Friday, March 19, 2010

Bright day in Batipa

Batipa is a private reserve in the lowlands of the Chiriqui province (western Panama) that still contains remaining patches of lowland forest. Its include the Cerro Batipa and other two hills, plus a coastline with tall mangrove forest. It is the only reliable site in Panama to find the endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga but it also holds many western Pacific specialties, including a former endemic for Panama. Last sunday, after an excellent day birding the highlands around the town of Boquete, Osvaldo Quintero, Osvaldo Quintero Jr., Rafael Luck, Milagros Sánchez, Olemdo Miró, Gloriela and me decided to visit this reserve, trying to locate the cotinga. We were a little delayed (after descending all the way from Boquete and meeting Mr. Ríos -the reserve owner- for the key of the access gates), so we started birding around 9:00 am. We didn't realized how hot it was in the lowlands until our first stop. After spotting a Laughing Falcon, we all went out of the cars, raising our cameras, noticing that these were completely misted due to the sudden change of temperature. Anyway, I tried to obtain some photos of the falcon... I needed to do a lot of photoshop to fix it! After solving the problem (only waiting a couple of minutes and driving with the windows down with the air conditioners switched off) we stopped a little farther, in a section of road bordered in trees with deep-orange tubular flowers. Soon, we saw five Fiery-billed Aracaris feeding close to a group of Howlers Monkeys. The aracaris moved closer to us allowing some photos, while others birds started to show up. First, an unidentified bird photographed by Olmedo resulted to be an Olivaceous Piculet laboriously working at a few twigs; then, Rafael spotted a hummingbird in the tubular flowers and then another one: a Long-billed Starthroat and a Veraguan Mango. The mango used to be an endemic bird for Panama, but now it is presumably established in Costa Rica's extreme southeastern corner due in part to deforestation. This individual was an immature male because it showed lot of white speckling in the underparts. It showed also a yellow throat probably due to the pollen of the flowers it visited earlier. Later, in the same site, we found an adult male Veraguan Mango feeding in the same flowers. We reached the tideland of the Horconcitos river and decided then to take the road around the Cerro Batipa, which passes through several forest patches and through an immense teak plantation, finding Black-hooded Antshrike and Lance-tailed Manakin in several sites plus Yellow-olive Flycatcher and Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant in the hill itself. Besides the Laughing Falcon and both Caracaras, others raptors found were Swainson's, Gray, Roadside and Zone-tailed Hawks, plus a flock of ten or more Swallow-tailed Kites around Cerro Batipa. We didn't reach the mangroves and probably we never had a real chance to find the cotinga without a guide. By noon, we said goodbye to Rafael, Osvaldo and Osvaldo Jr, who were returning to Panama City, while we returned to David with Milagros and Olmedo. The last bird we saw together was a White-collared Seedeater in the urban area. Then, we separate only to meet us again at the San Jose de David Fair, where we visited the commercial and agricultural exhibitions, among others. We said goodbye to them too... it was time to rest and to prepare for the next day.

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