Sometimes Misfortune is a Blessing in Disguise – Discovery of Birding

Panama Professional Bird Guide

16C_1032-1-2(Beny Wilson, Panama Bird Guide:  507-6112-2082,

When we first met Beny 2 years ago we were not avid birders… Ray had suffered a back injury that required us to change our usual activities to something more “tame.” A friend suggested we might like birding because of our interest in wildlife–we were skeptical but decided to give it a try and Panama seemed like the perfect place.

After our first 8-hour day on the famous Pipeline Road, dripping with sweat and swatting bugs that had no respect for bug spray, we weren’t sure what to think… until we downloaded our memory card and started looking at the pictures we took.  Suddenly those small, twitchy creatures jumped out of the screen in amazing detail, allowing us a small glimpse into the avian world – we were hooked!

Location: Summit Ponds

16A_3227 1-1-2.jpg(Blue-crowned Motmot.  Sometimes birds surprise you and come so close, they are almost out of the focal range of the lens, but the detail you can capture is mind-blowing!)

16A_3837 1-1.jpg(Male Crimson-backed Tanager.  These birds are quite common in Panama, but the colour is so vibrant we never tire of watching them.)

Location: Ammo Pond

IMG_5824-2.jpg(Ammo Pond)

Beny has the eyes of a hawk and a guide of his caliber can make such a difference.  When he starts acting like a kid at Christmas, you know you have been gifted something special, like when he spotted a Yellow-breasted Crake at Ammo Pond.  These birds are extremely rare–the last time Beny saw one was three years ago!

16A_3591 2(Yellow-breasted Crake.  We would normally not include such a “bad” photo in our blog but the rarity of this bird made it an exception.  Due to the dense vegetation of its habitat it is very difficult to see, much less photograph.  Just getting this “head shot” was a challenge.)


Location: La Laguna Sendero

Sometimes you get lucky and lightening strikes twice on the same day.  While hiking the Laguna Trail, Beny spotted a bird he wasn’t sure about (needless to say we were shocked).  It turned out to be a dark-phase juvenile Gray-headed Kite.  The dark phase was a “life bird” for Beny (which undoubtedly means it is also one for us)–score two!

16A_4038 1-1.jpg(Dark phase juvenile Gray-headed Kite)

16A_4130-1.jpg(Black-bellied Whistling Ducks)

As we finished the Laguna Trail we ended up by the Canal and saw several waterfowl wading about in a picturesque setting.  It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Thinking back to the circumstances under which we first met Beny we can’t believe how our misfortune turned into such a blessing.  One that we can appreciate for many years to come!

Marcy & Ray Stader


Panama City… Top 3 Things to Do After Dark

When the sun goes down in Panama City there a surge of energy – a kind of “second wind” that infuses all who endured the afternoon tropical heat.  The city never sleeps, but the evening brings on a renewed sense of energy.  The temperature hovers around a perfect 24c/75f and the humidity is just right – it hugs you as you walk around the lively streets of the city.  So what are the top things to do?  Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:

1. Soak up the city lights.

Panama City may be all hustle and bustle during the day, but like the Latin culture, she sheds her work clothes and dresses up in glittering style when the sun goes down.  There are plenty of vantage points in which to soak in the glow of the city splendour, from rooftop bars (like the the 66th floor of the Ocean Sun Casino), to a walk along the Cinta Costera.


(The Cinta Costera along the waterfront in Panama City)


2.  Watch the ships lining up to transit the canal.

This is just as fun to watch in the evening as it is during the day.  The best viewing spots are on the Amador Causeway and the Miraflores Locks.  The Locks feature a raised restaurant with a lovey outdoor balcony from which you can enjoy the show while sipping a martini!

(The Panama Canal never sleeps either – ships await their turn to transit the 80 km waterway 24/7, 365 days a year)


    3.  Kick-back and enjoy the the vibe at a local restaurant.

Panama has an amazing restaurant scene, everything is made from scratch and there is a broad range of cuisine available to suit every palette.  It is also a great way to people watch –you never know who might drop in!

One evening we were enjoying dinner outside on the Bay of Panama and we noticed a heron sitting on the roof line of the restaurant.  Of course we didn’t have a camera with us but this Black-crowned Night-Heron was incredibly patient and waited 10 minutes for us to grab the camera and come back to the restaurant.  It continued to pose for about half an hour because it was waiting for an opportunity to grab one of the fish swimming below.  We were very lucky he sat in one of the restaurant’s spot lights otherwise we would never have captured this shot because we don’t use flash on wildlife.
(Black-crowned Night Heron – unexpected dinner guest)

Another time while dining in Casco Viejo we were surprised when the President of Panama dropped in.  We were politely asked to move to a different table to accommodate his large party, but it certainly made for an interesting evening!  And… for some reason our cell phones mysteriously stopped working throughout dinner 😉

We enjoy the surprises every night after dark in Panama City…

Marcy & Ray Stader