Rainforest Discovery Center

I headed out early with my guide Alex, to the Rainforest Discovery Center which is just down the famous Pipeline Road and to the left.

When we got out of the truck Alex immediately heard the call of the pheasant cuckoo. As we attempted to located the sulker, the bird shot out of the trees across the road and passed within feet of our heads. That certainly put a smile on the face of the morning!

Our first destination was the observation tower. At 40 meters tall, the tower put us above the rainforest canopy. No stiff necks here, trying to locate an elusive warbler or cotinga. Now we were looking down on them!

There was plenty signs of migration in the blue sky and among the treetops. Swifts and swallows passed by and an eastern kingbird perched up on a bare branch, perhaps a brief pause on its journey north. A long line of brown pelicans crossing over the verdant hills.

Eastern kingbird, resting on a snag. Taken from the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center’s observation tower.

You know when Alex, who birds this area frequently , gets excited about seeing a bird, then you know that bird is really special. The small accipiter flew into the top of a tree pursued by hummingbirds was the source of Alex’s excitement. This was one of the smallest hawks in the world: a juvenile rufous morph tiny hawk.

The tiny hawk, usually is concealed in the understory, was now sitting out in the open, sunning itself and preening. It’s hummingbird escorts perched nearby, but not too close because hummingbirds are a part of a tiny hawk’s diet. Now why would potential breakfast be perched so close to a known avian predator? The hummingbirds where calling attention to a threat in the area and the tiny hawk loses it’s advantage: it’s ability to ambush unsuspecting prey.

After sometime in the observation tower, we headed out to the Lake Trail that ended at a deck on Lake Calamito. There was a striated heron hunting in front of us and a rufescent tiger-heron devouring a water snake. Near the far shore, a large crocodile was moving on the waters. On the tree above was perched a male snail kite.

That’s not a log but an American crocidile!

A male snail kite at Lake Calamito. He is looking up over his shoulder at something in the sky. This interesting pose served as the model for my painting.

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