Panama offers some of the most fabulous and easily accessible bird watching in Central America, with nearly 1000 bird species including Harpy Eagle, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue Cotinga, 5 Macaw species and 52 hummingbirds.
On this tour you will discover many of these species in the company of a small group of like-minded travellers. In addition, every year during October and November many species of raptors migrate South. Raptors conserve energy during migration by riding columns of warm air that only form over land. Because the Isthmus of Panama is so narrow, birds are forced together and are easily seen.
You will be based in three very different locations, the first being the world-famous Canopy Tower, which was once a USA Radar Station and is set within the Soberania National Park, yet within striking distance of Panama City and the Panama Canal. This location offers arguably the best lowland birding in all of Central America, with over 400 species recorded in the area. The itinerary then continues to the comfortable Canopy Lodge, located in the heart of the cloud-forest near El Valle de Anton. The holiday finishes at Tranquilo Bay, a wonderful eco-lodge set on 200 acres on Isla Bastimentos, one of many mangrove-fringed islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. This magical area near the Costa Rican border in North West Panama, is a veritable paradise for visiting naturalists and ornithologists.
This small group tour is running on the following dates:
18th November – 2nd December 2017
Day 1 – PM: Arrival and transfer to Canopy Tower
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met by your driver, who will transfer you to the Canopy Tower, located at the top of Semaphore Hill in the rainforest of Soberanía National Park. A member of staff will greet you as you arrive at the Tower, and you will be provided with an orientation on the use of the facilities. At this time, any questions you may have will be answered. As your luggage is being ferried to your room, you may visit the dining/bar area and enjoy a refreshing drink. We highly recommend that you spend some time on the Observation Deck. The view from the platform is incredible! Here, you get a unique eye-level perspective of the rainforest canopy. Many birds, including toucans, parrots, tanagers of various types, hawks, and dozens of others, as well as 2 species of sloths, monkeys and other mammals are commonly seen. From this vantage point you can also see ships transiting the Panama Canal, the majestic Centennial Bridge and miles of rainforest! You may also want to watch the hummingbird feeders at the base of the Tower for Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Violet-bellied & Blue-chested hummingbirds and White-vented Plumeleteer. Occasionally, a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird is spotted! Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
Day 2 – AM: Canopy Tower & Semaphore Hill Road
Your guide will be waiting for you at the Observation Deck for early morning birding. While you look for birds you can enjoy hot coffee, tea and orange juice. Some of the bird species that we are likely to see from the observation deck are Green & Red-legged honeycreepers, Green Shrike-Vireo, Blue Cotinga, Scaled Pigeon, Mealy & Red-lored parrots, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Araçari, flycatchers of various kinds and raptors, including King Vulture and Ornate Hawk-Eagle! After breakfast, at mid-morning, you’ll start exploring Soberanía National Park by taking a pleasant walk down Semaphore Hill Road. This winding, shady paved road, festooned on the shoulders by wildflowers of many types, is a little more than a mile long and crosses a large creek about half-way down. The bird list here is extensive, and includes birds from the forest interior as well as edge-dwellers. Olivaceous Flatbill, Plain Xenops, Lesser Greenlet, Black-breasted & White-whiskered puffbirds, Fasciated & Black-crowned (formerly Western Slaty) antshrikes, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Bay-headed & White-shouldered tanagers, Black-throated Trogon, Broad-billed & Rufous motmots and Great Jacamar may be found. Great Tinamou is often heard, but harder to find. This road is also great for raptors—White, Tiny & Great Black hawks have been seen, and during migration it’s easy to see more than 10 species of warblers and other songbirds in one morning. Your morning bird list will be impressive, as we catch a ride back just in time to enjoy a delicious lunch at the CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Ammo Dump Ponds & Environs (15 min. from Canopy Tower)
