Sunday, November 13, 2016
FLIGHTS OF FANCY ADVENTURES
RIO DE LOS RAPACES
(RIVER OF THE RAPTORS)
OCTOBER 19-25, 2016
Each fall, every Swainson’s Hawk, almost every Broadwinged Hawk, every Mississippi Kite in North America books a ticket on an express flight to South America. Despite having their breeding grounds scattered all over the continent, one thing is true - when they head south, their routes converge and converge further until they all meet migrating across the southern part of the Isthmus of Panama, the narrowest portion of the narrowest land bridge connecting North to South America.
Twelve participants were not disappointed, standing atop Cerro Ancon in Panama City, when literally, tens of thousands and tens of thousands more of these magnificent raptors swarmed over and around us, many within 100 feet, pouring in from surrounding hillsides, swirling in rising kettles, streaming off toward the south and east once they rose to the top of the updraft, looking like swarms of huge insects. To put it simply, it was a mind-boggling experience. And over the course of several hours, it kept happening. The further out over the hills we looked, dense clouds of birds kept approaching. If we came to see the raptor migration, we achieved our goal.
The rest of the trip was also not too shabby. We stayed the entire time at the wonderful and unique Canopy Tower, located just north of Panama City. From the Tower’s observation deck, we had incredible opportunities to observe numerous tropical species, not to mention a few Neotropic migrants that had just begun to arrive on their wintering grounds. The mile-long Semaphore Hill Road, which is the Tower’s driveway, offered wonderful viewing of many different species that make their living on the ground or in the lower elevations of the forest.
Each day we took trips from the Tower to visit some of the best birding sites in the world. Pipeline Road, Ammo Dump Ponds, Summit Ponds, The Gamboa Rainforest Resort and Chagres River, were among the fantastic places we enjoyed. Part of our group also visited the Miraflores Lock and the Panama Canal Museum, an exceptionally interesting and informative experience. One morning, we arose very early to check out the relatively new observation tower at the Rainforest Discovery Center near pipeline Road. Climbing over 100 feet in the air, the gently swaying tower was quite the experience, not necessarily savored by all. The 360˚ view of the tropical forest from the top was spectacular and even a wee bit of precipitation did dampen our pleasure at seeing parrots, toucans and hawks flying by or perched in the tops of nearby trees. The Center itself had numerous hummingbird feeders, all voraciously attended by a wide variety of hummers. Just before leaving, we were extremely fortunate to encounter a huge army ant swarm moving around the parking area. Dozens of “ant” birds and other species that follow the army ant swarms were there, scooping up all the insects and other creatures that were desperately trying to avoid the marauding ants.
Our final full day also started well before dawn, as we drove south past Panama City and then east into the Blue Mountains, or Cerro Azul. We spent the day visiting two very friendly birders’ homes, watching hundreds of hummingbirds zooming around their feeders and taking nectar from all the flowering plants. We also wandered through the hills by coach and foot, finding one new species after another, including the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker.
All good things must come to an end, so after a last morning atop the Canopy Tower, we peeled off to the airport for our migration home. Great trip and great group overall!
Final facts and figures:
228 bird species recorded.
12 mammal species seen.
All the best to everyone!
|BRONZE-TAILED PLUMELETEER, Dan Maico|
|THREE-TOED SLOTH, Kathy van der Aue|
|GREEN HERMIT, Dan maico|
|SHINING HONEYCREEPER (F)|
|GRAY-HEADED TANAGER (with spider)|
|PLAIN BROWN WOODCREEPER|
|NORTHERN BARRED WOODCREEPER|
Thanks to everyone who participated! The following are photos and drawings of birds and other things seen during the trip. All photos are marked with the photographer's name. All other are by Sam Fried.
|DAWN VIEW FROM CANOPY TOWER|
|HAWKS MIGRATING OVER PAN-AMERICAN BRIDGE|
|CRIMSON-CRESTED WOODPECKER, Christine Howe|
|SLATY-TAILED TROGON, Christine Howe|
|RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON (IMM), Christine Howe|
|THE CANOPY TOWER|
|ALEXIS, OUR GUIDE, Mick Danek|
|BIRDING FROM CANOPY TOWER DECK|
|BLACK-CHEEKED WOODPECKER, Christine Howe|
|WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN, Dan Maico|
|SQUIRREL CUCKOO, Christine Howe|
|KEEL-BILLED TOUCAN, Christine Howe|