Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: March 14-20, 2018
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Debbie, Neil, Vicki, Al, Bobby, Colleen, Jeff, Ruth, Adele and Chee. It was the ninth time that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a birding trip to Panama. The trip was highly successful with a total of 173 species seen by most of the members of our group.
A slide presentation of our trip was made by Chee and can be found at:
March 14: Our United Airways flight, out of Newark/Liberty Airport, took off at the scheduled time of 3:45pm and arrived at Tocuman Airport, Panama City at 8pm, right on schedule. We were greeted at the airport by our guide, Jacobo Ortega, and our driver Chino. They took us to the first of our three hotels, the Albrook Inn in downtown Panama City. Jacobo and Chino would remain with us for the next seven days.
March 15: We had breakfast at the Albrook Inn and did some birding on their grounds. We saw some of the common birds of Panama City including: Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager and Palm Tanager. We also saw a few Collared Aracaris as they feed from a berry tree in the backyard. At 7:30 we left the hotel and headed towards our first birding venue which was Summit Ponds and the Old Gamboa Road. There were many birds. The road part had land birds while the ponds had water birds. We saw: American Pygmy and Amazon Kingfishers, Boat-billed Heron, Squirrel Cuckoo and Piratic Flycatcher. Two very special birds that we saw were the Lance-tailed Manakin and the Rosy-Thrush-Tanager. Overhead were many swallows and swifts and a few hawks. Among the hawks we saw: Broad-winged and Short-tailed hawks. A personal favorite of mine was the Summer Tanager, well seen by all. After a few hours of birding we went to Niko’s Café in downtown Panama City for lunch. It was cafeteria style with many choices. After lunch we headed out again for an afternoon of birding in Metropolitan Park, a 500-acre park also in Panama City. Some key birds at this venue included many North American migrants like Chestnut-sided warbler, several Bay-breasted Warblers. It took some work and some walking but we had some info on a very special bird. After about 30 minutes of searching we spotted a Common Potoo. The bird looks just like the snag that it was roosting on. A “lifer” for almost everyone. Dinner was at Mi Ranchito, a lovely spot on a causeway to an island in the Pacific Ocean.
March 16: After breakfast we left The Albrook Inn and headed for the Caribbean city of Colon. On the way we birded the Plantation Road. We spent about 3 hours on this road finding and seeing some great birds. It is not exactly a road with cars but more a trail into the forest. We saw our first Trogons. We saw: White-tailed, Black-throated and Slaty-tailed. The colors and the large size of these birds made for very memorable birding moments and excellent opportunities for photos. Also present were other large and colorful birds. Our group had good looks at: Blue-crowned and Broad-billed Motmots plus excellent views of Crimson-crested Woodpecker and White-whiskered Puffbird. Jacobo whistles in birds. He does not use any tapes or other audio devices. His ability to recognize birds by their calls and song, call then in and then scope them for the group is amazing. Back in the van and we were on our way again to Colon. We used the new highway and saved about one hour in traveling time. We checked into the Radisson Colon and had lunch at a local restaurant. Our first birding venue on the Caribbean side of the Canal Zone was Fort San Lorenzo. On the way to this location we spotted some special birds. They were: Mealy Parrots, Blue-headed Parrots and Red-lored Parrots. Then something very special happened, a beautiful Scarlet Macaw flew overhead. It happened very fast and not everyone got on the bird but a good number of us saw it. We finally got to the Fort, which was built in the sixteenth century by the Spanish explorers and is located at the mouth of the Chagres River as it spills into the Caribbean Sea. Special birds seen here were the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan and the Crested Oropendola. We were there at sunset and it was a special experience. The colors in the sky and reflections in the water made for a memorable time. We ate dinner at the Radisson and turned in early because we had planned for a busy day tomorrow.
