Monday, January 4, 2010

PAS Atlantic Christmas Birds Count

One more time january has come and our first birding trip of the year have been to the Caribbean coast, attending the Atlantic CBC organized by the Panama Audubon Society. This was the 40th edition of this count in Panama... a count that occupied the first place for 19 consecutively years worldwide! We were assigned to the areas of Galeta Point, Colon City, Margarita, Mindi and Diversion Creek, all at the east side of the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal. These areas include a vast territory and a great variety of habitats, making it a very pleasant tour full of birds. Our first stop in route to Galeta, over a bridge at the mangroves, produced many water birds, including lots of Green Herons, but also egrets, Ringed Kingfisher, Panama Flycatcher and Straight-billed Woodcreepers. We made many stops along the way before reaching the ANAM rangers station where, after a short introduction, they allowed us the entrance to the protected area. Galeta Point is the name of a Smithsonian's Marine Laboratory located on a tiny peninsula at the Caribbean coast sheltered by a coral reef. It has some facilities for the visitors and even a place to stay for researchers and, occasionally, tourists. It reminds me Culebra Point, but with smaller buildings and a bigger protected area including mangroves, reefs, sandy beaches, rocky shores, grasslands and secondary forest... all inside the counting circle. We spent most of the time at the habitats close to the laboratory, finding a huge caiman at the grassland close to the antennas and a huge group of waders at the mangroves. Inspecting the shores at the main building produced some plovers (Black-bellied and Semipalmated), Ruddy Turnstones and a lonely Belted Kingfisher (perhaps the only one for the count). We took few minutes to admire the exhibitions which include some sea turtles, equinoderms, and a curious pufferfish, before moving to another area: Colon City. We were searching for gulls and terns at the Colon 2000 Cruises Port, finding only Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns... and a huge cruise ship anchored waiting the tourists. We found also many common city birds in the suroundings, including Rock Pigeons, Tropical Mockingbirds, Ruddy Ground-Doves and Great-tailed Grackles along the drive through the streets of the city. Colon City (also known as Aspinwall City) is the only pre-designed city in Panama, with perfectly squared streets and many monuments. Also, it shelters important companies for the national economy, like the Colon Free Zone, the Cristobal port and the containers ports. It is a shame that all this wealth is not well distributed making the poverty and the unemployment serious problems in the city, explaining partly the high index of delinquency. After finding the House Sparrows at the central avenue, we headed to Margarita and Mindi, closer to the locks. More common birds, including many flycatchers and parakeets, so we drove along the Diversion Creek, making many stops in the way in order to check the ponds and the river. We found many Green Kingfishers, more egrets, Wattled Jacanas, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and three Anhingas, including the male that I picture here (a life bird for Gloriela!). While we were approaching the Gatun locks, we could estimate how the expansion works are changing already the landscape. Some birding sites are already gone, including most of the Gatun 's settlement. After a long wait, we crossed the canal through the one-lane bridge at the locks and we could not avoid admire that marvel before going to the meeting point. The Gatun locks are the biggest one of the canal and receive daily a huge amount of visitors. We arrived early to the meeting point (the former Tarpon Club) so I had time to take some photos of the Gatun Dam, the place where the mighty Chagres river re-emerge from the Gatun lake. The dike and the lake were once the major ones of the world, and reflect the arduous work that spent the builders of this magnificent work of engineering. The participants began to arrive, being welcome by a pair of American Kestrels on the wires, a pair of Masked Tityras excavating a nest and a calling Black-tailed Trogon. Soon, we all gathers, reviewing our lists. The preliminary results were not as good as we expected so everybody were assigned to new areas for the evening. We returned to Galeta, together with Wallace and Beverly... but it was too late so the gate was locked. They stayed in the surroundings (and pointed me out a Wood Stork that surely is the only one of the count) while we headed again to Colon 2000, searching more gulls and shorebirds (but nothing else showed up). Well, a nice day counting birds at the Caribbean side of Panama, meeting with old and new friends and having a great time initiating the new year!

No comments:

Post a Comment