Panama Day 3: Canopy Tower: Birds On The Roof Top And A Morning Hike On Pipeline Road

Panama Day 3: Canopy Tower: Birds On The Roof Top And A Morning Hike On Pipeline Road

Panama Day Three morning birds (7 of 48)
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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.

The views from the roof top were amazing.   Unfortunately  clouds obscured the sunrise but it was still a perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding rainforest, some areas covered in mist. 

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,

these birds have intrigued me since I was a child and watched on of these large billed and colorful birds advertise  Fruit Loops,  a popular American breakfast cereal.  

We also saw more  beautifully colored blue dacnis birds, this is a  female,

a white necked Jacobian hummingbird

many palm tanagers,

and a  female,

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. 

Another sloth was relaxing in the sun atop a tree in the morning sunshine. 

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.

The road remains and  it’s route through the remote rain forest make it one of the best birding areas in Panama. We soon discovered this for ourselves. 

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, 

a spotted antbird,  

a plain brown woodcreeper,

a northern barred woodcreeper

a gray headed tanager 


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. 

And there was a lot of wildlife, bird, insects, and even some mammals. We saw a few Central American agouti.

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. 

We watched as the members of the group shuffled through the tree tops before climbing across the 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.

After watching the howler monkeys we continued on our hike  on the Pipeline road and through the lush rain forest, we walked along large ferns, 

vines, towering trees and beautiful  exotic tropical flowers, 

which I haven’t been able to identify. 

There were also a few interesting mushrooms growing along the trail, 

and a few dragonflies, I believe this is a roseate skimmer dragfonfly. 

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 black-crowned antshrike

a white tailed trogon ,

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. 

“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.” — Jimmy Carter

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