Things are looking up
Although small, to a discerning eye the country of Panama can be thought of as three completely different worlds. The central lowlands, with its ease of access, is a birder’s dream. Extremely diverse, the region is teeming with wildlife and all if it is located just a stone’s throw from Panama City. This is my favorite place on earth…there is no place I’d rather be than in the Central Lowlands of Panama.
The Darien Province, located adjacent to the Colombian border, is another amazing place, but quite different from the Central Lowlands. As I stated in my previous post, it is remote. But, those willing to venture into this remote location will be rewarded with some of the best birding in the tropics. They will also be rewarded with unparalleled heat and humidity and a sense of isolation. I love taking groups to this region of the country because it is an excellent opportunity to teach the importance of habitat conservation as group members see primary rainforest in all of its glory and the stark contrast with nearby farmland.
And then there are the Western Highlands of Panama. Ah, the highlands…perhaps the most radically different of the three worlds that define Panama. Yes, the highlands are covered in a rainforest ecosystem…but it is a radically different rainforest. Yes, the highlands are tropical…but the lack of heat and humidity are notable and many days a jacket or sweater is warranted. The highland tropics are extraordinary.
A visit to the Western Highlands of Panama is a must for those looking for a comprehensive picture of the country as a whole (for that matter, a visit to the Darien is also warranted). Birding in the highlands is all about traversing the vertical plane. Starting in the lowlands of the city of David, you climb…and as you spend time in progressively higher elevations: Boquette, Volcan, La Amistad, you find some species disappearing from the landscape as others rush in to take their place. In a matter of just 1,000 meters, there is a dramatic shift in birdlife. This is largely due to changes in microclimate…moisture and temperature being the largest drivers and the subsequent changes in vegetation set the stage for a mosaic of avian communities.