Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rainy day in Pipeline road

Some days ago, I received the nice visit of a great friend of mine from Colombia. Rafael Cortes came attending a seminar, but somehow we organized a short walk along the famous Pipeline Road in central Panama, just to remember old times. The day was particularly dark, and a heavy rainstorm quickly change the original plan of walking deep inside the road. Instead, we waited at the Rainforest Discovery Center, enjoying some cokes and snacks, waiting for the rain to stop, and watching wet Yellow-rumped Caciques essentially doing the same (waiting). Eventually, the rain stop, and we were able to walk a little. The activity was low, the day dark, and the percentage of humidity in the environment was so high that we almost felt the water in each breath. Most of the birds recorded were by calls, and Rafael recalled very well many of them despite he is now used to a different set of birds in the Colombian Andes. But we did saw some birds! The first of many of them were a flock a Brown-hooded Parrots, with a pair lovely taking care of each other. They are quite colourful if you got close looks as we did, usually you found these parrots flying swiftly above you. At the bridge over the Frijoles river, I spotted a very distant woodpecker, a pair of them actually. Despite the distance (they were VERY far away), we both recognized the parallel white lines in the back, making them a pair of Lineated Woodpeckers because the other possibility, the Crimson-crested, have white lines in the back forming a "V". My photo shows a female, of course is from my files (notice the clear skies and the proximity of the bird). We walked all the way to the Limbo river, and a little beyond... but it was getting late and it was clear that the road deteriorates after that point, becoming really muddy. In the way back, we crossed an antswarm with all the usual ant followers: Spotted, Bicolored and Ocellated Antbirds, Plain-brown and Northern Barred Woodcreepers, Gray-headed Tanagers, and a group of Song Wrens. At this point, we already recorded two species of trogons, including a male Black-throated Trogon calling from an exposed perch. Later, I heard a White-tailed Trogon... three, of five trogon species found along this road. It was a great day, not only had a good walk through the forest, but also the company of a great friend make it unforgettable. Hope to see you soon Rafael!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bird of the month: Black-capped Donacobius

The Black-capped Donacobius (Donacobius atricapilla) is an enigmatic resident of marshy areas and grassy river banks in eastern Panama and most of South America (to northern Argentina). Its real affinities are unclear, being classified as a mockingbird, a wren, incertae sedis (meaning "not classified at all!") and, lately, as the sole member of its own family (Donacobiidae), probably related to an Old World group of warblers! The thing is that this fascinating bird resembles all of them. It is sized and shaped as a mockingbird, but performs loud duets while calling, like some wrens species. Also like some wrens, it is a cooperative breeder, meaning that individuals other than the breeding pair help them to feed the youngs and to protect their territory. Probably we saw one of these "helpers" during our last trip to central Darien province (eastern Panama) where we saw a pair of these splendid birds making the duetted performance accompanied always by a third individual (top photo). Seeing a pair of these birds duetting is an extraordinaire experience, with their loud calls reminiscent of a car alarm (seriously!) and their asynchronic, but rhytmical movements while exposing the patch of orange skin at the sides of their necks. Unlike any wren, they make cup-like nests among the reeds. Panama is the extreme end of its world range, and I have to say that we are very fortunate to have such a beauty as part of our avifauna. For these, and many others reasons is why we choose the Black-capped Donacobius as our bird of the month!

This post was submitted to Bird Photography Weekly # 140. Check it out!

Literature consulted:

1. Angehr GR, Dean R. The Birds of Panama. A field guide. First edition 2010.

2. Remsen JV, et al. A classification of the birds species of South America. Version: 31-march-2011. American Ornithologists Union.

3. Roberson D. Birds Families of the World: Donacobius page. 10th edition.