Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: March 11-19, 2014
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Judy, Cliff, Phylis, Lyn, Mary, Mary Jane and Elyse. We would visit the lowlands near the Pacific Ocean, the highlands of Chiriqui Province and the reported best birding spot in all of the Americas, Pipeline Road. It was also the sixth year in a row that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Panama. The trip was highly successful with a total of 207 species of birds being seen by most members of the group.
March 11: Our United/Continental Airways flight, out of Newark/Liberty Airport, took off at 5pm and arrived at Tocuman Airport, Panama City at 8:40pm, about a half hour ahead of schedule. We were greeted at the airport by our driver, Chino. Some people came down on an earlier flight and they were greeted by our guide Jacobo. They took us to the first of our hotels, La Estancia B&B, in downtown Panama City. Both Jacobo and Chino would remain with us for the next eight days.
March 12: 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 and Palm Tanager. After breakfast we packed up our stuff and left in two vehicles for the lowlands and marshes of Las Macanas, about 2 hours west of Panama City. Here we saw many egrets and herons. Of special interest were the Wood Storks and huge number of Black-bellied Whistling ducks. For hawk watching we saw a beautiful Savanna Hawk and a few Snail Kites. Also flying over the marsh were two Yellow-headed Vultures. The best sighting at this venue was a very cooperative Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. The bird was seen very well by everyone. We drove around the area seeing common flycatchers and swallows. This venue was very hot so doing some birding from our air conditioned vehicles was a very good idea. We left here and traveled to our hotel, La Hacienda. We got there a little early and some people took this opportunity for a swim in their pool. Dinner was at their restaurant and we prepared for our next day.
March 13: We had breakfast at the hotel and took our stuff and headed towards Macho de Monte. This was about 2/3 of the way to Los Quetzales. At this location we would have excellent views of Lineated Woodpecker and numerous warblers. We saw: Tropical Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler and Buff-rumped Warber. Tanagers were also well represented at this location. We had very good views of Bay-headed Tanager. This bird is one of my favorites and the bird put on a nice show. Other tanagers were: Silver-throated, Golden-hooded and the ever present Blue-gray. Besides the tanagers and warblers we saw Thick-billed Euphonia and Fulvous-vented Euphonia. We completed the drive to Los Quetzales driving through some very scenic countryside with good views of the Baru Volcano. We would stay at the Los Quetzales hotel and spa for the next 4 nights. Dinner was at the restaurant in the hotel.
March 14: Breakfast was at 7am. We did some birding around the grounds seeing the spectacular Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher. There were many of them and they were seen at close range. Our goal for the day was the top of the mountain, 7000 feet altitude, and the Resplendent Quetzal. We took a ride to the top on a most unusual vehicle. It was a tractor driven wagon. It got us to the top and was something everyone would remember for a long time. We saw 5 Quetzals, 4 females and one male. The male was immature and of course the females do not have the long tail possessed by an adult male. The views were good but everybody wanted more. While at the top we would see many other birds. Seen were: Prong-billed Barbet, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Ochraceous Wren and Flame-throated Warbler. Of special note was the large number of Black-faced Solitaires. Their beautiful song could be heard almost continuously. Lunch was at the top of the mountain while we were entertained by numerous hummingbirds coming and going to the feeders. Hummingbird species seen were: Violet Sabrewing, Green Violet-ear, Magnificent and White-throated Mountain-gem. We went back down the mountain, took a break and prepared for another shot at an adult male quetzal.
We went out again, this time to a different side of the mountain, an area where there were many avocado trees. The avocado is the favorite food of the quetzal. No luck, so went back to the hotel and had dinner and prepared for our next day of birding.
March 15: After breakfast and some birding around the grounds we headed towards the Volcan Ponds, our primary venue for the day. We traveled about 30 minutes, through the town of Volcan, and towards the ponds. First we would check in at the Janson Coffee plantation, the owners of the ponds. It was also an opportunity to buy some shade grown coffee. I think that everyone bought a bag or two. At the ponds we saw marsh birds like Common Moorhen and American Coot. The woodland trails produced a good number of land birds. We saw: Squirrel Cuckoo, Slaty Spinetail, Red-faced Spinetail, Plain Antvireo and Slaty Antwren. We also saw more warblers, including North American ‘tourist’ birds like Tennessee Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. We took special note of two beautiful Panamanian residents. We saw Elegant Euphonia and Scarlet-thighed Dacnis. We had lunch in the town of Volcan and returned to our hotel. After a break we birded another trail around the lodge. We arrived at the spot of many avocados. This time we saw another female quetzal. She was a beautiful bird but still not the ‘perfect’ view. We drove and walked up the trail. We saw very well the very beautiful Volcano Hummingbird. Again we heard many Black-faced Solitaires. Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrushes joined in with their beautiful song. Back to our hotel for dinner and preparation for our next day.
