Sunday, August 23, 2009

Canopy Lodge Birding

On August 22 we arrived at the Canopy Lodge. It is wonderful to be back - Les and I were here with friends in December 2008, and it is the most luxurious birding accommodation we have ever experienced. Raul Arias took great care and put much thought into every detail of this lodge. His vision was to create a birding/eco-lodge from the ground up. He chose the location; the placement of the buildings, doorways, windows; considered every view from within; the placement and shape of the paths; the choice of rocks and building materials and much more. The food is excellent; the rooms are simple, elegant, and airy; the beds are comfortable; the amenities complete; the open terrace dining area is protected from the rain while retaining the feeling of being outdoors; the grounds are beautiful; and the birds - most importantly - are fantastic.

On Saturday afternoon, Danilo was our guide. We enjoyed our reunion (he guided us in December - he knows the birds of the area as well as anybody and is an excellent guide) and had a great afternoon of birding.

On Sunday August 23 through Tuesday the 25th, Tino was our guide. (Hey, Lodge - where is Tino's link?) Tino is yet another of the impressive guides here, and he is also an accomplished artist. We did not have the opportunity to bird with Tino in December, and are delighted to make his acquaintance and have his help this time. Les got some good video of a few of Monday's highlights.

Getting Around in Panama

I consider it a feat of extreme care, luck, and expertise that Les drove the little Yaris around for 22 days without getting a detectable scrape or a dent on it. (He might have gotten a teeny dent on the front bumper, but it was in exactly the place where dents had already been noted prior to our taking possession, so the careful inspection by a Thrifty agent came out fine. Most of the vehicles we see on the roadways have numerous small dents and scrapes and many have large ones. Vehicle rental companies here go over the car with a fine-toothed comb when you turn it in, and as a renter, it is wise to do the same when you pick it up. Drivers here are very aggressive, and they honk a lot. The type of honk conveys subtle information - I know you!; Hi, let me in.; Don't pull out in front of me!; Don't be an idiot!; You ARE an idiot.; Coming through.; Go ahead.; Take it.; Muchas gracias!; and more.)

Before we rented our first car in Panama, while we were still in Gamboa last month, we ventured out on buses and in taxis. It costs 65 cents to get from Gamboa to the Albrook terminal on the Coop Saca bus line. We took the Saca buses to the terminal a few times, and it takes about 45 minutes. From the Albrook terminal, you can get just about anywhere - buses run to the interior, to Costa Rica, to the Darien, and all over Panama City.

The Diablo Rojos are the city buses, they run all around the city, and the cost is 25 cents each ride - no transfers - we took a few rides on them too, sometimes being surprised when we were dropped off in sketchy neighborhoods. But we maintained our auras and came out unscathed. The Rojos are converted school buses from the U.S.A. The conversion consists of inventive and artistic paint jobs, and often they have fancy neon lights around the license plates and around the windshields. Some of the paint jobs have themes, such as Elvis, the Black Christ, Beyonce, various Latin pop stars, Betty Boop, Hello Kitty, Jimi Hendrix, Sting. Most of the buses belch diesel smoke, referred to as Devil Fumes. Sometimes the wheels fall off them, but we were fortunate not to experience such an event.

Photo © George Griffeth 2009
We also took taxis a few times. It's very inexpensive to get around town in taxis, although it's best to agree on a price with the driver before getting in. Some of them try to foist the gringo rate on visitors. One time in December, we got from our motel to Metropolitan Park for $5 (we now know that rate was probably a dollar or two more than it should have been.) Then, when we left the park, the driver (not the same as the first time) told us it would be $10 to take us back to the motel. I told him "No way - we got here for $5.", then turned on my heel and started to walk away. He promptly said, "OK - $5.", so we got in and went back to the room.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Melastome Eaters

Tomorrow morning we wrap things up here in Cerro Azul and head for the Canopy Lodge, where we will spend our last 4 nights in pure birding luxury before returning to San Francisco. So this morning (August 21), for our last birding hike in Cerro Azul (of this particular trip), we decided on the Maipo Trail. It goes right into Chagres National Park, and is teeming with birds, many of them the type we don't see in the less wild areas of C.A. Quite a few of the melastome trees were full of berries, and that's where we saw the most birds. Amongst the species eating these berries were Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Red-capped Manakin, White-ruffed Manakin, Olive Tanager (abundant, traveling in large flocks, and very noisy), Palm Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, White-vented Euphonia, Bay-headed Tanager (abundant), Emerald Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Yellow-and-black Tanager, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Shining Honeycreeper. Carlos has told us from the beginning that planting melastome trees is the way to go - we are believers.

