Sometimes misfortune is a Blessing in Disguise – Discovery of Birding

Panama Professional Bird Guide

16C_1032-1-2(Beny Wilson, Panama Bird Guide:  507-6112-2082,

When we first met Beny 2 years ago we were not avid birders… Ray had suffered a back injury that required us to change our usual activities to something more “tame.” A friend suggested we might like birding because of our interest in wildlife–we were skeptical but decided to give it a try and Panama seemed like the perfect place.

After our first 8-hour day on the famous Pipeline Road, dripping with sweat and swatting bugs that had no respect for bug spray, we weren’t sure what to think… until we downloaded our memory card and started looking at the pictures we took.  Suddenly those small, twitchy creatures jumped out of the screen in amazing detail, allowing us a small glimpse into the avian world – we were hooked!

Location: Summit Ponds

16A_3227 1-1-2.jpg(Blue-crowned Motmot.  Sometimes birds surprise you and come so close, they are almost out of the focal range of the lens, but the detail you can capture is mind-blowing!)

16A_3837 1-1.jpg(Male Crimson-backed Tanager.  These birds are quite common in Panama, but the colour is so vibrant we never tire of watching them.)

Location: Ammo Pond

IMG_5824-2.jpg(Ammo Pond)

Beny has the eyes of a hawk and a guide of his caliber can make such a difference.  When he starts acting like a kid at Christmas, you know you have been gifted something special, like when he spotted a Yellow-breasted Crake at Ammo Pond.  These birds are extremely rare–the last time Beny saw one was three years ago!

16A_3591 2(Yellow-breasted Crake.  We would normally not include such a “bad” photo in our blog but the rarity of this bird made it an exception.  Due to the dense vegetation of its habitat it is very difficult to see, much less photograph.  Just getting this “head shot” was a challenge.)

Location: La Laguna Sendero

Sometimes you get lucky and lightening strikes twice on the same day.  While hiking the Laguna Trail, Beny spotted a bird he wasn’t sure about (needless to say we were shocked).  It turned out to be a dark-phase juvenile Gray-headed Kite.  The dark phase was a “life bird” for Beny (which undoubtedly means it is also one for us)–score two!

16A_4038 1-1.jpg(Dark phase juvenile Gray-headed Kite)

16A_4130-1.jpg(Black-bellied Whistling Ducks)

As we finished the Laguna Trail we ended up by the Canal and saw several waterfowl wading about in a picturesque setting.  It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Thinking back to the circumstances under which we first met Beny we can’t believe how our misfortune turned into such a blessing.  One that we can appreciate for many years to come!

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Unexpected Dinner Guest – Black-crowned Night-Heron

Panama has an amazing restaurant scene, everything is made from scratch and there is a broad range of cuisine available to suit every palette.  It is also a great way to people watch –you never know who might drop in!

One evening we were enjoying dinner outside on the Bay of Panama and we noticed a heron sitting on the roof line of the restaurant.  Of course we didn’t have a camera with us but this Black-crowned Night-Heron was incredibly patient and waited 10 minutes for us to grab the camera and come back to the restaurant.  It continued to pose for about half an hour because it was waiting for an opportunity to grab one of the fish swimming below.  We were very lucky he sat in one of the restaurant’s spot lights otherwise we would never have captured this shot because we don’t use flash on wildlife.
(Black-crowned Night Heron – unexpected dinner guest)

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Panama Rainforest – A bird’s eye view!

How do you see what’s going on at the top of the rainforest canopy in Panama?  You climb a 130 foot tower with 174 steps, of course!  Many of you know we visit Panama frequently and the rainforest along the Panama Canal is one of our favourite day trips from Panama City.

(Top of the 130 foot observation tower)

Being the early birds that we are, we were on the road around 5:30am bound for the Panama Rainforest Discovery Centre on the world renowned Pipeline Road.  While driving the 40 minutes to reach the observation tower we were wondering if the day was going to be a bust.  It was dark and raining – one of the first rains in five months  (Panama is starting to transition from the dry season to the wet season), but just as we arrived the rain stopped and it turned out to be a beautiful morning – not too hot…that was until we had to climb the 174 steps lugging heavy camera gear!

The results were worth it!

16A_1770 1-1-2.jpg
(Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan)

16A_2211 1-1.jpg
(Purpled-throated Fruitcrow – male)

(White-necked Jacobin – male)

We have been to the tower several times before, but this was the best bird viewing day we’ve had so far.  We saw between 60-70 different species (thanks in large part to Carlos Bethancourt who was guiding a group from the USA and saved us hours of time trying to ID the birds we photographed.)

Some of the birds we saw included the following:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Gray-headed Kite, Band-rumped Swift, White-necked Puffbird, Pied Puffbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Lineated Woodpecker, Blue-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Mealy Parrot, Dusky Antbird, Paltry Tyrannulet, Southern Bentbill, Great Kiskadee, Eastern Kingbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Blue Cotinga, Red-eyed Vireo, Lesser Greenbelt, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler, White-shouldered Tanager, Palm Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Shining Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Moustached Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Fasciated Antshrike, Scaled Pigeon, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, White-necked Jacobin, Slaty-tailed Trogan, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer.

More to come from Panama…stay tuned!

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds