Sunday, August 8, 2010

Panama: hummingbirds

Roselvy and I just returned to San Salvador from a 11-day trip to Panama, where we birded an excellent tropical rain forest near Panama City for a couple of mornings, and more extensively the area around Cerro Punta, in the western highlands of Chiriquí (pictured above).

Still 'between cameras' as it were, these are shots made with Roselvy's Nikon Coolpix L110. Despite the zoom, the megapixels and the image stabilization, this is not a camera for taking wildlife pictures, I found. Occasionally, a shot came out the way I wanted, but I'm definitely looking forward to my next camera, which I should have within the next couple of weeks.

The area around Cerro Punta is, at 2,000 m, quite beautiful, and home to many hummingbird species. At times I was able to get close enough for decent photos, and this entry will be about hummingbirds entirely. I'll save the non hummer photos for the next blog entry.

We stayed four nights at the excellent Los Quetzales Ecolodge in Guadelupe, a small village adjacent to Cerro Punta. The lodge had lots of hummingbird feeders up, and up to 12 species were easily seen. The bird pictured above is an immature Green-crowned Brilliant.

This is a male White-throated Mountain-gem. Although this species was common around the ecolodge, this photo was actually taken in the garden of Finca Dracula, a nearby orchid farm. (The name Dracula, incidentally, in this case refers not to the Count but to an orchid genus, and means 'little dragon'. I mention this, should it ever come up in a crossword puzzle...) The White-throated Mountain-gem is only found in southern Costa Rica and extreme western Panama. In fact, the Costa Rican subspecies cinereicauda (a.k.a. Gray-tailed Mountain-gem) is sometimes considered its own species, and some authors consider the range of White-throated Mountain-gem to be in western Panama exclusively.

Another locally common hummingbird, but one with a much wider range, is Magnificent Hummingbird. Because of its large range, this hummer has been featured quite a bit in this blog (for example, here and here).

Here it is once more, showing off its brilliant colors. These photos were taken just outside the hotel room, on the porch.

Green Violet-ear is another very common, easily photographed species there. This species too has a wider range, on the Central American Volcanic Belt from central Mexico to Panama, and then again in the Andes from northern Venezuela to Bolivia.

Here is a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, also photographed around the ecolodge. This bird is found from southwestern Costa Rica to eastern Panama, mostly in lowlands and foothills, although we found it at 2,000 m.

The diminutive Scintillant Hummingbird, easily recognized as a Selasphorus, is more of a highland specialist, found in Costa Rica and western Panama at elevations between 1,200 - 2,100 m. The closely related Volcano Hummingbird replaces it above 2,100 m (Ridgely & Gwynne, 1989). We occasionally saw Scintillant Hummingbirds around the feeders, but they were often chased away by the larger species, and more frequently fed on flowers.

Other hummingbirds we saw in the mountains of Chiriquí, western Panama, include Stripe-tailed, Rufous-tailed and Fiery-throated Hummingbird, and, on the Tres Cascadas trail just outside the lodge, the rare and spectacular Green-fronted Lancebill.

Cited literature:
Ridgely, Robert S. & Gwynne, John A. (1989) A Guide to the Birds of Panama, with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, Second Edition, Princeton.

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