Birds photos from Darien, Panama (pt. 2 - Cerro Pirre)

A new day starts and the adventure with Guido Berguido and Luis Paz from Advantage Tours Panama (http://advantagepanama.com) continues. I had no other plan than making pictures of the Harpy Eagle but Guido had a different plan for us, we were about to climb Cerro Pirre from the Rancho Frío station where we stayed over night to the Rancho Plástico camp walking a trail that goes uphill. Guido got two locals that helped us carrying supplies for the walk, and guided us through the trail (but honestly theres no way to get lost if you are on your own). They also came handy to help me with my gear which weights more than 20 pounds and to find birds, 5 pairs of eyes were much better than 3.

After a dawn hearing Crested Owl, and Great and Little Tinamus, and watching a pair of Buff-rumped  Warblers  foraging around the station, we had breakfast and coffee and started our walk while sunlight was entering the lower levels of forest.

I'd prefer to concentrate on the pictures and natural history instead than on the walk, so to sum it up: we walked 11 hours (9 going up to Rancho Plástico and 2 going down). I carried my gear on my shoulders all the way up (but not down) just to be sure I had my gear on hands for any rapid shot. It took so much time because we stopped to watch, identify and photograph birds. We also stopped at the two "miradores" (Mirador #1, and Mirador # 2) where we enjoyed the views of the forest below us, of course we had to take a breath from time to time to continue the walk, especially on  steep hills, and also made a stop to have lunch.

We recorded about 100 species for the day, some of them were species that I wasn't expecting to see yet since this trip to Darien was unplanned, and of course several were life birds for me (lifer - seen for the first time in the wild). Due to difficult conditions to make photos (birds were so far, so high, backlighted or in poor light, and trying to fix my tripod on steep grounds)  I got frustrated at times. In the end I made my best effort to document as much as possible and regret only one picture I was not able to make: Gray-and-gold Tanager a rare bird with an altitudinal restricted range and found in upper levels of forest (of course this was the reason I was not able to focus my camera on him and I was only able to see it with my bare eyes), and by the way this bird was a lifer for Guido and Luis too.


Red-throated Caracara (Ibycter americanus), is a social species of bird of prey in the Falconidae family. Unique among caracaras (which are characterized as scavengers), it mainly feeds on the larvae of bees and wasps, but will also take the adult insects, fruits and berries. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. In Panama is common locally, found in Bocas del Toro and eastern part of Panama. It's found in middle and upper levels of forest. Travels in noisy flocks, asking for "cacao" (Spanish for cocoa). It's call is very loud and sounds like a macaw, it sounds like "Kow, Kow, Kow, Ca-Kow". I enjoyed hearing the flock of about 5 individuals we found above us in the trail.


Plumbeous Pigeon (Patagioenas plumbea)  a species in the Columbidae family. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.It's very similar to more widespread Ruddy and Short-billed Pigeons, it's best distinguished by call, as a matter of fact thats how we identified it first. It's fairly common in southeasthern Darien in middle and upper levels of forest. We also identified Ruddy Pigeons.



The Yellow-eared Toucanet (Selenidera spectabilis) is a species in the Ramphastidae family. It is found in humid forests in Central America and the Chocó. A somewhat aberrant member of the genus Selenidera which other 5 members are found in tropical South America. It is relatively large (total length approximately 38 cm [15 in]) and the plumage of the sexes only differ in that the male has a yellow auricular streak, while the female has a brown crown. In Panama it's uncommon in foothills on both slopes, rare in lowlands on Caribbean slope, and found in all levels of forest.



Rufous Piha (Lipaugus unirufus) is a species in the Cotingidae family. It is found in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. It's very similar to Rufous Mourner, and it's reliably distinguished by voice, as we confirmed. The piha has a heavier bill, paler throat, more rounded head, perches more erectile, and is larger. In Panama it's uncommon on entire Caribbean slope, and on Pacific slope in western Chiriquí and from eastern Panamá Province eastward. Found in middle and upper levels of forest.

Squirrel Cuckoo (Piaya cayana). This fellow needs no introduction. Believe me when I tell you I find this species everywhere I go.

Red-and-green Macaws (Ara chloropterus) as seen from the Mirador #2, I also saw and photographed a flock of 7 Great Green Macaws but were so (more) far away, and ironically the air was obscured by the smoke of the burning occurring below outside the National Park. This was the first time I've seen both species in the wild and not in a cage or kept as pets.

This is the largest of the Ara genus, widespread in the forests and woodlands of northern and central South America. However, in common with other macaws, in recent years there has been a marked decline in its numbers due to habitat loss and illegal capture for the parrot trade. In Panama. its uncommon in Darién and eastern Kuna Yala. It's found in upper levels of forest edge and adjacent open areas tall trees, favoring hilly areas. 

The view from Mirador #2, Cerro Pirre's top on the right.

The smile on my face says it all.



At this moment I stayed at the "mirador" admiring the beauty of nature, so I was the only one that had the chance to see the R&G Macaws. I also took time to photograph grasshoppers in flowers (with the same 400mm tele-photo lens). Then one of the hired carriers came for me telling that I better go to Rancho Plástico. 




When I arrived to Rancho Plástico camp, Luis pointed me a White-Fronted Nunbird. I was excited with this lifer when Guido told me to forget about it, he said something like "You can get it on other places, here I have a better bird, a Sharpbill").
White-fronted Nunbird (Monasa morphoeus) is a species in the puffbird family (Bucconidae). It is found in the tropical Americas. This glossy black or gray-black bird with a stout, medium red-orange bill is named for the white face markings on the cere, the base of its bill and on the upper throat, though eastern race in Panama has only white forehead.  It has black eyes and black or gray-black legs.

Indeed has a wide range, occurring in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela; in southern Central America in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Its natural habitats are subtropical and tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical and tropical moist montane forests; while it requires woodland of sufficient extent to occur in any one region, it is not dependent on primary forest and will tolerate some degree of habitat alteration. In Panamá it's uncommon on Caribbean slope in western Panama and on both slopes from eastern Colón and eastern Panamá Provinces eastward. It's found in middle and upper levels of forest.


All birds pictured except the cuckoo were lifers for me but definitively the jewel of the day was the Sharpbill (Oxyruncus cristatus). This species has been previously placed with the cotingas or the tyrant flycatchers, but presently is considered to be the sole member of the family Oxyruncidae, with some recent genetic evidence suggesting it belongs in the family Tityridae. Its range is from the mountainous areas of tropical South America and Panama and Costa RicaIt inhabits the canopy of wet forest and feeds on fruit and some invertebrates. It has an orange erectile crest, black-spotted yellowish underparts and scaling on the head and neck. As its name implies, it has a straight, pointed beak, which gives its common name.

In Panama it's uncommon in foothills and lower highlands from western Chiriquí to Veraguas and in eastern Darién. It's found in forest canopy.

Some other birds that we saw or heard, just to name a few: Wing-banded AntbirdGray-and-gold Tanager, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Great Green Macaws, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, White Hawk, Ruddy Pigeon, Central American Pygmy-owl, Spot-crowned Barbet, Russet Antshrike, Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta,  Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Black-stripped Woodcreeper, Speckled Mourner, Viridian Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, White-eared Conebill,  Stripe-throated Wren.

As soon as we were back on Rancho Frío I hopped into the water stream that runs beside the station, and chilled out.

To be continued... 
(Next post: Harpy Eagles + bonus surprise!)