Last saturday's evening was hot and sunny, typical of a summer day in Penonome (Cocle province, central Panama), I took advantage of the beautiful day and did a scouting trip to some side roads west of town little after 3:30 PM... and it was great! Not only saw my first life bird of the year, at least three Ring-necked Ducks in a large pond, but also re-found the now-famous Grasshopper Sparrow after more than 50 years in Panama! But as I said, that was only the scouting trip. Very early the next morning, I went to the same place before dawn hoping to catch the ducks closer to the shore of the lake. The fresh air in the savanna and the immensity of the place is hard to describe... and the sunrise resembling a scene of "The Lion King" movie was simply unbelievable!
I did saw ducks closer to shore... but it was a group of Lesser Scaups, plus three Blue-winged Teals and three Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. The three Ring-necked Ducks that I saw the day before were far away in the middle of the lake, and only the male was identified with certainty at that distance.
I began the return journey looking for open habitat specialists, finding surprisingly a Northern Harrier as the first raptor for the day. This is only the second time I see harriers around Penonome (first time here),
and it seems that they are not simply passage migrants, but winter visitors as well. Despite the blurry photo, the shape and white rump is unique among the expected raptors there. After a while, I found a tiny, very shallow pond in the middle of the fields... it was alive with birds. Big waders, in the form of several Great Egrets, a Wood Stork and a Great Blue Heron, were sharing the place with Least and Solitary Sandpipers, two Greater Yellowlegs and three Killdeers which became quite evident thanks to their sweet voices.
The nearby grasslands were full of singing Eastern Meadowlarks, plus some Red-breasted Blackbirds, some of them allowing great pictures and close approaching. They were focused in singing out loud to impress any rival or to attract a mate. It is always nice to see these two species (both called "pastoreros" in spanish) side-by-side. However, the most abundant bird in the savanna was the Fork-tailed Flycatcher. A huge flock of these elegant birds were feeding along the fences and in the ground right in the middle of the dirt road. Easily, they exceeded a hundred of birds!
In the end, I failed to relocate the sparrow, neither I found the Grassland Yellow-Finch reported last year by Ken Allaire... but the bird list for only three hours of birding the savanna was impressive and I can't wait to visit the place again next weekend!