Welcome to Birds In My Bins And Lens: Eyeing The Avifauna And Fauna Of The Americas. It has always been a childhood dream of mine to travel to the tropics. I vividly remember being nine years-old, thumbing through seemingly endless stacks of Ranger Rick, National Wildlife, National Geographic and International Wildlife Magazines, dreaming of visiting such wonderful places as: Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, etc. in order to see all the great birds and animals that call these places home. Finally, after 40 years, I am fulfilling my childhood dreams.

Photo Above: Flame-faced Tanager (Male) Ecuador August 2014


Monday, June 23, 2014

PANAMA. JUNE 11-21, 2014


The daily string/sting of subzero wind chills were not only physically numbing, but also mind numbing.

Those that say, "but it's so pretty out" are the same ones who either stay home all day or who work in a warm cubicle some where. 
Even though it was "only" -11 air temperature and a "balmy" -28 wind chill, it was not the coldest day we had by far. This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me and the day that enough was enough!! I decided right then and there, I was going back to Panama!!

The rest of the day, just added to my angst against winter. The roads I travel and make deliveries on, were rarely plowed. Most were reduced to mere two racks by the vehicles that made their way through the mess. I was glad to have taken the plunge and made reservations for my trip!


Going down one of my many snow covered, drifted over roads in my big propane truck, on my route. Hoping that another vehicle would not be coming from the other direction, seeing there is not any room for them to pass. Lord knows, I will not pull-over to allow them to pass. Most likely, I would push them out of my way. Those of you who really know me, know that I would do it.

On an occasional Sunday off, the weather still sucked, with more snow storms...adding to the ever growing snow fall totals.

My house was a "Winter Wonderland". The snow mounds in my yard grew daily. One afternoon, while out traversing the towering peaks, to fetch my mail, I ended up rescuing the Donner Party. Some of you might get the joke!?


So, on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, I sat in my work truck, just totally disgusted, exhausted and frustrated with winter (photo to the left). I committed right then and there to go back to Panama as soon as possible.

I sat in my truck and emailed Elba Pan (who works at the reservations department for the Canopy Tower Family of Eco-lodges). I emailed her just before 10:00am, telling her I wanted (NEEDED) to come back to Panama! She emailed me back within minutes. Expressing how excited she was to hear from me and was even more excited about my return to her beautiful country. Obviously, she was not as excited as I was! However, her excitement fed mine even more.
I picked the dates, June 11-21, 2014 for my return to Panama. Obviously, it wouldn't be soon enough, but making plans gave me something to look forward to. I am a very goal driven person, so having this "light at the end of the tunnel" would get me through the rest of the horrible winter. That and I had just booked a trip to Ecuador for my August vacation--which I can't wait to do.

The view of Panama City from the over look at Metropolitan Park. this is a nice, huge park. the largest rainforest park in all of Latin America, associated with the big cities. This is the park, where I got my lifer Tiny Hawk. From this over look, we had great views not only of the city, but eye level looks at Short-tailed Hawk, Gray-headed Kite and other raptors.

My first trip to Panama, was almost a year ago to the day, was truly one of the most outstanding experiences of my nascent globe trotting life.
http://birdamericas.blogspot.com/2013_06_01_archive.html and this third trip, was even better! In fact, it was the most outstanding birding and wildlife experience in my life! Thanks, Michael, Domi & Alexis! You three are amazing, friendly people with outstanding personalities, incredible knowledge of the birds and animals and the best guides, EVER!

Granted, I could have chosen to go any where for this vacation. It's a great big world out there, after all. So many places to visit. So many places I need to visit: Guatemala, Peru, Cambodia, Honduras, Tanzania...All of which are on my radar. But, it is views like these below, that draw me back.

Sunrise from a top of the Canopy Tower. June 2014. The sunrises from here are amazing. It begins to get light around 5:15am. The birds and Howler Monkeys begin to wake up around then as well. Red-lored, Mealy and Blue-headed Parrots, Great Tinamous, Slaty-backed and Collared Forest Falcons, Green-shrike Vireos, Keel-billed Toucans, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Plain-colored and Golden-hooded Tanagers and an array of other bird sounds fill the air. Many of the birds are visible at eye level.

