Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Holidays in Darien. Part I

Where in Panama can you find Spot-breasted Woodpeckers on TV antennas? El Real de Santa María is one of such places, surrounded by pristine habitat and lots of avian specialties of the eastern Darien lowlands. This is my second visit to this historical place, again with a Panama Audubon Society's trip, so well organized by Rosabel Miró and cols. I joined them in the last minute, so I went to El Real by my own, and after six hours in a bus and a ride with a family on a boat I met this year participants. It was late when I arrived to El Real, so all the others participants told me about the birds they found few hours before in El Mercadeo road, in route to the town, including a pair of these woodpeckers nesting in a telephone pole, among others. My room mate, Rafael Luck, showed me all the excellent photos he took during the short walk (that I missed), so I resigned myself to wait until the next day (Good Friday) to enjoy the birding around the town and tried to sleep, realizing that it was not an easy task considering the brutal heat of the place and the fact that the town gets noisy during the holidays. Early the next day, we went to Doña Lola's restaurant for breakfast, finding a Pale-bellied Hermit right in front of it, in a little bush. Everything was ready for the day, so we headed to Piji Basal... our destination was the Pirre rangers station at the Darien National Park. On route we saw many birds, including Plumbeous and Mississippi Kites, the first of many Roadside Hawks, Pied Puffbird, Spot-crowned Barbet, a pair of Muscovy Ducks and a Wood Stork flying, and so on... We did not reach Piji Basal because of the road conditions so we started to walk the trail to the station, finding almost immediately a beautiful male Green-crowned Woodnymph showing all its irridiscense. The birding was a little bit slow inside the forest, maybe because of the heat of the day. We heard many Chestnut-backed Antbirds in the way and found a lek of Golden-collared Manakins. We also found other wildlife (mammals, insects, frogs and reptiles), but I'll be posting about them in another entry. Other birds found in the way to the station include Olivaceous Flatbill, Ruddy-tailed and Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers, White-whiskered and Black-breasted Puffbirds, Black and Crested Oropendolas and a very quiet White-fronted Nunbird (nicely found by George Angehr). Notice the pale wing covert, typical of the pallescens race of eastern Panama. It took several hours to reach the rangers station, but once there we rested a bit before looking for birds again. We tried the Mirador trail, but the heat and the roughness of the trail prevented us from advancing. Anyway, we heard a Ruddy Pigeon, a Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner and an antswarm with Bicolored Antbirds and Plain-brown Woodcreepers. In the way down Rosabel found a gorgeous Semiplumbeous Hawk perched nearby and a mixed flock with Red-eyed Vireos, Scarlet and Yellow-rumped Tanagers and Chestnut-sided Warblers. We tried the orchard for some forest border birding, hearing at least two Red-throated Caracaras that only allowed great views later in the day. We started our return journey, and most members of the group (including me) decided to have a refreshing dive in the waters of the Peresenico river, accompanied by a Buff-rumped Warbler. The way back was uneventful, and we found scattered birds, including more oropendolas, Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, more caracaras and a life bird for me: a pair of White-headed Wrens working in the canopy while calling. The last stop in the road produced Collared Aracaris, more barbets, Limpkin, and an Orange-crowned Oriole for the delight of the group. It was too late when we arrived to El Real, so we decided to have our dinner at Doña Lola's and then returned to our hotel to make the list of the day. The plans for the next day included a visit to Uroseca and to Pinogana.

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