The Ammo Dump Ponds are located just past Gamboa on the way to Pipeline Road. It is the best place to see the elusive White-throated Crake, as well as a host of other waterbirds. Least Grebes and Purple Gallinules are common, and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and American Pygmy-Kingfisher are also resident. Here, we often find Greater Ani, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Whooping Motmot (recent split from Blue-crowned), Yellow-tailed Oriole, Southern Lapwing, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Tropical Kingbird, Scrub Greenlet, Lesser Kiskadee, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Panama, Social & Rusty-margined flycatchers and even an Olivaceous Piculet! Birding here will be excellent, as we add to our impressive list of birds! Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
Day 3 – AM: Pipeline Road Entrance (20 min. from Canopy Tower)
After breakfast you board the Birdmobile or the Rainfomobile, both open-air vehicles, that take you to Pipeline Road, the best place in Central Panama to find forest birds, and one of the premier birding spots in the world! This morning we concentrate our efforts at the beginning of Pipeline, where we will look for Greater Ani, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Masked Tityra, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Plain Wren, Streaked Flycatcher, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Squirrel Cuckoo, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Southern Bentbill, Forest Elaenia, Panama Flycatcher, Blue Ground-Dove and Little Tinamou. Other birds recorded here are Black-bellied & Buff-breasted wrens, Golden-collared Manakin, White-necked Puffbird, Gartered, Slaty-tailed, Black-throated, White-tailed & Black-tailed trogons, Purple-crowned Fairy, Yellow Tyrannulet, White-bellied & Dusky antbirds, Fasciated & Black-crowned antshrikes. During migration this entrance road is excellent for migrant warblers, flycatchers, grosbeaks and tanagers. Lunch at CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Summit Gardens/Harpy Exhibit (10 min. from Canopy Tower)
Summit Gardens is a center for recreation, education and conservation, dedicated to reflect and enhance Panama’s tropical and cultural diversity. The botanical gardens are great for migratory warblers and other forest-edge species, including a colony of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Laughing Falcon, Gray-lined, Crane & Great Black hawks, Collared Forest-Falcon, Tropical Pewee, Masked Tityra, Golden-fronted & Scrub greenlets, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Giant, Shiny & Bronzed cowbirds and Blue Cotinga. This park is the best place to find Streak-headed Woodcreeper, a difficult species to get elsewhere. The Harpy Eagle is Panama’s national bird, and this park has an exhibit, including a life-size nest and interpretive panels, tracing the importance of the Harpy in Panamanian history and culture dating back to Pre-Columbian times. Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
Day 4 – AM: Plantation Trail (5 min. from Canopy Tower)
After breakfast, we take a short ride to the bottom of Semaphore Hill to Plantation Trail, one of our premier birding areas. This easy trail passes through mature rainforest and follows a small creek (Rio Chico Masambi) and is a reliable place to find Golden-crowned Spadebills. Often, at the parking area near the entrance, we find Black-chested Jays. Other birds to look for along the trail include Ocellated, Bicolored, Chestnut-backed, White-bellied & Spotted antbirds; Broad-billed & Whooping motmots, trogons, White-whiskered Puffbird, hummers (Blue-chested, White-necked Jacobin and others); Plain Brown, Northern Barred & Cocoa woodcreepers; Cinnamon, Crimson-crested & Black-cheeked woodpeckers; White-breasted Wood-Wren, Song Wren, Dot-winged, Checker-throated & White-flanked antwrens; Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Bright-rumped Attila, Gray-headed Tanager, Long-billed Gnatwren, Black-crowned & Fasciated antshrikes, Red-capped & Blue-crowned manakins, Great Tinamou, Ruddy-tailed, Royal & Yellow-margined flycatchers, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Scaly-throated Leaftosser and occasionally, a Great Jacamar or the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet! Lunch at CANOPY TOWER.
