Friday, March 3, 2017

Traveling to Canopy Lodge, Panama - 25-26 Feb 2017

It's 2 am and I'm wide awake. The winds are howling outside, and I'm typing a blog. I should be exhausted after today, but I'm wide awake. We are finally here at the Canopy Lodge in El Valle de Antón, Coclé Province of Panama. The place is gorgeous, and the birds here are insane! But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday was travel day. Robin and I flew Delta to Panama City, Panamá with a stop in Atlanta. Our transit through the airport was effortless. No line at ticketing, no line through security, and no problem finding our gate. Robin was able to get us into the Delta Sky Lounge at each stop so we were able to get breakfast and relax before the flights. The only incident we encountered was watching a poor old couple get turned away at the gate because they thought they were going to Panama City, FL.

We arrived in Panama City at 10 pm and would have no issues with going through Customs. But, the uncertainty of wondering whether our bags have arrived would weigh on us, especially in a new country where we don't speak the language well enough to not sound like stupid Americans. As does trying to find the correct shuttle to the Hotel Riande in a sea of people and white vehicles. But we did, and were in our room by midnight. 

This morning I was up by 6 and ready to look for birds. After breakfast I had a couple of hours to bird the property here just 5 minutes from the Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen.  The Hotel Riande is lovely and highly recommended. I walked around the pool area, which is huge and nestled among Palm trees covered in blooming orchids of all sizes and colors.

Clay-colored Thrush
I saw my first Tropical Mockingbirds and Great-tailed Grackles of the trip, as well as Clay-colored Thrushes, which were everywhere. A Crimson-backed Tanager was dazzling, as was the Social Flycatcher that was flying about the trees. Blue-Gray Tanagers, Tropical Kingbirds, Thick-billed Euphonias, Ruddy Ground Doves, and Palm Tanagers all made appearances. 

Social Flycatcher

Streaked Flycatcher

Thick-billed Euphonia

Tropical Mockingbird

female Barred Antshrike
I walked to the back of the property and found a Common Tody-Flycatcher. A female Barred Antshrike made a brief appearance and I was able to get a pic or two before it disappeared. Overhead was the first of many Tennessee 
Warblers I would see on this trip.

Tennessee Warbler

Yellow Warbler
Several Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds were foraging about the property. I would call them "little demon birds", not only because of their aggressiveness against other hummers, but because they would perch for exactly 2 seconds before flying off again, making photography maddeningly frustrating. 

Before leaving the Hotel Riande we met David, Cynthia and Linda, who were also going to the Canopy Lodge. We would see Lesser Elania and more Thick-billed Euphonias. Overhead Turkey and Black Vultures were streaming in and kettling as the rising temperatures created thermals for them. Out front of the hotel a small flock of Gray-breathed Martins were frolicking over the parking lot. 

Eric, our driver, arrived at 10 am and drove us to nearby Gamboa and the Canopy B&B to pick up the rest of our traveling group. While everyone was taking a rest stop I ran to the feeders and got a few more pics of Blue-Gray Tanagers. A pair of Red-legged Honeycreepers appeared at the nectar feeder just before we would leave for the Lodge. Their yellow underwing coloration would help differentiate them from similar-looking Green Honeycreepers.

Traffic was horrid as we drove through Panama City. The start of the Carnival Holiday in the country brought everyone out on the roads. The Policia were also out in force, stopping traffic at numerous checkpoints, so that our 2 hr drive would take 4.5 hrs. Along the way I'd bide my time looking out the windows at the many Turkey and Black Vultures soaring overhead. Highlight birds among them would include Yellow-headed Caracaras and a Magnificent Frigatebird. 

The World's Longest Lunch

We arrived at the Canopy Lodge just after 3 pm and found a mini-paradise. Lunch was waiting for us on the veranda but noone was quite ready to sit down to eat. After all, the feeders were hopping with stunning Flame-rumped Tanagers, Crimson-backed Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonias, Gray-headed Chachalacas, Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, Clay-colored Thrushes, Collared Aracaris, Rufous-tailed and Snow-bellied Hummingbirds.

