There should be a golden rule about not going birding in the same area following a Big Day, it can only lead to disappointment. I suppose I can suffer it though and seeing Canada Geese (how did I not make sure!) and Common Loon, both fails yesterday, was tempered by a few good birds that I would have rather liked 24 hours ago.
First up was a yard-tick Eastern Towhee, it was a brief female that may or may not come back. Then Sandra and I had a roll out around West Head, Newellton looking for a Laughing Gull said to have been present all day on the Big Day – well I went there twice yesterday and didn’t see it, neither did Johnny. The Black-legged Kittiwake was again present though and looks like a right rag-tag. I got a couple of shots that show just how in need of a decent moult it is.
Moving on to The Hawk, a fly past hirundine had us scanning and finding a couple of female type Purple Martins. Not a very common bird on Nova Scotia and a welcome year tick, sorry Mike.
A little further around the road a couple of Eastern Kingbirds entertained, this one sat still.
So a quick post to this point. For those who like a bit of a read and staying in the Big Year scenario, here are a couple of ones I did elsewhere. You might need The Birds of Panama or patience with Google to get the full effect of the Gamboa Rainforest Lodge Big Day. No pictures.
The Taverner Cup, Canada’s premier bird race – May 2004
A few years ago bird races were in fashion and in Notts we had teams in the spring national and did our own thing in the autumn. When interest waned, the races petered out and sanity was restored to birding. I ‘retired’ from the national, in part due to not wanting to suffer from that day after nausea when your ears are still ringing and your body clock changes time-zones. I never really expected to do another 24 hour job again, I was wrong. Twelve months after moving across the pond to Canada I was invited to join a team to challenge for the Taverner Cup, Eastern Canada’s premier bird race.
The Taverner Cup takes place in late May and has done for the past eight years. Teams compete on the same day, midnight to midnight, and in two categories, recreational and competitive. We were to be one of five competitive teams and were, thanks to David Bird’s cogitative musings, christened the Raven-loon-a-ticks. The line-up for the team was Prof. David Bird, Prof. Rodger Titman, Dr. Richard Gregson, Marcel Gahbauer (now Dr.!), David’s post grad student and myself (width cert, Clifton Swimming Pool), a rare array of highly educated birding talent. The area selected for the competition takes in parts of Quebec and Ontario and so the distances between sites would be long. Traveling time equals no birds and so we formulated a plan to hop from site to site within a schedule, plan A.
The most experienced Taverner veteran in our team was also the youngest, Marcel. He produced several itineraries and scoured suggested scouting areas, David used his considerable influence to arrange sponsorship by, amongst others, the Province of Quebec Society for the Protection of Birds (PQSPB), and transport. Richard fiddled with computers to generate lists and I scouted a few ‘certs’ and brushed up on all the calls and songs of the birds we might encounter, easy!
May 29th saw us gather at the Birds’ (current) nest, he was moving house that week!, We got off to a good start, in the pitch black Richard fell in the (dry) storm ditch and Marcel attempted to sever a trailer towing hitch with both shins, unsuccessfully I might add. We set off in our hired Ford Freestar, a minivan (they seat seven) and sporting the famous hide and go seats (when you HIDE in the back your legs GO to mush). The first stop was a marsh on Lac St-Francois about an hours drive away. We stopped, the wind blew, the birds slept, move on. Next we slogged around something called the Great Egret trail, our reward was grunting Virginia Rail and distant Wilson’s Snipe, two on the board and it was only twelve-thirty, windy and cold, oh the joys of bird racing came flooding back to me. As we returned to the parking lot we flushed a bird from a ditch which gave a variety of undocumented noises, Black-crowned Night Heron or Great Egret, I thought the latter, Marcel the former, in zero visibilty who knows? No score. Next we picked our way through swamp-dweller country to a track famous for its biting flies, the Gowan Road. This area did not disappoint and both Barred and Great Horned Owls were soon inked in. Taverner memory number one was the seven suddenly active Barred Owls calling away in competition and probably putting the diminutive Saw-whets and Eastern Screech Owls into silent mode, big owls eat little owls.
