Joette Borzik of West Virginia joined the Amazona Society’ s trip to Panama:
“Panama’s avifauna includes 880 species of birds ?considerably more species than are recorded for all of North America north of Mexico. Panama is a land bridge where the faunas of North and South America meet and intermingle, and home to one of the world’s Top 10 birding spots.
“Half of the time, our trip was spent using Panama City as a base, while taking day trips to Parque Nacional Soberania, the Panama Canal, Parque Natural Metropolitano, and Panama Viejo. The remainder of the time was spent in the remote Parque Nacional Darien, home to vast jungles, jaguars, monkeys and remote Indian tribes.
Our first trogon sighting was one I will never forget. Trogons are among the most beautiful birds in the world but are often difficult to see because they perch quietly for long periods. Our trip yielded us the honor of seeing the black-tailed, violaceous and white-tailed trogons.
“Along the Panama Canal, black iguanas sunned along drainage ditches. Since we would soon be headed into the Darien, we had to pack a separate gear bag with only the essentials, and we would leave the rest at the hotel in Panama City.
The Darien runway walk yielded our first glimpse of the parrots. Chestnut-mandibled toucans and crested guan hung out in the Cecropia tree, which later became known by our group as the “toucan tree.” Blue-headed Pionus and brown-hooded parrots raced by us in pairs, to be identified only by the speed and style of their wing beats. I easily recognized the blue-and-yellow (gold) macaw calls from my numerous bird store visits.
As the sun was setting, chestnut-fronted (severe) macaws were returning home to their tree cavities. Despite the surprising absence of mosquitoes in the Darien, ticks came free of charge. To ensure total comfort on your stay, daily total body searches for ticks and evening water purification parties are a must and don’t forget to bring your tweezers and permethrin spray.”
Angela Cancilla Herschel trekked to Seram, Indonesia, as part of The Project Bird Watch team.
“Seram, one of the many islands of Indonesia, is called “Mother Island.” It is also home to the only cockatoo on this gorgeous mountainous island. We mistakenly call it the Moluccan cockatoo but it is more accurately called the Seram cockatoo since the Moluccan islands are a large group of islands with many different cockatoos inhabiting them. We were so lucky to have had researcher Dr Donald Brightsmith (who also leads ecotours to Tambopata, Peru,) with us as a team member. His knowledge of birds and plants is just immense.
“When up in the 16-story canopy tree, we saw big bills flying by and lots of red-sided Eclectus ?they are fabulous flyers. Seeing my first wild Seram cockatoo is a moment I will never forget. They have a unique flying pattern ?flap, flap, glide … repeat. While I was watching the cockatoos, two huge hornbills flew right over my head, and the drumming sound of their wing beats was so loud, it was absolutely incredible!
The day before we were to leave the village of Sawi, we gave gifts to the wonderful children. Teaching them that animals have feelings and are intelligent was a new concept to many of the locals, and it is wonderful to see the ‘light’ slowly going on.”
Carole McGraw enjoys the beauty of Guanacasta, Costa Rica, and discovered the Las Pumas bird and animal rescue center:
“I have always loved birds. Not so long ago, I read an article about the endangered parrots of Guanacasta, Costa Rica. Within weeks, I bought two tickets to Costa Rica and my husband Jim and I became time travelers on the adventure of a lifetime.
“At the tarmac we met a tropical heat beyond the imagination of those of us who live a half world north of this equatorial gem. Clearing immigration and customs was a breeze, and soon my husband, Jim, and I were met by a native guide who stood in a crowd of deeply tanned, colorfully clad people just outside the airport with our names written on a small chalkboard.
Our first tour took us to the top of the jungle canopy. We climbed up a narrow jungle path where leaf-cutting ants with large pieces of sheared leaves on their backs walked in formation. On our second tour, we hopped into a 10-foot rubber raft. As our guide slipped the raft around a bend and snuggled up into a cave entrance, I saw a colony of tiny bats that hung perfectly still on one of the moist, mossy walls. After backing out of the cave, we sighted white-faced capuchin monkeys high up in the trees. They were nimble as they hopped in frenzied motion from branch to branch. Continuing down the river, we saw several scarlet macaws gathered on a fern-covered cliff next to the river just before we arrived at our put out point, where a delicious lunch awaited us.
Our days flew by in Costa Rica. They were spent hiking, swimming, playing tennis, bumping through rapids, bird watching and just sitting on the bright, white sand of the Pacific beach watching off-shore islands that floated against the most azure blue skies ?and, of course, risking the huge undertow of the Pacific as we skirted its edge, where waves broke 9 feet high on the beach and caballeros galloped their horses in the surf. We promised ourselves that we certainly would come back … manaña.”