Thursday, September 12, 2019

Darien Lowlands Clean-up!

Darien, of eastern Panama, is the largest and less-developed province of the country, home of great biodiversity, including tons of endemics and regional specialties found nowhere else in North America.  That is why, if you are doing a Panama (or Central America) Big Year you MUST include several trips to this province.  I covered well the highlands of the province with their hordes of endemics (see field trips posts HERE and HERE), getting some lowlands species as well in the same trips plus other trips with specific targets (like my flash trip to Finca Los Lagos)... but I still needed some lowlands specialties of the province.  So, I contacted Domiciano "Domi" Alveo, of Birding Trips Panama, an experienced bird guide and good friend of mine, to take me to the eastern lowlands in search of those targets.
Because I'm always short of time, we planned a weekend trip leaving Panama City Friday afternoon.  Leaving the city on Friday afternoon is a mess, but somehow we managed it without too much delay.  The 4-hours trip to the town of Metetí was more enjoyable with Domi's company ... we talked about the possibilities that awaited us all the way, and we even had time to spy an Striped Owl on the side of the road.  We got to our hotel at Metetí on time to sleep right away!
Striped Owl
Very early the next day, at first light we were boarding our "piragua" at the town of La Peñita, along the Chucunaque river.  Our destination was the Embera village of Nuevo Vigía, along the Tuquesa river, a tributary of the Chucunaque river.  This community has received visiting birders and naturalists since a while ago and are  well aware of the benefits of the sustainable tourism activities.  It became clearly evident that they know their birds... after all, where can you see a Welcome Sign with Dusky-backed Jacamar on it?
Domi and our boatman on the piragua along the mighty Chucunaque river
"Welcome to the community of Nuevo Vigía"
In fact, the Dusky-backed Jacamar was my main target for the site.  This range-restricted species is only found in eastern Panama and north-western Colombia.  It is quite localized, but usually faith to known locations where it is quite reliable... but you need the local expertise to find them anyway.  A short boat ride took us to a former orchard, now overgrown.  We immediately started to find some eastern Panama specialties, like Capped Heron, Spectacled Parrotlet, Black-tailed Trogon, Double-banded Graytail and Black Oropendola.  Soon Domi located our target: a young male Dusky-backed Jacamar was quietly waiting for its prey to fly-by.  Nice start!  Soon we moved to another locality, this time closer to the village.  The trail took us through secondary forests and degraded areas, to finally reach a swampy area where we looked after Black-collared Hawk without success; however, we got the most amazing views of secretive Bare-crowned Antbirds in the understore.  The pair, but specially the adult male, left us astonished while they confidently stayed in the open, preening and showing off.  Believe me or not, that was my second sight ever of this species and a great addition to my Year List!
Dusky-backed Jacamar
Adult male Bare-crowned Antbird showing its bare crown!
But there were not only avian highlights in Nuevo Vigía.  The open areas and the village itself were exceptionally good for butterflies, including rare and restricted species.  The whites, yellows, sulfurs and patches were exceptionally common, but the diversity was so high that I'm still trying to ID some of them.  My personal highlights were the Glorious Blue-Skipper (Paches loxus), the Zebra Lonwing (Heliconius charithonia) and my long-expected lifer Red Peacock (Anartia amathea) which is an specialty of eastern Panama.
Glorious Blue-Skipper
Zebra Longwing
