Wednesday, January 2, 2019

January 1 - The New Year

Shawangunk Ridge as seen from the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR

       It's the first day of 2019 and in an effort to get some northeastern birds on the new year's list, I spent much of the day traveling through Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties.  I was concentrating on birds that are not easily found in the south as we will be heading down to Florida in the near future.  My goals were the Golden eagle on Storm King Mountain, Canvasback ducks on the Hudson, Redpolls and Evening Grosbeaks in Parkville in Sullivan County and finally Short-eared owls at the Grasslands in Ulster county.  The skies were clear, but the winds were quite blustery with gusts approaching 40 MPH.  My first stop on Storm King Mountain proved what the meteorologists had forecast....I felt like I was going to be blown off the mountain.  I had to hang on to my spotting scope for dear life and the view through the finder was like looking into a blender.  I did scan the mountainside for quite a long time before I conceded that the winds were even too strong for the Golden eagle.  The bird was nowhere in sight.  That made me 0 for 1 so far.

       Next stop, Hudson River at Newburgh.  The site was alive with avian life....Ring-billed gulls, Feral pigeons, a few House sparrows, and in the middle of the masses on the river was a lone Canvasback.  The duck floated in close proximity to the shore and gave me nice shooting opportunities.   The lighting was not the best, but with some changing of position on both my and the duck's parts, he was finally in splendid illumination.  I'm always looking to get a gleam from the birds's eyes to confirm perfect lighting conditions, so when I saw the sparkle in his eye, I quickly shot.  I was not disappointed in the result. Nice bird for the first day of the new list!

     From here, it was a long drive out to Sullivan County and the hamlet of Parksville.  There is a homeowner in that town who has regularly lured such great birds as Redpolls and Evening grosbeaks in with her feeders.  The site is well known by birders from all over the state and she has always been so gracious as to welcome us onto her property to enjoy the sights.  So after an hour and 15 minute drive through the foothills of the Catskills, I approached the home with great anticipation.  There's an old saying about birds having wings and tending to use them.  Apparently, the winy conditions were not favorable for either of my target species, and after an hour and a half of waiting and watching, I ended up with two new species for the Year-list...Tufted titmouse and Black-capped chickadee (2 birds I regularly find at my backyard feeders at home).

     Time to head over to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR where Sharon and I had wonderful looks at Short-eared owls and Northern harriers just several days ago.  I was pretty confident I could find these birds today as the wind does not really phase them.  In fact, I believe that the harriers actually "enjoy" flying in stiff winds.  It took a little while for the show to begin, but after 20 minutes or so, the harriers began to show up in nice numbers.  Once again, they flew in close enough to allow me to capture their images in nice light.  The owls were once again distant and I had no luck photographing them.  Nonetheless, the harrier images made the trip worth while.

       While enjoying the show at the Grasslands, a good friend Ralph who serves as the steward of the property, came over to tell me of a sighting of a Northern shrike, aka "Butcher-bird" for it's unconventional method of storing its prey, at the other end of the preserve.  He led me over and despite his best efforts and intentions, the bird failed to appear.  So for the day, I averaged around .500 in hits and misses.  Nonetheless it's never is really a "bad" day when you're out in the field pursuing your favorite passion.  And that was certainly the case for today, the first day of 2019.


Monday, December 31, 2018

December 29 - End of the Year

White-breasted nuthatch
     The year 2018 is quickly drawing to a close.  It's been a very good year for our family.  While not the most productive birding year with a lack of major birding trips to any unusual haunts, I've still managed to find some wonderful birds in wonderful settings.  One of our favorite spots in the northeast is Bent of the River Audubon Center in South Britain, CT.  My son's family as well as good college buddies live in that neck of the woods, so it is quite convenient to stop by and take a stroll or simply check out the feeders from the observation deck.  Although feeders are obviously wonderful for attracting birds and providing good photo-ops, pictures of wild birds on the feeders are not the most sought after shots.  A place like Bent of the River, however, offers a great deal of nearby cover and natural perches for the birds which makes for a much more natural setting and thus a more desirable photograph.  And so today, I managed to photograph many of the common winter "feeder birds" sans feeder.  A representative group follows.
American goldfinch

Black-capped chickadee

Northern cardinal

Friday, December 28, 2018

December 27 - Shawangunk Grasslands

       We've ventured north into Ulster County, NY to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Reserve in the hopes of finding and photographing Short-eared owls and my personal favorite bird, the Northern Harrier.  No need to rush up here for these two birds since the harriers will be active pretty much throughout most of the day and the owls will generally start to hunt late in the afternoon.  It's fortunate for those of us who have made the trip up to this wonderful spot that the owls will often start their forays much earlier in the day than most other species of owls.  On top of that, the short-ears will hunt in open fields and are therefore much easier to spot.

