Birding in Panama

After over 24 hours of travel, we finally made it to Gamboa. Gamboa is a small town in central Panama that is famous for its location next to the Panama Canal but, it is also a world class birding destination. We spent our first evening birding the trails of Gamboa Rainforest Resort we had great views of lots of the common species. I also saw ten lifers including a Giant Cowbird a bird that eluded us for the remainder of the trip.

Giant Cowbird

The next morning I had the opportunity to bird at the famous Canopy Tower. It is a former US military base but it has been transformed into a birders paradise. The first bird we saw from the tower was a Crane Hawk followed by great views of the secretive Green Shrike-Vireo and the colorful Blue Dacnis.

Blue Dacnis

.After we spent over an hour on top of the tower before we drove down the Semaphore Hill Road. We stopped at the roosting location for a pair of Black-and-white Owl a bird that I had tried for in Ecuador but missed. We walked down the road a little bit more and saw Bright-rumped Atila, Slaty-tailed Trogon and Long-billed Gnatwren.

Black-and-white Owl

It was definitely a welcome surprise to be paired with two of the Canopy Family guides who were both very good birders. At the parking lot of Plantation Trail, we saw Panama Flycatcher, Brown-capped Flycatcher and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher in the same tree! We walked slowly down the trail stopping frequently for some very exiting bird such as a very cooperative Golden-crowned Spadebill and White-tailed Trogon.

Golden-crowned Spadebill

White-tailed Trogon

Further down the trail we saw a Broad-billed Motmot, Red-capped Manakin and a pair of White-whiskered Puffbirds.

Broad-billed Motmot

White-whiskered Puffbird

I got to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort at around lunch time and after we had a quick bite to eat we were back birding. We walked to the Marina I had not yet visited a wetland of any kind in Panama so there were lots of bird that we had not seen before. We saw Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Wattled Jacanas, and a Limpkin. Further down the road, there was a Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher and a small group of Black Vultures just walking around.

Green-and -Rufous Kingfisher

Black Vulture

The next morning we planned on walking to the famous Pipeline Road it took a very long time to get there mostly because there was so much activity on the town of Gamboa. We had seen over sixty species before we even got to the Ammo Dump Ponds.

Cinnamon Becard

‘The next day was mostly relaxing we birded the resort grounds in the morning. We didn’t see much new but we had some great looks and some of the more common species. In the evening we decided we wanted to go to the Summit Ponds there were so many good birds reported on eBird that we didn’t want to miss it. Possibly one of the strangest birds in the world nests here… the Boat-billed Heron.

The next day we were up early to meet Domi who would be our guide for the next two days. It took us nearly two hours to reach the gated community of Cerro Azul. Our first stop of the day was along a small stream where there were nesting Black Phoebes and Buff-rumped Warblers. We also saw two female Blue-black Grassquits and a flock of Carmiol’s Tanagers. We drove down the road a little bit and then we walked slowly looking for more new species. Soon we were able to locate Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrants and Blue-chested Hummingbird. Our next stop was a house that once was a great hummingbird hotspot. Although unfortunately since it was sold the new owners have disturbed the habitat and it is no longer as productive. There are still some hummingbird feeders that yielded some nice new additions but not the Rufous-crested Coquette that used to be regular.

Red-legged Honeycreeper

We eventually got to a dirt road we had to park the car because the terrain was so rough but it was easy to walk on. Domi pointed out a feeding flock of tanagers that included Rufous-winged Tanager, Black-and-yellow Tanager, and Speckled Tanager. They were hard to get good looks at because of the leaves especially the Rufous-winged but eventually, we were able to get a good look and snap some photos.

Rufous-winged Tanager
Black-and-yellow Tanager

We drove back to Gamboa stopping in Panama City to scope out the mudflats in hopes of seeing Western Sandpiper a large peep that has eluded me for years. It seems that I am a very unlucky person when it comes to shorebirds as I have missed many over the years.

Today I woke up excited to start the new day we were birding with Domi again but this time we were going to El Valle de Anton. El Valle is a small village in the foothills and it is also Domi’s hometown. He knows this area very well and we were able to get a ride with a local farmer up to a beaten up road were we hoped to see a very special cute little hummingbird… the Snowcap! Once we started walking up the steep hill we really began to notice the abundance of birds. They were everywhere and most of them were new as we had not been to this habitat before. We first saw a Streaked Saltator and then Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Orange-bellied Trogon, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Black-striped Sparrow and the list goes on! We finally got to the small footpath where the Snowcaps had been seen we searched for about five minutes without any luck, but once we found the first one we couldn’t stop they were almost everywhere!

Snowcap
Northern Emerald-Toucanet
Orange-bellied Trogon

We birded along a road near El Valle where we saw another elusive bird the very cute Tody Motmot. While watching the Motmot we saw a large white bird fly into a tree above us, it was a White Hawk! The White Hawk is a stunning raptor found from southern Mexico all the way to Brazil.

Tody Motmot
White Hawk

Our final stop of the day was for a roosting Spectacled Owl. The man that is the caretaker for the garden is also the caretaker for the owls and has been showing them to birders for a number of years. I was begining to think that we would not find them, then two medium sized owls flushed from a nearby bush. It is so amazing how we can be so close to such a large bird and have no knowledge of thier prescence.

Spectacled Owl – A great way to end the trip!

Thanks for reading this post! I will have another post about my trip to Point Pelee in the coming weeks.

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