PM: Chagres River/Gamboa Feeders (15 min. from Canopy Tower)
After lunch, we take a short drive to Chagres River and the accompanying fields & forest. First, we must stop at the Canopy Bed & Breakfast in the picturesque village of Gamboa, to look at the bird feeders! With a beautiful backdrop of Cerro Pelado, the backyard at the Canopy B&B is teeming with bird life. At the fruit feeders, we are likely to see Red-legged, Shining & Green Honeycreepers, Lemon-rumped, Crimson-backed & Blue-gray Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonia, Yellow-bellied & Variable Seedeaters, Whooping Motmot and Gray-headed Chachalaca, with Central American Agoutis lurking about under the feeders. Next, we’re off to Chagres River, the main tributary for the Panama Canal. The birding along the river banks and the forest edges of Gamboa Resort can be spectacular! Here, we search for Amazon, Green & American Pygmy Kingfishers, as well as, Whooping Motmot and Cinnamon Woodpecker. We could also see Gray-Necked Wood-Rail, Cocoi, Green & Striated Herons, Wattled Jacana, Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Royal & Sandwich Terns, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Tricolored & Little Blue Herons, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Mangrove Swallow, Black-chested Jay, Lesser Kiskadee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cacique, Black-bellied & Buff-breasted Wrens, Fasciated & Barred Antshrikes, Cinnamon Becard, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-bellied Antbird, and even Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon and Blue Cotinga at times! Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
Day 5 – World Famous Pipeline Road (20 min. from Canopy Tower) FULL DAY
Today we will search for the area’s super-rare specialties, the Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo and Harpy Eagle, both re corded here. Eight species of wrens, 5 trogons, 4 puffbirds, 3 motmots, many tanagers and flycatchers, including the unusual Brownish Twistwing, Great Jacamar and Common Potoo, among others, are often found. Also, the calls of Streak-chested Antpitta and Black-faced Antthrush will lure us in! Army ant swarms are found occasionally, attended by a host of birds including, Bicolored, Ocellated & Spotted antbirds. Plus, we will hunt for Golden-collared, Red-capped & Blue-crowned manakins, always high on a birder’s list of favorites! Raptors include 3 forest-falcons, Tiny & Semiplumbeous hawks, Ornate & Black hawk-eagles (soaring overhead), as well as Carmiol’s & Sulphur-rumped tanagers, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Black-crowned & Masked tityras, Cinnamon & Crimson-crested woodpeckers, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Red-lored & Brown-hooded parrots, Collard Araçari, Pheasant Cuckoo, Speckled Mourner, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Black-mandibled & Keel-billed toucans, Black-striped, Northern Barred and Plain Brown woodcreepers! As we cross several rivers, we search for Sunbittern and Green-and-rufous Kingfisher. To maximize our time in the field, we enjoy a nice picnic lunch along Pipeline Road—but with scope and binoculars at the ready! After lunch, we search for more species, including the elusive Wing-banded Antbird and Spot-crowned Antvireo, Moustached Antwren, Ruddy Quail-Dove and Marbled Wood-Quail! Dinner at CANOPY TOWER.
Day 6 – Canopy Tower/Departure to Canopy Lodge
No need to wake up early today. After a leisurely breakfast and a last look at the birds from the Observation Deck, we’ll board a comfortable air-conditioned van for the 2-hour ride to El Valle de Antón, also known as Crater Valley. We will spend three nights near this lovely village, nestled in the crater of a long dormant volcano that last erupted 5 million years ago. The resultant scenery is quite unique: a steep valley surrounded by jagged peaks and filled with flowers, streams and verdant forests. We arrive in time for lunch. Our home for the next three nights will be the Canopy Lodge, sister lodge of the Canopy Tower, a charming eco-lodge built next to a bubbling mountain stream and adjacent to the protected area of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. At 2,400-feet in elevation, you will immediately appreciate the noticeably cooler temperatures here! A member of staff will greet you as you arrive at the Lodge, and you will be provided with an orientation on the use of the facilities. As your luggage is being ferried to your room, or after you get settled in, you may visit the dining area and enjoy a refreshing drink and snack. You will immediately want to scan the bird feeders and grounds! Crimson-backed, Blue-gray, White-lined, Flame-rumped, Dusky-faced & Plain-colored tanagers, along with Red-crowned Ant-Tanager are about, as are Thick-billed Euphonia, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Streaked & Buff-throated saltators, Lineated & Red-crowned woodpeckers, Red-legged Honeycreepers, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Social Flycatcher, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Barred Antshrike, Clay-colored Thrush, Rufous Motmot; Rufous-tailed, Snowy-bellied & Violet-headed hummingbirds and Garden Emerald! Lunch and Dinner at CANOPY LODGE.