       No sooner did we arrive than we spotted our first harrier.  The most dominant sex generally found in the field is the female. While the sex of many birds is difficult to tell, especially from a distance, the harriers are easy.  The females are a rich chestnut brown while the males are a light pale gray - hence the nickname, "Gray ghosts".  As might be expected, this first sighting is of the female.  With bright blue skies and the sun at our backs, photographing opportunities are pretty much perfect.
The harriers are masters of the air and can hover, cruise, drop down on a dime and take off in an almost vertical leap.  This bird was simply cruising along at a relatively higher altitude, just checking out the land below for small mammals or insects.  

        We have at least a dozen harriers skirting over the meadow and have to keep looking in all directions as the birds are flying just above the height of the grass to get a better vantage point at potential prey.  Another female was captured by the camera as it prepared to drop down for its next tasty morsel.  Much of the time, it is difficult to get decent shots of the harrier because it is flying so low that it is obscured by the grasses.  A little patience, however, and you can find one in close enough range and high enough to get a good photograph with good context.

     Eventually, one of the photographers on site notices a beautiful male behind us.  While the lighting is not as ideal as we like, anytime a Gray ghost is close enough to photograph, we seize the moment.
     The male continues to fly back and forth and his pale gray shading against a background of fading sunlight make getting good contrast almost impossible. But as in basketball, you'll never make the shot you don't take.  And so, shutters are furiously clicking away as we all make an attempt with higher and higher sensor sensitivities (known as ISO's to photographers) and unfortunately slower and slower shutter speeds.  Eventually, one of these shots will work and it then becomes worth all the effort.

     As luck would have it, one of the two males eventually lands on a post in the field and although he is backlit, the fact that is is stationary means that we will have the chance to get a nice sharp image of this handsome bird.

     The bird eventually grows anxious and takes off in pursuit of more prey.  As he does so, he flies into a more fortuitous lighting situation for us and we are able to get several decent shots of him in action.  My primary reason for choosing this bird as my all-time favorite is his ability to be a true master-of-the-wind.  When in flight, he is in complete control and watching his aerobatics is more entertaining than any ballet (well, that's my humble opinion).

     Well, the light is fading and the owls have decided to wait until it is almost dark to come out and play today.  Far off in the distance, I can see the owls clearly through my spotting scope, but the opportunities to get a decent photo are few and far between.  I take a few shots from way too far away realizing that this is an exercise in futility.  The results of my efforts prove me to be unfortunately prescient and the image below is only for documentary purposes to prove that the owls do in fact dwell in the grasslands during the winter months.

     It's about that time when not only is the prospect of photographing any of these wonderful birds no more than a  wish, but the reality is that we can barely even see them any longer.  As we pack up the gear and get ready to jump back into the relative warmth of the RAV4, a parting shot is just too good to pass up.  Another great day in the field has come to an end, but it's always a joy to be out here enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

December 26 - Piermont Pier

   One of my favorite species of waterfowl in the winter is the Canvasback.  These birds have migrated from the marshes of the prairies and will now winter in the brackish and saltwater embayments and rivers of the eastern and southeastern coasts.  Its Latin name is Aythya valisineria.  Valisineria is the Latin name of wild celery which is among this duck's favorite food.  On several occasions this winter, we've travelled up to the waterfront at Newburgh, NY where several of these ducks have been seen, but up until today we were batting .000.  Always a joy to be able to spot this handsome species swimming along the surface of the Hudson in winter.

Christmas Day

    Just a very brief entry today as it is Christmas Day and we have a full day ahead of us.  Still, it seems there is always time to check out the feeders if only for a few minutes.  The most abundant visitor to the feeders this morning was the European starling. Indeed, first introduced into the United States in 1890, this species is now found throughout most of the country and amasses in large flocks during the winter months.   At this time of year, the starling is sporting its white spotted dark plumage which will change over to a more iridescent greenish black as the breeding season approaches.  The change is not caused by molting, but rather by wear as the white tips of this present plumage easily seen on this photo get worn away.

