Birding In Fog

Believe it or not, it can be a tad humid in Panama leading to a great deal of fog in the upper elevations early in the morning. It was like walking in a strange dreamland and were surrounded by strange sounds. One of them was a bird that excited our guide Tino (the Human iPod) and he said, "Thrush like schiffornis" and casually walked toward the sound strumming air guitar and whistling back at the bird. He whistled, the bird called back and after a few moments at medium sized ball of brown streaked above our heads across the trail and that was it.

Now this bird is something of a mystery. It goes by many names in the guides because ornithologists appear to not know exactly how to categorize it. You mind find it in a guide as thrush-like mourner or thrush like manakin or thrush-like schiffornis. So, if you haven't gathered, it has characteristics of a thrush, it's kind of a manakin, well maybe not so let's just call it by its latin name schiffornis who knows.  You would think a spectacular mystery bird like this would be something to behold.  Here's a photo of one.  It's worthy of some Non Birding Bill brown bird ridicule.

I giggled later in the day when I read my Panama bird guide about the schiffornis--it said that the only looks you are going to get is of the bird flying away unless you are lucky enough to snare one in a banding net. Ah well, those brown birds, always the heart breakers.

One of our targets was the orange-bellied trogon which was very cooperative despite the fog. That bright belly was a beacon in the haze.

Another most awesome bird that we got to see was a toucanet or more specific a blue-throated toucanet.  Alas, the clouds steal thunder from how mind bendingly beautiful a small green toucan can be. It was awesome to see this little dude (there were actually three) doing their thing and plucking fruit from the trees...and for the record, the little green guys show no interest in helping you find Fruit Loops or Guinness.

And while we were watching some great birds we got to see some interesting bugs. I have no idea what this is, some sort of millipede? I asked someone in our field trip group if they would put their hand next to it for a size comparison because it was huge.  He hesitated...I guess I can't blame him, who knows what creepy defense mechanisms Central American bugs have?

Oh and speaking of bugs--check out this trail.  Any guesses as to what made this trail?  If you said leaf cutter ants, you'd be correct.  I have lots of video of those dudes.  Not only do they cut up pieces of leaves for their little farms, but they clear the path for their trail by removing debris to make it easier for the ones carrying the leaves. There was something ominous to me about see the cleared and well worn trails unused.  Where were the ants and what were they plotting?

Here was a wonderful discovery in the mist--a hummingbird nest.  This time my friend was happy to use their hand for size comparison--no worries at a hummingbird nest as there might be next to an unknown millipede.  The nest had at least one egg in it.  We're not sure of the species, the female didn't fly in while we were there and we didn't hang around so as not to keep the female away from incubating the egg.

So even if fog, there are interesting things to see in Panama.