Achiote Road

Tuesday, July 16th: We had breakfast very early, at 4:30, as we needed to drive to the Achiote Road near the north end of the canal. On the way we spotted Brown Pelicans, a Common Black-Hawk near the Gatun locks, Great Blue Heron, Red-breasted Blackbird, and American Kestrel.

Once we arrived at Achiote, we quickly found Short-billed Pigeons, a Black-headed Saltator, and a Magnificent Frigatebird soaring over the road. We spotted a Purple-throated Fruitcrow which turned out to be one of a flock, and a Chestnut-mandibled (Black-mandibled) Toucan. The group had spilt into two when a couple of Yellow-backed Orioles flew into a tree directly above me. I couldn't see them, but the other group could. I hurried back to join them in time to see the orioles. We quickly added a Gray-necked Wood-Rail that ventured onto the road and a Bright-rumped Attila in a nearby tree. It was nice to see a Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant well. A Double-toothed Kite perched nearby, providing good looks for all. We searched for a Bay Wren. Much of the group got a decent look. I didn't, and registered it as a heard-only bird. Fortunately, I fared much better with a skulking Blue-black Grosbeak. Eventually, someone spotted the sought-after White-headed Wren. A White-tailed Trogon appeared on a telephone wire just as we were about to move on to our next stop.

After a mid-morning snack in a local town, we drove further up Achiote Road and off on a side road. Our birding location was shortly after what Google Maps considered the end of the road. (In fairness, the bridge we crossed had a 2012 date on it.) The interesting birds here included both Rufous-breasted Hermit and Stripe-throated Hermit, and a Gray-lined Hawk perched out in easy view. A pond had both Northern Jacana and Purple Gallinule, while a Pied Puffbird perched in a bare tree. We walked down the entrance road to a cemetary, finding a pair of Pacific Antwrens, a pair of Yellow-crowned Euphonias, Flame-rumped Tanagers, and a Great Antshrike. Then we returned to the Gatun lock area.

A couple of Southern Lapwings were out in a grassy area near the Gatun Locks. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a nearby boat launch. There we saw an immature Little Blue Heron. After leaving our lunch spot, we encountered an Osprey. We attempted to bird some mangrove areas, but were almost immediately set upon by rain. We rushed back to the bus, and eventually drove around the area some before heading to the train station. During that time we found Ringed Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and the introduced Saffron Finches.

Finally, it was time to board the train that runs from Colon to Panama City. A old station tells us that it used to stop at Gamboa, but I think that was a long time ago. The train ride was comfortable and very smooth. We saw a number of Snail Kites. We were met at the train station by one of the Canopy drivers for the drive back to the tower. Here, things went wrong. We expected to be back at the tower around 7 or so. Traffic was horrendous and delayed us about an hour, likely a combination of construction and an accident. Eventually we got to the tower and our dinner.

I ended up with 79 species for the day, 33 of them new for the trip. My trip total is now 161. I also got 5 lifers, bringing my total to 23 for the trip.

Canopy Tower