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
Mottled Owl Ciccaba virgata Photo by Uwe Speck The Mottled Owl is a medium-sized owl of tropical America. It is dark overall, with a dark mottled brown and buff head, back and wings. It has a buffy belly and breast with heavy streaking, and vertical bars on the chest and throat. It has dark brown eyes surrounded by a light gray-brown facial disk with buffy streaking and incomplete buffy border. A pale morph also occurs in parts of its range, usually in drier habitats. It lacks ear tufts, therefore has a large, round-headed appearance. It has bare, buff-colored feet and a yellowish bill. Males and females are similar in appearance but show a high degree of sexual dimorphism when it comes to size—females (35 cm in length) are larger than males (28 cm in length). The Mottled Owl can be found in a variety of habitats, but typically prefer forest and woodlands, where they occupy the lower and middle levels of the forest. They are strictly nocturnal, but can be found roosting during the day, usually concealed in dense vine tangles and thick undergrowth—listening for smaller birds mobbing and scolding can often lead to a roosting Mottled Owl! Like all owls, they are predators—they catch and kill small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and even large insects to eat. They forage by waiting on a perch then swooping down to catch prey. Due to their nocturnal behavior, Mottled Owls have excellent eyesight designed for low-light conditions and very acute hearing. They make a variety of calls, from a series of muffled hoots to cat-like screeches. Mottled Owls usually nest in a tree cavity, but will occasionally take over suitable nests of other birds. The female lays 1-2 white eggs, and incubates them for 28-30 days. While incubation is solely done
Mottled Owl Ciccaba virgata Photo by Uwe Speck The Mottled Owl is a medium-sized owl of tropical America. It is dark overall, with a dark mottled brown and buff head, back and wings.
Common Tent-making Bat Uroderma bilobatum The Common Tent-making Bat is a common forest species of the lowlands of Central and South America. It is a member of the family Phyllostomidae, the New World leaf-nosed bats, a large family that includes vampire bats, fruit-eating bats, nectar bats and spear-nosed bats, although a majority of the species are insectivorous. They are a medium-sized bat, 59-69 mm in length with a weight of 13-20 grams. They have a gray-brown coat with a pale white stripe down their back, and a U-shaped tail membrane. Their face has a fleshy noseleaf and 4 distinct white stripes. The “noseleaf” is believed to aid in echolocation, to help direct the sounds they emit. Tent-making bats are mainly frugivorous, but will occasionally supplement their diet with insects, pollen and nectar. They are best known for their unique behavior of making “tents” out of large leaves. They bite through the midrib or vein of a large leaf so that it folds over into an inverted-V-shaped shelter. Banana and palm leaves are commonly used. The bats roost under the leaves, which provide protection from rain, sun and wind. A single leaf may house several bats, and they roost in groups from 2-59 individuals. A single “tent” may be used for up to 60 days. They are found from Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, in lowland forest and can be found roosting in palms near the Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp Darien. Did you know? Common Tent-making Bats emit calls at very low frequencies, often not detectable by standard bat detectors. For this reason, they are sometimes called “whispering bats.”
Common Tent-making Bat Uroderma bilobatum The Common Tent-making Bat is a common forest species of the lowlands of Central and South America. It is a member of the family Phyllostomidae, the New World
Rush-like Flatsedge Cyperus luzulae Common in wetter areas around Panama, the Rush-like Flatsedge is a clump-forming, grass-like perennial member of the sedge family, Cyperaceae. It typically grows 20-50 cm tall, with the tallest plants reaching up to 1 meter in height. The main stem of the plant grows from short rhizomes (rootstalks). Leaves are linear, 3-7 mm wide. The bracts surrounding the inflorescence are leaflike as well, growing to 30 cm in length. Numerous spikelets grow in dense clusters approximately 1 cm in diameter, bearing up to 10 or more whitish flowers. Fruits are smooth, oblong capsules 1 mm in length and light brown in color. Cyperus luzulae flowers and fruits throughout the year. The Rush-like Flatsedge has a number of useful purposes by humans. The crushed rhizome is used as an aphrodisiac. The strong, flexible stems can be used as twine. Parts of the plant (likely the rhizome) is mixed with Genipa americana (Jagua – family Rubiaceae) and is rubbed on hair to encourage and maintain healthy hair growth! This distinct plant prefers wet habitats, and can be found commonly in marshes and swamps, wet fields and stream edges. It is found in the lowlands and foothills up to 1400 m. elevation, in tropical moist forest and premontane moist forest. Cyperus luzulae has a wide distribution throughout the tropical regions of Central and South America. The genus Cyperus contains approximately 700 species of sedges distributed worldwide. The species name “luzulae” comes from “Luzula,” a genus of rushes (family Juncaceae) which this species resembles.
Rush-like Flatsedge Cyperus luzulae Common in wetter areas around Panama, the Rush-like Flatsedge is a clump-forming, grass-like perennial member of the sedge family, Cyperaceae. It typically grows 20-50 cm tall, with the tallest