We made our way east back to highway 20, our arterial route south, squeezing in Whip-poor-will and Eastern Screech Owl on the way. We had a few hours drive to an area called the Opinicon Road, a fine section of Carolinian Forest which would be the setting for our dawn chorus. We had all registered to drive and it was Richard’s turn, he cruised along at a steady 110 Kmph, it was his first bird race! A steady hour passed before Marcel resumed consciousness and took over the driving. Luckily, in Ontario, they put up a roadside board showing the cost of speeding, 120 got you $120, we went south at around the $180 mark, with occasional bursts up to the $250, allegedly!
The Opinicon Road is a quiet, mostly gravel track that is around 20Km long. It has several species you need to get quickly, Golden-winged and Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Vireo. We did a quick pause at a wet area to allow some of us to miss flying Wood Duck, hopefully that would not come back to haunt us. We quickly added species, Swainson’s Thrush squirling away in scrub, American Creeper hitting the high notes, a Hermit Thrush buried amongst the other singers, everyone get that, no, there should be plenty more. We’d planned for a couple of hours on the Opinicon Road and started birding there proper at Chaffey’s Locks, a short canal section from lake to lake. Loons flew over (loons to me now, Great Northern Divers to you UK folk) and our only chance of Pine Warbler, it duly obliged but, unfortunately, no sign of the area’s mythical Carolina Wren though, move on.
I had staked out a few birds ten days or so before and the Golden-winged Warblers issued their buzzy offering right on cue and location, both cuckoos called, Ruffed Grouse drummed, numerous common species were shouted out and then Cerulean Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo appeared in quick succession. Suddenly a movement on one side of the track caught my eye and a Porcupine plodded slowly over the road, my first live one and Taverner memory number two. Brief views by two of us of Downy Woodpecker and a fly over hairy seen only by me saw us leaving Opinicon Road with a healthy score but much work to do. Next stop Amherst Island and a ferry to catch.
We pulled into the ferry dock in good time, thanks to a bit more warp speed driving, and found an obliging Night Heron by the dock. Offshore a Caspian Tern fed, but our focus was more on the restrooms, it had been a long night and when nature calls only a fool ignores such a juxtaposition of facility and readiness. Amherst Island is very lovely. It sits out in Lake Ontario and positively calls the migrating birds to it. We would try to be off in one hour, a tall order if the birding was good and so we flew down the narrow lanes with Marcel once again at the helm. Bobolinks fluttered around the grasslands, hirundines around the bays. A short stop gave us a boost of several duck species all in one place plus a few padders, another ten to the total. We sped on and as we passed a small plantation about 80m from the road I saw a lump on a branch, Nighthawk. We reversed back and quickly got onto the lump, not a Whip-poor-will, nope, chuck-will’s? Some hope, no, Common Nighthawk, a tricky bird race bird and not at all common in spring in Eastern Canada these days, a bonus bird.
At the north-east end of the island we made our way out to a point, lets just call it ‘Irritating Fly Point’ for want of a more descriptive name but wow, what a place. Wilson’s Phalaropes, loads of very tame shorebirds (waders) Osprey, gulls, terns, more ducks, geese, we could have spent another hour there but time was short. Taverner highlight three came here in the shape of two Brown Water Snakes which we got to within one metre of, superb.
We had missed the deadline for the ferry so dropped in at the owl wood, THE place for winter owling, and enjoyed Magnolia Warbler and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, more padders but no Pheasants, oh the disappointment! We cruised back to the returning dock picking up Hooded Merganser and American Kestrel, we were well into the 120s, Marcel had not had such a healthy total at this point in his previous races, we were really cooking with butane.
The weather, such a feature of any bird race, had been kind. The previous year the rain had been the talking point of bird race day as it had been continuous, this year the sun shone but Lake Ontario does like its winds. The light breeze of Amherst had increased to gale force at our next crucial stop, Presq’uile Park. The park can make or break a race. We had a possible 30 or so species penciled in, breeding Orchard Orioles, passage warblers, more shorebirds, guaranteed Bonaparte’s Gull, egrets, herons, migrants, we would require a couple of hours in and out, easy. It stared well with Mute Swans on the drive in, then the wind hit us. No shorebirds at all, this was bad, to cut a short story shorter, Presq’uile was a bomb out. We picked up a few additional species but three of our number chose the rest rooms over a plantation and dipped Downy Woodpecker again. We cut our losses and fled. It could have been worse, we were tailed by the Police as we left the park, luckily Marcel spotted them before we engaged the engines and we avoided a fine, that would really have been a downer.
