Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: March 21-27, 2012
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Kathy, Jennifer, Susan, Ed, Dolores, Isabel, Joya and Edith. I had been birding in Panama before but for everyone else it was their first time. It was also the fourth year in a row that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Panama. This trip would be dedicated to birding the lowland areas on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Panama and also in the middle of the old US Canal Zone. The trip was highly successful with a total of 213 species of birds being seen by most members of the group.
March 21: Our United/Continental Airways flight, out of Newark/Liberty Airport, took off at the scheduled time of 5:20pm (EST) and arrived at Tocuman Airport, Panama City at 9:40pm (EST), right on schedule. We were greeted at the airport by our driver, Chino, who took us to the first of our three hotels, La Estancia B&B, in downtown Panama City. There we would meet our guide Jacobo Ortega. Both Jacobo and Chino would remain with us for the next seven days.
March 22: We had breakfast at La Estancia and did some birding from the veranda of the hotel. They had many seed and fruit feeders for birds to come to and for us to watch and enjoy. We saw many of the common birds of Panama City like Variable Seed-eater, Blue-Gray Tanager, Palm Tanager and Plain-colored tanager. We started out for our first birding venue, which was Plantation Road, about five miles from the hotel. Here we would see Great Tinamou and Common Potoo. The Potoo looked just like an extension of a broken off snag. We would see three different trogon species: White-tailed, Black-throated, and Black-tailed. We would complete the common motmots by seeing Blue-crowned, Rufous and Broad-billed. Above us three male Purple-throated Fruitcrows displayed for a female. Gray-headed Tanager and Northern Barred Woodcreeper were nearby as they pursued some insects stirred up by army ants. Our three hours spent at this venue really set the tone for a great tropical birding trip. We had a late lunch at Niko’s in downtown Panama City. We went back to the hotel and had a short siesta. At about 3pm we headed towards our next birding venue which was Metropolitan Park. This is a 500 acre preserve in the heart of Panama City. Here we saw Crimson-crested Woodpecker and many flycatcher species including Southern Bentbill and Ruddy-tailed flycatcher. Dinner was at Mi Ranchito, a beautiful restaurant on a causeway leading to three islands in the Pacific.
March 23: After breakfast at La Estancia we headed towards the city of Colon. On our way we made two stops, Pedro Miguel Town and Summit Ponds. At these locations our group saw two nests of the Boat-billed heron, both with young. Kettles of Broad-winged Hawks flew overhead as they migrated towards North America. Slaty-tailed Trogon and Violaceous Trogon completed the viewing of the five possible trogons in the Canal Zone. We had lunch at a marina restaurant and checked in at our second hotel, the Radisson. We arrived at the locks of the Panama Canal but the area was closed for viewing so we continued towards our next venue, Fort San Lorenzo. This area is just one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. It is a 16th century Spanish fort built where the Charges River and Caribbean Sea come together. Here we saw many nests of the Chestnut-headed Oropendola. In the distance a sloth hung from exposed branches. On our way out of the park we saw some Common Nighthawks flying overhead. We stayed overnight and had dinner at the Radisson.
March 24: After an excellent breakfast at the Radisson, we were on our way to bird Achiote Road, one of the premier birding spots in Panama. Our two target birds were White Hawk and White-headed Wren. After birding the road for some time we headed into a shade grown coffee plantation. Here we would get real lucky. Jacobo spotted the White-headed wrens but they were at a great distance. Then for reasons unknown they moved right in our direction until they were practically on top of us. Great view! Then all of a sudden a White Hawk flew overhead and perched for us. Great view again! We had viewed our two targets. On the way out we spotted a Violaceous Trogon entering its nest. The nest was an old wasp nest that the trogons had converted into their nest. I had heard that trogons do nest in converted wasp’s nest but had never seen this behavior before. We had lunch at a local restaurant in the village of Achiote and then drove about a half mile up the road and eyed another target bird of this area, the Red-breasted Blackbird. We finally left Achiote Road and made a stop at the Gatun locks at the Panama Canal. We would spend about one hour here watching as a ship entered the locks, was lowered and then made its way into the Caribbean. We left this area and headed towards Panama City and our final hotel, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. The Gamboa is a spectacular hotel with a lobby that must be four stories high and fantastic views of the Chagres River at Lake Gatun. The hotel is surrounded by 300 acres of its own rainforest. We had dinner at the Gamboa and prepared for our next day of birding.
