Chiriquí birds & wildlife April 2015 tour (Part 1, El Respingo station)

On April I returned to Chiriquí with the intention of doing highland photos. This time I decided to move to Parque Nacional Volcán Barú, specifically to the El Respingo, ANAM's (now MIAMBIENTE) Station.

El Respingo Station

I parked the loaned sedan car where the gravel road begins and decided to walk the hill up to the Station but the Park Ranger in Chief arrived with his pick-up truck and I got a free ride.
 
First, I went beyond the Station and walked through a pastureland where a "Beware the Tiger" sign  and electrified fences tried to stop me. Over there I found certain species like Black-faced Solitaire, Sulfur-winged Parakeets, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Black Guan, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, and (the very common elsewhere) Clay-colored Thrushes and Rufous-collared Sparrows, among others.

The Sooty-capped Chlorospingus (Chlorospingus pileatus) is an endemic resident breeder in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.  It is found in mossy mountain forests, second growth and adjacent bushy clearings, typically from 1600 m altitude to above the timberline. In Panama's western highlands is common at all levels (most often low) in forest and woodland.  

I got to an area filled with bamboos looking for the famous Peg-billed Finchs and stayed there without avail. Instead, I was able to observe a flock of Yellow-thighed Finchs,  more Sooty-headed Chlorospingus, and a Magnificent Hummingbird. I decided to return to the station and enter the Los Quetzales Trail.



Los Quetzales Trail


After some walk on the trail I heard some noises at low level in the forest so I decided to stay there for a while, and was able to observe a silent Black Guan again, or at least its tail. It was curious enough to turn around, look at me for a set of pictures and then went away.


The Black Guan (Chamaepetes unicolor) is endemic in Costa Rica and Panama's western highlands. In Panama is fairly common where protected. It's found in middle and upper levels of forest, occasionally on ground. This species is listed as Near Threatened because it occupies a small range, in which it is threatened by hunting and limited habitat loss and degradation.

Ahead on the trail I saw a Chiriqui Quail-dove but I was not able to make a picture, also saw a squirrel which I presumed to be a Red-tailed (later proven to be wrong), and heard and saw some Resplendent Quetzals. I continued walking for a while and turned back to return to the Station. In that moment I found a small flock of woodcreepers.


 
The Spot-crowned Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes affinis), breeds from central Mexico in the east, the Sierra Madre Orientals, to western Panama. This woodcreeper is found in mountains from 1,000 m to the timberline in mossy, epiphyte-laden forest and adjacent semi-open woodland and clearings. The spot-crowned woodcreeper is very similar to streak-headed woodcreeper, but is larger, has a spotted crown, and is the only woodcreeper found at high altitudes. It feeds on spiders and insects, creeping up trunks and extracting its prey from the bark or mosses, as seen on the picture. It will join mixed-species feeding flocks. In Panama it's fairly common in western highlands, mainly above 1,200 m (4,000 ft), and found at all levels of forest.

Ruddy Treerunner (Margarornis rubiginosus) is endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. It is found in hills and mountains from 1,200 m up to the timberline, in forests and adjacent edges and clearings. It's uncommon.


Following the flock was the squirrel again, I had a better look and was able to figure out it was different than the Red-tailed ones I've seen before, so I made pictures of it and later was able to confirm it was a Bangs's Mountain Squirrel (Syntheosciurus brochus), a nearly unknown species of tree squirrel, that only lives in Costa Rica and Panama. It can be found in mountain rain forests at an altitude between 1,900 and 2,600 meters (6,200 and 8,500 ft), and lives mainly in the tree tops, but sometimes on the forest floor as well. It has an olive brown back and an orange-red belly. Because of the shape of its skull and teeth, the species has been separated from the genus of typical tree squirrels, Sciurus, into its own (monotypic) genus Syntheosciurus.


Leaving the trail I saw this little thrush, a Black-billed Nightingale-thrush (Catharus gracilirostris) that collaborated for the pictures. It is a small thrush endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. It is found in the undergrowth of wet mountain oak forests and second growth, typically from above 1,350 m altitude to patches of scrubbery beyond the timberline, and normally forages low in vegetation or on the forest floor. Despite its habitat, this species is tame and often confiding. In Panama it's fairly common in restricted parts of western highlands, mostly above 2,100 m (7,000 ft), sometimes down to 1,500 m (5,000 ft).


I left the station and walked 2 kilometer down the hill to my car ready to photograph more species. In this final walk I finally got a female Peg-billed Finch but the picture was from far away so I was disappointed and preferred not to show it. I also saw the highlands' endemic Black-cheeked Warbler and heard a Three-wattled Bellbird. During this walk these species were the ones that collaborated to my lens:


The Large-footed Finch (Pezopetes capitalis) is endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. Despite its name, it is not a true finch, but rather a member of the large Emberizidae (Seedeaters) family, which also includes American sparrows and juncos. It is the only member of the genus Pezopetes. The large-footed finch is a large, robust terrestrial species. It has a slender bill, a modestly sized tail and very large and powerful feet and legs. This species is one of the heaviest in its diverse family. It's found on or near ground in forest and shrubby clearings. It's fairly common in the western highlands mostly above 2,100m (6,900 ft), sometimes down to 1,500m (5,000 ft).

 As usual I made stop to make pictures of flowers like these beautiful bell-flowers.


Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus frantzii) is a small thrush which is a resident breeder in mountain forests from central Mexico to western Panama. In Panama is common only in western highlands, mostly above 1,500 m (5,000 ft), sometimes down to 1,200 m (4,000 ft). Found on or near ground in forest.

The White-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis castaneoventris) (female pictured) is an endemic hummingbird which breeds in the mountains of western Panama. It is replaced in southern Costa Rica by a distinct subspecies, the Gray-tailed Mountain-gem, which is very close to becoming a distinct species. Another very close relative, the Purple-throated Mountain-gem, is found sympatrically. It's common in western highlands from Costa Rican border to Boquete area, mostly above 1,500 m (5,000 ft). Found in lower levels of forest and in adjacent clearings.


Volcano Hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula) (young male pictured) is a very small hummingbird which breeds only in the mountains of Costa Rica and Chiriquí. This tiny endemic inhabits open brushy areas, paramo, and edges of elfin forest at altitudes from 1,850 m to the highest peaks. It is only 7.5 cm long. The male weighs 2.5 g and the female 2.8 g. Fairly common in Chiriquí highlands, mostly above 1,950 m (6,500 ft) and generally occurs at higher elevations than his sister species the Scintillant Hummingbird.


In the end it was a day full of highland's specialties and regional endemics, so I think the visit to El Respingo paid off very well. Next day I headed to another trail, and that will be covered in Part 2 of this delivery.