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,

video


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.

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