Panama: Fall at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Nov 06—13, 2010

Posted by Barry Zimmer

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Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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A rainbow of colors swirled around the feeders in front of us. Powder-blue Blue-gray Tanagers were everywhere (over 40 at one time). Unbelievably red Crimson-backed Tanagers with their silvery bills provided stunning contrast, as did the velvety-black and yellow of the Flame-rumped Tanagers. Tiny Thick-billed Euphonias decked out in indigo and egg yolk-yellow flitted about every tray. Red-legged Honeycreepers, Streaked and Buff-throated saltators, Palm and Dusky-faced tanagers, Red-crowned Ant-Tanagers, a pair of Red-crowned Woodpeckers, Bananaquits, and Clay-colored Thrushes—where to look first? Two Chestnut-headed Oropendolas with their improbable bills glided in and disrupted things a bit. Suddenly, a flash of rufous and emerald, and the would-be king of the feeders, the Rufous Motmot, had arrived. Other birds gave way and let the motmot have at the bananas. It has always been the dominant feeder bird at the Canopy Lodge…until now. A flock of Collared Aracaris descended on the feeders and even the motmot had to yield to the newcomers. This same scene played out several times each day and all in view from the dining area of the lodge.

Of course, a trip to the Canopy Lodge is about much more than the incredible feeder display, no matter how hard it is to tear oneself away from the lodge grounds. Did I mention the Orange-chinned Parakeets that regularly visited the Erythrina tree right off the patio? This same Erythrina tree had daily visits from an uncommon Long-billed Starthroat. Or the Snowy-bellied Hummingbird that patrolled the garden, and the incredible Orange-billed Sparrows that came in for bread?

Over the course of a week we scoured a variety of habitats from the dry Pacific lowlands near El Chiru to the upper elevation forest of Altos del Maria, tallying nearly 240 species of birds in the process. In the lowlands we enjoyed such treats as Savanna Hawk, Bat Falcon, Aplomado Falcon, Crested Bobwhite, Southern Lapwing (47 in one group), Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, the endemic Veraguan Mango, Brown-throated Parakeet, Blue-crowned Motmot, Barred Antshrike, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and a very aseasonal Piratic Flycatcher among others. In and around the town of El Valle itself we added a roosting pair of Tropical Screech-Owls, prolonged studies of a Tody Motmot (giving us four motmots for the trip), Common Potoo, and stunning male Lance-tailed Manakins.

Forests in the vicinity of the lodge itself harbored White Hawk, Sunbittern (a fantastic fly-by from 15 feet away), Mottled Owl (a roosting pair from about 20 feet), Broad-billed Motmot, and Tawny-crested Tanagers. A few miles uphill in the area called La Mesa we tallied Emerald Toucanet, Orange-bellied Trogon, Green-crowned Brilliant, Spotted Woodcreeper, Dull-mantled and Chestnut-backed antbirds, Spot-crowned Ant-Vireo, Masked Tityra, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Thrushlike Schiffornis, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and Black-faced Grosbeak.

Our final area covered was the higher elevation forests of Altos del Maria. Hummingbirds were much in evidence here with the likes of Snowcap, White-tailed Emerald, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, and Brown Violetear added to our list. At our lunch stop, a rarely seen White-tipped Sicklebill visited Heliconia flowers right next to the road! Other goodies included another perched White Hawk, Tufted Flycatcher, Plain Antvireo, Bicolored Antbird, White-ruffed Manakin, Ochraceous Wren, Scaly-breasted Wren, Common Bush-Tanager, and the incomparable Black-and-yellow Tanager.

In all we had an amazing 25 species of hummingbirds and 22 species of tanagers for the trip. The fabulous Sunbittern and the two perched White Hawks were tied for the favorite birds of the tour. Another successful visit to the wonderful Canopy Lodge!