Panama 2016

Date/Time
Date(s) - 07/13/2016 - 07/24/2016
All Day

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Broad-billed Motmot

Broad-billed Motmot

It is Talon Tours’ pleasure to once again return to that great birding location, Panama.  We will repeat the highlights of our previous tours beginning at Canopy Lodge, nestled in a beautiful mountainous setting close to the mountain valley town of El Valle. Orange-bellied Trogon, Blue-throated Toucanet, Tody Motmot and White-tipped Sicklebill are some of the birds we saw here last time. The second part of our tour takes us to the unique Canopy Tower, located in the Canal Zone. (No need for all the usual packing and unpacking on this tour). Sightings we enjoyed on our last visit included Green Shrike-Vireo, Great Jacamar and the elusive Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo.

We will also repeat our tour extension to the Darien Lowlands beginning from Canopy Tower July 24th and concluding on the evening of July 28th  at Panama City. This year we will again be based at the exciting new Canopy Camp. Some of the Darien highlights from previous tours are Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Great Currasow and Spot-breasted Woodpecker.

The very charming, highly skilled and much sort-after birder Carlos Bethancourt will once again guide us on this tour.

Golden-collared Manakin, male

Golden-collared Manakin, male

Day 1: July 13th. Overnight in Panama City.                                      (D)                                   

Day 2: 14th. Morning departure for the Canopy Lodge.

El Valle de Antón (Western foothills) Cara Iguana Trail

This morning after a night at our hotel in Panama City we’ll board a comfortable air-conditioned van for the 2-hour ride to El Valle de Antón, also known as Crater Valley. We will spend four nights in this lovely village, nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano that exploded 5 million years ago. The resultant scenery is quite unique- a steep valley surrounded by jagged peaks and filled with flowers, streams and verdant forests. No wonder it is one of Panama’s most popular getaways.  Canopy Lodge, sister lodge of the Canopy Tower, a charming small hotel built next to a bubbling mountain stream and adjacent to the protected area of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument, will be our home during our stay in the valley.  In the gardens surrounding the lodge we can easily see species like the Crimson-backed, Blue-gray, Dusky-faced, Bay-headed, Flame-rumped and Plain-colored Tanagers, Social Flycatcher, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Barred Antshrike, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Rufous-tailed and Violet-headed Hummingbirds, Rufous Motmot and Clay-colored Thrush.

After a delicious lunch in the Canopy Lodge’s open-air dining room, we will visit Cara Iguana Trail, a short road along the base of the caldera teeming with bird life! In this characteristic Dry Forest, Rufous-and-white and Rufous-breasted Wrens are common, we’ll look for Lance-tailed Manakin, Garden Emerald, Spectacled and Tropical Screech-owls, White-winged Becard, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Black-chested Jay and seek out the elusive Tody Motmot.

(Overnight at Canopy Lodge)       (B, L & D)

 

Day 3: 15th. AM: La Mesa Road. PM: Valle Chiquito

This morning we will visit the La Mesa Road and Candelaria Trail, within the crater of the extinct volcano but higher in the valley than the lodge. Some of the species seen along La Mesa Road include Spotted Antbird, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Black-throated Mango, and Tawny-crested Tanager. In addition we will search for Plain Wren, Spot-crowned Barbet and Yellow-green Vireo. The Candelaria Road offers encounters with birds such as White-tipped Sicklebill, Spotted Woodcreeper, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Plain Ant-Vireo. Other specialties of this rich avian region are Lesser Elaenia, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Rosy Thrush Tanager, Rufous and White Wren and the Lance-tailed Manakin.

After lunch, we will visit Valle Chiquito and bird along the length of a very quiet road. Our target bird here is the much sort-after Tody Motmot. Other birds we have seen here include Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, Buff-throated Saltator, Tropical Gnatcatcher, White-thighed Swallow, brown-capped Tyrannulet, Brown-hooded Parrot, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Scaled Pigeon, King Vulture and Gray-headed Kite.