Two of the Red-capped Manakins were in full display mode, landing on a branch with lowered heads, wings held at an angle, fluffing up their ruffs and shuffling sideways along the branch. Sorry - no video - but it was quite a sight to behold.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Elation Followed by Disappointment

Well, we went inside the second orange house on Monday afternoon (August 17) and we absolutely love it. The owner has taken amazingly good care of it - all the wood is sealed, the ceiling is finished, the main level has new tiles on the floor, the windows fit tightly, the upstairs wood loft floor does not creak and bounce like all the other loft floors we have walked on. Both bathrooms have hot water in the sinks and showers (not cold-water sinks and on-demand hot water heaters in the shower only, with wires hanging out every which way.) It has a lovely tiled terrace running the full width of the house. It has a large, solidly-constructed gazebo with electricity, a built-in grill, a tile counter and a sink. It is being offered for a good price, and includes all the furnishings except for the kiddie toys and swing sets and play house. We had high hopes.

When we came to Panama in mid-July, we did not expect that our 6-week stay would result in a house purchase. Then we started seeing what we thought were some pretty nice-looking and affordable houses. Then we saw this house and fell in love. We hired a civil engineer to walk through our favorite houses with us to share his professional observations, and found it to be a really valuable experience. We now look at every house through Dirk's eyes, and most of them have a lot more problems than we suspected before we learned some of the skinny from Dirk. He saw no major problems with this house, and only a couple of very minor ones (for instance, one of the rain gutters had fallen off and needed to be replaced.)

So Mayra, our excellent attorney, researched the details of the property, and although the title is clear, she discovered a little glitch that will most likely prevent us from buying this house. The possibility still exists that we can work something out, but we no longer have much hope that this will be our Panama home.

If this wonderful house is not meant to be our home, we will return to Panama in a few months and search anew. Our friends and contacts here in Cerro Azul tell us that houses come on the market often, and you do have to be here to find out about them, especially the unadvertised ones, as we have already learned. That's our plan.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Romeo y Julieta

Today (August 17) we took our first walk along the Romeo & Juliet trail. It leads to a waterfall, and I don't think we made it that far. I stopped at the creek crossing where the water would have gone over the tops of my shoes. Les went a little farther, and he doesn't think he was quite to THE waterfall either. The trail is steep and slippery at this season. Going down was treacherous, and coming back up made us huff and puff and sweat.

Although it was not terribly birdy, we came across some great birds. The usuals were present, and we crossed paths with a few fun flocks. We also had some nice looks at little groups of Gray-breasted Wood Wrens and Song Wrens. We were surprised to find 3 more lifers on the walk. First was 2 to 4 Spot-crowned Barbets with a flock of tanagers , honeycreepers and dacnis. Nice-looking birds, and only the second species of barbet we have seen. Short-billed Pigeons were the next lifer - we had to work long and hard to get a decent though distant view of what we thought was such a skittish species. Then on the way back, we got to within 25 feet of one feeding on berries in a nearby tree.

The third was definitely the most exciting find - a young Barred Forest-Falcon. Les spotted it fly down to the side of the trail, where it walked around in the grass for a few seconds, then stood still for a minute or two. Then it flew up to a low branch in a bush, where it sat for several minutes. Les got footage of this beautiful, honey-buff-colored bird inside the bush as it watched a butterfly fluttering nearby.

After a couple minutes of watching the butterfly, the little falcon caught and ate the butterfly, and then flew off into the forest. In the species account in A Guide to the Birds of Panama, Ridgely says the Barred Forest-Falcon "Follows swarms of army ants persistently, then often terrifying the other the small birds in attendance, though it captures mostly large insects, only occasionally going after a bird." Another book we like to use in Panama is The Birds of Costa Rica by Richard Garrigues.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Double-edged Rainbow

Casas, casas, casas. Looking at them and thinking about them is mostly what we've been doing lately. We have been surprised and very happy with the combination of planning, coincidence and good timing that has broadened our network of connections here in Cerro Azul. Through the Internet (how, can anybody out there remind me, did we ever live without it??), we were fairly well-prepared to launch ourselves into the house-hunting project. We joined several yahoo group forums and combed through the archives and current posts for recommendations of real estate agents, lawyers, prices and warnings and such.