     The second bird of this Christmas Day is the House finch.  Obligingly, this individual has perched on a feeder which is a small replica of a house.  A quick shot, and now it's off to friends and relatives to a different house for celebrations of the wonderful holiday.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

December 24 - "Winter Birds" on Christmas Eve

     While we often think of the fall migration as the phenomenon of warblers and other small birds heading for the warm environs of Central and South America, we also reap the benefit of the movement south with the advent of birds from the north setting up winter quarters here in SE New York.  Yesterday, I found several of our seasonal guests as I cruised along the Hudson.  The first seen above are a dozen or so Great cormorants.  We generally see Double-crested cormorants here along the river during the warmer months, but the Greats don't generally appear until the temperatures begin to fall as can be seen on the range map to the left.

     My next visitor who has come home for the holidays is the Black-capped chickadee.  While it's true that this little guy is seen throughout the year here in the Hudson Highlands, it is winter when he arrives in the greatest numbers and is most visible at our feeders.

     Finally, another bird which remains on these grounds throughout the year is the Carolina wren.  While as the name implies these birds are most common in the southeast, their range has been slowly creeping northward and remains so as long as the winters do not become too severe.  The wrens generally pair up with a single mate and remain on their territory throughout their lives.  Hence, I can officially call this visitor to our feeder this morning as one of "Our wrens",  and a most welcome member of our extended family it is to be sure.

December 23 - The Colors of Winter

       While some folks look at the colors of winter as drab and lacking luster, I've always loved the umber hues with the contrasting shades of the evergreens.  As I drove around looking for interesting subjects to photograph, I was reminded of a song called the "The Colors of Winter".  Below, you'll find the first stanza along with a few photos which will serve as my illustrations to go along with the lyrics.  

The Colors of Winter by Lois Brownsey & Marti Lunn Lantz

The colors of winter appear all around.

The colors of winter, blue sky, trees of brown. 

Shades of green, shades of gray.Growing deeper ev’ry day.
The colors of winter, these colors abound.

Purple sunsets casting shadows, Evergreen trees are bending low
 Hues of white reflect the light
Upon the glist’ning snow.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

December 22 - Checking for Wintering Eagles

     It's a chilly day, the first full day of winter.  We decide to take an early look to see if any of our favorite eagle haunts will yield any Bald eagles which come into the Hudson Valley at this time of year.  Granted, it is a bit early - we normally expect to see them arriving in early January.  But it has been a pretty cold December, so we figure what the heck.

      Our first spot is the Route 6 overlook across the Hudson from Iona Island.  What a difference from yesterday!  The temperature has dropped more than 20 degrees and with it the winds have blown into the valley with a vengeance.  Not only are there no eagles braving the gusts, but very few other birds can be found as well.  After checking out the canoe launch at Annsville Circle in Peekskill, we start to realize that our eagle hunt may be a bust.  We'll just head down to Croton Train Station and Croton Point Park to check out the bay for wintering waterfowl.

     The  winds and the high tide have all the gulls hauled out onto dry land and the ducks I found here last week and in hiding as well.  We figure a quick ride up onto the old landfill at Croton Point Park may be our only chance at raptors today.  We quickly find a wise Red-tailed hawk which has perched downwind on the leeward side of the landfill where the wind is still strong but relatively calm considering what we felt up on the overlook.  He makes a number of short forays in search of prey but quickly returns to his perch.  He is fairly close to the roadway and makes for some interesting opportunities for photos.

     Finally, we decide to take a look up at Croton Dam, another roosting site for wintering eagles.  When we arrive and scan the shoreline we find once again that the combination of heavy winds and early timing on our part equal zero sightings of eagles.  We loop back around to get a look at the spillway and find that yesterday's prolonged period of heavy rains have turned the normally placid falls into a raging torrent.  While the eagle plan was not productive, we certainly did get some nice views suitable for capturing on our day's outing.  You'll never see what you don't get out to look at!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Winter Solstice 2018

     Not exactly your most typical image of the Winter Solstice in New York State, but eerily beautiful all the same.  With the very cold weather we've experienced this past month, the river has reached near freezing temperatures.  In fact, most of the ponds and lakes are frozen making our search for waterfowl a real challenge.  But today, the air is warm (near 60) and wet with a humidity of near 100%.  With a warm wet layer of air laying directly upon the cold sink of the Hudson, fog was prevalent throughout the day making for some interesting photo ops.