(Overnight at Canopy Lodge)      (B, L & D)

Veraguan Mango

Veraguan Mango

Day 4: 16th. Anton Pacific Dry Forest. (Full day)

Today we will have an early breakfast and travel outside El Valle to visit a patch of dry forest just one hour away near the small village of El Chiru. The contrast with the lush and wet foothills of El Valle is dramatic. This habitat consists of relatively permanent growth of low and often straggly bushes and small trees with grass interspersed. It is a distinctive habitat of the Pacific lowlands and there is little of it left because most of the population in Panama has settled in the Pacific Coast. We will search for Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Crested Bobwhite, Rufous-browed Pepper Shrike, Brown-throated Parakeet, Blue Ground Dove, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Pearl Kite among other feathered residents of this scarce scrubby area, if we are lucky a near Endemic bird can be see around El Chiru, the Veraguan Mango. Other birds we have seen here include Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Striped Cuckoo, Yellow-green Vireo, Lance-tailed Manakin, Panama Flycatcher and Yellow-crowned Parrot. Bird activity is high during the first few hours then it gets hot, a perfect time to visit the beach! Lunch will be at the beach house along the warm waters of the Pacific. Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, Brown and Blue-footed boobies glide over the water’s surface while Whimbrel, Willet, Wilson’s Plover and other shorebirds may be seen along the beach. We highly recommend taking a dip in the ocean! After lunch and a rest at the beach, we will continue birding the exciting Pacific lowlands—Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Crested Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Savanna Hawk, Groove-billed Ani and Red-breasted Blackbird are all hopefuls for today. We will make our way back up the hill to the Canopy Lodge in the late afternoon, and embrace the cool mountain air once again after a fantastic day of birding.

(Overnight at Canopy Lodge)      (B, L & D)

 

Day 5: 17th. Altos del Maria. (Full day trip)

Set in the mountains on the continental divide east of El Valle, the Altos del Maria provides a spectacular addition to the Canopy Lodge birding package. Departing early in the morning from El Valle in comfortable 4×4 sport’s utility vehicles, we will drive back along the steep back roads, passing through small towns as we go up into the mountains. As the sun rises over the highlands ahead of us, spectacular mountains, vast valleys, and towering cliffs will be revealed. Ascending an excellent paved road, we will climb a ridge to our destination for the morning, an expansive area of cloud forest at 1100 meters above sea level. Early morning birding will take us along some of the wide, gravel roads in the area. This area harbors an exciting variety of highland forest birds. Some of the characteristic species of this cloud forest include White Hawk, Orange-bellied Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Russet Antshrike, Tufted Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, White-ruffed Manakin, Ochraceous Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Pale-vented Thrush, Black-and yellow Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, and Slate-colored Grosbeak.

Amongst the many flowering plants we may spot Band-tailed Barbthroat, the exquisite Snowcap, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem (at the extreme eastern edge of its range), and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Even the bizarre Brown-billed Scythebill has been seen here. After lunch, we will drop down into a valley and climb to the ridge on the opposite side via a smooth gravel road. Reaching some large swaths of mature humid forest along this ridge, we will explore some trails and roadside spots in search of more forest birds. Around mid-afternoon, we will head down the road on the far side of the ridge and back into El Valle.

The El Valle Sunday Market is considered one of the best supplied in the region. This will be an excellent opportunity to buy local handicraft directly from the “manufacturer.” There are ceramics, bateas (wooden trays), woven baskets, hats, carved and painted totumas (cups made from squash) and trinkets made from acorn, as well as vegetables, fruits, ornamental plants, flowers and orchids. We will make a stop here to do some shopping and looking around before heading back to the lodge.

(Overnight at Canopy Lodge)     (B, L & D)

 

Day 6: 18th. AM: Canopy Adventure. PM: Canopy Tower

This morning we can wake up at daybreak and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and gardens of the Canopy Lodge. The fruit feeders will be well stocked with bananas, attracting many birds such as Thick-billed and Fulvous-vented Euphonias, Bananaquit, Rufous-capped Warbler, Gray-necked Wood-Rail and an array of colorful tanagers. After breakfast we will walk over to the Canopy Adventure and explore the trails through the dark cloud forest understory. Orange-billed Sparrow, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Buff-rumped Warbler, Green Kingfisher, Sunbittern and Mottled Owl could be seen. If lucky, an ant swarm may be nearby, and occasionally the rare Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo is seen here.

