Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Bird Count Near Cerro Punta... Pure Joy!

I expected a good day of birding when I volunteered to help on the annual Panama Christmas Bird Count, but I didn't expect the day to be this extraordinary! Fifty of us met in the town of Volcan, then split off into smaller groups going to different parts of the Chiriqui Highlands. I lucked out and ended up in a small group (Chuck, Craig, Karen and I) with a professional birding guide named Chaly from Highland Adventures. We saw 54 species (many of them "Life" species for me). My favorite sounding bird was the Prong-Billed Barbet. I didn't realize that I had heard this bird for years on a CD titled "Simbiosis - Piano and Rainforest" by Manuel Obregon. As the Ridgely "Birds of Panama" book says, "Heard considerably more often than it is seen, its very distinctive far-carrying call being one of the characteristic sounds of the humid mountain forest; it is a deep cwa-cwa-cwa-cwa... repeated many times and often given by two or more birds at once, and which Slud describes as having a special character, like an Indian yell in which the palm of the hand is rapidly and repeatedly pressed against and removed from the mouth." Lucky for us, Chaly had a recording of the Prong-Billed Barbet that drew the "real" Barbets in. I happened to be the first to spot them... and I couldn't believe my eyes. Wow!! The most beautiful bird I saw was the Golden Browed Chlorophonia. A male and female were feeding on some in-season seeds. The Respendent Quetzal was not to be found because their favorite fruit (the wild avocado tree) won't be available for another month. I was on this very trail birding with Paul Bakke several months ago. Then, as now, I heard but did not see the Black-faced Solitare (lovely, watery sound) and did see the very cute Yellow-thighed Finch. Today, the weather was perfect and sunny. With Paul, it was foggy, rainy and cold. Please don't believe for a minute that I took any of these pictures. I took only binoculars and no cameras!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Navidad es muy especial en la playa!

Before Christmas is over for another year, I wanted to wish everyone love, peace and happiness. I continue to feel so blessed to live on this very special beach in Panama. I celebrated Christmas with a long morning walk and a longer afternoon walk with Miss Piggy and Chester. I've included a few parting shots from 2009: Dr. Jennifer Daniels and I behind colored posts in Aruba; Pauline holding a passion flower near her beach house on the Caribbean side; a long tailed hermit hummingbird trying to escape through Pauline's kitchen window (he escaped with help from Pauline); a showy pink hibiscus flower near Pauline's; the wonderfully fragrant and beautiful passion flower; me at the Juice Plus+ headquarters in Tennessee; mi casa en la playa; snake grass (where a huge boa was found); my friend Lora (from Hawaii) in my plunge pool. Feliz Navidad!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Beach Has Gone To The Dogs!

It all started when I agreed to take care of Jim Hatch’s dog named Miss Piggy. I didn’t mean to, but I fell in love with her. She is a very intelligent wild looking Panamanian dog (see the picture in her doggie bed before she ripped it apart the next night). Maybe it was all of those long beach walks that bound us together. Or was it the time she worked through her total fear of the ocean and plunged in anyway? Now she practically body surfs! When I realized that Jim would return in mid-January, and I would have to move to Colombia to keep Miss Piggy, I decided to start looking at the dog adoption sites. The only dog I was attracted to was Chester, a 2-year old male English Shepherd. Before I could act, he was scooped up by a family from Bocas del Toro. A week later, I found out that Chester’s adoption had fallen through. So, I adopted him! We’ve only been together 1.5 days, but already we have bonded. Of course he probably would have bonded with anyone. As the book says, “As far as your English Shepherd is concerned, you are the center of the universe. A desire to be with you is fundamental to his character.” He and Miss Piggy are getting along fine as the video shows.

On a different subject, Richard and Nina have returned to the beach from Alaska. They were my first visitors last year and bought a condo (on the opposite end from mine) a week after they got here. Richard will be here 2 months and Nina 4 months. So far, we have been having a ball: 60 mile bicycle rides; 11 mile mangrove kayak trips; rumba and bolero dance lessons; salsa dancing; long beach walks. Tomorrow, Chuck Frey from Montana (and former Forest Service colleague from Alaska) arrives. Maybe I’ll have a dance partner for a couple of weeks!

In case you are curious, the bird is a Brown Booby (male Pacific race) that Nina captured (with her camera) when we were biking on the beach. He didn't move and I wonder if he was injured. We also saw a Roseate Spoonbill flying high above the mangrove system. What a beautiful pink bird, especially in flight. Last but not least, above are olive ridley mama turtle tracks I captured this morning in front of my house!