View of the Chagres River. June 2014. My guide, Domi, fellow birders, Chris, Petra and Karen and I stopped for a cold Cerveza (a cold Balboa Beer) at the Rainforest Resort and this was our view. A nice thunderstorm was making it's appearance known, while egrets, herons, swallows, toucans and others winged by.

However, there is also something to be said for finding "that special place" and sticking with it and getting to know her better and making "that" place "yours." Panama is "that" place for me. She holds a very special place in my heart, for so many different reasons. It is hard to put into words my affections for her, but if you've been there or go there, you do/will understand.

I like Panama so much, that I bought an old, expired Panama License Plate for the front of my pick-up truck!

I decided to return to the place where I made my first pilgrimage to Panama. The world famous Canopy Tower (above). For an interesting, short history about the tower, check out this link http://www.canopytower.com/History 

I fell absolutely in love with this place on my first trip and vowed to return someday. The lodge is amazing! Not fancy, but very functional and very comfortable. The birding here and the surrounding environs is outstanding!
The tower's dining hall and common room. There are large windows on all sides of the room, which give a great 360 degree views of the jungle, where many of the birds and mammals are at eye level, just mere feet away. When the windows are open, sometimes these jungle critters will come in for a visit. Such visitors that came in during this stay included: Huge False Vampire Bats (that are crow-sized), other smaller bats, Plain-colored Tanagers, Spotted Antbirds, Owl Butterflies and a huge array of other insects and house geckos. It was fun watching the geckos stalk and snatch the moths that were on the ceilings or walls.
An added bonus, as a returning guest, I received a very, very nice discount on my stay. So much so, I added three additional nights. The price was too good to pass up! I could not go to Florida for the same amount of time as cheap as I did this trip. The trip was a package deal, which included all transport to and from the airport, all lodging and meals (excellent food), a guide (the most awesome guides), a vehicle for all daily birding forays and wine nightly at dinner (good wine too!). I had gotten more than my money's worth! I Can't wait to go back!



This was my third trip to Panama; my second to the Canopy Tower in a year.

Even though I had birded the area around the tower pretty extensively last June; seeing many of the birds that are possible in the Canal Zone.


There were some major holes in my list for the area and I hoped to fill in some of them on this trip. One bird that I was hoping to score, was, Black-and-white Hawk Eagle. The picture above, I am scanning for that species in an area that they are known to frequent. Unfortunately, I didn't see one. However, the small speck in the middle of the photo is a soaring King Vulture, which is not a bad second place bird.

The other holes in my Panama list were some pretty uncommon and rare/hard to find birds. Nonetheless, I managed to see many of them, thanks to my guides, Michael, Domi and Alex. These guys are amazing!

This trip to Panama was the most amazing time birding I have ever had. The trip produced a decent 247 species of birds, which 15 were lifers. I also acquired five species of birds new to my Panama list. Most of the birds we saw, we saw well, which is always a plus.

We had additional birds we heard, but did not see. I did not include them to the trip list. Thankfully, none of the birds that were heard only would have been lifers.

I managed to get some of the "top on my list of birds" I wanted to see for the trip. These include: Slaty-backed Forest Falcon, Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo, Tiny Hawk, Hook-billed Kite, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Crested Owl (which I saw  on Semaphore Hill as I was being taken to the airport at 5:30am) and Pheasant Cuckoo. 
Other avian lifer highlights include: Royal Flycatcher, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Olive-backed Quail-Dove,  and Long-tailed Woodcreeper.


The only negative during my trip (other than it wasn't long enough), my main Camera, my Canon 40D, crapped out on me on the third day. The mother board went on the fritz again. Second time this has happened since I owned this body.

Since the camera took a dump, I used my iPhone, IPad and my Nikon Point and Shoot Camera.
Using these three options, rather than my main set-up was not the best, but still allowed me to capture some images, albeit, less than stellar ones.

