To Monday, July 31, 2017
Imagine awakening to the repetitive calls of a Green Shrike-Vireo chanting Peter-Peter-Peter, and then actually seeing it at eye level from the top deck of your hotel! Notoriously “tough” to spot in the canopy, the shrike-vireo is just one of a host of tropical possibilities that lives in the uppermost leaf strata. Other prizes include the cerulean-colored Blue Cotinga and violaceous Scaled Pigeons. The Canopy Tower, completed in 1998, offers us a comfortable rooftop perch overlooking Soberania National Park and the famous rain forest surrounding the Canal Zone. Well-known as a birder’s paradise, nearly 1000 species have been recorded from Central America’s most famous land bridge nation. From the Canopy Tower we’ll have easy access to a variety of habitats, including lowland rain forest, dry Pacific savanna, mangrove marshes, and tropical sea shores. Only 50 miles wide, central Panama is the conduit through which a kaleidoscope of birds must pass. Visiting marshes near the capital, we’ll look for Striated Heron, Cocoi Heron, Wattled Jaçana, Greater Ani, and Buff-breasted Wren. At Metropolitan Park we’ll try for Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Dot-winged Antbirds, Golden-collared Manakin, and the lovely Rosy Thrush-Tanager. The Canal Zone is arguably the most reliable location to see this richly colored tanager in its entire range. Our premier lowland location will be the Pipeline Road. On the Pipeline we may find Black Hawk-Eagle, Blue-headed Parrot, Violet-bellied and Snowy-breasted Hummingbird, four species of trogons, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, three species of toucans, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, and a rainbow of brilliant honeycreepers, dacnis, and tropical tanagers. Army Ant swarms here can attract Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds, Barred and Black-striped Woodcreepers, and Gray-headed Tanagers, as well as many others. Across the isthmus in the Caribbean lowlands, the Escobál Road rivals the Pipeline in the richness of its avifauna. Here, too, we’ll try for another stunning member of the tanagra clan, the lovely Golden-hooded Tanager. Competing for our attention will be a phalanx of brightly-marked, sprightly little antwrens, as well as reclusive antvireos, antthrushes, and antpittas, and possible Black-breasted and Pied Puffbirds. Perhaps most memorable of all is the feast of music provided by the host of tropical denizens that surround the Canopy Tower. For many, hearing a family of Song Wrens thread their way through the forest understory eclipses a close encounter with one through binoculars. Situated some 60 miles west of Panama City is the flower-filled and bird-rich El Valle de Anton. Canopy Lodge, the sister facility to Canopy Tower, provides a luxurious base camp from which to explore a delightful new avifauna. Just on the grounds itself are velveteen-textured Crimson-backed Tanagers. Located in the ancient heart of a broad volcanic crater, we hike the gentle trails of nearby Cerro Gaital Monumento Natural. Habitués include Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Rufous-crested Coquette, and Spotted Barbtail, a diminutive member of the Ovenbird clan that regularly joins large mixed species flocks with a wide array of antbirds, woodcreepers, warblers, and tanagers. Nearby cloud forest supports reclusive White-tipped Sicklebill, Tody Motmot, and the potential for a mega-rarity like Scaled Antpitta or Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. More expected are Sunbittern, White Hawk, and Tawny-crested Tanager. Our birding sites at El Valle range between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, and the climate is distinctly cooler than the Canopy Tower and the Canal Zone. Braided by mountain streams, including one bordering the lodge, El Valle provides a comfortable and birdy overview of the eye-candy tropical avifauna of Panama.
Leaders: Panamanian leader & John Yerger
Cost of Panama: Canopy Tower & Lodge (July 22-31, 2017) includes all accommodations, all meals, all transportation, and all entrances beginning and ending in Panama City, Panama—$3595.
See also: Panama: Pre-Tour to Canopy Camp (July 15-22, 2017)
Photo: Broad-billed Motmot
Photo by: Rick Taylor