Friday, March 18, 2011

Two Toes Are Enough

Suzanne and grandson Eric

Our excellent friend Suzanne Cogen, from Occidental CA, visited us at Casita Naranja a few weeks ago. During her stay, we ranged around Cerro Azul and the Panamá City area showing her some of the birds and any other wildlife that happened along the way.

Rufous-crested Coquette
She also went with us to the house of our pals Bill and Claudia one afternoon, where a female Rufous-crested Coquette was coming to one of their feeders.

Rainforest Discovery Center

See Suzanne's photos of a few highlights below.

Panamá City

While relaxing on the terrace, Suzanne was often distracted by some of the birds at our feeders.
Blue-gray Tanagers

Golden-hooded Tanager


Two-toed Sloth
We also went to the visitor's center of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on the Amador causeway, where a family of Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloths (Choloepus hoffmanni) was lounging in a tree in the middle of a busy walkway, within arm's-reach of the passers-by. Marco shot some footage of one of the sloths as it scratched and groomed its long blonde fur. Having tourists walk by so close must not have seemed like a threat to this animal. According to the text in "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico" by Fiona A. Reed, "If the vines around it are disturbed while it rests, it will advance and slash with the forelimbs or attempt to bite savagely." Admittedly, nobody disturbed the vines or limbs around it, but if the smile on its face was any indication, none of us were in any danger.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Los Carnavales in Cerro Azul

We had been warned by those who claim to know these things that Cerro Azul is not exempt from the riotous celebrations of Carnaval. According to Wikipedia, the Panamá Carnaval celebration is the second largest in the world. Business essentially shuts down throughout the Republic from Friday through Tuesday as people make their preparations and then engage in drinking, eating, dancing and playing music at ear-splitting volumes.

Las Tablas, in the Los Santos province, is traditionally the most popular destination during Carnaval. Panamá City is also host to a major party, with numerous bands performing along the Cinta Costera.

But we were also told that property owners who almost never venture up here stream into Cerro Azul with tents and set up camps on their vacant lots, complete with boom boxes and car stereos. We were admonished to use extreme caution on the roads here - that the celebrants had no respect for the center line and don't know how to drive in any case. So we laid in our supplies, then battened down our hatches starting on Friday March 4th. We had plenty of food, a new package of ear plugs, and a generous supply of beverages so we could have a celebration of our own if the mood struck. We were prepared to stay close to home for the duration. Friday night and Saturday night we slept like babes. There was no music or shouting from any nearby sector. Sunday afternoon we heard a short, subdued volley of fireworks around 5 PM. We thought it might signify the beginning of something rowdier that would last until the wee hours. But we heard nothing else that night other than the Tropical Screech-Owl.

Then on Monday afternoon, the silence was broken. The Club, which is not far from us, had hired a DJ who played music using gazillion-amp speakers for a few hours. Fortunately, while we could clearly hear the beat, it was not bothersome. Our friend Picasso, who owns and runs Ginger House, a wonderful little B&B upslope from the Club, found it deafening; she said it sounded like a band was in her house. Tuesday afternoon was a repeat at the Club. But both afternoons, the music lasted only until about 5:00 PM.

Marco's curiosity sent him over to check out the scene at the Club. He enjoyed a Seco & cola served in a polystyrene cup ($3.00, which is about the cost of a whole bottle of Seco) while observing the families frolicking around and in the pool. He said he was the only gringo present. He tried not to be too obvious while shooting the video below:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yard 'Lisk

Last week we had a new critter in the yard, or more accurately it was the first time we observed one of them in our yard. As I walked by the open kitchen door, I saw something dash past. It was a good-sized Common Basilisk (Basiliscus basiliscus), probably about 2 feet in length, and it paused on the path just beyond the terrace. I alerted Marco, who went right out with his camera and caught a few seconds of video of the beast. Marco looked down at the camera to get another shot, and when he looked back, the Basilisk was gone. He saw it barreling down the hill toward the creek. Basilisks have been clocked running at up to 7 miles per hour.

The Basilisk returned about an hour later, and while I cannot prove it, I think he was eyeing the birds coming and going at the feeders. When a chunk of banana falls out of the suet feeders, one or more birds always flies to the ground (adjacent to the path where I saw the Basilisk) to grab it. If I hadn't been disturbing the peace by working in the kitchen, the Basilisk might have been able to grab a nice meal.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Second Visit to The Wilson

We returned to the Wilson Botanical Garden in Costa Rica early this year. Although we don't much want to leave home these days, we enjoyed ourselves at the Wilson. Last year's visit was during the rainy season. The weather this time was sunny, dry and quite warm. Ariadna again took us out for a morning field trip, sharing some of her extensive knowledge about the local flora and fauna. And Marco had his camera at the ready so we can share with you some beauty shots - of the area and of the local wildlife. The video of most of the birds was from the balcony of our room.