When I returned home, I purchased a new Fuji Finepix S1 Digital Camera. It's not a high end model, but a decent "bridge camera" that will more than suffice for my upcoming trip to Ecuador in August, replacing both my Canon set up and my Nikon for travels to the tropics. Thus, keeping my main bird photography gear from being torn up in the humidity. This camera is weather resistant (moisture and dust sealed). I will most definitely put it to the test.
This new Fuji camera will be easier to carry and should allow for some serious flexibility in the field with it's 24-1200mm (35mm equivalent) 50X Zoom lens. Plus, it will be great for taking photos of my other favorite subjects, my nephews Jaryn, Anson and Revere (my newest nephew) and my niece, Kira.


 An adult Male Tiny Hawk (digiscoped  by my friend and guide, Michael Castro with my iPhone). This is my lifer Tiny Hawk (thanks Karen for spotting this one!). It was great seeing this uncommon and hard to find raptor. We watched this guy for about 15 minutes. He eventually flew from his perch to catch a large Cicada. He was perched just above our heads and paid no attention to us.


Male Mantled Howler Monkey. This guy, the alpha male, was huge. He and his troop of 15 fellow primates stopped by the tower an hour after I had arrived.

Male Geoffrey's Tamarin. This alpha male would bring his troop by the tower every couple of days. These little monkeys are incredibly cute. One day, while birding at another site, we watched two rival troops cross paths and fight and battle one another. Amazing how mean they can be for such cute buggers.

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth waking up from a nap. This guy spent a few days in a Cercropia Tree, just a couple of feet away from top of the tower. I assume this is the same fellow I photographed in the same tree last year.
This is how a Sloth sleeps 90 feet off the ground. I always find it amazing that they can sleep in such weird ways on such small branches.
This is how a Brown-throated Three-Toed sloth sleeps in a torrential rain, 80 feet above the ground. Looks almost human sleeping this way.

Metal Mark Butterfly on a Lantana Flower

Army Ants ganging up on and attacking "prey" as it tries to flee the swarm

Male Red-legged Honeycreeper. These guys were daily visitors in a Cercropia Tree just off the platform at top of the tower

Capped Heron (Not a captive bird. The fence behind him is the fence that surrounds this pond at a police training station). Taken with my iPhone. This is an uncommon bird and a difficult one to find.


A baby lizard (I assume is a Gecko?) I rescued from a large Army Ant Swarm. He was about to be torn to shreds. Poor little guy was running for his life. He wasn't too excited about being caught at first. When I finally caught him, he didn't want to leave my hand. Every time I put him on the ground, he would run and jump back on my hand. I think he knew he was safe. I figured he was thinking that it's better taking his chances with me than tens of thousands of Army Ants!? I ended up moving him about 50 yards from the ant swarm and put him up in a tree.

Tree Boa was sitting on a wall ledge by the tower, right underneath one of the main flower bushes that many of the hummingbirds feed at. I think the small bulge in the center of the snake is (was) a hummingbird. This beautiful snake was about 15-17" long.
Wine Cup Mushrooms
A young Howler Monkey with a terrible infestation of Botflies. A horrible parasite. Yes, there is a human Botfly too. Most likely, this young monkey will not survive this parasite infestation. Most likely dying due to secondary infection. Last year, I photographed an adult Male (whom I named, "Eugene") who also had several of these parasites. He died two weeks after I photographed him. The lumps are called "Warbles" and it is in these warbles that the larvae (maggot) of the Botfly lives. You can see the breathing hole at the end of the warble.

This is Eugene from last year. He would imitate me sticking my tongue out at him. This photo of him, was chosen as "the photo of the month" in the June News Letter for the Canopy Tower. I was sadden to hear he had died two weeks after I took this photo.
Plain-colored Tanager. A very common bird at the tower. They frequently come into the dining hall to see if we left anything for them.
White-nosed Coati (male). Not a lifer, but always cool to see.
Leaf Toad. I have seen these on my previous trip. They are pretty cool looking and one of my favorites.
Another Leaf Toad
I believe this is one of the Tantilla Snakes?
Streak-chested Antpitta taken with my iPhone. neat little birds Looks like a tail-less Thrush. Antpittas are not the easiest groups of birds to get good looks at. They are ground stalkers and usually hide in the thickets. Thankfully, they are usually pretty vocal.
One of my favorite flowers. Not sure of the actual name of this, but the locals call it "hotlips"

A Spectacled Caiman...waiting for lunch and giving me the Stink-eye.

