Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 2011 DVOC Trip to Panama

DVOC Trip to Panama March 2011

Participants: Bert Filemyr, Art McMorris, Ann and Mac Scott, Barbara Thorp, Connie Goldman, Susan Schuur, Jack Plotkin, Bob Cohen, Jane Henderson

Day 0, March 9, 2011: We fussed around in the morning till Barbara and Kurt picked us up at 1:00 PM. We shot to the airport (EWR) and met Bert, Connie and Art when we were emerging from security. We hung out at the gate, and then Jack and Susan turned up. They’d been there for some time, coming from Detroit, and waiting elsewhere. The flight was uneventful, but warm and stuffy. When we got to PTY, Ann and Mac had already arrived. In the midst of arrival security, Susan lost track of a bag, but was able to retrieve it. We were met by a guy and a bus, equipped with a trailer for our stuff. We arrived at Gamboa around midnight, checked in, showered, and went to bed.
Night: Gamboa Resort

Day 1, March 10, 2011: We had Continental breakfast at 5:00 AM, and were picked up by Hernan and driver at 6:00 AM. We went to Soberania National Park and to the tower at the Discovery Center, and stayed there for over two hours. The canopy was very active that morning. Blue Dacnis, Blue Cotinga, Red-legged honeycreeper, assorted tanagers and pigeons. Then we walked a trail near there till it was time for a picnic lunch at the Discovery Center, a nice place. Then afternoon birding at Pipeline Road. It rained on and off, but we got to see some nice birds. We wound up at Gamboa Ponds. There were some great birds there: White-throated Crake, Wattled Jacana, Fork-tailed Flycatcher. We had dinner in the restaurant at Gamboa. It was Jack’s birthday, and he got a small cake and we all had sparkling wine. To bed early.
Night: Gamboa Resort

Day 2, March 11, 2011: We had Continental breakfast at 5:00 AM and left at 5:15 for Metropolitan Nature Park. Foolishly, Bob and I did not spray for insects, and both wound up with chigger bites, his worse than mine. We did a long walk around the park, and then took turns going up in the Smithsonian crane. We were in the second group. We didn’t see as many birds from the crane as we had two years ago, but it’s a pretty awesome experience. We had a big lunch at Miraflora Locks. We went to Summit ponds and saw Boat-billed Heron. We had dinner at Gamboa, and did checklists there in the library. Rebecca turned up for that.
Night: Gamboa Resort

Day 3, March 12, 2011: We walked down to the jungle boat and went out into the Chagres River and the canal. We saw some nice birds, including a great look at a Snail Kite, and had a close encounter with monkeys. We had a picnic lunch on one of the little islands. Rebecca was with us again. We left Gamboa at 1:30 PM and set out for the local airport. Lots of Cuna Indians were waiting to go home to San Blas. The women wore elaborate woven stockings. Hernan said their men like women with thin legs! There was no place to sit down, and was pretty hectic. It took forever for everything to settle down so we could take off. A yellow bus met us in David, and as soon as we got on the road we had a flat tire. The guys fixed it in no time. We got to Finca Lerida at 6:45 PM. It’s a very nice place. We had dinner at 7:30 PM. Very good food.
Night: Finca Lerida

Day 4, March 13, 2011: We got up early and walked Baru National Park, on the boundary of Finca Lerida, all morning. We had Wattled Bell Birds all over the place, and decent looks at Resplendent Quetzals, and an iffy look at a male. We had lunch at the finca (too much food!) and then took a short tour of the coffee works there, courtesy of Cesar, who had also helped with the morning birding. Everyone went down to the platform feeders in the late afternoon. It was cold and drizzly, and I left before the others did. We had dinner at the finca, and enjoyed watching “typical” dancing and music. Hernan danced a bit. To bed, packed for tomorrow’s departure, at 10 PM. It would have been nice to spend more time at the finca. It’s one of the nicest places.

