• Antbird Tours

The Highlands, Part I

In the span of three weeks, I will be visiting the Panamanian Highlands twice with my groups. This presents a wonderful opportunity to observe the variability in climate and fauna of the tropics that takes place over a short period.

The Western Highlands of Panama are as different from the lowland rainforests as you could get...the temperatures are far cooler, the humidity all but disappears, the avifauna changes dramatically and even the plantlife is radically different. This dramatic series of changes take place less than 300 miles from the heart of the Central Lowlands. When you are near the equator, most of what drives change in biological populations is elevation...a phenomenon that is all too apparent when you come on a highlands trip with Antbird Tours!

To get to the Western Highlands, our group first touched down in Panama City and took the opportunity to bird the "small" mountain town of Cerro Azul for a day. Perched above the city, this location offers a fantastic primer in birds of higher elevations while also offering the opportunity to observe some lowland favorites.

Birding from the balcony of our lodge

Birding Cerro Azul en route to the Western Highlands

Despite only being a few miles from downtown Panama City, the slight elevational gain brings with it cooler temps and very different bird species. And, if you know where to go (and Antbird Tours knows where to go!), you can see some great birds!

Male Crimson-backed Tanager in Cerro Azul

In just one-and-a-half days of birding in Cerro Azul, we managed to get well over 100 species. And, as you can see, most were quite photogenic.

With a fantastic species list under the belt, we boarded another plane for a short in-country flight to the city of David. From here, we drove for an hour into the mountains of Western Panama. Our first stop was just outside of the town of Boquete, where we checked in to our lodging at an amazing coffee farm.

Our lodging: everyone gets their own suite with a private balcony and hammock.

Our next two days were filled with hummingbirds, walks through high altitude rainforest and amazing dining. Once again, our bird list was north of 100 species after two days of leisurely walks in the woods...in fact, we racked up quite a few species from the porch of the restaurant as we sat and sipped our coffee.

On our fifth day, we departed our lodge and drove two hours to our final lodge outside of the town of Volcan. Here, we ascended into Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve. Here, perched above it all and on the Costa Rican border, we checked into our amazing rainforest lodge (the highest elevation lodge in the country) and spent three amazing days birding.

The view from our lodge was nothing short of breathtaking

Our days were spent walking the trails located on the lodge grounds and once again, eating great food! Everyone had a wonderful time at this location and we spotted 115 species of birds on this one property.

Of course, the main attraction of the highlands of Panama in the breeding season is the Resplendent Quetzal...arguably the most attractive bird on earth. We didn't have to look too hard to find these birds, as they are common in this part of the country.

Resplendent Quetzals were found throughout the area, with multiple indivduals detected every day!

Thanks to my group for providing so many of these great photos of our trip and stay tuned for part II of the blog once I return from the next trip!

And if you wanted to experience this amazing spot for yourself, sign up for the Western Highlands trip in 2020 today!!

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