Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: March 19-26, 2019
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Dorothy, Laura, Christina, Helene, Liu-Shin, Debbie, Bev and Amanda. 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 ninth time that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Panama. The trip was highly successful with a total of 212 species of birds being seen by most members of the group.
March 19: 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, Radisson Summit and Golf Resort in Panama City, near Gamboa. Both Jacobo and Chino would remain with us for the next eight days.
March 20: We had breakfast at the Radisson and did some birding on the grounds of the hotel. The first bird recorded was the Bat Falcon. It resides in a cavity near the roof of the hotel. In the distance was a kettle of migrating Swainson’s Hawks. They were on their way to the U.S. During our trip we saw many kettles of migrating hawks. Swainson’s Hawks were joined by Broad-winged Hawks and a few Swallow-tailed Kites. I think that the Broad-wings would number over 1000. 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 a Keel-billed Toucan and a number of Tanagers including: Bay-headed, Tawny-creasted, Silver-throated and White-shouldered. As we descended down from the highlands Jacobo heard a number of birds feeding close by. In a nearby feeding tree we saw two of the highlights of the entire trip. We had excellent views of both White-ruffed and Lance-tailed Manakins. 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. Close by in a water ditch we had excellent views of a Snail Kite. The bird was with many Jacanas and Ibises. For hawk watching we saw a beautiful Savanna Hawk. 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 third time that we saw this species in this area. After viewing the bird for a few moments it was joined by a second Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. They were only inches apart and made for a very nice couple. The birds were seen very well by everyone. We drove and walked around the area seeing common flycatchers and swallows. We also saw many egrets and herons. Notable was the large number of Wood Storks, maybe just shy of 100! Blue-winged Teal and Southern Lapwings were common. We left here and traveled to our hotel, La Hacienda. Dinner was at their restaurant and as we were waiting to be served we “did the list”. Doing the list was a nightly thing as it enabled us to review and keep track of what we saw, and was part of our preparation for the next day.
March 21: We had breakfast at the hotel and took our stuff and headed towards Tole and Guabala, roadside stops along the way to Los Quetzales trail, in Baru National Park and the highlands of Chiriqui Province. At the roadside stops we saw some North American migrants including: Tennessee, Yellow and Chestnut-sided Warblers. We also saw some very nice Panamanian flycatchers including: Fork-tailed, Piratic and Streaked Flycatchers. We had lunch at Las Lajas in a restaurant that is on the Pacific Ocean. I think it was the favorite restaurant of the entire trip as we would go there again on our return from the highlands. At the restaurant we saw many birds including: Magnificent Frigetbird, Sanderlings. Willet and Royal Terns. After leaving the restaurant we drove to a place called “Paradise Birding”. It belonged to a friend of Jacobo. Many hummingbirds and fruit feeders were located on the grounds. We saw: Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Brown Violetear and White-necked Jacobin. Other birds we saw were: Lineated Woodpecker and Green Honeycreeper. 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 Bambito Hotel for the next 3 nights. Dinner was at the restaurant in the hotel.
March 22: Breakfast was at 7:15am. We did some birding around the grounds seeing the spectacular Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and the ever present Black Phoebe. Wilson’s Warbler was also a common sight as it bathed in a small steam on the property. A fruiting tree next to the hotel held other birds. Seen were: Flame-colored Tanager, Baltimore Oriole and Scarlet-rumped Tanager. Our goal for the day was the top of the mountain, 7000 feet altitude, and the Resplendent Quetzal. We drove to the entrance of the Los Quetzales trail and then we took a ride to the top on a most unusual vehicle. It was a tractor-driven wagon. It got us half way to the top and the rest was done on foot. We did not see the quetzal at this spot, a disappointment. While at the top we would see many other birds. Seen were: Prong-billed Barbet, Collared Trogon, 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, Magnificent and White-throated Mountain-gem. We went back down the mountain, took lunch and prepared for another shot at quetzals. Lunch was at the small village of Guadalupe. The menu was very limited but everyone did get a desert of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
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. After walking a short distance we saw a female Resplendent Quetzal. Nice bird but we wanted to see a male with the long tail feathers. Fifteen minutes later we were all satisfied as we saw a pair of quetzals, one adult male and one female. We had the number one target bird of the trip. Dinner was at the Los Quetzales Lodge.
