Opinion Column

BIRDWATCH: Adventures in Panama - part 2

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

While travelling in Panama, Ken Hooles captured this photograph of a Great Kissadee.

While travelling in Panama, Ken Hooles captured this photograph of a Great Kissadee.


In this column we continue our adventure in Panama moving from the Gamboa Region, the rainforest area, to the Panama Canal where we took a boat excursion down the canal through the Miafora Locks to Lake Gatun.

The Panama Canal is certainly an engineering marvel that operates 24 hours a day and is in the process of being widened to allow even bigger ships to pass through. The canal was built back around 1908 and is one of the only major projects to be completed on schedule and under budget. On this pleasant excursion we were able to observe Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Royal Terns, Snowy Egrets, Red-tailed Hawk, and a Giant Cowbird sitting on a post near the docks.

On leaving the canal region, we travelled to the Anton Valley in central Panama to a village high in the mountains and nestled inside the second largest volcano crater in the world. Our hotel was located at the base of the mountains that made up the crater. The area tended to be misty and windy, yet also provided some interesting birds. These included White-tipped Pigeon, Yellow-faced Grass Quit, Thick-billed Seed Finch, Plain and House Wren, Cattle Egret, Lesser Elaenia, Garden Emerald (hummingbird), and Tree Swallows. On one excursion along a road, we came across a beautiful Cinnamon Becard and a Buff- throated Salator.

In the same region, our tour went for a picnic lunch in an orange grove in the hills where we observed a Crimson-headed Woodpecker (similar to our Pileated Woodpecker but with different markings), and while on route, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

From the mountain area, we moved to the lovely Playa Blanca, an oceanview beach area. At this resort we discovered Willet on the beach, Grove-billed Ani, Common Tern, Yellow-billed Cacique, Amazon Kingfisher, and at a nearby archaeological site, a rare Streaked Flycatcher.

The final destination of our adventure was Panama City where we visited Panama Viejo Visitors Center and Cathedral Tower (a Unesco World Heritage site), and then explored the ruins of the oldest Spanish settlement in the Pacific, destroyed by the pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. It was evident that even then, Panama played a major role in the transportation of gold and other treasures from the new world to Spain. Around this area and in other parts of the city, I was able to add Saffron Finch, Ringed Kingfisher, White Ibis, and Spotted Sandpiper to my Panama Bird List.

In all, it was an exciting adventure and it was certainly nice to have friends along to share the experience and to help me spot the avian wonders of Panama. In all, we saw 101 bird species in Panama of which 34 bird species were lifers for me.

The next Pembroke Area Field Naturalists' event is the popular Shaw Woods Mother`s Day Walk to be held on Sunday, May 8, at 2 p.m. The purpose of the outing is to enjoy early spring in the beautiful Shaw Woods, and the main focus is on woodland flowers. Often on this outing, the participants can view such flowers as Blue Cohosh, Trout Lily, Trillium, and other species. The walk is for all ages and is an introduction to the Shaw Woods, an old growth forest. The trails on the walk are rated easy to moderate and are well maintained. The walk pace is determined by the participants and usually lasts about two hours. Participants are often broken up into small groups according to interest. Photographers are welcomed.

If you are interested in attending this event, please meet trip organizers, Christian Renault, Robin Cunningham, and Grant Bickel at the Shaw Woods parking lot. To get there, travel down Highway 41 and go past the intersection of Highway 41 and Lake Dore Road. Continue across the Snake River Bridge and take the next left, which is Bulger`s Road. Then turn right into the parking lot when you see the sign for the woods. It is usually a good idea to bring water on this excursion. For more information, please feel free to contact Christian at 613-735-8395.

Please send me your spring sightings by email at hooles@bell.net .For more information on upcoming nature events and other links to nature, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists' website.

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