Canopy Family Panama

Trip Report - Green Season

by Enno Ebels and Roef Mulder

Yellow-backed Oriole by David Tipling
Yellow-backed Oriole by David Tipling

We visited both the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge. The daily rain (Green Season!) was mostly limited to 1-2 hours around lunchtime and did not really affect birding. We recorded an impressive amount of 291 species in 9 days. In our home country The Netherlands one would need several years of active birding to get to that number!

Central Panama June 2009

Birds are everywhere and only sightings of special interest are mentioned below. Most birds/locations were shown to us by the very experienced local birdguides Jose, Carlos, Alexis and Tino. Special thanks to Raul, Lorena and the rest of the team for organising this exciting birding trip.

Wednesday June 10th

Arrival Tocumen airport in the evening, transfer to Canopy Tower (1 hour drive).

Thursday June 11th

Sunrise at the Tower with our first views of Amazons, Tanagers and Toucans. The morning walk with guide Jose on Semaphore Hill started with Blue-chested Hummer and Purple-crowned Fairy in the garden. Getting started with the usual rainforest birds. A Great Tinnamou crossed the road and we saw Checker-throated Antwren and Black-crowned Tityra. An impressive Great Potoo was perched in a high tree at the entrance of Semaphore Road. In the afternoon we visited the Ammo Dump and we saw various species of herons, raptors and flycatchers.

A nocturnal drive over Semaphore road produced a Fer-de-Lance crossing the road, a calling Tropical Screech Owl and several interesting mammals (Night Monkey).

Friday June 12th.

Started at Pipeline Road with Jose; walked from the entrance to km 4-5. Of the many species we saw the most interesting were a Gray-headed Kite flying over and a Semiplumbeous Hawk perched above the road. A Streak-chested Antpitta showed very close! During lunchtime at the Tower we saw 5 migrating Woodstorks and a Black Swift. A Grey-headed Woodrail was briefly seen on the parking of Plantation trail. In the afternoon we did a walk on Old Gamboa Road with Alexis. Good views of Tawny-crowned Greenlet close to the entrance. The Capped Heron was still present at the ponds; great bird! Furthermore 2 Muscovy Ducks, a lifer for me... A Crane Hawk was perched on a tree and allowed good views. The resident Spectacled Owl had not been seen the last months so we didn't try. We met an antswarm of a smaller species of ant and had great views of Black-faced Anttrush, a rather common but elusive bird.

Saturday June 13th.

Started at Forest Discovery centre (Pipeline Road) with Carlos. Great views of Spotted Antbird and
Slate-colored Grosbeak. The recently build canopy tower here was good for Great Black Hawk, White Hawk, a small flock of Snail Kite's, Blue Cotinga and White-necked Puffbird. The hummingbird-feeders attracted many species and we had brilliant views of Long-billed and Stripe-throated Hermits, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied Hummer, Violet-crowned Woodnymph and White-vented Plumeleteer.
Heavy rain during and after lunch and only at about 4pm things were drying up. We decided to have another try at Pipeline Road, and it turned out te be very good! We wanted to see more of the second half of Pipeline Road and drove all the way up there. The first bird showing was a Brownish Twistwing, in company of a Golden-crowned Spadebill. A little further we encountered an army-ant swarm in a small open area of the forest; great views of 2 Ocellated and 2 Bicolored Antbirds! It was getting dark now and we went back to the Tower.

Sunday June 14th.

Started the morning again with viewing from the Tower; 3-4 Black Swifts and a White-collared Swift were flying around. The plan for the morning was try to find the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet in the forests of Metropolitan Park. A Red-breasted Blackbird was present on Albrook Airstrip as we drove along. The walk in the park did not produce the Tyrannulet but guide Alexis showed us several new birds inclusing Pheasant Cuckoo, Rosy Thrush-tanager, Scrub Greenlet, Forest Elaenia, White-winged Becard and Lance-tailed Manakin. A Ruddy-Quail Dove walking on the forest floor was a good find. When we came back to the entrance the gards of the park had found a Boa Constrictor lying on a branch above our car, very impressive!
Panama Bay
In the afternoon we checked the tidal area's next to Panama city and boosted the triplist. Several species of herons, waders, Franklin's Gull, Royal Tern and 1000-s Frigatebirds!.
Gamboa Ecoresort
We ended they day with a walk on the hotel-grounds in Gamboa. Nice view of a pair of Dusky Antbirds, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Cinnamon Becard and a Parrot Snake.

