One thing I never thought I’d do in my young life? Go birding. It’s just one of those science-y activities that never really appealed to my inner geek. Sure, I love diving, and I’ve come to know all the marine life on a first-name basis, but avian creatures have never sparked my interest—until I learned about them on Enrichment Voyages, that is, from our resident ornithologist Charles Clarkson, and then put that knowledge to use in Panama.
I should also mention I hate getting up early. Like really despise it. Waking up before 7am is just criminal in my mind. (I could never work in stocks. That much is clear.) And to see certain birds, you have to rise before the sun. So Samantha and I did just that, and bleary-eyed, crawled up to the observatory tower for the first part of our birding experience.
While any guest can do their own wildlife spotting from atop the tower, I highly recommend any of the guided tours with Canopy (an extra cost). We only did one morning walk, which lasted about five hours, and it made me wish we’d signed up for the twilight birding walk the night before. The guides are excellent, they bring along a high-powered telescope so you can see the wildlife in close detail, and they spot things that are barely visible to the human eye.
For the first part of our tour, we stayed up on the observatory tower as our guide pointed out birds left and right. My favorite was the toucan, of which there were many. They came pretty close and seemed very unrattled by our presence in their canopied home.
It was pretty gray and dim out that morning, but luckily the birds’ bright feathers made them easier to spot than not.
After an early breakfast, we started the walking part of our tour. We meandered down the paved road and back up over the course of a couple hours. It became, much like diving, a game of who could spot the most hard-to-see, obscure bird hiding among the branches. Here are just a few of the creatures we found once deeply immersed in the forest:
Hummingbirds. These colorful, fast little suckers were everywhere, primarily in the perimeter right around the lodge.
Kingfishers. We saw several of these guys while on safari in India last year, and I just think they are the cutest.
Motmot. His name alone is just fun to say.
Woodpecker. Woody is far from quiet, making him one of the easier ones to find.
Scarlet-rumped Cacique. These beady-eyed creatures were everywhere in the trees outside of our room. A couple even tried to fly into our screens. Their tails are a brilliant hue of red, which is how they got their name.
We also spotted swallows, tropical kingbirds, tanagers, finches, parrots, flycatchers, wrens, warblers and more. Overall, it was an excellent day and something I’d definitely do again. I think Samantha’s and my prospects as career birders are strong after all, don’t you?
Tips for Birding:
- Wear long pants and long sleeves. I failed to bring both. Remember: where there are birds, there are even more creepy-crawlies…
- Speaking of, wear ample bug spray. We covered our bodies and clothes with 100 percent DEET often while in Panama.
- Closed-toe shoes are your friends.
- Bring a long lens. I rented a Canon 75-400mm before I went on the voyage and was so happy I’d made that investment. This will definitely be the next photography investment I make.
- Don’t miss out on an awesome opportunity because you’d rather sleep in. You can sleep when you’re dead.