Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Dates: March 9-15, 2011
Location: Panama Lowlands
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Marylou, Pam and Gerta. Joe, our leader, had been birding in Panama before but for everyone else it was their first time. It was also the third year in a row that Happy Warblers LLC had sponsored a trip to Panama. This trip would be dedicated to birding the lowland areas on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of Panama and also in the middle of the old US Canal Zone. The trip was highly successful with a total of 189 species of birds being seen by most members of the group.
March 9: 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 guide, Jacobo Ortega, who took us to the first of our three hotels, La Estancia B&B, in downtown Panama City. Jacobo would remain with us for the next seven days.
March 10: 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 Blue-Gray Tanager, Palm Tanager and Plain-colored tanager. We started out for our first birding venue, which was Pedro Miguel Town, about five miles from the hotel. Here we would see Boat-billed Heron, Keel-billed Toucan and the very colorful Red-legged Honeycreeper. Some North American migrants, spending the winter in Panama, were also seen. We added Prothonotary Warbler, Tennessee Warbler and Summer Tanager to our list. We left this venue and traveled about one mile to Plantation Road. Here we would see many more birds including Violaceous Trogon, Black-tailed Trogon and Olivaceous Flatbill. Car problems slowed us down somewhat but we recovered, had a late lunch at Niko’s in downtown Panama City and continued. We went back to the hotel ,saw more birds at their feeders, and including a troop of Geoffrey’s Tamarin Monkeys. Dinner was at Mi Ranchito, a beautiful restaurant on a causeway leading to three islands in the Pacific.
March 11: After breakfast at La Estancia we headed towards Metropolitan Park in downtown Panama City. It was very nice that they set aside this 500 acre reserve right in the middle of one of the busiest cities in Central America. The birding was excellent. We saw Dusky Antbird, Spotted Antbird and Southern Bentbill. Best of all was a Common Potoo on a nest. We had lunch at a local restaurant and then were on our way to the Caribbean side. We checked in at our second hotel, the Radisson, and headed immediately to the Canal. We wanted to spend some time at the Gatun locks seeing a ship pass through. The Panama Canal, one of the engineering wonders of the world, is always fascinating to see. We stayed at the visitor’s center for about one hour. Next we were back to birding seeing Zone-tailed Hawk and Bat Falcon on the road. We also picked up Saffron Finch, a species missed last year. Overnight and dinner at the Radisson and then preparation for tomorrow.
March 12: After an excellent breakfast at the Radisson, we were on our way to bird Achiote Road, one of the premier birding spots in Panama. The birding was excellent. We saw four species of Trogons: White-tailed, Black-tailed, Slaty-tailed and Black-throated. Overhead was a beautiful White Hawk while in the forest was a White-headed Wren. We had lunch at a local restaurant in the village of Achiote. Next we made a rest stop at the marina near Fort San Lorenzo. Here we picked up some shorebirds like Whimbrel, Spotted Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover. We left this area and headed towards Panama City and our final hotel, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. The Gamboa is a spectacular hotel with a lobby that must be four stories high and fantastic views of the Chagres River at Lake Gatun. The hotel is surrounded by 300 acres of its own rainforest. We had dinner at the Gamboa and prepared for our next day of birding.
March 13: After a 6:30 breakfast at the Gamboa we were on our way to bird one of the best venues in the Americas, Pipeline Road. This was deep rainforest and we would see different birds. The road gets its name from a pipeline built just before World War Two to bring oil from one coast of Panama to the other in case the Canal was ever shut down. The road was actually a service road for this pipeline. We would bird this area for about four hours. As soon as we got out of the van we saw and heard a male Purple-throated Fruit Crow displaying for a female. While on the trail we found an ant swarm and saw the birds associated with it. First was the Rufous-vented Ground-cuckoo. This was a bird that I’ve searched for ten years. Finally! Other birds seen with the ant swarm were : Bicolored Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, and Streaked-chested Antpitta. Just outside of Pipeline Road Jacobo picked up a Great Potoo. Our group had excellent views. Now we had seen both Potoo species on this trip. When lunch time came we returned to the Gamboa and had lunch at their deck restaurant with views of the Panama Canal. It was very nice to see ships moving by as we had lunch. Many Purple Gallinules and Wattled Jacanas were located right next to our lunchtime deck. After lunch and a short siesta we were out birding again, this time searching for birds on the grounds of the Gamboa .The highlight was good views of the Great Antshrike. We had dinner at the Gamboa and also spent the night.
March 14: Again we were out early. We had breakfast at 6:30 and prepared for our day. We again were birding the grounds of the Gamboa. We had some urgency in our walk as we had a “date” with the Blue Cotinga. We had to be at the tram stop at exactly 7:30am to see this bird. We made the tram stop just in time. At 7:35 a beautiful male Blue Cotinga appeared. This bird has become so regular that I’ve seen it every year since 2005 in exactly the same tree at exactly the same time. Really unbelievable! The bird fed for about 10 minutes and then was gone. Other birds that we picked up at the tram stop were Fasciated Antshrike and two Saltators, the Buff-throated and the Black-headed. After birding this area we took a motorized canoe ride to the Embera Indian Village. The Indian chief told us about the history of his tribe and we all picked up some handicrafts that they made for sale. We had lunch again at Nikos, the hot item being ice cream. Now we were going to do something that previous groups had not done. We birded the mudflats of Panama City. We were there at low tide and there were hundreds of shorebirds to check out. We had good views of Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs and many Willets. We went back to the Gamboa for dinner and our last night. It was a great trip.
March 15: Jacobo 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.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Western Long-tailed Hermit
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 189