Touring with Advantage Tours Panama, Part 2

Second date with Advantage Tours (http://advantagepanama.com/) was supposed to be Cerro Azul but I was not able to do it due to a commitment I already had for that day, instead I traveled with Guido in the afternoon directly to Tortí were we will start next day. The rest of the group including Luis, the second guide,  were joining us that evening. Tortí is a small town of Chepo District, in the eastern part of Panamá Province, close to the border with Darién Province and therefore some of the especies that occur in Darién are also present here. We stayed at Hotel Portal Avicar along the Pan-American Highway. A promising day was ahead so I had dinner and went to sleep early.

Next day we started at 6:00 am with a Panamanian breakfast while the air was still misty; as a good former Boy Scout I was prepared with my gear assembled (by the way this was the 7D Mark II inauguration) when Luis, detected a raptor perched on a tree, eating a Gray-breasted Martin, close from the hotel in the same side of the road we were. We all watched it and I took pictures, unfortunately due to the mist it was hard to identify and make good pictures. Then the debate started, we thought it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk. Later with the help of the experts in Facebook we find out it was a Merlin. My second encounter this year with this species.

Merlin and Martin

Merlin (Falco columbarius) is a small species of falcon from the Northern Hemisphere. A bird of prey once known colloquially as a pigeon hawk in North America. Most of its populations are migratory, wintering in warmer regions. Northern European birds move to southern Europe and North Africa, and North American populations to the southern USA to northern South America. In Panama it's a rare transient and winter resident. Found mainly along coasts and inland in open areas up into highlands.



Then we headed to Reserva San Francisco (San Francisco Forest Reseve) and started our half day tour in this place as planned. This was a good place to watch some birds like: Slaty-tailed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Bat Falcon, Blue-headed Parrot, Bare-crowned Antbird, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Black-headed Toddy Flycatcher, Royal Flycatcher, One-colored Becard,  Red-eyed Vireo, Lesser Greenlet, Golden-hooded Tanager, White-eared Conebill, Large-billed Seed-Finch, Indigo Bunting, Orange-crowned Oriole, among others. As usual, we can't always get pictures of them all.


 Female Blue Ground-Dove


  Male Blue Ground-Dove

The Blue Ground-Dove (Claravis pretiosa) is a small dove. It is a resident breeder from southeastern Mexico to northwestern Peru and northern Argentina, and on Trinidad. It's fairly common in almost entire country and found in forest edge, woodland, and shrubby areas

Adult males have blue-grey upperparts and paler grey underparts, becoming grey-white on the face. The wings are boldly spotted black. The iris is red or yellow, the bare eyering is green, and the legs are flesh-pink. The female has a grey-brown head neck and breast, becoming pale blue-grey on the underwings and belly. The back is ruddy brown, contrasting with the chestnut rump and tail. The spots in the wings are chestnut-brown. 

In most of its range, the male is unlikely to be confused with other species. The female is more likely to be confused with the female Ruddy Ground-Dove, which is smaller and has blackish (not chestnut-brown) markings on the wings. In most regions where the blue ground dove occurs, a blue grey and a brown bird flying through the trees together is bound to be both this species.



Male Spot-crowned Barbet (Capito maculicoronatus), an uncommon species on Caribbean slope and on the Pacific from eastern Panamá Province eastward. Found in upper and middle levels of forest.

Plain-colored Tanager (Tangara inornata)




The Long-tailed Tyrant (Colonia colonus) is a species in the Tyrannidae family, and the only member of genus Colonia. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. In Panama it's fairly common on entire Caribbean slope and on Pacific slope from eastern Panamá Province eastward and in Veraguas foothills, found in forest edge and in clearings.



The Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus) has been placed with the tityras in the cotinga or the tyrant flycatcher families by various authors, but the evidence strongly suggest the tityras and their closest relatives are better separated. The cinnamon becard is a resident breeding species from south-eastern Mexico south to north-western Ecuador and north-western Venezuela. In Panamá is fairly common on both slopes, found in woodland, forest edge, and clearings with trees.


This place was also proven to be great to watch raptors: King Vulture (the first time I see them in the wild), Black-and-White Hawk-EagleBlack Hawk Eagle, and White Hawk.



 Immature Black Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus)


White Hawk (Pseudastur albicollis)


The Barred Puffbird (Nystalus radiatus) is a species of puffbird (Bucconidae family). It occurs in forests in Colombia, Ecuador, and in Panama where is  uncommon in parts of the Caribbean slope, and on Pacific slope in Darién. It's found in lower and middle levels of forest and adjacent clearings with trees.

After half a day exploring the area we returned to Hotel Avicar were we had a wholesome lunch (rice, lentils, spaghetti, chopped beaf, roasted chicken, green fried plantains, fried tapioca, fried ripe plantains, etc). After lunch, I was photographing hummingbirds (that will be covered in a future installment of this blog) when Guido watched a huge raptor soaring above us, I had enough opportunity to get a documentation shot, which ended being an important one. Once again we had a debate and consulted a pair of books but finally were the experts in Facebook which determined it was an immature Red-tailed Hawk. The report is important because it's one of a couple of easternmost reports of this species in Panama and we had it on picture to support it. Resident race is uncommon on western highlands, while migrant race is rare with reports as far as eastern Panamá Province.


 Immature Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)



We started returning westward to Panama City with plans to make certain stops in between but the rainy weather didn't allow us. We made one stop and only a handful of birds were seen of which I got just one picture, apparently a Forest Elaenia (Myiopagis gaimardii), eating a tasty larva:



Before calling the day we made another stop at the road to Juan Diaz's Embarcadero. Were we got more birds for the tourist group's list as well as another lifer for me: Orchard Oriole.




The Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) is a small North American species of icterid blackbird. The breeding habitat is semi-open areas with deciduous trees, and breeds in spring across eastern North America from near the Canada–United States border south to central Mexico. The adult female is described a a small, dainty oriole. bright lemon-yellow on throat and breast, duller olive on crown and back, grayish wings with faint wing-bars. It's a common winter resident found in upper levels of forest edge, woodland, and open areas with trees, residential areas, and parks of cities and towns.



The Yellow-bellied Seedeater (Sporophila nigricollis) is a species in the Thraupidae family, formerly placed with the American sparrows in the Emberizidae. It's common on entire Pacific slope and on the Caribbean in western Colón and Canal Area. It's found in grassy fields and shrubby areas.



 Female Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (Sporophila minuta)



The Yellow-crowned Parrot or Yellow-crowned Amazon (Amazona ochrocephala), is a species of parrot, native to the tropical South America and Panama. Here it's fairly common in open areas with scattered trees,  gallery woodland, and in and near mangroves, occurring in lowlands.