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Juan Hombron / El Valle / Altos del Maria info (1 Viewer)

simmojunior

Well-known member
Hi guys,

I am off to Panama with a friend in March and we have left everything very last minute (only booked flights just over a week ago)! We plan to hire a (probably small) car and have a rough itinerary in mind for our trip.

The bit we haven't sorted is the 4 nights in the Anton del Valle area. We haven't booked accommodation yet but will find somewhere in town I imagine. What sites are accessible by small car? I think we will visit

Specifically does anyone have any info on Juan Hombron and El Chiru? There is nothing online, it's not covered in the bird finding guide and precious few independent trip reports. Is the road driveable in a small car? Where are the best spots for the Mango, the Bobwhite and other targets? Where is the laguna referred to on ebird?

Also we are debating whether to spend 4 nights in Anton del Valle or 3 nights and one in Altos Del Maria. What do people think? As we won't have a 4x4, we will have to drive the long way round to get between them. Where are the best spots in Altos? Specifically for Snowcap or Yellow-eared Toucanet?

If anyone has any tips for the rest of our trip or indeed is out there and wants to join us, do get in touch. We are going to start with a day at Metropolitan Park before driving to Anton Del Valle. After there, we will stay at the Summit Hotel to bird the Pipeline area for 4 nights before handing back the hire car and spending 5 days birding the Darien with Domiciano Alveo.

Thanks,

Oli
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
Anyone able to help?

Hi I was in Panama at the end of last year. I went to Juan Hombron very briefly late one evening. It's covered in the supplement to the where to watch guide (I don't have the guide, only the supplement!). The access road is fine in a normal car as long as you drive slowly. The locals echoed what the supplement said: that the area is dangerous at night. I didn't have time to explore for tyrant fly's etc; only saw a bunch of waders on the coast. Was looking for the mango which I only saw much further west in mangroves. I get the impression that this makes seasonal movements and at this time of year mangroves is where you'll find it. But read Josh Beck's "birds of passage" blog for more info (pbjosh user here and regular contributor).

Anton was fun and there's lots of accommodation. I didn't spend long there but my tip would be get to the entrance of Cerro gaital la Mesa trail early. I had the best birds around the entrance. I tried to walk from the se side, Camino a mato ahogado, to la Mesa but quickly found it blocked with "settlers". Following the road East, you could stop pretty much anywhere and get good migrant warblers etc.

For Pipeline road, main tips are go early and pay especial attention to grey-headed tanagers. I found they were very strongly associated with ant followers there and they're usually pretty conspicuous

I spent a day and a half at Metropolitano in an unsuccessful attempt to find the tyrannulet. But I liked the place. You will anyway, but tip there is go very quietly and slowly. Don't neglect the bit across the road where I had carmiol's tanager (apparently rare there) and various wrens

Perhaps like you (?) I wasn't super prepared for the trip. I did download all the ebird hotspots and put them into my mapping software (I use osmand) and I fairly carefully read the contributions to the Panama forum here. That gave me links to interesting web material, and Niels' old trip report is still probably valuable for places like Anton. Of course, I used Xeno canto to download a library of relevant calls. People in Panama use waze for navigation. Because the accommodation website I used was very tied to Google maps, I ended up having to use that app to find my hotel at times but frankly it's dangerous. In Panama city it resolutely refuses to respect your instruction to avoid toll roads. Halfway through a navigation it'll say "re-routing you a faster way: click to cancel" which is a bit difficult in heavy traffic...

Despite lack of preparation, my trip was ok if not super successful. Darien was a struggle and the least enjoyable part of the trip but that was due to the guide. I would have liked to have spent more time in the west. I saw >300 species in my 3 weeks, mostly self-found (I greatly prefer)
 

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simmojunior

Well-known member
Brilliant - thank you The_Fern. I know Josh so will drop him a message. By La Mesa Cerro Gaital entrance, do you mean the bottom of trail from El Valle town or the car park by the gate at Cerro Gaital?
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
I mean at what I believe to be the start of the el convento trail: the other side of Cerro gaital from the town at (I think) 8.63233° N, 80.11675° W. (I found some of the locations difficult to identify, especially so without the book. The book is very out of date now, and I really wish the resource were electronic. I took no paper guides with me on this trip but instead had about 10 in electronic form. Now that ebird works offline I used that for many of my records but since it's not great for one-off observations or lists accumulated on a drive, I used spreadsheets for some. I might be in the market for your "where to..." guide if you want to sell it when you get back: then I can scan it ahead of a repeat visit.)

I aim to go back to central America at some point: lots of things in w Panama, Costa Rica I missed. Maybe you folks would be interested..?
 

simmojunior

Well-known member
Thanks! What paper guides did you use?

I would happily sell you the book after the trip. Could be interested in W Panama or Costa Rica at some point as won't cover it this trip!
 

simmojunior

Well-known member
We never made it out unfortunately. We were due to fly yesterday but situation in Madrid and Panamanian government to shut national parks and museums meant we decided against it. Somehow I was able to rebook my flights for free for September but inexplicably my friend wasn't able to. No obvious reason as we were both in airport together! He'll keep chasing Air Europa but we will look for companions if we are able to go in September to allow for 4x4 in rainy season.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
Thanks! What paper guides did you use?

I would happily sell you the book after the trip. Could be interested in W Panama or Costa Rica at some point as won't cover it this trip!

No paper guides at all. I came across an old lonely planet guide in an Oxfam shop which I took but lost it about half way through. My main birding resource was Vallely & Dyer (central America), but also Ridgeley for text and his overview of birding localities (very out of date of course). I try to ensure that I have all the material I need on at least 2 devices, and ideally on a memory card (rather than inbuilt phone memory) in each case. It's a shame modern phones don't have interchangeable batteries as those are better (generally lighter weight to take in the field cf power bank).
 

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