Monday, December 8, 2014

Random stops along Panama City coast

The modern and busy Panama City offers more than lush and cheap shopping, it offers the chance to watch thousands of waders and other aquatic species without much effort.  Some days ago, I visited several sites along the coast just to see what can I find.  My first stop was at the west bank of the Panama Canal, at Farfan.  This site is opposite to the Amador Causeway, where the Biomuseo is now an iconic symbol (designed by Frank Gehry).
There is a huge pond just next to the beach, surrounded by a dike with overgrown vegetation.  I was able to walk along this dike for some sections.  There were many shorebirds species, including this Lesser Yellowlegs (that was not shy at all).
Lesser Yellowlegs
I was interested in the ducks, since this site produced in the past some very rare species and this season some rare ones were reported too.  I saw several groups of Blue-winged Teals, which is the commonest wintering duck in Panama.  There were some individuals far away in the other side of the pond that I was unable to ID, but certainly they were teals too.
Blue-winged Teals
Blue-winged Teals
One of these groups of teals included seven Lesser Scaups as well... can you separate them?
Blue-winged Teals and Lesser Scaups
I also saw a weird concentration of Franklin's Gulls resting in this pond.  The Franklin's Gull is a common passage migrant, but quite uncommon as winter resident.  I counted no less than 35 individuals, including this first-winter individual.  Notice the white outer tail feathers, broad eye crescents, white underparts and pale inner primaries.
Franklin's Gull, 1st-winter
Then I moved to Panama Viejo.  The number of Laughing Gulls was impressive... and there were also some Franklin's Gulls with them.  Notice the difference in wing patterns and general shape/size of the two flying adults in basic plumage.
Laughing and Franklin's Gulls in basic plumage 
Franklin's Gull in basic plumage
I also saw a very distant Lesser Black-backed Gull among the Laughings and several terns species... too distant for photos.  But several other species were close enough to appreciate well, like this Wood Stork.  Panama Viejo is a regular spot for them in the city and, as you can see, they can be effective as pest control. What major city in the world has no rat problem?
Wood Stork (having lunch)
Nearby, a flock of elegant Black-necked Stilts was feeding in the exposed mudflats.  They are found year-round in this site and are beautifully patterned in black and white with long, pink legs.  They are even more elegant when flying.
Black-necked Stilt
But nothing compares to the elegance of the American Avocet... and a pair seems to be wintering right there in Panama Viejo!  One individual literally materialized in front of me, close enough for some shots.  It was feeding in the water.  When it flew again, I noticed something rarely seen... its curious pink toes.
American Avocet
Nice collection of birds along our coast!

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