Day 5, March 14, 2011: towards Volcan: This was a strenuous day of birding. We set out early from Finca Lerida and headed towards Hotel Dos Rios. We stopped at a couple of places, Caldera Road and Querevalo Road, along the way. Our destination was La Amistad International Park. We had a lot of good birds there. It was a long, hard walk, up and down, over rocks and slippery roots and mud.
Night: Hotel Dos Rios

Day 6, March 15, 2011: We packed up and headed for Tapir Canyon Road. This was a very good birding spot. We had lunch at Cielito Sur, a really nice place, and then a short visit to Finca Dracula. We had a brief guided visit to some of the orchids. There weren’t many birds around this time. We drove back to hotel Dos Rios to pick up our baggage and check out. Hernan was a bit upset with himself for not checking out when we left in the morning. We drove in a bit of a hurry to the airport in David to fly back to Panama City. We got there around 5:30, and began the long drive to Hostal Casa de Campo, a weird bed and breakfast. We had dinner at 8:45, served by a surly waitress in a “mammy” outfit, and were watched over by the proprietor. Our room had a bathtub with shower, but there was no shower curtain, and water poured all over the floor. We were finally in bed at 11:00 PM. I didn’t sleep much that night.
Night: Hostal Casa de Campo

Day 7, March 16, 2011: After a pretty good breakfast at Casa de Campo, we took a long hike on an up and down trail at Chagres National Park. We had lunch at Birders View, a local Audubon place. We watched hummingbirds for a while, and then began the long drive to Burbayar Lodge, a very nice place. We had a little thatched-roof cabin to ourselves. We had dinner, did checklists, and turned in early. The generator goes off at 9:30.
Night: Burbayar

Day 8: We had a big breakfast at Burbayar Lodge and then set out on a 2 km muddy hike, up and down some severe hills. We did see some birds, but not enough to justify the long hike, I thought. We had lunch at Burbayar. Hernan asked me to tip El Jefe, Jose. I thought this was the last straw. He owns the place! This seems to be another of the trips where we’re asked to tip someone every time we turn around. Around 2:25, we headed for the Country Inn in Panama City. We got there at 4:30 and then had free time (!) until 6:30 when we were picked up by Justo to go to dinner at a big restaurant on the water. We had drinks (I had a margarita) and dinner. Nice time. We were back at the hotel at 9:30 PM. It was good to be in a regular hotel for a change, we thought. Nice room, nice shower (with two taps!)
Night: Country Inn, Panama City

Day 9, March 18, 2011: We drove to “the mangroves” in the city and saw a bunch of birds, some new, while dodging traffic and breathing in dust and exhaust fumes. They’re tearing everything up to make room for expansion of the city. From there we drove to the Pacific Coast and saw many species of shorebirds. Then to the historical ruins. We had lunch in the cafeteria. Then we transferred to a smaller vehicle to the top of Ancon Hill and walked down, dodging traffic. Eric, one of our bus drivers, picked us up for the first of two farewell dinners (for Connie, Jack and Susan) at a nice restaurant in Second City. He had a heck of a time getting there because many of the roads were blocked off for some kind of festival. There were many detours and police blockades. Hernan had something to say about all that. The dinner was excellent – a great assortment of different kinds of food. Then back to the Country Inn to sort out what would go to the Darien, and what would stay behind.
Night: Country Inn

Day 10, March 19, 2011: Connie, Susan and Jack left early for the airport. The rest of us had breakfast there, and then left for the Embera Village in the Darien. We were transported much of the way in a wooden motor launch. We got a hot lunch on the way. The Embera people live in a traditional style, in thatched-roof huts. We all stayed in tents in our hut, accessible by a primitive ladder, which was tricky to negotiate, especially at night, when there were no lights except for the moon. We shared a toilet and cold-water shower. The Embera women and girls were summoned by conch shell, and sat around in a big circle, some breasts covered, some not. They all displayed handcrafts, mostly baskets. I bought a tiny basket. Others bought a ton of stuff. It was a good day for the crafts people. Most of our people enjoyed this experience. Bob was so frustrated by it (heat, hot tent, primitive toilet) that it upset me, too. I think I would have fared better alone on this one. I took tow Ativan, and had a decent sleep. Bob said he didn’t sleep at all. We were both aggravated that we hadn’t been better prepared for this rustic experience.
Night: Embera village

