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Panama: Hawks in Migration Part 3

2005-04-05 - 8:18 a.m.

female harpy eagle head detail
all photos this page © 2005 by Elaine Radford and Roger Williams

all rights reserved

captive female Harpy Eagle at Summit Zoo, Panama

This is the conclusion to my Panama trip report. To start with Part 1, click here. To go to Part 2, click here.

March 26, 2005

We returned to Panama City, stopping in the Pearl Kite area. For whatever reason, it was expected to be a dangerous day on the dangerous road, so we had a police escort. I'm not sure how safe I felt, since he appeared to be armed mostly with a walkie talkie. I'm hoping maybe he had a concealed weapon or I just didn't notice his weapon because I didn't want to stare?

harpy eagle claws In any case, there were no more Pearl Kites, but we had a fantastic display of courting Common Black-Hawks. Bill explained that, although these are still called Mangrove Black-Hawks, they are not a true species distinct from Common Black-Hawk. Sigh! That's one I will be losing off my life list when they get it properly sorted out. However, the Gray Hawks we examined on this trip were of the South American race or subspecies, so I can always hope for a split in that area one day.

In addition to the bird-life, we noticed a gangbanger complete with a hoodie sweatshirt and ball cap -- in 92 degree Fahrenheit weather. Yikes. Crime may pay, but is it really worth it?

Later in the morning we visited the Harpy Eagle exhibit at the Summit zoo, where the male and female Harpy Eagles tolerated our admiration with complete and total patience, although I got a vibe of "eyes roll" from the female. The male actually sat near the screen of his very large enclosure. I think he privately enjoyed the attention or at least wanted to keep an eye on it.

We learned in the small museum that the claw of the Harpy Eagle "can be" as large as that of a Grizzly Bear.

"Must be a pretty small grizzly bear," one of the guys wise-cracked. Don't think I'd care to meet up with 'em in a dark alley though.

In the afternoon we returned to Cerro Azul to enjoy the busy and beautiful hummingbirds and also to make a second try for the Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle. I think we'd all about given up when, boom, there it was. The contrast-y plumage and the size made it an impressive specimen indeed.

mother howler monkey with baby, there were lots of these lounging in the 
trees making for tough photos of dark monkeys against bright sky On the way back to the hotel, we pulled over to the side of the road after a very brief rain shower and observed a huge migration of (mostly) Broad-Winged Hawks by the thousands going almost from horizon to horizon. Hard to describe the impact of so many birds, all hawks, streaming in an ever-flowing river.

March 27-28, 2005

Note: Some of this material is a repeat of my March 29 diary entry called, "Bump." To skip over the redundant material, click right here.

Roger and I volunteered to be bumped from the flight back, so we got an extra day in Panama City courtesy of the airline. We got free transportation to and from the hotel, free hotel, $12.50 per person per meal for three meals, and upgrades to better seats. I was moved to first class all the way instead of just on the IAH-MSY leg, and DH got aisle seats near the front, although there wasn't room to upgrade him to first as well. Oh, and we also got $300 apiece toward our next ticket on that airline. It was Easter Sunday, and the town was pretty quiet, so we spent the day on Easter buffet, rum (from the duty free shop) and soda (from the Korean market), and a couple of dips in the rooftop pool, once by daylight and once at night.

three-toed sloth
sloths are wrong on so many levels, you finally get one moving around so you can take a photo, and he offers you this
We were also supposed to get a free $10 phone call back home to let the pet sitter know what was going on, but stupid me forgot to write down his phone number, so we just sent him an email on the computer somebody left running in the unmanned business center. He must have gotten the message all right, since we had a note that said he'd left the house about 30 minutes before we walked in the door.

spring break 2005 We were hoping to get a second bump on Monday for further fun and profit, but alas there weren't any more opportunities. I had my trip to the Emerald Museum all planned out. Oh well. There is always next time. Continental's first class seemed better than Northwest's, although it isn't really fair since I'm comparing international to domestic. We had a hot towel, a green salad, and a forgettable main course, but the pride of the service was the ice cream sundae. The guy next to me demanded that the whipped cream and caramel sauce be left off, and he still didn't eat it anyway. Spoilsport!

violet-bellied hummingbird The movie was another high school angst type movie. Don't they know who flies around in airplanes? Hint -- it probably isn't disaffected teen-agers so much. This one was Fat Albert so at least it knew it was stupid and wasn't totally unwatchable. These guys came out of a cartoon from the 1970s and became three-dimensional people in the 2000s and found out they really did have a heart, brain, courage, etc. You know the drill. Good for a few laughs and at least a real movie wasn't ruined for me. Poor Roger later said that he was extremely disappointed, not just because he can't stomach this type of cheap comedy, but also because the schedule said the movie would be Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. That's how I read the schedule too, so I don't know what happened. Maybe the hamster spinning the reels went on strike.

At Customs in Houston, they were looking for a person with Roger's same name who was a fugitive from justice, so we had to go to secondary. The woman read the description on her computer, looked at Roger, and totally cracked up. I'm guessing someone half his age and/or a different race. In any case, they let us go with a smile. I hope he doesn't have to go through this double-check every time he travels now, but it seems to happen to everyone who has a common name sooner or later.

warning sign off achiote road
about the only way you'll stop the determined birder from trespassing
To my frustration, my first class ticket didn't allow me to have a guest in the President's Lounge, and my own lounge pass that did have guest privileges had expired on the 23rd, so Roger went off to seek real food in a sports bar and, since I'd already eaten, I grabbed a quick glass of wine and a bag of Fritos in the lounge and then went to find him. As before, the lounge was a state of chaos anyway. I read a post on flyertalk where a traveller claimed that his lounge pass was worth it to provide "a quiet oasis" while travelling. All I can conclude from my own experiments with lounge is that the gentleman in question is entirely deaf. If I get any more lounge passes as freebies, fine, but if not, I sure won't feel as if I'm missing anything.

There were three Continental flights to New Orleans leaving pretty close to the same time, so again our fantasies of a rare double bump were crushed. It was just as well. I was getting pretty tired. Those Easter Sunday rum and sodas were not what the doctor ordered. Although I'll admit I got jealous when I heard volunteers for a bump being called for a different flight. $1,500 apiece plus hotel, food, transport, etcetera. Yikes! I wanted to volunteer for that one, and I don't even know where they were flying. It must have been someplace they don't go every day if they were willing to fork over that much for the inconvenience of being bumped.

butterfly feeding at cerro azul
yo, don't hate me cuz i got two yellow bumps on my antenna and you don't

The guy sitting next to me on my IAH-MSY flight had just spent his vacation motorcycling around the Southeast. We both agreed that we needed a vacation from our vacation! It was a great experience, almost overwhelming, and now I needed a nice long nap before I could assimilate all I'd seen.

You have just finished reading my trip report from our Bill Clark "Raptour" of the 2005 spring raptor (bird of prey) migration in Panama. The official trip bird list will be coming soon!

male captive harpy eagle
the male harpy eagle at summit zoo basked in the attention almost too close for a good picture but after much playing around at different angles we snagged a couple of decent shots

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