After leaving Panama City (see following post) we headed east, crossing the Panama Canal and along the Pan American Highway. In the lowlands of the Bayano area, our first stop was in riparian forest along the Rio Mono, where we had nice looks at Black Ant-shrike, a species some of us had missed in Colombia.
We moved on to the town of Torti, checking out some patches of scrub along the Rio Torti near the town where the much-wanted Double-banded Greytail and Pacific Antwren showed nicely. A Double-toothed Kite here was suitably co-operative.
The hummingbird feeders at the Torti Hotel were buzzing with activity. Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird were lifers for most.
Sapphire-throated Emerald and Long-billed Starthroat added to the colourful display while Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was common.
At Torti we had to made our first preparations for the trip to Darien National Park in the province's lowlands and Cerro Pirre. We left most of our gear in suitcases in the hotel for security reasons before continuing east, crossing the state border and entering the birding mecca province of Darien. We overnighted in the basic but adequate hotel in the town of Metiti.
The next morning saw us in some open country near the highway south of Metiti where common and widespread species such as Striped Cuckoo, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Pied Water-Tyrant and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater were added to the list. Grey-headed and White-throated Crakes were heard.
Further east we checked roadside forest within a few kilometres of the town of Yaviza, where the Pan-American Highway terminates. Here we enjoyed the antics of a couple of groups of Geoffroy’s Tamarin by the road.
A huge butterfly of the genus Caligo feeding on bananas was a brief distraction from the birds.
Black Oropendola and Barred Puffbird were welcome additions
to the list. Grey-cheeked Nunlet was elusive until we eventually nailed one
bird and then another.
was another nice find while Greater Anis put on a show.
At the bustling port of Yaviza on the Rio Chucumaque, our
gear, safely secured in waterproof bags, was loaded into our boat for the next
leg of the journey into the heart of the Darien lowlands.
We had a pleasant journey of about an hour up the river to
the town of El Real, seeing huge numbers of Broad-winged Hawkes on their
After lunch at El Real, we loaded our gear and ourselves
into a truck for a bumpy 30-minute drive to the edge of the forest. Here, our
gear was loaded onto horses while we headed off along a 5km trek to Rancho Frio
– the Darien National Park headquarters where
we would spend the next two nights in a basic dormitory.
|Yaviza, Rio Chucumaque|
|Migrating Broad-winged Hawks|
About half-way along the hike to Rancho Frio we were thrilled to encounter a dark phase Crested Eagle perched above the path high in the trees (see first image). This was at or close to the top of the wishlists of everyone; a spectacular bird indeed.
Nearby was the now deserted nest of a pair of Harpy Eagles
that had raised chicks for several years in succession until one of the adults
was shot earlier this year - apparently by locals who believed they were not
getting enough money from visiting birders. Similar problems have been
encountered overseas, highlighting the point that the economic benefits from
ecotourism can sometimes be a double-edged sword.
|Deserted Harpy Eagle nest|
|Our stuff arrives on horseback at Rancho Frio|