Sunday, February 13, 2011

Warblers and Hummingbirds at Altos del María

Altos del María is a huge, private residential development located in the foothills of western Panama province, above the town of Sora. A resident there, Alfred Raab, and his friend from Switzerland, Robert Furrer, kindly agreed to guide me, Osvaldo Quintero and Rafael Luck into this still-little-known hot spot. Due to camera battery issues (I left it at home accidentally!), ALL the photos in this post are copyright Rafael Luck. The place turned out to be warblers' heaven! In the first stop, in second growth habitat, we found both Tennessee and Bay-breasted Warblers (the latter with buffy underparts including the undertail coverts and chestnut flanks) with some common residents like Variable Seedeaters, Plain Wren and Streaked Saltator. A little higher, we stopped at a clearing bordering a forested area around 950 meters above sea level. We immediately noticed the activity of both resident and migrant birds around us. Among a group of Clay-colored Thrushes, I saw for just a few second an infiltrated White-throated Thrush... but when I was about to show it to the others, others birds caught our attention. A big mixed flocks of warblers was passing by the woods. The first one to appear was an adult male Golden-winged Warbler... simply beautiful. Then, we got more Tennessee Warblers, two Black-and-white Warblers, a Black-throated Green Warbler (only seen first by Rafael, but then it showed well for the rest of us) and an absolutely great adult male American Redstart. A winter-plumaged warbler caught my attention... at first, we thought it was a Bay-breasted Warbler, but we noticed its yellower underparts (not buffy) with faint streaks in the chest and sides, plus white undertail coverts... a Blackpoll Warbler! There are just a handful of reports for this species in Panama, and is my first in maaaany years. Others migrants accompanying the flock were the Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos. Both species of vireos were more cooperative than the warblers, moving slower along the branches and with the Philadelphia Vireo even sitting for a while, allowing some photos. This individual was particularly yellowish in the underparts... I'm used to see them with quite whitish underparts in Panama. Eventually, we were not able to follow the flock anymore and decided to move on despite the insistent chipping of a resident Rufous-capped Warbler. Alfred took us into the mountain, into the real cloud forest around 1000 meters above sea level, in a site where he and Robert saw a singing Brown Violetear the day before... and there it was, almost in the same place, singing its loud call (for a hummingbird) in an exposed branch. Despite it was against the sun, Rafael managed to take very good photos, like the one I'm showing here. Altos del María is a regular site for this erratic species in Panama, and Alfred have done a good job figuring out its haunts. In the same forest, but in a different site, Alfred reserved a surprise for us. At the end of a wide trail, he showed us no less than three adult males Snowcaps chasing each other and perching for few seconds near the canopy of a flowered tree. Amazing! These are very special hummingbirds, with a kind of patchy distribution in Panama. The trail also produced a singing Thrush-like Schiffornis, a flock of Black-faced Grosbeaks and wintering Blackburnian and Canada Warblers. In a marshy area we got Mourning Warbler and Northern Waterthrush, while in the nearby forest along a beautiful creek (walking along a brand new paved trail!) we found Spotted Woodcreeper, White-throated Spadebill and heard a Black-crowned Antpitta. What a wonderful place! In total, we saw twelve (12) migrant warblers! And I'm pretty sure that we still have not seen everything in Altos del María. Thank you Alfred for your company and expertise... shall we do this again, don't we?

1 comment:

  1. Wow.

    What camera and lens do you use for birding?