Panama: Christmas at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Pre-trip Dec 22—27, 2012

Posted by Tony Nunnery

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Tony Nunnery

Tony Nunnery grew up in Mississippi, then moved to Texas, and graduated from Stephen F. Austin University. After teaching elementary school for several years, he moved to M...

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From the beginning birder to the most experienced birder, Panama possesses something for everyone. Easy access to prolific birding locations and some of the world’s finest birding lodges create an ideal situation for all those interested in the splendor of tropical birding. With this objective in mind, VENT offers “Holiday Season in Panama” with its base of operations being the fabulous Canopy Lodge during Christmas and the exciting Canopy Tower to bring in the New Year. Beginning birders will be mesmerized by the abundance of new birds, and experienced birders will enjoy the rare and more difficult-to-see species.

This year our “Holiday Season in Panama” began in earnest when we arrived at the Canopy Lodge for the pre-trip portion of the program. The staff put bananas on the feeders and, like a director’s cue for the show to begin, the birds began to perform for a captivated audience. Crimson-backed, Palm, Blue-gray, Bay-headed, Plain-colored, Golden-hooded, and Dusky-faced tanagers appeared on stage first, in a dazzling array of colorful plumages. The pageant continued as Thick-billed, Tawny-capped, and Fulvous-vented euphonias joined in with a decorative display of their own. Tennessee and Rufous-capped warblers and Bananaquit added a bit of comic relief to the drama as they snuck in and out among the crowd of Clay-colored Thrushes to nibble at the bananas. However, the Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Collared Aracari, and Rufous Motmot got top billing as they set the stage with their size, shape, and elaborate costumes.

One might assume this would be a hard act to follow, and yet each day presented different programs in the setting of an outdoor theater which provided for a continuous exhibit of spectacular shows. Not even the rain could dampen the spirits of the wide-eyed and awestruck audience. Some of the highlights of the pre-trip at the Canopy Lodge included three Yellow-crowned Parrots nesting in a palm tree at the Country Inn as a sort of pre-show spectacle. Six Spot-crowned Barbets made an appearance in a fruiting ficus tree on the way to La Mesa. While patiently waiting on a forest trail at Las Minas, each participant was awarded stellar views of two Black-crowned Antpittas and a Scaly-breasted Wren as they nonchalantly hopped on the trail and forest floor near each astonished spectator. A White Hawk made three separate appearances at three different locations, once even perching on a low branch at the forest edge. Vermiculated Screech-Owl, Spectacled Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Mottled Owl were all seen well as they performed a sort of silent pantomime for their curious onlookers from their day roost perches. Another highlight was a pair of Orange-bellied Trogons perched out in the open at Altos de Maria where also both male and female Snowcap hummingbirds made several appearances in a delightful display of diminutive size and exquisite elegance. One fascinating and remarkable situation occurred when a Purple-crowned Fairy unconcernedly came down from its canopy habitat to bathe in a picturesque forest stream beside the trail. These are just a few of the many memorable moments that presented themselves throughout the Canopy Lodge pre-trip portion of the Holiday Season in Panama tour.