Chiriquí birds & wildlife March 2015 tour (Part 1, lowlands)

Last month I went to Chiriquí with the intention of doing highland photos, one of my previous posts covered the results of the first half day incursion (see http://panama-wildlife.blogspot.com/2015/03/panama-highlands-flowers-and-insects.html). After that failed attempt of doing highland's birds photos I decided to move to the lowlands, specifically to the beach, to Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Barqueta (La Barqueta Wildlife Refuge).


Early in the morning while I was going to Palo Seco, I saw a Yellow-headed (Milvago chimachima) and  Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) having a roadkill opossum breakfast. I parked beside the road to take this picture.

Once in La Barqueta at about 3:30 pm, I started following several wading birds when I saw something creeping in the grassland across a small ditch, I was surprised to see a Mud Turtle (Kinosternidae), unfortunately the ditch didn't let me get closer and she turned around and walked away. 

Mud Turtles are found in the United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America, and only three species are found in Panama:
  • Cryptochelys angustipons
  • Cryptochelys leucostomum
  • Kinosternon scorpioides
I'm not sure which species this was but I think it could be K. scorpioides. All mud turtles are carnivorous, consuming various aquatic invertebrates, fish, and even carrion, but some are omnivorous taking vascular plants or tree leaves also.


Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) is a very common transient and common winter resident. They are found throughout the country, especially near coast, and inhabits open areas.


Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa)

Then I entered into the Reserve and walked as much as I could along a channel that runs from the fields to the coast. Here I observed a lot of wading birds, including my photographic heron nemesis, the Great Blue Heron, a couple of Roadside Hawks, Ground-doves and a Common Pauraque. I did the following pictures:


Immature Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
The tricolored heron stalks its prey in shallow or deeper water, often running as it does so. It eats fish, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects.

Adult Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)
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. In Panama is common inland in freshwater habitats, and on both coasts. Breeds in colonies along Pacific coast in wetlands near coast and on islands. Local population is supplemented by migrants in winter.


Snowy Egret (Egreta thula) displaying breeding plumage


Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) - female

The Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) is a large, conspicuous and noisy kingfisher commonly found along southeasternmost Texas in the United States through Central America to Tierra del Fuego in South America. The breeding habitat is areas near large bodies of water, usually in heavily wooded areas where it finds a perch to hunt from. It is mostly a sedentary species, remaining in territories all year long. These birds nest in a horizontal tunnel made in a river bank or sand bank. It is often seen perched prominently on trees, posts, or other suitable "watchpoints" close to water before plunging in head first after its fish prey. They also eat insects and small amphibians. In Panama is common along coasts and on lakes, rivers, and larger streams.


Bare-throated Tiger Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum) is found from Mexico to northwestern Colombia, with one recorded sighting from the United States in Texas. This large species is found in more open habitats than other Tigrisoma herons, such as river and lake banks. It waits often motionless for suitable prey such as fish, frogs or crabs to come within reach of its long bill. This is a solitary breeder, not normally found in heron colonies. In Panama is common on Pacific islands including Coiba and Pearl Islands, rare along mainland Pacific coast, including adjacent mangroves and freshwater marshes, and on large freshwater lakes.


Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) - female
The Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas. The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. It is a dark-plumaged piscivore with a very long neck, and often swims with only the neck above water. When swimming in this style the name snakebird is apparent, since only the colored neck appears above water the bird looks like a snake ready to strike. The anhinga is placed in the darter family, Anhingidae, and is closely related to Indian (Anhinga melanogaster), African (A. rufa), and Australian (A. novaehollandiae) darters. Like other darters, the anhinga hunts by spearing fishes and other small prey using its sharp, slender beak. In Panama it's uncommon on lakes, ponds, and rivers in lowlands throughout the country.


I remained in the place until dusk, then headed to David to stay overnight. The following day I had plans to drive to the highlands again, this time to Pipeline Trail in Boquete, I tried to find some quetzals. The results will be in the second part.