Birds photos from Darien, Panama (pt. 1 - Bicolored Wren)

This time I received an invitation from Guido Berguido and Advantage Tours Panama (http://advantagepanama.com) who have sponsored several trips to Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos. He offered me the opportunity to join him in the search of a Harpy Eagle's nest with a nestling that has recently hatched. This represents a great opportunity to observe and photograph this majestic bird. We were heading to ANAM's (Environmental Authority, now elevated to Department/Ministry level)  Rancho Frío Station located in Parque Nacional Darién (Darien National Park), close to Cerro Pirre. 
 
Location of Cerro Pirre

First thing to note is that the place is remote and has no access by road. First, we had to take the Panamerican Highway to Yaviza. Unfortunately, after Tortí a long part of the road is heavily damaged, and so the 275 km takes currently more than 5 hours. It's important to pay in advance the  fee to stay at the National Park at a Banco Nacional's brach, the closest branch of this bank to Yaviza is in Metetí. You should show up at the ANAM office at Yaviza with the deposit slip and an sealed copy, and apparently then you have to show up at the SENAFRONT (frontier police) headquarters to report that you will be entering the National Park (we didn't do that, and an officer gave us a little trouble to leave the port). This "paperwork" is for citizens and may be different if you are a foreigner. I advise checking with ANAM or your tour operator first (we recommend Advantage Tours of course).

After making this paperwork we hired a boat from the port of Yaviza to El Real downstream the Chucunaque River and then upstream the Tuira River, once there we had to find a pick up truck to transport us to the park's entrance close to the town of Pijibasal, through a gravel road, and then hired horses to take us to the station, through a trail. All in, it took about 12 hours to get from my home in Panama City to the Station, it could be done in less time but we had certain delays, e.g. we didn't know that now you can't pay the fees directly on ANAM's, and we lost time finding someone to make the payment in Panama City.

This first day we had chance to search for a special bird. While Guido was making the paperwork at ANAM. Luis Paz, who works with Advantage Tours, and I stayed at Yaviza's Cemetery. Why a cemetery? you might ask. Well, in August 2014, the same Luis Paz spotted two Bicolored Wrens in this cemetery while making a stop in a similar tour. Apart of being the first report of this species in this place, it represents a North-Westward range expansion for the species being the westernmost report in Panama as of this date.  After that date many people have observed this new species added for Panama in December 2012 when it was observed in Paya and Boca de Cupe, also in Darien but closer to Colombia.

Since I was with the person that originally reported it in this cemetery I felt I had a mission to get good pictures for him disregarding our true target was the Harpy Eagle. We waited some minutes when suddenly we saw a medium sized passerine that approached and stopped behind a large tree. At first glance I thought it was some sort of tyrant flycatcher, since several of them were hawking around but after Luis walked around the tree he confirmed it was the Bicolored Wren we were looking for. 

We both agreed that it looked massive for a wren and kind of like a mockingbird, after some shots the bird went away and entered into a hole in a building, later he went out, entered again, and then out again, carrying something in the bill, and then returned to the cemetery. Then, another individual arrived and they both started calling. As usual in the wrens family, they have sweet voices. Soon they were together and I managed to get pictures of the lovely couple.





The Bicolored Wren (Campylorhynchus griseus) is interesting because it's normally found in Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, far-northern Brazil, and now Panama, especifically Darién. At 21.5 cm (8.5 in) long, it is the largest South American wren, and it's second in size only to the Giant Wren (endemic to Chiapas, Mexico) overall for the family, and therefore now is the largest wren in Panama, which explains why we thought he was so big. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical high-altitude shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest.


On boat in the Chucunaque River

It was time to move on, we took the boat, and while on water we observed Black-collared Hawk (now I regret not trying to get a picture of him), Swallow-tailed Kite, Common Black-Hawk, Anhinga, Cormorant, a Wood Stork, several Cocoi Herons, Cattle Egrets, White Ibises, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and lots of Black Vultures.

The second birding stop came when we arrived to the Park's entrance, here the jewel was the Yellow-backed Tanager.

The Yellow-backed Tanager (Hemithraupis flavicollis) is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and extreme eastern Panama (Darién). Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and heavily degraded former forest, in Panama its uncommon and found in upper levels of forest. Apparently, you could make decent pictures of them in the other countries but not in Panama, it was way high that a good picture was impossible, and I  only did a picture to identify the bird.

Other species observed were: Crested Oropendola, Black-chested Jay, Bananaquit, Summer Tanager, Cinnamon Becard, Bay-breasted Warbler, Gray Elaenia, Golden-headed Manakin (heard) and later we saw the Harpy Eagles in the trail to Rancho Frío but that will be covered later...


On horses in the trail to Rancho Frío Station


Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea)


Cinnamon Becard (Pachyramphus cinnamomeus)


To be continued...