Panama Day 3: Canopy Tower: Birds On The Roof Top And A Morning Hike On Pipeline Road
Pipeline Road. That is where we would be hiking my second morning during my recent stay at the Canopy Tower eco-lodge in Panama. We were told this is where are next birding adventure would take place after going over our checklist the previous evening. I never heard of Pipeline Road but, doing some research after dinner I learned it is one of the best places to observe tropical birds in Panama. This is pretty amazing since there are so many species of tropical birds living in the rain forests of Panama. So I was excited when I awoke before the sunrise early Wednsday morning. The sounds of the rain forest echoed in my room. There was no glass in the windows in my room, just screens to keep out the insects and other critters that live in a rain forest. You could hear every sound of every insect and frog. It really was like sleeping in the forest. And the many exotic birds joined the chorus in the morning.
I quickly dressed and headed up to the roof top of the Canopy Tower, an abandoned United States radar installation converted into a eco-lodge in the Sobernia National Park.
I wasn’t the first one on the roof. Other members of our small group of five were already there looking for the early birds and other wildlife stirring in the forest below. Our guide Jorge soon joined us. and he quickly pointed out a sloth relaxing in a nearby tree. It was the first sloth I had seen in the wild, something I wanted to see since I was a child.
Like the day before we would again see dozens of exotic and beautiful birds from the rooftop before we had our breakfast, They include my first sighting of a keel billed toucan,
We also saw more beautifully colored blue dacnis birds, this is a female,
many palm tanagers,
and male green honeycreeper
and a fulvous-vented Euphonia. We saw many more birds but these were the only ones able to photograph.
We also saw a few familiar birds, birds that migrate from the Northeastern United States. including, wood pee wees. scarlet tanagers , a Tennessee warbler and this bay breasted warbler.
Breakfast was served at 7;30 and afterward we were on our way to another birding and nature adventure, this time on that famous birding area on the Pipeline Road near the small town of Gamboa. We drove down the winding, steep hill from the Canopy Tower and the five miles to the Gamboa.
On the way we crossed a bridge over the Chagres River. This River was dammed to create Gatun Lake. It is really part of the “Panama Canal”. Ships navigate the waters of the lake to cross from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean, passing through the locks of the Panama Canal where they are raised and lowered to the water levels of the Lake. I learned a lot more about the river, lake and canal later on my stay in Panama.
As we drove along the lake, the Panama Canal Railway train passed us on it’s journey from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean to Colon on the Atlantic Ocean. I love to ride on trains and hope to ride this train someday.
We soon came to the entrance to the Pipeline Road. This road traveled along a oil pipeline built by the United States during World War II to transport oil across Panama in case the Panama Canal was attacked. It never was so the pipeline was never used.
We parked and began our hike under the canopy of towering trees and vines. But our guide directed our sight to the ground. We crossed the path of lines of leaf cutter ants. We hiked a short distance and came to a large swath of ground were army ants crossed the road. They were on the move foraging for insects and their activity had the insects moving to avoid becoming a meal. Many of the birds living in the rain forest took advantage of this situation and also looked for the fleeing for an easy meal.
We saw a number of birds bear the path of the army ants, including a bi-colored antbird,
and a beautiful ocellated antbird.
We left the army ants and the birds taking advantage of their foraging, and continued our walk under the lush tropical vegetation. The sun filtered through the trees and warmed the morning air. Temperatures were now in the 80’s and it was very humid. However everyone in our group ignored the heat and humidity and eagerly followed our guide who looked for more birds and other wildlife in the rain forest.
Ans we encountered a large group of howler monkey travelling over us in the tree tops. At first we just saw glimpses of the monkeys through the lush leaf cover but they came into view when crossing a large vine.
I especially enjoyed this mother and her offspring taking a break on the vine. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the playful howler monkeys. Panama Day 3: Canopy Tower Pipeline Road howler monkeys October 18 2023.
And the Pipeline Road lived up to it’s reputation and we saw a lot more exotic and one rare and endangered bird. We saw a red capped manakin ,
a very interesting bird usually seen only at night, a great potoo.
The most interesting was the sunbittern. Our guide was excited when we saw it on the road and said they are rare. He had not seen one on all of his birding hikes for a couple of years. It was getting hotter an d nearing noon so we fisnihed our hike and returned to out truck. It was another amazing hike in the Panama rain forest. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos of the many birds we saw on our hike. Panama Day 3: Canopy Tower Pipeline Road birds October 18 2023.
As we began our hike back to our lodge our guide told us there was an eagle sighting at the Tower and maybe even a harpy eagle. We sped back to the lodge passing a large ship on Gatun Lake. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my hike on Pipeline Road. Panama Day 3: Canopy Tower Pipeline Road October 18 2023.
At the lodge we rushed to the roof top to see the eagle. It wasn’t a harpy eagle but it was still a beautiful bird a magestic black hawk eagle. It was a great way to end an amazing morning. Once again I saw far more than I expected, insects, mammals, birds, flower , trees and even mushrooms. We went over our bird checklist and enjoyed another nice lunch, lookig gforward to another adventure later in the afternoon.