Oct 23 2008
El Valle de Anton is a posh, weekend retreat village that offers lovely foothill scenery and cool climate just two-hour’s drive west of often-sweltering Panama City. It’s filled with lush, meticulously-groomed gardens, like the one that surrounds the Park Eden Bed & Breakfast, where we spent a very pleasant day.
Above, tour organizer Yenia (l) joins guide Luis (c) and driver Fernando (r) for an al fresco breakfast.
But eating here, at least for many of us, was not entirely relaxing. Climbing in and around the plantings (see the Datura garden below) were a nice variety of birds and other critters, quite a number of whom were happy enough to be photographed. Meals were accordingly somewhat stop-and-go affairs as we periodically jumped up from the table to snap a tanager here, a grassquit there, then returned to bowls of savory lentil soup, platters of perfectly ripe tropical fruits, and other local dishes.
There was a hedge around the property that was especially productive. The king and queen of it were a pair of Barred Antshrikes. Below, the richly brown female casts a backward glance.
Her mate briefly periscopes up into some yuccas that punctuated the hedge’s corners.
A couple of feeders brought in a male White-lined Tanager…
…and a male Variable Seedeater.
And clinging to trunk of a nearby pine was a Small Beauty. Yes, that’s really it’s common name. It is beautiful, but not so small by temperate butterfly standards.
Notice the fabulous false face it has–the real one, complete with antennae, it pointing downward–but the prominent ocellate spots make it look as if it’s facing skyward.
But it wasn’t all songbirds and butterflies here–a striking Common Black-Hawk put in an dramatic appearance and a pair of chaste White Hawks graced the nearby forest, though I wasn’t able to secure any images of these stark raptors worth sharing.
One of the day’s more endearing memories is of a tame Gray-headed Chachalaca that came running up to us as we walked the neighborhood. At first, we thought it might have been a wild bird, but its red yarn epaulet and its willingness to eat bits of granola bar from my outstretched hand quickly disabused us of that notion. Thanks to fellow blogger John Riutta for this photo.
Bill of the Birds got into the act, too, letting the surprisingly gentle bird have a nibble or two of oats and honey.
Park Eden and El Valle provided a nice interlude, halfway between the chilly cloud forest of Los Quetzales and the steaming jungle around the canal. It’s easy to see why the area is so popular with Panamanians and visitors alike.