More Panama Birding

Wow, what a great Monday--we might hit 40 degrees (do I dare take out my bike), I'm going to learn how to ice fish today and I just came off a fun weekend.  I have to put in a plug for my Twin Cities readers: Non Birding Bill's birthday was the day I flew to Panama. To make up for it, I scheduled a party with Virginia Corbett who taught us how to do couple's dancing like the cha cha, foxtrot, and hustle.  It was fun and easy going and you have to love a woman who can teach you to fox trot to Jonathan Coulton.  I think even our friends who were horrified at the idea of learning to dance had a good time.  If course, the Lambic and cupcakes helped.

And speaking of Panama, I am SO not finished blogging about it.  What fertile blogging ground that place is.  And I am planning a ten day tour there next year.  Carlos was going to get me the itinerary late last week but his computer died.  But it is on in mid to late February and it will happen at both Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower.  Start calculating your frequent flyer miles and saving your pennies now.  This will be an unforgettable winter getaway in 2011.

One of the fun things about birding in another country is that the vehicles they use to transport you are a bit more exciting than what would be allowed in the US.  Here we have a truck and the bed is fitted with padded benches that allow us to watch for birds and mammals unfettered by a roof and seat belts.  If we were traveling and saw something worth stopping for, all you had to do was pound on the roof of the cab and the guide would stop the vehicle.  Fun!  Some of our best birding was the road to and from Canopy Tower called Semaphore Hill.  One morning we walked it, but often when we were tootling down to hit the highway and on to birding adventures elsewhere, we would have the driver stop for monkeys or motmots.

Coatis were frequently seen along the road and when the drivers stopped the vehicle so we could get photos, I noticed the familiar smirk.  It's the same one I would give if I were leading a US tour and we stopped for a raccoon.  But the guides are smart and they know that people love an animal with a nose that appears to swivel around of its own accord.  Oh, coati, how can you be so cute munching your palm fruit and not allow me to scratch your belly?

I did get to see a celebrity bird.  Does this species look familiar to you?  It's actual name is the red-capped manakin but I would wager that millions have seen this bird and not know its name, but they do know it as the Moonwalk Bird--here's a collection of videos I've found on the web. There's actually a second male in this photos but he is obscured by the branch.  I did get to see a hint of the display but did not get to see the manakin in his full Moonwalking glory.  Writer Laura Kammermeier has an article a fun video of the manakin mating dance.  Her video also includes a bit more graphic bit that tends to be left off of the nature programs and her color commentary that goes along with it is hilarious.  I never grew tired of seeing these cute little birds, I had to resist asking for an autograph.

All kinds of birds lurked in the lower canopy like this dusky antbird and as much I love a gray bird, the female of this species appeals to my love of brown birds:

All kinds of cool birds hid in the lower foliage. One bird I was really looking forward to was the tinamou--it was also a requested bird when I asked what people wanted me to try and photograph.  We heard them quite a bit and one day when we were driving up to the Tower, we saw a couple on the side of the road.

But tinamous like this great tinamou above like to lurk and hide in dark places--probably because this chicken like bird also known as the mountain hen has a body built for food.  Being cagey and secretive is their key to survival.  I brought along a video camera because some of those dark areas are not good for digiscoping and here is a video of the great tinamou:


You can hear Carlos doing the great tinamou wavering whistle and another tinamou answering back from deeper in the forest.

Outside the tower itself were a few hummingbird feeders.  Above is a photo I got of a white-necked jacobin (a type of hummingbird) with the Wingscapes BirdCam. They can't have banana feeders here like at Canopy Lodge because the coatis.  They raid the feeders and will try to get into the tower and as cute as they are, the last thing I want in my room (apart from a fer de lance or bushmaster) would be a coati.  But the hummingbird feeders are enough to entertain.