Published: February 10th 2008February 9th 2008 Birds of the Avocado Tree
Collared aracari (Pteroglossus t. torquatus)
"Oafy" our unhappy aracari posed like a champ for this photo. Here you can really see the firey plumage on his belly which contrasts so sharply with his black back. (Avocado Tree, Gamboa)
I might have mentioned in my last entry that I have a huge avocado tree outside my bedroom window. I must say, it is an incredible source of entertainment and excitement during my time off (among other things, of course!) I have seen so many beautiful birds in that tree. I have also taken to waiting quietly with my camera until a bird comes close enough to get a good photo. My rate of success with good shots is low, (bird-brains have more to them than meets the eye) but I do manage to get some good photos. I have embedded a few of my favorites.
Our little, angry collared aracari still flies into the window at about 9 in the morning. I have decided that he is trying to impress a female by fighting the phantom "other" male in the window. Every time I watch him though, I notice that the female isn't even paying attention. Poor guy, he tries too hard!
Other visitors include a beautiful blue-crowned motmot, golden-hooded tanagers, a plethora of warblers, honeycreepers and flycatchers and even the occasional raptor (bird of prey). My neighbor Stevan told me that
Blue-crowned motmot (Motmotus motmota conexus)
This photo does not really do justice to the beautiful motmot. The peacock blue and emerald green on the bird are just spectacular! (Avocado Tree, Gamboa)
he even saw a troop of monkeys in the tree, but I wasn't home to see them. Oh well, perhaps they will come back at a later point. Day at the Zoo
Last week, I took Katie and Katelyn to the Summit Zoo to look at some of Panama's animals but especially to see the majestic harpy eagle. The Harpy is Panama's national bird but is also extremely endangered. It has been hunted and poached and needlessly killed by people who are afraid it will abduct their livestock, pets and children (all completely possible but somewhat unlikely). Programs such as the Peregrine Fund are working on ways to increase awareness of the harpy eagle's ecological role and are trying to captive- breed the birds and release individuals into the wild. So far their rate of success has been slim. The last bird that was released on an island was later found many miles away, shot dead possibly by a farmer.
Katie got peed on by an agouti (a little rodent-like creature) at the zoo. It looked like a friendly one, so she bent down to look at it and all of a sudden a yellow projectile flew
Never smile at a crocodile!
A massive 7-footer was basking in the balmy sunlight at the zoo. I have yet to see a wild crocodile close enough. The crocodile anti-poaching laws in Panama have resulted in a significant increase in the croc population as well as an increase in the size of individual crocs. They are also less afraid of humans making them a bit more frightening to me! (Summit Zoo)
up toward her and she got away just in time to get a bit of pee on her shirt. It was quite a funny sight! The rest of the afternoon her tee shirt reeked of agouti pee and all of us couldn't help but make fun of her. Going Batty
We've had three more bats this week. They are named Poquito (because he is so tiny), Rio (meaning river) and Agua (meaning water). The last two were named after water because they both almost drowned in the stream when they got caught in our nets. It was completely our fault because we failed to tighten the last tier of the nets which are very close to the surface of the stream. When we caught Rio and Agua, they were completely drenched so we dried them off and hugged them against our chests to restore some of their warmth. Very soon they were dry, their fur lush and glossy, so we fed them fish and frogs and allowed them to rest in our flight cage.
For the first week, Rio decided that I was his source of food (another unfortunate result of keeping wild animals captive) and would
Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)
I am always in awe of the size of the harpy. It is severely endangered (because it is poached, hunted and killed in self-defense) and there are many programs in action which are trying to bring the numbers of this top predator back. I think Panama will be at a horrendous loss if the harpy eagle goes extinct. (Summit Zoo)
fly to me screeching and squawking any time I walked into his cage. I had to be hard on him and completely ignore his complaints for food, and instead encourage him to fly to a speaker which broadcast the call of a tungara frog-his favorite meal. Thankfully these bats are ridiculously smart and he caught on in only a few hours. Now I can walk in to his cage and approach him and he completely ignores me. Rain on a Parade!
Last Tuesday was "Carnival" (otherwise known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday) in Panama. The entire city was shut down for this fun event and for two days, one could hear music blaring from every corner of the streets, from houses and even from parked cars. For Carnival, Panamanians gather in the central part of the city to watch a huge, extravagant parade. Much like 6th street in Austin is off limits to cars, the main street (I don't know the name!) is also off limits to cars so people can walk around, set up picnics on the street and await the parade. Another tradition is to spray water and then throw sticky confetti on one another
Collared peccaries (Tayasu tajacu)
I always see a few peccaries on my way back to Gamboa after a night of netting in the jungle. They are not dangerous as I had previously thought, but rather clumsy and loud. Their babies are absolutely adorable! (Summit Zoo)
as you walk down the street. People of all ages came up to us with supersoakers and confetti and really let us have it! I think they got extra points for spraying the "gringos" because many of the kids and adults made a beeline for Katie, Katelyn and Andrew (my supervisor's friend). I was happy that I was less of a target because I was constantly worried that my camera would get soaked.
Just as the parade was about to start, a dark set of clouds sauntered over the city and unleashed the strongest downpour I've seen yet! So much for the dry season. Instead of sitting on the sunny sidewalk watching the floats and gaudy figures roll by, we were ushered and huddled under a tarp, shoulder-to-shoulder with about 70 other people waiting for the rain to let up. We must have stood there for about 45 minutes, drenched and uncomfortable. Katie decided to tell us jokes to pass the time. Soon it was time for us to head back to Gamboa because our bats would be waking up and getting hungry. Unfortunately, we never saw the parade but made our way back to Gamboa long before the
Keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus brevicarinatus)
I wanted to portray the size and magnificent colors of his beak. It would be nearly impossible to come this close to a wild toucan because they are extremely nervous creatures and are spooked by the slightest disturbance. Even with their bright and gaudy colors, they are amazingly cryptic in the trees. You are lucky if you see one at all! (Summit Zoo)
rain stopped. We reached Gamboa just in time to change out of our wet clothes, grab a bite to eat before driving to the flight cage to feed our hungry bats.
After we release Rio and Agua back into the wild, we will take two days off to relax and unwind and get some rest. It doesn't seem like it, but we have been working since the second day of our stay in Panama! Even though we sleep longer hours than normal (2am to 11am), our sleep is superficial and intermittent because the human body is not designed to have a nocturnal lifestyle. So my nine hours of sleep are about equivalent to about 6 hours of a deep, normal sleep cycle.
I am truly looking forward to two whole days of rest! Rio dies
This just in: At about 7pm last night, I walked into Rio's cage and found him lying on the floor, convulsing. Katelyn and I picked him up and quickly tried to force-feed him some water. I held him close to one of our light bulbs to warm up his body. For about 45 minutes, I alternated between giving him some water
Golden-hooded tanager (Tangara larvata fanny)
Isn't this bird like something out of a fairy-tale book? That's what I thought the first time I saw it! The colors are so contrasting and showy. This fellow is a frequent visitor to the avocado tree outside my window. However, he is flighty and I was incredibly lucky to have got this one photo of him before he disappeared into the foliage. (Avocado Tree, Gamboa)
and holding him under the bulb. His body was extremely thin. He died in my hands at 7:45pm. I have no idea why or what could have caused it. He ate so well the night before. Katie thinks he may have been sick when we caught him and the stress of captivity may have only aggravated it. We know so little about their mysterious lives and I felt helpless while he shivered and shook in my hands. I brought him down to the lab to get some DNA and other data from his body - we may be able to find out what happened to him. Even though death is a part of life, I can't help feeling horrendously responsible for the little creature's death. He was in my care.
There are more photos below