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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 9: The Canopy Tower

All photographs (except where noted) © 2003 Mary Beth Stowe

Got laundry done fine the next morning (they had very nice facilities), then packed up, checked out, and got Jip’s oil changed.  Got the next shuttle to the airport, finished the latest Harry Potter book so I could leave it there, had a burger, then serendipitously ran into Jane on the way to check-in! Glad I got there when I did, too; I was chosen to go through baggage security, and while they didn’t open my bags, it took forever for the process to complete! Had to take a train to Gate E, where I again ran into Jane in the ladies’ room, after which we just sat and waited to be called (and I told her about the Short-tailed Hawk at the Holiday Inn—I couldn’t believe it!). We met Gwen Petitjean and Winnie Weislogel down there, and after awhile who should show up but Dave and Mimi Wolf! They were guiding a private tour based in a lodge close to ours, so that was fun seeing them again!

The flight was smooth and we met Jose, the local guide, coming out of customs, and our little group (joined by Mary and Charles Wilcox, Louise Owen, and Carolyn Lofrano) headed to the Canopy Tower where they had dinner waiting! We met Tony Nunnery, our VENT guide, who briefed us on the next morning’s activities, then crashed (barely had energy to assess my tiny little "guide’s room"; it did the job, but if I come here on my own, I might try to grab one of the suites, which Carolyn and Louise showed us later!)

   

The gang from Miami: (L-R) Charles Wilcox, Winnie Weislogel, Mary Wilcox, Gwen Petitjean, and Jane Barnette

The next day was so full it felt like a week! We began by meeting at the top of the tower before dawn (I tell people to be prepared to climb four flights of stairs); theoretically the first bird of the trip for me was a Collared Forest Falcon, and as the sun came up more stuff called and came to the top, including the coveted Blue Cotinga (granted, the female was more cooperative...)! Palm Tanagers fed close in, along with a single Plain-colored, and we got great looks at the two big toucans and "Gabriel" (aka Collared Aracari)! ☺ A nice Black-cheeked Woodpecker posed for pictures, and Tony’s scope was great for digiscoping, as the rubber eyepiece fit right over my lens! A Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher was also quite cooperative up here. But I was thrilled over a roosting Great Potoo; boy, did he blend in!

   

Views from the tower as the sun rises

         

Being above the canopy allows you to see birds you might not ordinarily see, like Palm Tanager (center) and Black-cheeked Woodpecker (right)

                                                      

L-R:  Female Blue Cotinga, Green Honeycreeper, Keel-billed Toucan, and a roosting Great Potoo, which looks like so much lichen; can you find his beak?

After breakfast (where we spotted a Black-breasted Puffbird) we gathered downstairs to work our way down Semaphore Road (and fortunately they were gonna come pick us up at the bottom!). Even before leaving the parking area we were spotting goodies: Orange-chinned Parakeets and Masked Tityras came in close, and the hummer feeders were inundated with wonderful jewels (more on that later)! Semaphore Road was great: Tony and Jose were wonderful at spotting stuff, and we had scope views of both Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Slaty-tailed and Black-throated Trogons, and the newly-split Cocoa Woodcreeper. An ant swarm we ran into had Gray-headed, White-shouldered, and Red-throated Ant Tanagers, and Bicolored Antbirds! We heard a lot more than we saw, including Slaty Antshrike, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Southern Bentbill, Olivaceous Flatbill, the incessant Green Shrikevireos, and a Chestnut-backed Antbird. Red-capped Manakins zipped around in the trees, and we got great looks at Checker-throated Antwrens while a female Dot-winged gave only a brief view. Plain Xenops were noisy but finally allowed a quick look. Best mammal was a Three-toed Sloth that looked just as contented and smug as could be!

   

Male (twisting his head, left) Masked Tityra; female at right

Black-breasted Puffbird, a real specialty bird of the area!   

            

We enjoy Orange-chinned Parakeets before embarking down Semaphore Road (the entrance road), which is a great place to bird in and of itself!

      

Our leader, Tony Nunnery, tries to call out the birds and then get the scope of ‘em!

             

Two nearly identical motmots:  the Broad-billed (center) and Rufous Motmot, which lacks the green chin (photo taken by Jane)

               

What's up in the canopy?  A female Slaty-tailed Trogon and Mealy Parrot!

              

Three-toed Sloth (what a face!)

           

jan Stull joins Tony and Jose (the local CT guide) at the bridge before the open-air truck arrives to take us back to the top!

The truck took us back up where we had lunch and lounged around the hummer feeders (Tony was a big believer in The Siesta) and had great looks at Violet-bellied Hummers and White-necked Jacobins (most common), as well as Blue-chested and Snowy-bellied Hummers, with a Long-tailed Hermit that stuck his nose in for good measure. I went back up to the very top to try and catch up on the journal where Jane joined me, and we yapped a little bit about various tropical American trips.

       

A variety of hummers gather at the feeders...

               

White-necked Jacobins are by far the most common hummer here; females (right) are very scaly below

            

Western Long-tailed Hermit (left) and Blue-chested Hummingbird (male center, female right)

              

Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds

            

Violet-bellied Hummingbirds; female (right) is plain gray underneath

              

Another “Big Guy”: the White-vented Plumeleteer (although this is actually a "gal"...)

          

Enjoying the view of the Panama Canal from the top!

                     

We gather in the common room to eat, chat, read, or go over our lists...   

The truck then took us back down the entrance road (stopping on the way down for Blue Dacnis and Golden-hooded Tanager), only it developed a flat tire, so they dropped us off at "Carmen’s House" (her back yard is full of feeders) while they traded trucks!  Tony had brought along a bunch of bananas and before long the place was inundated with Blue-gray Tanagers, with a couple of Palms, a pair of bullying Clay-colored Robins, and a gorgeous pair of Red-legged Honeycreepers! A Buff-throated Saltator also came in, as well as a couple of Orange-chinned Parakeets and a knockout Crimson-backed Tanager! Elsewhere on the grounds we had Social Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole, and Ruddy Ground Dove.

                    

We find a curious Golden-hooded Tanager on the way to Carmen's house, where her feeders attract all sorts of colorful moochers, including a Buff-throated Saltator (right)!

                

Blue-gray Tanagers are the abundant feeder bird here, while Clay-colored Robins play the bully!

                                  

Palm Tanagers, Red-legged Honeycreeper, and Orange-chinned Parakeet

           

Left:  Ruddy Ground Dove.  Right:  Great-tailed Grackle    

Tearing ourselves away, we headed for Gamboa (with a smaller truck) and checked out the water; immediately I spotted a Wattled Jacana, which was great! There were also lots of Moorhens, and one very cooperative Purple Gallinule (Jan said I missed him prancing around with a potato chip in his beak...). A Lesser Kiskadee and Mangrove Swallow posed for pictures, while a Common Tody Flycatcher was less cooperative. Three Yellow-headed Caracaras flew over calling, which was a terrific top to the day (well, actually, taking all those nice flash shots of the hummers with a White-vented Plumeleteer in amongst them was a great highlight)!

       

Wattled Jacanas: adult left, immature above and at right (note bright yellow wing linings)   

 

Left:  Mangrove Swallow; right:  Purple Gallinule

            

Left:  Common Moorhen.  Center and right:  Lesser Kiskadees              

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