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.