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Russet-winged Schiffornis (Schiffornis stenorhyncha)

Russet-winged Schiffornis is one of five species that formerly were united under the name Thrush-like Schiffornis (Schiffornis turdina); the other members of this group are Northern Schiffornis (S. veraepacis), Olivaceous Schiffornis (S. olivacea), Foothill Schiffornis (S. aenea), and Brown-winged Schiffornis (S. turdina). 

Russet-winged Schiffornis is a representative of this group that occurs from central Panama east across northern Colombia to western and northern Venezuela. All species in this group have similar, dull plumages, being primarily brown or olive brown, with paler underparts, and prominent large dark eyes. Although all members of the group also are poorly known, Russet-winged Schiffornis probably is one of the least studied members of the complex. This is a relatively low density species that occupies the understory of terra firme forests, most often foraging within 1-2 m of the ground, and typically is solitary. The clear whistled song is heard far more often than th…

El Valle - the best place for Panama Birds & Wildlife Photos of 2017 (pt. 2) - Featured species: Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)


During one of our tours to El Valle, we visited our friends at Serpentario Maravillas Tropicales (SEMAT) to photograph a couple of rescued snakes.

This serpentarium is very easy to find: when entering the Anton Valley you have to look to the right of the street, and you will see the sign that indicates the entrance to the serpentarium (entering through the first gas station), then follow the other sings, or simply look for them in Google Maps.

SEMAT serves as the headquarters to Panama Wildlife Rescuers, a team of biologists, herpetologists, and wildlife handlers and rescuers, that operate in the nearby zones rescuing and relocating all kind of animals such as snakes, crocodiles, caimans, and sloths. This program of animal rescue, welcomes ophidians and other reptiles that can no longer be attended by their original owners and those who are stranded outside their habitat. Then the rescued animals participate in the refuge's educational, conservation and research programs, until they could be released if possible.

In this place they work voluntarily and with a lot of love towards the animals, the entrance fees are used to procure the required resources to keep the animals  in good state and in a comfortable and suitable habitat for them.

We actually visited the serpentarium for one particular subject that was rescued from a residential area, and that will be relocated promptly. But in the meantime we faced one of our biggest fears: the infamous Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper).

Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)

This snake, also known as terciopelo, barba amarilla, equis, cuaima (Venezuela), nauyaca (México), is a highly venomous pit viper ranging from southern Mexico to northern South America. They are found in a wide range of lowland and foothills habitats, often near human habitations. Its proximity to human and temperament are likely the reasons why it is considered more dangerous to humans than others. It is in fact the main cause of snakebite incidents within its range. The name fer-de-lance is commonly used in North America to refer to this species, but is not used in the countries inhabited by this species.





Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)

Bothrops species can be distinguished by their broad, flattened heads which are set apart from the rest of their bodies. In B. asper the head is light to dark brown or even black. Although usually absent, it may have occipital blotches or streaks that range from indistinct to distinct. The underside is most often pale yellow. This species has different patterns and colors on its dorsal and ventral sides and it exhibits a postorbital stripe. The ventral side is yellow, cream, or a whitish gray, with dark blotches that are more frequent closer to the posterior end. Specimens may have a yellow zig-zag-shaped line on each side of the body.

This species likes moist environments, and occurs mainly at low or middle elevations, however, sometimes is found at much higher elevations, such as premontane forest in Costa Rica, the cloud forest of Guatemala and Mexico, or the lower montane wet forest in the Caribbean Region of Colombia and Ecuador. It chiefly inhabits tropical rainforest and evergreen forest, but it also occurs in drier areas of tropical deciduous forest, thorn forest and pine savannah near lakes, rivers and streams.

Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper)

This species is nocturnal and solitary. It is less active in colder and drier periods. It is often found near rivers and streams, basking under the sun during the day and lying still while well camouflaged in leaf litter or under forest cover waiting to ambush prey (including rats and mice) that comes within range during the night. When cornered or threatened, this species can be very defensive and may exhibit an S-coiled defense display. These snakes have been described as excitable and unpredictable when disturbed. They can, and often will, move very quickly, usually opting to flee from danger, but are capable of suddenly reversing direction to vigorously defend themselves. Adult specimens, when cornered and fully alert, should be considered dangerous. So if you encounter one of them, we advise to let it alone and walk away. 

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