A cool mantis we found one day on Pipeline Road. He would chase our green lazer pointer around the tree like a cat. It was pretty funny. he was about 4 inches long.

One of my favorite parts of doing a full day's birding in the field, is eating lunch in the Jungle. The bottom photo is my guide and friend, Michael. this guy is an amazing guide and one helluva a nice guy!  The vehicle is necessary for getting up and down the roads. Here, we are on world famous Pipeline Road. While eating lunch, there was an Ornate Hawk-Eagle calling. Later on after lunch, we got to see glimpses of two separate birds soaring.
On the way back to home base, the Canopy Tower. We are crossing the bridge from the town of Gamboa, which goes over the Chagres River at the Panama Canal (to the right of the frame). This is a one lane bridge. The only road in and out of Gamboa, basically. Three modes of transportation in one frame.
I titled this photo, "Bite ME!" Just screwing around a bit in the town of Gamboa. We did see real American Crocodiles too. One big boy, measuring around 17 feet long, possibly the same beast I saw last year. I was hoping to see this guy catch a capybara, but unfortunately it didn't happen.


White-nosed Coati (Male)

Leaf Cutter Ants

Central American Agouti

 A morning view from a top the Canopy Tower

Army Ant Swarm (Me getting bitten at the end of video)

Rosy-thrush Tanager. Yes, there is a robin sized black and bright red bird in this bush. He looks a bit like a Varied Thrush with red, basically. This video goes to show you, just how hard it can be to sometimes to get real great looks at birds while in the tropics. They can be right in front of you, calling and it may take a while to see them. You can see a flash of movement near the top of the frame at :03-:04 seconds of the video. We did get killer looks at this beauty. Such an amazing looking bird. 

Cicadas, Howler Monkeys and more at 5:00am from a top of the canopy Tower. I probably miss this view and sounds, more than anything.


Even though this was my third trip to Panama (my second to the Tower) in a year, I still was blessed to see so many new birds and mammals. This trip was the best birding/wildlife viewing I have ever had. The birding was outstanding and the mammal sightings were incredible!

Birds in light blue are lifers. Birds in pink are new birds for my Panama list. List only includes the birds seen. Birds that were heard only were not added to the trip list.


Great Tinamou (C)
Little Tinamou (C)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (C)

Gray-headed Chachalaca (C)
Crested Guan  (R)

Pied-billed Grebe (C)

Magnificent Frigatebird (C)

Neotropic Cormorant (C)

Anhinga (C)

Brown Pelican (C)

Least Bittern (R)
Rufescent Tiger-Heron (U)
Great Egret (C)
Snowy Egret (C)
Little Blue Heron (C)
Cattle Egret (C)
Green Heron (C)
Striated Heron (C)
Capped Heron (R)
Boat-billed Heron (U)

Black Vulture (C)
Turkey Vulture (C)
King Vulture (U)

Gray-headed Kite (U)
Swallow-tailed Kite (U)
Snail Kite (C)
Hook-billed Kite (R)
Double-toothed Kite (C)
Tiny Hawk (R)
Savanna Hawk (U)
Great Black-Hawk (U)
White Hawk (U)
Short-tailed Hawk (C)
Black Hawk-Eagle (U)
Ornate Hawk-Eagle (R)

Gray-necked Wood-Rail (U)
White-throated Crake (C)
Purple Gallinule (C)
Common Moorhen (C)

Southern Lapwing (C)

Wattled Jacana (C)

Rock Pigeon (C)
Pale-vented Pigeon (A)
Scaled Pigeon (C)
Short-billed Pigeon (U)
Ruddy Ground-Dove (A)
White-tipped Dove (C)
Ruddy Quail-Dove (R)
Olive-backed Quail-Dove (R)