We already had a few friends here, mainly Carlos Bethancourt and Jose Soto (of Canopy Tower fame.) Once we were here in C.A., we (mostly Les) started talking to anyone and everyone we met. But I made a few contacts too, and remembered some people from our December trip when we just happened to see them up here. Panama is a small country, and everyone knows everyone, we keep hearing. It's turning out to be true. Word got around in the ex-pat community that we were hunting; from them we received tips on a few un-listed houses, and also leads on reliable contractors. We met gardeners, who connected us up with several houses for sale that were listed nowhere - not even a "se vende" sign on the fence. It really is who you know, not what you know.

Our real estate agent Yolanda, of Las Olas Properties, has been fantastically wonderful. She is a Woman of Action! On each trip up to C.A. to show us houses, she has brought along her husband Sergio. They are a great team - he offers pertinent observations and advice as we walk through the houses and around the lots. On Saturday, August 15th, Yolanda brought Sergio and her two children, Fernando and Sophia, all pictured here.

So today (August 16), after the early-morning fog lifted, and after he had fed the birds their breakfast bananas, Les pointed out a rainbow. He said it was a good omen, since we were to look at a couple more houses with Yolanda this afternoon.

We already had 3 favorites amongst the houses we had been inside, but felt we should view a few more before deciding on one. Today we looked at one more - the habitat was beyond wonderful - nary a pine tree on the lot. It was the only lot we have looked at that had nothing but native trees. We saw our lifer Scarlet-thighed Dacnis there a couple weeks ago, and Yolanda had contacted the owner, who sent his gardener over to open the place up for us. Every time Les and I went there (about 5 times since the Scarlet-thighed discovery), great birds were around - Violaceous Trogon, Masked Tityra, Streaked Flycatchers, Buff-throated Saltators, hordes of tanagers and honeycreepers. The house has a nice paint job on the outside, but heavy drapes over all the windows, so we had no idea about the inside. Today we gained access, and it was awful. Dank and dark upstairs - three rooms full of who-knows-what, since there were blankets and comforters covering the head-high stacks of whatever. On the main level was a tiny and sad-looking little kitchenette and living space, dark and in poor condition. We also heard through friends that residents in this area (the Frente district of C.A.) had not been able to obtain phone service, despite months of attempts. That's a deal-breaker for us - we must have our Internet.

Then we went back to what we have been calling Casa Roca (the Rock House.) We really like it. Rock walls, mucho character and personality, a lot of potential. But it would need a lot of work. No hot water in the bathrooms except the on-demand hot water in the showers, unknown if there is hot water in the kitchen, probably would need electrical re-habbing, bathroom on the main level needs to be completely redone. Could we endure the construction and rehab? We're not sure.

As we were leaving Casa Roca, Arturo, the gardener for Casa Roca, came along and told us that he had yet another house to show us, but not until Monday the 17th. From the outside, it looked clean and well-maintained, in great condition, and other than the bright orange paint job (popular up here in C.A.) we liked the looks of it. We will report on it later. He also showed us another FSBO (for sale by owner) home, which was in the most perfect condition we have yet observed. No mold, no peeling paint, no bugs anywhere inside, completely finished ceilings, tasteful wall colors and tiles, beautiful inside and out, perfect move-in condition. But it was surrounded too closely by large, somewhat ostentatious homes, some with indoor dogs that barked a lot, and we felt closed in when we were outside. The lot was kind of small, so there was no buffer zone. We want to have windows and doors open so we can enjoy our yard and the birds and the sounds - this perfect house was probably not for us.

