Underwater Chorus

Snorkeling Bocas del ToroPhoto. Juvenile Caribbean Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus)

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.

Caged Bird Graphic

Source: http://krutishah0703.blogspot.com/p/caged-bird.html

More recently people are interested in enjoying these melodious creatures in their natural habitat.  Bird watching is growing around the world, year by year.

Golden-collared Manakin

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/


Tranquilo Bay’s Firecrackers

The time for firecrackers at Tranquilo Bay is coming.

The Golden-collared Manakin males are starting now to prepare the courts, which are elliptical, or round, clearings in the leaf matter, on the ground of the forest, where they will practice and do their displays. Those will be the areas where they will face a battle with themselves, and between the members of the lek.

Panama Birding

The word lek could describe an aggregation of males that will perform a competitive display for the visitor females which will select their most suitable male to mate, depending on his coordination of movements or stillness, sounds and  appearance.

The courts are clean and clear, the pre-breeding season is coming to a close and, soon, all those firecracker sounds, made by clapping the wings that have modified feathers, will invade the surroundings of Tranquilo Bay.  This sound will become a part of the Original Tranquilo Bay sound track until June with some outliers in July.  It is the result of a very hard training course that the males had to “take” to meet the female’s high standards of quality performance. This strong female mating decision process (Females are the ones who decide) led the males to their elaborate mating display because they have to convince the female that they are the best option for her.

Manakin Lek Courtship

During breeding season, females will visit those leks and all the males will perform for her. She will compare and decide which male is for her.   When she chooses one, she will join the elected one in the court, following him in his display until he makes a flip and meets her on the same stick.  In just one or two seconds of contact he accomplishes his life’s purpose: transmitting his genes to the next generation.  At that time all the hours cleaning the forest floor and the endless hours of dance practice, suddenly, are completely worth it.

Birdwatching PanamaThe full cycle of competitive dancing will start again next season but let´s first enjoy this breeding season that it is about to come.  They have a lot of shows ahead to offer their females (and us) before we start thinking of next season.

We are ready for the showtime!


The Hug that Kills!

Wildlife PanamaThis picture is a common scene in a tropical forest.  It is a beautiful way to show the cycle of life.  Some times the cycle completes as fast as a lizard catching a fly, or other times slowly like this strangler fig (Ficus sp) killing the host, a process that takes years.

The life of this plant starts in the canopy of the forest, and slowly its roots grow down, hugging the host plant, on their way to the forest floor.  Eventually the strangler fig grows enough to kill the host tree.  After the host tree dies it turns into a home for many species of animals and the fruit of the fig trees are also visited by a variety of species of birds and mammals.

At Tranquilo Bay, we have one of these trees in front of the cabins and when it is fruiting, it is constantly visited by several species of birds.  The most common visitors, that also roost on the fig, are the Golden-collared Manakins (Manacus vitellinus), Short-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas nigrirostris) and Plain-colored Tanagers (Tangara inornata).

Birding Panama

Cheepers Spring 2014 Trip Report

Last month we had a nice birding trip with Jim and Cindy from Cheepers. It was their 17th trip to Panama, and for the first time they got to see a good part of the Western Caribbean Slope. We made 3 trips to the mainland, birded about a half-day at Tranquilo Bay and one day on Soropta Canal. In addition to the birding, we did some snorkeling.

Some of the highlights were the 4 lifers Cindy and Jim saw, within the less than 5 days we spent birding and snorkeling together: Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, Snowy Cotinga, a beautiful and very unusual group of Masked Ducks and Black-thighed Grosbeak. in addition to their lifers, some nice birds were two Ornate Hawk-Eagles, a juvenile and an adult, both perched and then flying. What amazing birds!


Masked Ducks

Panama Birding

Ornated Hawk-Eagle adult (Spizaetus ornatus)

Birdwatching Panama

Juvenile of Ornated Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus) in flight

The incredible migration of Turkey Vultures: there were thousands of them gaining altitude in front of us, after spending the night on Bastimentos and Popa Islands. In association with this migration we saw some other raptors such as Broad-wing Hawks, Peregrine Falcons and Plumbeous Kites. All those things were great, but for me, the best thing was to see (in person) the display and mating of the Golden-collared Manakins, just like the video Ramon captured months ago with a Go-Pro camera.

Panama Wildlife

Adult male Golden-collared Manakin (Manacus cerritus)

At the end of their trip we had a total of 220 species (seen and heard).  You can download the list below.


Golden-collared Manakins Courtship Dance & Mating

Ramon Fernandez Frances captured this footage of two Golden-collared Manakins during their courtship dance and mating process not long ago.  Seeing these birds in the lek in action is a special treat.  We have a lek on-site which we are able to monitor during mating season.  Let us know what you think of this little guy’s moves.