The definition of "extraordinaire day" is different for each person. For some, a day is extraordinaire if everything goes as planned; for others, you need a special event to occur. For me, ANY day with a GROUND-CUCKOO is an extraordinaire day! And, after hearing that a family group of Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoos were attending an antswarm in Pipeline Road (central Panama) allowing nice views for the visitors, I decided to accept the invitation of my friend Osvaldo to bird the area last saturday.
We started at the marina in the town of Gamboa. We were expecting to find some migratory ducks, but it seems that this is not a good year for them. The place was full of Common Gallinules as usual, and Wattled Jacanas (like the one pictured above). After walking along the access road, we found many species of both resident and migrant birds. My favorite was an adult Rufescent Tiger-Heron hunting quietly behind the access gate.
After a while, we decided to move to the famed Pipeline Road. The furious activity at the marina deviated us from our main destination, the same happened in the other stops we made before reaching the entrance to Pipeline Road. For example, this Crimson-crested Woodpecker entertained us at the Ammo dump.
And a mixed group of warblers, antbirds and antwrens did the same right before entering Pipeline. There, two species of antshrikes were inspecting a patch of forest close to the ground. Considering that others birds were in the same area (like Black-bellied and Song Wrens, Dusky Antbirds and Black-faced Antthrush), I suspect that there were some ants or something in the ground. Notice the heavy bill of this male Fasciated Antshrike.
And the black crown of this aptly named Black-crowned Antshrike. This is a male, of course. The female is patterned in brown and buff, with little black. This species used to be called Western Slaty-Antshrike... but it is not closely related to other Slaty Antshrikes in South America.
A little before 11 am, we finally reached the Pipeline Road. One kilometer after the entrance, we noticed a foreign birder standing aside the road. We joined him and immediately heard the Bicolored Antbirds attending an antswarm. The birder quickly showed us a photo in his bridge camera... a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo appeared in the screen. We waited for a while and then, the bird materialized above a log more or less 4 meters from us. What a sight! The long tail and powerful legs, plus the expressive crest is unmistakable.
Unfortunately, we could not take pictures. I took the above photo five years ago almost exactly in the same site! The Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo is a very rare ground-dwelling species that is found almost exclusively around antswarms. Pipeline Road is, perhaps, the best place to see it, specially during our dry season. So, now you see why that was an extraordinaire day?