Monday, May 2, 2016

Inca Tern at the Panama Canal... wait, whaaaat?

Yes... that was my first impression when my friend Venicio "Beny" Wilson reported this rarity in the Social Media yesterday... an adult Inca Tern was seen at the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal right in front of the Visitors Center.  The Inca Tern is a real vagrant to Panama, endemic to the Humboldt Current off western South America, supposedly only appears up here under anomalous conditions, specially during El Niño years.  So I hurried up to the Visitors Center, picking up in the way my friend Osvaldo Quintero and his son Osvaldo Jr.
Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal
We got to the center 20 minutes before closure... and started to look at the far side of the locks where Beny reported the bird earlier.  As you can see in the above photo, we used the lookout in the fourth floor to locate the bird, which was where the red arrow is pointing.  It required the maximum zoom of our lenses... and lot of trimming back in home... this is the result:
Inca Tern at the Panama Canal
Not only very rare... also exaggeratedly beautiful!  This bird was with Sandwich Terns and Laughing Gulls, and seemed to be enjoying its stay... we saw it fishing successfully twice, taking a bath, preening and resting by the walls of the locks.
Inca Tern with little fish
Inca Tern at the Panama Canal
There have been some reports in the past few years in Panamanian coasts, including mine back in 2010 (eBird checklist here), but this is the first report in the vicinity of Panama City in more than 30 years!  Good excuse to visit the Panama Canal these days!
Inca Tern at the Panama Canal

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