Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Panama Viejo with the PAS

Celebrating the 50 years of the Panama Audubon Society (PAS), we joined a group of volunteers, members of the directive board (myself included) and general public in a visit to Panama Viejo, last sunday.  This site exhibits a mix of habitats, like mangroves, mudflats, rocky and sandy beaches, and gives a great opportunity for environmental education and birding.
In fact, PAS resident biologist Michelle gave us a nice introduction to this complex ecosystem and showed some samples of different species of mangroves, mollusks and worms... very important to support the millions of birds that use the Upper Bay of Panama as wintering ground.
Besides the environmental importance of the site, Panama Viejo is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The "old" city was the first European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas, founded in 1519, and is full of history and interesting facts, most of them explained in the museum... where we met.
Bell tower of the Catedral Nuestra Señora de Asunción
About the birds, well... at the end of the visit we counted 44 species, including 14 species of migrant plovers and shorebirds that use this site in their annual migration as a feeding station during the passage or as wintering grounds.  However, we were impressed by the resident species.  Hordes of Great and Snowy Egrets, Cocoi, Great Blue, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons filled the mudflats, accompanied by a flock of 17 Wood Storks... and even a Roseate Spoonbill that flew away to soon.
Did you notice the Black-necked Stints in the above photo?  They are present year-round, but are more abundant during the winter.  We saw impressive numbers of this species scattered in loose flocks at the mudflats.  We had such a great time identifying Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Willets and Whimbrels.  Eventually we found the lonely Long-billed Curlew that winters there.  It was too far away for photos, but everybody was able to watch it through the scopes.
After a while, we headed to the stand of mangroves in front of the Visitors Center.  There, we had great views of the city and the rocky shores full of sea creatures trapped in the pools left by the retiring tide.
We also had better views of the Wood Storks, this time feeding in the surf... acting like shorebirds.
This was a great experience, sharing with friends and people interested in our birds and how to preserve their habitats.  Happy Birthday PAS!

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