Friday, April 19, 2013

A mix of widespread and endemic birds

Western Panamá highlands form part of the Talamanca range, a well-recognized endemic bird area shared with Costa Rica, and a birding trip to this part of Panamá always is full of a great diversity of both Talamanca endemics and more widespread species.  During our last incursion to the highlands, Osvaldo Quintero, Rafael Luck, your blogger host and our guide, Ito Santamaría,  experienced this diversity.  We visited the Bajo Frío area, above Cerro Punta, looking primarily for quetzals (and we eventually saw and photographed them) and finding tons of birds in the way, starting with some common, widespread species.
See what I mean?  Who can't recognize an Acorn Woodpecker?  This clown-faced birds are quite noisy and conspicuous, a common sight in this part of the country.  And talking about common sights, nothing is more common in the highlands than Mountain Elaenias.  This species is found from northern Central America to northern South America.
While looking for quetzals, a covey of Spotted Wood-Quails started to sing close to us.  Ito attracted them with a recorded tape.  Eventually, we got amazing looks of several individuals, but capturing a photo is another theme.  These wood-quails are found from southern Mexico to western Panama; in fact, I have seen this species in Costa Rica as well.
As we moved to higher slopes, along the road to El Respingo, the avifauna changed, and we started to find Talamanca's endemics birds..., like this cooperative Black-cheeked Warbler, part of a flock with five or six birds foraging low in the understore.  This one was taking a sunbath!
There are too MANY endemic birds in those mountains, so I'm only showing a few... in this post of course.  However, we found the next two endemics high at El Respingo, in spite of the weird sign (as I said before, "beware of dog" is not enough in Chiriquí):
"No trespassing, tiger running free"
The Fiery-throated Hummingbird is a specialty of these high altitudes.  The "fiery" throat is hard to see (and this bird liked to stay in dark places), but the tiny white post-ocular spot and the blue tail are good marks.
Also endemic, the Volcano Hummingbird is a tiny gem.  This male was making impressive aerial displays.  The pointed throat usually looks dark, but in the right angle, it glows in an splendid purple tone!
Stay tuned for more highland specialties in the next posts!

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