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Birdwatching at Summit Hotel

Some time ago our photographer Miguel “Siu” spent a weekend at Summit Hotel & Club Golf (, and of course, instead of spending time with clubs and balls, he took his tripod and camera and went searching birds on the trails and forested areas surrounding the facilities.
Suddenly, Siu heard a raptor whistle call that he immediately recognized as a Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus). He had heard it so many times while watching this bird soaring high, but to his surprise this time it was perched on a cecropia dead branch, just looking to the golf course. It only took seconds to draw this large bird’s attention and get a decent shot before it decided to soar to a farthest perch.

The Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus) is a large, black raptor of Neotropical forests. It has a prominent crest, is blackish with narrow white barring below, and broad gray bars on the tail. This hawk-eagle occurs in both open and dense forests. Individuals often soa…

Featured species: Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) & Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

During one of the many national holidays of  November, I went to the spots I like at Matías Hernández River and Felipe E. Motta Park simply because it's close to my home, and because I always find something new there. This time the  surprise was a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, a migratory raptor (that unfortunately was perched in a way that was imposible to get a good picture), but also found Summer Tanagers and a Tricolored Heron. Both were no surprises for me since I have already observed and photographed these species in this same place but are not as frequent as other species so this time I wanted to make a special feature on them; adding to this, now the tanagers were reachable to my lens, which by the way is a better lens than the one I used before, and therefore I could get better quality images.

As usual, I spent my stay there photographing other species. As a photographer, I'm always in search of those perfect utopian pictures, disregarding if the subject is common or not. I simply do not believe in "specialties", to me all animals, birds or bugs are important. Of course, I recognize uncommon or hard to see species demand special dedication but the purpose of my site and this blog is to show you as much Panamanian wildlife pictures as possible, and as far as my limited resources allow me to (do you know I do not get paid for this job, right?).

Ok, then we should start with the featured species of the week:

Female Summer Tanager

Male Summer Tanager

The Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), is a medium-sized songbird in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae). Formerly placed in the tanager family, hence its common name. Their breeding habitat is open wooded areas, especially with oaks, across the southern United States, extending as far north as Iowa. These birds migrate to Mexico, Central America and northern South America. This bird is an extremely rare vagrant to western Europe. In Panama is a common transient and winter resident and found in forest edge, second growth, shrubby areas, clearing with trees, and gardens.

Adult male Summer Tanagers are entirely bright red and similar in appearance to the Hepatic Tanager, although the latter has a dark bill. Females and immature males are bright yellow-green—yellower on the head and underparts and slightly greener on the back and wings, also resembling the female Hepatic Tanager, but as in the male the bill is pale. Molting immature males can be patchy yellow and red. As with all other birds, all red and orange colorations are acquired through their diet.

These birds are often out of sight, foraging high in trees, sometimes flying out to catch insects in flight. They mainly eat insects, especially bees and wasps, and berries.

Adult Tricolored Heron, showing partial breeding-plumage

Immature Tricolored Heron, changing plumage 
(archive picture)

The Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor), is a small heron. It is a resident breeder from the Gulf states of the USA and northern Mexico south through Central America and the Caribbean to central Brazil and Peru. There is some post-breeding dispersal to well north of the nesting range.

Tricolored heron's breeding habitat is sub-tropical swamps. It nests in colonies, often with other herons, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. In Panama is common inland, in freshwater habitats and on both coasts; breeding in colonies along Pacific coast and on islands. Local population is supplemented by migrants in winter.

Adults have a blue-grey head, neck, back and upperwings, with a white line along the neck. The belly is white. In breeding plumage, they have long blue filamentous plumes on the head and neck, and buff ones on the back. Inmature has bright rufous head, hindneck, and wing covers.

The tricolored heron stalks its prey in shallow or deeper water, often running as it does so. It eats fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects.

Below are other species I pictured that day, some of them have been shown previously in this blog:

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

The Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus) is a passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family. It is very similar in appearance to the less widespread Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. The streaked flycatcher has a heavier bill, lighter yellow belly, pink basal half of the lower mandible and creamy (not white) superciliary. This species breeds from eastern Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago south to Bolivia and Argentina. In Panama is common on both slopes but migrants from  the northern part of its range suplement local population.

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

The Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) is a large North American shorebird, similar in appearance to the smaller Lesser Yellowlegs. Its closest relative, however the slight upward curve in its long, thin, dark bill which is also proportionally longer is distinctive. It's is a common transient and winter resident, rare in summer. Occurs throughout the country, mainly in coastal mudflats, also in and near shallow freshwater habitats and in wet grassy areas. 

Wood Storks (Mycteria americana)

The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) is a small white heron. Black bill, black legs with bright yellow feet distinguish it from other white herons. As shown in the picture, on immature individuals back of legs are greenish yellow. Their breeding habitat is large inland and coastal wetlands from the lower Great Lakes and southwestern United States to South America. northern populations migrate to Central America and the West Indies. They may wander north after the breeding season, very rarely venturing to western Europe. In Panama It's common along both coasts , uncommon inland, in freshwater habitats. Breeds along Pacific coast in colonies and on islands; local population is supplemented by migrants in winter.

The Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) is a small tyrant flycatcher from North America. This bird and the Western Wood-pewee (C. sordidulus) were formerly considered to be a single species. The two species are virtually identical in appearance, and can be distinguished most easily by their calls. Although it can be distinguished by other caracteristics like the mostly pale lower mandible, stance, and primaries extension position. It's a common transient, mostly in lowlands, and found in forest edge.