Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rice fields and savannas!

Birding in the tropics is not only about rain and cloud forests... any type of habitat is good if you are looking for birds!  The group of intrepid birders, composed by Osvaldo Quintero, Rafael Luck, Venicio "Beny" Wilson and myself, headed last saturday to the -mostly- agricultural lands of Juan Hombrón, in Coclé province (central Panamá).  We were looking for migrants buntings; however, we found many other goodies (but no buntings).  Our first stop were the rice fields on route to Juan Hombrón.  Most of the fields were essentially pool of mud waiting to be sowed... but it turned out that was the perfect habitat for a bunch of migrant waders!
As you can see, we saw many shorebirds, especially Southern Lapwings and Least Sandpipers, but also small numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers, Willets, both Wilson's and Semipalmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts and Solitary Sandpipers.  We were inspecting carefully every shorebird looking for rare vagrants when Beny called us to see through his scope: an American Golden-Plover still with part of its breeding plumage.  Not exactly a vagrant, but a rare migrant through Panamá.
Not the best photo, it was too far away.  We continued our way, finding many typical inhabitants of these fields, like Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Savanna Hawks and the omnipresent Cattle Egrets.
One mile before reaching the coast, we stopped at a tiny gallery dry "forest", finding Veraguan Mango, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, both Common and Slate-headed Tody-Flycatchers and many more... but only this Acadian Flycatcher allowed photos.
By the time we reached the coastal marsh, it was raining so hard that we decided to go back, stopping again at the rice fields were we saw the bird of the trip.  After a while, we went to Penonome, where we had lunch at a new hotel in the outskirts of the town.  Then, we headed south of town, taking the road to El Gago, finding more raptors typical of the coclesian savannas, like White-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk and both Yellow-headed and Crested Caracaras.
For the first time, we actually reached El Gago, a tiny river pier at the end of the 16 km-long road!  That was a life site for me!
At El Gago, we saw both immature and adult Common Black-Hawk, this form used to be known as the Mangrove Hawk some years ago.  I think that the adult looks boring if you compare it with the colorful immature bird.
In the way out we took a couple of minutes to photograph some migrant Barn Swallows by the road.  Not only that, I also got my first Bank Swallow photo!  Can you find it?
I stayed in Penonome with my family after saying good-bye to my friends.  What a great day at the savannas, watching resident and, specially, migrant birds.  To end the day, I was able to capture the silhouette of a migrant Chimney Swift over the shrubs of the savanna... simply a nice way to call it a day!

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