     I've learned over the years, that these days are the absolute best for Black and White photography and took advantage of the situation.  While photographing the scene above, I noticed that I was not the only photographer intent on capturing the high contrast images presented to us.  In the center of that shot, you may notice someone seizing the moment along with his lady companion.  Interestingly, the girl was standing in front of a pipe at the precise angle as the photographer's reach and made for yet another interesting photo.  Again, not the typical first day of winter, but an opportunity for some unique opportunities all the same.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Panama - Day 6: March 24 - Anton, Juan Hombron, and Santa Clara

Sandwich and Royal terns at Santa Clara

     Our final full day of birding in Panama will take us from our quarters in the Canopy Lodge down to Anton, around Juan Hombron, and on to the seaside village of Santa Clara.  It promises to be a full day ending up back at Panama City for our final evening in this most beguiling country.

     We'll begin by traveling down Highway 71 south with numerous stops along the way to find specialties we have not yet viewed in our first 5 days of birding.  Our team of the Bakers, Patsches, Fitzpatricks and Anthonys along with our guide John Coons are in for another day of amazing new species which Panama still has in store for us.

Wedge-tailed grass finch
     One of the first birds we come upon is another which we swear John has tethered to a tree the evening before.  Site loyalty plays a big part in finding these birds as well as a thorough understanding of the preferred habitats of the individual species.  Such is the case as we pull over to the side of the road to search for the Wedge-tailed grass-finch.  These are one of those species that are generally heard more than seen, being secretive in deep grasses.  The males will occasionally hop to the crown of a shrub to sing loudly, however, and this was the case with this fine specimen.  All of were able to see the bird and in spite of early morning overcast lighting, I was able to capture an image of documentary quality if nothing else.

      The site of the grass-finch also afforded us with a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape.  We were traveling through the Central Mountain Range of Panama and around each corner, each vista seemed to be more spectacular than the last.

Central Mountain Range of Panama
Striped cuckoo
       Scanning the horizon at our next pull-off, we spotted a new cuckoo for our check-list.  The Striped cuckoo was once again distant, but with the help of the scopes and a 500mm lens bounced up to 750mm on a "DX" camera
 body, the bird was easily viewed on its open perch.

     The Striped cuckoo has a wide range extending all the way from Mexico to Argentina and yet, the bird is notorious for being much easier to hear than to spot.  Not so in our case as the bird chose to sit out on an open bare branch affording us very nice looks.  Once again, we were blessed to find yet another of Panama's charismatic icons.  That being said, the bird is one of those "dreaded" brood parasites, but for some reason he seemed so much more affable than our home-grown Brown-headed cowbirds.  Familiarity breeds contempt  as the old adage goes.

          Our next new species was again found along the roadside by our sharp-eyed and all-knowing guide John.  The Rufous-browed Peppershrike can be difficult for new visitors to Central American inasmuch as it has wide geographical variations in plumage.  Cornell's Lab of Ornithology description of the Peppershrike's plumage mentions this variation but goes on to say ,"yet most subspecies are to some extent white below, olive above with rufous lores and supercilium".  Our subspecies had a bit more extensive yellow on the underside, but the facial features certainly fit the bill.

Rufous-browed Peppershrike
White-tailed kite
One of the true "Hot Spots" of Panama's birding venues is Laguna de Juan Hombron.  After birding in the mountains these past five days, we are now at an elevation of 12 feet above sea level.  With so many wonderful birds found in this area, I suggest you go to eBird's hotspot finder for Panama and check out our check-list for March 24 for a complete list with photos of the birds we saw here on this day.  I will highlight just few here.  One of my favourites was the White-tailed kite.  It's markings are distinctive and in the bright sunshine of the day, the bird literally glistened as it hovered over the grasslands in search of small mammals.
Savanna hawk
 raptor of note was the Savanna Hawk.  The Savanna is a wide-spread hawk of open country lowlands throughout Central and South America.  This hawk's long legs and cinnamon plumage are distinctive.  It is one of those rare birds which basically says, "If it moves, I'll eat it". This bird has a very diversified diet and has even been observed walking behind grass fires picking out and eating roasted prey!  Now that's a bird with exquisite taste.

