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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 10: Cerro Azul

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


We got up real early the next morning (early enough to hear a Spectacled Owl outside) to head to a gal’s house (a friend of Tony’s named Rosabel) on the edge of Chagres National Park near Cerro Azul. We stopped at a bridge on the way there, where we picked up Black Phoebe and Short-tailed Hawk; interestingly, the phoebe wasn’t even on our checklist! Once at Rosabel’s, we enjoyed a fabulous view and goodies coming into her yard, such as Green Honeycreeper, Golden-hooded Tanager, and both Bay-headed and Rufous-winged Tanagers. The seed feeder was already full, though, and several Yellow-faced Grassquits entertained us while Rosabel got the hummer feeders ready. We wandered into the drive where a female Violet-headed Hummer was guarding a flowering bush, along with a Bananaquit and a female Violet-capped Hummer that posed for us (she also had me stumped at the feeder when they were put out later, as her picture wasn’t in the book).


We stop at a creek on the way to Cerro Azul to look for Black Phoebe


Tony’s friend Rosabel has a house overlooking Chagres National Park...and you can’t beat the view!


Shy Green Honeycreeper stays in the trees while not-so-shy Yellow-faced Grassquits hog the feeders...


Adult males have a full black throat while females lack any pattern whatsoever.  Young males have a splotchy throat.


Even her driveway had great birds, like this near-endemic female Violet-capped Hummingbird!

We then took a walk along her loop trail, which was paved but had some good steps; I almost didn’t go (besides, I was waylaid by a cooperative Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and Red-throated Ant Tanager), but trying to get at an angle where the silly camera would focus on the silly hummer (and not a silly leaf or branch in front of it) took me down the stairs anyway, so I caught up with the gang just as they were calling in a Spotted Antbird! That was very nice! We also had a calling Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, but that was about all I recall (Tony was whistling like a Schiffornis and had me fooled). Her back garden was just alive with butterflies, the names of which no one seemed to know, but Jane and I were particularly entranced with this one with transparent wings lined in black (which I've since learned are called Glasswings)! Back up at the house some Slaty Antshrikes were going nuts with Jose’s CD, the Plumeleteers were guarding the feeders from the Rufous-tailed Hummers and Green Hermit that snuck in, but the bird of the morning was the White Hawk that went sailing by! I went in to use the potty at one point, and when I stepped out a Blue-fronted Parrotlet went screaming unseen overhead (I guess Tony actually did see it, but I wrote it down as a "Lawrence’s Goldfinch" experience...)


We look for forest skulkers along the trail from her back yard!   


 Bronze-tailed Plumeleteers (female left, male right)


Female Violet-headed Hummingbird (although fuzzy, the left picture shows the diagnostic white post-ocular patch)

Green Hermit

These fascinating butterflies and insects were in Rosabel's back yard!  (The bottom three were taken by Jane.)


Left and center:  glasswing sp.  Right:  Banded Peacock


Left:  Erato Heliconian; center:  Isabella's Heliconian; right:  some kind of rubyspot

After lunch we kissed Rosabel goodbye and headed up the hill a little to a place called Cerro Jefe, because Tony felt the tanager display at Rosa’s could have been better. We found one fruiting tree that was alive with stuff: several Blue-gray Tanagers, another Golden-hooded, some Thick-billed Euphonias, a molting Summer Tanager, a Philadelphia Vireo, and several Olive Tanagers that showed off nicely.

We headed down to Tocumen Marsh after that, stopping at a gas station for a potty stop where there was a knockout Variable Seedeater! The marsh is next to the airport and had heavy security (complete with yapping dogs), but the little ponds had loads of stuff: Boat-billed Heron, both Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, both "big kiskadees" and "little kiskadees", a Gray Kingbird (which I guess was quite unusual), Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, and Yellow-billed Cacique, plus a real Sapphire-throated Hummer (I thought I was seeing them at the Canopy Tower, but Tony assured me I wasn’t)! A pair of Orchard Orioles zipped across, and we heard Buff-breasted Wrens behind us; I was having trouble separating the Thryothorus wrens by song, but Jose clued me in that Buff-breasted are found in more open areas, whereas the Bay Wren is expected in deeper woods around riparian areas. We also had a nice selection of raptors, with Yellow-headed Caracara, Roadside Hawk, Merlin, Snail Kite, and a lovely Pearl Kite (a recent colonizer to Panama) that sailed over!


Tocumen Marsh near the airport had lots of goodies, including Spectacled Caiman, Yellow-headed Caracara, and Yellow-billed Cacique


L-R:  Snail Kite, Gray Kingbird, Tropical Kingbird, and Ringed Kingfishers


Amazon Kingfishers       

We tore ourselves away from there, and while our driver valiantly got us down a road like the one Jip got stuck on in Arizona, we enjoyed Smooth-billed Anis in the rice fields! When we finally got to the other side we enjoyed a few more goodies such as Crested Caracara, a nappy female Black-throated Mango, another Sapphire-throated Hummer, and a Yellow Warbler that I tried to make into something exotic... A flock of Wood Storks got everyone excited, but I opted to digiscope the Blue-black Grassquit they had previously found! But the real treat that we almost overlooked was a Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture that came sailing over, the first one on a VENT trip to the Canopy Tower! (They must have at least been potential, however, as they were on the checklist...) On the walk back we saw him again, skimming low over the fields doing his harrier bit, and giving great looks at the pale upper primaries!


Native habitat (in the background) has been cleared for rice fields.  Birds here included Blue-black Grassquit and a Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture that we almost overlooked as just another TV...

We headed back after that via the downtown area, where Bob S. Spotted a frigatebird as we were skimming the coast! We enjoyed a great dinner after that, after which we did the lists and then crashed...

    Panama City skyline on the way back to the CT

Continue to the Caribbean Side

Return to the Canopy Tower