Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Panama trip completed

We did stop at a wetland on the way back to Panama City, to break the 8 hour drive, and added two more life species including the Aplomado Falcon:

However after the delights of Boquete and Volcan it was a rough, unloved bit of land and also searingly hot and humid.

All in all we'd spent nearly four weeks in Panama, including my birthday on the day we travelled out and Helen's birthday in Boquete.  We really liked the country and saw some amazing wildlife and birds, 403 trip species in all of which 125 were new to us, exceeding our expectations.

It was time for one last hurrah though before going home.   We'd managed to book a flight from Panama to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and a birding tour there. So who knows how many species we'd see there.  Time to quickly gen-up on the birds of the Dominican Republic then.

Panama - Los Quetzales Trail, top-end

For our last full day birding in Panama we decided to head to the Volcan end of the Los Quetzales trail, which is basically a long-steep climb.  Quite a beast at that altitude but worth it.

As we started the walk mist closed in and the air grew colder and damper.

We saw a Rufous-browed Peppershrike in a tree next to some farmland early on in the ascent:

Dahlias grew by the side of the road:

We reached the top of the trail cold and damp in persistent drizzle.  The building on the right is the deserted station for the trail, the track on the left is for a local research institute:

We paused at the top of the trail watching White-naped Brush-Finch on the ground:

and a flock of Sooty-capped Bush-Tanagers in the shrubs alongside the building grounds:

We started the descent on the other side, down towards Boquete but the drizzle became rain, as illustrated in this picture of a Volcano Hummingbird:

So we walked down, noteably quicker than we'd climbed, jumped in the car and drove out from under the cloud and back for our last afternoon in Cielito Sur.

More species showed-up including a Magnificent Hummingbird:

and i finally managed a snap of the ever-present but fast moving Violet Sabrewing:

We really did enjoy our stay in Volcan but it was time alas to turn and head back, all the way back to Panama City.

Panama - Volcan area

Finally the time had come for us to visit L'Amistad Park.  We'd tried but been let down by our car rental company in Costa Rica.

We drove up form our B&B at first light, arriving after the opening time of the park.   But it was shut and indeed locked.  We though about climbing the wall and fence (recently installed apparently) but finally manged to get in by crossing the river, boulder by boulder much to amusement of an already-drunk farm worker, who slurred, coughed and breathed hooch on us while we worked out what we were going to do.

We walked up to the car park, seeing Black-capped Flycatcher:

and Yellow-thighed Finch:

We walked a few of the trails but it did feel a bit naughty being in the park on our own, with everything shut (including the park station).   We saw a number of other specialists but not the hoped-for Three-wattled Bellbirds, another one in the probably not going to see category now.  It was an interesting place to visit but absent staff and indeed permission we didn't feel we could stay all day so headed out late morning.  We decided to exit by following the loop trail.  Little did we realise that a recent storm had rendered this trail extremely tricky to navigate and pass.  We had to cross the river twice, scrambling and using blown-down trees for support and as bridges.   Then we had a steep scramble up a scree hill to the road and our way out.  Phew.   Not quite what we'd envisaged but an adventure anyway.   

We decided then to explore some of the trails around the Volcan area, in particular we'd read about some cabins one of the birding hotels had, located up a 4x4 only trail.   We headed to the hotel, had coffee, got permission to ascend and then gave it a whirl.

Stopping of course to look at rivers, we did see an American Dipper, still no Tyrannulet though:

The Volcan area produces almost all the vegetables grown in Panama so finally the food was varied, you can see what an impact it's had on the landscape:

The trail very quickly narrowed and this too proved inpassable to our quite large 4x4, due to felled trees blocking the full width of the track.   A narrower vehicle could have done it but we had to reverse down the extremely rough track, turning on a narrow bridge to head out.

It was a day of frustrations really, time to head back to the feeders and coffee at Cielito Sur.  A new Hummingbird graced the feeders, this time a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird:

The son of the owners called us at one point, a female Red-headed Barbet was on one of the feeders by their house:

Cielito Sur doesn't do dinner so we drove a couple of kilometers up the road towards Volcan and a lovely little restaurant called Fanny's.   She produced delicious vegetarian food three evenings running and some magnificent cocktails too.

