Panama: Fall at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Nov 01—08, 2015

Posted by Barry Zimmer


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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Once again, our Canopy Lodge tour provided a memorable and exciting birding adventure to Panama. The cool foothill habitats surrounding El Valle, combined with a visit to the Pacific lowlands, yielded nearly 240 species of birds with countless highlights.

Our trip started off in grand fashion with a short walk around our Panama City hotel grounds that produced 35 species. This dapper Squirrel Cuckoo was among the highlights.

Squirrel Cuckoo— Photo: Barry Zimmer

We began our trip with brief birding around our Panama City hotel. A stunning Squirrel Cuckoo topped the list, but close, perched Blue-headed Parrots, Pale-vented Pigeon, Yellow-headed Caracara, a stunning Crimson-backed Tanager (eating a mango in the parking lot!), and numbers of Yellow-bellied Seedeaters were also noteworthy. A short two-and-a-half-hour drive westward landed us at the Canopy Lodge. Freshly stocked feeders were abuzz with activity upon our arrival. Blue-gray, Palm, Crimson-backed, and Flame-rumped tanagers, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Collared Aracari, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Buff-throated Saltator, swarms of Thick-billed Euphonias and more were swirling about in a dizzying array of colors. The feeders would subsequently produce such gems as Rufous Motmot (daily), Spot-crowned Barbet, and Dusky-faced Tanager as well. Keel-billed Toucan, Snowy-bellied and Rufous-tailed hummingbirds, Long-billed Starthroat, Purple-crowned Fairy, and Green Kingfisher were all tallied in short order from the dining room viewing area. It was, frankly, hard to tear ourselves away from the spectacular birding on the lodge grounds.

The local name for the Crimson-backed Tanager is

Crimson-backed Tanager— Photo: Barry Zimmer

Over the next five days we ventured out on short drives to surrounding areas. The Cariguana Trail provided a perched White Hawk, a fabulous Tody Motmot (ten feet away!), Blue-crowned Motmot, roosting Spectacled Owls, a crowd-pleasing pair of Barred Antshrikes, Garden Emerald, and Rosy Thrush-Tanager among others. The La Mesa area yielded Blue-throated (Emerald) Toucanet (a pair 20 feet away), Orange-bellied Trogon, over 200 migrating Swainson’s Hawks, a very rare Blue-winged Warbler (new to the Canopy Lodge area list!), Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, and Silver-throated and Bay-headed tanagers, while the Canopy Adventure had roosting Mottled Owl, Broad-billed Motmot, and Tawny-crested Tanager. In the higher foothills of Altos del Maria, we found Snowcap, the rare Brown-billed Scythebill, Red-faced Spinetail, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Tufted Flycatcher, White-ruffed Manakin, Ochraceous Wren, Common Chlorospingus, and the incomparable Black-and-yellow Tanager. Another day we ventured down the Caribbean slope to Rio Indio. A very rare Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, a pair of Barred Puffbirds, a male Shining Honeycreeper, Golden-collared Manakin, and Lineated Woodpecker were among the highlights.

The highlight of the morning, however, was the discovery of a pair of Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanets very close over the road. We watched them for nearly ten minutes.

Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet— Photo: Barry Zimmer

Finally, we visited the Pacific lowlands near Anton and Santa Clara. In one day we added 45 species to our list! Seven Savanna Hawks, numerous Southern Lapwings, Wattled Jacana, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Brown-throated Parakeet, and Lance-tailed Manakin were among the most memorable. A Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch from 30 feet the last morning was the icing on the cake!

In addition to all the amazing birds, we also saw some interesting mammals: (two species of sloth, Central American Agouti, and Orange Nectar Bat), a rarely seen Eyelash Viper, and over 30 species of spectacular butterflies. Simply put, it was another amazing week in Panama!