Panama: El Valle's Canopy Lodge Extension Jan 31—Feb 05, 2016

Posted by Tony Nunnery

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Tony Nunnery

Tony Nunnery grew up in Mississippi, then moved to Texas, and graduated from Stephen F. Austin University. After teaching elementary school for several years, he moved to M...

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The El Valle Extension is an exciting addition to the Canopy Tower tour. Upon arrival, the change of routine gets underway while watching various tropical birds visit the banana feeders just below the open-air dining area. We watched enthusiastically as Gray-headed Chachalaca, Rufous Motmot, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, and Thick-billed Euphonia frantically fed. From our strategically elevated perspective, we witnessed the brilliant colors of Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird as they flitted about the Verbena flowers. There was a nest of Long-billed Starthroat in a nearby Cecropia tree. Before lunch was served we also saw Green Kingfisher fishing in a nearby pond, Bay Wren darting in and out of the brush by the stream next to the lodge, and Rufous-capped Warbler in the garden, as Buff-throated Saltator, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, and Dusky-faced Tanager attracted our attention back to the banana feeders.

The afternoon was spent strolling up the road where we saw Keel-billed Toucan, Black-chested Jay, Golden-hooded Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Crested Oropendola, and various other species. The temperature in El Valle was a pleasant change from the lowlands, as was the difference in the avifauna, although the repetition of previously seen species was a welcome reminder of all we had witnessed before. Seeing species repetitively helps us become accustomed to the new families and species we often come across on these tours. With so many species to see, it is a helpful learning experience. It provides an easy and fascinating introduction to the tropical avifauna of Panama.

During our stay at Canopy Lodge we made various excursions to nearby locations including La Mesa, Cara Iguana, Altos de Maria, and the Pacific Coast, as well as enjoying time to birdwatch around the Canopy Lodge’s immediate surroundings. All of these locations provided ample opportunity to observe an abundance of birds, plus the habitats in which they live. Of course, all sightings are appreciated; however, some of the exceptional  moments are worth mentioning. For example, the Mottled Owl sitting just underneath the canopy on a day perch, and the Spectacled Owl we searched for by hiking around in the underbrush before finding it roosting down low in the vine tangles. There was also an exciting moment along the coast where we witnessed the burning of old rice fields. This act brought about a large congregation of Savanna Hawks circling just overhead as they hunted mice fleeing the fire. One early morning we stood near a patch of Heliconia flowers waiting to see if a White-tipped Sicklebill would come to feed. To our surprise, not only did one arrive to cling to the flower and feed using its largely curved bill, but a Band-tailed Barbthroat and Stripe-throated Hermit also visited the flower. The sicklebill and the hermit visited various times, giving us multiple looks. Other hummingbird sightings that stand out are the Snowcap and a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird on her nest. Another outstanding moment was when we came across a pair of Yellow-eared Toucanets and a pair of Emerald Toucanets feeding in a fruiting tree beside the road. In addition we found Orange-bellied Trogon and Black-throated Trogon together along a forest trail. And in one tree alone in an open field we found a flock taking a siesta which included Golden-hooded Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, and Yellow-crowned Euphonia, alongside various other species.

These are just a few of the many exciting moments we experienced during our tour. All of this, in addition to the other fascinating scenery and wildlife that Panama has to offer, kept us thoroughly entertained throughout our visit.