimson-backed Tanagers. The Dusky-throated Tanager even made an appearance. A last minute photo of the Fasciated Tiger Heron in the stream and it was time to go. 

Chestnut-headed Oropendola

Crimson-backed Tanager

Fasciated Tiger-Heron, imm.

Gray-headed Chachalaca

Palm Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager

Danilo arrived and we grabbed the gear to head out on Las Minas Trail. Yesterday's winds were slowing down, but the skies were dark and threatening. We were heading to even higher elevations than the Lodge, so we'd be driving into foggy mountain tops. About 10 minutes later we parked at the start of the Las Minas Trail, which is a dirt trail heading straight up a steep hillside next to a large chicken farm. Just moments after exiting the van we had Yellow-faced Grassquits on the road behind us. Four Gray-necked Wood Rails were also seen by the edge of the road. They scampered out of sight as soon as were turned our scopes on them. A Black-striped Sparrow flew across the road and perched on a post, and provided stunning views through the scope. As I fumbled trying to get the camera to the eyepiece and hit the videorecord button a truck passed by and flushed the bird. It would prove to be the beginning of a tough-but-rewarding day of birding and bird photography.

As Danilo led Peter and Linda (from Halifax), John (UK) and me up the trail we spotted a pair of Giant Cowbirds along the pasture fence line. Farther out three Southern Lapwings foraged silently in the grass.

We would hear a Scaley-breasted Wren calling loudly from the heavy understory to our left, but could not coax it into view. This effort in futility would play itself out over and over for Bay Wren, Plain Wren, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Paltry Flycatcher, and  other birds forced low due to the high winds and fog moving through the mountains. Brief views of a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper in the dark woods, and a Thick-billed Seed-Finch on the wires would be our consolation.

Thick-billed Seed-Finch
Danilo managed to call in a Blue-throated Toucanet that gave us some digiscoped views. Overhead we had brief looks at an Olive-streaked Flycatcher.

Olive-streaked Flycatcher
We found about a dozen Army Ants streaming across the path in front of us. Sadly, they were too few to bring out the ant pittas and other swarm-feeders.... :)

The fog blanketing the mountains and valleys made for some truly spectacular scenery. The winds, however, would force me to remove my hat several times to keep from losing it.

We got into some great birds when Danilo found some Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and a White-ruffed Manikin. As we strained for views of these gorgeous birds against backlit skies we were visited by Rufous-tailed and Blue-chested Hummingbirds, and a Violet-crowned Woodnymph foraging high overhead and providing difficult/distracted viewing. Migrant Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers were foraging nearby, as well. We would then be visited by a gorgeous Green Honeycreeper

Scarlet-thighed Dacnis

Blue-chested Hummingbird

Crowned Woodnymph

Green Honeycreeper

Silver-throated Tanager
Silver-throated and Golden-hooded Tanagers made appearances, but were high up and buried in vegetation. Several Tawny-Crested Tanagers were also found, and only fill-flash would reveal these otherwise-black birds.

Tawney-crested Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager

Common Chlorospingas
A bit of clearing allowed us to get scopes on a Common Chlorospingas (formerly Common Bush Tanager) and Lesser Elaenia

As we reached a windswept peak I had to photograph the last rain shelter before the summit. 

With skies beginning to clear but winds still blowing we spent some time trying to call in some Wedge-tailed Grass-Finches. They were calling nearby but would not make appearances. Finally, a pair showed themselves on the fence line 20 meters down the road.

Just before heading back a tiny hummingbird flew past me and landed on the fence 3 feet away. A female Snowcap! We were able to photograph and digiscope her at point blank range for several minutes as she bathed in sunlight and and steadied herself against the blowing winds.

We spent some time photographing the many satyr and skippers that were flying about. Peter and Linda are Lepidopterists by hobby, and were overjoyed to see a Green Hairstreak on the roadside. Incidentally, Jeffrey Glassberg, a world famous butterfly expert, and author of Butterflies Through Binoculars, was also part our traveling group, but was off chasing butterflies on his own. 

Why are we walking uphill on the way back to our van?

A Pale-vented Thrush was seen in the canopy and required some extreme scope angles just to record an image. It took me better than 10 minutes to see it...

Just before reaching the van we would come upon a Yellow-faced Grassquits next to the road while Tropical Kingbirds and Southern Rough-winged Swallows perched on fence posts. I would finally see our first hawk of the trip when a Broad-winged Hawk appeared overhead. We would later watch as a Roadside Hawk flew past the van on our way back to the Lodge for lunch.

Yellow-faced Grassquit, female

Broad-winged Hawk
This afternoon we will head to Cerro Cara Iguana Road to look for Spectacled Owls.


Angehr, G.R., Engleman, D., Engleman, L., A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama, 2008, Panama Audubon Society, Cornell University Press.

1 comment:

Cathy Carroll said...

So far so great, Jerry. Can't wait for more.

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