Athena’s View of Panama
As most know, the 7×42 Ultravid HD boasts the widest field of view of any in the Leica line. So not surprisingly, Athena, our 7×42 Wandering Ultravid, embraces a broader view of the world as well.
Unlike Travis the Traveling Trinovid that only traveled domestically in the US, Athena recently visited our partners at the Canopy Family in Panama and visited all 5 of their public properties and an additional private location – The Canopy Tower, the Canopy B&B, the Canopy Lodge & (adjacent) Canopy Adventure, and finally the newest location, the Canopy Camp in the Darién Province of Panama. In 9+ days of birding these areas, Athena wracked up an impressive 360 bird species in beautiful Panama, plus saw many amazingly, breathtaking scenic views, a variety of interesting mammals, butterflies, and other wildlife as well!
The first night was spent at the comfortable Canopy B&B in Gamboa, not much time was spent here, but in just a few daylight hours we were able to enjoy large groups of Orange-chinned Parakeets, various Tanager and Euphonias at the large, well-stocked platform style bird feeders here as well as numerous hummingbirds.
We would have soaked up more from the B&B but an aggressive schedule had been set up especially for Athena to see all of the properties. So at 4:30 AM we climbed aboard our shuttle to the Canopy Camp in the Darién as Common Pauraques bid us adieu from the darkness surrounding the B&B. En route, a quick stop for breakfast provided wonderful local coffee and numerous Hummingbirds including: Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Long-billed Starthroat, Black-throated Mango, Rufous-tailed & Snowy-bellied Hummingbirds among others! A great start to the day.
The new Canopy Camp was a real treat, offering amazing comfort in the beautifully wild province of Darién, Panama. Found at the extreme east end of Panama, the area surrounding the camp offers an amazing number of species not seen from the other Canopy properties and not easily seen anywhere else in Panama. Some of these like the White-headed Wren, White-eared Conebill, Spot-crowned Barbet, and Sooty-headed Tyrannulets were seen right on the grounds of the Camp along the beautifully landscaped grounds and from the comfort of the deck and spacious open air dining area during our brief stay. More specifics will follow in subsequent posts.
After a far too short visit to the amazing Canopy Camp and the specialty species of the Darién, Athena found her way whizzing back to the Canopy Tower.
The Canopy Tower is a decommissioned US military radar station purchased by Raul Arias de Para and converted into a magical eco-lodge. The famed & beloved tower has been a favorite of birders for years due to its unique location. It sits at the highest point of Semaphore Hill and offers a magical view of the Sobernia National Forest that spreads out below the top deck of the tower. To say “the morning chorus atop the tower is unique and enjoyable” would be a HUGE understatement! Once again more details will follow in subsequent posts. The purpose of this trip was for a tour sponsored jointly by Leica & Eagle Optics in Madison, WI, a total of 12 participants joined Ben & Athena on this incredible adventure.
While most of our time was spent enjoying birds and wildlife we did make one tourist stop to visit the Panama Canal museum at the Miraflores Locks here. The Canopy Tower sits on the canal zone so only appropriate to learn a bit more about the 100 year history of the canal and see the locks system in action. Never fear though, from the fourth-level deck, Athena also spied Magnificent Frigatebirds in every plumage, Ringed Kingfisher, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Bat Falcon, Tropical Mockingbirds, and groups of migrating Mississippi Kites while here as well!
We finally ended our trip staying at the lovely Canopy Lodge in El Valle de Antón which sits nestled in the cone of a dormant volcano and adjoins with the trails of the Canopy Adventure. The ridges that surround El Valle offer many different bird & wildlife species, amazing views, and cooler temperatures. Among other species, we enjoyed views of Gray-necked Wood Rails, Buff-rumped & Rufous-crowned Warblers, Dusky-faced Tanagers, and Today Motmot from the landscaped grounds here.
After a few amazing days of birding, it was hard to finally bid the Canopy Family adieu and make our way back to Panama City and eventually back to the US. Thanks to the hospitality of the entire professional staff at all of these amazing properties, it is a certainty that we will be back soon though!