Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First day in Panama

My mom and I arrived in Panama last night with a mostly uneventful flight, only having a 30m delay in leaving Miami. As we stepped off the plane we were hit by a gust of warm hot air: welcome to Central America. As of 10am this morning the temperature was already over 85 and rising. 
After making it through customs we got a taxi to take us to our imagined destination, Luna's Castle, which we were mildly disturbed by, judging by the partially clad people hanging over the balcony on the second floor, playing on guitars, singing, and generally carousing. Not a bad place, but we imagined that the amount of sleep gotten wouldn't be as much as we required. So our very nice taxi driver took us to another place, Hotel Latino, which is pretty crude, but at least has wifi downstairs and hot showers. It worked for one night. Of course now, we had to meet up with Andrew and Ethan who were headed for Luna's, unknowing of our abandonment of that hostel. When I got online I found out that Ethan had been stranded in Atlanta by inclement weather, so all that we had to get was Andrew. Luckily he had his wits around him, and checked his voicemail when he got to Luna's, and managed to hitch a ride with the National Police to Hotel Latino for a cool $2. 
After all that was all gotten out of the way, and we were finally together, all was good. 
This morning we got up at 0645 to head off to the Metropolitan Park in Panama City, and got a taxi there, and after paying the entrance fee to the park, the fun started. We managed to tally about 60-70 species, not sure of the exact number, but we got some great stuff. Some of the tougher birds that we got were Crane Hawk, very rare in the canal zone, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Indigo Bunting, which is not on the list for the park, and Southern Bentbill. Some of my personal favorites, although not hard, include Green Shrike-Vireo, SEEN, Crimson-backed Tanager, upwards of 15 Bay-breasted Warblers, Lance-tailed Manakins, Slaty-tailed, Violaceous, and Black-throated Trogons all seen from one spot, and Rufous-breasted Wren wasn't too shabby either. There were some fun mammals too, we had Coatimundi, Howler Monkeys, and unidentified Tamarins, an Agouti, and some squirrel.
This afternoon we're heading off to pick up the car, enough taxis for now, and heading off for some more afternoon birding before picking Ethan up tonight at 7:15 from his rescheduled flight. 
After that, Pipeline Road tomorrow, most likely Nusagandi the day after, picking up Caity, and then off to the west and to Davíd!

Take it easy, 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

DC and Panama

I've been a bit lax in updating this blog recently, and that is putting it mildly. Since seeing the Ivory Gull in January, ANOTHER Ivory Gull showed up a few days later, on Inauguration Day in fact, and it happened to be in Plymouth, my local area! Needless to say, I saw that bird a total of four times during its stay, and at one point I had seen Ivory Gull 6 out of 8 days!

After those thrilling couple weeks it was time for me and my mom to move down here to Washington D.C., more specifically Arlington, VA, where all three of us have been living in a one bedroom apartment while my dad is working a temporary detail for the FAA in DC. 
It's been fun living down here, and birding in 2.5 states with a bunch of good birders and good people, but I will be glad to head back up to Massachusetts and to Manomet, where I will spend the spring banding at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, formerly known as Manomet Bird Observatory (MBO). Currently I'm mildly peeved that there is a male Tufted Duck having a blast with his friend a male Eurasian Green-winged (Common) Teal in Sudbury, not too far at all from Medford. All I can hope is that it will stick around until April 9th, when I finally return to where I normally belong!

Birding down here in the DC area has been lots of fun, and it would have not been nearly as productive without the nice and fun birders down here, especially Paul Pisano and John Hubbell, who have been kind enough to cart me around most weekends to god knows where, looking for various and sundry birds from DC to the Chesapeake. Thanks guys, you've really made my stay down here all the more pleasant. 
Some of the cooler birds that I've run into while I'm down here include my first Tundra Swans, terrible, I know, and my first Brown-headed Nuthatches, little balls of adorable squeakiness frolicking around on trees. Hard to beat. Other cool stuff, not so awe inspiring for a northerner, but pretty crazy for down here, include a Barrow's Goldeneye, a White-winged Crossbill, and and White-winged Scoter in DC. Slight contrast from seeing over 7,000 White-winged Scoter go by Manomet Point last fall in two hours. 

By now you're probably wondering where the "Panama" part of the title comes in. In 24 hours I will be on a plane headed to Miami, with a final destination of Tocumen International Airport, Panama! This all started when I was talking with Andrew Spencer, a mostly young birder from Colorado, who I met at the Ivory Gull, and we happened to be talking about international travel, always a fun topic of conversation. Just for kicks I checked the fares to Panama, and I found that I could get roundtrip airfare for $318! (!!) Needless to say, within three days we had booked plane tickets and were planning a ten day trip to Panama (March 16-26th)! In the next two days we managed to find two more young birders who could also swing a trip on less than two weeks of notice. So with our trip rounded out by Ethan Kister of Ohio and Caity Reiland-Smith of South Dakota, we're headed off for adventures of the birdiest sort. 
Our plan is to spend most of the time in "canal zone" as it's known, with 3-4 days over near the Costa Rican birder in the Volcán Baru area, and one day with a short venture east to Nusagandi/Bayano Lake area for some eastern species. 
My mom is also going to Panama, but not with us bird nuts. She is flying down with me, and we're all spending the first night together, with the exception of Caity who is arriving a few days later, and then we're splitting off the next morning, and will be apart until the last night, when we're meeting at the place where we spent the first night, Luna's Castle, for our last night in country.
Some of the cooler birds we're hoping for are Black-crowned Antpitta, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and Resplendent Quetzal, along with hordes of others. 400 species is our, mildly unrealistic, goal for the trip, at least from my perspective.
I don't know how much internet access I'll have during the trip, but I will try to stick in a quick post whenever I can. 

Take it easy, and good birding,
Ian Davies
Manomet, MA