March 25: After a 6:30 breakfast at the Gamboa we were on our way to bird one of the best venues in the Americas, Pipeline Road. The road gets its name from a pipeline built just before World War Two to bring oil from one coast of Panama to the other in case the Canal was ever shut down. The road was actually a service road for this pipeline. This is deep rainforest where we would see different birds. We birded this area for about four hours. We walked in a short distance and then saw one of the key birds of the trip. A Chestnut-backed Antbird was right along the side of the road. We followed this bird into the forest about 200 feet and then struck birding gold. All lined up were Bright-rumped Attila, White-whiskered Puffbird, Song Wren, Spotted Antbird, Streak-chested Antpitta and Black-faced Antthrush. Seven of the best lowland tropical birds one could see. This birding experience is what makes Pipeline Road such a great venue. Our group had excellent views. We returned to the road and then experienced a small feeding flock. In the flock were Western Slaty-Antshrike, Checker-throated Antwren, White-flanked Antwren and Dot-winged Antwren. These birds were joined by a number of flycatchers including Paltry Tyrannulet. We also had fair views of a Brownish Twistwing. When lunch time came we returned to the Gamboa and had lunch at their deck restaurant with views of the Panama Canal. It was very nice to see ships moving by as we had lunch. Many Purple Gallinules and Wattled Jacanas were located right next to our lunchtime deck. After lunch and a short siesta we were out birding again, this time searching for birds on the grounds of the Gamboa. After seeing many of the common birds on the grounds of the hotel we entered the forest where we had good views of a Collared Aracari. We finished the evening birding with excellent views of a Pauraque. We had dinner at the Gamboa and also spent the night.
March 26: Again we were out early. We had breakfast at 6:30 and prepared for our day. We again were birding the grounds of the Gamboa. We had some urgency in our walk as we had a “date” with the Blue Cotinga. We had to be at the tram stop at exactly 7:30am to see this bird. We made the tram stop at the appointed time, but the Blue Cotinga was not to be seen. After a half hour we drove around to the other side of the hill and sought out a fig tree also known to be a good spot this beautiful bird. Again, no Cotinga. Every trip is not perfect and this is the first time ever that I missed this bird. We’ll try again next year. Our group returned to the forested area of the Gamboa and entered the trail system. After about a half hour we lucked out and came upon an army ant swam. Moving away some leaves we could see thousands of ants hunting for insects on the ground. With the ant swam were the ‘ant followers’ , namely Spotted Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Gray-headed tanager and Northern Barred Woodcreeper. Army ant swarms always attract great birds. We had lunch at a nearby ‘diner’ and then took a motorized canoe ride to the Embera Indian Village. The Indian chief told us about the history of his tribe which was followed by a question and answer period. We were then entertained by some Indian music and dances. We all picked up some handicrafts that they made for sale. At the Indian Village we had great views of a small flock of Blue Ground-doves. We returned to the Gamboa for a siesta. Dinner was at the Gamboa and then we had our final bird walk. We went out at night to do some owling. This night we didn’t find any owls but had great views of Venus, Jupiter and Mars. It was a lot of fun just to be out at night. We went back to the Gamboa and our last night. It was a great trip.
March 27: Chino picked us up at 7am and we were on our way back to the airport. We returned on the 10am United/Continental flight and touched down at Newark/Liberty airport about 4pm.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 213