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.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Entering Panama’s Darien - Torti to Rancho Frio

Crested Eagle
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.

Double-toothed Kite
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.

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird
The hummingbird feeders at the Torti Hotel were buzzing with activity. Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and Scaly-breasted Hummingbird were lifers for most.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird
Sapphire-throated Emerald and Long-billed Starthroat added to the colourful display while Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was common.
Long-billed Starthroat

Sapphire-throated Hummingbird
 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.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
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.

Striped Cuckoo
Spot-breasted Woodpecker
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
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.

Geoffroy's Tamarin
A huge butterfly of the genus Caligo feeding on bananas was a brief distraction from the birds.

Caligo Butterfly
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.

Black Oropondola
 Spot-crowned Barbet was another nice find while Greater Anis put on a show.

Greater Anis
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.

Yaviza, Rio Chucumaque

 We were met at the port by our local guide for the Darien trip, Isaac Pizaro, from the Guna Indian tribe.

Isaac Pizaro
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 southward migration.

Migrating Broad-winged Hawks
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.

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.
Deserted Harpy Eagle nest
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.

Our stuff arrives on horseback at Rancho Frio
We were suitably tired by the time we reached Rancho Frio in the late afternoon, and pleased that all our stuff had arrived safely aboard the horses.

1 comment:

  1. An amazing collection of birds and congratulations on the Crested Eagle. Sad to hear about the Harpy being shot. The locals who shot have lost a major asset regardless of the monies they seek from visiting birders.