Tag Archives: Panama

A Fast Escape

squirrel cuckoo

I jerked my head around and froze.


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.

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Bird Photography Weekly

Snowy-bellied Hummingbird

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.

Here he is on a better day.


I never saw him sit on that Heliconia again.


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Moonwalking Manakins

rc manakin

“Is this the one that does the moonwalk?”

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.


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Wordless Wednesday

bat at hummer feeder


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Trogon Love

Violeceous Trogon

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.

slaty-tailed trogon

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.

Black-throated Trogon

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?


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Butterflies of Panama

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.

banded peacock
Banded Peacock


Dimorphic Skipper

Frosted Flasher

This one is a skipper and maybe a FrostedFlasher

scary caterpiller

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.




Orange-washed Sister


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.

blue morpho eating banana

Special thanks to Kim Garwood for helping ID the butterflies and to Patrick Belardo for suggesting her website.


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Bird Photography Weekly

juvie Tiger Heron

We climbed onto the open-air truck with more than a few nervous glances at the dark threatening sky. The day before it had clabbered up and even rained a few drops, but then cleared. We were hoping for a repeat of that. Just as we crossed the Chagres River (where I saw a Gray-necked Woodrail walking on the waterlillies) it started to drizzle. By the time we arrived at the ponds it was a warm steady rain.  I popped open my mini-umbrella to protect the camera.  We ambled across the street blinking the rain from our eyes and peering up into the trees. 

The juvenile Rufescent Tiger Heron that I had seen a few days earlier begging for food (and being ignored by its mama) was standing at the edge of the pond.  As we stepped onto the grass under the canopy a huge swarm of mosquitos decended like a biblical plague of locusts.   We beat a hasty retreat and I passed around the DEET spray  (I alway carry it around.  Bugs seem to like me.)  Once we were chemically protected we turned again to birding. 

By this time the Tiger Heron was picking its way along the patch of grass next to the road.  The light was gray and flat, and I had to use flash, but you can see how beautiful it was strutting amidst the diamond drops.


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Birding from the top of the Canopy Tower

Sunrise from the roof of the Canopy Tower

With a view of the Panama Canal and the surrounding  forest canopy, the Canopy Tower is an incredible place to stand in the early morning light.  I climbed the narrow steps to pop my head above the hatch to see the vista open before me.  As I walked in wonder around the roof, a flicker of movement caught my eye in a cecropia tree.  There, facing east, as if waiting for the sun’s rays to dazzle the eye, were 2 Golden-hooded Tanagers.  Nice. 

Golden-hooded Tanagers

I continued my walk around the huge yellow dome with a jig in my step.   

Roof of Canopy Tower

Both Turkey and Black Vultures were swirling around at eye level.  Three Red-lored Parrots landed in a clump of leaves and disappeared.  A Keel-billed Toucan clacked in a tree across the way. 


Each direction had new trees to scan.  I made the turn on my route around the dome when a flash of blue zipped into a cecropia tree.  I stared in disbelief.  My first lifer in Panama was not a little nondescript something, something, but…Holy Crap… a Blue Continga.

blue continga

I’ll tell you more about all of this tomorrow. Right now the rain is letting up and there are birds to see.


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Hanging with Monkeys in Panama

I drifted out of a dream to the unearthly sound of Howler Monkeys brawing in the new dawn.  It sounded like they were right outside of my room.  I tossed on some clothes and dashed up 3 flights of stairs to peer into the darkness.  I waited, alone in the common room,  expecting all of the guests to charge in bleary-eyed and bewildered.  Eventually a few guests arrived and we nodded to each other in amazement at the sound.  As the sun rose we saw that the monkeys had taken up residence in the trees in the parking lot.

Howlder Monkey

As the light got brighter, we could see them better, but they fell silent. I was hoping to get them on video, alas that didn’t happen. But while scanning for any movement in the trees, (yes, I will get back to birds really soon) one of the other guests happened to spot a tiny Geoffroy’s Tamarin jumping through the canopy.  The smallest of the Central American monkeys, it is the size of a squirrel.  And darn cute. We chased that monkey around and around the tower roof  hoping for it to sit for a few minutes so we could take it’s photo.  Finally he stopped and look right at me.

I suppose I would get used to them, but I don’t know….

     Geofforey's Tamarin

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Feeling Lazy in Panama

I had just been saying I wanted to see a sloth, (I really wasn’t whining, really) when the guide pointed up and said, “There’s one.” Now, of course, I find out that they are pretty common. There are both 2 and 3-toed Sloths here. The larger 2-toed sloth eats the tender young leaves

Two-toed Sloth

while the 3-toed eats the older ones.

3-toed sloth

I am full of lunch and like the slow-moving Sloth, not too motivated. So it’s time for siesta.  I’m going out again on a bird tour at 3.  

sleeping sloth

The line mark down this guy’s back means he is male, or so I have been told.


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