Bird watching in Panama is very easy and rewarding. Its geographical position as an isthmus allows contact with two great motherlodes of avian diversity. You can see Resplendent Quetzals and Umbrella birds in the West as well as four types of Macaws and Harpy Eagles in the East. In the central part, the forests of the Panama Canal watershed are within a 45 minute drive from Panama City and harbor more than 400 bird species. In all, Panama hosts 940 species in 40,000 square miles.
DAY 01 - ARRIVE PANAMA
Arrive at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Met by Guide Hernan Arauz. Transfer to Canopy Tower in Soberanía National Park (approx. 1:15 hrs) driving from the Airport. Welcome dinner and briefing by Guide.
Night at the Canopy Tower with Dinner.
DAY 02 - SOBERANIA NATIONAL PARK, CANOPY TOWER
DAY 03 - SOBERANIA NATIONAL PARK, PIPELINE ROAD
DAY 04 - CHIRIQUI HIGHLANDS, LA AMISTAD
Early this morning after breakfast, we leave for the domestic airport to board a commercial flight to David in the western province of Chiriqui (1 hour flight). Upon arrival in David, we transfer by van to the cool and scenic highlands of Cerro Punta and Guadalupe. After checking in the cozy Hotel Los Quetzales, we proceed by van to the headquarters of La Amistad International Park to explore the El Retoño trail. This trail is a great introduction to the birds of the Talamanca Endemic Bird Area (EBA). We'll look for Ruddy Treerunner, Large footed Finch, Black capped Flycatcher, Buff fronted Quail Dove, Yellow winged Vireo, Silvery throated Jay, Spangle cheeked Tanager and other highland specialties. After lunch at the Hotel we proceed to the Lagoons of Volcan for some foothills birding in the mid-late afternoon.
Night at Hotel Los Quetzales with BLD.
DAY 05 - CHIRIQUI HIGHLANDS, BARU NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, early morning departure in 4x4 vehicles up the cloudforests of Baru Volcano National Park at Cabañas Los Quetzales. This 20 minute ride takes us to one of the most scenic and uniquely beautiful places in Central America. From the cabins, nestled in the side of this mountain range you can witnessed at eye level an unrivaled highland avian canopy show. Prong billed Barbet, Barred Becard, Black and Yellow Silky Flycatcher, Slaty Finch, Resplendent Quetzal are regulars among many other western highland birds. Of particular interest are the hummingbird feeders around the cabins. Violet Sabrewing, White throated Mountain Gem, Admirable hummingbird, Green crowned Brilliant, Volcano Hummingbird fly and feast in front of your eyes. Using our cozy cabin as a base to eat and rest (a buffet lunch is served in the cabins), we will explore all adjacent trails looking for Black cheeked Warbler, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Common tufted Flycatcher, Wrenthrush, Silvery fronted Tapaculo, Black faced Solitaire, Spot crowned Woodcreeper and many others.
Night at Hotel Los Quetzales with BLD.
DAY 06 - CHIRIQUI HIGHLANDS, FINCA HARTMAN
After an early breakfast we board our van for the western region of Santa Clara and Finca Hartman. This new birding destination offers great birding in a transitional area between the highlands and the lower foothills of the western mountain range. We will look for Fiery billed Aracari, Black chested Jay, White tailed Emerald, Golden bellied Flycatcher, always keeping our eyes out for the rare Yellow billed Cotinga. After lunch back at the Hotel to relax or bird the surrounding gardens.
Night at Hotel Los Quetzales with BLD.
DAYS 07 to 10 - DARIEN NATIONAL PARK, CANA AND PIRRE MOUNTAIN
Early morning departure for David to board Panama City bound scheduled flight. Upon arrival in Panama City we will transfer to our chartered aircraft bound for Cana in Darien National Park. Following is a description of this magnificent place, its trails and the birds to look for. We will stay here three nights (including one night at the Pirre Mt. camp).
The pristine valley of Cana in the eastern slope of Pirre mountain range in Panama's Darien National Park is, without any doubt, the country's most productive birdwatching site in terms of quantity and quality of avian sightings. It can also be regarded as one of the top 10 sites on the planet.
This powerful statement derives from the fact that professionally led 6 day birding tours to the area usually yield bird lists of over 300 species. The combination of open area habitat, mature second growth and foothill / highland primary forests are unique and located in the most remote and secluded area of Panama, which happens to be the most interesting point of contact for Central and South American avifauna.
One thing you will notice in Cana is how rare birds elsewhere are commonly seen in the trails around Cana. As the Station's N#1 attraction Blue and Yellow, Red and Green, Great Green and Chestnut fronted Macaws fly over the camp all day. From the rustic veranda you can see Flame rumped, Crimson backed, Swallow Tanagers, Golden headed Manakins, Streaked Antwren all feeding in the shrubs growing in front of the main house. These also attract several hummingbirds such as Rufous tailed, Snowy bellied, Blue chested, Black throated Mango, Violet capped, Rufous crested Coquette, White necked Jacobin, Green Thorntail, Blue throated Goldentail and Brown violet ear.
