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Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

Interesting facts:

Their habitat is montane cloud forest from Southern Mexico to western Panama. The male has a helmet-like crest. Depending on the light its feathers can shine in a variant of colors from green-gold to blue-violet. In breeding males, tail coverts are longer than the rest of the body. It is classified as near threatened due to habitat loss.

Bird photos at Panama western highlands

This time I headed to the western highlands of Panama with my "A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama"  book on hand plus a printed amendments an updates to the book published by Panama Audubon Society.
Book cover

The first stop was going to be Bajo Frio but I was not able to find the location, then headed to Cuesta de Piedra and got to Macho de Monte but was not able to park aside the road so I turned around and headed to Volcán.

My next stop was Volcán Lakes which are reached through the Janson Family estate at Volcán, Chiriquí. The family grows  geisha coffee and cattle on their farm but also run agro-tourism activities like coffe tours, birding, horseback riding, hiking, fishing and biking. There I met Leif Janson who operates Lagunas Adventures, the tourism branch of the farm. He was very kind and offered me a free entrance to the facilities so I could make pictures of the diverse birds that are found in the farm, the lakes and their surrounding forests.  If you want to get more information please visit their site at Lagunas Adventures, regularly they charge US$ 10 if you want to walk on your own or US$ 25 for a guided birding tour for 2 hours.

Agro-tourism offer at Jason Coffee Farm

After Leif gave me directions and a map of the site I started my walkaround. Besides the coffee farm they also have a plant nursery where a lot of birds got close so I spent some time there, and was able to shoot these pictures:

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) breeds in eastern North America, from southern Canada, westwards to the southern Canadian Prairies, the Great Lakes region and New England, to North Carolina. Blackburnian warblers are migratory, wintering in southern Central America and in South America, and are very rare vagrants to western Europe. These birds were named after Anna Blackburne, an English botanist. In Panama it's a fairly common transient throughout the country, and a winter resident in western highlands. Found in middle and upper levels of forest and woodland.

Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) - female. This species is found all over the country in grassy areas, commonly in foothills and highlands and uncommonly in lowlands. It was formerly allied with the American sparrows and placed in Emberizidae; actually, however, it is one of the tholospizan "finches" which are specialized tanagers (Thraupidae). As such, it is closely related to the famous Darwin's finches.

White-tailed Emerald (Elvira chionura) - female. This is a species of hummingbird endemic to highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. With a weight under 3 grams, this is one of the smallest birds in existence. In Panama it is uncommon and found in lower levels of forest and in adjacent clearings.

The Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) is a relatively small bird of prey. Is a vocal species and to my expereince is often the most common raptor in Panama. According to field guides it is common throughout the country and occurs in open and scrubby areas, and in lower and middle leves of woodland, soaring infrequently. It has many subspecies.

Then I walked across a small stream, an airstrip and 4x4 trails to get to the lakes. Unfortunately there were not so much waterbirds at the lakes as I expected, I only counted a Great Egret, a Green Heron, a Common Gallinule and the great surprise, an American Coot, but they were all so far away that I was only able to get documentation pictures that are not good enough to be shown here. I also spotted a raptor flying but was not able to ID it. My real target was the Northern Jacana but unfortunately I had no luck, with such bird I was expecting to complete this small family to Panama since in the eastern part of the country, where I live,  only the Wattled Jacana is found.

The lakes are the highest natural lakes and the area is known as the highest wetland system in Panama, and is home to many waterbirds and other species. This is a protected area which ensures that future generations will enjoy its bio-diversity. But if you have ever gone birding, you know how it is, sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you're not. Disregarding the not so great experience at the lakes; the trails and the open areas along the site produced good pictures of different species, and here they are:

The Clay-colored Thrush (Turdus grayi) is the only resident thrush in Panama that is widespread and common in lowlands but also inhabits highlands. It's foud in gardens forest edge, second growth and open areas with shrubs. It is the national bird of Costa Rica, where it is well known as the yigüirro, and ranges from South Texas (where it is rapidly expanding its range) to northern Colombia.

Olivaceous Piculet (Picumnus olivaceus) - male. With its 3.5 inches (9 cm) is the smallest of Panama's woodpeckers. It's is uncommon on parts of both slopes. It's also found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela, its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, and heavily degraded former forest.

The Red-faced Spinetail (Cranioleuca erythrops) is found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. In Panama is fairly common in western highlands and in highlands of eastern Darién, in middle levels of forest.

The Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii) identified by it's slightly decurved bill which is pale brownish or pinkish , distinguishing it from similar Spot-crowned Woodcreeper that occurs on western highlands. It is fairly common on different lowland parts of the country on both slopes, and found in cleared areas with scattered trees, in open woodland and gallery forest. A pair were hanging around on the tall trees among the coffee plantation.

I had a late lunch at Hotel Dos Ríos trying to see or picture the Melodious Blackbirds (a relative new species for Panama) that were reported there, again without luck. So I drove through Cerro Punta to Las Nubes at La Amistad International Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site created jointly by Panama and Costa Rica governments in order to protect several endangered species that live in the shared region that lies along the Talamanca mountain range. The park is popularly known as PILA for its spanish intials (Parque Internacional La Amistad) and it covers an area of 401,000 hectares, 207,000 of which are in the Panama side. Unfortunately the park is closed due to flash water torrent damages that occurred months ago, and it was already late so I did not spent much time. Enough to get this fairly common species captured:

The Yellowish Flycatcher (Empidonax flavescens) is a small bird in the tyrant flycatcher family. It breeds in highlands from southeastern Mexico south to western Panama. It is fairly common in Panama's western highlands, found in lower and middle levels of forest and coffee plantations. I've found them to be not shy at all, and very approachable; letting me get very close for detailed shots as shown below.

A shot of a Yellowish Flycatcher from a previuos trip to western highlands

The Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus), is a small member of the tyrant flycatcher family. It breeds in highlands from northwestern Mexico to northwestern Ecuador. In Panama is common in foothills and highlands, found in lower and middle levels of forest.

The Yellow-thighed Finch (Pselliophorus tibialis) 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 family. It's very common in western Chiriquí above 5,000 ft (1,500 m) altitude, and found in lower and middle level of forest taking insects and spiders and many berries. It will also squeeze nectar from flowers. It is seen in pairs, family groups or in mixed-species feeding flocks with other small birds such as warblers. As a matter of fact, I observed a family group of three individuals jumping around the bushy clearing while feeding. It can be very approachable but unfortunately light was limited by the time of this picture and soon I left to return to my base at David in Chiriquí's lowlands.

Other bird species observed include: Blue-crowned Motmot, Great Egret, Green Heron, American Coot, Violet Sabrewing, Chestnut-capped Brush Finch (not sure), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Cherrie's Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Variable Seedeater, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow-bellied Siskin, White-throated Crake, Common Gallinule, Green Hermit, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Black-chested Jay, Rufous-capped Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Speckled Tanager, Bay-headed tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Broad-winged Hawk, Black Phoebe, Black-faced Solitaire (heard), Black-cheecked Warbler, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Wood-Peewee


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