Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Minute from Cinta Costera

Waiting is a fact of life in Panamá.  Most anything can take longer than expected. Construction, processes for applications or permits or licensing, appointments, and driving all take their time.  Add delays, absences, and traffic to turn a timely project into a time waster.

One day last week, the people meeting me were running late, again.  With some time to kill I walked the coastal strip for half an hour.  Cinta Costera runs along a wide boulevard with green space next to the bay on one side.  On the other, city high rises crowd in close.  There is plenty to see and take in.  I watch the water, greenery, and sky for the common wildlife.  This day a treat lay in wait for me.

The introduced Saffron Finch feeds on the lawns throughout the canal area.   We don't see them in Cerro Azul.  The bright yellow plumage attracted my eye and filled the frame of the video camera.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dancing in the Darién

It was a total blast.  Our pal Bob Behrstock visited us for a week prior to leading his tour with the Canopy Tower Family.  Bob began leading Panamá trips in the 1980's, so he tells of some fine bird encounters.  Although all three of us had already visited the province, the allure of the Darién still beckoned with the possibility of something else exciting..  There were bugs and birds we all wanted a first or better look at.

We journeyed out east/south towards the Darién for a couple of days.  I was gripping the steering wheel and dodging potholes, while Bob and Cindy kept a lookout for roadside attractions.  They would call out and I would back us up for a better look.  There were side roads and walks too, of course. All in all, not a bad system, as Cindy and I added seven life birds and Bob added two.

The Black-capped Donacobius stands tall as a prize of the Darién as they are moving westward from Colombia. From the road alongside a marsh, we heard their wild duet.  Seeing them in full song and dance is a highlight for any nature watcher.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Fighting Owls" Invade Wetlands

Late last month, Cindy and I volunteered for a morning with Panama Audubon Society.  We aimed our scopes at the birds of Costa del Este for the benefit of students.  More than 70 youngsters of the Inter-American Academy participated in an educational seminar on the importance of the wetlands in the Bay of Panama. Rosabel Miró, executive director of PAS, guided the event and has a real knack for engaging young minds.  Her talk and walk let them experience the benefits of the mangroves and mudflats and highlighted many of the threats to coastal ecosystems. We all admired the flora and fauna of the place.

See the "Fighting Owls" in action in the short video. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Tale of Two Raptors

The number of bird species in the Republic of Panamá sends me staggering.  The country is compared in size to the state of South Carolina in the U.S.A. but is populated with more than twice as many bird species.  The Panamá checklist swelled to a phenomenal 985 entries with the latest revisions by the American Ornithologists' Union.  Along with the hefty number of birds, some species occur in a variety of color morphs and plumages.  The hawks are particularly confusing and not all plumages are illustrated in the field guides.

Needless to say, some of the birds visiting our yard have sent us scrambling for references.  In July 2011, a raptor put the feeder birds into a riot of alarm calls that drew us outside.   The ID kept us and most of the other locals perplexed until Ken Allaire identified it as a Barred Hawk by the vocalization I recorded.

Early this month another immature raptor gave us a few minutes viewing but didn't call.  Darién Montañez came through for us this time with an ID of Gray-headed Kite.  And he didn't know there was an adult of the species in the yard at the same time.  For me, the immature looked nothing like the adult it is related to; it had to be another species.  Our experienced friends are helping us sort out the vast array of bird life Panamá offers.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Panama National Artisan Fair

Once a year there is a large artisan fair held at the main convention center in Panama City.  Our pal, Michael, has enjoyed it in years past.  This time he hopped into our truck and we three got to the site to walk all the aisles.  Each region of Panama is represented and there were hundreds of booths filled with crafts, trinkets, molas, and art.

In addition, groups present aspects of the diverse cultural life of Panama, both past and present.  The well-known polleras waved from the hands of dancers.  Wikipedia explains.

In Panama and Colombia, hand made polleras evolved during time to a very elaborate piece of clothing. Currently it is the National Costume of Panama. Girls and women would generally own two polleras during their life: one before age 16 and one at adulthood. A single pollera can cost from several hundred to several thousands of dollars and take up to a year to create. The gold and pearl mosquetas and tembleques that accompany a pollera are generally passed down as heirlooms through generations.
One other bit of cultural life in evidence was the drawing of the numbers for the national lottery.  This is televised weekly with thousands watching expectantly.  The cameras were set up on risers to catch the action as the young child reaches into the ball cage to make the selection.  An adult at full voice calls out the lucky numbers on the PA.  In Panama the volume on the amp is set to where the sound is distorted and then turned up one more notch to make listening painful and conversation impossible.

Michael explained that this year the show had expanded into adjoining side rooms.  One stage showcased dancers, wearing fascinating costumes with animal masks, acting out folk stories.  Some of the hundreds of handmade items were submitted into a judged competition.  And there was an extensive food court.  We three sampled the strawberry batido, a type of smoothie, which was ample enough to suffice for lunch.