Lesser Yellow-headed vulture
     A bird with less discriminating taste is the vulture.  Back home in the states, we commonly find the Turkey vulture and the Black vulture.  Down here in Panama, there are two more varieties, the King vulture and the Lesser Yellow-headed vulture.  While the King vulture is found throughout Central and South American, it is sparsely distributed and therefore difficult to find.  We did not see any Kings, but we did see plenty of Lesser yellow-headed vultures in the area of Laguna de Juan Hombron.  These vultures closely resemble Turkey vultures in their manner of feeding and locating food by smell, but they rarely soar high up in the air as do the Turkey vultures.  Identify these birds was quite simple as you only need to look for a vulture with a yellow-head (really?)

     Of course, the hummingbirds were still quite the attraction.  With so many varieties, it was hard not to study each new individual to see if it was a repeat or something new for the life or year-list.  Among today's newbies were the following......

Veraguan mango

Sapphire-throated hummingbird
     Sadly, one of the most sought after hummers, the White-tipped Sicklebill, was not photographed by yours truly.  Although seen clearly on the final day for a total of about 5 seconds by all of our group (after a minimum of 5 hours of watchful waiting!), the vision was so fleeting that none of our number recorded the desired image.  You can see by looking at this 1911 lithograph by William Dwight Witney that the actually seeing this bird was certainly worth the wait. Guess we'll just have to revisit Central America to get another chance at capturing a good image of this gorgeous specimen.

White-tipped sicklebill
Fork-tailed flycatcher

     Among the last of our Panama beauties was the Fork-tailed flycatcher.  This flycatcher is migratory in Panama and is a resident only as far south as southern Mexico.  It loves to sit on high conspicuous  perches from which it makes its sweeping efforts to catch passing insects on the wing.  We watched this individual repeatedly lurch from its position, seize an unsuspecting victim from the nearby airspace and return to its perch once again.  It made for wonderful entertainment (providing you were not on the menu).

     Our luncheon stop was a stunning setting to say the least.  The owner of the lodge where we had spent our week owns a beach house on the Pacific in Santa Clara and it was here that we had a "working lunch", birding and dining at the same time.  The most predominant bird on the beach was the Sandwich tern as seen in the opening photograph of this blog.  Magnificent frigatebirds continually soared overhead and out on the far islands, Brown pelicans and boobies could be observed.  Truly a wonderful place to wrap up our journey before heading back to Panama City where we enjoyed yet another wonderful meal in the company of some wonderful friends and fellow-birders.  All good things must come to an end, but I hope these last half dozen or so blog entries have allowed those in the group to relive some of our most wonderful memories. And for those not fortunate to have been with us, I hope you had the chance to bird vicariously with our number on our fantastic birding trip to Panama.

Our final night in Panama

Friday, May 4, 2018

Panama -Day 5: Rio Indio

Down the Jordanal Road
      What an exciting day as we travelled along the "unimproved" roads of the more natural parts of Panama (if that's possible).  Our destination is Rio Indio and the Jordanal Road.  We'll be traveling in 4 wheel drive vehicles today as some of the roads we'll traverse are steep, rutted, and quite slippery the wet.  Today the roads we traveled on promised to be all three.

Cinnamon becard
   We set out early with a forecast for potentially stormy weather later in the day.  We'll cross that bridge (or in the case today - "ford that stream") when we come to it.  Not long after heading out onto into the field, we spot our first bird of note, the Cinnamon becard.  Our personal driver, Moyo, spotted this bird as we were driving in our caravan of three FWDs.  Moyo wants to get you on the birds, so if it means stopping right there and letting the others go ahead, so be it.  We'll catch up in time. He pulled over and pointed out the new life bird to us and allowed me to get as many chances at a decent shot as I cared to take.  No rush....we'll catch up with the group later!  These passerines are fly-catchers and will feed on larger insects and spiders.  Really can't tell whether this individual is a male or female since the species shows little sexual dimorphism.

     Birding along these country roads is a real look into the culture of this part of Latin America.  The people live modestly to say the least and were generally curious and happy to see us enjoying their little corner of this beautiful country.  We often found ourselves on the grounds adjacent to private farms and homes where no-one seemed to mind our incursions.  The photo shown here is of a typical mountain dwelling.  In this case, we were looking to get good sightings for one of the birds of the day

Barred puffbird
the Barred puffbird. Found only in Pamana, Ecuador and Columbia, this species is uncommon throughout its range and we were therefore more than excited to see and capture and image of this bird.  As it so happened, we did find several more individuals throughout the day.  This bird is noted for being a tough one to see since it often prefers to hang out in dense foliage and then occasionally come out for a quick foray to grab a passing insect.  Some of the birds we were introduced to in Panama I found confusing when it came to distinguishing one from the other (Kiskadees, Social flycatcher,  Boat-billed flycatcher and others for example), so it was kind of nice to have a bird like the Barred puffbird which was really quite distinctive!