Day 11, March 20, 2011: We began the long trek to see the Harpy eagle in the early morning. It was a hard slog, 7 km there, 7 km back, with roots and slippery places. We finally saw the bird when it was nearly time to turn around. It’s an awesome creature. We had lunch at the village, and took off by boat to Punta Petino. The lodge is a nice place, but nothing worked in our cabin – AC, lights didn’t work, and the toilet tank wouldn’t fill.  Bob was furious that we weren’t getting our money’s worth. He went ballistic over the electrical problems. It took forever for “Frankling” to get the lights and AC to go on. We thought we were OK until everything went off again. To bed at 9:00 PM
Night: Punta Petino lodge

Day 12, March 21, 2011: I had a decent night’s sleep, thanks to Ativan. Bob said he didn’t sleep at all. No wonder, since he was so agitated. Hernan switched cabins with us. Everything was working in his. We took two long walks, on trails near the lodge. Good scenery, good birds. After dinner we took a pauraque walk, and didn’t see anything, though they had been calling all over the place before and after. We left the walk early. Julia got covered with ticks. To bed at 9:30 PM. Basically it’s a lovely place. Too bad they can’t get the electrical and plumbing problems under control.
Night: Punta Petino Lodge

Day 13, March 22, 2011: We left Punta Petino at 6:30 AM and started the long boat ride back to Gamboa. We stopped once to get out and look at Fort Lorenzo, and another time so Hernan could buy some fish. Then a long bus ride back to Gamboa (after helping Mr. Wong get out from under his bus with flat tire. It was a potentially disastrous situation. He was nearly pinned under the bus and refused help. Thank goodness Hernan and Justo helped anyway. The passengers didn’t seem to realize how dangerous their situation was). We got to Gamboa at 5:00 PM. We met for drinks and dinner and Bert supervised the checklist in the library.
Night: Gamboa

Day 14, March 23, 2011: We met Hernan here at 5:30 for a trip to the Discovery Tower. The birding was pretty much of a bust this time. We had lunch at the Discovery Center, and then walked Pipeline Road. We saw some birds, but nothing new. There was nothing at the pond, either. Back on hotel grounds we had a lot of good birds – Golden-hooded Tanager, Olivaceous Trogons into and out of a termite nest. We had dinner at Hernan’s house, which is pretty much like a museum. We had chorizo, hamburgers, cake, and wine and assorted liquors. A very nice time. We left Hernan a very generous tip, and a few thank-you notes. We were back at Gamboa at 9:30 PM.
Night: Gamboa

Day 15, March 24, 2011: Justo picked us up at 5:30 AM for our 10:05 AM flight. (He had to be awakened by the guy at the desk). Ann and Mac had gone to Tocumen earlier, bound for Miami and their house in Venice, FL.
Bert and Art got picked up by Jim; Barbara, Bob and I were met by Kurt. (Barbara was delayed a bit when a cute beagle sniffed out an apple in her carry-on. She had to go to the horticulture place to be checked out. Thank goodness I thought about my apple before it got to that point). We got home around 4:45 PM. We had dinner at Cisco’s.
Night: Flourtown

2011 Trip to Florida

Winter Trip 2011

Day 1 Sunday, February 13, 2011
We left home at 7:00 AM in our almost-new Toyota Rav4. It was cold, and we were dressed in winter clothes. There was still a lot of snow on the ground at home. Bob was so happy when the snow finally disappeared when we got to southern Maryland. We stopped a few times along the way for food, gas and bathroom, and arrived at Jerry Cochran’s house in Salisbury, North Carolina around 2:30 PM. We sat around in his kitchen over glasses of wine, and then went to dinner at Outback. We all had prime rib. Very good. Night at Jerry’s.

Day 2 Monday, February 14, 2011
We left Jerry’s around 8:00 AM and set out for Decatur, Georgia. Again, we made several stops along the way to stretch our legs. We arrived around 3:00 PM, after getting the northern salt off our car at a carwash. After greeting Rafe and Ilze, we had some tea while watching the Eastern Screech Owl peek out of one of their owl boxes. Their yard is amazing: two screech owls in residence, Pine and Myrtle Warblers, Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker, Purple Finches, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, White-throated Sparrows, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Red-shouldered Hawk. We took a walk around the neighborhood with Rafe, and found out all about local goings-on.
We had tuna and noodles for dinner, and settled in for the night.