Day 7 – AM: Las Minas Trail (20 min. from Canopy Lodge)
After breakfast (during which we will watch for Orange-billed Sparrow calling off the end of the dining area), we head to Las Minas, an excellent place to get a wide variety of birds. The road follows the ridge line, with sweeping vistas of forested mountains, speckled with grasslands and small fincas. The views from here are fantastic, as on a clear day near the summit, both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans can be seen! Specialties of the region include Black-and-yellow, Bay-headed & Emerald tanagers, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Gray-headed Kite, Barred Hawk, Bat Falcon, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, White-tipped Sicklebill, Green Thorntail, Orange-bellied & Black-throated trogons, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Plain Antvireo, the endemic Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Spotted Woodcreeper, Red-capped & White-ruffed manakins, Band-rumped Swift and Black Guan have all been recorded here! A forested slope here is also our best chance for Black-headed Antthrush! We get back in time for lunch at the CANOPY LODGE.
PM: Cara Iguana (15 min. from Canopy Lodge)
With a full stomach and some rest, we head to Cara Iguana Trail, where we enjoy outstanding foothill birding in some of the last remaining examples of quality Dry Pacific Forest. Specialties we hope to find in this bird-rich habitat are Lesser Elaenia, Yellow-olive & Panama flycatchers, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, , Lance-tailed Manakin, Rufous-breasted & Rufous-and-white wrens, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Tody & Whooping motmots and Long-billed Gnatwren. Also resident are Striped Cuckoo, Little Tinamou, Common Potoo, Dusky & White-bellied antbirds, Barred Antshrike, White-winged Becard, Tropical Screech-Owl and Bat Falcon. Hummers to watch for are Garden Emerald, Long-billed Starthroat and White-vented Plumeleteer. During migration we look for Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green & Worm-eating warblers. Dinner at CANOPY LODGE.
Day 8 – AM: La Mesa Road (15 min. from Canopy Lodge)
After breakfast, we continue our quest for more lifers with a trip to La Mesa Road. This area, which is a visually pleasing blend of secondary forest, scrubby pastures, overgrown fincas and grassy borders, is home to many of the area’s specialties. Here is where we look for such great birds as Spot-crowned Barbet, Cinnamon Becard, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Silver-throated, Golden-hooded, Tawny-crested & Bay-headed tanagers, Spot-crowned Antvireo and Spotted Woodcreeper; hummers, such as White-tipped Sicklebill, Rufous-crested Coquette, Crowned Woodnymph and Black-throated Mango. Also resident are Blue-throated Toucanet, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and Orange-bellied Trogon. Lunch at CANOPY LODGE.
PM: Water Cress Trail (15 min. from Canopy Lodge)
After lunch we are off to Water Cress Trail, named after the plant which is commercially grown in the terraced creek near the entrance. This easy trail traverses through good secondary forest, which is framed by picturesque forested mountains of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. Good birds here are Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Black-headed Saltator, Great Antshrike, White-ruffed Manakin, White-thighed Swallow, White-bellied Antbird and Tody Motmot; hummers, such as Long-billed Starthroat, Rufous-crested Coquette and, when the Inga is in bloom, we scan for Snowcap! We will also listen for Purplish-backed Quail-Dove. Dinner at CANOPY LODGE.
Day 9 – Departure to Airport – Bocas del Toro – Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge
After a leisurely breakfast if time permits, you may do some last-minute-birding in the gardens surrounding the lodge. Then, we will drive for about three hours to the small domestic airport at Panamá City for your flight to Bocas del Toro. You will be met on arrival at Colon Island and taken to the private boat, which will transport you to Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge, strategically located in the epi-center of national parks and protected reserves. This advantageous geographic position enables an efficient use of the archipelago’s protected waters to reach otherwise inaccessible wildlife areas on the mainland and islands by boat. The well-appointed lodge and its amenities, reside on 200-forested acres covering three distinct ecosystems, adjacent to Bastimentos Island National Marine Park, within the La Amistad UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The main lodge’s veranda, private cabanas and canopy observation tower, provide elevated decks for a birds-eye view of the extraordinary wildlife found here. Several kilometres of hiking trails, in addition to those on the lodge’s grounds, often provide encounters with Two and Three-toed sloths, White-faced Capuchin and Panamanian Night Monkeys, Nine-banded Armadillo, Spectacled Caiman, Central American Woolly Opossum, Grey Four-eyed Opossum, Northern Tamandua, Greater White-lined Bats, kettles of migrating raptors, Three-wattled Bellbird, Golden-collard Manakin (several leks), and hummingbird bathing pools. You can also take advantage of the warm Caribbean Sea just off the dock, where vibrant coral reefs encompass a garden rich in hard and soft corals, as well as, a brilliant kaleidoscope of tropical fish and invertebrates.
Once at Tranquilo Bay, you will have a short orientation of the surroundings before dinner, which vary based upon the local ingredients available, however you should expect three or four delicious courses each night. Overnight at TRANQUILO BAY.
Day 10 – Tranquilo Bay – Orientation and Birding
Today after enjoying some early morning birds from the canopy observation tower or the lodge’s veranda and a wonderful breakfast, we will enter the forest trail with our guide, in search of Chestnut-backed Antbird, White-flanked and Dot-winged antwrens, Black-crowned Antshrike, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, and the geographically misplaced Stub-tailed Spadebill. After a short hike, we will arrive at Pineapple Hill, a small elevated clearing at the forest’s edge, which is an important forage area for a multitude of Neotropical and migratory species. This is an excellent place to get good looks at feeding birds such as Golden-collared and Red-Capped manakins; three species of honeycreepers; Passerini’s, Scarlet, White-lined, and Summer tanagers; Baltimore Oriole; Band-tailed Barbthroat; Green-breasted Mango; White-necked Jacobin and Purple-crowned Fairy hummingbirds; Scaled Pigeon; Double-toothed Kite; Roadside Hawk; and the hard to see White-throated Crake. Once we are ready to move on, another forest trail will take us to a Golden-collared Manakin lek. During the mating season, from about December-August, active courts in each lek should have displaying males. Further along this trail will bring us to an area of high forest canopy, where Three-wattled Bellbirds like to spend midday. When the sun is a little strong, this canopy specialist likes to perch underneath the leaves in the cooler shade, presenting a nice opportunity with less backlighting for the photo enthusiast. On the way back to the lodge, to enjoy a homemade lunch in comfort, we will search the forest floor for the famous Isla Bastimentos Red Poison Dart frog. This morph of Oophaga pumilio, is studied onsite by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who are researching its evolutionary traits. After a short siesta, we can focus our efforts in the mangrove forest looking for several species of herons, Green Ibis, Mangrove Black Hawk, all six kingfishers known to the Americas, Mangrove Cuckoo, Wimbrel, Willet, Prothonotary Warbler, and the resident Yellow Warbler or “Mangrove Warbler” whose males exhibit a stunning red hood. In the evening we will climb the canopy tower to watch from a bird’s-eye view, the pandemonium of Redlored and Mealy parrots paired up and returning home, as groups of chattering Blueheaded Parrots join in the chorus. Some previous guests have dubbed these daily flights “The Invasion of Tranquilo Bay.” We will also have a good chance of up-close looks at White-crowned and Scaled pigeons; Black-crowned and Masked tityras; Lineated and Black-cheeked woodpeckers; Blue-grey, Palm, and Plain-coloured tanagers; White-vented Euphonia; and scores of flycatchers. Once we watch the beautiful tropical sun set over the Talamanca Range, we can walk back to the lodge for hard earned drinks, appetizers, and a delicious dinner and overnight at TRANQUILO BAY.
Day 11 – Mainland Birding – Fortuna Forest Reserve
The Continental Divide of the Talamanca Range, between the provinces of Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui, is one of Panama’s premier birding and wilderness areas. Today we will focus on the area known as Umbrellabird Road, between the Continental Divide and north of Fortuna Reservoir. Fortuna Forest Reserve, established in 1976, is a species-rich area and part of Bird Life International Endemic Bird Area Costa Rica and Panama Highlands, EBA 020. The distinct avifauna in this globally important area include many regional endemics and restricted range species. Our visit here is sure to produce some outstanding birds with opportunities to see: Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Red-faced Spinetail, Ashythroated Bush-Tanager, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Black and Crested guans, Blue-and-Gold Tanager, Black-thighed and Black-faced grosbeaks, and Golden-winged Warbler to mention a few. We will enjoy a picnic lunch while overlooking the beautiful vistas of Lake Fortuna. Typical species highlights might include: Azure-hooded Jay; Sulphur-winged and Barred parakeets; Bay-headed, Rufous-winged, Flame-coloured, Whitewinged, Carmiol’s, Cherrie’s, Hepatic, and Spangled-cheeked tanagers; Slate-throated Redstart; Tropical Parula; Blue-and-White Swallow; Rufous-winged; Golden-olive and Smoky-brown woodpeckers; Elegant and Tawny-capped euphonias; Slaty Flower-piercer; Golden-bellied Flycatcher; and the gorgeous Orange-bellied Trogon. Several raptors are possible including Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Barred Hawk, Great Black-Hawk, and Swallowtailed Kite along with abundant kettles during the migration season. More possibilities worth mentioning include Blue-throated Toucanet; Red-headed and Prong-billed barbets; White-crowned and White-ruffed manakins; Broad-billed Motmot; Green-thorntail, Snowy-bellied, Stripe-tailed, and Rufous-crested coquette; and Black-bellied Hummingbirds. The strange Tayra, a weasel like Neotropical mammal with wrinkled facial skin, has been spotted in this area. A relaxing boat ride back to the lodge might produce Brown Boobies, Black and Royal terns, Willet, Mangrove Swallow, and Bottlenose Dolphins among others. We will arrive back at the lodge in the early evening where we can discuss our lists and share the day’s best photos over appetizers and drinks on the veranda followed by dinner and overnight at TRANQUILO BAY.
Day 12 – Finca de Cacao Chocolate Farm and Isla Popa Birds & Frogs – Bocas del Toro Archipelago
After birding from the lodge’s terrace with Panamanian coffee and a casual breakfast a little later than usual, we will take a tranquil 20-minute boat ride through Dolphin Bay to Buena Esperanza. The collection of tropical flora found at this location represents the best plants and therefore, butterflies in the archipelago. A superb water garden and natural creek running through the property also attract many species of mammals, reptiles and multi-coloured amphibians. The psychedelic green and black poison dart frogs, Dendrobates auratus, can be prolific with sufficient moisture. The landowners, who live onsite, protect this beautiful piece of mainland forest, by using the property to operate an artisanal chocolate farm. Cacao trees, grown to produce organic chocolate, thrive under the shade of the forest canopy. Under this stunning canopy we will be searching for Slatytailed, White-tailed, and Gartered trogons; Purple-throated Fruitcrow; Black-chested Jay; Pale-billed Woodpecker; Pied Puffbird; Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant; Montezuma and Chestnut-headed oropendolas; Keel-billed and Black-mandibled toucans; Cocoa Woodcreeper; and many more species. Mammal sightings might include Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Mantled Howler Monkey, Kinkajou, Three and Two-toed sloths, squirrels, and Greater White-lined Bats.
Each of the islands in the Bocas del Toro archipelago has interesting wildlife and high levels of endemism, however Isla Popa, the second largest island in the chain, has more species of birds and mammals due to its close proximity to the mainland. A leisurely boat ride of about two kilometers will bring us to a dense gallery forest surrounded by the rich mangrove lagoons of nearby Isla Popa. We will birdwatch in this phenomenal area by boat; peacefully enjoying flights of Keel-billed and Black-mandibled toucans, Crimsonfronted Parakeets, Brown-hooded Parrots, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Golden-hooded Tanager, Plumbeus and Swallow-tailed kites, Pale-billed, and Lineated woodpeckers, Mangrove Cuckoo, American-pygmy Kingfisher, and hopefully see male Snowy Cotingas conspicuously blazing in the sun. This mangrove lagoon has some beautiful Turtle Sea Grass where we can have good looks at sponges, starfish, urchins and Upside-down Jellyfish. Dinner and overnight at TRANQUILO BAY.
