Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time to pay attention to the bamboo?

Today I spent the morning searching for birds with Osvaldo Quintero in the Old Gamboa road (aka Summit Ponds road). This is an easy walk, with many birds due to the variety of habitats and close to the city... it is perfect for those seeking a long list in few hours or if you want to have prolonged views of emblematic neotropical birds like toucans, caciques, trogons, kingfishers and so on... We started at the ponds itself, where we saw Amazon and Green Kingfishers waiting over the surface for a victim, and a Collared Aracari that deigned in giving a glimpse over its shoulder. A pair of Great Kiskadees were on a wire, paying attention to all our movements. Soon we realized that the commonest birds now were the migrants, with Northern Waterthrushes and Eastern Wood-Pewees in almost every corner. Others migrants recorded were Prothonotary, Chestnut-sided and Yellow Warblers plus a lonely Great Crested Flycatcher. That activity was low, but constant, with common birds comming to us like Blue-and-gray, Crimson-backed and Gray-headed Tanagers, a pair of Orange-chinned Parakeets excavating a nest, Clay-colored Thrush and others. A quick search of the skies produced migrating flocks of swallows plus some unidentified Chaetura swifts. Also, we got a migrating flock of Swainson's and Broad-winged Hawks accompanying a greater group of Turkey Vultures (more on them in another post, I promise). I must say that not everything is good in paradise... part of the trail has been widened and cleared in order to improve an access road to some installations of the ACP (Panama Canal Authority), but we still managed to find some specialties of the area, including a Jet Antbird (although only heard). A bit discouraged by the scene, we reached the group of bamboo close to the half way, most of it now lying on the floor. For our surprise (and I mean BIG surprise), we heard the characteristic loud and buzzy thrill of a Slate-colored Seedeater right above us in the bamboo!! We played a tape and then a second male with a female appeared, allowing us to take some shots. We stayed for 15 minutes or so, appreciating these nomadic seedeaters. Very happy with the finding, we decided to go to the Metropolitan Natural Park, just to see if we can catch up the migrating flock of raptors over the city. One hour later we were in the lookout, but with no luck this time (no raptors). We started to return through "La Cienegüita" trail. Few minutes later, I heard what I thought first was an auditive hallucination caused by the dehydration: a loud and buzzy thrill over a bunch of bamboo!! And guess what... for the second time in the day we were watching two males Slate-colored Seedeaters singing with all their forces. Well, I imagine that it is time to pay more attention to the bamboo. Considering that all those bamboo-associated birds are quite rare and nomadic (at least in Panama), and that this particular month of october has produced some reports of these birds (Barred Parakeet, Peg-billed and Slaty Finches here; Slate-colored Seedeater here) is logical to think that maybe IT IS HAPPENING... the flowering of the bamboo... or maybe I'm just overreacting and all these are coincidences? It is supposed to be one of the rarest sight in the botanical world, an event that occurs every 10 to 120 years and when it occurs; well, all the bamboo plants of that species flower at the same time and then die at the same time too... is not amazing? I'm not going to take any risk and I will organize a birding trip to the western highlands, searching for those bamboo-specialists that I still need. Want to join me?


  1. Hello, you have a very nice blog, photos are nice, I wish a nice day, Radka.