Canopy Family Panama

Palomar Audubon

by Hal Benhan (PAS)

Spotted Antbird by David Tipling
Spotted Antbird by David Tipling

On August 18, eight tired but happy PAS members arrived home after a 10-day trip to the Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower in Panama. Orval Carter, Charlie Kahr, Char Glacey, Doug Nail, Doug’s grandson McLain Nail, Brian Coleman, Dianne Benham and Hal Benham were guided by Carlos Bethancourt and, to put it mildly, Carlos was on fire! The group total was 370 birds, including 4 species of owls, 5 manakins, 47 flycatchers, 25 tanagers, 19 hummingbirds, 4 motmots, 5 puffbirds, 5 antbirds, 10 wrens and all 6 species of trogons found in Panama.

The group first birded Panama City to pick up the Cocol Heron along with typical shore and water birds such as Sandwich Tern, Neotropic Cormorant, Night-Herons and Wood Storks. Next, they traveled to the western highlands around El Valle de Anton, staying at Canopy Lodge for 4 nights. Highlight birds were Tody Motmot, White Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Bat Falcon, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Tropical Screech-Owl, Crested Owl, Mottled Owl, Common Potoo, Orange-bellied Trogon, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Barred Hawk, Paltry Tyrannulet, Sulfur-rumped Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee and Emerald Tanager. The group enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the lodge as well as the great food.

Next, the group traveled to the Canopy Tower for the next 4 nights. On the way to the tower, they birded a dry forest area, picking up such birds as Crested Bobwhite, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara, Brown-throated Parakeet, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Veraguan Mango, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird and Mouse-colored Tyrannulet. 

"Standing on a hill overlooking the jungle and the Panama Canal, the Tower is one of the finest birding sites in the world."


Each morning and evening the participants could be found on the observation platform at the top scanning for birds in the canopy and the sky. One afternoon, over 200 Mississippi Kites were observed attacking swarms of flying termites right over their heads, an amazing sight for everyone. During the day, the group birded Semaphore Hill, Pipeline Road and other wonderful trails, racking up impressive views of wonderful birds, mammals, insects and reptiles. Favorite birds seen included Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Striated Heron, Capped Heron, King Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, White-throated Crake, Sunbittern, Limpkin, Spectacled Owl, Rufous Nightjar, Great Potoo, Purple-crowned Fairy, Pied Puffbird, Great Antshrike, Southern Bentbill, Streak-chested Antpitta and Lance-tailed Manakin.

After the birding, Charlie and Brian flew home, and the rest of the group stayed in Panama City to tour the Canal, a most impressive engineering project, especially considering the fact that it was constructed 100 years ago. It was a fine ending to a wonderful trip! 


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