Thursday, April 17, 2014

Route Anton - El Valle de Anton

During our last visit to Penonome our friends and neighbors, the Rojas family (Edwin, Lurkys, Saisly and the little Mariangeles), invited me and Gabrielle to a short trip to the touristic town of El Valle de Anton, in the foothills of the Cocle province.  El Valle is well-known by its comfortable weather, its sunday market and many other attractions, like restaurants, lodges, forest trails, waterfalls, a zoo, and many more.  This time, we took a new and recently habilitated route starting at the town of Anton (10 minutes from Penonome) in the PanAmerican Highway.
Cerro La Cruz
This windy road takes you gradually along pastureland and low hills to the town of Caballero.  From there, it climbs abruptly until reaching its highest point at La Cruz hill.  From there, there is a magnificent view of El Valle... the charming town at the bottom of an ancient volcanic caldera.
El Valle de Anton
You can see the lava domes that usually are called the "rim" of the crater.  Actually, this is not a crater, but the caldera that left when most of the volcano collapsed after a huge eruption some 200,000 years ago.  Of course, this is a nice place to take photos.  As you will see, this hill is named after this solid cross.  There is another, smaller cross a little bit higher... but we decided to use this as background.
Gabrielle and me at the cross!  Cerro Gaital in the background.
From there, the roads descends VERY abruptly to El Valle, joining then the road to El Macho waterfalls.  Along this road, in the way to the town center, we found a big colony of nesting Chestnut-headed Oropendolas.  This is a famous colony because I have seen photos of this very same colony in the social media.
Oropendolas' colony
Chestnut-headed Oropendolas
We stopped to appreciate this spectacle, and witnessed an interesting aspect of the life within these colonies.  We noticed that the oropendolas were quite agitated.  After some seconds, we noticed the reason.  Several Giant Cowbirds were trying to lay their eggs into the oropendolas' hanging nests!
Giant Cowbird
Yes, the Giant Cowbirds are obligate parasites of the oropendolas, and they know this!  After laying their eggs at the oropendola's nest, they leave the entire task of raising their chicks to the oropendolas.  Curiously, and unlike other brood parasites, their chicks do not destroy the eggs or kill the nestlings of their adoptive parents.  Perhaps the cowbirds' chicks help somehow the oropendolas' nestlings... but tell that to this oropendola!
Get the heck out!!!
In the other hand, almost every oropendola colony have a breeding pair of Piratic Flycatchers... and this was not the exception!
Piratic Flycatcher on stolen nest
I don't know how the comparatively large oropendolas tolerate these birds.  They drive away the owners of the nest, dispose of the eggs and lay their own without building its own nest.  Probably that's why they have that bandit mask!
Piratic Flycatcher
We left the colony and drove to the town.  In the way, we were able to see the famous "India Dormida".  Literally, this means the sleeping indian... surely you can recognize her lying on her back with the head to the right of the picture.  This is one of the most recognized El Valle icons!
India Dormida
After having lunch in a little restaurant, we visited the zoo.  The girls were amazed with the animals, while Saisly and Lurkys appreciated the scenery from a comfortable bench.
Saisly and Lurkys... and not, they are not twins
I took photos of some common birds in the gardens and open habitats of the zoo, like the abundant White-tipped Dove... well known by the name "Rabiblanca".  Its hollow whooo-OOO-oo call is a common sound in our towns.
White-tipped Dove
What a nice day, enjoying with our friends, knowing new roads and enjoying picturesque towns along the way.  Thanks for this great day!
Lurkys, Mariangeles and Edwin Rojas.  Thank you guys!

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