Birding from the Coral Princess, through the Panama Canal in February 2013
Took a couple of days to go down to the Keys, just in case Colorado decided to have a blizzard on the day of our plane ride. Decent trip, nothing spectacular, but loaded with Ruddy Turnstones.
Boarded the Coral Princess in Fort Lauderdale, warmed up the bins, and saw a Magnificent Frigatebird without having to take the boat trip to the Dry Tortugas again. As usual, no birds crossing the Caribbean to Aruba...
On Aruba, caught a taxi to the Bobali Bird Preserve (if the taxi driver doesn't know where it is, it's across from the big windmill on the west coast), a 20 buck ride. Eared Dove, Sooty Tern, White-cheeked Pintail, Neotropic Cormorant, Smooth Ani, Bald eyed Pigeon, Moorhens and Green Herons all over, Tropical Mockingbirds, and a bunch of the usual. Last time, I had parakeets.... You can pick up a taxi at the resort next to the Preserve, or just wave one down in the road. Back aboard the ship, and got Masked and Brown Booby just off the shore.
Cartagena: since the last time I was there, they've added a visitor center at the end of the pier that has a pretty extensive park behind it. I was intending to investigate the wetlands across the road, but this was good enough. Prothonotary Warblers all over, Toucan, Common Ground Dove, Social Flycatchers common, Great Kiskadee, Violet green Swallow, Mangrove Swallow near the harbor. They have a cage of captive migrants, featuring a trio of Rose breasted Grosbeaks. I develop a method, roam through the park for about 20 minutes, then buy a beer for 2 bucks and sit in a chair on the patio in the shade facing the woods and rehydrating myself. On one of these occasions, a Spot-breasted Woodpecker lands on a tree right in front of me, distance 20 feet! Repeat the circuit about 3 times, then back to the boat. Spotted in the harbor: Gray backed Swift, Frigate, Bridled Tern, and I think a Fleshy Shearwater off the coast.
Panama Canal: Hanging over the rail watching the trees go by, and spotting Black Guan, Crimson-collared Tanager, Yellow Caracara, Capped Heron, Swallow-tailed Kite. Frigate birds surround the ship picking up tidbits from the water, and I learn a lot about how hard it is to id swallows on the fly. Got excited once, since I was really looking for a Amazon Kingfisher, but it proved to be a Ringed. Inspected about 10 thousand nice Kingfisher limbs overhanging the water... Did see a Zone-tailed Kite soaring and a Bare-throated Tiger Heron working the weeds, and that was good enough. Out of the Canal about 3 o'clock, and spot Brown and Blue-footed Booby at sea.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Really looking forward to this, since I've booked a trip up the river by boat, then a stop at the Macaw Sanctuary. The guide on the boat called Dowitchers “Sandpipers”, so it looks like I'm on my own for the boat trip. Lot of herons, egrets, whimbrel, but I only add Collared Plover and Slaty Flycatcher to the life list. Off to the Sanctuary: Rufous naped Wren right off the bat, Scarlet Macaw (the ones in Cartagena were captives), Boat-billed Flycatcher, Dusky capped Flycatcher, Ruddy Ground Dove, white-winged Doves. Clay-colored Robin (now thrush) all over – since it took me three trips to Texas to see ONE, I was impressed. I checked with the director of the Sanctuary, and he clued me on to the hummingbird spot, so I added Beryl-crown Hbird to my total. Only 60 more hbirds to get in Costa Rica.... Be nice if you could get a little more guiding, but the director is busy leading the group of non-birders around. He still gets a nice tip for buying bird food, anyway. Best spot: the little stream – hang out there and wait. Most fun: watching the Macaws stealing food. You get a nice snack of fresh great tasting fruit. I get a Protein bar, since I'm diabetic! There is an extensive bunch of vendors and beach bars along the coast, so I wander along looking at the trees and the doves on the ground and sampling the local brews. White-winged and Ruddy Ground doves, tropical flycatcher on every wire in town.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: Pull into port and get to watch 3 King Vultures soaring over the hills. No tour here, since all they offer is a two hour bus ride over crappy roads to get badgered for two hours by street salesmen, then a two hour bus ride back. There was one tour to a ecology place, but it was sold out. So – take the tender ashore (warning: steep narrow stairs, so no handicapped allowed), through the vendors, and into the town. There's only 2-3 streets paralleling the beach, so go to the back one next to the hills, and wander along for a half mile or so. I never felt in danger, and I'm pretty savvy (worked in Detroit for 35 years...) except from the poor footing and the holes in the sidewalks, so keep an eye out. Spotted Crimson-fronted Parakeet flock, some other parakeet I didn't get a good enough look at, and a Great crested Flycatcher on a wire. There is a Boat-billed Flycatcher building a nest half way up the cellular tower that was fun to watch lugging grass, and the beach was full of terns and gulls to inspect. Back on the boat, being tempted by the embrodiered T-shirts for 10 bucks and stopping at the rum-tasting test for some 8 year old Flora de Cana. Chase that down with a couple of beers from the vendors to avoid dehydration, and back on the boat.
At sea: Brown and Masked Booby again, and some Western Gulls pulling into Cabo San Lucas. Remember: if you can see fishing boats, there's birds around. I had found a birding guide in Cabo, but she was doing the Whale watching excursion first. Since the excursion was done at 10:30 and the ship left at 2, that wasn't going to work out, although she was willing to try. Keep an eye out for the sea lions sitting on the fishing boats in the marina. If you've got more time in port, try