Red Peacock
Short before midday, we left Nuevo Vigía in order to visit some sites along the Pan-American highway.  The short stops along the road produced more and more eastern Panama specialties, but certainly the highlights were a singing Red-billed Scythebill and a pair of dueting Black-capped Donacobius allowing great views.  Other highlights of these stops along the highway were Yellow-hooded Blackbirds, Large-billed Seed-Finch, Pied Water-Tyrants, Gray-breasted Crake and a mixed flock with rare White-chinned and Spot-fronted Swifts among others (check this eBird checklist).
Red-billed Scythebill
Black-capped Donacobius
Yellow-hooded Blackbird, adult male
Eventually, we reached the town of Yaviza, at the very end of the Pan-American highway.  This town is the gateway to Darien National Park and to hundreds of communities only reachable through piraguas.  We had lunch there and then spend the part of the afternoon looking for some other species.  The usual stakeout for Bicolored Wren (the graveyard) worked well... we saw a family group near its huge nest foraging at all levels and taking dust baths.  They have certainly prospered in the place, the same as the Carib Grackles that were quite common at town.  In fact, we saw more Caribs than Great-tailed Grackles and even saw juveniles and begging immatures all around.
Bicolored Wrens
Carib Grackle, female
It was a successful and long day, but was not over.  A good friend of us, also an expert birding guide resident in Darien, invited us a cup of coffee at his house.  Ismael "Nando" Quiroz (of Tamandua Nature & Photo Travel Panama) is almost a legend in the birding world of Darien and we know each other since long time ago, so paying him and his beautiful family a visit was a must.  Nando was free that weekend and agreed to join us the next day... I still had some targets and he knew some nice spots where we could try for them.  For some reason, I mentioned that I still needed Tropical Screech-Owl for my Year List... Nando knew a nearby spot where it was guaranteed.  Of course, we jumped into the car and started to drive.  Soon, a curious screech-owl was in the spotlight, perched along a live fence bordering pastureland with thousands of fireflies... what a show!
Tropical Screech-Owl
As planned, we met Nando again for breakfast the next day.  We visited several sites, including famous ones like the roads to Lajas Blancas and to El Salto, finding many eastern Panama specialties (and Year birds) like Red-throated Caracara, Barred Puffbird, Orange-crowned Oriole, White-eared Conebill, among others.  But for my main target of the trip, Nando took us to some rice fields by Quebrada Félix.  Of the five species of macaws in Panama, four of them are found in Darien province and, for some reason, one of them have eluded me all these years.  Supposedly common, the Chestnut-fronted Macaw is the smallest of the macaws found in the country.  Probably bad luck or simply short time birding the appropriate habitat explains why I still needed that bird for my Panama list, but I was decided to add it to my lists this year... so was Nando.  Soon, he heard a pair flying across the field and I was finally able to put my binoculars on them.  They were far away... but eventually we got much better views of other individuals (but no better photos).
Chestnut-fronted Macaws
With most of our targets in the bag, and running out of time, we said good-bye to Nando and started our journey back to Panama City.  Birding can not be easier when you have two excellent guides by your side.  Thanks guys for the GREAT weekend.  I recommend both for them if you want to visit Darien province of eastern Panama..., please don't hesitate to contact them!
Great White Longtail (Urbanus chalco) at Nando's backyard!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