The open skies should be watched for soaring King Vultures, Ornate, Black and Black and White Hawk Eagles, White Hawk, Solitary Eagle. It is also a good place to look for passing White collared Swifts. All bare branches should be checked for Barred Puffbird, Dusky backed Jacamar, Long tailed Tyrant. Low brushes near the House abound with Slaty Spinetail, Jet Antbird and Yellow billed Caciques.
The top of big trees in the near hills are good places to find the Black tipped Cotinga and the loud Red throated Caracara. Rusty margined and Grey capped Flycatchers are active all day in the creek behind the Station. The trees behind the camp are great for White headed Wren, Cinereous Becard, Black chested Jay and occasionally Laughing Falcon.
Owling is more productive in the late hours of the night (specially in the cloudforest camp). Spectacled, Mottled, Black and White and Least Pygmy Owls are always possibilities. Pauraque is always present in the airstrip at night.
Migrants are a very interesting group of birds in Cana. Previously unreported species seen by the author include Palm Warbler, Dicksissel, Cedar Waxwing and Snail Kite.
The Boca de Cupe Trail is the longest of them all and is the only way out by land (you could walk this trail in 2 days). Essentially a flat trail out of the station for 5 miles out, we get on it from the Cana airstrip. In the first 100 meters check for Little Cuckoo, White fronted Nunbird, any of the 5 Trogon species. This trail is great for rarities such as Gray cheeked Nunlet (look for it 1 or 2 feet above floor at the edge of the trail), Viridian Dacnis (usually accompanying mixed flocks of tanagers and dacnises at fruiting trees), Great Jacamar (easily seen and called in once his mournful whistle is learned), Scarlet browed Tanager (same as Viridian Dacnis), Great Potoo (sleeping high in trees), Fulvous bellied Antpitta (constantly calling from the deep tangles), Ornate Hawk Eagle, as well as army antswarms and the prized Rufous vented Ground Cuckoo.
The Seteganti Trail is an exceptional trail which combines open area, scrub and mature forest. Starts at the Station ends at Seteganti River. Great for Woodpeckers (Red crowned, Black cheeked, Cinnamon, Crimson crested, Lineated, Crimson bellied with its powerful two stroke beat and Red rumped). Other possible rarities include Red billed Sythebill, Brown Violetear, Green Manakin. The endemic Dusky backed Jacamar is easily seen here perched in exposed Cecropia branches.
The Pirre Mountain Trail. This famous trail is better birded coming down than going up. Its 6 miles take approximately 5 hours of uphill hiking through exceptionally rich habitat of foothill and cloudforest. Early encounters in the trail are usually Great Jacamar, White whiskered and Black breasted Puffbirds. Little, Great and Choco Tinamou are present. At the 2,250 ' zone look for the rare Yellow Green Grosbeak among other flock attendants such as Sharpbill, Stripe cheeked Woodpecker, Blue Cotinga, Lemon spectacled and Silver throated Tanagers. Twigs over the trail or around bends should always be checked for Tody Motmot, Black capped Pygmy Tyrant, Golden crowned Spadebill. This trail is great for Golden headed and White ruffed Manakins. Yellow eared Toucanet is common in the half of the trail. Large antswarms in this trail have yielded attendance of 3 or more Ground cuckoos with scores of Bicolored, Spotted, Ocellated and Immaculate Antbirds, Black crowned and Scaled Antpittas and several Woodcreepers.
The Cloudforest Trail begins at 4,000' at the Cloudforest camp and ends at 4,700'. Birding around the camp is very productive. Check the Hotlips around camp for Pirre Hummingbird, Greenish Puffleg, Green crowned Brilliant and the rare Purple throated Woodstar. Chestnut capped Brush Finches and leaftossers approach the camp very close. Rare Dusky Pigeons feed on Melostome fruit over the camp. The edges of openings should be watched for mixed flocks with
DAY 10 - RETURN HOME
We board a chartered flight which will land at Tocumen International Airport to connect with the midday flights out. Breakfast provided.
Trip Dates and Cost
Lodging, all land, air and water transportation within Panama, all airport/hotel transfers on scheduled arrival and departure dates, meals as specified in the itinerary, entrance fees, guides' services and expenses, and services of an in-bound land operator for airline reconfirmations and tour operations.
Price Does Not Include:
International airfare, airport departure taxes ($20 per person as of November, 2000), tourist card ($5 per person as of November, 2000), meals not specified in the itinerary, alcoholic beverages, personal equipment, extras in hotels (laundry, telephone calls, room service, etc.), gratuities.
Weight restrictions apply to luggage in both commercial and chartered flights within Panama. A maximum of 25 lbs. per person is allowed. Arrangements can be made at the Panama City hotel to store luggage that will not be needed. Excess baggage charges assessed by commercial carriers are the responsibility of the passenger.
Travel within Darien National Park is accomplished with great preparation on the part of our staff to try to make our guests as comfortable as possible. Potential guests are expected to make themselves aware of the nature and demands of the experience and prudently judge whether or not they are suited to this type of an experience. A desire to experience the outdoors, a spirit of adventure, and willingness to sacrifice creature comforts are essential qualifications. Participants should be physically fit and able to hike at a moderate pace for up to eight hours, the average time required to reach the Pirre Camp. Medical limitations and concerns should be brought to the attention of Ancon Expeditions of Panama several weeks prior to the program's departure date.
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