Panama: Fall at El Valle's Canopy Lodge Oct 07—14, 2017

Posted by Barry Zimmer


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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Late in the afternoon of our first full day at the Canopy Lodge, we ventured out on the Cara Iguana Trail. We were in search of roosting Spectacled Owls that often frequent the area. A narrow path through the forest led us in the direction that the owls had been seen recently. Suddenly though, we were distracted by the whistled notes of a Tody Motmot penetrating the thick vegetation. Within moments we had spotted a pair of these highly sought and tiny motmots at eye level no more than fifteen feet away. (Somewhat amazingly, we would tally four motmot species for the day—the rarely achieved “motmot slam.”) After enjoying lengthy scope views of the Tody Motmot, we walked on. A short distance away the owls were found—two adults and a mostly grown juvenile bird roosting side by side. This is certainly one of the most spectacular owls in the world, and our views were breathtaking. We soaked up the owls for several minutes before turning back for the road. We had walked no more than 50 feet when the loud, rich song of a Rosy Thrush-Tanager cut loose from the thicket behind us. This skulking but spectacular species is typically much easier to hear than see. Brief playback, however, brought the male right out into the open long enough for all to obtain scope views. We returned to the road unable to wipe the smiles from our faces. This episode represented just thirty minutes of our weeklong trip, but what a memorable half-hour it was—slam dunk views of Tody Motmot, Spectacled Owl, and Rosy Thrush-Tanager. Certainly it was an afternoon not to be forgotten!

Spectacled Owl

Spectacled Owl— Photo: Barry Zimmer


Our trip was filled with many awesome highlights from the moment we met at our hotel in Panama City. A short, pre-breakfast walk there yielded the likes of Keel-billed Toucans right over our head, perched Blue-headed Parrots and Orange-chinned Parakeets, a flashy Squirrel Cuckoo, Barred Antshrike, and the incomparable Crimson-backed Tanager among others. After a short, three-hour drive to the Canopy Lodge in El Valle, we were greeted by a squadron of colorful birds at the feeders and in the garden—Rufous Motmot; Long-billed Starthroat; Snowy-bellied Hummingbird; Red-crowned Woodpecker; Crimson-backed, Flame-rumped, Blue-gray, Palm, Plain-colored, and Dusky-faced tanagers; and gem-like Thick-billed Euphonias. Even our ensuing lunch was interrupted by a Purple-crowned Fairy flitting about an Erythrina tree. An afternoon walk above the lodge produced Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Bay Wren, Black-chested Jays, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Bay-headed Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, and a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth. And that just concluded the first day!

Read Barry’s full report in his Field List.