Well forgive my absence! Im actually posting this from my new home in Bucaramanga, Colombia! But more on that at the end of the post! First, I have some much needed Panamanian house keeping to tend to. So why the blogging hiatus? I started writing a book and (surprisingly) made some decent progress on it. Whenever I felt even semi creative I harnessed my energy into this and then my blog got as much attention as a hamster six months after being given to a spoiled child. In the month of June I also ended up travelling and vacationing in Colombia, different parts of Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico. Lastly considering blogging is not my job but my hobby, I vowed when I started all of this never to force myself to blog for the sake of filling an arbitrary monthly quota. The surest way to end up resenting something is to force yourself to do it, so Im pleased to have a bit of a break every now and then.
Sometimes its best to have a break with 40’s and pizza.
July was spent with me mostly recuperating from Junes insanity and dealing with a heaping plateful of personal drama. One of the things Ive realized recently is how powerful bird watching can be for me. Even though this is going to make me sound like a crazy person, Ive realized recently that bird watching has turned into something I actually need to do in order to have a grasp on my stress and sanity. It really has the power to dig me out of any funk, no matter how deep it is. One of the common reactions we all have to depression/personal problems is that for whatever reason it makes us forego a lot of the activities that make us happy. Sadly in July I lost sight of the things that made me happy, and had to reintroduce myself to them. Hence why I am posting this blog 😉
How can anyone not be happy when looking at this adorable Chestnut Naped Brush Finch?
One of the birding trips I did do in the last two months was in June to the Respingo Ranger Station in Cerro Punta with the Boquete Birders. I want to dedicate this post to the Boquete Birders and cover the two last trips I did with them. Joining this birding group was one of the best things I did in Boquete, and it not only provided me with great birding experiences and new species, but with fascinating and intelligent new friends as well. Boquete was the first place I ever birded with a group, and I can say that I honestly will genuinely miss it. I wanted to take this post to offer a sincere thank you to all the BB members (past and present) who have worked so hard to make this such a welcoming group no matter what your experience level. It was a wonderful resource for learning about birding hotspots I would not have visited on my own and for meeting other people to bird these locales with. So first up for blogging catch-up! In June I joined the birding group and headed over to Cerro Punta where we stayed at the wonderful Cielto Sur Bed and Breakfast.
Fiery Throated Hummingbird seen at the Respingo Ranger Station area:
Cielito Sur was an excellent place to stay and it really inspired me regarding my very distant pipe dream of one day opening up my own bed and breakfast for birders. Glenn and Janet somehow managed to make a place that is both homey and elegant. They have also succeeded in providing everything you could ever need at a B&B at close reach without making anything feel cluttered. They made an art out of the saying ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. We all particularly appreciated that there was a coffee maker (to brew their in house grown coffee no less) in the room. We spent the night with some great members of the birding group, and it was a wonderful reminder of why I joined the group to start with – its simply amazing to talk with people you share a passion with. At the end of the day you cant have conversations about the differences between Moths and Butterflies, how to bait insects using excrement, or the biodiversity of South and Central American countries with just anyone. The birding on the way up to and at the ranger station was a bit slow, but I managed to get some great pictures of a favorite Panamanian hummingbird of mine. Strangely enough this hummer has been sitting in the exact same bush since March, and it was as easy to find as ever!
Fiery Throated Hummingbirds sans tail feather – Respingo Ranger Station
The next monthly outing with the Boquete Birders was an overnight trip to the El Valle area on the other side of Panama. Id been to El Valle previously, but only to area immediately around the town so I was super excited to explore areas mostly accessible by car.As Ive covered in previous posts there are many different kinds of bird watchers, and everyone on this trip was super relaxed and enjoyable to spend time with. I really do enjoy a regimented-balls-to-the-wall birding experience but sometimes its nice to take things at a more relaxed gait and let the weather and everyone’s mood dictate things. Instead of having a strict schedule we had more of an informal to-do list for this trip and it proceeded at a fairly tranquil and insanely enjoyable tempo. We saw lots of amazing species, almost everyone ticked off a couple of new ones, and we found some places I would be sure to visit again if I was in the area.
