TRAVEL: Easy Birding in Panama
If you are looking for a birding adventure a little farther from home, winter is an exceptionally good time to visit the Caribbean, Central and South America. If you have been wanting to visit a tropical forest with loads of fabulous birds, one of the best and easiest countries to visit to see birds in winter is Panama.
Raul Arias de Para is a birder, conservationist and owner of the well-known and very popular Panama Canopy Tower, not far from Panama City. He also owns several other
socially responsible eco-lodges focused on birding in Panama including Canopy Lodge in El Vallee in the interior and the luxurious permanent tented camp in the Darien near the Colombian border, Canopy Camp. If this is your first trip to Panama, Canopy Tower is a great place to land. It’s simple to get to, embedded in the forest, has excellent
and knowledgeable guides and a bird list of over 250 species. If you have more than a few days, you can split your time between the various lodges in the Canopy Family to get the widest range of birds. And if you are traveling with others who aren’t really interested in birding, then there are many other things to keep them busy – from wildlife and hikes to numerous tourist attractions which can be easily visited.
At Canopy Tower you can spend hours just watching the hummingbirds at the feeders, see many birds sitting on top of the canopy from the radar perch level, or watch sloths, monkeys, coatamundi and butterflies from the veranda or your room. Canopy Tower is a creative conversion of a former US military radar tower. Originally designed to pierce the forest canopy to see activity from a 360 degree viewpoint for security purposes, Raul converted this military tower into the perfect bird spotting roost. On the top level, you can watch toucans, parrots and tanagers sitting on top of the canopy — birds which would be otherwise difficult to see from the ground. In winter most of our commonly found warblers are overwintering in this area and you can see many of them at the Tower. Plus, sloths, monkeys, butterflies and other wildlife abound.
You can go to the lodge on your own and take daily bird walks with the lodge guides who are fabulous, or you can go with an organized group. However you decide to visit Panama, make Canopy Tower or any of Raul’s lodges part of your birding expedition. I’m a big fan of his hospitality and attention to detail, and have had great experiences at both Canopy Tower and Canopy Camp. Each of his lodges has exactly what every birder needs, and enough non-birding activities so that everyone in your group will be satisfied. Maybe it’s time to flee the winter chill and chill out in the tropical beauty of Panama for a wonderful birding experience.