Tuesday, May 4, 1999

PAS trip to Cerro Colorado

A brief expedition to Cerro Colorado, on the highlands of Eastern Chiriquí, turned up both of the endemics: Glow-throated Hummingbird and Yellow-green Finch, the latter in relatively large numbers.

After spending a night in the Anguizola house in Boquete, and getting a fair amount of lifers at Pata 'e Macho we left for the last stop in the trip: a visit to Cerro Colorado to look for the endemic species of the highlands of Eastern Chiriquí. Even though the never-ending road up to Hato Chamí was in great condition, it took a long while to get there. The information on the Finding Birds in Panama section of Ridgely is very accurate, the way it should be, and should be memorized before your visit. Our first real stop was about 9.6 Km beyond Hato Chamí at about 1600 meters, in the spot where the Bishops had seen the Yellow-green Finch the previous year. After a few minutes lucky Loyda saw a male Glow-throated Hummingbird, with gorget and all. After a while lucky Loyda saw the first of many Yellow-Green Finches. At the same spot we saw Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatchers, Prong-billed Barbets, and both Common and Sooty-capped Bush-Tanagers, and heard Silvery-fronted Tapaculos and Black-faced Solitaires. From that spot the road descended and then climbed back up to about the same height. We drove the road beyond the second fork mentioned in Ridgely, but didn't find the landslide blocking it. We did not drive all the way to the end of the road, though, but Jon suspects there is a trail leading up to the continental divide somewhere out there. Maybe next year we'll get there, and who knows what we'll find. We returned and camped beside the road at about 1600 meters, where we were joined for dinner by a pair of Bare-shanked Screech-Owls, one of which perched and started calling from a branch right above our heads.
Early the next morning the group split to get better looks at the endemics. Itzy discovered a Buff-fronted Quail-Dove walking along the road, while the abundant Prong-billed Barbets called all around. That morning we saw many species we had missed in the afternoon, like Mountain Thrush, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Slaty Flowerpiercer and Ruddy Treerunner, and more Yellow-green Finches than we expected. As it was very misty by the camp we decided to go back to the spot where Loyda had seen the Hummingbird and hope for the best. On the way, we stopped to check out a mixed flock with the usual whitestarts and warblers, where we had a Black-cheeked Warbler that seemed to match the description of the bensoni race: being darker gray overall, without the yellowish tinge to the belly. By the time we got to the Hummingbird spot the mist had given way to a light but persistent drizzle, but that did not keep us from the pleasure of standing for long periods of time hoping for a glimpse of a rare species. In fact, the rain just added to the experience. And our perseverance was rewarded, as after some time a tiny female Glow-throated Hummingbrid flew into a small shrub with pink flowers. The bird would sometimes perch in some nearby twigs, as close as about 3 meters from us. The tail pattern was observed clearly, and it was definitely paler in the underparts than the average female Scintillant Hummingbird. And with that we stopped birdwatching and started the long drive down to San Félix, just to start the even longer drive back to Panama City.

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