Sunday, June 2, 2013

Birding El Valle de Anton with friends

El Valle de Anton is a picturesque town located in the crater of an extinct volcano in Cocle province of central Panama.  A couple of weekends ago, Osvaldo Quintero, Rafael and Montse Luck, Itzel Fong and your blogger host went to this lovely town to bird the surrounding forests.  We usually bird the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument, but this time we were accompanied by two local experts: Domiciano (Domi) Alveo and José Alberto Pérez.
First, we followed them to Las Minas trail, crossing some patches of forest, then pasture land and then forest again (plus breathtaking landscapes).  It was roughly a two hours walk, full of a mix of lowlands and foothills, forest and open land species.  For example, this singing Thick-billed Seed-Finch was side-by-side with some Eastern Meadowlarks and Black-striped Sparrows.
While a little farther we found a flock of noisy Black-chested Jays, singing Pale-vented Thrushes and White-breasted Wood-Wrens.
We followed the trail through another patch of forest, and then to second growths were the activity became better, with Yellow-olive Flycatcher, both Black-headed and Buff-throated Saltators, a colony of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas with a pair of Piratic Flycatchers, Yellow-billed Cacique and the first of many White-lined Tanagers.  We moved to the entrance of the road to Rio Indio, where the general lack of birds was compensated with amazing close views of a pair of Orange-bellied Trogon.  We saw first the female with her catch in the bill (I posted the photos of the male here).
After birding the forest above Mata Ahogado (that's the theme of another post), we had a typical lunch in town.  By then, it was cloudy and raining already, but we decided to visit the Cara Iguana trail anyway.  In spite the we just drove for 5 to 10 minutes, the forest was completely different, just like the birds.  This is a drier area, and we saw or heard Lance-tailed Manakins, both Rufous-and-white and Rufous-breasted Wrens, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Long-billed Gnatwren, Scrub Greenlet, Rufous-capped Warbler and many more.  Then I saw a weird figure high in a tree... with my naked eyes I thought it was a termite nest, but with my binoculars it was evident that the figure was a wet Spectacled Owl drying out!
We saw this majestic beast for a while only to realize that this bird was guarding a young one perched very close to us.
How different they are!  That was an excellent way to end this trip, and I'm pretty sure is not the last time we visit El Valle de Anton!

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