For some reason, both my wife and I had a free afternoon today. After reading some interesting reports from Gamboa (in central Panama), we decided to visit the quiet town at the banks of the mighty Chagres river, trying to relocate the Least Bittern that my friends Venicio "Beny" Wilson and Osvaldo Quintero saw (and photographed) earlier in the day. We left Panama City at 3:00 pm, with clear skies; however, Gamboa is 40 minutes away crossing the Continental Divide well into the Caribbean slope, so the weather is unpredictable... and the picture was not good.
A heavy rain hit us part of the way. Thanks God the weather was cloudy in town (dark, with no rain at all), so we stopped at the Ammo Dump ponds, where the bird has been seen for some time. The Least Bittern is a shy resident in this part of the country. When I asked Gloriela if she wanted to go after it, the first thing she asked me was "it is rare? (Gloriela is kind of a twitcher)", my response was YES. It is seldom seen and reported... and is a bird that I had never personally seen in Panama (yes, I'm kind of a lister). The usual suspects (Wattled Jacanas) swarmed everywhere. We just sit and waited.
|Wattle Jacana. File photo|
While waiting, other residents of these ponds showed up, like Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, an Anhinga and a Ringed Kingfisher. After 10 minutes, a tiny bird with conspicuous buff wing patches approached from the other side of the pond, landing just out of sight... a Least Bittern! we decided to sneak into another lookout, with a better angle of view. After a while, the bird came out of hiding, probably after feeding the chicks according to Beny, and perched atop some low bushes. It turned out to be a beautiful male.
|Least Bittern. Actual photo|
For some seconds I forgot I had my camera handy, we were amazed watching the tiny creature with our binoculars. Eventually, I grabbed my camera and took the above shot... just for record, nothing to do with the excellent photos of this very same individual previously taken. It was a life bird for Gloriela and a nice addition to my Panama list. The bird stayed only for one minute or so... after that, it flew to some reeds where it disappeared. We waited 30 minutes and nothing... we only add a Purple Gallinule to our list.
|Purple Gallinule. File photo|
Then, it started to rain... a huge thunder storm was approaching! We decided it was enough and returned to the city under some spectacular lightnings. What a great way to end a twitch!