Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Holidays in Darien. Part III

After an excellent day near El Salto town, in central Darien province (eastern Panama), our last day in Darien province started with a Pied Water-Tyrant at the grounds of our hotel in Meteti acting as a House Sparrow. This elegant bird was hunting the insects attracted during the night to the parking lot lamp. A couple of photos and we (Rafael, José Carlos, Mahelis, Gloriela and I) were ready to visit the Filo del Tallo Hydrological Reserve, to the south of Meteti. The first part of the trails, until the first creek, is full of Heliconias patches, thus making it Hermits' heaven! In fact, we saw five hermits species, including the one of the photo. The light conditions were awful, but you can see the long central rectrices tipped in white (ruling out Rufous-breasted Hermit and Band-tailed Barbthroat, both seen), the greenish back and the quite-straight-for-a-hermit bill (ruling out Long-billed and Stripe-throated Hermits, also seen), making it a Pale-bellied Hermit. Like the hermit, another eastern Panama specialty was hanging around the creek, a male Black Antshrike appeared allowing some photos (a female was there too, but was shyer). As its name suggest, it is completely black, but you can recognize the shrike-like, heavy bill characteristic of this genus. After a while, the trail runs along the border of the forest and a cleared patch with regenerative vegetation. The bird activity was great probably due to this mixture of habitats. We saw a Forest Elaenia working VERY low (it is usually a canopy-dweller, only detected by its calls), allowing us to see its yellow crown patch and an unexpected Mangrove Cuckoo (probably the first record for the Darien province)... but the bird that definitively stole the show was a very cooperative Cinnammon Woodpecker making a hole in a dead trunk right by the trail, almost at eye-level allowing GREAT photos!

Photographic oppotunities like that can not be wasted, so we spent almost 30 minutes with the woodpecker! After that, we continued our walk, entering the forest again. It was magical, with tall trees and hanging bridges, tons of butterlies and, of course, birds.

We started hiking uphill, finding Slaty-tailed Trogon, Golden-crowned Spadebill and an Olivaceous Flatbill in the way. Eventually, we reached our main target: a Golden-headed Manakins lek. It was crazy... around twenty gorgeous males were together in the same group of contiguous trees, making noise, exhibiting themselves, doing the "moonwalk" dance (moving backwards on its perch rapidly without evidently moving the feet... amazing!), and acting as really wackoes each time a female approaches (which occurred very often, so I suppose the competence was fierce). We even saw an immature male (notice the bright soft parts) performing the dances! The place was quite dark, so most of my photos of the gaudy males are not good enough to show you how really great are these birds. The deep black body contrasting with the bright yellow head and those expressive white eyes visible from far away are hard to forget! Again, we stayed long enough to impress that amazing spectacle in our minds and, reluctantly, started the way back. The raucous calls of a Red-throated Caracara helped us to locate the bird just under the canopy of a distant tree, but despite the distance I think the photo was very good. Formerly well distributed in Panama, now it is mainly restricted to the eastern part of the country, with scattered records from the western half, one of them recently from the Chiriqui highlands. In the way back to Panama City, we stopped at the San Francisco Reserve, near the town of Torti, and again in the Rio Mono bridge (both in eastern Panama province), adding more eastern Panama's specialties (with One-colored Becard at the bridge as highlight). After all it was a succesful trip, full of special birds, many of them not found in any other part of Panama, nor Central America (notice that I posted photos of thirteen species not found any further than Panama into North America in this three-parts account, starting here with Part I). We hope you enjoyed them as much as we did!

1 comment:

  1. Some awesome birds Jan! I really need to bird that area some day.