March 23: After breakfast and some birding around the grounds of the Bambito 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. The ponds are on the private property of the Janson Coffee company. We checked in at the Janson Coffee plantation office and met the owner. He said we could visit the ponds and then come back to the office and try some coffee. There are two ponds and we had to walk a forest trail to get to them. The trail was very birdie. We saw: Olivacious Pickulet, Plain Antvireo, Red-faced Spinetail, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and White-winged Tanager ( a personal favorite of mine). North American migrants were well represented as we saw: Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler. On the ponds themselves we saw: Northern Jacana, Southern Lapwing and Solitary Sandpiper. We went back to the Janson Coffee office to taste some coffee and if you wanted you could also buy some. 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 the Resplendent Quetzals. We also saw two Emerald Toucanets. One can never get enough of these beautiful birds. Dinner was at Los Quetzales Lodge. Before we turned in for the night we did some owling on the grounds of the Bambito. No owls but a beautiful nighttime sky.
March 24: We were up early, had breakfast and we were on our way back to Panama City. It was a long day of travel but we did make some stops along the way. We again had lunch at Las Lajas, a very popular restaurant for us. Some birds seen during the day were: Swallow-tailed Kite, White-tailed Kite, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and Black-striped Sparrow. Dinner was at the Radisson.
March 25: Today we would bird arguably the best birding location in all of Central America, Pipeline Road. The road and the adjacent oil pipeline were built just before World War 2 in case the Panama Canal was destroyed. The pipeline was never used. After breakfast at the Radisson we took our vans and headed to Pipeline Road. The road remains a 6 mile walkable road into the Panamanian forest/jungle. A quick stop at Gamboa ammo dump ponds produced a new species for our group. We saw very well a Rufescent Tiger-Heron. Next was Pipeline Road. We went in about 3/4 mile and yet we saw some great birds. The road is known for antbirds and other species that follow army ants. We recorded species that basically can only be seen in lowland jungle habitat. We drove our vehicles to what is known as the “first bridge”. Walking just a bit into the jungle we recorded some spectacular birds. Feeding on a berry tree were three species of trogons. We saw: White-tailed, Black-throated and Slaty-tailed Trogons. Also present were some Purple-throated Fruitcrows. High in a tree we saw a branch, but it was not a branch. It was a very well camouflaged Great Potoo. Also, well hidden, was a Slough. We walked the trail a bit until Jacobo heard some birds calling in the forest. We left the trail and followed a dry stream bed until we came across a feeding flock of antbirds. We saw: Spot-crowned Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, and Dot-winged Antwren. Not the best view but most of us saw the Song Wren, a bird that also follows ants. It has a beautiful blue eye ring. Someone remarked that this was the best of the entire Panama birding trip. We were in the dark jungle, in a dry stream bed, Howler monkeys calling in the background and we were watching many ant bird species. We went back to the trail and walked some more. An anteater walked across the trail just feet from us. We lucked out on the weather as it was hot but not too hot, it was humid but not too humid. Jacobo then took us to a secret spot off of the trail. We walked into the jungle and 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. Another special bird of Pipeline Road was the Great Jacamar. We heard it calling and then had it landed on a bare tree. We had great views. 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 3 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 and an ice cream desert.
After lunch we went back to one more birding venue. We took a two hour boat ride on the Rio Chargres. Many water and marsh birds were seen. We recorded: Anhinga, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, hundreds of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, three species of Kingfishers (Pygmy, Ringed, Amazon ) many Purple Gallinules and on the shore a beautiful Blue Ground Dove. A tree on the shore line had many nests of Yellow-rumped Caciques. We finally went back to the Radisson and had a farewell dinner where Jacobo’s wife and daughter joined us. It was a great trip with 212 species seen by most members of our group.
March 26: Chino picked us up at 5:30am and we were on our way back to the airport. On our way to the airport we passed the mudflats next to Panama City. Some of us saw a Brown Pelican flying as if to say “Hope you enjoyed the trip, come back again”. Our group returned on the 9:30am United/Continental flight and touched down at Newark/Liberty airport about 3:30pm.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 212