Canopy Family Panama

Panama Tour

by Ken Wilson

Chestnut-headed Oropendo
Chestnut-headed Oropendola by Judy Malloch

Toward the end of the month of May, my wife, Becky and I made a short visit to Panama as guests of Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge. Talon Tours is offering a tour to Panama in February of 2011, and we were interested to see for ourselves what so many have favorably reported on already.

After short flights from San Francisco and Miami, we were met at the airport in Panama City and warmly welcomed at the Tower where we had decided to begin our visit. During our stay at the Tower, Becky and I were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food we were served and were very happy with the expertise of our birding and wildlife guides. Though we only birded Panama for a total of six days, we enjoyed sightings of over 200 species of birds and 14 species of mammals. The birds we saw included 22 species of tanagers and honeycreepers, 10 species of wrens, 23 species of flycatcher, 15 species of antbirds and 16 species of hummingbirds.

"The terrain we birded from our base at the Tower, with the exception of the hill from which the tower protrudes, was quite flat and varied--from rainforest to open wetlands, some of which bordering the Panama Canal."

We visited many of the well-known locations, such as Plantation Road, Old Gamboa Road, the Ammo Ponds and Pipeline Road--all of which were as productive as their reputations had led us to believe. Some of the highlights we saw includled Crane and Great Black Hawks, Wattled Jacana, Pheasant Cuckoo (it was still looking great when we left it), Blue-chested Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, Black-tailed Trogon, Black-breasted Puffbird, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Ocellated Antbird, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Lance-tailed Manakin, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Red-throated Ant-Tanager and Slate-colored Grosbeak. In addition we also watched a male Red-capped Manakin displaying, as it repeatedly ‘moon walked’ and flicked its wings on the chosen branch in the lek.

We also had some great birding from the top of the tower at dawn, as the sun rose above the surrounding forest and fresh cups of coffee warmed our hands. In addition to close-up views of birds, such as Collared Aracari, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, White-shouldered Tanager and Green Shrike-Vireo, we also had wonderful looks at Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, Mantled Howler Monkey and Geoffroy’s Tamarin. During an afternoon bird walk along Old Gamboa Road, we had the good fortune to find the very diminutive Robinson’s Mouse Opossum, a new mammal species for all of us in the group and new for the Canopy Tower list!

After a very successful four days at the Tower, we left and drove for two hours to the Canopy Lodge, located in El Valle within the second largest volcanic crater (dormant!) in the world, a full two miles wide! The lodge is very appealing, newer and more upscale than the Tower, and with food to equal the meals we were offered and enjoyed at the Tower. Over the next two days we sampled the many trails and habitats of the valley and surrounding hills, from streamside Gallery Forest to the Cloud Forest of Cerro Gaitail. Birds were plentiful and included a Plain-brown Woodcreeper following an Army Ant colony moving their bivouac, a day-roosting Crested Owl, and the antics of Golden-collared Manakins at a lek. Other birds we enjoyed were a White Hawk perched on the forested hillside above the Lodge, Black Hawk-Eagle, Brown-hooded Parrot, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Orange-bellied Trogon, Tody Motmot, Blue-throated Toucanet, White-bellied Antbird, Olive-striped Flycatcher, White-ruffed Manakin, Yellow-green Vireo, Rufous-breasted Wren, Dusky-faced Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Tawny-capped Euphonia.

Following lunch we relaxed at the Lodge until resuming birding later in the afternoon. During that time we enjoyed the view from our balcony of the surrounding hills and watched the birds in the garden and the fruit feeders. Our sightings during this time included Gray-chested Dove, Stripe-throated Hermit, Rufous Motmot, Panama Flycatcher, Black-chested Jay, Rufous-capped Warbler, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Orange-billed Sparrow and Thick-billed Euphonia.

I look forward to doing more exciting birding and seeing other exotic wildlife that Panama has to offer! Tour dates are 5th to the 15th of February, 2011 - I hope that you will join us.

Ken Wilson/Talon Tours 

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