Thursday, August 11, 2016

Visiting Finca Bayano

Since the closure of the former Tocumen marshes to birders some years ago, we have been visiting a rice farm to the east of Panama City known as Finca Bayano, looking for those open habitat species of birds difficult to find around Panama City.  The site is promising since it have a nice mixture of habitats: pastures, gallery forests, scrubs and bushes, cultivated fields and so on...  So we visited it last weekend, reaching the place at sunrise.
Finca Bayano
I joined Rosabel Miro and Bill Adsett for this birding adventure... and to be honest, I was expecting a regular day in the field, however, we soon noticed that everything was set to have a great day!  Literally hundreds of herons, egrets, ibises and storks were feeding on the flooded fields.
Well, but all these species were common ones... then we started to notice some shorebirds in the same fields... first some scattered groups... by the end of the trip we saw no less than 100 Pectoral Sandpipers, both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted, Solitary, Western, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers... but more important, we saw at least two Stilt Sandpipers, pretty uncommon for Panama. I took a short video showing some Pectoral Sandpipers (is the first time I saw so many of them!).
As you can see, my digiscoping abilities are close to zero... but I just wanted to document the numbers.  The waders were not the only highlights.  We saw many species with nesting materials or feeding young.  In fact, we saw several pairs of elegant Pied Water-Tyrants making nests and at least two Pale-breasted Spinetails feeding young birds (they look rather plain).
Pied Water-Tyrant
Also impressive was the number and variety of raptors in those fields: both Caracaras, Bat and Laughing Falcons, Pearl, White-tailed and Hook-billed Kites, Common Black, Roadside, Gray-lined, Savanna and Zone-tailed Hawks were hunting all over the place... in fact, we just saw this Zone-tailed Hawk to grab a whiptail lizard from the ground.
Zone-tailed Hawk with whiptail lizard
However, the most surprising bird (at least for me) was another raptor... but not a diurnal one.  Over a field with dry grass I saw a ghostly figure approaching low to land over a bush facing away.  After a while, the bird turned its head 180º towards me... a Barn Owl was making eye-contact with me under a bright sun!
Barn Owl
Any day with an owl is a good day!

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