Sunday, October 5, 2014


Last week, I checked my e-mail and noticed immediately an e-Bird alert message including an unusual report of Bobolinks from near the Caribbean coast in the Canal Area of Panama, specifically at the Gatún Dam.  With that in mind, I convinced my family and my mother-in-law to wake up early today in order to visit the dam and other interesting sites in the surroundings.  A visit to the Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center is a most, as we did later in the day (and where I took these photos of the works with my phone).
We took the "Don Alberto Motta" highway to Colon City (just a 40 minutes drive coast to coast!) and turned left at the "4 Altos", heading to the impressive Gatún locks.  Once we crossed the one-lane bridge across the locks, we drove along the grassy slopes of the Gatún dam, watching hundreds of resident and migratory swallows.  After crossing the bridge over the spillway, I parked along the road and started to spot some interesting suspects; however, the first birds I saw were Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters feeding close to the car.
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, male
It was raining a little bit, and the tall grass was quite wet... wet enough to soak my shoes; however, Gabrielle was well prepared (I have to say that my wife is almost clairvoyant anticipating and preparing for any situation that might find our daughter).
Rubber boots and umbrella... someone was prepared!
Eventually, I saw a flock of little brown birds flying low over the grass.  They perched low, but some were barely visible at first... listed crowns and backs, pale conical bills... pointed tail feathers... Bobolinks!
There were also Red-breasted Blackbirds in the vicinity... the females can be quite similar to this species; however, note the unstreaked nape and the uniformly yellowish breasts (with no rosy wash).  Also, these birds were slimmer and smaller than the blackbirds.
Both Gloriela and me had excellent views... the photos are just record shots.  Bobolinks are uncommon transients in Panama... and this was the first time I see them in this country!  Yeah, a Panama lifer (and only the second time ever I see this bird).  We left the dam just after spying this immature Savanna Hawk (also uncommon in this part of Panama).
Savanna Hawk, immature
We visited the Castillo de San Lorenzo (at the mouth of the mighty Chagres river) where Gabrielle was amazed with the history of pirates and cannons defending the site.  We ended at the Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center as mentioned earlier... the views of the Gatún lake and the works are unmatched.  After all, we really enjoyed our day at the Caribbean coast... amazing views and national lifers for all!
At the Castillo de San Lorenzo


  1. Cool! I never saw a Bobolink! would be delighted to see one ... well one day.... thanks for sharing!