Semaphore Hill & Ammo Dump Ponds

Sunday, July 14th: We started the day atop the tower. I got out there around 6, which was a little early to see very much. However, we heard Rufous Motmots and Cocoa Woodcreepers singing over the roar of the Howler Monkeys. Eventually we managed to see the motmot. The woodcreeper had to wait. As it got light, someone noticed a Gartered (Violaceous) Trogon atop a tree, and then a Slaty-tailed Trogon somewhat below it. Another morning highlight was a Brown Three-toed Sloth at eye level in a cecropia tree. He stayed in the tree all day.

By now Carlos was with us. We were looking at some Mealy Parrots in the scope when a couple of Brown-hooded Parrots were noticed in the foreground. Carlos made the Green Shrike-Vireo a priority, and we soon had a couple of them. A Squirrel Cuckoo was spotted working through the trees as a distant Scaled Pigeon continued to call. A Dusky-capped Flycatcher perched on top of a tree. We added Red-lored Amazons to our parrot list, soon followed by Masked Tityra. We saw both male and female Blue Dacnises.

By now it was time for breakfast. We viewed a Black-breasted Puffbird perched out on an open branch from the dining area. After breakfast we descended to the base of the tower, adding Plain-brown Woodcreeper, White-shouldered Tanager, and Purple-crowned Fairy. A large flight of Plumbeous Kites distracted us as we prepared to walk down Semphore Hill.

Semaphore Hill Road

Eventually we started down the hill. A Great Tinamou was heard. We soon saw a Gray-headed Tanager, which is slighly larger and brighter than the female White-shouldered Tanager. A woodcrepper was spotted climbing a tree—A Northern Barred-Woodcreeper. We ran into some Red-capped Manakins. At first we had only the female, but soon found some males. A White Hawk soaring overhead briefly drew our attention. We then found a calling White-breasted Wood-Wren.

Brian had mentioned to Carlos that I needed Long-billed Gnatwren. After a Broad-billed Motmot, Carlos delievered the Long-billed Gnatwren, and a Southern Bentbill as a bonus. The newly renamed Black-crowned Antshrike (Western Slaty Antshrike) was next, quickly followed by a loverly Chestnut-backed Antbird. A Black-tailed Trogon was sitting overhead. A bit farther down the road we found Dusky Antbird. By then it was time to return to the tower for lunch. A White-vented Plumeleteer was one of the hummers present at the tower.

Ammo Dump Ponds

After lunch we discovered that this is a civilized birding tour. We took a siesta until mid-afternoon. Then we headed out to the Ammo Dump Ponds. Some Orange-chinned Parakeets flew overhead as we drove there. The pond area has a mixture of grassy areas, marsh, and forest. Some Variable Seedeaters were in the grass and the edge of the trees, while Blue-gray Tanagers perched above. A Buff-throated Saltator soon joined us, while a look across the road toward the canal revealed Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater.

It was back to the trees for a Red-crowned Woodpecker when someone spotted an Anhinga soaring overhead. I think it was in this area where we heard a Gray-lined Hawk. We saw both male and female Barred Antshrikes in the underbrush and a couple of Clay-colored Thrushes flew from tree to tree. Also up above was a Common Tody-Flycatcher. Another small bird turned out to be a Golden-fronted Greenlet.

A White-necked Jacobin briefly paused over the road. A couple of Crimson-backed Tanagers (male and female) flew into some bare branches. As we raced from bird to bird, we paused for a Yellow-bellied Elaenia, then checked out a Streaked Flycatcher. We'd heard them calling for a while when a Pale-vented Pigeon finally came into view. We continued to rack up the birds on the short road to the military area, including Greater Ani, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Plain Wren, and Social Flycatcher. There were also some Coatis down the road. At this point we got scope views of a beautiful Blue Cotinga inside the military area. We also added Rusty-margined Flycatcher, and Snail Kite. Some got to see a Yellow-billed Cacique here, but I could not see the head of the bird, and the back was not enough to rule out similar species.

As we walked back toward the canal, I found a Mangrove Swallow on the high wire. Some Cattle Egrets flew by, and a Southern House-Wren had joined the seedeaters on the fence. We continued down to view a pond, which had Rufescent Tiger-Heron and Green Heron. A Yellow-headed Caracara flew over and some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks flew across the pond. We searched unsuccessfully for White-throated Crake, then headed back to the vehicles. On the way back, we added White-tipped Dove, and by the vehicles, Black-striped Sparrow. We then returned to the lodge for dinner.

I ended up with 83 species for the day, 65 of them new for the trip. The trip total is 90. I also got 9 lifers, bringing my total to 11 for the trip.

Canopy Tower