Day 13 – San San Pond Sak Wetlands – Birding & Wildlife by boat
Today will be a tranquil day of “birding by boat” within several lush, coastal, wetland habitats. San San Pond Sak Wetlands is a designated Ramsar site, as well as a part of the La Amistad UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area is rich with abundant habitats including Atlantic wet lowland forest, Raphia palm swamp, fresh water river course, ocean impact beachfront, and mangroves. Access to this verdant wildlife area will be via boat through the historic Snyder Canal, as birds conveniently fly through the gallery forest, back and forth across the waterway. After the Snyder Brothers finished construction in the late 1890s, the canal was used to transport bananas from the Changuinola River Valley, to the protected waters of Almirante Bay at Boca del Drago, where they were loaded onto transport ships. Panama’s first canal was vital in establishing The United Fruit Company, in the very beginning of what would become, “The Banana Republic”. This is an excellent place to find many lowland bird species, northern and altitudinal migrants, raptors and shorebirds. All six species of kingfishers known to the Americas can be found here and we will be watching closely for regional endemics like the diminutively distributed Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, White-collard Manakin (Almirante race), Olivebacked Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, Canebrake Wren, and Three-wattled Bellbird. Also possible are, Masked Duck, Common Gallinule, Least Bittern, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Potoo, Northern Jacana, and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. Raptor sightings might include Yellow-headed Caracara; Bat, Laughing and Peregrine falcons; Osprey; and Pearl Kite. From the high branches of fruiting trees down to the grassy and shrubby edge, we might find Passerini’s and Golden-hooded tanagers, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Redbreasted Blackbird, Buff-throated Saltator, Groove-billed Ani, Squirrel Cuckoo, chatters of Olive-throated Parakeets, Streaked and Scissor-tailed flycatchers, and the minute Common, Black-headed and Slate-headed tody-flycatchers. With any luck, mammal sightings might produce Mantled Howler Monkey, Crab-eating Racoon, White-nosed Coati, Neotropical River Otter, West Indian Manatee and Bottlenose Dolphin. Soropta Beach, important for migrating and resident shorebirds, is also a nesting ground for Leatherback and Hawksbill sea turtles, in addition to Green Iguanas, Basilisk Lizards, Common Boa Constrictor, Spectacled Caiman and American Crocodile.
Here on the beach, we will enjoy a picnic lunch with fresh sea breezes and the shorebirds. This vibrant river mouth and beachfront might produce Parasitic and Pomarine jaegers; Wilson’s, Collared, and Semipalmated plovers; Ruddy Turnstones; Sanderlings; Least, Pectoral and Semipalmated sandpipers; Common and Lesser nighthawks; Lesser and Greater yellowlegs; four species of tern; and Roseate Spoonbill. In the afternoon, sea conditions permitting, we will pass just two miles offshore to a breathtaking rookery and reserve known as Swan’s Caye, for beautiful close-up looks at Panama’s only known breeding colony of Red-billed Tropicbirds, as well as Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. We will return to the lodge in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight at TRANQUILO BAY.
Day 14 – Departure from Tranquilo Bay to Panama City and flight home
Your last morning to enjoy the surroundings at Tranquilo Bay. You could do some birding on the trails or from the Observatory Tower, from where you will get a panoramic bird’s-eye view of three distinctly different ecosystems within Bastimentos Island National Marine Park. The bird watching, wildlife, and photo opportunities from this incredible vantage point are truly sublime. Then at around mid-day, you will leave by boat for the airport at Colon Island and your flight to Panama City and connections for your final destination.
Day 15 – Arrive home.