A couple days ago we thought our top three choices were #1- Casa Roca; #2- a little orange house (Casa Naranja #1) on a mostly pines lot in move-in condition but nothing exciting; and #3- one we call Casa Termita (saw a few termite trails on the outside of the walls - but the habitat on the lot was great and the house was cute.) Now we had to think about #4- the Perfect House that we'd all but rejected, but it was within our price range and so perfect, and #5- the potentially great Casa Naranja #2 that we had not been inside. Decisions usually come easy for us - the right choice is so obvious. But now we have almost too many choices - any one of them could be the right one.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Couple More Terrace Birds

Three-Toed Sloth © George Griffeth 2009

Ok, the picture isn't of a bird. But, our amigo Jorge captured the essence of Three-toed Sloth. And we saw one yesterday from the terrace. Today (12 August 2009) we saw our first Squirrel Cuckoo in C.A., and it was just 10 feet off our terrace. A Thick-billed Euphonia chased it away, but not before we had a good view.
Also today we finally saw Swallow-tailed Kites from the terrace - we saw them every day we were at the big house on Castillo. We don't know why they don't pass over this house more often - there are plenty of odes for them.Vultures are also in short supply over this plot on C.A. Additional species for our Terrace list (since the original Terrace post)include Scaled Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Lesser Greenlet, Masked Tityra, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Buff-throated Saltator.

Gecko Feeder

Last night (11 August 2009) while climbing the spiral staircase to our internet room I spied something moving on the hummingbird feeder. Cindy held the flashlight while I shot videotape. There are several geckos around (but not in, so far as we've noticed) the house, but this is the first we've seen indulging in agua con azucar (sugar water). Hope she finishes off with a tasty gnatty tidbit.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tayra and Mantid

The past couple of days we've done a little of this & a little of that, without much to report. Yesterday a short walk on one of the trails in the forest was fun, with nothing unusual, but we did meet up with a couple of large, fast-moving passerine flocks that challenged us - they were in the highest tree-tops and we were on the ground. It was fun, and walking through the tropical forest continues to amaze us. There is just so much to see, discover, hear, and try to identify.

Today we were driving back up the hill toward C.A. when I saw a Tayra (Eira barbara) on a hillside. He was headed for the road (which he crossed after Les screeched to a halt so we could watch this beautiful beast) and then he disappeared into the forest. He was very dark brown or black, without the lighter-colored head they attain when older. We were really excited - our first mustelid in Panama!

This afternoon Les spotted a really cool mantid on the terrace. It's about 3 inches long and looks like leaves - see Les's video. We think it is a Hooded Mantis. It was walking toward the shade of the terrace. When it came to the wall of the house it began searching for footholds and made it up about two feet before falling back down. It sat for a few moments and then continued on it's walk.

Toucan Terrace

Keel-billed Toucans
Below our terrace at Cerro Azul a large bare tree was ripe for being a toucan hang-out. We watched for several days with nothing. Then yesterday Cindy called out, "They're here!" We saw a total of 8 Keel-billed Toucans roosting and displaying around the tree. I grabbed a quick videoscope shot.

Then today I read The Birdchick note about how the birds regulate body temperature with the large bill.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

First Walk on the Xenornis Trail

Cerro Azul borders on the Chagres National Forest, which explains much about the richness and diversity of the birdlife here. In A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama by Angehr, Engleman & Engleman, a recommended hike is along the Xenornis Trail. This trail is within the Chagres N.F., and a road leading to the top of it is in C.A. We drove as far as we could up this muddy dirt road. Our low-slung little Yaris performed well considering that we have had rain on each of the last 3 afternoons, and one time it was torrential, first for about an hour from the SW (causing a small flood in the kitchen due to no grout at the base of floor-length windows and no awning above them) and then for another 40 minutes from the SE. Water was pouring off the corrugated tin roof in sheets, and would have filled several 50-gallon barrels, not just a few measly buckets.

