Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: March 11-19, 2015
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Barbara, Bebe, Leila, Daniel, Isabel and Edith. 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 seventh year in a row that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Panama. The trip was highly successful with a total of 217 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 4pm and arrived at Tocuman Airport, Panama City at 8:30pm, right on time. We were greeted at the airport by our guide Jacobo and our driver, Chino. They took us to the first of our hotels, Albrook Inn, in downtown Panama City. Both Jacobo and Chino would remain with us for the next eight days.
March 12: We had breakfast at the Albrook Inn and did some birding on the grounds of the hotel. The first bird recorded was the Clay-colored Robin. We saw many of the beautiful birds of Panama City including Keel-billed Toucan and Collared Aracari. North American migrants were represented by a Summer Tanager. This tanager had staked himself right next to a flowering tree that had many bees associated with it. The tanager just fed on bee after bee. After breakfast we packed up our stuff and left in two vehicles for Bell Hill which was in the semi-highlands of Campana National Park. At the park we saw Spot-crowned Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren as well as White-flanked Antwren. North American ‘tourist’ birds were represented by Canada Warbler and Black-and-white Warbler. We had lunch in a local restaurant and then drove to 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 two Roseate Spoonbills, many Wood Storks and a 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. This is the second year in a row that we saw this species in this area. I believe that we saw the bird in the same tree as last year. 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. 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 many species of tanagers. We saw: Silver-throated Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue Dacnis, and Green Honeycreeper. We had very good views of a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird with a snowy belly. This bird is one of my favorites and the bird put on a nice show. We made a few other stops along the way seeing Blue-headed parrot and a Bat Falcon. 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, on a nest. Also present were Summer Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. 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, four males and one female. The first male seen was a complete adult, seen very close feeding on an avocado tree just loaded with fruit. The views were excellent but one never gets enough of seeing arguably the most beautiful bird in the world. While at the top we would see many other birds. Seen were: Prong-billed Barbet, Golden-browned Chlorophonia (male & female), Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire and Flame-throated Warbler. Of special note was the large number of Black-faced Solitaires that could be heard singing all around us. Their beautiful song could be heard almost continuously. 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 more quetzals.
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. We must have walked into a convention of quetzals. We saw an incredible 13 quetzals in basically one tree. Most of them were adult males with very long streaming plumes. They flew around us for over a half hour. For the day we recorded a total of 18 quetzals, something we will remember probably forever.
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. We were going to check in at the Janson Coffee plantation but we met the owner on the road and he gave us the key so we proceeded to do birding first and checking in second. At their woodland trail we saw: Yellow-faced Grassquit, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, and Collared Trogon. North American migrants were well represented. We saw: Tennessee, Wilson’s, Golden-winged, Chestnut-sided Warblers as well as an American Redstart. They will all be back in New York in seven weeks. Next we checked 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. We had lunch in the town of Volcan and returned to our hotel. After a break we went back to the tree of many avocados. Again we saw a good number of Resplendent Quetzals. One can never get enough of these beautiful birds. Back to our hotel for dinner and preparation for our next day.
March 16: The weather had turned against us. The mountain was covered in fog with a light drizzle. We decided not to venture up the mountain but instead we would do birding in and around the village of Volcan, where the weather was dry and pleasant. Driving the roads and stopping at bridges that went over rivers and creeks we picked up a good number of additional species. We saw: King Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Spotted Sandpiper, Emerald Toucanet and Fiery-billed Toucan. 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 old air strip. Our group added additional birds. We saw: White-winged Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Cherrie’s Tanager, Flame-colored Tanager and another Summer Tanager. 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. Jacobo and Chino directed us through some country roads in the province of Chiriqui. A different spot for us and we saw different birds. Our group recorded: Blue-black Grassquit, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Red-breasted Blackbird, Roadside Hawk and Fork-tailed Flycatcher. We arrived at our hotel, the Albrook Inn, and had dinner and prepared for our last day of birding.
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 3/4 mile and yet we would see some great birds. After breakfast at Albrook Inn we took our vans and headed to Pipeline Road. The road is known for antbirds and other species that follow army ants. A quick stop at Gamboa ammo dump ponds produced new species for our group. We saw: Rufescent Tiger-Heron (on a nest) and Greater Ani. On Pipeline Road we recorded species that basically can only be seen in lowland jungle habitat. While walking on the trail it seemed that there were no birds, then Jacobo did his magic. He pulled out some 25-plus species that excited and thrilled our group. We saw: Golden-collared Manakin, Moustached Antwren (lifer for me!), Spotted Antbird, Streak-chested Antpitta, Black-faced Antthrush, Dot-winged Antwren, Fasciated Antshrike and Barred Antshrike. We also saw very well two male Red-capped Manakins displaying for a very well hidden female. They danced along a bare horizontal branch. Even though we were within ten feet of them they did not seem to mind. For pure beauty and color we saw: Great Jacamar, Black-throated Trogon and Slaty-tailed Trogon. Being with Jacobo on Pipeline Road makes the whole trip worthwhile. How he gets those birds to come out for us, without aid of tapes or calling devices, is unbelievable. 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 one more birding venue. We went to the town of Pedro Miguel just outside the city. We saw different birds. The highlight was a Boat-billed Heron. 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 217 species seen by most members of our group.
March 19: Chino picked us up at 7am 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 Laughing Gull to our list. Our group 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
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 217