Fate to the winds: Fall Migration at Tranquilo

Fall is upon us again, as the birds from our temperate northern latitudes of United States and Canada fly south for the winter to spend the long months (and thus, the majority of the year) in the tropics. A combination of photoperiod, the tilt of the earth, genetic predisposition, temperature and food availability determines this period of mass departure.

Migration Birdwatching
Hooded Warbler, Florida, Fall 2019

After a short spring and summer packed with staking out new territories (or returning to ones claimed in previous years as is the case with various warblers that return to the same nesting territory year after year), the birds find a mate, build nests and raise the next generation of migratory birds. These hatch-year birds, upon fledging, join the southward-flowing river of migrant songbirds, waterfowl and raptors to wintering grounds they’ve never seen before, yet once occupied by their ancestors.

Eastern Kingbirds Birding Panama
Eastern Kingbirds pausing in the treetops off Tranquilo Bay’s deck. October 2019

The birds funnel down the vast continent of North America where they finished out the breeding season to the narrow stretch of Central America, some residing here for the winter while others continue to fly as far as South America.

Birding Migration
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Maryland Fall 2019

So why would a bird care to make such a journey? Throwing its fate to the wind and relying on abundant yet sometimes uncertain resources that provide a bird’s fat stores to fuel the tiny little muscles that can project a tiny sprite across wide open seas, country borders and continental divides?

Well, a combination of factors: the lush tropics burgeon with fruits, seeds, and invertebrates that become unavailable up north after the fall harvest is over and the cold sets in. The plentiful supply of food in the tropical south allows for our temperate nesting birds to feed shoulder to shoulder with toucans, trogons, honeycreepers and others that make up the vast array of Central and South American species of the avian persuasion.

Fall Migration Panama
The tanagers are headed this way! Florida, Fall 2019

This is an exciting time, not just for birders but anyone interested in nature– it’s hard not to get drawn in by the wildly impressive spectacle of such a mass migration!

Have you noticed changes in the birds around your home? What’s it like where you life? Who stays and who goes?

Black Terns refueling at the mouth of the Changuinola along their journey south. Snyder/Changuinola Bay Excursion, Tranquilo Bay

More news about the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Panama Migrant Birding

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the first observations, for this year, of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), a migratory hummingbird that it is uncommon in this part of the country.

So far we know that its been around, since the end of February, and we have photographed three different Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a male, a female and an immature male. Christine Warren, one of our guests, got a picture earlier this month of the young male.  You can just see the first red feathers coming in on its throat.  Thanks a lot Christine for sharing your picture with us!

The winter visitor is back

Migrant Hummingbird PanamaTwo days ago, Ramon and a guest saw a male and female of an uncommon but quite punctual migrant hummingbird at Tranquilo Bay, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). This observation is the third we have had of the species in the last four years, with very few days of difference between observations.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is an uncommon migratory species in this part of the country. The day Ramon and the guest saw the elusive migrant they saw a female and a male.  So, of course the next day, as soon I got a chance I went to wait for the visitor.  After a little more than half an hour waiting, a female Ruby-throated showed up for a quick visit to the same plant the two birds visited the day before.  I patiently continued waiting and the female bird came again.   I got to take some decent pictures to share with you.   We will keep an eye on the bird and keep you posted about the extent of this 2016 visit.

Wildlife magnet: Verbena

Birding Bocas del ToroOne of the most beautiful plants that we enjoy at Tranquilo Bay´s gardens is the Verbena plant. If you ask a botanist, he will define the “verbena”as an organism belonging to the Plantae Kingdom. Angiosperm, Eudicot, Asterid from the genus Stachytarpheta in the Verbenaceae family of the Order Lamiales.

Panama WildlifeBut if you ask us, at Tranquilo Bay, we will define it as “one of the most valuable ornament” in the tropical gardens that surround us. It is not one of the most precious specie just because of her beauty, but because the magnetic powers it has to attract many other flying gems that inhabit or visit this land.

Bocas del Toro BirdingIf you ask Natalia, the magnetic full-grown verbena plants are now a reward from work well done.  After planting and taking care of them, the results are wildlife actively visiting the plant.  This allows us to take great action shoots of feeding behavior of butterflies and bees, the playful Bananaquit or of many striking hummingbirds that visit it.   If you ask the different species of wildlife what the verbena plant is to them, they would surely tell you that it is paradise on Earth, an endless source of nectar in its countless flowers, they will probably refer to it as the great “provider” it is.

Bird Watching PanamaImagine you could ask the rare migrant in the Caribbean coast of Panama, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that has been hosted by Tranquilo Bay´s verbena plants for some weeks ( 2 years in a row always at the end of February) what the Verbena flower nectar means to it, after an exhausting migration from the United States. Or for the Blue-chested Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird or the Stripe-throated Hermit that are extremely common visitors and spend their days feeding on it, or to the Green-breasted Mango, …

Bananaquit Bocas del Toro

Crowned Woodnymph FemaleThe verbena plant is a wildlife magnet, which makes it a great attraction for us who enjoy being able to see and capture a gorgeous wild animal “living its life”.

Wildlife Panama

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Two

Panama Birdwatching

A couple of days ago we had a visit from one of our rarest migratory birds, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  This bird is very rare for the Western Caribbean Slope, where we are located.   Very few reports have been made for this species in this part of the country.  There are more reports for it as a rare migratory species for the Western Pacific Slope of Panama.

Panama Bird Migration

This time we got to see both a male and a female.  Ramon saw a male exactly one year and 2 days ago.  Last year was the first time we saw this hummingbird in this part of the country. This little visitor is one of the many migratory birds we are seeing now. So far we have seen the male each day for almost a week around the same general area.

Unfortunately the glowing red color of the throat is not visible in my pictures.  In person it is possible with the right angle of sun hitting the ruby patch in his throat.  Even without the sun hitting his throat he is a very pretty bird.  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reproduce in Canada and the United States, and migrate to Mexico and Central America during the winter.  If you want to learn more about this amazing little bird you can check on:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/ruby-throat-hummingbird/

http://birds.audubon.org/birds/ruby-throated-hummingbird