Great Potoo, Panama by Aaron-Steed Green Honeycreeper, Panama by Aaron-Steed Group at Lodge Rufous Motmot Canopy Lodge, Panama by Simon Thompson View from Canopy Tower by Aaron-Steed White-tailed Trogon by Aaron-Steed Spectacled Owl, Panama by Simon Thompson

 

Trip Report


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Trip Report for our Venture to

Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, Panama

March 7-14, 2014


March 7: Arrive at Canopy Tower
March 8: Morning on Tower; Semaphore Hill Rd; PM Rainforest Discovery Center
March 9: Cerro Azul; Maipo Calle; Panama Viejo mudflats
March 10: Pipeline Road; Ammo Ponds; Summit Park and Ponds
March 11: Tower birding; Transfer to Canopy Lodge
March 12: Las Minas; La Mesa; Cari Iguana
March 13: Altos del Maria
March 14: Anton; Juan Hombron Rd; El Chiru
March 15: Departure

 

White-tailed Trogon by Aaron-Steed

We arrived at the Canopy Tower in the afternoon after finishing up our pre-trip at the Canopy Camp in Darien and met with those who opted out of the pre-trip and were just starting their Panama adventure. For the rest of us, our adventure continued! After the long travel day we rewarded ourselves with wine and snacks and spent our birding from the top of the tower while we waited for dinner to be ready. The view from the top is spectacular but the birding is arguably even better! Here we watched Shining, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers foraging with Tennessee and Bay-breasted Warblers. Band-rumped and Short-tailed Swifts circled the tower hunting for insects. As night fell the fantastic, eerie tremolo of the Great Tinamou emanated from the undergrowth around the base of the tower.


We arose to watch the sunrise and have our coffee first thing next morning – a tradition we maintained Spectacled Owl, Panama by Simon Thompsonduring our stay at the Tower. We began the morning with brief looks at a Broad-billed Motmot, perched in the trees below the top of the tower. Green Shrike-Vireos called from all around and we spotted a few Slate-colored Grosbeaks with their massive, bright orange beaks catching the morning sun. White-necked Jacobins buzzed in droves around the feeders near the tower’s base and also the flowers in the canopy. The surprise of the morning certainly was a female Rufous-crested Coquette, apparently only the 2nd record for the tower. After breakfast we walked down Semaphore Hill and enjoyed a bird-filled morning. We found both White-whiskered and Black-breasted Puffbirds, Cinnamon and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, and a Squirrel Cuckoo literally running up branches and hopping from perch to perch. Here also were good numbers of Black-crowned Antshrike and Spotted Antbird. We got great looks at White-breasted Wood-Wren as it sang from the tops of downed logs and then flew to its next perch, singing again. Other trip birds included Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Speckled Mourner and Southern Bentbill. For the afternoon we went looking for a previously reported antswarm near the Rainforest Discovery Center near Pipeline Road. On the drive in we inadvertently flushed a gorgeous White Hawk from its perch. We watched as it flew over the road and back into the forest out of sight. After a bit of trying we located an antswarm, and although it wasn’t as big as we expected we had loads of good birds. Song Wrens hopped around literally at our feet while Spotted Antbirds walked across logs right in front of us. A Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, one of the birds of the trip, furtively walked along the ground away from us. We got decent looks through the foliage for a few minutes before it walked up a slope and out of sight.
Rufous Motmot Canopy Lodge, Panama by Simon Thompson

 