After parking the vehicle we walked up the road toward the trailhead. We heard and saw several Western Slaty Antshrikes along the way, a Song Wren, a few tanagers, wrens and grassquits. We also heard a few songs that were completely unfamiliar to us. The singers remain a mystery - we could not see them. At the top of the road, we managed to find the Xenornis Trail - it was not obvious. It is overgrown, steep, muddy, slick, and we saw antbirds within the first 10 minutes. If you try it, we recommend the following equipment (other than bins): walking stick, sharp machete, laser pointer, sturdy hiking shoes with a good tread, mosquito repellent. We really enjoyed our hike - it felt wild in there with the Bicolored Antbirds,

Spotted Antbirds (Les's stills and video are of different individuals from Pipeline road), and a lot of ants. As we were hiking up and out, a seemingly curious Yellow-eared Toucanet (our 17th lifer of this trip) flew in and appeared to be carefully examining us from several perches just 8 to 10 feet above our heads. When we exited the forest onto the road, a kettle of 8 to 10 Swallow-tailed Kites was swirling above. Rain clouds were moving in, and not wanting to give any more challenges to the Yaris, we headed back to the car and drove to our apartment to replenish the bananas on the terrace.

Friday, August 7, 2009

House-hunting in Cerro Azul

We have looked at a few houses since our arrival in Panama. We saw two in Las Cumbres (a neighborhood on the edge of Panama City at a slightly higher elevation than the city) and have seen several in Cerro Azul, since we like the climate up here.

There is no Multiple Listing Service for houses in Panama - it's every man and woman for him- and her-self. An owner can advertise property for sale by placing an ad in a newspaper or online, or by a "Se Vende" sign at the front of the property, or through the use of a licensed real estate agent. We have heard that many of the houses in C.A. that are for sale are not listed anywhere, sometimes not even with a Se Vende sign. It's all word of mouth, through friends, neighbors, gardeners. So far, we have been using all the avenues mentioned above, and it is cumbersome. We have never searched for or bought a house before in any country - whether that makes it easier or more difficult, we do not know.

We have also been driving through the entire development up here in C.A. I think we have gone up and down every street, including every cul de sac, at least once. One place where we saw the Se Vende sign had fabulous habitat on the lot, but the house has obviously not been lived in for a long time. The paint on the outside is fresh, and there are tools and supplies strewn about that indicate efforts toward maintenance and upgrades, but much work would still need to be done to make it habitable. But the birds! Violaceous Trogon, Rufous-capped Warbler, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Plain-colored Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Palm Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, our lifer Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Masked Tityra. It was a goldmine of birds, undoubtedly due to the yard being full of native trees, several of which were in bloom or fruit, and not a single pine tree. (C.A. was planted with pine trees several decades ago. We have heard stories about why this was done, among which are: because Panamanians are fond of pine trees, the pines were used as stabilizers for the steep hillsides, and because the pines reminded the Swiss expats of their homeland.) Admittedly, we have seen quite a few woodpeckers on the pines, but other than that, we don't like the pines here and when we do buy property, we will chop the pines and replace them with cecropia or other natives that the birds love.

We have been back to the "Mega-habitat House" several times, at various times of the day, and it always impresses us with the birds. But we are not sure we have the stomach and patience for major remodeling. We have been warned away from it since before we even began exploring in Panama. Contractors from hell (some would say all contractors are from there) are legendary in the U.S.A., but in Panama, it's reported to be worse.

So there are other houses that are "move-in ready" - we have seen a few, and we wonder if we could quickly make the yards more attractive to birds, so we would not have to wait too terribly long to create our own mega-habitat house. We saw a small house on a lot with mainly pines, but the little Geoffrey's Tamarins still came foraging along through the pines. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to be in a yard full of pines for a year or so. Cecropias grow fast - 6 or more feet per year - maybe we could have a cecropia forest in a fairly short time.

The Terrace

Birding from the terrace of our apartment here in Cerro Azul is spectacular. The activity begins a few minutes before 6:00 each morning. First arrivals are usually small flocks of tanagers, then the flycatchers show up, along with a few hummingbirds, seedeater types, woodpeckers and the ever-present House Wrens.

Les began putting halved bananas on the wide railing of the terrace when we moved in here, and it took less than a day for the tanagers to discover this favored snack. He filled two of the long-ignored hummingbird feeders (5 or 6 were hanging empty and moldy when we arrived - nobody lives here full-time), and by the following morning, the hummers were chasing each other away from them.

The following list includes our "every day" terrace birds - species we can see within 25 feet of the terrace:

White-necked Jacobin, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Tropical Peewee, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Gray-breasted Martin, House Wren, Plain Wren, Clay-colored Robin, Hepatic Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Plain-colored Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager (they arrive in noisy little flocks and are the most numerous species we see from the terrace), Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Variable Seedeater, Yellow-faced Grassquit.

