Panama: Christmas at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Pre-trip Dec 22—27, 2015

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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It is always a pleasure to spend the holiday season in Panama guiding for VENT, which allows me to share some of this country’s spectacular natural beauty with others. Of course, one of our main focuses is upon birds, of which we have plenty of opportunities to witness, and as in previous years, this holiday season provided a variety of memorable moments.

The Christmas at El Valle’s Canopy Lodge Pre-trip began at the shores of the Panama Canal where we overnighted in the Country Inn. As Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans shared the sky with Laughing Gulls and Osprey, we searched for more tropical species in the immediate vicinity of the hotel’s grounds. Here we found Roadside Hawk, Scaled Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Short-tailed Swift, Red-crowned and Lineated woodpeckers, and Barred Antshrike alongside various flycatchers such as Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet and Great Kiskadee. We also got our first sightings, with many more to come, of tropical tanagers including Blue-gray and Palm tanagers.

After breakfast and a bit of birding, we made the relatively short drive to the Canopy Lodge in El Valle. Here the act of concentrating our interest on birding began at the banana feeders near the dining area. Before lunch was served we had already seen Rufous Motmot, Collared Aracari, Bay Wren, and numerous Clay-colored Thrushes. Alongside these feeding on the bananas, we also found the White-lined Tanager, Lemon Rumped Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, and Buff-throated Saltator. A pair of Dusky-faced Tanagers also visited the feeders, along with many Thick-billed Euphonias. This was an easy and fascinating introduction to the tropical avifauna of Panama.

During our stay at Canopy Lodge we made various excursions to nearby locations including La Mesa, Cara Iguana, Altos de Maria, and the Pacific Coast, as well as enjoying time to birdwatch around the Canopy Lodge’s immediate surroundings. Each one of these locations provided ample opportunity to observe an abundance of birds, plus the habitats in which they live.

Of course, all sightings are appreciated; however, some of the exceptional moments are worth mentioning. For instance, the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo that we watched feed near the trail at an antswarm. Then there was the Gray-necked Wood-Rail that walked out into the open and calmly crossed our path. We saw three species of owls on a perch during the day. These included the Crested Owl, the Mottled Owl, and the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. We also had an exceptionally thrilling moment when a Barred Forest-Falcon flew and landed directly above us on one of the trails. In addition we found the Veraguan Mango, a Panamanian endemic hummingbird, feeding in a flowering tree near the road.  Another spectacular hummingbird we were fortunate to see was the Snowcap hummingbird, perched out in the open. Each of these special sightings, together with sightings of the Spot-crowned Barbet, Lance-tailed Manakin, Ochraceous Wren, and Crested Oropendola, along with many other amazing species, resulted in a very memorable time indeed during our stay at the Canopy Lodge.