The next morning we headed up Cruz Azul for some higher elevation birding. This is one of the better places for finding Yellow-eared Toucanets, and sure enough, after about 45 minutes of watching Rufous-winged, Bay-headed, Golden-hooded, Plain-colored and Crimson-backed Tanagers a flock of 5 birds flew up and landed in a bare tree. Needless to say we got incredible although quick views before they flew on. We had lunch at the house of an American Ex-pat couple and had a wonderful time watching the hummingbird hordes feeding on their many feeders. We found a vast array of hummingbirds here: White-necked Jacobin, Green Hermit, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Crowned Woodnymph, and Blue-chested, Snowy-bellied, Rufous-tailed, and Violet-capped Hummingbirds all made an appearance. Also thoroughly satisfying was watching a pair of Rufous Motmots eating bananas alongside Crimson-backed Tanagers and Green Honeycreepers. Right as we were packing up to leave, we heard the call of the Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, a species endemic to Panama. Within a few minutes we had located the bird working the trunk high up in a tree – we got fantastic looks and watched for several minutes before profusely thanking our hosts for their hospitality and heading down the mountain. The mudflats at Panama Viejo was our last stop of the afternoon en route back to the tower and expectedly held a few different species we had yet to see on this trip. Here we satisfied our coastal birding fix with huge flocks of Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic Cormorant, Brown Pelican and Marbled Godwit and a smattering of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, White Ibis, Black-bellied Plover, Whimbrel and Royal Tern. Another highlight was seeing a beautiful Mangrove Yellow Warbler in the tree branches right above us.

 

The famous Pipeline Road was our destination the next morning and certainly lived up to its reputation. Green Honeycreeper, Panama by Aaron-SteedGartered, Black-throated, and Black-tailed Trogons all made an appearance along with Boat-billed and Social Flycatchers, a pair of Blue Ground Doves and a few gorgeous Moustached Antwrens. Obligate antbirds are always a highlight and our excitement was no surprise when we found a great little flock of Ocellated and Bicolored Antbirds. We also managed unbelievable views of a Streak-chested Antpitta as it mercilessly thrashed a caterpillar on the ground – what a show! On our way out we saw a lovely male Blue-crowned Manakin and as we got out for one last stop to scan through a mixed flock of foraging birds we immediately heard the 3-note song of a Pheasant Cuckoo! This apparently had been the first one encountered this year on Pipeline Road, and we eventually found the bird and got it in the scope. We watched for the next quarter of an hour and marveled at the absurdity of its tail and enjoyed watching it vocalize. Afterwards, a quick stop at Summit Park to scan the ponds yielded Boat-billed Heron and Ringed, Amazon, and Green Kingfishers. We followed our local guide Carlos as he took us right to a spot where a Rufous Nightjar has been for the last few years. Carlos located the bird almost instantly, perfectly camouflaged in some leaves on the ground. As if that wasn’t good enough, Carlos led us not 5 minutes from the Nightjar spot and found a Spectacled Owl. There aren’t many better ways to end a great day of birding than by seeing 2 nocturnal birds extremely well during the day.

 

Great Potoo, Panama by Aaron-SteedAfter breakfast the following morning we departed the Canopy Tower and began the last chapter of our Panama trip, heading to the wonderful Canopy Lodge in El Valle. We arrived around lunchtime and had plenty of time to observe the banana feeders and the almost steady traffic of birds. Rufous Motmot, Crimson-backed and Blue-gray Tanagers and several species of Euphonia were all seen on the feeders. We even noticed a few Prothonotary and Tennessee Warblers nibbling the edges of banana chunks, a sight that most of us USA birders aren’t familiar with seeing! After a brief afternoon exploration of the grounds and the waterfall trail up the road at nearby Canopy Adventure, we called it an evening.

View from Canopy Tower by Aaron-Steed

 

We had left the drier forest of the Canal Zone behind for the higher elevation, lush forests near El Valle, so we expected to see quite a few new trip birds on this section of our trip. We were not disappointed, and at La Mesa we loaded up with new birds including Orange-bellied Trogon, Plain and Spot-crowned Antvireos, Slaty Antwren, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Rufous-capped Warbler, Tawny-faced Gnatwren and other beauties such as Silver-throated Tanager, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis and Chesnut-capped Brushfinch. Another highlight was finding a pair of Snowcaps, another higher elevation specialty.  Later in the day we explored different parts of El Valle, and with LOTS of hard work we eventually saw a pair of Tody Motmots, presumably with a nest nearby, as they were incredibly secretive. We also got great looks at Lance-tailed Manakin, a bird we had only heard earlier in the trip.

