Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter holidays in Darien. Part II

After a long traveling day, the morning of friday 22th caught us (Rafael, José Carlos, Mahelis, Gloriela and your blogger host) in our way to the Embera village of Nuevo Vigía, in the margins of the mighty Chuqunaque river... but due to supposed securities issues, the authorities at Puerto Peñita didn't let us continue upriver in order to visit the site. So bad, after spending half morning trying to convince them, we realized that it was useless, so we decided to move to another site, (seeing an Orange-crowned Oriole as consolation prize) also in the margins of the Chuqunaque river near the town of El Salto, where Venicio "Beny" Wilson, George Angehr and others documented, probably for the first time, a nest of a Double-banded Graytail, an enigmatic ovenbird only found in eastern Panama and northern Colombia. We hired the services of a local guide, Daniel Santos, who took us to the site of the nest and through secondary forest and pastureland looking for one of the main targets of the trip (more on that later). The nest was a globular structure as described by Beny, but from a different angle, it looked like a oven (or like a donut?). No birds were seen then, so we followed Daniel, hearing Yellow-breasted Flycatchers in several places, seeing some of them eventually. You can see in the photo the characteristic broad bill and a little bit of ochre in the chin. Formerly known only from El Real (farther to the east) some years ago, this species have colonized most part of the Darien province in an accelerated way. The calls of Greater Anis, and the sightings of several Wood Storks in the skies announced that we were close to the required habitat of our main objective: Black-capped Donacobius. According to Daniel, the site was close to the margins of the river, but we started hiking inland under a merciless sun with Daniel saying every each stretch of road "only 200 meters away". After several "200 meters", we finally reached a very wet, muddy place, finding at least three Green Ibis flying away while making their loud cacophony. We were at the margins of a little marsh, covered in lilies, mud and water all the way to the ankles. At first glance, nothing moved. José Carlos played the recording and we wait for a while... nothing. Then, Daniel found a curious Black-capped Donacobius inspecting us atop some lilies in the opposite margin of the marsh! Then two others birds appeared! The three of them eventually got closer to us, stopping to sing in a duetting fashion, while "dancing" rhytmically, bouncing their heads while fanning their tails from one side to another: magnificent! In the meanwhile others birds appeared. A nice Spot-breasted Woodpecker, with its contrasting white face, was calling above us while an immature Tiger-Heron was quietly perched on a Cecropia tree inspecting us as curiously as we inspected the Donacobius. I have to admit that I need help with this bird. We can exclude Fasciated Tiger-Heron by habitat (can we?), but the others two species can be found in that habitat (open marshes close to forest). Now, according to Angehr & Dean (2010), the Bare-throated Tiger-Heron is not expected away from the coast in that part of Panama and, considering the buffy spots in the wings, making a clear band effect not found in such species, my diagnosis is Rufescent Tiger-Heron. It was to hot to saw anything, so we left Daniel at his home and went back to Meteti to have lunch and to rest a little at the hotel. In the afternoon we went back to the site, checking again the Double-banded Graytail's nest without luck, but finding a flock of Spectacled Parrotlets, the smallest psittacid in Panama, and a specialty for this part of the country. We first heard their sweet chattering calls, very different from any other parakeet or parrotlet in Panama, and then saw at least six individuals, two of them probably looking nesting sites. An excellent end for our first day of full birding in Darien. For the next (and last) day we planned a visit to the Serranía Filo del Tallo Hydrological Reserve... click here to read about it!

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