Friday, March 4, 2016

Panama is wild, very wild!

With the exception of our two days in El Valle de Anton, our trip was concentrated around the canal zone.  The forests were large and dense, and even when the birds were quiet, there was always something to look at. And, in my case, the insect bites were fierce.  It was wild!  

A well-chosen spot could yield all kinds of things to see and photograph.  There was never a shortage of wildlife to discover.  

Above:  Howler monkey with baby.  We saw and heard howler monkeys every day, sometimes every hour.  They seemed ubiquitous around Pipeline Road, Plantation Road and Achiote Road, but they were also in the city park and around El Valle de Anton. 

Above:  Helicopter damselfly (Mecistogaster linearis) - a truly spectacular creature, especially in flight - and that I had seen before in Peru.  I was able to photograph this perched helicopter which I believe is a female from the wing tip color.  Later, along a creek that crossed under Achiote Road, a male helicopter was flying that I tried to video, but it was too fast and I was too slow.  I found this one minute, 16 second ARKive video of a male flying that also has some great background birdsong  including the ever vociferous kiskadee.   A 26 second, not quite as complete but funnier, You Tube video also shows a male helicopter damselfly.  Incidentally, is a British wildlife information site that I highly recommend.  Throughout history the Brits have long been great explorers of flora and fauna and going by the on-line information that I find this tradition seems to continue.     

Above:  Using Julie's and Darrin's blog post linked below* and their Panama Flickr site, possibly male Rhodopygia cardinalis or R. hindi.

Above:  Damselfly, using the same sources as above, possibly Agia sp. either adamsi or oculata but favor A. oculata.

Above: Dragonfly - possibly another Erythrodiplax sp.

The view from an overlook we climbed to from one of the trails near El Valle de Anton.

Above:  There's an anteater in this photo.  Can you spot it?  Matt was the first to see the anteater and call it out on our first day of official birding near the Ammo dump pond.  What a surprise!  I never really thought I would see an anteater.  This is probably Northern tamandua (Tamandua mexicana).   

Above:  I can't remember where this trail was, but I think it's a good example of the depth and lushness of the forest.

Above: Leaf-cutter ants on Plantation Road.

Above:  In the center of the photo on the green leaf is a very large ant perhaps comparable in size to our large carpenter ants.  The stone pebbles beneath the leaves may offer another size perspective.  When I got home a friend asked if we had seen any bullet ants (Paraponera clavata).  I responded that I didn't even know what a bullet ant was.  I learned from Darrin O'Brien that they are large ants and their sting feels like being shot with a bullet.  YouTube has some gruesome videos of bullet ant stings.  But a non-dramatic blog narrative by the writer alexwild may describe it better.  I have no way of knowing if the few large ants we saw at Pargue Natural Metropolitano were bullet ants.
Google bullet ant and you'll get education.  Addendum made on 05/15/16:  I heard this Sunday Edition NPR interview with entomologist, Justin O. Schmidt who speaks about getting stung by toxic insects for the science of it.  He described the bullet ant in this segment.  I highly recommend listening.  Schmidt has written, The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for Science.

A moth resting on our hotel wall in El Valle's cold morning air.

Near the road, as we were exiting the van to begin our last trail walk near El Valle, we saw that these large cattle were not enclosed.  They seemed interested in us, but we continued walking and forgot all about them.  Perhaps one-half to one hour later and much further up the trail we discovered that the cattle were following us.  Apparently we had been blocking their way and they had dilly-dallied along behind without us even being aware of their presence.  We all found a spot to move off the trail and they continued on up and out of sight.

Mountains near El Valle de Anton.

Cookie found this tiny (perhaps 0.5 inch or 13 mm in length) black and green poison dart frog - the first of these colorful little frogs I have ever seen - hopping along the cleared overlook where we went to see Crane Hawk and other things on our Achiote Road morning.  So cute and so fast as it hopped along and, alas, out-of-focus.  Nevertheless, I think this photo still captures its cuteness.

While photographing the frog, we got distracted by this spider scuttling over the leaf litter.  Just as the frog was small, this spider was large (approximately 2 inches or 5 cm).  Our first thought was tarantula, but we quickly canned that ID.  It looks like a wolf spider to me, from the family Lycosidae, which are found worldwide.

I love taking photos of dragonflies and I think this is my best photo from the trip - Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata).*

Above and below:  a female golden orb silk weaver spider (Nephila clavipes).  Truly spectacular!  We saw two.  Both were spinning their golden silk webs - the threads can be seen in both photos - in the weeds of the roadside ditches.  We also saw the much smaller and more reddish male.

Above:  Turkey vulture with roadkill.

Above:  The road kill was a two-striped skunk.  I should admit here that I love skunks and that this was a sad moment for me.

Another dragonfly with beautiful wingtips is Uracis imbuta.

Above, ending with an out-of-focus photo of an unidentified orchid. The flower's beauty is still apparent but honestly how could I not get a stationary flower in focus?  Reader, I am embarrassed but still want to share it here as a representative of the beauty that can be found in Panama. I did an amateur Google search but could not identify this orchid.

When I culled my photos, I accidentally deleted two of a three inch walking stick that Aniban found and scooped up with the tip of his machete near our tody motmot/spectacled owl location.  A great little creature and I sorely regret my carelessness.  The walking stick would have been a great addition to this blog entry.

Thirty-six hours after returning from Panama, my sister died of high-grade, non-resectable glioblastoma.  And then, after my three days of bereavement leave, I returned to working 50-60 hour weeks.  While on the Panama trip it was sometimes difficult for me to experience how good it really was secondary to distractions that should never occur on a group birding trip.  But, when I got home and began working on my blog everything that we saw and did was brought back to life for me, without distraction, and I now think of this as one of the best trips I've ever been on.  Seeing great birds and capturing the occasional good photo that I can share here is truly thrilling.  Just as interesting to me are the non-bird sightings that I share in this entry.    

I structured my Panama blog entries differently than I have for previous trip blogs and I noticed that I enjoyed it more and found the blogging process less onerous.  I think the fourteen entries offer a complete picture of our trip and I hope others will enjoy and be encouraged to visit.

*Finally, many thanks to Darrin O'Brien for taking the time to help me identify the helicopter damselfly to species and for the two dragonfly identifications.  For an excellent introduction to Panama dragonflies around the canal zone, especially Pipeline Road and Plantation Road, go to the Panama dragonfly blog entry that Darrin and Julie Craves have posted from one of their trips on their blog Urban Dragon Hunters.  Darrin also helped with some butterfly and bird identifications.


1 comment:

Darrin OBrien said...

Very cool sighting of an anteater. I've only seen one and it was a roadkill.

With a quick review of the odes, these are my opinions for the IDs:

helicopter damsel = Mecistogaster linearis
We've also seen these along Pipeline Rd =

The middle ode = Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata)

The last ode = Uracis umbuta

Here's a link to one of our Panama visits: