Birding Pipeline Panama
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1. Pipeline Road Area
Ponds: Ammo Ponds with its wetland/forest edges. Typical birds include herons (e.g., Rufescent Tiger-heron), Wattled Jacana, gallinules, White-throated Crake, Keel-billed Toucan, Gartered Trogons, Red-lored Parrot, Ringed Kingfisher, Black-throated Mango (dry season), Red-crowned Woodpecker, swallows, martins, Buff-breasted and Plain wrens, Buff-throated Saltator, Crimson-backed and Blue-gray tanagers, many flycatchers (e.g., Social, Rusty-margined, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee). Typical mammals include capybara (occasional) and red-tailed squirrel. Ambiance: Some distracting vehicle traffic along the dirt road by the ponds as folks drive to the ferry to Barro Colorado Island and others drive to Discovery Center; chain-link fences detract from natural character but allow for great perching opportunities for the birds. Has an good flurry of avian activity from about 6:15 to 8:00 am.
PipelineOut: fragmented rainforest and forest edge right outside the entrance to Pipeline Road. Typical birds include Keel-billed Toucan, Gartered and White-tailed trogons, Red-lored Parrot, Black-bellied Wren, tanagers, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, White-bellied and Dusky antbirds, many flycatchers (e.g., Boat-billed), Black-bellied Wren, Streaked Saltator, Golden-hooded and Plain-colored tanagers, Golden-collared Manakin, migratory warblers (esp. in dry season), Blue-black Grosbeak, Yellow-tailed and Yellow-backed orioles. Typical mammals include three-toed sloth and red-tailed squirrel. Ambiance: Some vehicle traffic, and roadsides a bit torn-up in places, but patches of forest are attractive and lots of edge-effect makes for many species.
PipelineIn: intact rainforest along the first 2 km of Pipeline Road (open to all vehicles; no entry fee). Typical birds include Keel-billed and Black-mandibled toucans; Collared Aracari; Gartered, White-tailed, Slaty-tailed, Black-tailed, and Black-throated trogons; Rufous, Broad-billed, Whooping (recent split from Blue-crowned), and White-whiskered motmots; Black-cheeked, Cinnamon, Lineated, and Crimson-crested woodpeckers; Blue-chested Hummingbird; Long-billed Hermit; Cocoa, Plain-brown, Black-striped, and Northern Barred woodcreepers; Fasciated Antshrike; Chestnut-backed, Spotted, Bicolored, and Ocellated antbirds; Dot-winged, White-flanked, Checker-throated, and Moustached antwrens; Spot-crowned Antvireo; Black-faced Antthrush; Streak-chested Antpitta; Ruddy-tailed and other flycatchers (e.g., Dusky-capped, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Yellow-margined, Southern Bentbill); Russet-winged Schiffornis; Black-bellied, Bay, Song, and Nightingale wrens; White-breasted Wood-wren; Golden-collared, Red-capped, and Blue-crowned manakins; Red-throated Ant-tanager; Gray-headed and White-shouldered tanagers; Scarlet-rumped Cacique; Purple-throated Fruitcrow. Typical mammals include three-toed sloth, white-throated capuchin monkey, mantled howler monkey, collared anteater, Central American agouti, collared peccary, red-tailed squirrel, variegated squirrel. Rarely seen mammals include Geoffrey's tamarin monkey, ocelot, tayra, southern river otter, and white-tailed deer. Ambiance: Beautiful, intact tropical rainforest; we often walk a bit into the forest to see past the thick layer of vegetation along the road/trail (unlike Plantation Road).
PipelineWayIn: intact rainforest from 2 to 4 km inside Pipeline Road. This area is behind a gate, so it is open mostly to only foot traffic; need to pay $5 per person entry fee if park guards are present. Typical birds include those of PipelineIn, plus an occasional Sunbittern. Typical mammals are the same as those in PipelineIn. Ambiance: Beautiful, intact tropical rainforest; we often walk a bit into the forest to see past the thick layer of vegetation along the road/trail (unlike Plantation Road). Very little vehicle traffic (like a few per day), so the feeling here is more of a wide trail than a road (unlike PipelineIn).
2. Panama Rainforest Discovery Center
Discovery Center, a non-profit concession within the park, is located 2 km inside the front gate of Pipeline Road. It has a tower (you need to walk up and down 175 steps), trails, pond (larger than Ammo Pond), and hummingbird feeders. There is a $20 per-person entry fee to the center if you go with a guide, and a $30 per-person fee if you go without one (guides are not charged). Typical birds include those of PLin plus Snail Kite, Masked Duck (seasonally), herons, gallinules, Lesser Kiskadee, and usually about 8 species of hummingbirds at the feeders (e.g., Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-crested Coquette (seasonally); White-vented Plumeleteer; Blue-chested, Violet-bellied, and Rufous-tailed hummingbirds). Typical mammals are the same as those in PipelineIn. Ambiance: Beautiful, tropical rainforest, somewhat younger than forest along PipelineIn and PipelineWayIn. We rarely need to walk into the forest to see birds here because of the extensive trail system, and the prohibitively thick layer of vegetation along many of the trails (unlike Plantation Road).
3. Plantation Road
Plantation Road is located about 8 km south of Gamboa (between the city and Gamboa); it starts along the main road, at the entrance to Canopy Lodge. Typical birds are very similar to those of PLin and PLway in, but with an occasional Sunbittern and many more Golden-crowned Spadebills. Typical mammals are the same as those in PipelineIn. Ambiance: Forests are more beautiful than those in PipelineIn, PipelineWayIn, or Discovery Center due to the trail paralleling a lovely creek, and due to easy viewing afforded by less vegetation along the trail and by an open understory; unlike Pipeline Road, no vehicle traffic is permitted.
For the time being, we're sticking with birding mostly in the Pipeline Road area and nearby hotspots. So the only decision you need to make ahead of time is whether you'd like to bird (1) the Pipeline Road Area, (2) Discovery Center, or (3) Plantation Road. Generally: (1) Pipeline Road Area provides the most habitats and, therefore, the most species; (2) Discovery Center offers birds and big views from a tower, birds by a private lake, and hummingbird feeders; (3) Plantation Road is a more-open understory rainforest with easy viewing of a good number of birds. Within the Pipeline Road area, there are some other choices to make, as described below.
Photos, here by permission, were taken while birding with Kent Livezey: female Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher (Sang Peiris) and male White-whiskered Puffbird (Mario Olteanu). Website by Kent Livezey.
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