Sweet little ball of feathers

Birding at the Chocolate Farm

Today I am going to talk about a pretty and elusive ball of feathers, the Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant.  This bird is one of those species that you can hear many times, but see only a few.  Its size and the places where it likes to spend the most part of its time make them a little hard to see.

Black-capped Pygmy-tyrant  (Myiornis atricapillus) has a large range of distribution, found from the south of Nicaragua, through western Colombia down to the north Pacific coast of Ecuador. Often found in the canopy of the humid forest, its easy to lose this 2.5 inch bird. And like living in the canopy wasn’t enough to make it hard to find, its call is like an insect.

Birdwatching PanamaThis adorable little bird is one of the species we can easily hear, not so easily see, as I mentioned before, on to the excursion to the chocolate farm. Green Acres Chocolate Farm is located on the mainland, and is home to many species that we do not have on the islands of the archipelago.

The pictures are not the best ones, but good enough to show this tiny beauty.

Western Caribbean Slope Birding

Birding Panama Episode 8 Video

Birding Panama Episode 8Daniel pulled together a great collection of some of the birds you may see onsite at Tranquilo Bay.  Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Red-lored Amazon, and two Crowned Woodnymphs in all their glory.  Makes me want to pick up a pair of binoculars and go outside.   Come see for yourself as soon as you can!


Looking for a chef/cook

Chef / Cook Bocas del ToroWe are looking for a chef/cook.  We are looking for someone, preferably a Panamanian woman, to begin working with us as soon as possible so that we can do the training during what remains of low season.


This position is responsible for managing the kitchen and meals in their entirety. Menu planning is not the chef’s responsibility; however someone with the right experience may have this responsibility. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for up to 30 in the dining room and up to 12 staff each day. Our hotel is secluded – access to other islands is limited. Approximately 8 other staff members live on site in the staff dormitory. Our boat goes to town twice weekly for supplies, etc. Due to our secluded location and since our staff is housed on the premises, the environment is very much like being on a ship. It is vital that our chef is secure, friendly and teamwork oriented. It is key that our employees get along with others well, both guests and staff. We need a person who is healthy and highly dependable. English is not necessary (we have this job description in Spanish if you need it). We prefer a Panamanian for this position. This position calls for an individual who is professional and presentable. The chef position is a challenging yet rewarding one. Split shifts combined with a busy high season require a self-starter who is dedicated and remains focused on the job. Because of our location, it is very difficult to replace any of our crew. We do expect a commitment from our employees to stay at least a year. It is important that our applicants understand the operation and what responsibilities will be required of them. Under normal circumstances, our staff works a six or seven-day week for five weeks with a week off at the end of the five-week period. This schedule is dependent upon guest reservations. It is possible during high season that the leave week be delayed due to guests on site.  During green season, employees may have extended periods of time off to travel the country or to relax after a busy high season.

We do not allow “partying” or dating within the staff living on site. We require that all staff abide by posted rules and regulations.

Generally there two people (who take turns) in the kitchen to help this person with meals and dish-washing, etc. following each meal. We need a person who is ready to work and does not have specific lines set about what is and is not a part of the job. This position is a great one for someone who thinks they are ready to have their own restaurant but does not yet have the funding to do so. This position allows someone to save money as it is impossible to spend money here. We do not need someone with experience. We will manage the responsibility level based upon the applicants and the ultimate hire.


The salary will be between $800 and $1200 a month and is completely dependent upon the applicant’s experience, etc.  We pay transportation costs to and from this person’s home at the end of the five-week period by bus. We pay all social security and other governmental requirements. The person who fills this position will live on site. On site all meals are provided. Personal expenses are limited to mobile phone and personal toiletries. We do have internet which are available to this person during their off hours until 10:00 pm each night.

If you know of anyone who might fit this position, please have them contact me at info @ tranquilobay .com. Thanks.

Longsnout Seahorse

Snorkeling Bocas del Toro

One of the most intriguing, secretive and unknown species of the Bocatoranian marine wildlife is also one that occupies a privileged place in everyone’s personal wildlife universe: Seahorses. The Longsnout Seahorse, Hippocampus reidi is the species found in Bocas del Toro.

Many of us have enjoyed seahorse cartoon characters, bathroom stickers, pictures, and documentaries. We have seen them in aquariums or dried out in local market as souvenirs.   In some cultures they use them as a traditional medicine.

For many years I believed that they were just a Bocatoranian myth, but local neighbors remember the times where they were often seen under their docks or attached to sponges on the dock posts. I have never seen them on Isla Colon, yet I was lucky enough to find one some time ago. What makes it more incredible is that the one I found is within swimming distance of Tranquilo Bay’s dock.

In the very same area in which I found it, I continue to see it from time to time. One important thing that I have learned is that the times I have seen it are when I am choosing to have a very slow mode snorkeling experience. Because seahorses are not good swimmers they have an amazing camouflage system in the bony plates covering their bodies. This is their only defense against predators.

Panama Seahorse

There are many interesting facts about seahorses; I am just going to give you some of them that I believe curious enough to be shared.

Their unusual reproductive strategy is one of them, the males are the ones that will carry the eggs after the female lays them in a special abdominal pouch on the male (where they are fertilized). He will incubate them and 14 days later he will give birth by opening the pouch to the tiny (0.2 inches) young seahorses that are identical yet smaller than the adults.

