Archive for May, 2014

Presenting the Bellbird Lodge

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

This image of a flat area on a prominent ridge was taken in 2009. Not only horses were drawn to this spot but most visitors as well since the views of La Amistad NP and surrounding forests are magnificent. We chose this location for our common area lodge. Since several male Three Wattled Bellbirds can be heard and seen on surrounding tree tops we decided on the name Bellbird Lodge to honor this highland species.

In February 2013 we broke ground starting the foundation

fundy woundy

weechoo Got to make sure everything is plumb.

seismic beams
The earth is soft with no rocks. Earthquakes are present in Panama. The foundation was tied together with two stories of seismic beams all tied together like a box. On May 13, 2014 a strong 6.8 earthquake shook western Chiriqui. Fortunately there was no structural damage to any of the structures at MTCF and we were encouraged that the Bellbird Lodge survived the quake with no noticable structural damage.

i beam
These 40 foot long I beams were set on big footers and extend out on the front deck for 15 feet. Getting these up the 10km 4WD road was one of our many challenges during 2013.

All the framing of the lodge was done with oak trees we harvested on our land with the help of Mr. Noe, our chain saw alchemist.

noe timber 2

timber 3
These wooden blocks were sanded and treated and no further milling was done when framing the lodge.

lifting oak column

foundy col 2

moch roberto columns

beam carriers me We joined and lifted a 20 foot section of the top roof beam of the 2nd floor.

beam drill tene

no roof yet

roofy no tim

tene tough  hammer

pony babmito
We harvested Bambito trees from our 2nd growth forest and turned them into three load bearing round columns in the future living and dining room to support the roof

hauling bambito boys

blurry polyfoarm

bambito column

up on the roof

bb roof half

lodge early n 1

roofy roof
The roof is tin with an insulation layer and painted cement board that doubles as a cieling.

cedro flooring olveni micky
Olveni and Micky are using the shaper tool to make the tongue and groove hard wood flooring using cedro rojo wood.




wood mizer 2
A portable saw mill was hauled up to our workshop with a tractor to prepare all the blocks of wood into framing, studs, flooring, siding etc.

drying wood 2Bambito wood curing in our workshop

up dp

up drThe future door, window and outside balcony on the 2nd floor.

P1050243The large living room is 6 sided with 24 windows.


kevin construction shot
Kevin, a great friend and contributor to MTCF, sanding the walls in the bathroom.

lr lights bb

lodge dining livingNext 2 shots are the finished hexagonal living room with windows providing a wrap around views of the canopy of the cloud forest and La Amistad NP.

living 2 bb

lodge vista 1
Views of The Bellbird Lodge in the surrounding landscape

lodge in the mist 2

bb lodge common areaThis photo shows The Bellbird Lodge in the background, The Cabin in the foreground to the right, The Homestead and greenhouse in foreground left, and the workshop to the far left. The employee cabin is the only structure not seen in this photo.

bb lodge in the misty The lodge with views of La Amistad NP in the background.

bb lodge with cenizo

Many friends and visitors contributed valuable ideas and suggestions for the design of The Bellbird Lodge. This was a collaborative effort and we would like to thank everyone who helped make this project happen. Our Panamanian construction staff are all folks of the mountains here in Chiriqui and without their knowledge and history in the region we never could have pulled this off.

To many of our friends and guests who have not yet visited we are excited to share with you views of bellbirds, spider monkeys and pristine cloud forests from the living room and open deck of The Bellbird Lodge. We hope to see you soon.

Crested Guan

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014


A wary Crested Guan photographed by Shane Bender during his stay with us. This is the rarer of the two guan species, the more common Black Guan is smaller. A Crested Guan came to our lights to feed on insects one early morning at around 4:30am. As it was still dark we thought it was a Black Vulture at first.

These birds are persecuted by hunters and MTCF is an important local refuge for these birds.

Hydroponics MTCF

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

hp 1

Our great friend Kevin Moser help us set up a small scale hydroponic system in our greenhouse. We started by catching small fish in the stream and placing them in the 55 gallon drum hoping that their waste would fertilize the plants. These little fishies didn’t produce enough poop to get the plants going so we have moved on the molasses tea and chicken poop. Some algae problems and further tweaking required.


Young strawberry flowering

Tomatoes and eggplants, coffee seedlings and ornamentals……

Kevin in the garden

Sierra working on the gate to keep out those tomatoe destroying chickens.

Augie and Vedika humming with the hummers

Friday, May 23rd, 2014


Augie and Vedika came for a week in March and spent some intimate time with Violet Sabrewings, White-Throated Mountain Gems, Magnificent Hummingbirds, Magenta-throated Woodstars, and others……

An aura of 4 hummers surrounds Augie

A Cleaning Wrass Hummer goes exploring for parasites in Augie’s ear canal!

av hum1
Mutual bird human watching

White-throated Mountain Gem slides into pure sweetness.




Long-billed Starthroat; 189 and counting

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

petr bambousek 1

A visiting photographer from the Czech Republic, Mr. Petr Bambousek, captured a beautiful image of a Long-billed Starthroat feeding on a Coral Bean tree (Erythrina sp.) here at MTCF.

This is bird species number 189 spotted at our reserve and is the 17th hummingbird species recorded.

Petr’s photography is absolutely stunning. He has travelled to some of our planet’s most beautiful natural areas. We were honored that he chose to visit Panama and come to Mount Totumas Cloud Forest. Here is a link to his website where you can see some examples of his photos.

Once he is settled back in the Czech Republic he will be sending us his best photos from his visit.

petr bambousek 2

Greetings from Alma and Jeffrey

Monday, May 5th, 2014


Hi Friends,

It has been a couple of months since posting any blog entries. We have been super busy with guests and completing the latest construction, the spectacular Bellbird Lodge, located on a lookout point with stunning views of La Amistad National Park. Our first guests booked at the new lodge are 6 entomologists arriving May 24th and we are scrambling at the moment to get everything done. We will soon share with you photos and highlights.

In the meantime here are a couple of photos of Alma and me on the deck of the new lodge, still without hand rails. The clouds are now drifting up the valley daily in the afternoons, our favorite time of year here at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest.