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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 13: Pipeline Road and Vicinity

All photographs (except where noted) © 2004 Mary Beth Stowe

January 1st, 2004, and my first bird of the year was a singing Green Shrikevireo! That morning was quite an adventure as we headed down Pipeline Road; you need a key to get in, and the road itself is absolutely treacherous, but our special vehicles managed to get through! (We Californians were all riding in the open-air vehicle and were having a good time!)

Anyway, Tony warned us that it could be either incredibly active or incredibly dull, and I think we hit a quiet morning; we did have some very cooperative individual birds, such as Violaceous and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Broad-billed Motmot, a close-up Double-toothed Kite, and an incredibly cooperative White-flanked Antwren (along with a Dot-winged and Checker-throated). In one high tree we had another Forest Elaenia, and a Scarlet-thighed Dacnis gave some people a look, but other than that it was pretty slow, so we milked to death everything we could! (Oh, as a joke we put a male White-necked Jacobin in the scope to prove we saw one in its "native habitat"...) We did have a nice Broad-winged Hawk come in as well. Mammal-wise we finally saw one of the Black Howler Monkeys that had been so vocal on a daily basis! Another highlight was a guy and his monster camera (you have to have special permission to drive in, so they walked the whole way)! They were grateful for the water and snacks we offered!


Crawling along the famous Pipeline Road (built during W.W.II to transport oil out and away from the enemy if need be)    Most of us stick with the open-air truck while the rest go with Tony in his rented SUV...


( need it in this place!)  Along this road we saw this Broad-winged Hawk and female Violaceous Trogon.


Other birds included this female Slaty-tailed Trogon and a White-necked Jacobin (in its natural habitat ☺)


L-R:  White-flanked Antwren, Black Howler Monkey, and Box Turtle


While resting along the road Tony shows us a transparent seedling and demonstrates how the “hot lips” flower got its name!   


One very serious photographer and his wife happened by with one very serious camera!


Left and center:  Double-toothed Kite.  Right:  Broad-billed Motmot


"Well, I’m happy with the morning’s list!”

On the way home we had a little adventure: near the locks there’s a one-way bridge (quite a long one, actually) wherein the traffic flow is controlled by a signal. Well, we got the green light and were halfway across when some idiot was already on his way across and met us head-on halfway between! Although there were no words exchanged (to my knowledge), he must have admitted his error because he finally started backing up, which was no small feat as the bridge was set up where the cars drove on raised slats, not on a flat surface!


You have to wait for the signal to cross the one-way bridge across the canal, but apparently the nut on the other side was color-blind!  Meanwhile, we watch a ship come down the canal while we wait for the guy to back up...

Came back home for lunch and had great views of the roosting Great Potoo again (nice that they just happened to have the resident scope set up on the thing in the dining area), bought my souvenir T-shirt (the joke was that you had to have seen all three of the birds illustrated on it, because it said, "Come see me at the Canopy Tower!"), and climbed up to the top to catch up on the journal.


The Canopy Tower, from which we enjoyed a roosting Great Potoo!  From the top, you can see Panama City waaaay in the distance!

Around 3:30 we all gathered at the hummer feeders, then headed to the bottom of the hill, trying unsuccessfully for Great Jacamar. But at Plantation Road (the trail that starts at the entrance to Semaphore Road) the place was just hopping: Black-chested Jays flew across the road and put on quite a show, while the fruitcrows came in as though to demand attention themselves! Another White-necked Puffbird showed off, and another Yellow-backed Oriole gave great looks, but the star of the show was the Ocellated Antbird that finally showed himself! A White-bellied called nearby, but he was virtually ignored! Down the road a bit another gem roared over: a Crimson-crested Woodpecker! There was a pair and most got good views (aside from spotting the first bird barrel over, I only saw the belly of the perched bird), but a Masked Tityra came in and competed for attention as well!


Jane and Bob B. enjoy a female White-necked Jacobin while waiting for the rest of the crew...


White-vented Plumeleteer


We gather at the head of Plantation Road for more goodies like this Purple-throated Fruitcrow and White-necked Puffbird (group picture taken by Jane)

From there we headed to Summit Ponds, where we picked up a Green Kingfisher. Lots of stuff was calling, but Tony wanted to ensure we saw the prize: a Spectacled Owl at its day roost! What a bird! There were three of them, and one was very close to the trail, and with the scope you got spectacular looks at its face!  There was one individual who looked positively grim; too bad the light was too low to get a shot!


Spectacled Owl at its day roost  (the right picture is fuzzy, but you can see the whole bird...)

On the way back we tried to call in some things (like a close Black-faced Antthrush), but we needed to get to the main road by dusk. I was lagging behind and heard several pretty Rufous-and-white Wrens, but then I heard something that sounded just like the Hardy recording of the Rosy Thrush Tanager (shoulda tried to whistle it in), and when I asked Jose about it back at the car, he confirmed that not only are they common there, but he had heard a couple as well, so I was ecstatic that I could finally count it! (When I announced to Tony that I got a life bird and told him what it was, he got all excited and said, "You saw one?!" I said, "No, I heard it," and his balloon deflated considerably, but it’s times like this where I’m glad that ABA has endorsed heard-only life birds: it saves a considerable amount of frustration for the lister!


Along the trail we saw Leaf-cutter Ants heading into their nest, and this introduced Asian Gecko back at the Tower.

As it got darker we found a Pauraque along the road that was flipping his wings, and a distant Common Potoo. Nothing else responded to the tapes (we did hear a Little Tinamou), so we took off, but found a marvelous Common Potoo right by the road; what eyes! Fabulous! On the drive back up Semaphore Road some Great Tinamous were calling in the woods, so we had a "tinamou sweep" that night! After another great meal we did the bird list, talked about flights, and crashed.

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