Day 3 Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In the morning, we all took a walk at the Clyde Shepherd Refuge. There weren’t a whole lot of birds there. Many, many American Robins, but not much else except for one Golden-crowned Kinglet. We went back to the house for lunch. In need of some exercise, I asked about a local walking trail. As it turned out, a rather large recreational area is being developed nearby. So Rafe, Bob and I drove over there. Actually, we could have walked. It’s less than a mile away from their house. At any rate, we parked the car and set out. The boardwalk is partially completed and we walked it for a mile or so. We took a detour to Mason’s Mill, a defunct water works, covered with elaborate graffiti. It was a very interesting walk, and we’ll be sure to do it again next time we visit.
We enjoyed “sandwich night” after watching their two screech owls leave their boxes to go out and hunt for the night.

Day 4 Wednesday, February 16, 2011
We left Rafe and Ilze’s at 7:00 AM. We followed “Fred’s” (reliable GPS) directions, and basically took I-75 all the way to Venice, Florida. It’s a 500 mile-long, pretty easy drive. There was very little traffic. We arrived around 4:00 PM. at Ann and Mac Scott’s very nice, quite large rental house on one of the lakes. Debbie and Lewis Barrett were also staying there. We had snacks and drinks, and then dinner around 8:00 PM. To bed at 10:45.

Day 5 Thursday, February 17, 2011
We were all up at 7:00 AM. We had breakfast at the house, and then headed for the Celery Farm near Sarasota. We saw a Limpkin land in a tree close to us shortly after we arrived, and thus ended the “Limpkin Curse” for this trip. (We saw several of them after that.) We saw several waders, an assortment of ducks, one Sandhill Crane, and a Savannah Sparrow, which we struggled to identify. It was skulking in the grass, rather unusual behavior for that species. We took a break at the local library, a very nice structure, and each bought some books from their $1.00 used book shelves. We had lunch at Chick-Fil-A, and then headed for Myakka River State Park. We walked several of the trails, but there wasn’t much bird activity at that time of day. It’s a great place. We’d been there once before a few years ago. We came back to the house for a while, and then went to the beach for the sunset. Ann made dinner for all of us again. Debbie and Lewis got ready to leave early the next morning.

Day 6 February 18, 2011
We said goodbye to Debbie and Lewis at 8:00 AM, and afterwards took a nice walk along the Myakka River. We found a group of assorted warblers – Black-and white, Palm, Pine, and also Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos at one spot. We had sandwiches at the house, played a couple of games of Chicken Foot, which we’d brought for them, and took off for Naples and the Cushes. We got to their house around 3:30 PM. We watched some golf, had dinner, watched the original “True Grit” with John Wayne, and went to bed around 11:00 PM. It was good to see Tom and Mary, Biz’s in-laws, again. When they lived in Dresher, PA we used to do stuff with them all the time.

Day 7 February 19, 2011
Bob and I left around 9:30 AM for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. We had two gorgeous male Painted Buntings at the feeder first thing. We did not see the females at all this time. There were lots of Red-shouldered Hawks with us all the way round, perched, flying overhead, and calling. No Swallow-tailed Kite this time. They had not turned up yet, though they’re “supposed to” on February 18. No Barred Owl, and no Wood Storks either. In one spot we had a number of warblers: Pine, Black-and-white, Parula, Yellow-throated, “Baypoll”, Common Yellowthroat. Also White-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Baltimore Oriole. All the usual waders, Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants. We walked around twice.
We watched “Endurance” about the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition after dinner. It’s an amazing film. It made me want to go to the Antarctic. Too bad it’s so hideously expensive.

Day 8 February 20, 2011
We spent all day with Tom and Mary. We drove to Marco Island to see Burrowing Owls, and did see one peeking out of its hole. We walked around a small craft show before having lunch at Pelican Larry’s. We all had oysters, some raw, some fried. All good. We played Chicken Foot all afternoon. Fun. We had a spaghetti dinner at the house, and watched part of “Born Yesterday” with Judy Holliday, and part of “My Fair Lady”, both on TCM, before going to bed.

