Archive for June, 2013

Sphingidae of MTCF

Saturday, June 29th, 2013


The hummingbirds of the night they are called. Sphinx Moths. Strong fliers that hover like hummingbirds and feed on tubular flowers. Instead of modified beaks Sphinx moths have modified tongues that uncurl when feeding on nectar.

The Sphinx moths shown here were all collected at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest during the past year.  The diversity is impressive and the collection far from complete.

A gallery of all the species seen to date is here

Resplendent Quetzals: Nesting Season 2013

Saturday, June 8th, 2013


Resplendent Quetzals are very common here during the nesting season. Their courtship is vocal and these usually shy birds will congregate in groups of up to 6 during their active courtship which starts in February and extends until nesting pairs will start incubation once the rainy season starts. In 2011 and 2012 this was the beginning of May. This year active nesting was delayed until end of May and into the beginning of June since the rainy season arrived late this year.

These birds are part of the landscape and on any given day you will hear a male call and take off vertically up to 100 feet into the sky to then arch down while calling back into the canopy of the forest. As in the past two years we have a nesting pair that has chosen a nest site within 50 meters of our cabins and homestead. With so much pristine habitat available we can’t help but wonder why they choose to nest so close to our lodgings.

Volcan Baru at 3400m

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

One valley over from Mount Totumas Cloud Forest is the town of Volcan, named by the dominant geological feature in Western Panama, Volcan Baru at 3400m, the highest elevation in Panama.

After almost 5 years here in Panama we finally had the opportunity, thanks to the invitation of local mountaineer and bird guide, Gonzalo Chaiy Aizpurua, to join his family on a climb to the summit.

Starting at 5 AM in the dark with flashlights we started the ascent, passing through 5 different life zones until arriving at the peak 6 hours later.

Maguey agaves accent the grassy lower lava fields

These orange flowers are from a parasitic mistletoe that grows on the trees.

One of the last trees at over 3000m where the elfin forest transitions to Paramo grasslands.

yours truely

All the se├▒oritas at the peak.

Finding members of the heath family (Ericaceae) in the paramo habitat above 3000m reminds you of alpine habitat in the Canadian Rockies. I was thinking, where are the blueberries?

One of the highlights of the day was watching a beautiful Fiery-Throated Hummingbird feeding on this tubular flower. The Volcano Hummingbird was also seen that is mainly only found on Volcan Baru and is common on the restricted habitat of the Paramo mainly above 3000m. Other Paramo specialties seen were the Volcano Junco and Sooty Thrush.

This fern was restricted to the highest elevations at 3400m and was thick and succulent.

Head down, drooping shoulders, short of oxygen, step at a time in mild delirium!

What lilly is this? Is it even a lilly? Any ideas?

Steep upper slopes approaching the peak.

Indian Paintbrush, those North American hikers will surely recognize this flower. Another old friend met on the trail.

Annette with Volcan in the background

Indian Paintbrush

Lyra, our daughter

And her mom, Alma

Solomon Seal relative, now we are in the Appalachians? This was in the slower slopes in rich forest habitat.

Forest scene with Clusia sp. tree in the foreground.