I pounded the alarm at 2:30 am. It was May 14th... Cornell Lab's Global Big Day. For two years in a row, Gloriela and I decided to bird that day in Cocle province (central Panama), joining more than 50 registered participants for Panama (some of them grouped into "teams") in this rally of birding. We stayed at our house in Penonome, from where we drove to the foothills above the town of El Cope, into the General de División Omar Torrijos Herrera National Park (the longest name of any Panamanian national park). A constant drizzle accompanied us along the way... in fact, our first bird for the day was not a night bird, but a Great-tailed Grackle that vocalized at its roost when we were leaving Penonome. The rain didn't stop until 6:00 am... not a single owl was recorded of course, but it stopped on time for the dawn chorus.
Some birds recorded up there include Pale-vented Thrush, Stripe-breasted Wren, Zeledon's Antbird and great views (again) of Purplish-backed Quail-Doves, but in general the activity was low due to the rain and fog, so we moved to the lowlands, making several stops along the way. Our itinerary followed exactly the same route we did last year (check this post), checking several sites along the Panamerican highway. At the Aguadulce Salinas we found a group of 30 Black Skimmers resting on the ground, with some waders... quite unusual for this time of the year.
|distant Black Skimmers|
In the way out of Aguadulce, we kept checking birds out of our list: Pearl Kite, American Kestrel, Crested Caracara, Savanna Hawk, Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork... all were seen while driving along the highway. We skipped Las Macanas marsh in order to reach El Agallito beach in Chitre to find more waders. We reached the place a little bit late, and the surf was far away.
|Mudflats at El Agallito|
Anyway, we got both Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, a single Sanderling, both Yellowlegs and others more at the extensive mudflats. As you can see, the day was cloudy... and we found rain in most of the sites that we visited, including at the supposedly driest place of Panama: Sarigua.
The Sarigua National Park is usually referred as a "desert" by the Panamanians... certainly is not a true desert because it is full of life. Our main target there, Common Ground-Dove, was a little bit hard to find due to the rain, but eventually we heard (and saw) an individual in a thorn bush by the road without leaving the car. We stopped by Las Macanas marsh in the way back to Penonome; the fields surrounding the marshes were alive with dozens of both White and Glossy Ibises, lapwings, herons and egrets. We met Hector there, a local guide and representative of the Grupo Ecoturístico Las Macanas (GEMA) who showed us a place where we saw some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Crested Bobwhites and more herons.
Before leaving, we deliver to Hector a spotting scope donated by the Panama Audubon Society, (PAS) since GEMA always helps us with the logistics during the International Waterbird Census and is interested in preserving and sustainably develop the local ecosystem.
By the time we reached Penonome it was already dark. We decided to visit the outskirts searching for owls and nightjars. At Gloriela's parents property we saw several Common Pauraques and heard the last bird of the day, a Tropical Screech-Owl.
|Hector, with the scope at the GEMA headquarters|
It was an intense day... for us, 18-hours of continued birding, 21 complete eBird checklist and many more "incidentals" ones, hundreds of miles and 135 species. The numbers for Panama are good too, so far we are the best Central American country and are within the world's Top-Ten! See you next year for the Global Big Day!