Monday, March 8, 2010

A day in the PRDC

The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center (PRDC) is located near the world-famous Pipeline Road in central Panama, close to the town of Gamboa. It is a great place to spend half-day or an entire day, specially if you want to have a more intimate contact with nature. I went last saturday with Gloriela, her sister Teresa and her nephew Kevin to this place just to enjoy a little bit of the great diversity it has to offer. First stop at the Gamboa Ammo Dump produced the usual Rufescent Tiger-Heron plus a party of Capybaras in the creek. Soon, we met Osvaldo Quintero, Rafael Luck and Euclides Campos who were heading to the PRDC in order to look for the Sungrebe and the Rufous-crested Coquette that has been reported recently, so after a few minutes we followed them. In the PRDC entrance road I stopped in order to show Tere and Kevin a Rufous Motmot pearched nearby, realizing that we were very close to an antswarm. Still inside the car, Gloriela told me that she saw a bird in the ground. I asked "in the ground or in the lower branches" and she replied "in the ground... it is like a chicken!". A quick look prove it to be a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo!!!, a life bird for Gloriela and the first one this year for me! I ran as fast as I could to the PRDC (50 mts away more or less) to alert Osvaldo, Rafael and Euclides, who came quickly. I managed to relocate the bird, but it was seen only by Euclides and Rafael (and, of course, Gloriela). Despite this was a big antswarm, the birds were very quiet. All the three specialist were attending (Spotted, Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds), plus Plain-brown and Northern Barred Woodcreepers, Gray-headed Tanagers and the Rufous Motmot. Convinced that the Ground-Cuckoo left the antswarm (I saw it running away from the antswarm), we decided to walk to the section of Gatún lake reacheable from the Center, finding a Great Tinamou but no Sungrebes. Back at the Center, we enjoyed some beverages and the furious hummingbirds everywhere. We waited for the Coquette to appear, but the tiny bird showed up too fast... we only saw its silhouette. In spite of it, we were very entertaining by the resident hummingbirds. Jacobins, hermits, plumeleteers, mangos and all sort of hummingbirds were competing for the best places at the feeders. Specially atractive were the Black-throated Mangos. Both male and female were flying around and perching nearby, for our delight. Before leaving the place, we decided to check again the antswarm... and guess what: we find again the Ground-Cuckoo!!! When I first saw it, it was walking in the middle of the antswarm, but then it froze behind a fallen trunk. It was hard task to point it out to the others, but eventually Rafael got excellents head pictures of the bird before it disappeared. A cooperative Broad-billed Motmot was spying on us at the same time. It was so cooperative that allowed Euclides to take some pictures with his point-and-shoot camera from very close (as you can see in my picture). We also heard in the same place the characteristic buzzy call of the Slate-colored Seedeaters that, according to the Center personnel, are nesting in the area. After all, great birds and good friends made that morning an excellent morning (and any morning with a Ground-Cuckoo MUST be a good morning).

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