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, 22 October 2015

Panama, Final Chapter: Boquete to Cerro Santiago

White-bellied Mountain-Gem
After visiting the Volcan area of Panama’s Chiriqui province (see following post) we transferred to the delightful town of Boquete on the eastern side of Baru Volcano. On our way up the steep road to the hotel, we encountered a party of Sulphur-winged Parakeets and the first of several Dark Peewees we saw in the area, along with niceties such as Elegent Euphonia, White-tailed Emerald and American Dipper.
Sulphur-winged Parakeet - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
 A large Mussurana snake was encountered; these snakes evidently feed on poisonous pit vipers.

Mussurana snake
The next morning we left very early for a 2.5-hour drive to the Continental Divide in the area where the borders between Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro provinces  define the Pacific slope to the south and the Caribbean slope to the north. We spent the day birding trails and roads on both slopes.

Fortuna Reserve - Continental Divide
We were fortunate that many trees and shrubs were flowering; we had hummingbirds in abundance. White-bellied Mountain-Gem and Purple-throated Mountain-Gem were present in small numbers along our first road on the Pacific slope, along with a pair of unexpected Snowcaps (a third was seen later).  Also unexpected were 6-8 Black-bellied Hummingbirds – a difficult species in its limited range. Green-crowned Brilliant and Violet-headed Hummingbird were among other hummers seen this day.

Green-crowned Brilliant
An Anole lizard created a brief diversion from the birding.

Anole Lizard
A highly vocal Costa Rica Pygmy-Owl  attracted large numbers of hummingbirds and other species, notably a much wanted endemic - Blue-and-gold Tanager.  Other birds buzzing the owl included Tawny-capped Euphonia, Black-and-yellow Tanager and Common Bush-Tanager.

Black-and-yellow Tanager
Tawny-capped Euphonias
On the Caribbean slope, a male Lattice-tailed Trogon was a sight for sore eyes; the last of the neotropical trogons for my list. Soon after, an Ochre-breasted Antpitta – a species I had dipped on in several countries - showed brilliantly. And soon after that on another path, a Black-headed Ant-thrush showed very well.
Lattice-tailed Trogon - Pic by Ketil Knudsen

Ochre-breasted Antpitta - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
Our second morning at Boquete was spent wandering the very pleasant local road and trails at a leisurely pace.

View from Boquete Tree-trek Hotel
A Hercules Beetle found by Tau was very nice.

Tau with Hercules beetle
Brown Violetear and Philadelphia Vireo were among the birds that were about.

Brown Violetear
In the early afternoon we moved east to  San Felix - our final destination before returning to Panama City.  We made a return visit to Las Lajas (seeing following post) in the late afternoon. Early the next morning we headed north to Cerro Santiago, our third big birding site for the trip in the west Panamanian mountains. We had a Dusky Nightjar calling right by the car as we stopped before dawn, with the bird showing well enough and another calling nearby. It was not long before we connected with our main target hear – the endemic and endearing Yellow-green Finch.

Yellow-green Finch - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
Streak-breasted Treehunter was another nice find and there seemed to be quite a few around.

Streak-breasted Treehunter - Pic by Ketil Knudsen
In beautiful conditions in the pleasant early morning we saw other birds including Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Ruddy Treehunter. Then we embarked on the long return drive to Panama City for the final leg of our three-week sojourn.

Cerro Santiago
This trip was not without challenge. The Darien and Cerro Pirre in particular were never going to be easy for a large group and we had our share of ups and downs. There were unfortunately one or two significant personality issues; these may be pursued in less public forums so that other groups may learn from our experience. The organisation by Birding Panama was first-class and a credit to them, notwithstanding a few hiccups along the way. Our guide Euclides (Kilo) Campos was superb and is highly recommended. Our driver Francisco was always happily up for the very early starts and long drives.

White-bellied Mountain-Gem
Most importantly, we had great success on this trip birdwise with a total list of about 600 species. Star birds included: Black-eared Wood-Quail, Agami Heron, Crested Eagle, Plumbeous Hawk, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Costa Rica Pygmy-Owl, Dusky Nightjar, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Veraguan Mango, White-bellied Mountain-Gem, Snowcap, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Pirre Hummingbird, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Resplendent Quetzal, Tody Motmot, Barred Puffbird, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Spot-crowned Barbet, Tody Motmot, Speckle-faced Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Wing-banded Antbird, Black Ant-shrike, Black-crowned Antpitta, Speckled Antshrike, Streak-breasted Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Black-headed Ant-thrush, Sapayoa, Brown-billed Scythebill, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaner, Beautiful Treerunner, Speckled Mourner, Double-banded Greytail, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Ochraceous Peewee, Russet-winged Schiffornis, Blue Cotinga, Sharpbill, Silvery-throated Jay, Sooty-headed Wren, Stripe-throated Wren, Varied Solitaire, Pirre Warbler, Zeledonia (Wrenthrush), Green-naped Tanager, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Pirre Bush-Tanager,Viridian Dacnis, Orange-collared Manakin, Green Manakin, Yellow-green Finch, Black Oropendola.

Thanks to Ketil Knudsen for the use of some of his superb pics after I drowned my camera. Six more blog posts from the trip follow. A full trip report will be published in due course.

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