 

At Altos del Maria we continued the lush forest theme and at our first stop we bagged White-tailed Emerald, Green Thorntail, and several more Snowcaps as well as a Brown-billed Scythebill. Spotted Barbtails were relatively common up here, as were Red-faced Spinetails – we watched as one worked on its nest, flying back and forth with nesting material in its mouth. We had a few Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanets fly over and several perched where we could see them. We eventually found a Black-crowned Antpitta as well as a Black-headed Antthrush and got fleeting glimpses of both, which were anything but cooperative. The next day was our last in Panama and we opted to head towards the Pacific coast for some more lowland birding.


Group at LodgeThe day grew hot quickly, but we didn’t mind as we continued picking up trip birds left and right. Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures cruised low over cattle pastures and Roadside, Savannah and Short-tailed Hawks were seen as well. One of our main target birds for the day was the Veraguan Mango, and it wasn’t long before we spotted a brilliant male. The open country interspersed with patches of trees and scrub are attractive to many species of flycatcher, from Mouse-colored Tyrannulet to Northern Scrub and Fork-tailed Flycatchers. This habitat is also where one would expect to find Aplomado Falcon and it was no surprise when we eventually found one perched atop an isolated tree in the middle of a field. As the day wore on we began heading back to the Lodge for our last evening. We made a pit stop along the way at a known roost for Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and after about 20 minutes of searching we found one perched in full sunlight! What a fantastic way to end our last full day in Panama!

 

After a relaxing evening we arose early the next morning to say ‘Adios’ to the Canopy Lodge and Panama. Some of us got to watch the feeders one last time before catching a ride to Tocumen Airport. We finished our Canopy Tower and Lodge trip with 330 species (or, if combined with Darien pre-trip, 412 species).  The fantastic selection of birds, the incredible diversity of wildlife, not to mention the great food, lodging and our wonderful group of participants all made this an unforgettable trip!

 

Aaron Steed

 

Birds seen or heard on our Venture to

Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, Panama

March 7-14, 2014

Great Tinamou
Little Tinamou
Brown Pelican
Neotropic Cormorant
Anhinga
Magnificent Frigatebird
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Boat-billed Heron
Fasciated Tiger-Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Osprey
Swallow-tailed Kite
White-tailed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
Double-toothed Kite
Barred Hawk
White Hawk
Savanna Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Black Hawk-Eagle
Crested Caracara
Yellow-headed Caracara
Barred Forest-Falcon
Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon

American Kestrel

Aplomado Falcon
Bat Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Gray-headed Chachalaca
Black Guan
Gray-necked Wood-Rail
Wattled Jacana
Southern Lapwing
Black-bellied Plover
Marbled Godwit
Whimbrel
Spotted Sandpiper
Willet
Sanderling
Laughing Gull
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Scaled Pigeon
Pale-vented Pigeon
Short-billed Pigeon
Plain-breasted Ground-Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Blue Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Purplish-backed Quail-Dove
Brown-throated Parakeet
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Brown-hooded Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
Red-lored Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Greater Ani
Smooth-billed Ani
Groove-billed Ani
Striped Cuckoo
Pheasant Cuckoo
Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo
Tropical Screech-Owl
Spectacled Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Rufous Nightjar
Band-rumped Swift
Chimney Swift
Short-tailed Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Green Hermit
Long-billed Hermit
Stripe-throated Hermit
White-necked Jacobin
Veraguan Mango
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Rufous-crested Coquette
Green Thorntail
Garden Emerald
White-tailed Emerald
Violet-capped Hummingbird
Crowned Woodnymph (Violet)
Violet-bellied Hummingbird
Sapphire-throated Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Blue-chested Hummingbird
Snowy-bellied Hummingbird
Snowcap
White-vented Plumeleteer
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer
Purple-crowned Fairy
White-tailed Trogon
Gartered (Violaceous) Trogon
Orange-bellied Trogon

