This episode takes a ride around Bocas del Toro to take in some of the glorious Caribbean views available to you on your Panama Vacation. Enjoy!
During the last week of October, Natalia and I had the opportunity to explore, with the kayaks, the Auyama River mouth. Where the Auyama River pours it´s water into the Chiriqui Lagoon. Jay was going fishing with a guest in the area, there was space for the kayaks, so we got some water, our cameras in a backpack, and we were ready to go.
When we got there, the tide was rising but it was still very low so we had to find our way over a sand bar, between dozens of logs covered in Neotropic Cormorants and some shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstones, Semi-palmeated Plover and sandpipers. Flying around we could see some Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns while we were getting into the river itself.
Once we got into the river, both sides were covered in Black Mangrove at the entrance and on the first hundred meters. Vegetation grew thicker as we were going up the river, and after enjoying a pair of Pied Puffbird, we heard an unknown sound so we stopped our kayaks and waited. Just a few seconds after we began alert mode, a Boat-billed Heron flew from one side of the river to the other perching in a thick clump of branches and leaves.
It was time to start heading back to the boat, so we left it resting on it´s perch, and we headed out. It felt like we needed more time to discover the wonders that the Auyama River holds, but for an introductory trip … we could not complain. It was a wonderful morning surrounded by interesting birds in beautiful scenery.
Wasps are insects that can bring mixed feelings, but having a close look at them, proves they are very interesting creatures. This video shows the way they take care of their offspring. By flapping their wings to reduce the temperature inside the nest, they protect the young inside the nest. Animals are not as dangerous as we night think. Respect and distance are the key to living in harmony with all the Earth’s creatures.
Gender bias? Here in Panama, at Tranquilo Bay, not so much, but in many other parts of the world, yes. When many people think of women in science they do not think of the same people who my daughter brings to her mind. Why, well, we are blessed to live on a spot on this earth that brings many scientists to us. And believe it or not, the majority of the scientists that we have met working here in Bocas del Toro, are women.
We welcome scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute out to our place to study whatever it is they are studying. We figure it helps science, we learn something and our kids have an opportunity to meet new scientists on a regular basis.
We have naturalist guides who are on site to work with our guests who have both studied different sciences and who teach us about biology, nature and many different types of science on a daily basis.
We have group leaders who are scientists or naturalists of some form that visit us on a regular basis.
We have a family member who studied ecology and is working with TIDE so that she might become a marine biologist one day.
Why this conversation? Well, one of the scientists we met in October 2015 is also a National Geographic Photographer. Clare Fiesler contacted us to see about working with us on a kayak circumnavigation of Isla Bastimentos while she was studying at STRI. She and her buddy, Becca Skinner, used two portable Orukayaks to complete this expedition. They stayed the first night with us. Both of them have shared some details about their adventure on Nat Geo’s blog and Instagram account.
Since then, Clare suggested that a group of students from UNC Chapel Hill spend some time documenting Bocas del Toro and she kindly gave them our name. The result is this award-winning multimedia website created by the students under the supervision of a great group of professors and coaches. Clare was one of the coaches.
Several years ago, Clare worked on a project: “Outnumbered: Portraits of Women Scientists.” She explains a bit about the project in this video. You can also get more information here: http://college.unc.edu/2014/11/12/outnumbered/.
Most recently Clare used words to explain in An Ecologist’s Guide to Writing Obituaries about the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef as well as obituaries as a genre. We take writing very seriously around here as part of our school curriculum so when we find people who are skilled with this craft, we learn whatever we can from them.
My children have met a number of female scientists and a number of people named Clare, but only one female scientist named Clare. So when I tell them that Clare is in Bocas del Toro working on another research project they immediately know to ask, “Mom, are you talking about the Clare that did the kayak project?” They do this because to them, Clare isn’t the only female scientist they know so they have learned to identify her in a different way. I wish that more people had the same perspective on life – we can work towards whatever interests us and it doesn’t need to fit a specific mold. We can make it into what works for us. Clare’s camera and her words are some of the tools she uses to expand people’s horizons and help tell people’s stories. Many of those stories touch science in one way or another.
