Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala Photo by David Tipling The Silver-throated Tanager is a cheery, medium-sized tanager common in the foothills and highlands of southern Central America and northwestern South America. The adult male is bright yellow overall, with black streaking on its back, green edging on wings and tail, and a distinctive silvery-white throat bordered by a black malar stripe. Females and young males duller in plumage but similar overall. There are three subspecies of Silver-throated Tanager, varying in degrees of brightness of the plumage, and all three subspecies can be found in Panama. Silver-throated Tanagers are found in the foothills and highlands of Costa Rica, Panama and into western Colombia and Ecuador, from 600 meters to up to 2250 meters in some parts of its range. They prefer mature secondary growth forest, montane forest and cloud forest. They are common throughout their range. They forage in the forest canopy, either individually, in pairs or in small groups with up to 12 individuals, and often associates with mixed feeding flocks. They eat small fruits, which they prefer to eat whole, as well as insects and spiders. They increase the amount of arthropods consumed in their diet during the breeding season. They forage along mossy branches, picking up insects as they go. They are very active birds, moving rapidly through the flock. Their call is a sharp, buzzy zzeet. Silver-throated Tanagers are non-territorial. Breeding starts at the onset of the rainy season and lasts for several months. During this time, Silver-throated Tanagers raise two broods. The female primarily builds the nest, a compact cup placed on a branch in a tree 1 to 13 meters above the ground. The nest is composed of mosses and leaves held together by spider webs. The male may participate by bringing nesting material as well
Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala Photo by David Tipling The Silver-throated Tanager is a cheery, medium-sized tanager common in the foothills and highlands of southern Central America and northwestern South America. The adult male
Starry Cracker Hamadryas laodamia Photo by Tino Sanchez The Starry Cracker is an eye-catching creature; it has velvety blue-black wings with bright blue iridescent spots. Unlike other crackers, males and females are sexually dimorphic; females have a broad white band across the forewing. This medium-sized brush-foot (family Nymphalidae) is not only one of the most beautiful butterflies, but one of the most interesting, as well. The common name “cracker” comes from the peculiar sound that the males make during their territorial displays and to deter predators. Members of this group have a swollen vein on their forewing that they can clap together in flight to produce a clicking sound, similar to the crackling of bacon in a frying pan! What is even more unique about this species in particular is that the Starry Cracker is the non-cracking cracker! It is believed to have lost this ability, and instead has adapted scent organs and sexual dimorphism to interact with other individuals. Like other Hamadryas, they perch on tree trunks, upside down and with their wings flat against the bark. They feed on rotting fruit, sap and animal dung. The Starry Cracker is found from Mexico through the Amazon Basin, in lowland humid forests up to 900m. They can be found throughout Panama, and are one of the more memorable butterflies encountered at our lodges! Fun fact! This butterfly is also called the Starry Night Cracker, inspired by Van Gogh’s famous painting.
Starry Cracker Hamadryas laodamia Photo by Tino Sanchez The Starry Cracker is an eye-catching creature; it has velvety blue-black wings with bright blue iridescent spots. Unlike other crackers, males and females are sexually
Cuipo Cavanillesia platanifolia Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Cuipo is a huge emergent tree of the lowland rainforests from Nicaragua to Peru. A member of the family Malvaceae (which includes the majestic baobab trees of Africa), this species is easily recognizable by its immense size, growing up to 60 meters tall. The tall straight trunk can grow to 2.5 meters in diameter, and has smooth gray or reddish bark with distinct circular rings every few meters. It is swollen at the base but has no buttress roots. The crown of the Cuipo tree is relatively flat at the base and nicely rounded on the top, and usually emerges above the forest canopy. Leaves are round in mature trees and square-shaped in young trees; however, the Cuipo can be without leaves for up to 11 months of the year, an adaption for water conservation during the dry season. This tree flowers then fruits between March and May. Flowers are reddish-brown and form on the ends of branches. Fruits are large, oblong green pods, 15 cm long, with five “wings” for dispersal; they turn a brilliant pink over time. The seeds are edible and taste like peanuts! The Guna people of Panama believe that the Cuipo can be a cure for underweight conditions, and its rubbery resin is used to heal infected wounds. The soft wood is used for house construction and dugout canoes. The Cuipo tree is considered near-threatened, primarily due to habitat destruction, and they are very important as this species is one of the few large emergent trees that Harpy Eagles use for nest sites. Cuipo trees can be found from Nicaragua to Peru. These fantastic trees can be found around the Canopy Tower, and the world's largest remaining population of Cuipo trees is found in Darién. Cool Fact!
