Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 CBCs: Atlantic circle

Yesterday was this year last  Christmas Bird Count organized by the Panama Audubon Society, in the Caribbean side of the canal.  With the new highway from Panama City, it is only mere 45 minutes to Colon city and many of the count areas, so Osvaldo Quintero and I drove in the dark in order to be at the Galeta Island Protected Area by sunrise.
Since none of the counters actually lives in the Caribbean side, this count have less participants than the others... so each count area is huge.  Ours included Galeta Point, Colon City, Margarita, Mindi and the Diversion creek.  At Galeta, the main habitat is coastal and mangroves.
However, it was in the forested area of the protected area where we saw the best day of our day... a beautiful Capped Heron by the road... the autofocus of my camera got confused and the result is the worst photo ever of this species... thanks God, this one is unmistakable!
We checked all the areas in a quick succession, finding many sites with degraded habitat, which is a shame.  Some common birds, like House Sparrow and Royal Tern are probably only reliable found in these areas.  The same is for the Sapphire-throated Hummingbird... readily identified in this shot by its forked tail and slightly downcurved bill. 
The only photographic opportunity that we took was with a little flock of Plain-colored Tanagers feeding in a Cecropia tree.  Not so plain after all!
Probably not the best count in terms of numbers anymore... but still a great experience!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One year-old Gabrielle!

One year ago, we were blessed with a healthy, full-of-life baby girl that, since that december 27th has become the center of our worlds: God gave us Gabrielle Teresa!
The time runs, and our daughter is celebrating her first year of life.  First, an intimate familiar reunion in order to have a piece of cake and to celebrate her birthday.
The "official" party was today at the Punta Culebra Nature Center, a perfect site to enjoy nature and to entertain the kids.
The Center's staff organized many activities, both fun and educative, many of these children never had the opportunity of seeing a living shark or a sea turtle before... or to look for a pirate's treasure chest.
Even the Center's wildlife appeared to impress the guests... racoons and several Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloths were pretty easy to see!
Thanks to all of you for accompanying Gloriela and me in the celebration of Gabrielle's first year of life!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year full of lifers!
Sincerely, Jan, Gloriela and Gabrielle!

Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 CBCs: Central circle.

Yesterday, many "auduboners", birdwatchers and nature lovers waked up early and went around the town of Gamboa and the Pipeline road in order to watch or heard as many species of birds possible for the Central Christmas Bird Count, organized by the Panama Audubon Society... many, except me!  For previously acquired duties, I was unable to participate in the morning... but then, I went to Gamboa by noon with Gloriela and Gabrielle, accompanied by Gloriela's sister Teresa and her son Kevin.
Actually, the town of Gamboa is a very nice place to spent a couple of hours with your family, enjoying wildlife, lush forests and, why not, HUGE SHIPS transiting in the middle of these forests!
Usually, when birding alone, I have a bottle of water and some snacks and that's all... of course, that is unacceptable when traveling with your family, including young kids... that's why our first stop was the restaurant at the resort marina, conveniently overlooking the Chagres river, where I counted the waterbirds present there (oh yes, Kevin helped me).
To be exact, we counted in that place before lunch 5 Brown Pelicans, 1 Neotropic Cormorant, 1 Royal Tern, 1 Franklin's Gull, 11 American Coots and 131 (!) Common Gallinules.
We also saw 12 Lesser Scaups... much less than some weeks ago in the same place, but definitively an excellent record for the CBC!
We drove slowly through the streets of the town, counting many common species, reaching eventually the Ammo Dump ponds, where we saw an Osprey (the third of the day).
But there were the unfeathered creatures that impressed more my companions... including the hordes of Central American Agoutis all over the town and, specially, the big American Cocodrile sunbathing in the other shore of the pond (thanks to God, as Teresa would say).
We ended the day visiting a great friend of mine, Guido Berguido, and his beautiful family.  Did I mention that he has some of the best feeders in town... if not the best?
With action like this, it doesn't matter if you're birding with kids... trust me!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 CBCs: Pacific circle

