Saturday, November 12, 2011

Festivities in Cocle province. Part II

The second day of our stay in Penonome, Cocle province in central Panama (november 4th, our flag's day), Gloriela and I decided to visit the savannas and rice fields just south of town before breakfast, around the road to El Gago. It was harvest time, and the machineries in the fields were followed by hordes of herons looking for an easy meal. Yes, we did see typical species of this kind of habitat, including Plain-breasted Ground-Doves, Mourning Doves, Eastern Meadowlarks and Red-breasted Blackbirds... but the real value of birding the coclesian savannas are the birds of prey. We saw many individuals and many different species! A pair of aptly named Savanna Hawks were standing in the ground with a young bird, while several Yellow-headed Caracaras were yelling at them like saying "GET OUT OF HERE!" I almost miss a raptor perched quietly very low... Gloriela was who told me to drive back a little bit and, after grasping my camera, took some excellent shots of a young Common Black-Hawk from inside the car... it was a VERY cooperative bird, seeing us as curiously as we were seeing him! Others common raptors along the road were the Roadside Hawks (aptly named too) and some White-tailed Kites hovering in a characteristic 45º angle before dropping to the ground after a prey. Strangly, the Crested Caracaras were pretty common too, we saw at least three family groups (two adults birds and a full-grown young one following them). I really like his impressive presence, no doubt at first sight that this is a powerful bird! The caracaras belong to the falcon family despite they look so different of the typical Falco falcons, which are well represented in these savannas too... the turn that day was for an exceptionally gorgeous and uncommon one: the Aplomado Falcon. Is not the first time I see this species in that road, actually, it is one of my best spots for that scarce falcon of open habitats. However, the Aplomado was not the most scarce raptor we saw that day. While inspecting the rice fields, I detected a characteristic flight pattern of a slim raptor with long wings held over the back like a "V", swinging from one side to another, and exhibiting a conspicuous white rump... a Norther Harrier! We saw at least three or four different individuals flying over the fields, all seemed to be female-plumaged birds. It is the first time I see a harrier in these fields... a proof that you ever know what to expect while birding. I will left you with the evocative picture of a harrier over the savanna with the coclesian foothills as backgrounds.

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