Monday, January 21, 2019

The quest for 600 birds in 2019 begins!

As you hear it.  This year, I'm committed to record 600+ species of birds for Panama.  In fact, I want to break my own Big Year record of 620 species in 2010, hopefully reaching 700+ species!  I joined a group of intrepid birders who, like me, want to reach the same goal this year, celebrating Panama Audubon's Society (PAS) 50th anniversary.  Some of them already are members of "The 600 Club" of Panama and I'm pretty sure they want to break their own record too.
So far, this year has been good.  I already reached 300 species by January 15th (half of my goal), my best Big Year start ever.  On January 1st I did a Big Day, recording 190 species (I was the #1 ebirder  in the WORLD for a couple of hours HAHAHA!).  It started around 4:00 am looking for owls and night birds in Panama City and Gamboa town, hearing the dawn chorus in the deeps of Pipeline road (the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center was closed, so I missed some keys species), birding different spot from Gamboa Ammo Dump  and Summit Ponds to Metropolitan Natural Park and along the coast in Panama Viejo and Costa del Este to finally end at the ponds in Albrook residences with Karl Kaufmann and Rosabel Miró (PAS Executive Director).  Since then, I have made some short trips in central Panama and have twitched some rarities that have appeared in my bird alerts, like Cape May Warbler and Maguari Stork.
Maguari Stork (Finca Bayano, January 20th, 2019)
Panama is so diverse and accesible that reaching 600+ species in a year certainly is not impossible.  In fact, the Big Year record for Panama is 800 species, recorded by Kenneth Allaire (RIP) back in 2010.  However, it takes time... and monetary resources of course.  The 700 species mark is easily reached by free lance bird guides that have no restriction of places to visit.  I mean, if your job is to watch birds all over Panama, then you have no issues with time spending birding.  However, I do not work looking for birds, and my available time for birdwatching is limited (as is the case of many birders in Panama), so I have devised some strategies to maximize my time, including my family in my trips and choosing sites that offer me more new species in a short time.
Gabrielle and Gloriela in Viveros Island (Pearl Islands) where I was looking for some restricted antbirds (like this Jet Antbird)
In fact, I'm impressed with how I have managed to take advantage of my free time so far between birdwatching and family time.  The good thing about birding sites in Panama is that most of them are also attractive for family activities.  Take for example the paradisiacal Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama where you can enjoy the turquoise waters and look for pelagic birds or restricted antbirds (like White-fringed Antwren and Jet Antbird), or the beautiful foothills forests above the town of El Cope in Cocle province (central Panama) where your family can enjoy the fresh air and chilly creeks while you look for multicolored tanagers in mixed flocks (like this Emerald Tanager).
Emerald Tanager
Well, I'm pretty sure that good birds will show up this year.  Let me know if you see something rare or invite me to your trips!  I will do the same!

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