Some years ago, a good friend of mine, Rafael Cortés, introduced me to the "target birding". The concept, that he learned from the late Jesús Estudillo López, consists in selecting a list of interesting bird species, either by their beaty or rarity, and then organize specific field trips in order to find those species. In this way, many other unexpected species will show up while you're looking for the desired one!
Why this introduction? Well, because the bigger your life list, the harder it is to get new lifers... and my Panama life list is quite long by now! So I made my wish-list and, in order to find the first species, I organized a quick trip to the western highlands of the Chiriqui province... specifically, to the agricultural town of Cerro Punta (pictured above).
There, my objective was the Silvery-throated Jay. This species is endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama. In Panama, is very local... restricted to real primary forest above the town and so far only recorded (at least recently) along the famed Los Quetzales trail... entering through El Respingo rangers station.
A local guide and friend of mine, Ito Santamaría, helped me in my quest. He knew exactly the right place where we could see our goal: a site known as Respinguito, about 2500 meters above sea level and two hours away of El Respingo.
|Oh yeah! There is the "Respinguito"|
We saw some common species along the trail... but we were focused in the jays. After more or less two hours climbing up and down through a lush montane forest, we finally reached the Respinguito. Almost immediately, Ito heard the characteristic calls of a group of these jays. The birds were working above the tall canopy, allowing only few glimpses... eventually, I got one individual in full light showing its conspicuous silvery throat and eyebrow and the metallic blue shine to the body... simply spectacular!
|Eureka!, Silvery-throated Jay!!!|
The place was pretty dark for photos... and I only managed some record shots. Actually, the two photos I'm presenting here are the best ones. Notice how slaty this species looks according to light conditions. The birds turned out to be very curious... they (at least 10 noisy individuals) came closer to inspect Ito's pishing!
We stayed in the site for some 30 minutes, completely surrounded by the jays. In one occasion, we were seeing one individual inspecting a little twig when a worm fell out to the ground. The jay immediately followed it, landing just three feet from me! What a great way to get a lifer!