     Since I mentioned the flycatchers as being a rather confusing group (at least for me), allow me to post several shots showing exactly what I mean.   First of all, one of the more common of the group, the Social flycatcher.  This bird was seen on all but one day during out Panama adventure.

Social flycatcher
     Next, the Boat-billed flycatcher.  We saw this bird on day 5 (this day) only.  Note the heavier bill and a broad superciliary that are barely separated on the back of the head.

Boat-billed flycatcher
     Add one more of the group, the Greater kiskadee which we saw the next day and you can see how easily it is to confuse one from the other.

Great kiskadee

     As we continued our journey north, the roads became a bit more rugged and the rains began to fall.  With the steep inclines of the roads which I mentioned in an earlier post and wet clay mud on the roads surface, it made for some interesting riding and we were not perplexed as to why the guides elected to use 4WD vehicles.  Watch the vehicle in front of us begin to slide in the video clip below.

     Occasionally, we would come across a small creek bed which crossed the roadway but is generally dry.  When you get downpours like we had today, however, the stream quickly reforms and makes for some interesting driving.  Our guide Moyo explained that this is the "dry season" and during the rainy times of year, it is often impossible to get past these streams.  If today is representative of the dry season (which it truly wasn't) I can only imagine what the rainy season in this part of Panama must be like!  Eventually, we were ready to have lunch, and our stop was fortunately under the cover of a canopy located at the local Elementary school.  Students attending here come from miles around and many must walk each day.  It reminded me of many old-timers' stories of "when I was young I had to walk 5 miles to school and back !"  Here it is a true story!  The students were all in uniform with bright white shirts.  They all seemed intrigued by the presence of all these Americans with scopes, cameras, and binoculars hanging on the shoulders.  We did have fun interacting with them despite the language difference.


  But now, back to the birds.  One of the most fascinating species we encountered was the Rufous-crested coquette.  We were not far from the school when John our leader spotted this little hummingbird.  We found these in precisely the habitat which the field guides tell you they will be...along shrubby clearings, forest edges, and Roadsides where we found this one. 
Wedge-billed woodcreeper
Rufous-crested coquette
     So many new species were found on this day, it is really difficult to pick out the most memorable for this blog entry.  I will therefore limit it to two final birds.  One, while not all that remarkable as far as plumage I will include since it was rather difficult to find.  The Wedge-billed woodcreeper is the smallest of all woodcreepers.  The individual seen here more than likely will not look similar to other individuals found throughout Panama as there are 13 subspecies found in Central America, each having a slightly different plumage.  I was very happy to be able to see and capture this little guy with my camera.  Another lifer for most of us!

     My last bird of today's entry is certainly not the last that we saw, nor perhaps the most glamorous.  But, it is among the top picks for the trip to be sure.  The bird is the Plumbeous kite.  What made this bird one of my picks-of-the-trip was its cooperative behaviour in posing at length for all of us with cameras.  We were able to walk around its overhead perch to get the best angle, the best lighting, and hopefully the best pose.  It is a beautiful bird which is known to follow primates around in the hope that their movements will stir up some insects, their food of choice.  Perhaps this is why this kite was so willing to sit around and watch us watch him.  What a way to end up and most memorable day in Panama.

     I should also add into today's sightings one of the true iconic mammals of Central and South America....the sloth.  We did have several sightings during our Panama birding travels.  Today's final shot is of the Brown-throated three toed sloth.  I mentioned how the kite was so obliging in letting us get good shots.  Well, there is probably no other mammal on the face of the earth that is easier to photograph than a sloth.  If you're looking for great video action shots, look elsewhere. But for the opportunity to capture an image of a mammal in it's natural elements, the sloth is hard to beat for ease of shooting.  Tomorrow is our final day in the field for finding new birds and mammals of this most remarkable country.  Sad how the time goes so quickly when you have such an opportunity as this.  We will always be grateful that we were able to share it with such good guides and such good friends.
Brown-throated three-toed sloth