Following a lunch back at the lodge we will leave about 2PM and drive for approximately 2 hours to our next destination, The Canopy Tower, located in the heart of Soberanía National Park.

(Overnight at Canopy Tower)        (B, L & D)

 

Day 7: 19th. AM: Canopy Tower and Semaphore Hill. PM: Ammo Ponds

The Canopy Tower is a prime location from which to observe the birds and other wildlife of the forest canopy. Since they are right at eye level it is usual to get fantastic views of birds you would hardly see otherwise. You don’t have to leave the Tower to find birds; you don’t even have to leave your bedroom! Tanagers, toucans and tityras can be seen right from your window. The dining area and the roof of the tower are better for finding elusive canopy birds, as well as Howler Monkeys, Geoffroy’s Tamarin and other mammals, all this wildlife without having to venture away from the Tower.

Some of the bird species that we are likely to see from the observation deck are: Green and Red-legged honeycreepers, Green-shrike Vireo, Blue Cotinga, Scaled Pigeon, Mealy and Red-lored amazons, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari, flycatchers and many others.

After breakfast we’ll start exploring the forests of Central Panama and we’ll walk down Semaphore Hill Road. This paved road is a little more than a mile long and passes through the forest of Soberanía National Park. Here you will get a chance to see birds and mammals that spend their lives closer to the forest floor, like antbirds and agoutis. The bird list of Semaphore Hill Road is extensive, and includes birds from the forest interior as well as edge dwellers. Olivaceous Flatbill and White-whiskered Puffbird are common, and Slate-colored Grosbeak, White-shouldered Tanager, and Great Jacamar are seen frequently. Great Tinamou and Marbled Wood-Quail are heard often, but to see them takes a little more work. This road is also great for raptors: White, Tiny and Semiplumbeous hawks have been seen here. We will get a ride back up to the Canopy Tower for lunch.

The Ammo Dump Pond is located just north of Gamboa, on the way to Pipeline Road. It is the best place to see the elusive White-throated Crake, as well as a host of other waterbirds. Least Grebes, Common and Purple Gallinules are common, and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and American Pygmy-Kingfishers are around, though not as easy to find. Sometimes you get a Limpkin and maybe even a Least Bittern, and lately a few Snail Kites have been reported.

(Overnight at Canopy Tower)           (B, L & D)

Masked Tityra, male

Masked Tityra, male

Day 8: 20th. Pipeline Road (Full day)

Pipeline Road is the best place in Central Panama to find forest birds, and plenty of them. Eight species of wrens, five trogons, four puffbirds, three motmots, many antbirds and even more flycatchers have been reported from the road. And if its 17 Km are not enough, there’s plenty of side trails plus eleven creeks and rivers that can be followed into the forest. Army-Ant swarms are found frequently, attended sometimes by Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and there are many manakin leks right beside the road. Pipeline Road is also a great place for raptors: all three Forest-Falcons are heard if not seen with ease, and Tiny Hawks and Ornate Hawk-Eagles have been reported a few times. A Harpy Eagle was seen one time right beside the road!

We will be on the lookout for ant swarms, White-necked and Black-breasted Puffbirds, Streak-chested Antpitta, Great Jacamar, Black-tailed Trogon, Crane Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Black-striped Woodcreeper and even a Pheasant Cuckoo. We’ll have a picnic lunch alongside the forest road.

(Overnight at Canopy Tower)      (B, L & D)

 

Day 9: 21st. AM: Summit Pond & Old Gamboa Rd. PM: Chagres River

Old Gamboa Road is, you guessed it, the old road to Gamboa. At the beginning of this bird-rich area, you’ll find Summit Ponds, where Boat-billed Herons nest and Capped Herons are seen regularly. Both kiskadees, and both Green and Striated Herons are seen often, as well as the more common egrets. Passing between the two ponds you’ll be on Old Gamboa Road South, one of the birdiest spots around. This road passes through a variety of habitats, and has plenty of specialties: Blue Ground-Dove, Great Antshrike, Jet Antbird, Black-tailed and Royal Flycatchers, Lance-tailed and Golden-collared Manakins and Rosy Thrush-Tanager are a few highlights. Going North of the pond we will find species like, White-bellied Antbird, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Yellow-backed Oriole, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-headed Caracara, and more.

