Pictured above: Bare-shanked Screech Owl, seen just after midnight on Volcan Barú
On May 9, 2015, I participated in the Global Big Day sponsored by ebird, in an effort to see as many species as possible in one day.
That day we traveled 384 km from Volcan Barú to the Caribbean side of Panamá, the Continental Divide and the Pacific side as well, then back to the Quetzal Trail in the Chiriquí Highlands, trying to get the highest number of species of birds in Panamá. Our goal was to include as many different microclimates as possible to increase the number of birds we would see.
There were seven of us in the group, crazy birders: Euclides Campos, Cesar Caballero, Raul Velazquez, Rafael Gutierrez, Cesar Gonzales, Mr. Henry Samudio and my self, Jason Lara.
We started at midnight on Volcan Barú at 2,300 meters looking for owls, specifically the Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, Bare-shanked Screech Owl and big hopes to see the Unspotted Saw-whet Owl but this last hope was not to be. This is the only place in the country to see these owls. We spent about 2.5 hours there, then we drove through Caldera trying to see more birds on the way. We drove slowly looking for owls, night hawks, but didn’t see that many.
We arrived in Chiriquí Grande, on the Caribbean side, around 6 am, travelling slowly because it was very cloudy through the Continental Divide. We got a quick breakfast at a Chinese restaurant, which was empanadas, coffee and Panamanaian tortillas, then we to the road of the two tanks where lakes and waterways are, spending another 2.5 hours identifying species. We saw lots of waterbirds. The Green Ibis, which is not common. He was the bird that made our morning. And we saw a few new species none of us had seen before.
Then, we drove back to the Continental Divide, stopping at Willy Mazu area, seeing another 60 species to increase our list for the day to 120-140 at that point. We decided to continue because we knew there were many more species to see. A bit sleepy, we stopped at a local restaurant to get more coffee and Coca-a-Cola. Luckily, we saw a crimson-colored tanager at the restaurant, which got us excited again about the day.
We continued to the División, but were disappointed by the weather, which was cloudy and rainy. We had big expectations for this area, but no birds were out due to the weather. We moved on to the checkpoint near Bocas del Toro – for more coffee and empanadas, having made it to lunch time. I was driving, getting tired, but we went all the way down to the Lowlands when somebody mentioned a short trail around the mini-canyon area, a popular swimming place. We stopped there for about an hour, adding some good species to our list, if not a large number. We saw the Pale-eyed Pygmie Tyrant and some others.
We continued closer to the ocean. When we got to the beach we spotted many shore birds, spending another hour there. It was very hot, and we are used the highland weather, so we didn’t stay long. On the way home we found Scarlet Macaws, which got us excited again, despite how tired we were. Many of the group were already sleeping in the back of the car, but the macaws lifted our spirits and we had yet to bird in our backyard.
I lifted moral and took us all to the Quetzal Trail in Boquete. At this point it was about 5:30 pm. We saw another 42 or 43 species there in 45 minutes, passing 200 total for the day for a total of 218 species in 18 hours (midnight to 6:30 pm). As far as you know, our group saw the most areas, covered the longest distance, looked for the longest time and saw the most species of anyone in Panamá.
We were so happy, so tired, we went home – successful participants of Global Birding Day 2015.