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!

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