Sunday, July 25, 2010

There will always be hummingbirds to impress

Yesterday, I went to Pipeline road beyond the town of Gamboa (central Panama) in order to show some nature to my nephew Michael. Along with Gloriela and Osvaldo Quintero, we drove all the way to the sleepy town, stopping as usual at the Ammo Dump. The place was very quiet, with few birds present except by the numerous Rusty-margined Flycatchers and a flock of Keel-billed Toucans. We heard a pair of Yellow-backed Orioles and the always-present White-throated Crakes. The vegetation in the ponds was very tall, so it was difficult to spot anything. Other birds in the area included Greater Anis, Red-lored Amazons and Scrub Greenlets in good numbers, and many seedeaters and Gray-breasted Martins at the entrance of the ponds. We decided to go directly to the first bridge in Pipeline road to walk from there. The activity was unusually low and we only recorded some common species like Dot-winged and Checker-throated Antwrens, Western Slaty Antshrikes, Black-faced Antthrush, a single Stripe-chested Antpitta (only heard), Brown-capped Tyrannulets, Purple-throated Fruitcrows and a pair of Blue-black Grosbeaks feeding on a palm tree. The slaty-antshrikes were particularly conspicuous, with a pair quite often found along the road. We found also a cooperative pair of White-whiskered Puffbirds, one of them allowed some photos. It became clear that the activity was not going to get any better, so we decided to head back before reaching the second bridge. I worried about the interest of my nephew, but he seemed to be doing just fine, considering that EVERYTHING was new for him (he is essentially a city boy), including not only the birds, but also the Howlers Monkeys, the agoutis, the anoles, the Green Iguanas and all the wildlife that we found in the road (including the Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth that we found later). To keep him interested, we drove to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center (PRDC) in order to have a snack and to watch the hummingbirds' show. Trust me, the hummingbirds at the Center never fail to impress... hordes of thirsty hummingbirds all around, chasing each other and perching very low (want to experience it... check this old video). Here is a small gallery of the hummingbirds that showed up, more or less in taxonomical order (some photos are of previous visits):This Long-billed Hermit was lekking with other males close to the Center allowing great shots.The tiny Stripe-throated Hermit hurries to drink before being thrown by the other species.Usually, the White-necked Jacobin is one of the most abundant and aggresive species at the feeders.
One or two males Violet-crowned Woodnymphs are always present. They usually look dark in the field (not the case of this photo!).
The Violet-bellied Hummingbird is one of the most abundant species at the feeders. A real jewel.
The Blue-chested Hummingbird could be impressive too, with the suitable light! The female is more modest.So agressive in the city, in the PRDC the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird is dominated by several bigger species.The White-vented Plumeleteer is quite big... and agressive too!
Is not only the variety of species... it is also the numbers. And those were only the species that we saw yesterday! The list of hummingbirds recorded in this feeders ascend to 13 different species, which is an excelent number for the lowlands. Now you see why I think that place is simply great if you want to introduce somebody into nature and outdoors activities (like birdwatching). In the way out, it was another thing that impressed my nephew: the sighting of a huge ship crossing the Panama Canal in front of us, with the forest as background... great way to call it a day!


  1. For a "slow" day, you guys sure had a great outing! Everything you've written about and the pictures you've posted are exciting and exotic to me, since I live in Texas. Those hummingbirds are so colorful!

    I have to admit, my favorite is the sloth. What a strange and wonderful creature. Am I seeing green in his hair?

  2. Yes you are Amber. The green hues are due to a symbiotic algae providing camouflage to the sloth and obtaining in return shelter and a water supply (the fur readily absorbs it). Thank you for asking.

  3. Wow, I loved seeing all the different hummer and bird species. And I'm with Amber on the "slow" day. It's sounds like you and your nephew had a day that I would treasure any time, not only birding but the other wildlife you saw, especially the sloth!