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PANAMA & DARIEN

Wednesday 10th January - Friday 2nd February 2007

Matt Denton

The 2007 tour to the narrow isthmus of Panama was one of the most successful Birdquests ever to this fascinating country so rich in tropical birds. Although an astonishing amount of human history has played out here, much of Panama remains undeveloped. Nearly half of the tour was spent in the eastern portion of the country, in the Darien National Park, the last great wilderness of Central America through which no road has ever been built. During our exploration of this unconquered rainforest we saw three of its great icons: Harpy Eagle, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo and Puma! We were very fortunate to see a total of four individual Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoos during this splendid tour, certainly our most extraordinary feat! Indeed, an aggressive pair of this rare and elusive species repeatedly charged up to us at an ant swarm with their bills clattering away. Our species total for the trip numbered 522 species including many range-restricted and threatened species, nine country endemics, 15 Darien endemics, nearly a dozen birds confined to the Costa Rica and Panama highlands Endemic Bird Area (this EBA is more extensively covered on our Costa Rica tour), and quite a few species largely ranging in Panama and hard-to-access parts of Colombia and north-western Ecuador. Some of the many memorable birds included Plumbeous Hawk, Great Green Macaw, Saffron-headed Parrot, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Black-crowned Antpitta, Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas and Black Oropendola. Our most unexpected encounter in the Darien forests occurred with a beautiful dark reddish Puma resting near the trail, yawning and showing us its teeth, an absolutely breathtaking and unique experience to stand face to face with this seldom-seen cat!