December is a month of festivities... but also of bird counts!  The Panama Audubon Society organizes three Christmas Bird Counts in central Panama, and I pretend to participate in all of them.  In fact, I already participated last sunday, december 16th, in the first count, the Pacific circle.  As usual, my count area was the coastal strip of the west bank of the canal, including Farfan, Palo Seco and Vercaruz, accompanied this time by Rafael Luck, Jennifer Wolcott, Dan Heinrichs and Neville Lincoln.
The tide was pretty high early in the morning, so we concentrated first in the huge pond at Farfan, finding many waterbirds, like Roseate Spoonbill, Neotropic Cormorants, ton of egrets and White Ibises, both Belted and Ringed Kingfishers and many more.
One good thing about our counting area is the variety of habitats... we visited mudflats, ponds and mangroves before moving to a dry forest three minutes away... the forests around the (former) Palo Seco Hospital.  In spite that it has been abandoned for a couple of years now, the jungle already took it and only some buildings are evident now.
The forest was very quiet, however, we still recorded Lesser Greenlets, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Lance-tailed Manakin and the particular sight of both Turkey and Black Vultures resting side-by-side.
Most of the main targets at our count area were waders, and the best place to look after them is around Veracruz beach.  This year, we didn't see many shorebirds compared to other years, but we got at least the cutest of them all: Collared Plovers!
The final habitat visited was the taller and wetter forest just north of Veracruz, where we found different species like Lineated Woodpecker, Cocoa Woodcreeper and, surprisingly, a group of five White-vented Euphonias.
However, it was almost noon when we reached this patch of forest, and by that time, the forest borders and the open areas were more productive than the forest itself... just check the cooperative Gray Kingbird and the bright Saffron Finch that we found.
We recorded 113 species in total, not a bad number for only six hours of birding!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

More birds at Gamboa

After a very successful twitch, finding the Lesser Scaups at the marina in Gamboa (Colon province, central Panama) this morning,  Osvaldo and I decided to visit the Gamboa Ammo Dump ponds... after all, it was still very early and we expected a great activity, considering the beautiful day.
And we were right!  First of all, this young Broad-winged Hawk welcomed us by perching completely exposed in good light for us.  At the ponds, we found many common species, but I focused at the Mangrove Swallows perched at the barbed wire, shining with the sun... definitively my favorite swallow in Panamá!
The swallows were so pretty and cooperative that none of us noted at first the dull gray bird at the fence facing the opposite side.
It took me a couple of seconds to realize that it was a Gray Catbird, nicely in the open taking a sunbath.  This bird is not only an uncommon migrant in this part of Panama, but also a hard-to-see skulker... but this guy was simply amazing... it responded to Osvaldo's tape and we got great views!
Very happy with our luck, we headed to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, were more than 30 (!) White-necked Jacobins, among other hummers, were trying to drink of the many hanging feeders.
However, it was the antswarm passing right behind the building that attracted our attention... most of the regular ant-followers were attending, like Spotted and Ocellated Antbirds, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Red-throated Ant-Tanagers (weird, in spite of their name) a Greater Ani (weirder) and a gang of Gray-headed Tanagers.
However, the most cooperative followers were the omnipresent Bicolored Antbirds, jumping just feet of us.
Not bad at all for just half day!

A mini twitch

I joined Osvaldo Quintero this morning in order to make a quick twitch to Gamboa town (Colon province, central Panama, merely 40 minutes from home) where a huge flock of Lesser Scaups have been reported recently.  The site was easy... at the resort marina, in the waters of the mighty Chagres river, that ultimately made possible the construction of the interoceanic canal.
In fact, as soon as we got there, we found the birds (and birders/facebook friends too...) quite far away.
I counted at least 92 birds, the highest number of scaups that I have seen so far.  A group of females was closer to shore and allowed some photos.
We didn't see more duck species at the marina, but the river was full of Common Gallinules, including some individuals pretty close to us showing the red of their legs and the lobulated toes.
There where also some scattered American Coots among the gallinules... always a good sight in Panama (as the scaups).
We just spend 20 minutes at the marina... then, we moved to the Gamboa Ammo Dump ponds... but more on that in my next post!