The wind would now be a big factor. Our next stop was grasslands on the Napanee Plain, sparrows were the target and it was known to the post where they would be gleefully advertising their presence. We got to where they should be and they had not read the script, oh dear, more holes in the list and few options elsewhere. Now for the worst part of any bird race day, mid-afternoon, nice and warm and sleep dragging your eyes to a happy place, this was one of the reasons I retired. We had a three hour drive north, we had to finish in Ottawa at midnight, that was when all the teams hand in their lists before crawling into whatever sleepy hollow they have arranged. It was a long three hours away, no birds, no legs (I was in the cheap seats), eyes and neck aching from constant scanning for a Red-shouldered Hawk, Green Heron, anything. Oddly the only anything seen turned out to be a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, bless them, they always sit on bare snags. I was the fifth team member to see one and what a relief, all I had missed so far was a Cooper’s Hawk which un-sportingly flew behind the van on highway 20, denying those in the front the tick.
We had examined the options and reached plan Z. This had us going to Gatineau Park near Ottawa as we still needed some woodland birds. We also needed lots of wetland birds but the wetlands could wait, now for the woods. We passed quickly through Ottawa, a pretty city, pleasantly leafy, and scored Chimney Swift through sleepy eyes. We climbed into Gatineau and made a few stops, adding little until we made the Champlain lookout which is truly spectacular. We birded a short trail, renewing our love affair with Canadian insects and plucked Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo from the verdant canopies. A thrush called, distinctive and memorable, so we put on Richard’s MP3 player in the van and called a Grey-Cheeked, just as we suspected, we were back on the trail.
Being a newcomer to the area my local knowledge was sketchy in some areas, I knew bits of Quebec which had been helpful with owls etc, now I suggested that we should go to plan unspecified and drive the north shore of the Ottawa River, hopefully pick up a few birds and then cross at one of the ferry points to get to our almost final destination, Alfred Sewage Lagoons. The plan was good and worked quite well, even allowing for the unusually law abiding biker boys who cruised along in front of us at the speed limit for 20 or so kilometers, possibly frustrating our attempts to grab more of the fading light. We finally snaffled a Wood Duck en-route before hitting the Lefevre ferry spot on. I knew of a seepage pool two minutes form the dock where we added Pectoral and Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs, now it was time to test the warp coil to its maximum, next stop Alfred Lagoons. We screamed down to the track and were not at all surprised to find other teams ending their day at one of the best sewage farms anywhere. Over the gate, ignore the signs saying keep out, and up the bank of the first of two lagoons. Moorhen, where, swam into the reeds, five minutes searching, move on, we need…
We easily picked up the ducks, Ruddy, Redhead, then Roger spotted a distant Green-winged Teal so we had to track back 100m. We needed to be at a point where we could view both lagoons, one for ducks, one covered in shorebirds. Scan for herons, where’s the teal? where’s the light, it had virtually gone. We could see loads of shorebirds but adding Moorhen and Green-winged Teal had cost us ten minutes or more, we needed that time on the shorebirds. We were itchy, fatigued but not quite finished. We were making our way back to the van when a bird flew over in the gloom and called, what was that? nobody knew. Back at the road sharp ears picked out American Woodcock and Grey Partridge, options? Atocos Bay, a Ducks Unlimited reserve nearby for maybe Sora and maybe Short-eared Owl. We shuffled into the reserve, hearing nothing, seeing less when another call, almost directly overhead sharpened the senses, any takers, owl? Upland Sandpiper? too tired, don’t know, might be a short-eared.
