Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Resplendant day in Cerro Punta

The journey to Cerro Punta took a little more of what we expected, thanks to the awesome birds we saw in the way. Our original plan was to spent most of the morning searching for an adult male Resplendant Quetzal, which Gloriela had never seen. She had seen quetzals before, but only immature males and females. The first place we visited was the entrance of the road to El Respingo. It was very quiet, and the activity was low. The only birds showing up were White-throated Mountain-Gem, Brown-capped and Yellow-winged Vireos, Black-cheeked and Flame-throated Warblers and Mountain Thrushes. A little drab bird resulted to be a White-fronted Tyrannulet, an scarce member of its family in Panama (yellow underparts, two yellow wing bars and it was quickly raising a wing over the back). Then, we tried the Finca Ríos... only finding Scintillant and Volcano Hummingbirds and both Whitestarts. We decided to visit Finca Dracula, at the town of Guadalupe. It proved to be a good idea since its gardens and feeders were full of birds, but alas, no signs of Quetzals. A pair of Slaty Finches visited the feeders, while a big flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks flew around, taking advantage of the feeders too. Most of them were females, but also included was a nice adult male with its complete breeding plumage. A Red-tailed Squirrel scaped with a big banana, while a Yellowish Flycatcher and a Common Bush-Tanager acted only as spectators. A Stripe-tailed Hummingbird fed at the Heliconias in the garden, probably avoiding the insane activity at the hummingbirds' feeders. There, an agressive group of White-throated Mountain-Gem (both males and females) were banishing and chasing all the others species in the area including Magnificent Hummingbirds and Violet Sabrewings. Even a female Green-crowned Brilliant stayed only for a while due to the Mountain-Gems. The Green Violetears preferred to stay away of conflicts, singing from very high perches. It was hard to leave such a great place, but it was clear that we were not going to find quetzals there... so I played my last ace: the entrance to La Amistad International Park in Las Nubes. It was late, so we had lunch at the little restaurant of the entrance. The coocker lady told us that she had seen several pairs of quetzals that season, but not that day. While waiting for the food, we were distracted by the hummingbirds attending the feeder by the dinning room: Violet Sabrewings, Magnificent & Stripe-tailed Hummingbirds and White-throated Mountain-Gems. The only difference with the feeders in Finca Dracula was that this feeder was dominated by males Sabrewings (not by the Mountain-gems). The hummingbirds were not the only attraction. The lady filled a feeder with rice and rapidly some hungry birds appeared: Summer Tanager, a female Flame-colored Tanager and Yellow-thighed Finches. It was almost time to go, so we walked a little bit towards the ranger's station to give a last chance to the quetzals. The habitat and the light was perfect, but the quetzals simply didn't showed up. Then, when we already started the way back, an unmistakable silhouette flew against the canopy, perching very close to us: an adult male Resplendant Quetzal in full view!!!... and Gloriela was seeing it! What a great moment... I was so excited that I forgot to grab my camera. We saw the bird for 30 seconds and then it move to a distant perch (then I remembered my camera). It settled for a while and I managed to obtain a poor photo where you can see how long its tail was (OK, OK, is not its tail, but its elongated tail coverts)... notice that the end of the feathers not even appears in the photo! It was a remarkable experience, an excellent closing to our incursion to the Chiriqui province.

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