Thursday, March 20, 2014

PAS Fieldtrip to El Chorogo. Part III.

In my previous entries, I posted photos of the specialties found in the forests of El Chorogo (western Panama, Burica Peninsula).  This post will include more widespread species, but also some non-bird inhabitants of these forests.  Two and a half days is probably not enough to discover all what this place has to offer, but we (William Adsett, Antonio Domínguez and your host) were very lucky.  For example, we saw White-crested Coquettes every single day of the expedition, including two gorgeous males feeding in white flowers at the canopy of a tree along the Costa Rica-Panama border trail (in both sides of the trail!).
male White-crested Coquette
That was my first adult male for that species.  I usually see females in the foothills.  Not a common species anywhere!  We did well with the hummingbirds, probably because we found many flowering trees, including many Inga and Salvia sp., attracting Charming, Snowy-bellied and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Long-billed Starthroat, Blue-throated Goldentail, Stripe-throated and Long-billed Hermits, and tons of Crowned Woodnymphs (abundant inside the forest!).  However, our biggest surprise was this White-tipped Sicklebill that hovered in front of me for some seconds!
White-tipped Sicklebill
Although not unexpected, this is probably the first record for El Chorogo.  Always an impressive hummer to watch!  Another impressive sighting were the Great Tinamous' eggs.  Why?  Because they are of a bright turquoise color!
Great Tinamou's nest with four brightly colored eggs
This is weird because most of the neotropical ground-dwelling bird lay cryptic eggs.  Egg color is probably an intra-specific signal for others tinamous; thus, attracting several females to lay its eggs together because a large clutch is less prone to predation than a small, single female-layed clutch, according to a theory.  We found this nest after flushing the male.  We also flushed another ground-dwelling bird during one of our walks:
Marbled Wood-Quail
Yes!  A Marbled Wood-Quail, this individual decided to froze in a branch, looking at us.  It was a member of a small covey that stayed undercover.  They are frequently heard, but rarely seen this well!  Close to campsite, a boreal migrant became one of my almost-lifers: a Louisiana Waterthrush.  One individual was walking along the waterhole deep inside the forest.
My poor photo is due to the light conditions inside the forest... very dark in fact.  In spite of this, you can see the broad, white eyebrow and the buffy flank of this bird.  I also noticed the snowy white throat (with no streaks) and the chip notes that sounded slightly different to the widespread Northern Waterthrush (that we saw outside the forest).  Also close to campsite, we saw some Spot-crowned Euphonias.
male Spot-crowned Euphonia
In the above photo you can see the "spots", invisible under normal field conditions.  This was the only euphonia found inside the forest, and is restricted to western Panama... specifically to Chiriqui province.  Another Chiriqui-restricted species in Panama, although not a bird, is the Central American Squirrel Monkey.
Central American Squirrel Monkey
Central American Squirrel Monkey
In fact, this species is restricted mostly to the Burica Peninsula in Panama (see the comment section for details) due to habitat loss in its formal range (more widespread in Costa Rica).  We found several troops, some with more than 30 individuals and with many females carrying youngsters. They are very agile, roaming the treetops with grace and skill.  Of course, we were careful as we watched the canopy. The reason? The inhabitants of the forest floor, like this harmless snake about 5 feet long.
After some research by Bill, we think this was a Pseustes poecilonotus, known by many common names (like Neotropical Bird Snake, Dos Cocorites, and so on...) and highly variable.  We have no idea of the name of this species when we saw it... but had no doubts when we saw the next one:
Fer-de-lance!  This is a pit viper, the main cause of snake envenomation in Panama, where is widespread and well-known by the locals as "Equis" (meaning "X") because of the dorsal pattern resembling the letter X.  Thank God no one stepped on!  
We added more species in the way out the last day of our expedition, like Gray-crowned Yellowthroat and Great Antshrikes, and had great looks of some raptors nicely perched, like this Laughing Falcon atop a towering tree in the middle of pasture lands.
Laughing Falcon
Or this majestic King Vulture that you usually see flying high overhead.  What a great way to end a terrific trip!
King Vulture
The wildlife found in El Chorogo is the most threatened in Panama due to the destruction of all its formal extension, and we have to support the efforts of Panama Audubon Society and some other ONGs (as well as some particulars) to protect it!


  1. Very nice report, Jan Axel. I will make it to Chorogo some day!

  2. The Squirrel Monkey was thought to be restricted to Burica Peninsula only but resent research found populations south of David City, middle Chiriqui Viejo and Gariche Rivers and near Boca Chica mangroves. Still, however, a very restricted and fragile range for such a carismatic specie.