All about timing!

At this point, most of you know that I'm doing a Big Year in Panama.  As in any other place, making a big year implies a lot of time and, why not, money (to travel, essentially)!  However, if you have a profound knowledge of your area birds and their natural history (or get advised by the people who has that knowledge), you may save both time and money... specially if you have a regular job that doesn't implies birding or if you are NOT taking a sabbatic year to birdwatch!
My family in front of Eugene Eisenmann's mural in Coronado, Panama (some years ago of course!)
It is all about timing... knowing when some species are most likely to be more conspicuous than usual, when is their peak migration, or when they visit more accesible sites so you don't have to organize a whole expedition to look after them.  A have many examples of how good timing helped me to find rare or unusual species... but I'll write about two recent experiences in this post.  It took me only two days to trackle down two VERY localized species for Panama, both of them represented by endemic forms that, coincidentally, are named eisenmanni, honoring Eugene Eisenmann (1906-1981), a Panamanian ornithologist well-known in the neotropics by his nomenclature arrangements.  The first one was Grassland Yellow-Finch (Sicalis luteola eisenmanni).  As many other grasslands species, this one is declining in our country due to habitat loss.  Even knowing its usual haunts, it is not easy to find this species in Panama... except during its breeding season when adult males are conspicuously singing atop low bushes in the middle of pasture land.
Adult male Grassland Yellow-Finch
Not only that... this species is absent from apparently suitable habitat, even at the SAME location where we use to spot it... El Chirú, Coclé province in central Panama.  These males are not easy to find either.  The very high-pitched song is hard to follow to the source, there are only few territories (and individuals), you need to crawl under barbed wire fences and dodge curious cattle and being expose to ticks and chiggers while trying to approach them (because if you don't lie down they will spot you right away in their preferred open habitat).  All of these is worth the effort... after just 1.5 hours of driving from Panama City to El Chirú, I was able to find this adult male right away.  Try to do the same any other month... you'll spend weeks around without finding even one!
Singing adult male Grassland Yellow-Finch
I enjoyed this male for some minutes until it flew after another adult male.  Then, I left the place and headed southwest, to western Azuero Peninsula in central Panamá. The several stops along the way (to birdwatch, of course) made a 2.5-hours drive from El Chirú to the town of Malena into a 6+ hours trip.  At Malena, I joined my friend Kees and his wife Loes, who run the lovely Heliconia B&B, my home for that night.  During dinner, we planned the next day: an early breakfast before the 1.5-hours drive to the town of Flores, in extreme southern western Azuero peninsula.  Why?  Well, nances and figs.  Yes, fruits!  Our target there inhabits the middle elevations forests of the Cerro Hoya massif,  essentially inaccessible without mounting an expedition or without an strenuous hike (probably more accesible through Río Pavo).
Kees at Río Pavo
However, during the few weeks when the nances and figs are ripe, our target descend from the mountain to feed on them at the border of the forest with cattle pastures.  And we knew a place where that happens regularly: Finca Velásquez.  Since many years now, Juan Velásquez and his lovely family have been watching and reporting the returning of the Azuero Parakeets (Pyrrhura picta eisenmanni) to their property bordering Cerro Hoya National Park.  Over the years, the ripening of the fruit has been more difficult to predict and the flocks that descend are smaller, shyer and stay for shorter time... so the Velásquez family's input is VERY important to travel there and see the parakeets!
Great Green Macaws
Juan waited for us at the entrance of the finca at 7:00 am and guided us through dirt roads to his property. As soon as we got there it was evident that the fruiting trees were attracting birds, including some parakeets and parrots species, but not the Azueros... yet.  Juan invited us to wander around since he usually sees the parakeets around 9:00 to 10:00 am and pointed us the preferred nance trees. Even before we were able to do so, a flock of resident Great Green Macaws revealed its presence with raucous calls while they flew above us to sit on a fig tree by Juan's house.  It is amazing how such huge birds "dissapeared" as soon as they perched on the fig tree!  We then took the trail to Río Pavo, finding nice activity of mixed flocks, including some western Pacific lowlands specialties like Orange-collared Manakin and Black-hooded Antshrike.  The raptors were represented some nice species, including rare Black-and-White Hawk-Eagles and obliging White Hawk that posed for photos.
White Hawk
At 9:00 am, we were waiting in front of the nance trees pointed before by Juan.  On time, a flock of 12 Azuero Parakeets flew in and perched quietly in one of the trees!  We had excellent views while the birds were eating, but they did not allow photos.  They stayed less than ten minutes and flew away.  One hour later, the same flock arrived again and did the same.  This time I managed to obtain poor photos of an individual feeding on nance.  The Azuero Parakeet is considered part of the Painted Parakeet complex of South America; however, its extraordinaire isolation and differences in plumages respect to other forms merits it specific status according to some authorities, including the Panama Audubon Society.
Poor shot of an Azuero Parakeet feeding on nance
Without the opportune help of the Velásquez family, it would be impossible to see this species and to be back in Panama City by dinner time!  So, there were no need of expeditions nor days off at work (I already runned out of permits for this year)!  There is no doubt that good timing is everything when birding!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

YES, we are still in Panamá!

