Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Night outing to Costa del Este

I received an e-mail from Osvaldo Quintero with an attached photo showing a beautiful Barn Owl perched on a wall in Costa del Este, Panama City. He took the picture few nights ago (thanks to Venicio "Beny" Wilson) and nicely offered to show me the exact place this night. So, I went with Gloriela to his house, picked him and then we headed to Costa del Este more or less at 8:00 PM with a silver half moon over our heads. Despite the late hour, the place was crowded with joggers, people on bikes, or with their dogs. Osvaldo suggested me to leave the helm in order to be able to handle the camera, using the car as a hide because the birds (at least two present) were pretty shy. So, with Gloriela as the driver, Osvaldo as the guide and I as the spotter and shooter, we crossed in circles a huge walled lot which had a street closed to traffic crossing it right by the middle. The first bird we saw was a cooperative Yellow-crowned Night-Heron walking atop the perimeter wall. We used it to practice and for setting our cameras in the proper mode, making it clear that I was needing a stronger flash, so Osvaldo gave me his invoking that he already had good photos of the owls. My photos came out better then. After the first round, I finally spotted a Barn Owl perched in the wall, looking fixedly to the grass, but it flew as soon as we tried to approach. This happened several times until we found a bird nicely perched close to the street (in the meanwhile we saw a Lesser Nighthawk and another Night-Heron, this time a juvenile). I took some pictures from the car, but still was too far, so I decided to approach it by foot, using the furtive technique that Osvaldo had just taught me: very quiet I walked towards the bird putting a palm tree (that the owl had nearby) directly between ourselves. At the palm tree, I quickly appeared aside, took a photo and returned to my position behind the palm tree surprising the bird. And it worked!!! You can see the palm tree in my second photo. Of course, Osvaldo's photos are much better, but I'm very happy with my own photos because are quite good despite the light conditions (thanks Osvaldo for the flash). This owl is beautiful, with an unique heart-shaped face and those soft buff-and-brown tones to the upperparts. We even heard its sharp cry breaking the silence of the dark field and witnessed its stealth flight in pursuit of a prey (surely some unfortunate rodent). What a great experience, my first photo of such a creature and a lifer for Gloriela! Thanks Beny and Osvaldo for sharing this!


  1. I love this Barn Owls! You guys need to come over to my backyard and call inn the Black-and-White Owl!

  2. Hey, I want to see not only that B&W, but also the Mottled and the Tropical Screech Owl that we missed in the CBC! Start feeding them!