Coiba Island and National Park wildlife photography (pt. 1)

The trip

I was invited by Hotel Heliconia Inn (http://hotelheliconiapanama.com) to participate on this trip. Heliconia Inn is a small hotel located in western Azuero sunset coast, in the main road at the locality of Palmilla, Mariato District, Veraguas Province, owned by Kees & Loes Groenendijk. They specialize in Coiba Island Tours and Cerro Hoya Tours among other eco-tours in this area, including birdwatching and whalewatching.

The trip consisted on a visit to Coiba National Park designed for wildlife photographers, we were going to spend 3 days and 2 nights at Coiba and a first night in Heliconia Inn, it was an all inclusive trip with an accessible price. My plan was to spend the days, as scheduled, searching for some endemic species, snorkeling on crystal clear waters, and then make macro photography at night. So, I took my whole wildlife gear in a waterproof case.

I started the first day picking up my new lens at Canon, a 500mm f/4 IS II USM that arrived just in time for the trip. Then, I traveled by road from Panama City to Heliconia Inn where Kees received me and showed me a flock of bats that has chosen the ceiling at the entrance of a room as their roosting place. He then showed me my room. I tried to use the 500mm but given the short distance, I was not able to focus so I had to use a macro lens.

The Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso) is a species found from southern Mexico to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, as well as in Trinidad. Other common names include sharp-nosed bat, Brazilian long-nosed bat and river bat in English, and murciélago narigón, narizón o de trompa in Spanish. It is monotypic within its genus. Like most bats, it is nocturnal. It is a small bat, around 6 centimetres (2.4 inches) long and is characterized by its long, fleshy, and pointed nose. Its fur is soft and dense and it's brownish-grey in color, with two white stripes down the back.


Coiba National Park

Coiba NP is a marine reserve located in the Gulf of Chiriquí, on Panama's Pacific. It is comprised of a group of 38 islands including the main island, Coiba Island, and the waters surrounding them. The reserve has been identified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2005.



Traveling to Coiba National Park 

The second day we had a complete breakfast and were taken to the beach were we took the boat. On our 2 hour boat trip to Coiba we were able to observe species like: Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Tern, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.


Getting ready to leave to Coiba

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
Common Tern and Black Tern (Sterna hirundo & Chlidonias niger)

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)

Black Terns (Chlidonias niger)


Arrival to Coiba Island

We got to MIAMBIENTE's (formerly ANAM's) Biological Station where we were assigned a cabin. In the meantime I enjoyed making some pictures right at the station, specially of the Black Iguana which incredibly was a lifer for me.


Black spiny-tailed iguana, black iguana, or black ctenosaur (Ctenosaura similis), is a lizard native to Mexico and Central America that has been introduced to the United States in the state of Florida. It is the largest species in the genus Ctenosaura and its listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's fastest lizard.  They are excellent climbers, and prefer a rocky habitat with plenty of crevices to hide in, rocks to bask on, and nearby trees to climb, but we found them in Coiba near the beach and on mangroves. They are primarily herbivorous, eating flowers, leaves, stems, and fruit, but they will opportunistically eat smaller animals (including young Green Iguanas also present on site), eggs, and arthropods. Juveniles tend to be insectivores becoming more herbivorous as they get older.


 
Panama Flycatcher (Myiarchus panamensis)

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Around the camp I was able to observe certain Coiba endemic subspecies: Blue-gray Tanager  (Thraupis episcopus cumatilis), Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivacea ravida), and House Wren  (Troglodytes aedon carychrous), abundant Black Vultures, and the common Great-tailed Grackle and White-tipped Dove.

 

Granito de Oro

Our next stop was Granito de Oro, a small islet off the northeastern coast of Coiba Island. Here we enjoyed snorkeling the pristine waters surrounding the islet. I was able to see a lot of fish species and also enjoyed making pictures of crabs and hermit crabs, and also observed a Ringed Kingisher that arrived to the islet.
Crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura which typically have a very short projecting "tail", usually entirely hidden under the thorax. They live in all the world's oceans, in fresh water, and on land, are generally covered with a thick exoskeleton and have a single pair of claws.


 Pacific Hermit Crab (Coenobita compressus)

Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans of the superfamily Paguroidea.  Most species have long, spirally curved abdomens, which are soft, unlike the hard, calcified abdomens seen in related crustaceans. The vulnerable abdomen is protected from predators by a salvaged empty seashell carried by the hermit crab, into which its whole body can retract. Most frequently, hermit crabs use the shells of sea snails.
 
Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) - male

Pacific Hermit Crabs (Coenobita compressus)

The Pacific Hermit Crab, also known as Ecuadorian Hermit Crab is the only species of terrestrial hermit crab occurring on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It's distribution is from from Mexico (lower California) to Chile, and is restricted to this coast where it inhabits up to 1 kilometer inland, mostly within 100 meters of shore; on sandy beaches, moist and heavily vegetated areas. Juveniles are often green or blue,  legs' tips will begin to turn tan, and as it grows its color becomes rich oranges and browns. Its eyes are elongated and sometimes reddish in color. It's mostly nocturnal, and terrestrial.

Then we went to Frijoles islets where we made some pictures of more sea birds, unfortunately we had to return to the camp because a downpour was coming. During the rest of the day and night it was raining  so hard that we had to wait until next day.


To be continued...