Birding takes you to amazing places.  Even if you're birding close to home, you may feel that  you are hundreds of miles away.  Well, I recently had that feeling.  Alfred Raab, an old friend of mine winter-resident of Altos del María (AdM), and exclusive development in the foothills of western Panama province, invited me to bird his domains. He wanted to show me some new year-birds for my Big Year quest and I was not going to refuse it.  So, accompanied by Rolando Jordan, we left Panama City around 5:00 am and spent the next 1.5 hours driving along the dry and hot Pacific lowlands while chatting about the probabilities for the day.  Soon we met Alfred at the entrance of AdM.
Altos del María at 8:40 am
AdM development includes several private neighborhoods with paved roads and all the facilities, well-maintained trails and exuberant green areas.  It spreads from about 350 to up to 1100 meters above sea level, with habitats that includes shrubs and pasture lands, secondary dry forests and primary cloud forest as well.  The latter, being above the 1000 meters mark and near (or at) the Continental Divide, are extremely wet, almost always covered in mist and quite chilly... sure it makes you wonder if you are still in Panama!  Well, of course we headed that way!
Red-faced Spinetail (immature)
The weather is not the only thing making you feel away of your usual birding spot... the birds as well!  Those forests represent the extreme eastern end of the range of several species of the western highlands, like Black Guan, Snowcap, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, White-tailed Emerald, Black-faced Grosbeak and Elegant Euphonia... but also are home to some other more widely distributed highlands specialties that are nearly impossible to find in other central foothills (like Cerro Campana or Cerro Azul), like Scaled Antpitta, Red-faced Spinetail, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Sooty-faced Finch and others.  Some species are extremely difficult to find although, but still the list of possibilities is impressive considering how close to the big city it is and how developed it had become!
Common Chlorospingus ssp. punctulatus
Well, we were amazed by the activity up there... the dawn chorus was in its splendor, including five (5) different wrens species just yards away (Song, Scaly-breasted, Isthmian, Rufous-breasted, Rufous-and-White, White and Gray-breasted Wood-Wrens)!  We even got a new bird for AdM for Alfred (Gray-chested Dove).  However, the mist and rain made us move to a lower section, finding blue skies mere 10 minutes away!  Soon, we started to see flocks of Common Chlorospingus, one of the most conspicuous species in mixed flocks in AdM and represented there by the ssp. punctulatus, once considered a full species ("Dotted Chlorospingus").  The taxonomy of actual Common Chlorospingus is certainly a mess... with several different forms meriting specific status for sure!  Anyway, AdM is probable the best place to watch this form.  Other common foothills/highlands species seen or heard were Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Thorntail, Brown Violetear (lifer for Rolando), Tawny-crested Tanagers, Northern Emerald-Toucanets, White-throated Spadebill (one of my targets) and many more!
Brown Violetear
Northern Emerald-Toucanet
One of the most entertaining areas is Valle Bonito, with its trail to the Continental Divide.  It starts at an artificial lagoon with more open habitat that holds some aquatic species as well.  It is an exclusive area... even AdM residents like Alfred need a written permit in advance to enter the area.  Glad Alfred had it!  It was impressive how different the weather was: sunny and calmed... The walk into the forest produced few species (like Bicolored Antbird and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers), while the walk around the lagoon produced a handsome Bran-colored Flycatcher showing exactly how bran color looks like!
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer
Bran-colored Flycatcher
We decided to go back to first site... perhaps it was already clear and sunny as well and we had some targets only found at the wettest parts of the forest.  To our surprise, the place was still foggy and chilly!  We walked some trails adding few new species to our list.  One of these trails get you to a lookout that is good for soaring raptors... but we knew the chances of seeing them were very few due to weather.  Anyway, the sight of the cloud forest from the lookout was impressive.  Moss-covered trees dominated the landscape up there... it looked like another world!
Monte Azul lookout at 2:10 pm
It was a too short day at AdM with Alfred and Rolando.  We ended with more than 90 species in spite of the weather.  To celebrate, we had a quick lunch at a local restaurant accompanying our sancocho (typical chicken soup) with an excellent papaya milkshake.  It was time to go back to the city and to say good-bye to Alfred, not without promising that we will go back after those -few- species that we missed that day.  Happy birding guys!
Alfred, Jan and Rolando.  AdM

