Friday, December 6, 2013

Birding the Volcan Lakes

After a successful day in the lush montane forest above Cerro Punta with my friend Ito Santamaría, he and his father accompanied me to lunch in the town.  It was around midday and, surprisingly, the day was clear and hot... like a summer day in the lowlands!  Only the abundant Tío Chicho (Rufous-collared Sparrow) was heard behind the restaurant windows.  Just the previous day (as well like the entire week), the highlands were being hit by a cold front and heavy rain!
After lunch we drove to the town of Volcan, in the slopes of the Baru volcano.  This potentially active volcano is the highest peak in Panama, and bears its own national park.  From a lookout close to our destination (the Volcan Lakes) you can recognize the ancient lava flow where the town is located.
Baru volcano and the town of Volcan
By the time we reached the Volcan Lakes, it was hot and quiet.  The birding was pretty slow... however, we found an interesting mixed flock with many of the most common inhabitants of these forests: Slaty Antwrens, Plain Antvireos, Silver-throated, Bay-headed and Golden-hooded Tanagers, Smoky-brown Woodpecker and a pair of Red-faced Spinetails.
However, the most conspicuous members of the flock were the warblers, with the migrants Black-and-white, Golden-winged, Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers along with the residents Golden-crowned and Rufous-capped Warblers... also with the smart Slate-throated Whitestart.
The lake itself had less birds than in previous occasions, but we saw most of the usual species, including three Lesser Scaups.  We followed a road in the car, stopping after noticing some activity in the shrubs.  For the first time I experienced the phenomena of an antswarm in these foothills.  The ants swiftly covered the road... and behind them we saw a familiar ant-follower for me (in the lowlands): Gray-headed Tanagers (file photo).
Other birds were following the ants, like Rufous-capped Warbler, White-naped Brush-Finch and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  It was a great day in the western highlands... and I'll look forward to come back!  

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