Squirel Cuckoo (C)
Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo (R)
Pheasant Cuckoo (R)
Smooth-billed Ani (C)
Greater Ani (C)

Crested Owl (R)

Common Potoo (U)

Short-tailed Swift (C)
Band-rumped Swift (C)
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift (C)

White-necked Jacobin (C)
Band-tailed Barbthroat (U)
Green Hermit  (C)
Long-billed Hermit  (C)
Stripe-throated Hermit  (C)
Purple-crowned Fairy  (U)
Black-throated Mango (U)
Long-billed Starthroat  (U)
Violet-headed Hummingbird (C)
White-vented Plumeleteer (C)
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer  (U)
Crowned Woodnymph  (C)
Blue-chested Hummingbird  (C)
Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (C)
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (C)
Violet-capped Hummingbird  (R)
Violet-bellied Hummingbird (C)

Slaty-tailed Trogon (C)
Black-tailed Trogon  (U)
White-tailed Trogon  (C)
Gartered Trogon  (C)
Black-throated Trogon  (C)

Whooping Motmot  (C)
Rufous Motmot  (C)
Broad-billed Motmot  (C)

Ringed Kingfisher  (C)
Amazon Kingfisher  (C)
Green Kingfisher  (C)
American Pygmy Kingfisher  (U)

Black-breasted Puffbird (U)
Pied Puffbird  (U)
White-whiskered Puffbird  (U)

Spot-crowned Barbet (U)
Yellow-eared Toucanet  (R)
Collared Aracari  (C)
Keel-billed Toucan  (C)
Black-mandibled Toucan  (C)

Black-cheeked Woodpecker  (C)
Red-crowned Woodpecker  (A)
Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker  (R) --Endemic
Cinnamon Woodpecker  (C)
Lineated Woodpecker (C)
Crimson-crested Woodpecker  (C)

Slaty-backed Forest Falcon (R)
Collared Forest Falcon (U)
Yellow-headed Caracara (C)
American Kestrel  (U)
Bat Falcon  (U)

Orange-chinned Parakeet (A)
Brown-hooded Parrot  (U)
Blue-headed Parrot  (C)
Red-lored Parrot (C)
Mealy Parrot  (C)
Yellow-crowned Parrot  (U)

Fasciated Antshrike (C)
Great Antshrike  (U)
Barred Antshrike  (C)
Black-crowned Antshrike  (C)
Russet Antshrike  (U)
Spot-crowned Antvireo  (U)
Moustached Antwren  (U)
White-flanked Antwren (C)
Checker-throated Antwren  (C)
Dot-winged Antwren (C)
Dusky Antbird (C)
Jet Antbird (U)
White-bellied Antbird (C)
Chestnut-backed Antbird  (C)
Spotted Antbird  (C)
Bicolored Antbird (U)
Ocellated Antbird (U)

Streak-chested Antpitta  (U)
Black-faced Antthrush (C)

Scaly-throated Leaftosser (U)
Long-tailed Woodcreeper (R)
Plain-brown Woodcreeper (C)
Northern Barred-Woodcreeper (U)
Cocoa Woodcreeper (A)
Black-striped Woodcreeper  (U)
Plain Xenops (C)

Brown-capped Tyrannulet (C)
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (C)
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet (C)
Forest Elaenia  (U)
Greenish Elaenia  (C)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia  (C)
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (U)
Paltry Tyrannulet (C)
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant  (U)
Southern Bentbill  (C)
Common Tody-Flycatcher  (C)
Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher  (U)
Brownish Twistwing  (U)
Olivaceous Flatbill  (C)
Yellow-olive Flycatcher  (C)
Yellow-margined Flycatcher  (C)
Golden-crowned Spadebill  (U)
Royal Flycatcher (R)
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher  (C)
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher  (R)
Black-tailed Flycatcher (U)
Bright-rumped Attila  (C)
Dusky-capped Flycatcher  (C)
Panama Flycatcher  (C)
Lesser Kiskadee  (C)
Great Kiskadee  (C)
Boat-billed Flycatcher  (C)
Rusty-margined Flycatcher  (C)
Social Flycatcher  (A)
Streaked Flycatcher  (C)
Piratic Flycatcher  (M)
Tropical Kingbird (A)
Fork-tailed Flycatcher  (C)

