Panama Day 4: #681-#704 East of the Canal

Wednesday we had another 4:00 AM wakeup call, 5:00 AM departure; this time heading north to Colon and then across the Canal at Gatun Lock; but we saw #681, a Savannah Hawk in a church field, before we even got to the Lock. Then we got stuck waiting for the drawbridge across the canal for about 45 minutes. Fortunately the area by the bridge is not yet completely built up so we tallied about 18 species awhile parked waiting for the boats to go through including 3 more lifers:

  1. Pale-vented Pigeon
  2. Ruddy Ground-Dove (probably seen on Monday as well from the truck, but this was a much better more certain look. Iooked for this bird in California once near the Salton Sea, but it’s rare there. Here it’s relatively easy to find in disturbed habitat.)
  3. Scrub Greenlet

Then it was across the bridge and onto the road to Achiote Road in the San Lorenzo National Park. Within a couple of minutes of exiting the van, we spotted #685 White-headed Wren , and the birds kept coming:

  1. White-headed Wren
  2. Black-cheeked Woodpecker
  3. Chestnut-backed Antbird
  4. Spot-crowned Barbet
  5. Flame-rumped Tanager
  6. Yellow-backed Oriole
  7. Thick-billed Seed-Finch
  8. Pied Puffbird
  9. Gray-capped Flycatcher
  10. Zone-tailed Hawk (looks like a Turkey Vulture with a banded tail; I could perhaps have seen this one out west but never have.)
  11. Black-chested Jay
  12. White Hawk

I missed the Masked Titrya though. :-(

After a few hours of working the road, we stopped at the park office to pay the fee, which we couldn’t do since they were closed. However we did add two more lifers from the office driveway:

  1. Plain Wren
  2. White-collared Swift

We drove back down Achiote Road, and walked the Trogon Trail into the forest. In general birds were harder to see in here than from the road, but we did add:

  1. Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
  2. Blue Cotinga (unfortunately a female; the male is prettier)

We then drove off to a different part of the San Lorenzo National Park, where we ate lunch, toured the old fort, added White-faced Capuchin Monkey to the Mammal list, and then finally picked up #701, Green Kingfisher at Rio Chagras.

We had to leave a little earlier than we might have liked to make sure we got across the Lock in time to catch the train back to Panama City. However, on the way we added Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a very rare bird for Panama and a lifer for Domi, our local guide. Fortunately we didn’t have long to wait at the Lock in this direction so we had some time to do a bit more birding around the industrial areas of the canal on the western side before heading into Colon to catch our train; and we managed to add both #702, Saffron Finch, #703 Boat-billed Heron, one of my target birds; and then finally just a little further down the road the driver spotted #704, Common Black-hawk, perched in a tree right over the road.

We boarded the train about 4:45 PM, and birded from the train until departure and then after departure. About 40 species but no lifers. I was hoping for a Snail Kite on Gatun Lake, where there’s a growing population; but I whiffed on it. I may have seen one, but pretty much all I could say was that it was a medium sized raptor. Oh well. Maybe I can get this one in Florida some time if the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers doesn’t exterminate the Florida population first.

We arrived in Panama City after dark where our shuttle did not show up as planned so we ended up hanging out in the train station parking lot for about 45 minutes until a new shuttle got there; then had a long ride in traffic back to the Tower for a late dinner around 8:00 PM. Tomorrow, fortunately, we have a late start (6:30 AM). These early wakeups are brutal.

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