Cuipo Cavanillesia platanifolia Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Cuipo is a huge emergent tree of the lowland rainforests from Nicaragua to Peru. A member of the family Malvaceae (which includes the majestic baobab
Recently, a conversation came up between Canopy Camp Darien manager David Byers, and guest Dr. James (Jim) Karr, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, regarding interest in the annual rainfall in Darién and in Panama overall. In general, the Caribbean side receives 3-4 times more rain annually than the much drier Pacific side. But, Jim wondered, along with many of our guests, what do the numbers really look like? David and Jim dove into a bit of research, and here’s what they came up with: David found this link with a summary of the climate situation for Darién & the Choco region. However, the coordinates bring us to western Colombia, deep in the heart of the Choco region, one of the wettest areas on Earth, where rainfall is likely higher than in most areas of Darién. Still, it gives a good overview of the nearby climate, and at certain times, it can feel like there is definitely some carry over! Jim searched further and found a World Bank site for seasonal temperatures and rainfall data for sites throughout Panama. This site has good data summarized by a group from the University of East Anglia in Britain. They modelled Panama's climate using records from 1901 to 2015 – over 100 years of climate data! Here are some maps from this World Bank site outlining seasonal temperatures and monthly rainfall for areas close to the Canopy Family Lodges: Canopy Camp Darien (Yaviza, Darién) Canopy Lodge (El Valle de Anton) Canopy Tower (Soberania National Park) Jim looked further at these graphs, considering monthly shift in rainfall and through a conversion of the graphs he estimated annual rainfall at the Canopy Family lodges: Canopy Tower: ~2,790 mm (98 inches) per year Canopy Lodge: ~1,880 mm (66 inches) per year Canopy Camp: ~1,400
Recently, a conversation came up between Canopy Camp Darien manager David Byers, and guest Dr. James (Jim) Karr, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, regarding interest in the annual rainfall in Darién
Tungara Frog Engystomops pustulosus Photo by Jenn Sinasac A common and well-studied frog in Panama, the Tungara Frog is best known by its unusual call “tun” followed often by “gara”, heard frequently from small forest puddles, pools, ditches and standing water bodies during the rainy season. They are medium-sized frogs; males and females are 3.3 cm and 3.6 cm in length, respectively. They are toad-like in appearance; the body, head, limbs, and even the eardrums are covered in warts. They also have a large poison gland on each side of the neck like the toads (Bufonidae). The vocal sac of the male is very large compared to the size of the body. The Tungara Frog is a member of the Leptodactylidae family, the “foam frogs”. They produce a foam nest to lay their eggs along the edges of temporary and permanent puddles on the forest floor, where the tadpoles will then develop in the rain pools. Tungara Frogs have a patchy distribution from Mexico through Central America and into northern South America, and are very common in Panama. Give-away: Tungara frogs have an unusual predator—the Fringe-lipped Bat (Trachops cirrhosus), which are attracted to the frogs by their loud call! Read an interesting article about this here.
Tungara Frog Engystomops pustulosus Photo by Jenn Sinasac A common and well-studied frog in Panama, the Tungara Frog is best known by its unusual call “tun” followed often by “gara”, heard frequently from
Yellow Dancing Lady Orchid Oncidium stipitatum Photo by Jenn Sinasac The genus Oncidium is a large, recognizable group of tropical orchids, containing approximately 330 species. This medium-sized, epiphytic orchid is found in the lowlands of Panama and possibly Colombia. The Yellow Dancing Lady has small cylindrical pseudo bulbs enveloped by 4-6 papery sheaths and a single, longitudinally grooved, fleshy leaf 24-70 cm long and 1 cm wide. The beautiful inflorescence consists of a single bloom stake extending horizontally from the base and terminating with many yellow and reddish-brown flowers up to 2.5 cm in length, shaped like a dancing woman wearing a fancy flamenco dress. This orchid blooms in the dry season (January – April) in the shady lowland rainforests around the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp Darien. Pollination: Oncidium stipitatum is pollinated by a bee of the genus Centris.
