Balcony birding at Gamboa

One of the great things about the tropics is that, in the heat of the day, you can sit and watch the World go by and as long as its got feathers and wings, its generally worth watching.

The balconies at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort look out over the River Chagres as it flows into the Panama Canal. The bird life can be spectacular. In the evening, flights of Blue-headed, Red-lored and Mealy Parrots flight noisily in to roost in the grounds. During the first few hours of the morning birds move from tree to tree feeding, lingering in the fruiting trees to gorge themselves before the heat of the day sends them into a stupor.

If you have a camera and a lens the birds sometimes present themselves for immortality. This year our tree was fruiting and our balcony attracted 30 or more species over the week we were there. Here are a few balcony birding shots, a couple of a Streaked Flycatcher, two more of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a Magnificent Frigatebird, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Social Flycatcher, Palm Tanager, Immature Grey Hawk and a Tropical Kingbird.

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Gamboa Birding

Visiting the Neotropics is always a buzz. As soon as you land you are looking for the first bird, the start of the trip list and the start of a week away from the Quebec winter in a land of birds.

We visited Panama in 2009 and had a great time, it is unusual for us to go back to the same place twice but we felt that the timing and price made it hard to resist so we went to Sell off Vacations once again, credit card in hand. For any Canadian, getting to Panama this way is easy and cheap, yes you fly cattle class and you tend to share your plane with over excited beach people who seem to have the IQ of dental floss but you leave them all at the airport. Once you climb into the minibus you are away and ticking.

On our previous trip, the flights were not great in terms of timing, on the way out we went via Cancun, Mexico, on the way back we departed for Montreal at 01.30! This time we arrived at the hotel at 13.30 and were unpacked and out inside an hour. The hotel is the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. It does not have the birding cache of the nearby Canopy Tower, in fact it is dismissed in some quarters but I think quite unfairly. It has many advantages over the Canopy Tower in that it is about 1000CAN cheaper! It also has very extensive grounds with a broad range of habitats that hold many birds. Perhaps the nature of the place means that the staff expect a tip for every service but they soon learn to live with disappointment when dealing with parsimonious birders.

The trip this time was also just over a month later, a month is a long time in birding and the change from wet to dry season changes the structure of the bird life, some birds we saw in December 2009 were harder or even absent in January 2012.

There are a number of things about the tropics that people should remember. The climate makes rooms smell slightly damp, get over it. It rains, get under it and the jungle has swarms of Arm Ants if you are lucky, get into them. People from the region are very laid back unless driving when they tend to be demented. The food is rarely piping hot unless you put hot sauce on it and there is rice with everything.

Below are the first few images from the trip. Lesser Kiskadee, Yellow-headed Caracara, Lineated Woodpecker and Spectacled Owl, nice isn’t it.