Let me introduce you to one of the most interesting birds of Bocas del Toro, Panama.
It´s name … Three- wattled Bellbird or, as we call it here, Campanero o Pájaro Campana (Procnias tricarunculata). This species is within the suboscine passerine family of Cotingas (Cotingidae). The English name comes from the three black skin wattles that the adult male has, one in the base of the upper mandible, the other two find on the corner of the gape. I guess the Spanish name is because the male Procnias produces one of the loudest of all animal vocalizations. Its main sound is a thunderous, electronic bell or gong-like note … so … “campanero” is a great name.
Three-wattled Bellbirds are only found from Southeastern Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to Western Panamá. It has one of the most complex migration patterns registered for tropical species, including altitudinal movements. In Panama, from March to Mid-August, breeding season, it is found in the upper levels of the forest in the western foothills and highlands (from 3000 to 7000 feet). In nonbreeding season, September to February, it descends to the lowlands and foothills on the Western Caribbean Slope, which means you can enjoy them here at Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge.
It is one of the biggest fruit-eating (frugivorous) birds in Central America. It feeds on stone fruits that all contain a relatively high percentage of protein and fat and not much water within the fruit’s flesh. A big percentage of them are Lauracea and Rutacea, but it also eats other fruits.
Unlike other birds of the suboscine division, the Three-wattled Bellbird is capable of vocal learning. Vocal learning was supposed to have evolved in three clades of birds: parrots, hummingbirds and oscine passerines; and three clades of mammals: whales, bats and primates. However, behavioral data indicates that the Three-wattled Bellbird is capable of vocal learning, This data, in the form of a genetic study carried out in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, shows that the weak genetic variation shown between the four populations is not congruent with variation in vocal behavior of the four.
Three-wattled Bellbirds have a very particular display practice. They always choose an exposed perch above the canopy or a special broken-off branch, or visiting perch, beneath the canopy. The special branch has to have particular aspects to qualify as a “visiting perch”. The ideal specifications for the branch are:
As you can see, it is a very particular animal. It is very special in it´s perch requirements which makes it a natural wonder. This makes us feel very lucky to enjoy it´s presence in this little corner of the Earth.
Historically birds have surprised and filled the life of humans with their calls. In the past, mostly as pets in cages, where some species were more desired than others because of their songs or the ability to speak. Parrots are very well know for the last skill.
More recently people are interested in enjoying these melodious creatures in their natural habitat. Bird watching is growing around the world, year by year.
Photo. Male Golden-collar Manakin (Manacus vitellinus) displaying on its lek
We (humans) always have related the songs in nature to the birds. What if I tell you fish sing? A few days ago I was reading an article about singing fish. They have proven that fish do sing. It make sense, living creatures need to communicate, animals as different as insects, frogs, birds, whales … do it, so, why not fish?
This study occurred in Western Australia, and during a period of 18 months they recorded and identified seven different choruses, from different species of fish, happening at dawn and at dusk. Those choruses are used by the fishes to regroup, settle territorial disputes or find food.
If you want to read the full article, visit: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106331-fish-recorded-singing-dawn-chorus-on-reefs-just-like-birds/
Early this year, we made a bird-watching trip to the mainland, to see some species of birds that we do not have on Bastimentos Island, but the main target of this trip was the elegant Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus).
We all had a blast, with big groups of herons, ducks, pelicans and terns, in addition to some local and migratory beauties along the Snyder Canal.
After a gorgeous day and several new species for our guests, we headed to Bird Island. Unfortunately the sea was a little rough and the conditions where not ideal, but that didn´t stop the guests in their desire to see, what is for me, one of the most elegant birds I have ever seen. We made it there, and enjoyed some Red-billed Tropicbirds flying near the island, then on our way back, we had several floating birds in the water.
With these links you can see the species we saw that day:
Snyder Canal: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26655839
Changuinola river mouth: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26656713
Bird Island: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26653094