Friday, July 15, 2011

Night outing

Some weeks ago, I went to the famous Pipeline Road and its Rainforest Discovery Center, in central Panama, with Osvaldo Quintero and Rafael Luck, but this time at night during one of the scheduled "night trips" they organize. Of course, our main objective were the owls that live deep inside that forest, specially the Crested Owl that have been reported recently by the Center's staff and which would be new for all three of us. It was a chilly night, and since the instant of our arrival we felt surrounded by the darkness and the silence, only disturbed by the occasional breeze and the buzzing insects. Julia was our (excellent) guide for the night, and we almost immediately heard a Crested Owl behind the facilities, but it was far away. I also heard a distant Spectacled Owl, they sound like a distant machine gun as Ridgely states in "A guide to the birds of Panama". Of course, the photo I'm picturing here is of a different individual that I took many years ago in daylight because we saw no owls that night. These are big birds, actually the biggest of the regular encountered owls in Panama, and one that I have found several times, both at day and night. Julia also heard a distant Tropical Screech-Owl. However, the real show was performed by a little troop of Western Night Monkeys. It is amazing how these creatures move around the tree tops and the branches so acrobatically in complete darkness! My poor photos are due to the distance and the almost complete lack of any source of light. At close range, they don't look like monkeys to me... but like big-eyed squirrels or something like that as you can see in the daylight photo I took in Panama City of a sleeping pair of these some months ago (thanks Beny). There are some taxonomic issues about this species; some think that this form, which occurs in Panama and the colombian Pacific slope, is a good species by its own: the Choco Night Monkey. Eventually, we heard another Crested Owl close to the tower, but despite our efforts, it remained invisible. We heard several others Crested Owl in the entrance road too, plus more Night Monkeys, so I think it was a succesfull night after all!

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