Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Dates: March 23-29, 2011
Location: Panama Highlands
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Debbie, Jessica, Mary Jane and Kathy. It was also the first time that Happy Warblers LLC had ever sponsored a trip to the Chiriqui Province of Panama. The trip was highly successful with a total of 197 species of birds being seen by most members of the group. At the end of the trip it was wished that we could have stayed longer and just enjoyed the wildlife, venues, food, and friendships that were made on the trip.
March 23: Our 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.
March 24: We started the day off very early. Our guide Jacobo Ortega picked us up at 6am and took us to the domestic airport, Albrook, for our 6:30am flight to David, in the province of Chiriqui. Jacobo would stay with us for the next 5 days. After a short flight of about one hour we landed in David where we were met by a van and driver, and headed towards our destination, Los Quetzales Hotel and Spa. On our way we would stop and bird the area around Macho de Monte. Here we saw great birds like Olivaceous Piculet, Silver-throated Tanager and Golden-hooded Tanager. Back to the van and after about a one hour ride we arrived at our hotel, Los Quetzales. Most people think that Panama is hot and humid but the area of the country we were birding was different. We were at an elevation of 7000 feet and the temperature was in the mid-sixties and would remain that way for our entire stay in the mountains. After lunch we birded near the grounds of our hotel and saw Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers, on a nest, and Torrent Tyrannulet, on the river behind the hotel. We also saw some North American “tourist” birds like Philadelphia Vireo, Tennessee Warbler and Wilson’s Warbler. We had dinner at the hotel and prepared for our journey to the mountain top the next day.
March 25: After breakfast we loaded into a unique travel vehicle. It was a kind of wagon hitched to a tractor. This was necessary to get us to the top of the mountain. Apparently some vehicles had broken down trying to go up the rocky road to a height of 9000 feet and it was thought that this was the best way to get to the top. It worked just fine. We quickly saw some new birds for our trip. Tufted Flycatcher, Prong-billed Barbet and Large-footed Finch were easily spotted. Now came the best birding experience of the trip. Three Resplendent Quetzals, two males and one female, flew over us while we were walking on the trail. They were building a nest! The two males seemed to be competing for the attention of the female. The birds ignored us as they flew back and forth within 25 feet of us. We had spectacular views. We would stay with this activity for about a half hour. We would see a total of 6 quetzals as they moved about the area. Three at the nest, two flyovers and one more at the vehicle drop off spot. We had lunch at the top of the mountain while doing some additional birding. We finally left the mountain top, returned to our tractor-driven vehicle and took a break at our hotel. Before dinner we would again bird around the hotel seeing birds like Flame-colored Tanager. It was a great birding day.
March 26: We were up early again this time heading towards Volcan Ponds. The habitat and elevation were different and we would see different birds. We first stopped at an old airport runway where we would see many Eastern Meadowlarks and a very cooperative Roadside Hawk. As soon as we got to the ponds we saw some warblers that were all year round residents of Panama. We saw Slate-throated Redstart, Three-striped Warbler and Rufous-capped Warbler. We also saw all three possible spinetails: Pale-breasted, Slaty and Red-faced. The ponds held many water birds. We saw Northern Jacana, Purple Gallinule and American Coot. We walked along the trail adjacent to the ponds and added great birds like White-winged Tanager and my favorite, the Bay-headed Tanager. We had lunch at a local restaurant in the town of Volcan and then headed back to our hotel. Before dinner we would again bird an area within walking distance of our hotel.
March 27: We had one more morning in the mountains. We would head out towards the Los Quetazales trail on the other side of the mountain. Here we would see many new birds. At the entrance to the trail we would have quick and fleeting views of a male Resplendent Quetzal, nothing like we had the other day. Next we would see two Rufous-browed Peppershikes. We walked the trail seeing birds like Yellow-thighed Finch. Our guide Jacobo heard an unusual sound coming from the forest. For the next twenty minutes we would pursue an elusive ground bird. Finally we had success as a Buff-fronted Quail Dove would pass by us. It was well worth the effort. Towards the end of the trail we heard and then saw a singing Black-throated Green Warbler. Maybe the bird would again be seen during May in Central Park. We had lunch at a local restaurant and prepared for our return trip to Panama City. We drove to David and took the 6pm flight back to Panama city. We landed in about one hour and headed towards our next hotel, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. We had dinner at the hotel, early to bed and prepared for our next day’s birding.
March 28: We were up early at 6am, had breakfast at 6:30 and then headed towards arguably the best birding spot in Central America, Pipeline Road. We made a stop at the Ammo Dump ponds seeing great birds like White-throated Crake and Rufescent Tiger-Heron. We also saw the nest of the Tiger-heron, with chicks waiting to be fed. On Pipeline Road the birding was fantastic with many special birds. We picked up three trogons: Black-throated, Slaty-tailed and White-tailed. We had many ant birds with the best being Streaked -chested Antpitta and Black-faced Antthrush. We also saw two puffbirds, the Black-breasted and the White-whiskered. Many flycatchers and woodcreepers were also seen. After about four hours we left Pipeline road and headed towards Panama City. We had lunch at Niko’s and then back towards our hotel. We made a stop along the way but nixed on our targets, the Spectacled Owl and Great Potoo. We will have to leave them until next year. Before dinner we did a birding walk on the grounds of the Gamboa. We added more birds to our list and got great views of the Blue-crowned Motmot. Our group had dinner at the hotel and we were sorry that our trip was coming to an end.
March 29: Chino picked us up at 7am and we were on our way back to the airport. We returned on the 10am Continental flight and touched down at Newark/Liberty airport about 4pm right on schedule.
Little Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 197