March 17: After an excellent breakfast at the Radisson Colon, we were on our way to bird Achiote Road, one of the premier birding spots in Panama. We saw many species along Achiote road, where some of the special birds were: White Hawk, White-headed Wren, Pied-Puffbird and White-tailed Trogon. Maybe the best bird of the entire trip was at the top of a bare tree visible from the road. This bird was the beautiful male Blue Cotinga. Hard to believe but Happy Warblers actually saw this bird on previous trips, (2005,2009) to this area in basically the same tree at the same time of day, 10am. Another great bird of this area seen was the Spot-crowned Barbet. It was seen by all but some wished for better views. Next to the road was an area where shade-grown coffee was grown. We entered the area and saw more birds. Present were: Yellow-rumped Cacique and Chestnut-headed Oropendola. All the while in the background we could hear Howler Monkeys calling. For lunch we stopped at a roadside restaurant in the small town of Achiote. It was very authentic in both food and atmosphere. It was very hot so taking a lunch break refreshed everyone. Now it was time to visit the Panama Canal.
We made a visit to the new third channel of the Panama Canal. Viewing of the entire area was possible from a new observation deck. We watched a ship pass through the canal. It is really something to see as the ship approaches the canal and then enters it. After the canal visit it was back to the van and then back to Panama City and a new hotel, the Radisson Summit Hotel and Golf Resort. Dinner was at 7pm, buffet style.
March 18: After a 6:30 breakfast at the Radisson we were on our way to visit the grounds of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. They have about 300 acres of forest, fields and a lake. We walked the trail up to the tramp stop. A short rain shower added a lot of humidity and made it really hot. The birds didn’t mind as we saw: Cinnamon Becard, Streaked Flycatcher, Fasciated Antshrike and Barred Antshrike. Then two very special birds were seen. Jacobo called in a Great Antshrike, female. We all saw the amazing red eye that the bird had. Next was for some the highlight of the entire trip. We heard some Golden-collared Manakins snapping in the brush. Then we saw at least one male put on a performance at his Lek. This was an area, about two feet in diameter, that the bird had cleared out, removing all leaves. Here he could perform a jump-dance with snapping. It was a display that he does to attract a female. We all had great looks. I’m not sure if any females were impressed but our group of birders certainly was. When lunch time came we went to the Alligator Restaurant of the Gamboa and had lunch on their deck with views of the Panama Canal. Birds present were: Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen. It was a very nice way to have lunch. We got there early and had the best seats, right next to the water. After lunch we made a visit an Indian village. This required taking a motorized canoe across the lake and then into the village. Birds picked up on the lake included goods views of Least Grebe and Pied-billed Grebe. Many, many Purple Gallinules were seen. They just seem to walk on water. At the Indian village we learned about the native peoples and their customs.
After the visit to the Indian village it was back to our hotel for, believe it or not, a siesta and a swim in the pool. It was very nice to take a break and cool off. Dinner was at 7pm and we prepared for the next day.
March 19: Again we were out early. Breakfast was at 6:30 and by 7:15 we were in the van heading toward Pipeline Road. This birding venue is probably the premier birding spot in all of Central America and known for having a good number of Antbirds. It was excellent! We had fantastic looks at: Spotted Antbird, Bicolored Antbird, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Checker-throated, Dot-winged, Moustached Antwrens and Black-faced Anthursh. Of special note was a Streak-chested Antpitta. Jacobo tracked it down and put it in the scope for everyone to have great views. Jacobo also knew of a Red-capped Manakin Lek location. Using his machete he cut a path to the correct spot and there we saw, on a horizontal branch, a male Red-capped Manakin. This is the spot where the bird “dances”. There was no dancing today but excellent looks at a spectacular bird. We spent about 4 hours on Pipeline Road.
We again went to Nikos for lunch. Since it was our last day of birding Jacobo wanted to get some more birds for us. After lunch we went to the Ammo Ponds in Gamboa and we picked up more birds. Some highlights were: Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Yellow Tyrannulet. Dinner was a 7:30 in the Radisson and Jacobo’s wife and daughter joined us the evening. What a day!
March 20: Jacobo and Chino picked us up at 6am and we were on our way back to the airport. We returned on the 9:30am United flight and touched down at Newark/Liberty airport about 3:30pm. Great trip and I’m already looking forward to next year.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 173