I awoke before first light, threw a coat over my nightgown and headed out to the beach. I wanted to catch that first liquid gold as it poured over the waves. The sand was cold under my feet as I topped the dune. As the light strengthened, I saw birds sleeping at the surf line. I fell to my knees and crept forward.
I knee-walked across the sand, then fell flat on my belly.
The light brightened and the willets roused.
They looked around blinking sleepily in the light. One yawned and stretched a leg and a wing.
The freshening tide swamped the delicate feet of the Willets, bringing with it renewed energy. The Willets now fully awake began probing the sand.
When the light turned from gold to silver, I lurched to my feet, cold, stiff and sand covered. The Willets fluttered further down the beach. With a parting shot, I headed in with gold-dazzled eyes and the promise of coffee in the air.
I am on my way for yet another business trip. Alas, this one will not allow for any squeezed-in birding. I know I have been absent from my much-loved bird blog for a long while, but hang in there with me, this is my last trip of the year.
Let me offer you a shot from my Arizona trip. While in Madera Canyon at the Madera Kubo B&B (incredible birding mecca) I was able to drink my fill of this Hepatic Tanager. Mmm, wait, that sounds sort of vampiric. Let me re-phrase, I was able to stare at it for long periods. Better perhaps, but not as poetic. It sat in this tree for most of the afternoon, flitting from branch to branch but always in full camera view. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
Since I am going to be in Phoenix for business, I decided to take a few vacation days to visit with some friends and go birding. I have some target birds I hope to see, not the least among them are those pesky quails. I will be going out with Melody Kehl again. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here is a photo of a Roadrunner to tide you over.
Alarm bells were going off in my head. Thrashing sounds among the trees are never a good thing, regardless of where you might be on the planet. I was standing in the middle of the road, searching for what could have possibly made the sounds when the trees up ahead exploded with a Squirrel Cuckoo executing evasive maneuvers, twisting and turning between branches, with some sort of Forest-falcon in hot pursuit. The cuckoo dove into a thick patch of leaves and disappeared. The pursuing bird flashed past the cuckoos hiding place. I was scanning the trees looking for the Forest-falcon when the there was a tussle in the Cuckoo’s hidey hole. Both birds dashed off again.
I never did ID the Falcon, but at 17-19 inches and with the crazy long spotted tail, the Squirrel Cuckoo was pretty hard to miss.
The rain was falling in buckets, yet a tiny Snowy-bellied Hummingbird sat tenaciously on the top of a Heliconia. He would make a foray out occasionally, but then return to his perch, point his bill to the sky and sit for long periods. I stood on the deck pondering this then wandered out into the garden. It turns out our long-suffering sprite had a terrific spot to wait out the elements. Above his head and protecting him from at least some of the downpour was a large banana leaf. What a smart cookie.
I looked over at an older woman standing next to me and shrugged with a little head-shake. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. The only moonwalk I knew of was Michael Jackson’s. I tracked the cherry red head through the gloom and deep shadow. “I’m sure this is the one, ” she persisted.
Luckily the guide came up and overheard her. He knew exactly what she was talking about. Turns out it is an old and well-known video on YouTube. In case you are living in a bucket like me, here it is. You just have to love Manakins. And dig those yellow thighs.
I had had enough. I was tired from the morning hike and riding in a van on the twisty, turny road was making me nauseous. Besides, I was leaving the next day and wanted to make arrangements and start packing. So, I stayed behind on the last afternoon tour, knowing full well that I would miss the Orange-bellied Trogon. Alone at the Lodge, I dragged a chair into the hedge to sit quietly as the birds came to the fruit feeders. At first they were suspicious, but since I didn’t move they ignored me. This Rufous-capped Warbler was poking among the leaves under the feeders, popping in and out of shadow. This was not a life bird for me, I had seen them in Costa Rica, but he was looker, nonetheless.
Will ya look at that bad boy. Total fave. There is something about the Violaceous Trogon that I just love. Maybe it’s all that yellow. I didn’t go to Panama with any target birds in mind. But once I got an eye-full of this guy, I wanted to see more and more Trogons. When I spotted him, he had a giant caterpillar in his beak and was thrashing it for all he was worth until the outside skin slipped off and he swallowed what was left. gulp. It was really gross. I have pictures, trust me, yucky.
She is a Slaty-tailed Trogon and much bigger than the Violaceous. Slaties are in the 12-13 inch range, while the Violaceous is only about 9 1/2. Notice the dark undertail. Lovely, but not a fave. The red/orange eye ring makes her look like she has been up all night.
This is a Black-throated Trogon. Blue eye-ring, yellow front, cute perky yellow bill, about the same size as the Violaceous.
I saw all of these on trips from the Canopy Tower. Need the Orange-bellied? Then go on a Mesa trip from the Canopy Lodge.
I have seen Collared Trogons and of course, the Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica and a Surucua Trogon in Brazil. Violaceous wins hands down for me. Which ones have you seen? What is your fave?
One of the first things (well aside from the birds) that you will notice in Panama is the incredible array of Butterflies. In the heat of the day (and I am talking serious heat and humidity at the Tower) during the siesta break, I wandered around sampling the butterflies as they sampled the nectar. I would like to show you a few of them. Most of them I do not know the names of, but they are all fabulous.
This one is a skipper and maybe a FrostedFlasher
Domi and I found this wicked looking caterpillar on a bridge railing at the start of Plantation Road. I wouldn’t touch it if you paid me.
Either Ziba Scrub-Hairstreak or Confusing Scrub-Hairstreak
All of these were taken at the Canopy Tower. But let me leave you with the Blue Morpho that floats everywhere at the Lodge. I loved that they came to the feeders to eat the bananas. They rest with their wings closed. It was impossible for me to take a good shot of one flying. They are the most beautiful blue.
Special thanks to Kim Garwood for helping ID the butterflies and to Patrick Belardo for suggesting her website.