Saturday, October 24, 2015

Escape to Bocas. Part II

As I mentioned in the first part (you can read it here), I spend an extraordinaire weekend with my family in Bastimentos Island in the Bocas Archipelago (western Caribbean lowlands).  Our friends at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge still had some surprises for us.  After the great success in our first walk through the property's trails, Ramón and I decided to show them to the rest of the family... so Gabrielle, Gloriela and Jean-Michael took their hiking shoes and joined us.  However, our main objective were not the birds... this time we were looking a colorful forest jewel.  After some search, we finally found a pair of Strawberry Poison-dart Frogs (or, as they are known in Bocas, simply Red Frogs).
Strawberry Poison-dart Frog
This very same species (Oophaga pumilio) is present in eastern-central Nicaragua and Caribbean Costa Rica (where it look more or less uniform in appearance), but it is in northwestern Panama where several color morphs arose due to isolation and sexual selection.  Notice how this form, which is orange-red with little white in the underparts and few black spots in the upperparts, differs from the individuals found in the same island farther west (check this post about Bocas' Herps and scroll down until you find the frogs).  The forms in the other islands are strikingly different... Ramón and Natalia have a nice photo gallery of these forms found in different parts of the archipelago (and the mainland) posted in the TB Blog... check it out!
Jean-Michael showing what NOT to do if you find a pixbae palm in the forest
The trail crossed several habitats, like forest, pasture, secondary growths, gardens and old plantations of cacao, pineapple, banana and pixbae (among others), reminiscent of the past history of the property before becoming a private reserve.  The activity inside the forest was great, with several mixed flocks of migrants taking advantage of the Miconia berries and resident hummingbirds taking a bath at a known site at a tiny creek.  The walk ended at one of Tranquilo's main attraction: the 100-feet high canopy tower.
From the tower, the views of the surroundings areas are spectacular and you can have close encounters with wildlife.  In fact, we saw dozens of Red-lored Parrots up-close flying to their roosting sites, pewees, dacnis and tanagers feeding at the canopy, and migrant swallows passing by.
Red-lored Parrot
While checking them, I noticed a pair of large swifts circling above us... evidently larger than the Barn Swallows and the Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts flying nearby, with long tail and long wings.  They were Cypseloides swifts, a difficult genus to ID to species in the field, and at least two species were probable with that size.  I managed to take a marginal photo of one of the birds that, after editing it, showed dark throats and frosty white above and in front of the eyes: a Black Swift!  I included the photo in the eBird checklist of the day.  That was the last LIFER for me for the day... and what a lifer.  After a delicious dinner in the common area, we retired to our cabin to have some sleep and to prepare for the next day.

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