Panama: El Valle's Canopy Lodge Jan 21—28, 2017
Posted by Kevin Zimmer
As always, the El Valle area treated us to some great birds, beautiful accommodations, and some unexpected surprises. It started, as it always does, upon our arrival at the Canopy Lodge, with the daily lodge feeder show. At peak times, it can be nearly impossible to tear a group away from the lodge feeders to go anywhere else! The activity at the feeders is often frenetic, and the diversity of tanagers, honeycreepers, and euphonias attracted is truly remarkable. To see such normally skulking birds as Dusky-faced Tanager and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager attending feeders is a rare treat, and the spectacular Rufous Motmots and Collared Aracaris are grand icing on the cake. We soon discovered the most recent feeder development—that being the habituation of the resident Gray-headed Chachalacas, which now descend upon the feeders multiple times per day for their banana-fix.
Over the next several days, we explored habitats ranging from wet, middle elevation cloud forest to semi-deciduous forest, to dry Pacific lowlands, pastures, rice fields, and tropical dry forest. Highlights were many, but several stand out. There was the fabulous Sunbittern on the first afternoon hike up the road from the lodge. The following day produced two species of roosting owls: a Tropical Screech-Owl in the morning and a Spectacled Owl in the afternoon. Our two visits to Los Altos del Maria treated us to mixed-species flocks of colorful tanagers; wonderful studies of some often difficult to see antbirds (Streak-chested Antpitta, Dull-mantled Antbird, and Spotted Antbird); a lovely male Snowcap; and intimate portraits of Orange-bellied Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Blue-throated (Emerald) Toucanet, and Yellow-eared Toucanet. The Pacific lowlands offered a complete change of pace, including flooded rice fields festooned with herons, egrets, and ibises, and pasturelands and dry forest alive with raptors and a confusing variety of flycatchers.
All in all, El Valle and the Canopy Lodge provided us with a fascinating glimpse into the diverse foothill and lowland avifauna of central Panama. I particularly wish to thank our local guide, Danilo Rodríguez Jr., for all of his hard work and assistance, particularly in taking the reins for the first few days when I was simply too sick to function in any capacity. Many thanks as well to Tino and the rest of the Canopy Lodge staff for taking such good care of us, and for providing such a wonderful base of operations for birding the El Valle area. It was great fun sharing this marvelous area with each and every one of you, and I look forward to birding with you again in the future.