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 ‘wildlife’
FAMILY FUN: Sitting Quietly…Seeing More
Want to see more birds and tune into nature? This summer, why not see the natural areas you usually visit a little differently? Go to a favorite field, forest, marsh, or beach. Rather than do what you might normally do there…this time , take some time to sit quietly and listen. Tune out the day to day stuff and fairly quickly, you will start to hear and see a new kind of activity — the local kind you can be part of only if you are a silent observer.
If you are still enough, your presence will eventually go unnoticed by the birds and animals nearby and they may get very close to you — like this Piping plover who came so close he was within reach. It’s moments like this that touch the soul and inspire the mind. And when a wild bird or animal gets very close, it’s a pretty remarkable thing — something you and your kids will remember for a very long time.
I was walking on the beach looking for the first piping plovers of the season, when I looked down. There was a small dark shell with a tiny turtle inside. What to do? I knew it was some kind of land turtle, and I also know they dont live at the beach. The gulls were paying a lot of attention to this inch and a half
of terrapin who was desperately trying to hide in his little shell. I picked him up and within a few seconds he started squirming and walking from hand to hand as I took him home. I placed him in a bowl and kept his shell wet while I made calls. I just wanted to find out what he was and where to release him.
I am delighted that Harriett Forrester – a terrapin biologist and rehabber – answered my call and gave me directions where to release him. She also told me he was a diamondback and about year old. That he had already gone through a hibernation, so this was a teeny turtle with experience and fortitude. She told me that diamondbacks are tied to salt marshes and this little guy was probably out exploring and got swept away. He may have washed up on the beach or some well-meaning human found him and decided he needed to go into the ocean from which he fled.
Harriet told me he needed to be in a salt marsh far away from humans, and I thought of the perfect spot. Bowl in hand, we sped off and within a few minutes, my diamondback was free from gulls and my pink bowl. And I hope he has found true happiness in salt marsh muck.
P.S. In watching him for a while I see how he could have been exploring and gotten way off track. He was very curious and surprisingly not shy for a young turtle recently out of hibernation. And, if you find a turtle on land that seems to be out of his element and needing help always check to see if the turtle has feet and claws or flippers. Feet means they live on land, flippers in the sea. Then call an expert like Harriet. I am glad I did as I had a lot of well meaning suggestions for others and every one of them was not the right advice.
It’s that time of year when land turtles are nesting, crossing roads to get from the marsh to the beach where they lay their eggs. If you see a turtle crossing the road, before moving her, make sure you are taking her the direction she wants to go! If you don’t want to pick the turtle up, keep traffic away from her until she has finished her crossing. And remember that if you find a turtle that needs help, call a licensed rehabber. They know exactly what to do and it actually is illegal to keep wildlife without a license. So, check out this list and call the right person for the help you need.
How do butterflies and moths travel great distances? According to an article from the BBC researchers have discovered that on those warm summer nights,there are thousands of butterflies and moths traveling in winds up to 60 mph above us. They may look fragile, but these beautiful creatures have a navigation system that makes for the right directional choice and the means to find a way to get there—fast. Now those breezy summer nights seem to take on a whole new meaning.
Today I got a Facebook request to sign a petition to stop the Japanese dolphin slaughter. I signed it and put a post on my Facebook page explaining a little about the situation and asking others to sign the petition. So now what? Will this slaughter ever really end? My understanding is that in the middle of the 20th century (not a terribly long time ago), there were three coves in which a handful of Japanese fishermen drove terrified dolphins into with the intention of bludgeoning the adults to death for their meat and then taking the babies still in shock, alive as aquarium specimens. All went along fairly well (for the fishermen at least) for a very long time as there was absolutely no knowledge of this happening outside the little towns in which they took place. But, eventually the word started leaking out and a few impassioned people (including Hardy Jones) tried to stop it. They were unsuccessful as the Japanese government just turned a blind eye – eventually shutting down 2 coves, but tacitly permitting it all to take place for a couple dozen fishermen in Taiji, while denying it ever happened at the same time. Sadly, the images are so horrific of what takes place that most people don’t even want to know about it. It almost boggles the imagination that this kind of brutality can take place anywhere – much less against an animal whose intellectual and emotional capacities are considered to be extremely high. As a result, any groundswell to challenge this has been very slow to get started. Now that Earth Island Institute has gotten involved with long-time dolphin defender Ric O’Barry and a film called The Cove has been released about this slaughter, there is a glimmer of hope that there may be an end to it all. Will the petition help? Who knows. But maybe it’s the start of something that will finally bring to public attention and end one of the more chilling condoned animal brutality cases in contemporary times.
Photo credit: Diamond Docs
According to a recent survey from the RSPB published on the BBC website, some of the more rare species of birds in the UK are seeing increases in their populations while some of the more common birds are seeing declines. The increased numbers of rarer species (including the Osprey and Avocet that are seen in North America as well) is great news, but the decline in more common birds (like the Swift and Starling – which is an endemic bird to the UK and not considered a pest) is a continuing saga. Much of the trouble for these common birds appears to lie in farming techniques. And, the UK has responded by trying some experimental measures in the Natural England project – giving farmers money in return for keeping some areas fallow for nesting birds and keeping some areas lively with plants that attract insects. Not surprisingly, this appears to be creating a beneficial area for birds and other wildlife like hares. And, it has captured the interest of many farmers who profess to like watching the hares boxing and the lapwings nesting sometimes a bit more than doing the plowing or harvesting. Some great ideas are also pretty simple and we can only hope that if this does work in the UK that this example of a simple and effective means to help wildlife can find its way to implementation in other countries.
Photo credit: BBC
To most people, Caribou may not be the sexiest of animals, and in fact, there are probably not many people who think much about Caribou at all. But since they live in fairly undisturbed areas, it came as a bit of a surprise to hear that their numbers have declined 60% in 30 years. The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting story about this issue which was discovered by scientists at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. It is a cause for concern as these are animals who have been considered irrevocably numerous and do not cross many paths with humans. Sadly, this sounds like other wildlife populations we also thought were too numerous to impact – passenger pigeons, buffalo, horseshoe crabs, bats. There seems to be a human blindness to the possibility of human impact when there are so many of a species it seems overwhelming to us. But, this latest discovery about Caribou is surprising if only because these are animals most of us would think are too far off the grid to be affected. It seems living off the grid is no protection no matter how many of you there are.
Photo Credit: Jason Witherspoon/Design Pics/Newscom