Day 9 February 21, 2011
We left Tom and Mary’s at 8:30 AM and headed east on Route 41 to Shark Valley. We hadn’t brought bikes on this trip, since we thought there wouldn’t be enough opportunities to ride this time. Also we hadn’t had a chance to try out the new bike rack on the Rav4. It has to be mounted oddly because of the spare tire. The parking lot was already full, so we parked on the street. We walked a couple of miles down the trail, and took a few pictures. There was nothing spectacular or unusual, but we had some nice views of Purple Gallinule, the usual waders, and lots of alligators. We saw distant Snail Kites across the road after we’d gone back to the car. We left there around noon, and ate lunch under a tree (it was getting hot by then) in the big Indian casino parking lot. There were lots of RVs in the lot. We headed for Brian Piccolo Park, a “sure spot” for Burrowing Owls, and learned that the county parks would be closed till 5:00 PM Wednesday for Presidents Day weekend! What a silly idea. I guess they’re strapped for funds, too. We drove to Markham Park for snail kites, but that one was closed, too.
We got to the Sleep Inn at Dania Beach around 4:00 PM. I had a message from Marco in Panama that something was up regarding the Darien extension to our trip. He requested that I call him, because of a “sensitive” issue relating to the extension. I finally got through to him, and found out that the Cana part of the trip has been cancelled due to poor conditions at the Cana air strip. At this point, our itinerary will have to be adjusted to eliminate the Cana portion, and a new itinerary is to be proposed.
Alvin and Marie picked us up at the Sleep Inn and took us to a nice fish restaurant. Parking the car in the crowded lot was a circus, but Alvin managed with the help of the parking lot assistant. We had a very good dinner. We sat at a table next to a nice, young black couple, who were very interested in Alvin and Marie’s long history, including Alvin’s service in WW II. They bought us dessert.

Day 10 February 22, 2011
We checked out of the Sleep Inn in Hollywood and got sandwiches and stuff at the local Publix, just like old times. Our first stop, heading north, was Green Cay. It’s a wonderful place, but it was a little disappointing. We’d heard such great things about it. Lots and lots of people use it for walking exercise. It’s a rather new waste water treatment facility, about 6 years old. The visitors center is quite elaborate. We went from there to Wakodahatchee, where we’d been many times before. There were lots of nesting birds on the islands, as usual. We had a nice look at a Sora, and got some decent pictures of it. We ate our sandwiches in the car, and headed to Grassy Waters to look for Snail Kites. We found the place all right, and walked the very nice new boardwalk, but the only bird there was a Great Egret. We asked some folks about the kites – they had easels set up and were painting – and they had no idea what we were talking about. One guy said the kites are not here this time of year. Nice try.
We headed north towards Fort Pierce. We’d been invited to spend the night at Sam Freed’s place, but we decided to soldier on to the Viera Wetlands (Bob calls them “Viagra Wetlands”) and come back to Sam’s. It took longer than we’d thought to get to Viera, so we booked a room at “America’s Best Value Inn” motel (pretty sleazy) in Melbourne and drove on after calling Sam to say we wouldn’t be staying this time. Nearly all the motels around there were booked up, even before we left for the trip – combination of Daytona and the shuttle launch. Viera Wetlands is wonderful. I wish we’d had more time there. We did see a Sora and an American Bittern, and lots and lots of coots and moorhens. I’m sorry that we didn’t get to see Sam’s house. Oh, well.

Day 11 February 23, 2011
We were out of the sleazy motel by 7:30 AM. It was actually clean enough, just shoddy. Everybody else staying there was either black or latino, and in the construction business, or so it seemed at breakfast. We made another trip around Viera Wetlands. It was very foggy. The only “new” bird for us there was a perched Peregrine Falcon. We headed north from there, and made a detour at Merritt Island NWR Black Water Drive. The whole refuge was very dry, and bird life was minimal except for hundreds of Dunlin and a few yellowlegs. A volunteer at an eagle watch said there has been a severe drought and they do the best they can to get water from one area to another. We got on the road for real at 10:30, after stops at Publix and Walgreens. We made a couple of stops, and got to the Fairfield in Florence, SC around 6:00 PM to find that they had no record of our reservation. Fortunately they had a room, and then I had to figure out what happened to our reservation. We had a terrible dinner at the Outback. The meat was old and dry, and we complained. We weren’t charged for it. We were back in our room at 9:00 PM.

Day 12 February 24

Florence to home. Long drive, lots of traffic. We were home around 4:00 PM.