Posts Tagged ‘rainforest’

Travel: Easy Birding in Panama

Friday, December 16th, 2016
TRAVEL: Easy Birding in Panama
If you are looking for a birding adventure a parrot_panama 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.

Time out in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula Rainforest

Monday, June 22nd, 2009


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.


Will the Bird Friendly Shade Grown Coffee Please Stand Up?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

My husband and I are coffee drinkers. In fact, recently I made the mistake of taking him along to help get a replacement when our old cappuccino machine died. We wound up with a machine so complicated I needed an advanced degree to make it work. But I digress. The reason for my writing about coffee at all is that for many years I have been looking to find coffee which is bird friendly, which means it is grown in the shade. Why is growing coffee in the shade important you might ask? Much of the coffee we buy is grown in neo-tropical countries where birds we see in the spring and summer spend their winters. So when that yellow warbler leaves your backyard and heads to Central America, he starts his journey with the full intention of having a place to stay and food to eat when he arrives in his winter home. Since it is cheaper and easier to grow coffee by clear cutting the land of all trees and shrubs, this kind of agriculture is a very bad thing for the birds which migrate to these areas as well as the other wildlife which live there. Exhausted after a grueling trip south, battling hurricanes and all kinds of challenges, increasingly more often, migratory songbirds are reaching their traditional overwintering grounds and finding they have been clear cut or destroyed. Coffee is naturally a shade loving plant, but since it is cheaper to clear cut the growing area and then just treat the coffee plants with chemicals to keep them going, this has become the new norm for larger agricultural enterprises. So, if we want to help migratory birds (and other animals, too) keep their populations up by retaining their habitat intact and chemical free, buying shade grown coffee which is grown on plantations which retain the trees and undergrowth necessary for songbirds is an easy and practical solution.

Or so I thought. Coffee has many descriptive terms. It can be fair trade (which guarantees poor farmers in co-operatives a fair price for their coffee), organic (which refers to the use or non-use of chemicals), and (among other descriptive terms) shade grown. What I have come to discover is that shade grown can mean many things and these various terms are often mutually exclusive. So that if it is fair trade and/or organic, it may not be shade grown. And there is shade grown and then there is bird friendly shade grown. Until recently, even finding shade grown coffee was a challenge. You had to trust that the distributor really did buy coffee grown in the shade, if the shop even had any idea what you were talking about. I thought I had found a great shade grown coffee, and have been using it for a very long time, only to discover that it most probably is shade grown but not bird friendly.

I learned all this from Scott Weidensaul who really opened my eyes to what to look for. He told me that normal shade grown means they did not clear cut the trees. However, they do clear the undergrowth and so it causes a mono-culture of trees and coffee bushes. This is only mildly better than coffee grown in clear cut areas. Bird friendly coffee growers not only retain the tree canopy, they also keep the undergrowth which the birds need for food and shelter. Smithsonian has the only 100% organic bird-friendly coffee certification and their certifications are given only to growers who comply with a fairly rigid list of standards. The coffee is better tasting, too as it has no chemicals and ripens more slowly. You can buy Smithsonian bird friendly certified coffee at Birds And Beans which was founded by a group of concerned naturalists and birders including Kenn Kauffman. So, spread the word that buying bird friendly certified coffee is an easy way to help migrating birds as well as wildlife. Whenever biodiversity can be left intact, we all benefit from it.

So, now in my new complicated coffee machine, I have the real deal being brewed. Real bird friendly shade grown Smithsonian certified coffee. It makes a better cup of coffee if for no other reason than it really is an easy change to make in my routine and has such a wide-ranging benefit to so many birds and animals. Now that’s the best way to start the day!

Oh, and in case you thought that it was just the warblers who are affected by loss of habitat through coffee growing, think again. Here is a list of some of the species who return to or migrate through shade grown coffee plantations and who benefit from us taking a moment to think before we buy coffee:

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
American Kestrel
Lesser Nighthawk
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Traill’s (Willow and Alder) Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Hammond’s Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-green Vireo
Violet-green Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Mourning Warbler
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Canada Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Summer Tanager
Western Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

Bird species list provided by Dr. Oliver Komar, SalvaNATURA.


WILDTONES ® is a registered trademark of Wildsight Productions, Inc.
Copyright © 2017 Wildsight Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.