Black-throated Trogon
Black-tailed Trogon
Slaty-tailed Trogon
Ringed Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Amazon Pygmy Kingfisher
Tody Motmot
Whooping (Blue-crowned) Motmot
Rufous Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
White-necked Puffbird
Black-breasted Puffbird
White-whiskered Puffbird
Blue-throated (Emerald) Toucanet
Yellow-eared Toucanet
Collared Aracari
Keel-billed Toucan
Black (Chestnut)-mandibled Toucan
Black-cheeked Woodpecker
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker
Cinnamon Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Crimson-crested Woodpecker
Red-faced Spinetail
Spotted Barbtail
Plain Xenops
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Black-striped Woodcreeper
Spotted Woodcreeper
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Brown-billed Scythebill
Fasciated Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
Western Slaty-Antshrike
Plain Antvireo
Spot-crowned Antvireo
Moustached Antwren
Checker-throated Antwren
White-flanked Antwren
Slaty Antwren
Dot-winged Antwren
Dusky Antbird
White-bellied Antbird
Chestnut-backed Antbird
Spotted Antbird
Bicolored Antbird
Ocellated Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Black-headed Antthrush
Streak-chested Antpitta
Black-crowned Antpitta
Blue Cotinga
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
Red-capped Manakin
Blue-crowned Manakin
Lance-tailed Manakin
White-ruffed Manakin
Golden-collared Manakin
Thrush-like Schiffornis
Forest Elaenia
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Lesser Elaenia
Brown-capped Tyrannulet
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Mouse-colored Tyrannulet
Paltry Tyrannulet
Rufous-browed Tyrannulet
Sepia-capped Flycatcher
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Northern Scrub-Flycatcher
Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant
Southern Bentbill
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Yellow-margined Flycatcher
Brownish Twistwing
Bran-colored Flycatcher
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher
Black-tailed Flycatcher
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Tropical Pewee
Tufted Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Long-tailed Tyrant
Piratic Flycatcher
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Gray-capped Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Lesser Kiskadee
Streaked Flycatcher
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Rufous Mourner
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Panama Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Bright-rumped Attila
Speckled Mourner
Black-crowned Tityra

Masked Tityra
White-winged Becard
Mangrove Swallow
Gray-breasted Martin
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-bellied Wren
Rufous-breasted Wren
Bay Wren
Rufous-and-white Wren
Plain Wren
House Wren
Ochraceous Wren
White-breasted Wood-Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Scaly-breasted (Southern Nightingale) Wren
Song Wren
Tropical Mockingbird
Pale-vented Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush
Tawny-faced Gnatwren
Long-billed Gnatwren
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Black-chested Jay
House Sparrow
Yellow-throated Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Scrub Greenlet
Golden-fronted Greenlet
Lesser Greenlet
Green Shrike-Vireo
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Yellow-crowned Euphonia
Thick-billed Euphonia
Fulvous-vented Euphonia
White-vented Euphonia
Tawny-capped Euphonia
Lesser Goldfinch
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Yellow Warbler (Mangrove as well)
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Mourning Warbler
Canada Warbler
Rufous-capped Warbler
Bananaquit
White-eared Conebill
Common Bush-Tanager
Black-and-yellow Tanager
Rosy Thrush-Tanager
Dusky-faced Tanager
Carmiol’s (Olive) Tanager
Gray-headed Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Tawny-crested Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
Red-throated Ant-Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
Summer Tanager
Crimson-backed Tanager
Flame (Lemon) rumped Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Plain-colored Tanager
Emerald Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Speckled Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Rufous-winged Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis
Blue Dacnis
Green Honeycreeper
Shining Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Blue-black Grassquit
Variable Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch
Orange-billed Sparrow
Black-striped Sparrow
Streaked Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Slate-colored Grosbeak
Black-faced Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak
Dickcissel
Eastern Meadowlark
Great-tailed Grackle
Shiny Cowbird
Giant Cowbird
Yellow-tailed Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Yellow-billed Cacique
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Scarlet-rumped Cacique
Crested Oropendola
Chestnut-headed Oropendola

Mammals

Red-tailed Squirrel
Pygmy Squirrel
Mantled Howler Monkey
Geoffroy’s Tamarin
White-nosed Coati
Central American Agouti
Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth
White-tailed Deer

Nine-banded Armadillo

 

Reptiles & Amphibians


Spectacled Caiman
Common Basilisk
House Gecko
Common Slider

Green Iguana

Insects etc.

 

Leafcutter Ants
Army Ants
Helicopter Damselfly

Blue Morpho and many more butterfly & moth species