Yellow Dancing Lady Orchid Oncidium stipitatum Photo by Jenn Sinasac The genus Oncidium is a large, recognizable group of tropical orchids, containing approximately 330 species. This medium-sized, epiphytic orchid is found in the
Northern Emerald-Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus Photo by Rafael Lau The Northern Emerald-Toucanet is a small toucan found in the foothills forests of Central America from Mexico to far-eastern Panama. At only about a foot in length, it is our smallest toucan in Panama. Its bright green plumage gives this species its name, and this colorful plumage is characteristic of its genus. In Panama, the Northern Emerald-Toucanet has a blue or purplish throat, chestnut-colored undertail coverts and rufous tail tips. Its bill is black and yellow. Individuals found in western Chiriqui near the Costa Rican border have a red spot at the base of the bill, whereas eastern Panama birds lack the red spot. The Northern Emerald-Toucanet has up to 8 subspecies which show different throat colors (white or blue/purple) and differences in bill patterns, with differing extent of yellow on the upper mandible. Subspecies also differ mildly in size. The Northern Emerald-Toucanet is a bird of the forest canopy – it forages in small flocks of up to 10 individuals among the canopy for fruits and small vertebrates. It is quite a generalist – over 113 species of plants are reported in its diet in Costa Rica alone! However, it has a special preference for berries. It also eats vertebrate prey, including eggs and nestling birds, small lizards and snakes. Arthropods, including spiders, centipedes, grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies and moths, flies, bees and wasps are fed primarily to nestlings. It is often first detected by its call, a series of low, frog-like croaks that can continue for minutes. It is quite vocal, and other vocalizations include barking calls. It frequently cocks its tail while calling. It has direct flight with rapid wingbeats, often with a short glide at the end. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including forest edge,
Northern Emerald-Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus Photo by Rafael Lau The Northern Emerald-Toucanet is a small toucan found in the foothills forests of Central America from Mexico to far-eastern Panama. At only about a foot
Bald Eagle Photo credit: iStock By Mike Unwin It is mid-morning in Darién National Park, Panama, and I’m wilting in the rainforest heat. Three hours ago, with the ramshackle border town of Yaviza still asleep, we had boarded our motorised dugout and nudged out into the swift, dark current. Now the humid air hums with insects and sweat trickles down my back. Suddenly a flurry of wingbeats has us peering up into the canopy. And there she is: a female harpy eagle, perched high in the almendro tree, signature crest defiantly erect. A lifeless sloth dangles from meat-hook talons as large as a tiger’s. She’s an awesome sight: a fitting national bird for Panama. At her chick’s plaintive cheeps, she starts to tear at the unfortunate prey. Only now do I dare raise my camera. There is something irresistibly alluring about eagles: the predatory power, the imperious glare, those magnificent wings lifting them high and beyond our reach. They are, in a way, the avian equivalent of big cats, and it is small wonder that they have so long served as icons of pride and military might, from the Roman legions to the United States air force. The golden eagle alone is the national emblem of five nations. For the traveller, eagles also mean exciting places. These birds’ basic needs – large tracts of unspoilt land, with plentiful prey and few human threats – mean that if you’re watching one, you are generally somewhere pretty impressive. My eagle memories are inseparable from their locations: an African fish eagle plucking a bream from beside my canoe on the serene Zambezi; wedge-tailed eagles combing the red-rock canyons of Australia’ Northern Territory; a giant Steller’s sea eagle circling my zodiac against Kamchatka’s snow-capped volcanos. Each new sighting brings the same thrill: the bird seems
Bald Eagle Photo credit: iStock By Mike Unwin It is mid-morning in Darién National Park, Panama, and I’m wilting in the rainforest heat. Three hours ago, with the ramshackle border town of Yaviza still
Yellow-headed Gecko Gonatodes albogularis Photo by Jenn Sinasac The attractive Yellow-headed Gecko is a diurnal, forest dwelling species of dwarf gecko native to the warm regions of Central and South America. It is small, only a mere 7-9 cm long. The Yellow-headed Gecko exhibits strong sexual dimorphism; the males have yellowish heads with brilliant blue facial markings, blue-gray bodies and a black tail with a white tip. Females are generally a mottled gray-brown overall. Yellow-headed Geckos feed on terrestrial insects and small arthropods on the forest floor. They live in tropical dry and humid primary and secondary forests and open areas, are often found around stone walls and retreat to crevices and holes for cover from potential predators. They nest at the bases of trees, in buttress roots. The female lays 1 egg, burying it in a dry area to incubate, and has several clutches per year. They can be seen around the base of the Canopy Tower, and are rather common at the Canopy Camp. Fun Fact: Yellow-headed Geckos do not have suction lamellae on their toes like many other geckos, so they cannot stick to smooth, vertical surfaces. However, they have thin, rough skin on their toes, and can run very fast!
Yellow-headed Gecko Gonatodes albogularis Photo by Jenn Sinasac The attractive Yellow-headed Gecko is a diurnal, forest dwelling species of dwarf gecko native to the warm regions of Central and South America. It is
Scaly Tree Ferns Photo by Jerry & Linda Harrison Scaly Tree Ferns look like something out of Jurassic Park—in fact, they are ancient plants and originated in the late Jurassic. They are true ferns (Class Pteridopsida) that are rather tree-like in appearance, with trunk-like stems. The world’s tallest tree ferns are in this family, and can grow up to 20 m tall. The fronds are some of the largest in the plant kingdom, reaching 3-4 m in some species. The pinnate leaves are covered in scales and hairs; “sori” or spore clusters are located on the undersides of the leaves. They are mostly terrestrial (although some are epiphytic). Tree ferns growing in the forest understory have adapted fronds allowing chlorophyll to photosynthesize more efficiently in lower light conditions. In the family Cyatheaceae, there are 13 genera; the genus Cyathea is the largest and contains approximately 500 species, although the exact number of species is unknown. Scaly tree ferns are found in wet lowlands to mid-elevations in tropical regions around the world, and there are more than 40 species of Cyathea in Panama. From the Greek: “Cyathea” comes from the Greek word “kyatheion”, meaning “little cup”, referring to the cup-shaped sori on the fronds.
Scaly Tree Ferns Photo by Jerry & Linda Harrison Scaly Tree Ferns look like something out of Jurassic Park—in fact, they are ancient plants and originated in the late Jurassic. They are true