Sunday, May 2, 1999

PAS trip to El Chorogo

The PAS fieldtrip to El Chorogo found most of the target endemics, like Baird's Trogon, Golden-naped Woodpecker and Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, and a few extra surprises.

For the fourth year in a row, the Panama Audubon Society organized, helped by AFFABA, a fieldtrip to El Chorogo, one of the last remaining patches of lowland forest left in western Chiriquí, and the best place to find a handful of species endemic to that region. This year the group was formed by Loyda Sánchez, Bill Adsett, Jon and Itzy Bishop and Darién Montañez. A few miles after passing Santiago we stopped for a few minutes to observe a juvenile White-tailed Hawk that was soaring above the grasslands. Right after getting to Puerto Armuelles we went out to Petroterminales de Panamá, where we started getting the first species in our long target list: a pair of Black-hooded Antshrikes, a White-collared Seedeater and a Riverside Wren. Cherrie's Tanagers, the recently split Chiriqui form of Scarlet-rumped Tanager, were everywhere. On the next day, a minute away from the Centro de Salud de San Bartolo Límite where we were to wait for the horses, we saw a Pearl Kite carrying nesting material. This South-American raptor was first documented in Panama in 1977, and since then has been expanding its range westward. This sighting was not much of a surprise, considering the deforestation of the area which makes it perfect Pearl Kite habitat. On the long walk uphill to the camp we started adding species to the trip-list, including a few birds not recorded on previous trips to the area like Orange-collared Manakin, Sharp-shinned Hawk and the cinereiceps race of Yellow-olive Flycatcher. As soon as we got to camp we started looking for the Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet that was seen last year, but apparently we were a year late. We did see a few Mouse-colored Tyrannulets and some Philadelphia Vireos, though.
The next morning we awoke to the sound of Marbled Wood-Quail calling all around. The White-crowned Parrots did show up this year, but only a pair mixed in with a flock of Blue-headed Parrots. The walk up to the forest seemed particularly long this time, and the forest was very quiet. As usual, the Swainson's Thrushes were everywhere, even at an antswarm, but we did not have the usual number of Scarlet Tanagers. The Inga trees had been flowering for a while, and most of them had already lost their flowers. Therefore, we were not particularly lucky hummingbird-wise: no Ruby-throated or Charming Hummingbirds, and no White-crested Coquette, just a few Blue-throated Goldentails. The Baird's Trogons were particularly hard to get this year: they were calling all over the place, but to actually see one was another thing. The Tawny-winged Woodcreepers were at the antswarm, as they should have been, and a pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamars was seen at the woods by José María's house. But in order to see a Golden-naped Woodpecker we had to wait until the walk down to the cars: one was seen poking out of a hole in a dead tree trunk, eventually coming out for our viewing pleasure. And just a few minutes after that, a gorgeous male Turquoise Cotinga flew into the very top of a tree just beside the road, where it stayed for a very long time. And then, to top all of this, one last surprise was waiting for us on the lower slopes of the hill.

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