Chagres River is located at the east side of Gatun Lake, we’ll be walking along the banks of the river to see other water birds, for example, Amazon, Green, and American Pygmy-kingfishers, as well as Whooping Motmot and Cinnamon Woodpecker. We could also see species like Gray-Necked Wood-rail, Green Herons, and Anhinga. In this area we have also often spotted alligators, turtles and Capybara.

(Overnight at Canopy Tower)     (B, L & D)

Rufous-crested Coquette, male

Rufous-crested Coquette, male

Day 10: 22nd. Cerro Azul (Full day)

Located in the hills above Tocumen International Airport where a completely different climate and, more importantly, a different suite of birds await. The weather will be much cooler & breezier as we ascend the foothills of the San Blas Mountains toward Cerro Azul (2,500 ft.) and Cerro Jefe (3,300 ft.), named after the two tall peaks in the area. Major targets in these cloud-forested hills with peaks of elfin forest will include Yellow-eared Toucanet, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Spot-crowned Barbet, Black-eared Wood-Quail, and a nice mix of tanagers, including Silver-throated, Emerald, Speckled, Rufous-winged, Bay-headed, Black-and-yellow, Golden-hooded and Hepatic. We can also search for the specialty hummers, including Rufous-crested Coquette, White-tipped Sicklebill, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Green Thorntail, as well as Violet-capped, Violet-headed & Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds! We should also find the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, along with Lineated Woodpecker, Black-striped & Spotted Woodcreepers, Red-capped & White-ruffed Manakins, Russet Antshrike, and White-vented & Tawny-capped Euphonias. We have lunch at a picturesque residence overlooking Chagres National Park’s impressive rainforest.

(Overnight at Canopy Tower)   (B, L & D)

 

Day 11: 23rd. AM: Metropolitan Nature Park

Located right next to Panama City, only 25 minutes from the Canopy Tower, the forests of the Metropolitan Natural Park are much drier than those around Pipeline or Plantation Roads. Therefore, you should expect to see some species of birds that are rare if not absent in wetter areas. The beautiful Rosy Thrush-Tanager is common, as is the striking Lance-tailed Manakin. It’s also a good place to look for Sepia-capped Flycatcher and you have a shot at the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet as well.

 

PM: Miraflores Locks (optional)

We’ll visit the Visitor Center of the Panama Canal, one of the Eight Wonders of the Modern World. It is only 20 minutes from the Tower! Or, you can stay in the tower observation deck or road and see more birds it is up to you.

(Overnight at Canopy Tower)       (B, L & D)

 

Day 12: 24th. Departure

This morning those not participating in the Canopy Camp/Darien extension will depart for the airport to catch their return flights home.

(B)

Tour Cost

US$3,050:00 Per person, Double Occupancy.

US$2,850.00 Per person, Single Occupancy.

The tour begins in Panama City.

The tour ends in Panama City.

The Tour includes

  • All lodging.
  • All meals as stated. Complimentary wine with dinner from Day 2.
  • Snacks and beverages during outings.
  • Airport group transfers.
  • Transfer between lodges.
  • Transportation to all the birding spots.
  • National parks entrance fee.
  • Professional, bilingual bird guide service.
  • Tips for staff at lodges.

Not included in the Tour

  • International airfare.
  • Airport departure taxes.
  • Tips to local staff, guides and driver.
  • Items of a personal nature.
  • Alcoholic drinks except where mentioned above.
  • Tips for drivers and guides.

Insurance

The purchase of trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended.  Talon Tours cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour.

Travel planning

You are responsible for arranging your flights to and from Panama.  Plan to arrive in Panama City by July 13, 2016 (we overnight in Panama City on Day 1). Please plan departures for July 24th or later.



Bookings are closed for this event.



About Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson is the owner of Talon Tours. A native New Zealander, Ken has been leading nature and birdwatching tours worldwide since 1995. Ken has also led focused tours to many national and state parks in the western United States as well as key birding sites during migration. His passion for photography began in the early 1970’s and continues to grow. Ken is known for his easygoing manner and attention to organizational and logistical details.