March 16: We would give the quetzals one more chance. Before breakfast we would travel to the spot of many avocados. This time we had the ‘perfect view’. An adult male, very long tail, great color and a female were present. They flew back and forth and perched. We put the birds in the scope and everyone that fantastic views. This last viewing is something to be remembered for a lifetime. We drove down some farm roads seeing other great birds like Orange-bellied Trogon and a tough view of a family of Spotted Wood-quail. We saw another quetzal. This was a male with a short tail, probably an immature bird. This made for a total of 9 Resplendent Quetzals seen by us. Our group headed back to the hotel, had breakfast, and got ready for our day of birding. This day we would bird yet another trail into the mountain, this one known as the path to La Amistad. A different trail produced yet different birds. We would see: Emerald Toucanet, Tufted Flycatcher, Yellowish Flycatcher, Black-cheeked Warbler and Golden-browed Chlorophonia. Also seen but not by everyone were Barred Becard (seen poorly), Rufous-browed Peppershrike. This trail was easier to walk as a good part of it was concrete and we were able to drive up to the visitor’s center. Lunch this day was at a local restaurant in the village of Guadalupe. The menu was chicken, rice, beans with a vegetarian option. Desert was a dish of strawberries and cream. Excellent! After a break at the hotel we drove to an area had had been a field filled with birds last year only to find out that it had been converted to a farm with only common species already seen. We did pick up Peregrine Falcon and Merlin. Back to the hotel and some birding in the rear area near the river, Rio Chiriqui, located behind the lodge. No new birds but great looks at Yellow-faced Grassquit and more Long-tailed Silky-Flycatchers. We had dinner at the hotel and prepared for our long drive back to Panama City tomorrow.
March 17: We were up early, had breakfast and we were on our way back to Panama City. We drove for about 4 hours making a stop along the way and then lunch at La Hacienda. We drove some more and about 1.5 hours from Panama City we went off the main road and headed towards Campana and the birding area Bell Hill. A different habitat would produce different birds. We saw: Slaty-tailed Trogon, Checker-throated Antwren, Spot-crowned Antvireo and Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant. We also saw a North American migrant, Canada Warbler. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this bird in Panama. We had dinner in a local restaurant, La Boca, near our hotel La Estancia, and checked in.
March 18: Today we would bird arguably the best birding location in all of Central America, Pipeline Road. The road was built just before World War 2, but never used to transport oil. It remains a 6 mile walkable road into the Panamanian forest/jungle. We would only go in about 1/2 mile and yet we would see some great birds. After breakfast at La Estancia we took our vans and headed to Pipeline Road. The road is known for antbirds and other species that follow army ants. We saw: Spotted Antbird, Slaty Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Checker-throated Antwren (fabulous view) and Song Wren. Other very colorful birds seen were: White-tailed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, White-whiskered Puffbird and Crimson-crested Woodpecker. A highlight of Pipeline road was the viewing of two male Red-capped Manakins, displaying in a lek. They danced along a bare horizontal branch. Even though we were within ten feet of them they did not seem to mind. After 4 hours we left this spot and headed to downtown Panama City and a local favorite restaurant, Nikos. It should be visited just for its atmosphere and the good inexpensive food.
After lunch we went back to our hotel for a short break and then one more birding venue. We went to Pedro Miguel town just outside the city. We saw different birds. The highlights were Boat-billed Heron and Pygmy Kingfisher. After all our birding was over we headed towards Mi Ranchito, on the Amador causeway for a farewell dinner. It was a great trip with 207 species seen by most members of our group.
March 19: Chino picked us up at 7:30am and we were on our way back to the airport. On our way to the airport we passed the mudflats next to Panama City. We added Brown Pelican and Laughing Gull to our list. We returned on the 10am United/Continental flight and touched down at Newark/Liberty airport about 4pm.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 207