We drove back to Ottawa, stopping at an Upland Sandpiper site but without success. One last throw saw us in the middle of down town Ottawa scanning a fancy hotel looking for Peregrines which nest there, five bedraggled creatures smelling strongly of insect repellent and eyes of indescribable colour, no joy and, thankfully, no Police. We drove to the rendezvous, handed in our score and went to Marcel’s apartment on the last night of his lease. The odometer told us we had covered 1250 kilometers, we had all been awake about 42 hours and now we settled down on the bare floor with our heads ringing to the sound of the elusive Black-throated Blue Warbler amongst other things
The sun shone the next day and a lonely Blackpoll Warbler serenaded us from the parking lot, where were you yesterday? In a very civilized manner all the teams turn up for a breakfast together. Stories are swapped, scores are guarded, you eat, you listen and then the presentation. Every team gets a Taverner T-shirt with a very attractive Loggerhead Shrike on. First the recreational teams come up, the talk is of a great day, great birding, great birds, many that we had missed. The competitive role call begins, Raven-Loonatics, 144, are we fifth, no, but not first either. We come in fourth, the winners scoring 164. A great day of birding, scores improved right at the end at Alfred, we exchange knowing glances, especially the unexpected birds continues one racer, Marbled Godwit, Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, all at Alfred at dusk, all on the second lagoon, bloody Moorhens! The call we heard was the godwit, that bird would have tied us with the Swarovski Cool Cats in third place, the phalarope would have put us one clear. In the end the second team’s score was 155 but third is better than fourth, next year, next year.
We had a two hour trip back to Montreal, the weather was great, would we go back via Alfred, you bet. Alfred still had the godwit and phalarope and we enjoyed good looks at both before returning home. The van was abuzz with plans, Gatineau first, better marshes, don’t bother with Presq’uile, better transport, lots to ponder.
I had been concerned that only one year’s experience of North American birds would mean I was a liability, as it happened I was not and a great team effort led to a great days birding. I am now officially out of retirement (on this Continent at least) and May 28th 2005 is eagerly awaited.
So what did we miss? No Green Heron or Great Egret, Ring-necked Duck eluded us, four hawks, Sora, Turkey, seven shorebirds, Bonaparte’s Gull, Saw-whet Owl, four woodpeckers, two flycatchers, Loggerhead Shrike, four wrens, eight sparrows, seven warblers, Orchard Oriole, so 144 + 45, even with only a width certificate, I can do the math.
Gamboa Rainforest Resort Panama– Big Day
During a week-long vacation at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama, it occurred to me that it would be fun to see how many species of bird it would be possible to see on the site in one day, basically from dawn to dusk or exhaustion, which ever arrived first! The Big Day would take place on holiday day #5, so there would be plenty of accumulated knowledge about the site’s birds and their whereabouts. Also, I’d taken a casual three hour walk around 30% of the site the previous afternoon and scored 80!
For those who have never heard of a Big Day in birding, the object is to see or hear, within time or geographic boundaries, as many bird species as possible. The evening before I picked my way through our bird list from a previous Gamboa visit, highlighting the possibilities, and came up with a list of around 160+ potential species. This may seem a lot but the site list will actually be much higher, probably around the 240 mark. It should also be said that some of the species considered possible are transient in their occurrence and also that some species have rather small populations at the Gamboa, i.e. probably only one or two individuals.
The strategy employed would be to bird the edge areas until it got warm, then get into the ‘jungle’. After a short break we would then cover the other areas for the ‘easy’ birds before hitting the trails again. If we were still breathing at the end of the day we would go owling, if! What follows is an account of the day with the species listed in order of appearance. I will tell you now that we found a high proportion of the possible species available. I will also tell you that some ‘certs’ failed to show and eve some non-contenders put in an appearance. Dawn was around 06.11 and a Common Pauraque was calling away outside, species numero 1. We headed down to the historic villas, just down the road from the main building, we had hit 14 species by the time we got there, with Blue-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Mealy Parrot, Great Egret, Tropical Kingbird, Whooping Motmot, Clay-colored Robin, Great Kiskadee, Broad-billed Motmot, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Keel-billed Toucan and on the list. There then followed a typical early morning flurry of birds as they awoke and joined the fun and so House Wren, Southern Bentbill, Green Shrike-Vireo, Buff-breasted Wren, Collared Aracari (below), Band-rumped Swift, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Pale-vented Pigeon, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Thick-billed Euphonia, Short-tailed Swift, Blue-gray Tanager, and the very vocal White-bellied Antbird pushed us up to 27 species.
