Isthmus of Panama Birding Adventure

Day 1
Arrival To Panama

Upon arrival to Panama you will be met in the Tocumen International airport by a bilingual, interpretive, and birding expert and escorted to your accommodations.  From your lodging, guests can wander the tree-lined streets of this former Canal Zone neighborhood.  Frequent evening and morning visitors to this area include a variety of tanagers, toucans, thrushes, flycatchers, and more.  This evening we will host a “Get Acquainted” event with cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a tour briefing.

Day 2
Pipeline Road & Summit Ponds

Pipeline Road and Summit Ponds located in and near Soberania National Park, with access to both forest and wetland birds, is considered by many to be two of the best birding locations in all of the tropics. In a single day it is possible to see up to 300 species. Due to the nature of the inhabitants of the forest it is not uncommon to encounter army ant swarms attended by antbirds.  Mixed flocks are frequent flyers. 

The many birds found within the park on Pipeline road include: trogons, wrens, puffbirds, hummingbirds, hermits, and motmots. Forest-falcons are commonly heard and sometimes seen. Exploring the nearby wetlands one can often find Rufescent Tiger-herons, White-throated Crakes, Wattled Jacanas, Purple Gallinules, and many other aquatic species. But birds are not the only animals one encounters when exploring this area of Panama. Many other abound, including the monkeys, sloths, iguanas, frogs, toads, and rodents such as the agouti, paca, and capybara.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 3
Escobal, Achiote Road, & San Lorenzo National Park

Early this morning we will set out for the area of Escobal and Achiote Road, the site of Panama Audubon Society's world-famed Christmas Bird Count, which regularly reports over 340 species in a 24-hour period.  The road extends through open habitat and features a variety of Caribbean specialties not likely to be seen on the Pacific side of the Isthmus.  Here we will search for diurnal raptors and specialties such as Spot-crowned Barbet, Black Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-crested Coquette, Montezuma Oropendola, Brown-hooded Parrot, Black-bellied Wren, Pied Puffbird and rarities like Bare-crowned Antbird and White-headed Wren.  

San Lorenzo National Park is located on the cliffs at the mouth of the Chagres River where it finally meets the Caribbean ocean.  Fort San Lorenzo, well known for its historical significance, is also a great place to look for wildlife and birds. 

Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 4
Metropolitan Park & Panama Viejo

Metropolitan Nature Park, located only ten minutes from downtown Panama City is the only Tropical Forest Park within a capital city in all of Latin America. The area has remained largely undisturbed for the last 80 years and is a great place to experience dry, deciduous, lowland tropical forest.

What makes Metro Park so unique is that it is adjacent to the Panama Canal watershed land that consists of of national parks and protected reserve land. Within the 265 hectares that make up Metro Park you can find up to 267 species of birds including national endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet, Blue-crowned Motmots, Rufous-and-White Wrens, Lance-tailed Manakins, Greenlets, Flycatchers, Honeycreepers, and Tanagers.  Among the many birds one also can find 3 species of monkeys, two and three-toed sloths, many reptiles, and much more.  They don’t know they’ve entered the city limits!  From the Mirador, the park’s highest point located at 150 meters above sea level, the view of the Bay of Panama and the islands of Perico, Naos, Flamenco, Taboguilla and Taboga and observing the Panama Canal entrance on the Pacific side, the Bridge of the Americas, and Ancon Hill is breath taking.

After lunch we will visit the ancient city of Panama Viejo. Founded in 1519 by the conquistador Pedrarías Dávila, Panamá Viejo is the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It was laid out on a rectilinear grid and marks the transference from Europe of the idea of a planned town.  In 1671 the city was sacked and burned by the Welsh privateer, Henry Morgan.  Today, the remaining ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site flanking the mud flats of the Bay of Panama, a key resting spot for millions of migratory sea birds.  Within the ruins we find Saffron Finches, Crested Caracaras, and Yellow-crowned Amazon.  Along the shores Black-necked Stilt, Southern Lapwing, and the Black Skimmers are often seen.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 5
Chiriqui Highlands: Volcan and Cerro Punta

This morning we take the early morning flight to David and the Chiriqui Highlands located in western Panama.  Upon arrival, we’ll set out for Laguna de Volcan where we’ll be looking for the Red-rumped Woodpecker, Chiriqui Yellowthroat, and and Pale-breasted Spinetail.

Next, we’ll move to Finca Hartman.
 The owners of this old farm, concerned about disappearing habitat, are allowing the majority of the land to revert back to forest.  The area still used for farming is dedicated to shade-grown coffee under towering remnant rainforest trees, with some land still covered by highland cloud forest. Access roads ranging in elevation from 400-6000 ft provide a good altitudinal gradient for birding. Christmas bird counts on the finca yield nearly 200 species and over 280 species have been recorded in total, including Turquoise Cotinga, Elegant Euphonia,

Meals Included: B, L, D

Parque International La Amistad (PILA) and Los Quetzales

Parque International La Amistad (PILA) lies along the Talamanca mountain range was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 due to the great importance it has for the preservation of biodiversity in Panama and the American continent.  The park’s plant and animal life is some of the most diverse in Panama.  Among the nearly 600 types of birds identified in the area are such spectacular species as the Resplendent Quetzal, the Three-wattled Bellbird, and the rarely seen Bare-necked Umbrella Bird. 

