Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Beginning of Our Panamanian Adventure: Canopy Tower

From the time I started birding, other birders have been telling me about all of the amazing birding locations and lodges all over the world. There are many places that I've dreamt of visiting but none more so than Canopy Tower. The Tower has always fascinated me, not just for birding but from a historical perspective as well. Not only is the Canopy Tower in the former US Canal Zone in Panama, it's also inside an old US Air Force radar tower!

Owner Raul Arias de Para purchased the radar facility in 1996 and set out to turn it into an incredible eco-lodge. You can learn more about Raul here. What he ended up creating is one of the top birding destinations in the entire world. You can read more about the creation of Canopy Tower here.

As we traveled down to Panama a couple of weeks ago, I could hardly contain my excitement of seeing the Tower in person and having time to bird in this wonderful country for the first time. We arrived late in the day and stayed at a hotel near the airport for our first night. I woke up early the next morning and somewhat impatiently waited for the driver from Canopy Tower to pick us up. To get to Canopy Tower from the airport, you must drive straight though Panama City. We were surprised to find that Panama City is huge! We quickly left the city behind and watched as we entered the incredible rain forest within Soberania National Park.

As we twisted our way up the entrance road to the Tower, our excitement built. We finally came around one last corner and there it was! Our friend Jenn, who works for Canopy Tower met us as we got out of the van and welcomed us to our home for the next four nights.

Not only does this road lead to Canopy Tower, it's also great for birding!

The flowers and hummingbird feeders around the entrance to Canopy
Tower attract a number of hummingbird species.
There were hummingbirds zipping around the flowers and feeders in front of the Tower, and Jenn quickly pointed out a Three-toed Sloth looking down at us. We finally made it inside the Tower and once we dropped some of our luggage and gear our room, we headed straight for the observation deck!

The view from the observation deck is pretty spectacular. It provides a panoramic view
from which you can see Panama City, the Centennial Bridge over the canal, and the Panama Canal.
Although there weren't a lot of birds active during the middle of the day, the view from the observation deck was spectacular! Before long, it was time for lunch and then we were off for our first afternoon of birding near the Tower.

Over the next few days, we birded at all of the well-known birding sites that surround the Tower, including the world famous Pipeline Road which is one of the best birding locations in all of North America!

It's easy to find birds when you're birding from Canopy Tower's open air vehicles!
Staying and birding at Canopy Tower was everything that I had hoped it would be and much more. The accommodations are unique, the food is fantastic, and the birding and guides are out of this world! Before long it was time for us to continue on to our next destination, Canopy Lodge, about two hours away in El Valle, although we could have spent several more days at Canopy Tower. Check back on NuttyBirder.com soon to read about our time at Canopy Lodge.

Here's some of Stephanie and I's favorite bird photos from our time at Canopy Tower!

The first lifer for both Stephanie and I was a Blue-chested Hummingbird.

I've never been anywhere that has so many Broad-billed Motmots!

Crimson-crested Woodpecker was a new species for me.

This Gray-headed Tanager was following an ant swarm along the road to Canopy Tower.

One of the specialty species that you can find along Pipeline Road is Great Jacamar.

Mantled Howler Monkeys are often heard and seen around Canopy Tower.

Palm Tanagers are commonly found trying to get a free meal from the buffet line in the dining room!

The Ammo Ponds are a great place to see and photograph Rufescent Tiger-Herons.

One of the many benefits of being at the canopy level is that you can get
eye to eye with sloths such as this Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth.

Another shot of a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth.

Southern Lapwings are very common in any grassy area in and around Panama City.

The Violet-bellied Hummingbird was my favorite hummingbird species that we saw at Canopy Tower.

I really enjoyed seeing so many White-whiskered Puffbirds during our stay.

It's amazing how iridescent White-necked Jacobins are if the light hits them just right.

This White-vented Plumeleteer ruled over the hummingbird feeders at Canopy Tower.
It spent most of its time chasing other species away from the feeders.

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