The period after dawn is crucial for birding in the Neotropics. The day soon heats up and many birds feed quickly before hiding and idly waiting for the heat to dissipate, or they actually retreat to an alternate universe, at least that is how it often seems when searching a seemingly empty rainforest in the heat of the day. So, we are still in the rush period and it was no real surprise to add Red-legged Honeycreeper, Social Flycatcher, Crimson-backed Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, Violaceous Trogon, Streaked Flycatcher, Plain-colored Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Red-crowned Woodpecker and Gray-breasted Martin all to the list and all before we got to the birdy bit, this being the road junction to Los Lagatos restaurant.
The site did not disappoint and soon we had Golden-hooded Tanager, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Bay Wren, Palm Tanager, Black Vulture, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Western Slaty Antshrike, Green Honeycreeper, Shining Honeycreeper, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Variable Seedeater, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Lesser Greenlet, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Panama Flycatcher, Song Wren, Yellow-throated Vireo, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Brown Pelican, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Gray Hawk and Chestnut-headed Oropendola, then we stepped into the forest.
At this point we had been going for about an hour and a quarter, the score was 63. We probably had found as many of the species present in the immediate area as we could, we needed the deeper forest birds now. The Senderos la Laguna runs below the site access road and is perhaps just under a kilometer long. It comprises a nice damp area at the canal end, drying out as you reach the Gamboa Village access road. A steady walk with plenty of stops to look, see and listen means you can cover it in an hour or so. The number of bird species expected here was not particularly high but this was the only shot at them.
A stake out for a Buff-rumped Warbler failed to produce but we did find Orange-billed Sparrow, which was a real bonus. A White-tipped Dove ambled over the path, as they do and an Acadian Flycatcher called away above us. Overhead a Yellow-headed Caracara swept past. Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, Red-eyed and Yellow-green Vireo and Cinnamon Becard all followed before we found a flycatcher high up a vine. After changing our angle the bird’s ID was resolved as Black-tailed Flycatcher, a good and another unexpected find. As we approached the end of the trail, the Golden-Collared Manakin lek was in full swing with the over excited males wing snapping away in the depths of the foliage.
Now we were back out in the open and peering into the depths of a flowering tree. Our target here was hummingbirds, preferably all of them. Violet-bellied Hummingbird was the first to make it’s presence felt, hummers are notoriously argumentative and this one was no exception, seemingly falling out with its own shadow. A Buff-throated Saltator did a good job of sneaking around and a larger, dark hummingbird was glimpsed. Close views showed it to be a Rufous-breasted Hermit, our third big surprise of the day so far. None of the other hummer species showed up so, adding just Blue Dacnis to the total of 78, we set off for breakfast and a scan from the balcony, then a second plunge into the Rainforest was required.
The breakfast balcony is on level three and gives a great vista to scan from. Northern and Southern Rough-winged Swallows cruised past and a distant Osprey was soon joined by a second. Neotropical Cormorant, Little Blue Heron, Royal Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird were all expected, less so were the two King Vultures seen only by me, the first picked up as it dived into the forest flushing a second. After refreshing on juice, coffee, oatmeal and an artery clogging fried breakfast we added Mangrove Swallow and Tropical Mockingbird to the score and set off once more.
We checked the hummer tree again with no luck. Moving on to the Hill Trail we passed through some open, parkland type ground picking up Ruddy Ground-Dove. The trail itself was of no help whatsoever, only two days before we had heard three species of antbird, today zilch. We left the trail to emerge onto the tarmac road which climbs The Hill, noisy birds resolved themselves into Summer Tanager, Slaty-tailed Trogon (below), Paltry Tyrannulet, Plain Wren and Dusky Antbird, a Short-tailed Hawk sailed over and that was 95.
Continuing up the hill we found a wee small flock containing Plain Xenops, Dot-winged Antwren, Tawny-crowned Greenlet and Bay-breasted Warbler, a Black-mandibled Toucan called nearby and became species 100. The sun was well up by now and the heat making things quiet, bird wise. A little flitting thing turned out to be Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, a Baltimore Oriole fed in a flowering tree and Common Tody-Flycatcher, the comedy turn of the tropics, had somehow been missed earlier. A Great-crested Flycatcher being the only one seen on the trip was very pleasing to find.