Thursday, July 11, 2019

To the depths of the Burica peninsula

Due to Panama's topography, there are few sites from where you can launch a pelagic birding trip.  The typical sites (in the Pacific) are extreme eastern Darien province and some sites in the Azuero Peninsula of central Panama.  The logistic is always complicated (and expensive) due to lack of tour operators and pelagic birders as well!  But then, there is another site where the oceanic depths are close to shore: the Burica Peninsula in extreme western Panama.  While looking for good boats to make a pelagic trip, I came upon Hooked On Panama, a fishing lodge at the southerly town of Limones, at the very tip of the peninsula.  They were more than eager to provide boat, crew and chum, plus the on-ground facilities for our pelagic trip after explaining to them the lack of scientific knowledge of the pelagic avifauna in Panama!
From left to right: Jan Axel, Dave Klauber, George Angehr and Christian Gernez
This was an scouting trip after all... June - July is probably not the best season for pelagic birding in Panama, but anyway we wanted to make that first contact and to evaluate the feasibility of doing more trips from Limones.   Three other birders joined me: Christian Gernez, Dave Klauber and George Angehr, who is the author of "The Birds of Panama,  A Field Guide" and probably one of the most experienced pelagic birder for Panamanian waters.  Taking advantage of the lodge, I travelled with my family, who enjoyed the pool and the beach while we were out under the sun looking for pelagic birds.  In fact, the excellent road conditions from David city, and the lodge amenities are points in favor.  Another point in favor: the boat!  A locally customized 33' Blackfin vessel with all the safety equipments, spacious, comfortable, designed to offer a 360º view of the surroundings and easily accommodating up to six pax!
Our crew knew exactly what we were up to!  Our captain Chaka took us immediately to deep waters south of Burica island and then to the east along the Continental Shelf break while mate Jacinto helped us with all our needs and with the chumming process (essentially fish guts and pop corn).  They have a lot of experience fishing pelagic billfishes, but this was their first time guiding a group of birders... the essentials tips seems to be the same for both activities (fishing and birding in deep waters).  But even before reaching deep waters, we started to have some nice surprises, like the completely out-of-season Elegant Terns close to the lodge (they are supposed to be breeding in Baja this time of the year) and the Humpback Whales swimming extremely close to the town beach (a little bit early, but not unexpected).  Bird and whale watching could be some activities that the lodge can offer during the low-season months of fishing, as Christian pointed out.
Royal and Elegant Terns with Brown Pelicans at the lodge
Humpback Whale at Limones
One of the things about doing a pelagic trip in Panama in June-July is weather.  We were always close to dark clouds and storm systems, but somehow we managed to avoid all of them, experiencing no rain at all (OK, Chaka had a lot to do with that).  Still with land at sight, we started to find the first pelagic birds in the form of Storm-Petrels.  With the exception of few Black Storm-Petrels, all of them were Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels.  Paying attention to this species is key to gain experience on its identification and of other species.  However, after seeing many of them and starting to feel comfortable, we realized that they often showed different flight styles (quite direct with steady wingbeats, but also more bouncing and desperate-looking), size/proportion impressions and molt-timing!  Some birds were fresh-looking while other were in active wing molt... some looked quite small and compact while others looked larger with proportionally long wings...  Were these differences age/sex related, or were they different subspecies?  Or different species?  We need more study on these guys!
Fresh-looking Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel
Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel (notice wing molt)
The storm-petrels were not the only tubenoses out there, we also find Galapagos Shearwaters and a possible Wedge-tailed Shearwater as well, but was too far away to ID with certainty.  However, the most impressive of them all were the Tahiti Petrels (YES, in plural).  We managed to see up to four different individuals at the same time, sometimes very close to the boat!  Just the fourth record for Panamanian waters, where the species surely is a regular visitor during its non-breeding season.  Thinking on these birds crossing the vast Pacific Ocean to visit our warm waters is simply overwhelming!
Tahiti Petrel.  Fourth record for Panama
Apart of the Elegant Terns seen at shore, we only saw another tern species during the trip: Brown Noddy.  Most of the terns species found in Panama are boreal migrants, so we did not expect to find them in June-July, at least not in considerable numbers.  Our resident tern species (like the noddy) are probably found close to their breeding islands during this time of the year.  Anyway, we enjoyed the sole member of the Sterninae out there... the anti-tern species by the way (dark body, pale crown, wedge tail)
Brown Noddy
Another highlight of the trip were the Sulids (boobies).  We found three different species (of five possible), including Nazca and Brown Boobies.  At some point, we approached Islas Ladrones that host one of the biggest colonies of Brown Boobies in Panama, crossing several flocks of these boobies flying back and forth from and to the islands.  The Nazcas, as usual, were always far from shore, on floating debris or in powerful flight over the waves showing no interest in the boat.
Brown Booby 
Nazca Booby
Soon it was time to go back.  A huge school of Short-beaked  Common Dolphins gave us the farewell before heading back to shore.  Calm waters meant that nobody had sea-sickness at all and the cloudy day help to avoid sunburns!  After a 6-hours trip we were back at the lodge, enjoying a couple of cold drinks and celebrating this very first pelagic experience birding the depths of the Burica Peninsula.  I can not wait to go back!  Would you join me?
Short-beaked Common Dolphins

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2019 Macaulay Library Sound Recording Workshop

