Saturday, March 12, 2011

Post-carnival trip to the highlands. Part I

At last, the end of the first day of our swift trip to the Chiriqui highlands. I left Penonome (central Panama) with Gloriela around 3:00 AM today, in order for be birding early in the morning in several spots along the Concepcion-Volcan-Santa Clara road (Chiriqui province, western Panama's Pacific slope). Our first stop was at the entrance road to the town of San Vicente, where a small patch of forest survives along the junction of two creeks. A flock of Golden-hooded Tanagers was inspecting the bushes while a female Purple-crowned Fairy showed up for our delight. Despite it is not a rarity there, it is always nice to see this elegant hummingbird. But more interesting, an adult male Spot-crowned Euphonia perched in a bare branch for five seconds, enough to check its limited yellow crown. This species is scarce due to habitat loss in its former panamanian distribution. You will have to trust me on this one, since my photo only shows the complete yellow undertail coverts and the black throat, field marks that this species shares with the more common Yellow-crowned Euphonia, which have a more extensive yellow crown as its name suggests. Our next stop was the Macho de Monte river, entering through the town of Cuesta de Piedra. By the time we reached the place, it was quite hot, and the activity was low. However, we got a great collection of cool birds common of this habitat, including a male Golden-olive Woodpecker (photo), an Eye-ringed Flatbill (lifer for Gloriela), Buff-rumped, Chestnut-sided, Tennessee and Blackburnian Warblers and a Torrent Tyrannulet. The only hummer attending the flowered Inga tree turned out to be a Blue-throated Goldentail, a bird not seldom seen by any of us. We then passed the town of Volcan in our way to the town of Santa Clara. This part of the road crosses several patches of foothills forest and coffee plantations that sometimes are alive with birds. We stopped at a now-usual site with lots of Cecropia trees with fruits... and birds. One of the first to appear was a smart Tropical Parula. This delicate and beautiful creature checked actively every single fruit, surely looking for tiny insects to eat. There were also tons of Clay-colored Thrushes and at least one White-throated Thrush... but the main characters of that scene were the tanagers: Cherrie's, White-lined, Blue-gray, Palm, Golden-hooded and Silver-throated Tanagers were all feeding on the fruits in a kind of frenesi (my photo of the Silver-throated Tanager is of an individual on a banana feeder that we saw later in the day above Cerro Punta). It was around noon when we decided to return to Volcan, were we rest for a while (well-deserved) before heading to our next stop in the highlands: La Amistad International Park above the town of Las Nubes.

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