On at least one day so far, we have also seen Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker (a Panama endemic), Bran-colored Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, White-shouldered Tanager, Black-striped Sparrow, Giant Cowbird, and just a few minutes ago we saw a lifer from the office doorway - Shining Honeycreeper.

A couple of nights ago as it was getting dark, I was sweeping the terrace and accidently swept across the head of a long, slim snake that was mostly hidden by a log near the wall. It was another lifer - a beautiful and very docile Blunt-headed Tree Snake (Imantodes cenchoa).

Looking a little farther away (using a scope) we have seen White-faced Monkey. And we have heard the quavering calls of Great Tinamou.

It's hard to go anywhere else in the mornings with so much action just outside the doors, but getting up early enough to watch it is never a problem.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jaguar just in.

This marvelous photo of a jaguar comes to us from Jackie & Greg Willis. They are educators/researchers working on Barro Colorado Island. This image is from one of the motion capture cameras they have set-up for their work. Greg saw one of these fantastic creatures many years ago. Now they have the documentary evidence that these cats swim from the mainland onto the island.

As Jackie told us...

"We hope that if more ecotourists like us are talking about jaguars in the Canal area as a reason to visit Panama, maybe the government will exert enough pressure to enforce the hunting laws. My Panamanian friends tell me about wealthy, high-placed Panamanians who are still gleefully taking trophies of jaguars and tapirs (and) other endangered species, totally illegal, and quite unstoppable. "

This intrepid couple is now working with Canopy Tower to place cameras for documenting their night creatures. Thanks to Jackie & Greg for all of their pioneering work.

Arrangements in Los Altos de Cerro Azul

videocapture of Vistamares © 2009 Leslie Lieurance

Cerro Azul is about 40 minutes from Tocumen International Airport, at an elevation of 2,500-3,000 feet above sea level. We will be staying here until August 22, when we head to the Canopy Lodge for a final 4 days of intensive birding before returning to San Francisco.

In December 2008, Les and I birded in Cerro Azul (C.A.) on just one late-December morning of our nearly 3-week Panama trip, but we were enchanted and impressed by the birding and the area. We knew we had to get back here, one way or another.

After we left the Canopy Tower on July 31, we got our rental car and did a little shopping on the way to C.A. We will be doing most of our own cooking, so we needed supplies. The first house we rented here was huge - up on a ridge with Swallow-tailed Kites overhead and windblown trees down the slope - but we felt we were just rattling around in there, even with Jorge to keep us company.

When Les met Paul (the landlord) at the office to take care of some business, he noticed a 2-bedroom apartment below the office. The little apartment is more our style and it has several advantages over the large house on the ridge. One is the internet availability in the office - no wireless, but we are allowed to use the service in the office whenever we want. (We had no internet availability at the large house!) Another is the show-stopping avian abundance just off the terrace. More on that later.

After 2 days at the big house, we took Jorge to Tocumen for his flight to Atlana, and then we spent 2 more days at the big house before moving to the apartment above the office.

Canopy Tower to Los Altos de Cerro Azul

White-whiskered Puffbird © 2009 Leslie Lieurance

Friday morning, July 31, we went on our final field trip at the Canopy Tower - today the weather was good and we drove to Plantation Road and took a nice walk up and back to the vehicle. We saw many species that are becoming regulars for us (most of them are still really exciting, though!), with the highlight on the way up being a male and a female White-whiskered Puffbird. (See Les's great video capture of the male.) On the walk back we got lucky with a small ant swarm. Jose, our guide again this morning, heard a Northern Barred-Woodcreeper and said there must be ants nearby. Sure enough - attending the swarm we saw a couple of the N. Barred-Woodcreepers, some Cocoa Woodcreepers, several Spotted Antbirds, White-bellied Antbirds, an Oscellated Antbird, Red-throated Ant-Tanagers. It was a good way to end the stay at the Canopy Tower.

Lorenzo drove us to Tocumen International Airport, where we picked up a rental car. The Toyota Yaris we got this time has a decent-sized trunk instead of a hatchback, so we had no trouble fitting in all the luggage for the three of us. The windows, except the front windshield, have black film on them - no need for sunglasses while in this vehicle.