Saturday, April 30, 2011


No, it's not time for another visit to the barbershop. This post is about one of the several Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl) who attempt to dominate all the feeders in our yard. Ridgely, in "A Guide to the Birds of Panama" describes the species as, "Perhaps even more active and pugnacious than most other members of its family." He nails it. We have so many of the obstreperous little fellows that it's difficult to determine who's who. They all want to rule, and there are more than one who stake out a twig or wire from where they keep a watch on all the feeders within their view. When anybody else flies in for a sip at any of those feeders, the watcher makes a beeline for the sipper and tries to dispel him or her. There is a pecking order - sometimes the sipper is routed, and sometimes not. The Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer stands his ground in all dust-ups, as do most of the White-necked Jacobins most of the time. The little Blue-chested Hummingbirds always surrender and fly off, squealing as they go. The tiny Stripe-throated Hermit goes low, sometimes hiding behind our shoulders or even below a chair, or in the terrace bathroom. It waits just a few seconds for the attacker to be distracted by someone else, then sneaks back to the feeder and has a drink.

The past few days, one of the guardian Rufous-tailed Hummers has made a peculiar buzzing sound when he flies. The sound is due to extreme molt of the tail and wing feathers. It couldn't be considered catastrophic molt, such as penguins and elephant seals undergo, but Buzz is not in his best-ever shape. His tailfeathers are varied lengths, the lengths are not bilaterally symmetrical, and it seems that his wings barely have enough feathers to get or keep him airborne. Have a look and a listen at his condition in Marco's video below. Since we have recently been able to pick out his particular flight sound, we've been impressed by the number of attacks and warning flights he makes in his frequent attempts to rule his little patch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

View From the Barber Shop

When Marco gets his hair cut, he never knows what he might see during the snipping process. Sometimes it's just a nice view of the wooded hillside across the creek. Sometimes it's a few birds at the feeder. On a recent day, it was a Squirrel Cuckoo enjoying the morning sun. The barber and the cuckoo both waited for Marco to set up the camera so video would be available for this post. Watch for the brief appearance of a Lineated Woodpecker in the background.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Yeah, the title is the Spanish word for recycle. The 3 Rs here are:
- Reutiliza -
- Reduce -
- Recicla -
Enough Spanish.

Last weekend I attended the second monthly recycling event hosted by Roba Morena. He is a musician, artist, and clean environment proponent. Roba is also a friend of mine since we worked together on a video last year for the annual beach cleanup at Costa del Este in Panamá City. Because my Spanish wasn't up to the task of interviewing the beach cleaners, Roba elicited exciting comments from participants. Also, he brought his unique brand to the hosting duties, making for an entertaining program. We hope the DVD will be scheduled in Panamá Audubon's upcoming school education programs.

This most recent event featured more than recycling, which is a testament to Roba's power to influence the people around him. Many companies and organizations take part to inform and entertain the public about the ecosystem and our place in it. There were booths and exhibits showcasing animal adoption, organic food, clean printing and many others to boot. And this is in addition to the regular recycling event, accepting plastics, glass, aluminum, paper, toxics, etc.

Below is a mere highlight of the recycling and education day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bathing Beauties

There are few things cuter than a bird taking a bath, whether the bird is a Cooper's Hawk standing in the middle of a stream soaking his feet and fluffing now and then, or a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sitting on a twig with his bill pointing up into a rainstorm.

The dry season here in Panamá is coming to a close, but we still have many days without a drop of rain. On the dry days, whenever we water plants in the yard, the birds seem joyful about their bath time, so we make a point of drenching the large leaves of the Dracaena ("corn plant") and banana trees for the bathers. Marco's video below shows some Red-legged Honeycreepers using leaves on a banana tree as water slides:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Old Friends and New

In February we met up with our old friends Keith Hansen and Patricia Briceño (from Bolinas CA, U.S.A.) while they were on a tour of Panamá with their friends Bob and Doreen Schiro (from San Geronimo CA.) The four of them stayed their first few nights at Ivan's B&B in Gamboa. Marco and I stayed one night at our friend Guido Berguido's guest house in Gamboa - just a 2-minute stroll from Ivan's - so we could enjoy a relaxing and delicious dinner together at Ivan's before rising early the next morning for a long walk on Pipeline Road.

We were waaay too busy birding for Marco to shoot much video, but he did get a few seconds (below) from our Pipeline adventure. Isn´t it just perfect how Keith appears on the scene emerging from deep within the jungle?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Finca Hartmann

Ratibor Hartmann, Cindy & Dinorah
On our way to Costa Rica a few weeks ago we made a short detour to Finca Hartmann, in the Chiriqui province of Panamá. We had not been there since our first visit to Panamá in December 2008, and have wanted to return ever since. On that first visit, we met Aliss and her parents Ratibor and Dinorah. Aliss was not present during our recent visit, but her parents were.

We arrived in mid-morning, not the most productive time for birding this location. But Dinorah said we were welcome to take a walk around the property if we wanted, and she would make coffee and hojaldres for us when we returned. Three of their several friendly and enthusiastic dogs accompanied us along the trails through the forest and amongst the coffee trees. Marco shot some video of the property as we walked, and also of some beautiful birds and beans.

In the mid-20th century, Ratibor and his brother, Armagedón Hartmann, worked as guides for Alexander Wetmore during his annual scientific expeditions to Panamá. As we drove up, Ratibor was sitting on his porch with a 3-foot high stack of nature books at his side. One can only try to imagine the contribution he has made to ornithology. He and Dinorah were thoroughly engaging and pleased to describe the work that has been done on their land to create their shade-grown coffee. We hope to return soon for more of the delicious coffee and hojaldres, and of course to spend more time birding.