"When we came back to the entrance the guards of the park had found a Boa Constrictor lying on a branch above our car, very impressive!"

Monday June 15th.

Transfer to the CanopyLodge in the morning (2 hours drive). Pearl Kite and Crested Caracara along the road. The feeders in the garden of the Canopy Lodge attracted many birds and at lunchtime we had great views of several species of Tanagers and Hummingbirds. In the afternoon we went uphill in the El Valle mountains with Tino; Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Tawny-faced Gnatwren were the highlights.

Tuesday June 16th.

Morning birding in the cloudforest surrounding El Valle with Tino, brilliant views of Band-tailed Barbthroat, White-tipped Sicklebill and Dull-mantled Antbird! A Snowcap hovered briefly 2 meters above me and that was it, it did not show again despite hearing a bird calling several times. Other birds worth mentioning were Purplish backed Quail-Dove (only heard), Barred Hawk, Slate-headed Tody-tyrant, Black-headed Tody Flycatcher, White-vented Euphonia and the handsome Black-and-yellow Tanager.

In the afternoon we walked the trails surrounding the Lodge and saw a pair of Buff-rumped Warblers along the stream. Several Tody Motmots were heard calling but did not come out. A huge Eucalyptus nearby the Lodge was visited by many Hummers and although distant, we had nice views of both male and female Green Thorntail, wow! Rufous-crested Coquette was seen here recently but did not show unfortunately.

Wednesday June 17th.

This morning we visited a trail in a nearby valley. We heard several Tody Motmots but no visual contact again. Also several calling Little Tinnamou's but the birds did not come into view. Sepia-capped and Grey-capped Flycatcher were new for the trip-list though.
In the afternoon we did a walk close to the village El Valle and saw the usual forest birds, later we saw a fine Long-billed Starthroat in the village and a perched White Hawk close to the Lodge.

Thursday June 18th.

Went uphill again for another try on the Dull-mantled Antbird and succeeded in photographing. A Scaly-breasted Wren was present at the same spot. We saw a Barred Forest Falcon taking a recently fledged Pale-vented Thrush and had good views of the Falcon perched. Further birding along the road
produced good views of Red-faced Spinetail, Brown-billed Scythebill and Brown-hooded Parrot. Snowcap was very brief again. Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant and Ochraceous Wren were all new birds for the trip. Went to another trail nearby and with a little patience we had great views of a Black-crowned Antpitta, one of the highlights of the trip!

Very productive walk on Cerro Gaital in the afternoon. Tino found a small flock of Black-faced Grosbeaks just behind the entrance. The trail up the mountain produced Sicklebill, White-tailed Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, White-troated Spadebill, White-ruffed Manakin, Spot-crowned Ant-Vireo, Plain Antvireo, Blue Seedeater, Orange-bellied Trogon and very close views of a Black Guan! Rufous-breasted Hermit and Thush-like Sciffornis were only heard. On the way back we encountered another 2 Black Guans.

Friday June 19th.

Last morning of birding took us up in the El Valle mountains again. Tried a site for the endemic Stripe-cheecked Woodpecker but no luck. But we did have nice views of the rare Black-headed Anttrush and a small flock of Spotted Barbtails. Furthermore we saw Russet Antshrike and met a Black Guan again.
Later tried a feeder at Rio Grande for the Spot-crowned Barbet but no luck agian, but we had good views of 2 beautifull Emerald Tanagers!. On the way back we could finally add Bay-headed Tanager to the trip list.

Transfer to Tocumen airport in the afternoon; Pearl and White-tailed Kite en route.

The triplist

We recorded an impressive amount of 291 species in 9 days. In our home country The Netherlands one would need several years of active birding to get to that number! The list would be even longer when visiting in the dry season; large numbers of warblers, shorebirds etc. winter in Panama.

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