While waiting for our food we watched the to-ing and fro-ing of a number of birds including this White-winged Tanager:

Panama - Volcan Lake and Volcan

From Boquete we left early and headed up to Volcan, stopping at every river to try and see (but failing) a Torrent Tyrannulet.   Hey ho.  Three Central America trips and still not seen one!

We headed first to Volcan Lakes, which was quite tough going, even in a 4x4 and frustrating too.  We did see a few species, like this Rose-throated Becard:

and a lovely butterfly on the floor of the forest:

But overall the place was quite empty of species:

It became apparent why when 4x4s pulling waterbikes drove past, into the protected forest lakes area.   So much for the 'protection'.

We headed on somewhat forelorn to Cielito Sur which is closer to Volcan and higher-up than Boquete.

At last we were staying somewhere where birds are central to the property.   They have trails, fruit feeders, hummingbird feeders, home-grown and home-made coffee (which was fantastic).  We sat down and just watched, spending a delightful afternoon relaxing and recuperating.

Birds included Blue-gray Tanager:

Green Violet-ear:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird:

Silver-throated Tanager:

Slaty Flowerpiercer:

and Yellow-throated Euhpnoia:

Lovely place, spacious rooms, relaxing, quiet, comfortable and great birds!

Panama - Boquete area, the Waterfall Trail

The following morning we headed back towards Los Quetzales trail but opted instead to walk the Waterfall trail, which starts in a private property.   The birding again was really good, almost immediately we encountered Sulphur-winged Parakeets having breakfast:

You have to admire this one's ambition:

A familiar bird form our US trips, a Black-and-White Warbler:

Then we saw a Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher:

At this point we met people already leaving the area, with a Dutch national guide and some clients, all complaining about how quiet it was.  We didn't understand...

As we got into thicker forest a Spot-crowned Woodcreeper ascended a nearby tree:

We had to scramble across the river a few times to reach the end of the canyon:

There is indeed a waterfall, though not much of one:

More of a mist shower in fact:

We turned around and headed back, seeing Violet-headed Hummingbird:

White-tailed Emerald:

and Black-faced Solitaire on the way down:

as well as Mountain Thrush:

It was by now butterfly o'clock but given the altitude the birds were still out and about too as it doesn't get too hot at that altitude:

In the grassland at the base of the trail a Yellow-faced Grassquit sang:

The last bird of the trail was this Yellow-crowned Euphonia:

Time to head back to the hotel then and prepare for Helen's birthday celebration which we planned to start at 7pm, or midnight UK time!

Panama - Boquete area, Los Quetzales Trail

Time to move on then from our lucky find and head up both in terms of geography and altitude to Boquete, one of the genuine tourist destinations in Panama.

We'd worked out directions for our after breakfast drive, with some help again from Olga, and were able to follow a relatively new road rather than going to David and back up again.

The landscape changed as did the rock, as we drove through canyon-like features:

We headed through Boquete on arrival and on to Los Quetzales trail, which it turns out is a very long and indeed very well maintained trail.

By now we were seeing more familiar faces, this time a Dutch couple who we'd bumped into in the Canal area, it was good to meet like-minded people from time to time.

A higher altitude specialist and quite common once you're up, is the Rufous-collared Sparrow:

On the trail proper we encountered lots of birds including this Collared Redstart:

A Tufted Flycatcher:

Ochraceous Wren:

Prong-billed Barbet, cracking bird:

And a precariously hanging Red-faced Spinetail:

We turned around on the trail after a few kilometers as we were running out of time, we'd only started walking after 10am.   It's probably our one regret of the whole trip, not being able to walk the whole length of this trail, the birding really was magic.

Back in town the clouds were bubbling up in the fading evening light:

Boquete is very heavily visited so at least there's plenty of choices for dinner, it's very noisy at night though...