Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PAS Fieldtrip to El Chorogo. Part II

As mentioned previously, William (Bill) Adsett, Antonio Dominguez, and your blogger host, went to El Chorogo (western Panama in the Burica Peninsula) during the carnival festivities.  I already posted some bird photos from the access road to El Chorogo.  After several hours riding our horses, we finally reached the forest and set our tents in the usual campsite close to a waterhole frequented by bathing birds in the evening.
Entering the forest
The activity is slow in the forest interior, but the birds found there are quite special, and difficult to get anywhere else in Panama!  Actually, I got many almost-lifers... birds that I had seen only once before.  That's the case of the White-throated Shrike-Tanager.  A pair was constantly close to the campsite, and we found several more with mixed flocks during the hikes along the trails of El Chorogo.
male White-throated Shrike-Tanager
Other almost-lifer was the Rufous-winged Woodpecker.  My only previous sighting was 11 years ago exactly in the same site (above the waterhole near campsite)!  This is a rare species anywhere in Panama!
male Rufous-winged Woodpecker
Awakening in the forest was fabulous. The dawn chorus was just terrific with more Great Tinamous and Short-billed Pigeons than you can imagine.  Common voices of this chorus were Riverside and Scaly-breasted Wrens, Northern Schiffornis, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner and three species of trogons, including my almost-lifer Baird's Trogon, a species restricted in Panama to Burica Peninsula!
male Baird's Trogon
We spend two and a half days in the forest, walking the trail that runs along the Panama-Costa Rica border.  We found several mixed flocks that were simply spectacular!  There was always at least one pair of Russet Antshrikes within these flocks, some migrants warblers, two different Rose-throated Becards, antwrens, tanagers, and so on...  I took the next photos of  White-ruffed Manakin and Black-hooded Antshrike in one of these mixed flocks.
male White-ruffed Manakin
male Black-hooded Antshrike
Inside the forest, we only found a pair of Golden-naped Woodpeckers (contrasting with the several pairs we found in the way up outside the forest).  I promised you better photos, remember?
male Golden-naped Woodpecker
female Golden-naped Woodpecker
The third woodpecker species was one restricted to western Panama, and also an almost-lifer for me: Pale-billed Woodpecker.  We found several pairs along the trails and in the campsite.  This impressive species is quite large and noisy!
male Pale-billed Woodpecker
At this point of the trip, I already had two lifers in the bag (Painted Bunting and Costa Rican Swift)... but one key species was missing, one that I missed in my last trip to El Chorogo 11 years ago: Tawny-winged Woodcreeper.  This species is rare in Panama, and my only chance was to find an antswarm, because the woodcreeper frequently follow the army ants.  Bill and our local guide Armando knew a place where it was likely to find an antswarm.  After a while, I heard the calls of several Bicolored Antbirds and Gray-headed Tanagers, both ant-followers.  Soon we were in the middle of an antswarm... with two Tawny-winged Woodcreepers attending!
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
They looked superficially similar to the more common and widespread Plain-brown Woodcreeper, but they were slightly smaller, with buffy throat and narrow superciliary... ah, and of course, with contrasting tawny flight feathers with dark tips.
Tawny-winged Woodcreeper
Third lifer in the bag!  I still have more photos and stories about this trip to share, so stay tuned for the third part of this post!

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