Migratory Birds In Panama

I'm very excited, I just got a 2 pound package of shade grown coffee that I ordered in the mail:

I've always been a fan of shade-grown coffee on paper, but generally found the taste of most of them lacking--and I'm not a coffee snob, I'll drink gas station coffee. But generally the flavor of most shade-grown coffee (to me) is enough to make me give up drinking coffee.  Every now and then someone will send me a sample and I don't mention it because...it tastes bad.  But I've been given samples of the above and now I actually order it.  It's from a line of shade-grown coffee from Birds and Beans called the Chestnut-sided Warbler Blend and I really, really like it (I even like it better than Dunkin Donuts coffee, it's like a fuller, richer blend of that coffee).  You can order it from Birds and Beans, but I ordered mine from the ladies at Wild Birds Unlimited in Saratogo Springs, NY because they're one of the few places that carry it, I like them and want them to stay in business but you can also order it from Birds and Beans too.

And why would I bring shade-grown coffee up in the middle of blogging about Panama? Well, while in Panama, I saw several familiar birds like this Baltimore oriole--it's fun to see birds on their migratory habitat in winter. Walking around in Panama, seeing the abundance of fruits and insects, I understood why they risked a long and dangerous journey to spend the winter here rather than the snowy US.

I especially appreciated it as I sat on top of Canopy Tower and read a Snow Emergency Email Alert from the City of Minneapolis. While my home was being covered in yet another blank canvas, the mountains were covered in lush green. How fun to be the one reading about snowmaggedon Tweets and not writing them. But above is the type of habitat our migratory friends need to survive the winter. Coffee plants were originally meant to be grown in the shade but were developed over the years to grow in full sun, meaning our morning cup of joe comes at the expense of habitat our summer birds need to survive the winter in Central and South America.

There's been a movement in the last decade to revert to coffee's original plant and grow it in the shade so we can still drink coffee but not at the expense of birds like orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks (like the preening immature male rose-breasted grosbeak that I saw in Panama above), vireos and warblers. There are several types on the market but it can be a challenge to find on that is truly shade grown (some growers try to get away with one or two trees on the plantation and calling it shade grown) and actually tastes good.  Birds and Beans straddles both by being tasty and having the Smithsonian Certification (so we know it is truly shade grown). I especially like the Chestnut-sided Warbler flavor--a medium roast and it seems appropriate to drink it while blogging about Panama because the most common warbler I saw there was the chestnut-sided (alas, no photos from me but I was happy to see them and enjoy their company as they flitted among the leaves).

Songbirds weren't the only migrants I saw in Central America--there were a TON of turkey vultures, quite possibly the most common bird I saw...do you hear that Hasty Brook? Tons of turkey vultures.  This is an actual migrant turkey vulture.  Carlos--my most awesome guide at Canopy Tower (more on that magical place coming) told me that resident turkey vultures have a white patch on the backs of their heads.  This one with a full read head came from somewhere in North America.  I wondered if it was a Minnesota bird.  I'm working with Carlos on leading a trip to Panama and I am a bit torn.  I'd love to go back this time next year, but they have quite the fall migration of raptors and vultures that you can watch right from the tops of the tower.  Here are a few photos.  If there's a good migration going on, I would have no desire to ever go out on other trips to look for birds.

People have been emailing asking about dates and cost of a Panama trip.  I haven't worked out all the details with Carlos yet, but as soon as I do, I'll post it here and on the Facebook Page so everyone get save pennies and budget.