Rio Palenque: February 2-3, 2008

My first trip birding in the Western  Lowlands was certainly interesting.  Rio Palenque is a startling but sad patch of forest surrounded by extensive monoculture farms of bananas and palm oil.  Even inside the reserve are large stands of balsa and macadamia trees.  The birds are plentiful, though, and I was thrilled to encounter the Rufous-Tailed Jacamar, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, and  Ochraceous Atilla, among others.  Rarely, too, have I laughed as loudly while I was birding as I did when I passed through what must have been a White-Bearded Manakin lek.  Imagine being swarmed by a flock of miniature hirsute birds that pop their wings noisily like firecrackers.

After two muggy and buggy days stalking the tight network of trails, I was startled to drive out of the reserve immediately to find myself in smoky Quevedo-Santo Domingo traffic.  In addition to other depressing sights, I even witnessed a fellow hauling a live hawk in his hand while walking up the road.  Strange bird, indeed.

Notable birds seen: White-Bearded Manakin, Pale-Mandibled Aracari, Orange-Fronted Barbet, Rufous-Crowned Motmot, Rufous-Tailed Jacamar, Ochraceous Atilla, Collared Trogon, Roadside Hawk, Bay Wren, Tawny-Crested Tanager, Buff-Rumped Warbler, Black-Cheeked Woodpecker, Steak-Headed Woodcreeper.

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