Saturday, March 4, 2017

Camino a El Salto

This was another great road we drove for approximately 1.5 km out and back in the afternoon following our teak farm morning - full of good birds.  In just shy of three hours we found 35 species - and most of these very accessible for good views.

Above and four below:  a few of my selection of many White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus hyperrhynchus) photos.  Puffbirds often offer great photo opportunities as is evident with this bird.  It perched beautifully in the open about 15 feet from our vehicle.  It stayed and stayed, seemingly unperturbed, while eight birders in an open air truck all snapped photos.  Arguably this was my best photo-op of the whole trip.

The above photo is not cropped to reveal the background and openness of the bird.

I'm not sure how I missed taking a photo of the open truck - I'll call it our bush truck - that we rode in to bird these roads - a re-configured flatbed with two benches each facing the opposite direction, each bench fitting 4-5 people comfortably.  It was a clever design and very fun to bird from - especially in moments like those with our white-necked puffbird.

Another very cooperative viewing from the bush truck - adult Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris).  This bird didn't stay quite as long at the puffbird, but we all managed a series of nice photos.

Cuipo tree - a very important tree in Panama.

Where the opportunities were good, we left the truck and walked. Above and below:  the mind-blowing male Blue Cotinga (Cotinga nattererii) offered gorgeous viewing.  It was perched high up so my photos are distant and not great, but through the spotting scope it appeared fantastical.  There were actually two; the other a male juvenile bird.  These are just two, one cropped the other not, of the innumerable photos taken as we walked closer and closer.  In fact, I don't recall that either bird ever did fly.  I think we left them.

Later in the week a female Blue Cotinga was seen by several others in the group.  I never did get on the female bird, but apparently it is as striking as the male bird, albeit differently so.

A pair of active Long-tailed Tyrants hunting for insects near their cavity nest site (Colonia colonus) competed for great viewing directly across the road from the Blue Cotingas.  Again, from many photos; none good, I selected the one above.

Near the cotingas and the tyrants we came to a stand-still spot where we picked out a variety of different birds; flycatchers, woodpeckers and others - none photographed by me because of height and challenging light conditions.  Arguably, the best of these was Streaked Xenops (Xenops rutilant).  Domi had seen streaked xenops only twice before. The range identified for streaked xenops in The Birds of Panama is teeny-tiny, but it is more likely that its range is poorly understood.  We saw another on our last day.  As eBird is more widely used by Panama birders, the Streaked Xenops' range may become larger.  

Above: hazy flyover Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus).

Above and below:  poor photos for sure, but I was thrilled they were this good.  As the sun set and we ended our day of birding on El Slato Road, Domi heard nearby Black-chested Jays (Cyanocorax affinis) and eventually called in five.  

I thought we saw far fewer sloths this trip and all were Three-toed. Perhaps it was just that the forests are larger and the sloths had more habitat in which to spread out.

Now it was truly dusk and as we transferred from the bush truck to the van we saw this pair of Lesser Kisskadees (Pitangus lictor) in a scrubby patch at the roadside and I got a few salvageable shots.  

Above:  the cab of our bush truck sans truck bed and benches.  I was trying to photograph the house across the street because there seemed to be a party going on.

The moon rose and our spectacular day of birding ended.

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