Panama: Christmas at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Pre-trip Dec 22—27, 2014

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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VENT’s Holiday Season in Panama tours during Christmas and the New Year provide an exceptional alternative for anyone seeking a different and exciting experience from the normal routine during the holidays. The difference is obvious as one removes their winter jacket and gloves to replace them with the lighter, more comfortable clothes better suited for the tropical climate. The excitement is ongoing as one experiences a new environment where exotic birds, plants, and other wildlife are observed each day.

Our tour began in earnest with a pre-trip to the Canopy Lodge in El Valle. Upon arrival, the change of routine got underway while watching various tropical birds visit the banana feeders just below the open-air dining area. We watched excitedly as Rufous Motmot, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, and Red- crowned Ant-Tanager fed frantically. From our strategic elevated perspective we witnessed the brilliant colors of Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird as they flitted about the verbena flowers. Before lunch was served we also saw Green Kingfisher fishing in a nearby pond, Bay Wren darting in and out of its nest by the stream next to the lodge, and Rufous-capped Warbler in the garden, as Buff- throated Saltator, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, and Thick-billed Euphonia brought our attention back to the banana feeders.

The afternoon was spent strolling up the road where we saw a Zone-tailed Hawk fly overhead. A Squirrel Cuckoo searched for caterpillars in a Cecropia Tree. A Green Hermit fed at a Heliconia flower beside the road while Keel-billed Toucan and Black-chested Jays flew among the trees. We also saw our first of many sightings of a Brown- throated Three-toed Sloth sleeping in a nearby tree. We took a short hike along a trail at Canopy Adventure to see a Mottled Owl on its day perch. However, the trophy for the day presented itself as we all observed a Tody Motmot in the scope. It sat still just meters away from the road in a dense thicket. We all took second looks in the scope before it winged its way out of sight.

The tropical climate and wildlife firmly establish a change from the normal subtropical holiday routine. Each day of the Christmas Pre-Trip at Canopy Lodge brought new and exciting wonders. Some of the highlights included the Spot-crowned Barbets spotted on the road as we made our way up to La Mesa. An Orange- bellied Trogon was perched out in the open at La Mesa shortly before a pair of Emerald Toucanets diverted our attention to their colorful and comical appearance. The Spectacled Owl on its day perch at Cari Iguana is worth mentioning. Here we also enjoyed long and studied looks at a flock of Orange-chinned Parakeets as they fed in sunlight on the large pink flowers of the Savannah Oak tree.

Other constant reminders of the different and exciting change of routine consisted of watching a Crested Bobwhite take a dustbath on a dirt path the day we visited Juan Hombrón. This area near the coast provided a great view of Savannah Hawk flying in the morning sun before perching in the open of a leafless tree. A Striped Cuckoo sat and sang from an open perch. Other highlights here were the Brown-throated Parakeets perched in the morning sun, Garden Emerald and Sapphire-throated hummingbirds, and the Lance-tailed Manakin in full view and down low in the dry thicket. We ate lunch at the Canopy Beach House where some enjoyed a swim in the Pacific Ocean as Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Neotropical Cormorant, and Brown Pelican flew up and down the beach.

The day we visited Altos de Maria was also full of exciting moments. Here we had a Green-crowned Brilliant on a nest while a Rufous-browed Tyrannulet gleaned insects from the same tree. Another high point was seeing the Snowcap perch nearby. A Lineated Woodpecker was found building a nest. We came across a large mixed feeding flock with various species which included Ochraceous Wren, Black-and-yellow Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Common Bush-Tanager, and Tawny-crowned Euphonia. However, the crowning moment was the reward we received after patiently waiting until a Black-crowned Antpitta hopped out in full view for all to see.

We happened upon another exciting mixed feeding flock on the day we went to Candelaria. It was a large understory flock with various species which included Spot-crowned Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Checkered-throated Antwren, Chestnut Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, and a group of Song Wrens.

These are just a few of the many great moments during the Christmas El Valle’s Canopy Lodge Pre-Trip. From beginning to end it transformed the normal holiday routine into something very different and exciting. The normal colorful Christmas lights were transformed into colorful and exotic tropical birds. The busy hectic holiday rush was transformed into slow and relaxed days filled with tropical nature and wildlife/birdwatching in the warm tropical climate of Panama. In short, it was a very different and exciting holiday indeed.