Thursday, February 14, 2013

Two hours to the west

As you probably know, we spent most of our weekends at our second hometown: Penonomé, in central Panamá.  Penonomé lies in the geographical center of the country, two hours to the west of Panama City, in the middle of dry savannas with a distinct avifauna.  That is so, that the common species around Penonomé would be rarities in the wetter Panamá City, were we live.  A short ride south of town last sunday, to what is now a regular site for us (I was with Gloriela and Gabrielle), the road to El Gago, produced a nice collection of these birds, including Crested Bobwhites.  There, they are frequently seen and heard, but usually don't stay that long for good shots, so we were lucky.
The last record of bobwhites close to Panama City was in the 19th century... just to put it in perspective.  And the last time someone recorded a Mourning Dove in Panama City (some years ago, a day previous to a CBC), it was considered a vagrant.  In that road south of Penonomé is a common sight... and what a sight!  These doves are beautiful.
The situation is a little bit different with the Brown-throated Parakeets.  They are uncommon in the outskirts of Panama City, and have been recorded right in the middle of the city (for example in Parque Omar)... but in those savannas are simply abundant.  In fact, we crossed MANY flocks that day feeding in pink flowers by the road.
Other species are so widely distributed that are quite common in both regions... but you have to work a little harder to find a White-tailed Kite in the big city.  There, we saw two or three individuals, and even one perched on a fence pole, showing its black shoulders and fiery character.
Well, this was a typical day at the savannas!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

They're back!

Almost one year ago, I visited an artificial lake in the middle of a field four miles west of Penonomé (Coclé province, central Panamá) after hearing about a wintering flock of diving ducks.  Last sunday, I visited the lake again early in the morning to see if I was lucky enough to watch some Ring-necked Ducks.  Eventually, I saw the silhouette of two ducks swimming exactly at the other side of the lake... diving ducks for sure, but which one?
Well, the birds don't appear in the previous picture, it only shows the habitat where I saw Anhingas, Neotropic Cormorants and some Killdeers.  The two ducks were against the sun, too far away and not getting closer... and I was unable to id them correctly.  I was about to give up when a guy on a motorcycle approached me.  The kind man introduced himself as Aurelio, the keeper of the lake and the surrounding sugar cane plantations.
After knowing my interest in photographing birds, specifically those distant ducks, he offered me a ride to the other shore where he guided me through overgrown pastures, a little creek and a hidden trail leading right to the spot where the ducks were swimming in front of.  I hurried up to have closer looks without noticing the flock of Blue-winged Teals resting at the shore... they got away immediately, just like teals like to do!
By that moment, the two ducks were already starting to swim away of us.  I was close enough to have a positive id through my binoculars: a pair of Lesser Scaups.  Unfortunately, they were still a little bit far for photos... but I shoot them anyway.
Hey, at least are better than my previous Scaups photos of that site!   It is great to know that they still visit the lake in the middle of a field four miles west of Penonomé!

Monday, February 4, 2013

At the Miraflores Locks

Nothing is more well-known about Panama than its iconic Canal... and nothing represents more the canal than its locks.  I admit that I often visit the locks, but last friday, we had the opportunity to share with the board and staff members of the National Audubon Society (NAS) a delightful night at the Visitors Center of the Miraflores Locks, in the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.
The Panama Canal Authority is in charge of HUGE projects in the canal, including of course the expansion program but also the improvement of the visitors centers.  At Miraflores, the visitor can have an exceptional view of the locks and the transiting ships.
A very important moment of the night was the signaling of the General Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by and between NAS' president & CEO David Yarnold and Panama Audubon Society's president Darién Montañez, formalizing mutual collaboration to achieve common interest regarding conservation of key habitats for migratory birds, among other objectives.
We hope this MoU is a huge step for strengthening Panama Audubon and its conservation network, and all this under the great sight of the Panama Canal as background!