Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One day, two destinations

By the end of the last month, some of us were compiling our year lists just to see how far we were for becoming members of The 600 Club - Panama. That is why Rafael Luck and his nephew Daniel invited me, Venicio "Beny" Wilson and Osvaldo Quintero to a one-day quest of those birds that some way or another have eluded us so far. We visited in the same day both the entrance road to Cerro Campana National Park and El Valle de Antón. The trip was a complete success, and I got several new year-birds for my list (I'll number each of them in the text). Our first destination were the hills of the entrance road to Cerro Campana National Park. This park (the first one of the republic) protects the remaining patches of humid forest in the foothills of Capira (western Panama province), but we were interested in the more degraded habitat that occurs in its lower elevations by the entrance road next to the rangers station, the grassy slopes with scattered rocks, the main habitat of our targets: Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch (1) and White-tailed Hawk (2). We stopped by the "Mirador" (from where we got the magnificent view of the Chame bay in the photo with the first light of the day) and started the search. We saw many common species like White-tipped Dove, Lesser Elaenia and Tropical Kingbirds while several American Swallow-tailed Kites patrolled the skies. Soon, we saw a pair of the grass-finches singing atop some rocks, but always close to cover. Then, Beny found with his scope a distant and huge raptor also perched atop a rock. Mostly white with a dark half-hood: a White-tailed Hawk! We got our targets within 15 minutes of our arrival! Very happy, we headed to the west, to El Valle de Anton in the Cocle province. On route, we stopped near the town of Los Llanitos (you know, Todies' Land) for a short walk. Soon, we were looking for the Tody Motmots (3) that responded to the tape, at least three individuals. Eventually we saw one of them very close to us, but it didn't allowed photos. Other birds in the area included Sepia-capped Flycatchers (4), Black-chested Jays, Cocoa Woodcreeper, two White-thighed Swallows (5), several Rufous-capped Warblers with juveniles and a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher. With more new year-birds in the bag, we finally entered the picturesque town of El Valle and headed to La Mesa, where Beny suggested to explore a side road. It was a good idea since we found a perched White Hawk very close to the road. The elegant bird then took off from the branch and circled us a couple of times before dissapearing behind the hill. We followed the road by foot, which passes through the border of a nice moss-covered forest with lots of bromeliads. We found a nice mixed flock with Silver-throated, Common Bush and Hepatic Tanagers (6), Tawny-crowned Euphonias, Olive-striped Flycatcher, and a pair of Tufted Flycatchers that were nesting in the area. A flock of Tawny-crested Tanagers (7) catched our attention with their calls, the same for a pair of Great Black Hawks (8) flying high in the skies. Then, we tried the entrance of the Gaital Natural Monument, but it was raining so we only saw a group of Dusky-faced Tanagers (9), several Violet-crowned Woodnymphs and a Spot-crowned Antvireo (10) in a mixed flock with more Tawny-crested and Lemon-rumped Tanagers. After a late lunch in town, we spent the last hours of light in Mata Ahogado, close to El Valle. We saw more common birds including Gray-capped and Social Flycatchers, Barred Antshrike; Silver-throated, Plain-colored, Lemon-rumped, White-lined, Palm, Blue-gray and Crimson-backed Tanagers, Paltry Tyrannulet, Buff-throated and Streaked Saltators and a calling Bran-colored Flycatcher (11). A car crash prevented us to continue the road leading to Altos del María so we called it a day and started the return to Panama City, after a successful day with tons of pretty new year-birds!

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