When you appreciate birds in the wild you quickly realize the infinite variety of facets they have. Taking notes or photos simply becomes insufficient and, at least for me, it became evident that I should record their songs and calls. So, shyly, I started recording bird sounds with my smartphone, nothing more. Definitely not the best, and thanks to some online tutorials I improved my technique a bit ... it was when I started uploading many of my audios to eBird.  Well, someone was paying attention to this.  By the end of 2018, I received an email from Matthew Medler, who is the Collection Manager Leader of the Macauly Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, inviting me to this year Sound Recording Workshop... I was surprised!
Matt showing us interesting equipment at the museum of the Macaulay Library
YES!  Ready to go!
The complexity of bird sounds is so wide that it certainly surpasses other aspects of their lives.  With the large variety of songs, sub songs, calls, contact calls, flight calls and non-vocal sounds (used in some displays and other situations), now I think it is absurd to annotate "Heard only" in my eBird checklists (in fact, it make more sense to annotate "Seen only" if you see a silent bird).  The Macaulay Library collect and preserve recordings of each species' behavior and natural history, and make it available for research, educational and commercial purposes... so I guess there is no better institution to teach you about how to record natural sounds.
Thanks God the parabolas are way lighter now!
Cornell University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology hosted the workshop.  One by one, each of the participants arrived at the Robert Purcell Community Center, at the North Campus.  Matt gave us an introductory lecture and assigned the equipment, while we started to know each other.  What a terrific group!  Locals and foreigners (from ten different countries) with different interests and expertise, but all passionate about birds and wildlife in general, under the guidance of world-top, renowned instructors, specialist in their fields and experts birders.  I was happy to meet with old friends (like Roselvy) and finally meet people who had only contacted by email at some point during their birding trips through my country (like Kathi, who was one of the instructors).  Staying at the dorms of the North Campus, attending the lectures and having meals at the community center with your personalized card made us feel the academic environment of one of the most renowned institution in the US.
This is how a 4:20 am breakfast looks like
The workshop was planned in detail.  Everyday we started early with breakfast at 4:20 am in order to be on route to our recording sites no latter than 5:15 am.  We changed sites (and thus habitats and sound recording conditions) every day.  The fieldwork consisted of dividing us into small teams (usually of two or three), each with an instructor who showed us the best sound recording techniques, helped us with the settings of the equipments, bird ID and kept us on schedule ... really a personalized attention.
With Daniel Souza (from Mexico), all geared up! Morgan Rd. marshes.
Then we would go back to the community center for lunch. In the afternoon we attended the talks and spent time editing our recordings; but we also attend the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where we carry out various activities... these visits were certainly a personal highlight of the workshop.   Of course we had plenty of spare time to birdwatch and socialize... even one afternoon was scheduled to twitch local rarities and special birds around the Finger Lakes area!
These birders know how to have fun! With Orlando, Rafael and Daniela
And the results?  Well, more than 800 recordings uploaded to eBird by the participants of the workshop during the week, with notable improvement of its quality throughout the days!  I uploaded 69 recordings and had 17 lifers!  But most important, I got new friends from all over the world that share my passion and that work hard to make this world a better one for birds and, why not, for us too!
Some of our instructors: Andrew Spencer, Matthew Medler and Jay McGowan
And what about the lifers?  Well, I documented 13 of my 17 lifers with sound or photo.  The warblers and wrens offered the best sound recordings experiences, while waterfowls were nice highlights, specially those northern breeders that stayed a little bit more due to different circumstances, like Redhead, Canvasback and Snow Goose.  An all-white goose may be boring... but hey!, ANY bird with "Snow" on its name is a highlight for this sun-lover Panamanian!
Adult male Redhead
Adult male Canvasback
Snow Geese
The avian lifers were not the only ones!  We saw plenty of wild mammals running freely at the campus, like White-tailed Deer, Eastern Gray Squirrel and Eastern Cottontail, plus several new  species for most of the foreign members of the group, like extremely-cute Eastern Chipmunks, Woodchucks, Striped Skunk, Muskrat, American Beaver and even an adult Black Bear at the Arnot Forest that allowed GREAT views (video recorded by Arthur Gomes, one of the participants from Brazil)!
American Beaver... somewhat reminiscent of our Capybaras
I want to thank all the personnel of the Macaulay Library and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the great experience... we felt at home.  And all my companions and instructors at the workshop for the great moments.  The question know is... do I get a shotgun microphone or a parabola?  Whatever I decide, prepare to see me recording birds in every corner of Panama soon!