Panamania Day 1: Riande Airport Hotel

October 31, 2019 2 By Audrey

An international birding trip was inevitable. I was inspired by my friend Eric’s trip to Panama when he told me many people speak English, you can drink the water, they use American currency, it’s safe, oh and it has more bird species than the United States and Canada combined even though it’s about the size of South Carolina – 992 species as of June 2019! Sounds impossible, but it’s true. And just like that Panama moved to the top of my list. It was a comfortable transition from the U.S. and a great place to meet up with my mom, since she could fly from her hometown of Tampa, FL on a reasonable 3-hour non-stop flight to Panama.

I arrived in a day earlier than planned due to a flight change making timing more complicated to meet my mom, but it gave me the advantage of an extra morning of birding. And Orbitz set me up in a hotel a mile from the airport with a shuttle for easy transport. I’ll take it.

Chess board for scale

I couldn’t be more excited. I wandered around the property overwhelmed in shock and awe. None of my cramming the Birds of Panama Field Guide on the plane could prepare me for the unfamiliar sights and sounds around me. There were blue things, yellow things, red things, and then a black-and-white checkered thing so insane it made me run back inside to I.D. it.

The first bird I identified in Panama turned out to be a Barred Antshrike!

I found out later it has no relation to the shrikes seen in the Pacific Northwest, (Northern and Loggerhead, neither of which are in Panama), nor does it impale ants, but it is named for the hooked end to its bill. This was so good. I couldn’t believe it exists and this was just the first of many.

I stood in one place and let the new birds rain down on me (and I eventually identified some).

Yellow thing = Common Tody-Flycatcher

Blue thing = Blue-gray Tanager

Green thing = Palm Tanager

Blurry thing = Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Streaked thing = Streaked Flycatcher

Nondescript thing = Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Black and yellow thing = Thick-billed Euphonia

And just when you think you can identify something.

Nope, that’s not a Northern Mocking bird that is a Tropical Mockingbird! Nothing tropical about it, it just lacks the white wing patches of the NOMO.

Birding Panama was much harder than I anticipated. But I’d already seen 16 new birds in a couple of hours, including new hummingbirds that I got poor photos of.

Sapphire-throated Hummingbird
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird – the rufous tail is just barely visible

The colorful orchids were much more cooperative.

This was a good start. And luckily I signed my mom and I up with a birding guide for three days of our trip so I was sure to see so much more. Beinvenido a Panama!

Píos y piar,

Audrey