We are back home from Panama. The day before we left was stifling, about 85F but with nearly 90% humidity. Tonight here at home we are to have wind chills below zero. Yuck.
We ended up with 227 bird species. We spent a lot of time looking at insects, and didn’t over-extend ourselves to identify every bird. Although I have truly enjoyed my time with several of the excellent human bird guides in Panama, seeing and figuring out birds using only a paper field guide is so much more rich. Having to really examine birds such as woodcreepers gives you a real appreciation for their subtle differences. Some birds were, um, a bit easier to see than others, like the Orange-chinned Parakeets above. They came to bananas hung a few feet from our porch at the B&B we stayed at in Panama City before our flight out.
Although we did not see quetzals, I saw the other target birds I mentioned in my 2007 year-end bird post. The Red-headed Barbet and Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher were as gorgeous as I had hoped. We saw the barbet in a little flock that also included a White-throated Spadebill, a tiny and curious-looking little bird that I had seen before but not this well.
These birds — as well as six species of gaudy tanagers, White-ruffed Manakin, the knock-out Violet Sabrewing, and many others — were seen at Finca Hartmann an eco-friendly coffee farm that welcomes birders and researchers. This was a fantastic place that I cannot recommend enough. Most people just bird the lower section, called Palo Verde. We asked if we might be able to visit the higher section, Ojo de Agua, which includes a lot of tall montane forest and borders La Amistad International Park. The next day they provided us with transportion to Ojo de Agua and we walked down after our explorations. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. We had a lot of interesting insects at Finca Hartmann as well, many more than in another, larger coffee fincas that grew much of the coffee in larger patches in the sun (I’ll be writing more about coffee and habitat later). One damselfy was especially noteworthy — according to expert Dennis Paulson, our photographs are likely the first obtained of that species. If you ever find yourself in the western highlands of Panama, make time for a visit to the farm.
I think the most unexpectedly cool bird we saw was the Slaty Flowerpiercer. They are plain olive or gray birds with distinctively hooked bills, which they use to pierce the base of flowers in order to feed on the nectar. They do this very rapidly and efficiently. We saw a pair working the flowering shrubs at Los Quetzales, a popular birding lodge and restaurant. Really, I found the cafe there and the stuff they sold wildly overpriced and the service uninspired. I was really happy with our great house at Las Plumas, which has to be the best place to stay on the western side of Volcan Baru. Hard to imagine where else you can eat breakfast on a private deck and watch Emerald Toucanets and Golden-browned Chlorophonias flitting around your yard.
I’ll do a final summary of odds and ends next.