Barred Antshrike – Female – Hotel Campestre Grounds
El Valle is hands down one of my favorite towns in Panama and it was wonderful to spend a bit more time there before I left. We stayed at the Hotel Campestie which offered some decent bird watching and photographic opportunities on the grounds. Dee, the group hotel coordinator and one half of the infamous ‘Kiskadee’ duo, did a really good job picking this hotel particularly due to its location and the surrounding environs. A note for bird watchers though! The hotel does not offer an earlier packed breakfast option. Even though this could have been less than ideal, it ended up jiving pretty well with our ‘take it as it comes’ schedule and we just ended up returning towards the end of the breakfast hours for our meal.
From the hotel grounds – Belted Kingfisher:
Also on the grounds? Tropical Peewee in the rain.
When it came to birding outside the town we decided to follow the birding loop listed in Where to Find Birds in Panama and I would highly recommend this for anyone. The loop road provided excellent road birding with my highlights being Rufous Mot Mot and Tawny Crested Tanager . The road ended at the Cerro Guital trail which we all really enjoyed and I would highly recommend to anyone in the area. It was wide, easy to walk, and could be traversed by anyone. Most importantly it provided us with some looks at interesting birds. One of my favorites was the Plain Xenops, and we also spied Bronze Tailed Plumeleteer.
Bronze Tailed Plumeleteer. If you look close you can see the pink feet!
Our last morning we headed to Canopy Lodge and did a quick morning walk around. This ended up being a really nice treat and I understand why so many people travel to come visit. The lodge was very beautiful and the guides we encounter were very knowledgeable. We were all very impressed by the uncanny Tody Motmot whistle the guides did! Sadly we did not get to see it but we can definitely put it down as a definitive heard due to the talents of the guides at the Lodge. Due to our semi large number we didnt have that much luck on the smaller trails, but we did spy this beautiful spider weaving its web. We also saw Red Crowned Ant Tanager and got great overhead looks at Collared Aracari. For me, the highlight of Canopy Lodge was watching the Aracari eat this gigantic insect.
Collared Aracari with its meal:
Overall I am happy to leave Boquete but very sad to leave behind the amazing friends Ive made there, and most of these were from the Boquete Birders. It really is a wonderful group of people and (again!) I wanted to thank everyone who was instrumental in founding and sustaining this wonderful group and also wanted to thank everyone who I met through it. Now! As usual I will end my post with a preview of the future!
As I mentioned in the first paragraph of my post, Im penning this from my new home city of Bucaramaga, Colombia! Our trip to Bogota ended up with us deciding to go another route for where we will be living, and we settled on moving to Bucaramanga which is in the North East of the country. Lucky for me its next to several great bird reserves and I will have lots of great options. Ive decided to dedicate more time to poker, and most likely I will be going back to a schedule where Im working for 4 or 5 days a week followed by a 2 or 3 day trip to the nearby bird reserves. On top of that BUcaramanga has a really large city park with great birding habitat and I plan on birding that on a regular basis. We ended up finding a great apartment in record time and we should be all moved in and enjoying it by Sunday the 7th!
Species Seen From El Valle and Volcan Baru
PN Volcán Barú–Estación El Respingo, Chiriquí, PA
Jun 10, 2016 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Comments: Boquete Birders Respingo trip.
Black Guan X
Cattle Egret X
Black Vulture X
Ruddy Ground-Dove X
Green Violetear X
Magnificent Hummingbird X
Fiery-throated Hummingbird X
White-throated Mountain-gem X
Volcano Hummingbird X
Scintillant Hummingbird X
Resplendent Quetzal X
Red-headed Barbet X
Prong-billed Barbet X
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper X
Ruddy Treerunner X
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren X
Black-faced Solitaire X
Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush X
Mountain Thrush X
Clay-colored Thrush X
Flame-throated Warbler X
Black-cheeked Warbler X
Collared Redstart X
Slaty Flowerpiercer X
Yellow-faced Grassquit X
Rufous-collared Sparrow X
Yellow-thighed Finch X
View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/
Boquete Birders El Valle Total Trip List
Please note this is a list of all the birds seen by the group. It includes the drive from Boquete and our entire time in the El Valle area and back.
Gray Headed Chacalaca
Thick Billed Euphonia