On the last morning of our recent Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower tour, we birded Metropolitan Park just outside Panama City. We enjoyed superb looks at Lance-tailed Manakins, a Whooping Motmot, a male Rosy Thrush-Tanager, and a White-bellied Antbird. We also saw a wonderful troop of Geoffroy’s Tamarins. A visit to Panama Viejo’s mudflats yielded a superb selection of shorebirds. Since there had not been any rain except at night for several days, we hoped to see a big hawk flight. Most participants went to the Miraflores locks to see a ship go through the locks and tour the visitor center. While they were at the locks they witnessed kettle after kettle of hawks and vultures passing over them, an amazing 43,000 Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, and Turkey Vultures. Participants who stayed at the Canopy Tower saw kettles of hawks and vultures all along the coast including thousands right over downtown Panama City. The hawk counters at Ancon Hill estimated 750,000 hawks and vultures that afternoon!
That amazing hawk flight would have been a fantastic ending to our tour, but there was more to come. When we gathered on the fourth floor of the Canopy Tower to do our bird list, I mentioned that when I first came to Panama in l979 my three most wanted birds were the Yellow-eared Toucanet, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and Black-and-white Owl. I remarked that it took me years to see all of these special birds, but that on this tour we had seen both the toucanet and the ground-cuckoo. I noted that we had not seen the Black-and-white Owl and said that hopefully participants would see that species on another tour. A few minutes later, Michael Castro called up from the entrance to tell us that he had heard a Black-and-white Owl just down the hill.
The staff had prepared a farewell grilled dinner for us in an area just across from the front door and next to the forest. In response to Michael’s superb imitation, the Black-and-white Owl had flown into a huge tree right next to the dinner site! We descended rapidly and soon we were looking at this magnificent owl. A few minutes later it was joined by its mate. The wild calls of both owls filled the air, a closing serenade. We had now seen all three of the birds I most wanted to see when I first came to Panama and had witnessed the greatest hawk flights any of us had ever seen. What a finale!