They are generally believed to mate for life, but what scientist have confirmed through the data collected is that some seahorses do have monogamous relationships in which they stay together for several mating seasons in a row.

Seahorses are considered an important species in the aquarium trade. They are one of the most exported marine ornamental fish species in Brazil.

With all that interest and curiosity that seahorses awaken in the human mind, many sea horse populations are on the decline given that they have been collected as aquarium fishes, used in folk medicine, and sold as souvenirs.

Another important threat is that they are included in the by-catch of shrimp boats in the USA, Mexican and Central American ocean waters.

Even with all this pressure on seahorse populations, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the species are considered “data deficient” so they are not included in the IUCN red list of endangered species.

The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (C.I.T.E.S) includes our Longsnout Seahorse in their list as “Threatened”, in the Apendix II CITES 2004.

This is a good example of how important it is that scientists continue to study the Longsnout Seahorse in order todeterminewhether or not its population is stable and what conservation measures might need to be initiated. If we do not even know if there is a problem … how are we going to fix it?

Double-toothed Kite Video

Birding Panama Video

After returning from vacation earlier this fall, Ramon was presented with an opportunity to watch this Double-toothed Kite right outside his apartment door.  One must take advantage of these opportunities so he set up his camera in order for all of us to have a chance to take a look at this outstanding bird.  Thanks Ramon!

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Birding Panama

One of the common resident birds here at Tranquilo Bay is the Chesnut-backed Antbird (Myrmeciza exsul). It is one of the most common ant-bird of the tropical zone forest, which lives from sea level up to 2000 feet (600-700 meters). Its range is good size, reaching from the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, both coasts of Costa Rica and south to Western Ecuador and Northern Colombia.

In Panama, this species has some color variation throughout the isthmus and four subspecies are recognized. The subspecies found at Tranquilo Bay (Bocas del Toro and eastward through northern Veraguas to eastern Colon) is Myrmeciza exsul exsul.

They are almost always found close to the ground, generally in pairs moving relatively close together, on the undergrowth of the forest floor.

While hiking Tranquilo Bay’s trails you will often hear a double note whistle followed by the same call but in a slightly different tone. The first one is the male calling and the “changed tone” call is the female answering.  These calls and the movement on the forest floor are the best way to find them due to the lack of light in the places they like to inhabit and their own dark coloration.

The Chestnut-backed Antbird can show up anywhere in the forest, but the best close-up views, are usually obtained on the path that joins the cabanas to the main building of the lodge. It surprises you, if they are not calling and you walk on this path, because the male will make a purring sound while he moves away from you. An amazing forest bird found on a comfortable cement path.

Emerald Basilisk

Wildlife PanamaAnother species of Basilisk lizard we see during some of our excursions is the Emerald Basilisk or Basiliscus plumifrons.

It is, as the striped basilisk, a very large lizard with diurnal, semi-aquatic, semi-arboreal behavior. The Emerald Basilisk is shier than it´s cousins and it´s range of movement is always closer to the water. As with the Striped Basilisk, juveniles appear to be primarily insectivorous, starting an omnivorous diet with a considerable ingestion of plant material like seeds, stems, etc. as grow(they get to 135 mm in standard length).

Their reproductive season is somewhat shorter that the Striped Basilisk, starting in May and finishing in September. During this time, they will lay from 4 to 17 eggs per clutch. In captivity, the hatching time is 55 to 75 days.

Basilisk Panama

This Emerald Basilisk’s distribution range is different in the Caribbean and the Pacific. On the Atlantic it ranges from the humid lowlands of Eastern Honduras to Western Panama, while on the Pacific slope it will be found only in Southwestern Costa Rica and Southwestern Panama.

There are several different excursions where we have found these amazing lizards, ranging from sea level, in the lowland forest of Almirante, to 2400 feet, close to the Bocas del Toro continental divide. Every time we see one, it seems brighter and more striking than the time before. Judge for yourself.

Kayaking near Tranquilo Bay


Due to Tranquilo Bay’s location in a nearly untouched forest area within the Bocas del Toro archipelago, and the fact that it is surrounded by protected waters that hold an incredible collection of coral and sponges, we have almost an unlimited range of things to do and discover right off of the dock.

One of things we can do is take a kayak into the Caribbean Sea.   We often do this directly from Tranquilo Bay’s dock. It is an excellent summary of Bocas del Toro’s many possibilities.

Panama Birding

We start early to avoid paddling under the harshest sun. We glide over calm waters into a mangrove channel. It is here that we can see some interesting wildlife: from cushion starfishes under our kayaks to the beautiful Snowy Cotinga flirting with the top of the trees; or a Keel- billed or Yellow-throated Toucans flying over our heads in the wider areas of the canal; or the Yellow Mangrove Warbler calling at the dense mangrove edge.


If we feel like it, we stop at Isla Popa and check for different color morphs of the famous Strawberry poison dart frog, with their green and orange tones, to the light blue legged ones.

After experiencing the richness of our “over the water” world, on the way back we discover what the underwater world has to offer.


Endless platforms of coral reef covered in life and color, playful shining fishes, countless brittle stars, mysterious feather-dusters, sponges, crustaceans, ascidians are all visible under the ocean. Each of these animals lets you witness their daily life. Textures and shapes curving underwater are a colorful live work of art.


On the end of our kayak trip, it is a good time to compile and archive our memories of all the amazing things we saw within a kayak distance from Tranquilo Bay.