Exploring the area around Los Quetzales Inn, where we will be staying, is perhaps the best place to find Resplendent Quetzal. Many other highland specialties can also be found, including Black Guan, Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets, Buffy Tuftedcheek, White-fronted Tyrannulet, Tufted Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Yellow-thighed Finch, and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 7
Panama City and Preparation for Darien

Today we head back to Panama City but not before stopping at Macho de Monte to look for the River-side Wren.  This afternoon we’ll rest-up and repack for our expedition to Eastern Panama and the Darien. 

Meals Included: B, L, D

Days 8, 9, 10
Riserva Privada Cerro Chucanti

This morning we head out by road along the PanAmerican Highway to the amazing cloud forest of Riserva Privada Cerro Chucanti.  Along the way we’ll be on the look-out for Bat Falcon, American Kestrel White, Roadside, and Savannah Hawks.  This day will be an exciting and challenging adventure for all with a four hour horseback ride up the mountain to the biological field station where we will be staying. 

Until recently, (2004) endemic species of birds such as the Beautiful Treerunner and the Strip-cheeked Woodpecker, and rare specialties including the Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Varied Solitaire, and Violet-throated Toucanet could only be found in the very remote regions of Darien National Park.  Among these endemic species we’ll also be searching for Violet Capped Hummingbird, Crested Guans, Yellow eared Toucanet, and various raptors species including the Barred Hawk and Black and White Hawk Eagle

Meals Included: B, L, D

Days 11, 12
Burbayar Lodge

After “roughing:” it in the cloud forest (the only way to experience this amazing area) we’ll take the horses back down the mountain (this time only a 2 hour ride)and make our way to Burbayar.  This beautiful lodge is located on the summit of the San Blas range, between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in a zone between lowland and piedmont regions, with birds from both regions in the area.  From the terraces you can sight several hummingbird species such as the Little Hermit, Garden Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Black Throated Mango; parrots including the Mealy Amazon, Brown-hooded Parrot and Blue-headed Parrot; toucans such as the Keel-billed Toucan and the Collared Aracari; and tanagers like the Golden-hooded Tanager, Sulphur-rumped Tanager, Summer Tanager and Rufous-winged Tanager, just to mention a few.

Home to hundreds of bird and many mammal species, one can explore caves and rivers and walk along trails through a marvelous forest and part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 13
Modern and Ancient Panama City

Since one cannot visit Panama without seeing the city, our last day of this itinerary will be spent seeing the sights of ancient and modern Panama.  Our morning will be spent at the Miraflores Vistors Center (MVC), an expression of the permanent commitment of the Panama Canal Authority to strengthen the public’s knowledge of the Canal. Located on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, the CVM allows the visitor to observe transiting vessels from a distance of only a few meters and learn firsthand about the various operations of the Panama Canal, the history of its construction, its participation in the world markets, and the importance of its watershed.

Our next stop will be the Seafood and Farmers market of Panama City. The waters off the coast of Panama on the Pacific side are rich in seafood. The fishermen come in daily and sell their catches to wholesalers who buy the entire load. The wholesalers then turn around and resell the fish to retailers who sell it to the general public. The stands in the seafood market are retailers who sell to the general public.  After viewing the local produce and seafood, we will head upstairs to the Restaurant de Mariscos for a lunch at one the best places to eat local cuisine with the locals. 

In the afternoon we will visit Casco Antiguo, The historic center of Panama City. It is a quiet, charming district of narrow streets overlooked by the flower bedecked balconies of two and three-story houses. At its tip lies French Park, a monument to the French builders who began the Panama Canal, and the lovely French Embassy. As we meander through the area we will see the remaining ruins of the convents and seminaries, the famous Flat Arch, which reportedly helped convince engineers that Panama was earth-quake-proof and the beautiful Cathedral with its mother of pearl covered spires. 

Time permitting we’ll visit the former YMCA which now houses the local artisans market. The Artisan Market in Panama City is a warren of wonderful little stalls and stores where it is possible to find, under one roof, all of the local arts and crafts. The mola, made by the Kuna Indians, is an intricately stitched and overlaid piece of fabric that can be used for many purposes.  The tagua nut is a collectible item that is delicately carved and painted to resemble many of the local wildlife of Panama. Beadwork and Embera baskets abound.

Meals Included: B, L, D

Day 14
Panama Departure

Today we’ll say “hasta luego” to this enchanting country and return home, where you’ll be eager to share your incredible Panama birding experiences and your newly expanded life list!

Meals Included: B

Each departure itinerary may vary slightly. Although the day in which a stop is listed may differ, you will enjoy the same experiences listed here.

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