TRAVEL: Easy Birding in Panama
If you are looking for a birding adventure a little farther from home, winter is an exceptionally good time to visit the Caribbean, Central and South America. If you have been wanting to visit a tropical forest with loads of fabulous birds, one of the best and easiest countries to visit to see birds in winter is Panama.
Raul Arias de Para is a birder, conservationist and owner of the well-known and very popular Panama Canopy Tower, not far from Panama City. He also owns several other
socially responsible eco-lodges focused on birding in Panama including Canopy Lodge in El Vallee in the interior and the luxurious permanent tented camp in the Darien near the Colombian border, Canopy Camp. If this is your first trip to Panama, Canopy Tower is a great place to land. It’s simple to get to, embedded in the forest, has excellent
and knowledgeable guides and a bird list of over 250 species. If you have more than a few days, you can split your time between the various lodges in the Canopy Family to get the widest range of birds. And if you are traveling with others who aren’t really interested in birding, then there are many other things to keep them busy – from wildlife and hikes to numerous tourist attractions which can be easily visited.
At Canopy Tower you can spend hours just watching the hummingbirds at the feeders, see many birds sitting on top of the canopy from the radar perch level, or watch sloths, monkeys, coatamundi and butterflies from the veranda or your room. Canopy Tower is a creative conversion of a former US military radar tower. Originally designed to pierce the forest canopy to see activity from a 360 degree viewpoint for security purposes, Raul converted this military tower into the perfect bird spotting roost. On the top level, you can watch toucans, parrots and tanagers sitting on top of the canopy — birds which would be otherwise difficult to see from the ground. In winter most of our commonly found warblers are overwintering in this area and you can see many of them at the Tower. Plus, sloths, monkeys, butterflies and other wildlife abound.
You can go to the lodge on your own and take daily bird walks with the lodge guides who are fabulous, or you can go with an organized group. However you decide to visit Panama, make Canopy Tower or any of Raul’s lodges part of your birding expedition. I’m a big fan of his hospitality and attention to detail, and have had great experiences at both Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp. Each of his lodges has exactly what every birder needs, and enough non-birding activities so that everyone in your group will be satisfied. Maybe it’s time to flee the winter chill and chill out in the tropical beauty of Panama for a wonderful birding experience.
Posts Tagged ‘jungle’
Hummingbirds have many challenges – they are tiny and yet need to be some of the toughest birds out there. They live in conditions where eeking out a living can be a challenge – especially when you have to feed at frequent intervals just to keep going. In the cloud forests of Peru, there is a hummingbird – the male of which has a tail that defies all probabilities of flight. The Spatuletail Hummingbird’s tail appears to give no benefit to flight which is key to how we think about hummingbird aerodynamics. The BBC filmed the mating displays of this amazing little bird struggling to impress a female. Sometimes the truth is even more interesting than anything you could ever make up.
Photo Credit: BBC
No matter what the season is, there is something special about the southwest peninsula of Costa Rica near Corcovado National Park. It’s a wonderful forested area by the water that has a rich diversity of bird and animal life. Lapa Rios (meaning River of Macaws), founded by American Karen Lewis before the term “green” meant much more than a color, is still a favorite place for my husband and me. An eco-lodge which bears Karen’s careful touches, Lapa Rios is a luxurious experience in a pretty amazing location. We were there last December and again in May this year and the difference in seasons is striking. In May, with most of the migratory birds gone and many local birds nesting, things are a lot quieter in the morning! But that’s not to say that there isn’t much happening. Every morning at dawn, regardless of season, scarlet macaws trail across the sky in pairs, screeching to each other- some at eye level from the cliffside bungalows – to go to their foraging grounds. Flowering trees abound and there is no lack of humming birds like this Beryl-crested hummingbird who defended flowers in his territory fiercely from other hummingbirds, butterflies and insects.
The sounds of Chestnut mandibled toucans and Red-lored parrots abound, and on the most recent trips I made it a point of capturing some of these great sounds and making them available as ringtones – like these Red-lored parrots or this great sound of frogs at night. Now every time my phone rings, I am reminded of how beautiful the rainforest in Costa Rica is and anyone near me can hear a little of the jungle…even here in New York City.