Buff-throated Saltator

Clay-colored Thrush

Collard Aracari

Crimson-backed Tanager (female)

Crimson-backed Tanager (male)

Flame-rumped Tanager

Flame-rumped Tanager (female)

Palm Tanager

Red-capped Woodpecker

Rufous Motmot

In the Boulder-strewn stream in front of the lodge an immature Faciated Tiger-Heron was posing in the afternoon sun while basilisk lizards sunned themselves on the large boulders. This immature heron is distinguished from the Bare-faced Tiger-Heron by favoring running streams whereas the latter is found along the coasts.

The food was delicious. Chicken and rice, corn-based broth, wine, beer and juice was most welcome. But, we would have to apologize to our hosts for continuously getting up to run to the feeders. 

With lunch out of the way we met up with Danilo Rodriguez Jr., who would act as our guide for the 2.5 days. Danilo would prove to be a most excellent guide, finding us impossible-to-see birds, and directing us to all of the birds we would hear. We went over the itinerary and amenities of the Lodge, and planned to meet up for a tour of the property at 4 pm. How cool is it to check into your room and find a pair of Gray-headed Chachalacas roosting on the rail of your deck?

I spent some time trying to photograph the hummingbirds visiting the feeder. A lovely male Snow-bellied Hummingbird made several trips, as did the similar-looking Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (that I could not photograph). 

A female Crowned Woodnymph also appeared complete with blue-green wings and blue tail; I would identify her by the all-black bill and white-tipped tail that would differentiate her from similar-looking Violet-bellied Hummingbird that has a pink-based bill.

Danilo arrived at 4 pm. We walked along the trail next to the stream and stopped to look for an Orange-striped Sparrow. While squatting to see the bird buried in low-lying thickets a Green Hermit whistled past my head. We would get fleeting-but-good looks at the sparrow before moving on to the compost pile in a dark, wooded clearing.

There we spent some time calling in a female Faciated Antshrike. It was high up overhead and difficult to see in the severe backlight. I got permission to use flash to get a passable photo of the bird before we turned our attention to a lovely Wood Thrush posing on the ground. Here, I opted to take the first of many short digiscoped videos of birds hiding in habitats too dark to photograph without flash. Incidentally, we would find that the birds were oblivious to flash photography; it would save my trip.

A Buff-rumped Warbler made an appearance in the dark shadows, and was easily ID'd by its bobbing and flashing buff rump. A Louisiana Waterthrush also walked by. A Red-capped Warbler looked stunning in the vines even though we had to settle on binocular views for all three birds.

From there Danilo found a Gray-necked Wood Rail skulking in the wet thickets next to a small pond. It took some time, but I finally saw it and got a short video before it disappeared farther into the deep.

We would then hike past the bridge to an opening where the Pocupine House is located. This is a small treehouse with 2-person capacity. A Green Kingfisher would make a brief appearance, but disappear before I could arrive (I was bringing up the rear). Across the stream a Golden-headed Tanager appeared high in the trees, as would a Bay-headed Tanager, which I missed, as well. The Bay-headed Tanager would prove to be my nemesis bird of the trip, as I'd miss seeing it on 4 separate occasions.

Pairs of Blue-headed and Orange-chinned Parakeets would fly overhead before we headed back to the Lodge for dinner. I would manage a short capture of a Tawny-faced Tanager just as we arrived. Robin and I would enjoy a lovely meal with the guests before heading back to the room to collapse in our beds. Until 2 am...

Tomorrow, we head to Las Mina's Road.


Andrew Sturgess said...

Beautiful Jerry, that place is on my short list of places to visit.

Matt said...

Panama is an awesome place for sure. The aracari pics are fun. The wren looks too heavy billed to be a wren. The throat is pale, the eye is very pale. It looks like a female Barred Antshrike to me.

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