Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Guadalupe - Los Quetzales Ecolodge

I just typed up a bunch of stuff and then lost it all. Damn blogger. Somehow it didn't automatically save a draft either.

Day 9 - January 30th - entirely spent in transit to the Western Highlands, Guadalupe to be exact. It's easy to travel by bus when there's only one main highway running east/west across the country. Just get on buses headed the direction you want to go. The weather in the highlands was warm at times, and a bit cool, rainy, and breezy at other times.

Day 10, 11, 12, 13 - January 31st to the morning of February 3rd. Birded the Los Quetzales Ecolodge trails, La Amistad International Park (shared with Costa Rica), Finca (farm) Rios, and the trailhead of the Los Quetzales Trail. Day 13 will get it's own post in the near future.

Guadalupe is just about Cerro Punta, beside Vulcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Central America. I liked the area so much I spent an extra day here. The Los Quetzales Ecolodge is nice because although it has some fancy cabins in the woods, it also has a dormitory for the more budget minded traveller. The weather in the

The farmers in the area have these beautiful fields of vegetable up the slopes - but it's also a big reason why there's a lot of deforestation in the area. 

 Mountain Elaenia - correct me if I'm wrong.

 Ochraceous Pewee was a bird I wasn't expecting. Basically only found in Panama on the trail above Los Quetzales Ecolodge.

Hummingbirds go nuts at the feeders here. I ID'd 8 species, but missed a couple no doubt. Clockwise: Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Violet Sabrewing, White-throated Mountain-gem. 

Yellow-thighed Finches are common.

 Flame-colored Tanagers are nice to look at. 

 Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers are abundant.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

El Valle - days 7 and 8

No bird photos this entry - you can stop reading now if you like.

After birding most of the morning around Gamboa on January the 28th I got a late start heading out to the mountain town of El Valle west of Panama City. Taking a bus into Panama City, and another one out to El Valle I arrived after dark but luckily found a place to stay rather quickly.

El Valle is a small town located in the caldera of a massive extinct volcano, being surrounded by mountains on all sides. It's at the eastern end of a mountain range and thus has many bird species typically found further west in Panama. Therefore, from Panama City, this is the closest place to see some of these birds.

I stayed at a place that operates a small restaurant and has 3 - 5? rooms to rent. I decided to grab a bite to eat in their restaurant but couldn't figure out how to lock my door. The key wouldn't work..weird. The old lady tried to help me, but couldn't figure it out either. Actually she figured out how to lock my door, and locked all my stuff in the room but couldn't open the door! She started swearing in Spanish I think... I had to climb in through the unlocked (luckily) window in order to free my belongings. She decided to give me a different room with a working key. In the end, it turned out she had given me the wrong key for the room.

This room cost $18.50 - included in the cost was an animal (giant rat?) trying to eat through the ceiling to get me the first night I stayed there. 

When I headed for the restaurant to grab a bite to eat I was walking down a dark hallway and I rang my forehead so hard off a metal cross beam my lower jaw snapped up against my teeth. I was lucky not to chip a tooth - welcome to El Valle. It was uphill from there though. A young lady works in the restaurant and she is learning English at school. She was happy to practice her English with me and often served me before the other patrons!

The next day (Jan 29th) I wandered around town and walked most of the way up to Cerro (Mountain) Gaital before getting a ride to near the top. There's a great trail up there view beautiful vistas. While I found the birding slow (I arrived a bit late for good birding), on the way back down the mountain I came across a massive mixed species flock full of gorgeous tanagers and many other species. 

 That's El Valle down below - well, down below in the above photo.

The mixed species flock contained numerous Tawny-crested, Silver-throated, and Bay-headed Tanagers. In with them was both Plain and Spot-crowned Antvireo, White-winged Becard, Long-billed Gnatwren, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, White-breasted Wood-wren, and a few warblers. A few others got away. This single flock of birds made my trip to El Valle worth while. 

Oh, and I also had my first 2 regional endemics. White-tailed Emeralds and Tawny-capped Euphonias were found in various places. The Euphonia is a gorgeous bird and worth a quick google. 

I didn't spend enough time here and may need to go back for another visit. On the morning of January 30th I decided I would head for the Western Highlands. It took 5 buses and about 10 hours to make the trip but it wasn't that bad at all. The bus system here is pretty slick. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Panama Days 5 and 6 - More Gamboa

Big ass boat on the canal. 

I've been doing a real crappy job of blogging - was without internet for a few days and that put me behind. Plus, finding time when I'm not birding, eating, sitting on a bus, or sleeping can also be a bit of a challenge.

I'm currently in the Western Highlands - Guadalupe to be exact. But lets go back to days 5 and 6 - January the 27th and 28th.

White-necked Puffbird - Jan 27th

January the 27th I birded Old Gamboa Road in the morning and then didn't do any serious birding after that. The Old Gamboa Rd was a bit underwhelming but like everywhere you go it's hard not to add new birds. Finally got a non-falcon, non-vulture raptor - a Gray-lined Hawk - a southern split from Gray Hawk. Or so e-bird tells me. At "summit ponds" at the beginning of the road is the famous spot for Boat-billed Heron in the canal area - we had a bunch of them, an Amazon Kingfisher, and Lesser Kiskadee were highlights.

January the 28th I birded the morning at the Rainforest Discovery Center off Pipeline Rd and went up to the Canopy Tower. It's not cheap, but it's worth it. Saw male Blue Cotinga - a bit far off, but still a stunner. A good flight of raptors were going and we got Great Black Hawks, Gray-headed Kites, Double-toothed Kites, Zone-tailed Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, and a White Hawk. I did some birding around Gamboa before taking a few buses and arriving after dark in the mountain town of El Valle. More on that later - not too much later I hope.

 A couple of views from the Canopy Tower.

 A male Blue Dacnis, fairly common birds.

At the Discovery Center there is a pile of hummingbirds coming to their feeders there. Here are a couple shots of a Violet-bellied Hummingbird, a Long-billed Hermit, and a Cinnamon Woodpecker. None of these are rare birds, just birds I managed to get usable photos of!