Decision time, we were entering the most unproductive phase of the tropical day, we knew that our balcony would produce some birds though and we could scan for hawks, etc. We resolved to head back to the room for a rest via the lake edge. As we left the hill we added Bright-rumped Attila and Rufous & White Wren. In the open area Southern Lapwing (below), Wattled Jacana, Great-tailed Grackle, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee and Shiny Cowbird signed off the morning’s efforts, 112 with plenty left to go for, but not until we’d cooled our feet and replenished our water supply.
The balcony was a bit of a let-down, several of the species we had been seeing daily were just not around. After 45 minutes we hauled ourselves up and headed for the Marina/Los Lagatos area to tidy up a few things, then we intended to walk the lake margin down to the La Chunga trail, it seemed that this was the hottest day of the trip so far and now a stiff breeze was building too, this would make some birds keep low.
The Marina area added Purple Gallinule, American Coot, Common Gallinule and Spotted Sandpiper. We flushed a Great Blue Heron in very fortuitous circumstances, then had good views of Lesser Elaenia and Scrub Greenlet along the margins, along with an Orchard Oriole. A Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet gave us the run around and a Snowy-bellied Hummingbird took to pointing out as it sat trying to ignore us, nearby Golden-fronted Greenlet performed much better. The long expected White-throated Crake finally called and a White-necked Jacobin was a relief to find, we’d expected that one to be very easy, typical bird race.
The energy sapping heat was now taking its toll. We were both walking like little old ladies, neither of us being in peak physical condition. I always find that, towards the end of Big Days I become much more reliant on seeing, rather than hearing species, I’m pretty sure this weakness, which in mitigation is brought on by sensory overload, cost a couple of species, must try harder! Sensing that we were running out of steam, we put on the afterburners after spending some time on an Elaenia which we had to work hard to see well and was worth it in the end, it being a Greenish Elaenia. We were now entering the final leg with, we hoped, some of the staked out birds that we had been seeing in the same place each time we birded that way.
A Tennessee Warbler was a relief to find, better still was our regular Black-bellied Wren that did its duty. We still had gaps but birds were just not cooperating and dusk was starting to arrive. We plucked a Squirrel Cuckoo out of the air (not literally, that would be cruel) before finally seeing Smooth-billed Ani but we were pretty much spent by this time. We headed back to base hoping for a late hurrah and to recheck the list. We had been writing the species down as we went but it is very easy to let something slip by and we would use the master checklist later to finalise the count.
Back at the room we scanned front and back in the rapidly fading light, the day still held a few birds and a long expected Great Tinamou called its ethereal notes, a hawking Lesser Nighthawk (below) bounced past on stiff wings and a gang of roosting Cattle Egrets were exactly where I knew that they would be. Finally the regular, marauding Bat Falcon came in late for its leathery evening snacks to round things off; that was it, we were done.
We tallied up the log and found that we had managed 134 species, not bad at all but the question after every Big Day is, what did we miss?
Leafing through the birds seen on site so far we had to ask, Barred Antshrike, where were you? I could not remember hearing one but we saw one daily otherwise, including the very next morning. Yellow-tailed Oriole was another easy tick missed and yes, they were back the next day too. No Red-capped Manakins showed, no Snowy Egrets or Tricolored Herons. Black-throated Mango had been present the day before (and after) as had Ringed Kingfisher. Fasciated Antshrike had become invisible and the ant lovers, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Ocellated Antbird and Jet Antbird all of which are normally very vocal, just were not by the time we got to their locations. A Fork-tailed Flycatcher was present every day outside our room, except for on the Big Day, and neither Masked or Black-crowned Tityra could be found anywhere. On the same day, another birder saw Blue Cotinga and Rufescent Tiger-Heron and I’m sure that the staked out Buff-rumped Warbler and White-shouldered Tanager were laughing behind a mossy trunk somewhere. Add to the missing list Rufous-breasted Wren (which we almost certainly heard but it didn’t register!), Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Streaked Saltator and you can see that we could have done better.
In doing this Big Day we have set the bar and, hopefully shown how great the Gamboa is for birds. The resident site guide will beat the Big Day score easily, as should anyone else who gets more than one week a year in the tropics, as we do. It was great fun to do and if, or perhaps when we go back we have something to aim at.
There we are then, incidentally, the Gamboa big year account is included in the free birding guide to the site, with photos.