Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chiriquí Report, by Ken Allaire

I've been in the Volcan area for the last few days with my family, and have managed to sneak some birding in between the family fun (sometimes the two things go hand-in-hand!). I came here with a few particular target birds among the residents, but North American migrants have stolen the show—a revelation for me, as this is the first time I have spent time in Chiriqui at this time of year. Yesterday, 22/10, we visited Finca Dracula, where I found my number one target, a male Maroon-chested Ground-Dove that revealed itself briefly near the bamboo stands along the entry road. This was topped by a Blue-headed Vireo I found later in the morning in the gardens. I saw the bird well, at eye level and not 3 meters away. I identified it without thinking, as I saw thousands of these in my time in New York. When I thought about it for a minute in the context of Panama I chased the bird, and confirmed my i.d. Also noteworthy was the presence of dozens of Slaty Finches at their seed feeders—I can't believe this species was so hard to find here a few years ago! Later in the day I found a Louisiana Waterthrush on a river at one of the bridges crossing the road to Las Nubes, while I was looking for American Dipper.
Today, 23/10, we started the day at Lagunas de Volcan, where high water flooded much of the trail. But the forest near the entry was excellent for migrants—I found a male Blue-winged Warbler (after much effort to get a good look), along with more expected species such as Philidelphia Vireo and Wilson's Warbler. We then somewhat randomly drove roads in the area—a side road that headed south towards Cuesta de Piedra yielded a White-crested Coquette, above a village named Cordillera. This was total luck—I saw the bird flying as we drove, and it was fortunately going in our direction. I saw where it landed and stopped for a good look. My wife spotted a trio of Fiery-billed Aaracaris north of here on the same road, apparently not common in this locale. We then drove the road to Rio Sereno, and a roadside stop about 18 km west of Volcan (a nice patch of forest with a pull-off near a horse paddock) yielded a couple of Spot-crowned Euphonias, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, and a female-plumaged Black-throated Blue Warbler foraging at close range, although it had me baffled until I got clear look at the white epaulet.
In general, I was very impressed with the volume and variety of migrants present in the area, and I suspect that a couple of the more rare species I sighted are actually not so, and increased observation would reveal them to be uncommon but regular.

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