Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Panama: Burbayar Lodge to El Valle

Blue-crowned Manakin
Following our extraordinarily successful visit to Cerro Pirre and the lowlands of Darien (see the following two posts) we headed to Burbayar Lodge for a 3-night stay in the Caribbean foothills of Kuna Yala Province. This is a well-known destination for birders which has been difficult to access in recent years. Burbayar is a rustic but charming family-run lodge; after the challenges of Cerro Pirre, it was luxury.

Nusagandi Forest
We cleaned up so comprehensively in Darien that there were few targets left at Burbayar. Our first morning saw us on a trail that runs up and down steep, muddy hills in the Nusagandi Reserve, a large area of forest owned by the Kuna Indians.

Broad-billed Motmot
We were pleased to see a couple of impressive Crimson-bellied Woodpeckers, while Tawny-capped Euphonia was another welcome addition to the list. Striped (Western) Woodhaunter was among the birds seen along the trail.
Ocellated Antbird - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
An impressive antswarm (the first of any substantive size for the trip) was attended by some showy Ocellated Antbirds along with Plain-brown Woodpecker, Broad-billed Motmot, Chesnut-backed Antbird, Dull-mantled Antbird and Bicoloured Antbird.

Green Manakin
A Green Manakin was found in some dense streamside vegetation. We spent a fair bit of time relaxing around the lodge. Blue-crowned Manakin was among the many birds in the grounds (see first image).  A Plumbeous Hawk showed nicely but distantly from the lodge grounds.

Plumbeous Hawk
We visited another area forest on our second morning which had recently been acquired by the owners of Burbayar.  Here we had several Sapayoas showing well. This species, the last of the world’s bird families for my list, had eluded me for years, but on this trip I saw between 12 and 15. It was interesting to compare them with the Green Manakin (see above) a species with which Sapayoa is often confused.


As we were leaving the forest we saw several Sulphur-rumped Tanagers – a localised target, along with a Laughing Falcon.

Laughing Falcon
Mammals included Geoffroy’s Tamarin and a cute Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel.  In the afternoon, some of the group ventured to a third forest patch to finally connect with a key target bird for this area – Speckled Antshrike.

Alfaro's Pygmy Squirrel
The food at Burbayar was excellent and this place is highly recommended, though many birders have expressed frustration in recent years at their inability to connect with the owners.

Dinner at Burbayar
We departed Burbayar and continued our journey west, again crossing the Panama Canal before arriving at the delightful hill town of El Valle in Cocle Province for a two-night stay. The town is located in the caldera of an extinct volcano and is surrounded by steep, forested slopes. Our accommodation, the Anton Valley Hotel, ticked the boxes.
Forest at Cerro Gaital

Forest orchid, El Valle
We enjoyed a morning stroll through the misty forests of Cerro Gaital, seeing plenty of Pale-vented Thrushes. Also of interest was the distinctive local race of Common Bush-Tanager. Garden Emerald was finally encountered in a shrubby field not far from the hotel.

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