Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Las Brisas de Canopy Tower

Canopy Tower © 2009 George Griffeth On Monday, July 27 we said our fond farewells to Sharon and Kathy at Simply Devine Homestays and were transported by Lorenzo to the Canopy Tower. (See Jorge Griffeth's photo of the Tower.) It is wonderful to be back (for Jorge, it's only the first visit), and the refreshing breezes up here are especially wonderful. In Gamboa, a breeze would waft through once in a while, giving us a little hope, but we soon learned that none of them ever lasted long enough to make a difference in the general (dis)comfort level.

After lunch, we went out with Domi, our guide, to Summit Park. The Harpy Eagle exhibit (complete with a caged Harpy Eagle) was our first stop within the park, but the enjoyable part of the field trip was walking around the grounds. In addition to a few other caged animals (Tapirs & Hippos, for instance) there are many wild and unfettered birds on the grounds. They are mostly common lowland species such as White-vented Pigeon, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Panama Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Golden-collared Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Clay-colored Robin, Lesser Goldfinch. We also saw a Gray Hawk that day, two Common Nighthawks roosting in an old snag that was festooned with epiphytes, a Yellow-backed Oriole and a Giant Cowbird.

Jackie & Greg WillisAt dinner Monday night, Les, Jorge and I had the incredible good fortune to be seated at the same table as Jackie and Greg Willis. (Photo by Les Lieurance) They have studied the mammal population on Barro Colorado Island for the past 27 years. (They even spent their honeymoon on BCI!) They were at the Tower to consult on the installation of cameras on the property here.

In 1983, Greg saw a Jaguar on BCI, but no photo was taken, and he said almost nobody believed him at the time. People just didn't realize that Jaguars do occasionally visit the island - they swim back and forth from the mainland and some even spend weeks or months on the island. Since then, Jackie and Greg have installed motion-sensitive cameras at various locations on BCI. In April 2009, one of the cameras caught a few photos of a Jaguar, and it was big news on the mammal hotlines and throughout the rest of the world. Greg and Jackie have gotten some great photos over the years, and through careful record-keeping, they know a lot about the personal lives of most of the Ocelots and other mammals who live on BCI - their nightly routines, their territories, their consorts, their menus, their families, etc. After dinner, Jackie used her laptop to give us an impromptu slide show and showed a little video from their research. Jackie and Greg answered our many questions, which led to more questions - it is a fascinating subject - we still can't believe how lucky we were to spend the evening with the Willises.

On Tuesday morning, July 28, we walked along Semaphore Road (gated, and leads from the Tower down to the main road) with our guide Jose Soto. Les and I met Jose in December, and were very pleased to be birding with him again.

videoHighlights for us included fantastic views of a Great Tinamou sauntering through the forest at close range, a Great Potoo on the same day-roost where it was when we left at the end of December, both Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, a White-necked Puffbird, a Southern Bentbill, an Olivaceous Flatbill, and a beautiful Orange-billed Sparrow. Jose commented that the sparrows here are a lot easier to ID than the ones we have in the U.S.A.

In the afternoon on Tuesday, we went with Domi to the Summit Ponds. It began raining pretty heavily as soon as we got there, so we sat in the van for a while. Finally, some of us got antsy, and Domi agreed to take a walk with us.
videoThe rain had eased, so it wasn't impossible for birding, and after about 20 minutes, the rain stopped and more birds became active. Highlights there were Capped Heron (we missed this species twice in Bayano in December, and it's a really cool-looking heron, so we were very happy to see one), Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Scaled Pigeon, Spectacled Owls, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Seedeaters, Black-striped Sparrow, Slate-colored Grosbeaks.

(All video by Les Lieurance)

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