Touring with Advantage Tours Panama, Part 1

I received the invitation from Guido Berguido of Advantage Tours Panama (http://advantagepanama.com/) to accompany them in a couple of dates of their most recent Birdwatcher's Paradise Tour. Our association materialized after being in virtual communications for a couple of months. Guido, in first place, invited me to Cerro Chucantí, the highest point in the Maje Mountain Range, at over 4,600 ft, unfortunately, as I am a married (subdue) man, I was not able to get the "permit" to go to such a remote place. He then offered me to participate in other tours, and in exchange he will get pictures for his portfolio and webpage, and I will get the opportunity to watch and photograph new species.

Advantage Tours is an eco-tourism operator, established by a team of experienced travel specialists and biologists, and they provide expertly crafted itineraries that go beyond birwatching. Guido has a degree in Biology, is a Certified Guide through the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) in the USA and has been involved in environmental education and conservation efforts. He is listed in the Top Guides section of Panama's Lonely Planet Guidebook as "....one of the country's most patient, qualified, and enthusiastic all-around guides", and I can testify that.

The first date of my schedule with Advantage Tours was half a day in Panama Rainforest Discover Center (PRDC), Pipeline Road and Gamboa. I arrived before 7:00 am to Guido's house in Gamboa, we had breakfast and promptly hopped in the van, conforming a group of 8 tourists, 2 guides, and me as photographer.

At the arrival to PRDC we watched the surroundings of the parking space and then climbed the tower and stayed there for a while. I saw several new birds, called by many "lifers" or "life birds" but as expected getting decent pictures was a different deal.

Aerial view of PRDC's tower that rises 32 m (105 ft) above ground.

Some of the memorable species observed here were: immature Gray-headed Kite (very far away), Band-rumped Swift (I didn't even try to photograph it), White-winged Becard, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant (ironically so close I couldn't focus with my big lens i.e. less than 4 m), White-Necked and Black-breasted Puffbirds and Hoffmann's two-toed sloth, of course we also had the usual Squirrel Cuckoo, Toucans, Orioles & Oropendolas.

Some folks as seen from the tower:


Female Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus)

 Hoffmann's two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)

Squirrel cuckoo (Piaya cayana)

Then we got down the tower and continued watching birds in PRDC and the Pipeline Road where, besides the ones pictured below, we found: White-Tailed, Black-Throated and Slaty-Tailed Trogons, Black-faced Antthrush (heard), Fasciated Antshrike, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, Scarlet-rumped Caciques, Cinnamon Woodpecker, and a large feeding flock with tanagers, gnatcatchers & warblers, at certain point we had so many birds around I didn't know where to aim my camera so I dedicated only to sure shots.



The Great Jacamar (Jacamerops aureus) is uncommon on entire Caribbean slope of Panama, an on Pacific slope from Canal Area eastward. It is also found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, and its natural habitat is subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests, where it's found in lower and middle levels of forest. Unfortunately it was so high above that the angle was very difficult, I had to climb a mud bank to get the best possible shot.



 Male Brown-throated (three-toed) Sloth  (Bradypus variegatus) showing his patch. 
Guido showed me a way to make him open his eyes and look: whistling like an eagle.




The Black-striped Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus lachrymosus) is fairly common on entire Caribbean slope of Panama, and on the Pacific in western Chiriquí and from eastern Panamá Province eastward. Occurs mainly in upper levels of forest but gets down sometimes as shown in picture.  It is also found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.



 female        /         male

The Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus), also known as Northern Violaceous Trogon, is a near passerine bird in the trogon family (Trogonidae). It is found in forests in east-central Mexico, south through Central America, to north-western South America (west or north of the Andes in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela). It was formerly treated as a subspecies of the now exclusive South American violaceous trogon (T. violaceus). It is fairly common on both slopes of Panama up to 1,300 m (4,300 ft) altitude.

Females are all blackish with yellow belly and black-barred white underside of tail. It is distinguished from similar White-tailed Trogon's females by the whitish orbital skin in front and behind the eye and the tail barring. Males are the only trogons with yellow orbital ring and further distinguished from similar White-tailed Trogon by the barring on underside of tail and vermiculated pattern on wings.



The Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) is a New World warbler. They breed in eastern North America and in southern Canada westwards to the Canadian Prairies. They also breed in the Great Lakes region and in the eastern USA. These birds are migratory, wintering in Central America south to northern Colombia, with an unconfirmed sighting from as far south as Ecuador; they are also very rare vagrants to western Europe. In Panama they are common winter residents in lowlands and foothills.



The Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus), is a colorful member of the toucan family, and the national bird of Belize. In Panama is common on both slopes, and found in upper leveles of forest and woodland and in adjacent cleared areas with tall trees. It ranges from Southern Mexico to Venezuela and Colombia. The diet of keel-billed toucans consists mostly of a wide range of fruit, but may also include insects, eggs, nestlings and lizards, as well as small birds



Then we headed to Gamboa town again, where lunch buffet was waiting. Here I took a moment to photograph some of Guido's garden's fauna:


Geoffroy's Tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi), also known as the Panamanian, red-crested or rufous-naped tamarin, is a tamarin, a type of small monkey, found in Panama and Colombia. It is predominantly black and white, with a reddish nape.It spends most of its time in trees, but does come down to the ground occasionally. It lives in groups that most often number between three and five individuals, and generally include one or more adults of each gender. It eats a variety of foods, including insects, exudates, fruits and other plant parts. Insects and fruits account for the majority of its diet, but exudates are also important.



 Male Green Honeycreeper
The Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) is a small bird in the tanager family (Thraupidae). It is found from southern Mexico south to Brazil, and on Trinidad. This is a forest canopy species. It is less heavily dependent on nectar than the other honeycreepers, fruit being its main food (60%), with nectar (20%) and insects (15%) as less important components of its diet. It's fairly common on both slopes of Panama, and found in upper levels of forest and woodland.



Non-breeding male Red-legged Honeycreeper


Breeding male Red-legged Honeycreepers

The Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus) is a small songbird in the tanager family (Thraupidae). It is found in the from southern Mexico south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and on Cuba, where possibly introduced. It's common throughout most of Panama, and found in forest edge, woodland, shrubby areas, and gardens. Often in groups of a dozen or more, frequently with mixed-species flocks.




The Buff-breasted Wren (Cantorchilus leucotis) is a species in the Troglodytidae family. It is found in the Amazon Basin of northern Brazil and Amazonian Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and northern-border Bolivia; also Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana. It occurs in non-Amazonian regions of Venezuela and Colombia and its range extends into eastern Panama where it's fairly common in lowlands of both slopes, from Canal Area eastward, and it's found in forest edge, second growth, in dense undergrowth; usually near water.