Russet-winged Schiffornis (U)
Speckled Mourner (R)
Masked Tityra  (C)
Black-crowned Tityra  (U)
Cinnamon Becard (U)
White-winged Becard  (U)

Contingas (2)
Purple-throated Fruit-Crow (c)
Blue Continga (U)

White-ruffed Manakin (U)
Lance-tailed Manakin (U)
Red-capped Manakin (C)
Golden-collared Manakin (C)
Blue-crowned Manakin (C)

Yellow-green Vireo (M)
Scrub Greenlet (C)
Golden-fronted Greenlet (C)
Lesser Greenlet (C)
Green-shrike Vireo (C)

Black-chested Jay (C)

Gray-breasted Martin (C)
Mangrove Swallow C)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (C)

Wrens (9)
House Wren (C)
Rufous-breasted Wren (C)
Black-bellied Wren (C)
Rufous-and-white Wren (U)
Plain Wren (C)
Bay Wren (C)
Buff-breasted Wren (C)
White-breasted Wood-Wren (C)
Song Wren (U)

Long-billed Gnatwren (C)
Tropical Gnatcatcher (C)

Clay-colored Thrush (A)

Tropical Mockingbird (C)

Rufous-capped Warbler (C)

Bananaquit (C)

Black-and-yellow Tanager (U)
Rosy Thrush-Tanager (C)
Gray-headed Tanager (C)
White-shouldered Tanager (C)
Crimson-backed Tanager (C)
Flame-rumped Tanager (C)
Blue-gray Tanager (A)
Palm Tanager (A)
Golden-hooded Tanager (C)
Plain-colored Tanager (C)
Rufous-winged Tanager (R)
Bay-headed Tanager (C)
Scarlet-thighed Dacnis (U)
Blue Dacnis (C)
Green Honeycreeper (C)
Shinning Honeycreeper (U)
Red-legged Honeycreeper (C)

Streaked Saltator (C)
Buff-throated Saltator (C)
Black-headed Saltator (U)
Slate-colored Grosbeak (U)

Blue-black Grassquit (C)
Variable Seedeater (C)
Yellow-bellied Seedeater (C)
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (U)
Thick-billed Seed-Finch (C)
Yellow-faced Grassquit (C)
Black-striped Sparrow (C)

Hepatic Tanager (C)
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager (U)
Red-throated Ant-Tanager (C)
Carmiol's Tanager (U)
Blue-black Grosbeak (C)

Red-breasted Blackbird (U)
Great-tailed Grackle (A)
Shiny Cowbird (C)
Yellow-backed Oriole (C)
Yellow-tailed Oriole (U)
Yellow-billed Cacique (U)
Scarlet-rumped Cacique (C)
Yellow-rumped Cacique (C)
Chestnut-headed Oropendula (C)

Yellow-crowned Euphonia (C)
Thick-billed Euphonia (A)
Fulvous-vented Euphonia (U)

House Sparrow

The Mammal sightings (22) was outstanding and the best I have ever had on any trip to the tropics! Mammals in light blue are lifers. Mammals in hot pink are new for my Panama list

Common Opossum
Central American Wooly Opossum
Northern Tamandua (anteater)
Hoffman's Two-Toed Sloth
Brown-throated Three-Toed Sloth
Nine-banded Armadillo
Lesser White-lined Bat
False Vampire Bat
Geoffrey's Tamarin
Panamanian (Western) Night Monkey
White-faced Capuchin (monkey)
Mantled Howler Monkey
Varigated Squirrel
Red-tailed Squirrel
Tome's Spiny Rat
Rothchild's Porcupine
Central American Agouti
White-nosed Coati
Collared Peccary
Red Brocket (deer)

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