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Just ask my husband. One of my favorite things to do on this planet is planning a trip. Secretly, I’d love to be a travel writer and maybe someday I might. But for now, I find great joy in making our travel arrangements. Whether it’s sleuthing airfares (you know the best day to book the lowest fares are on Tuesday, right?), checking out accommodations online to get the best bang for our buck without sacrificing too many stars, or scouring TripAdvisor, I must confess: making travel plans gives me a little bit of a buzz.
So, of course, planning birding adventures makes it even more of a challenge, thus increasing the buzz. We’re talking Red Bull-sized buzz here. Thank goodness for the Internet. I always start with BirdingPal.com. It’s the most reliable source of real information on birding guides and lodges. I then start Googling for bird tours. There didn’t seem to be one that coordinated with our schedule this year–either it was the wrong date or they were 14 days and since we generally tag on diving with our vacations we just couldn’t make it work, being as I only get 3 weeks paid vacation and we already have another trip planned this year. Birding tours are good resources because their itineraries give me a good idea of the lodges they visit–lodges that cater to birders.
So far, the most complicated part of going to Panama is narrowing down the possibilities for birding. I’m the one who is insistent on having a few days of beach time with diving and it doesn’t take much arm twisting to get my husband to agree. Marriage is all about compromises, no? Ergo, we won’t be going to the Darian region because it’s in the opposite direction, much to Steve’s chagrin. (Also, I’m not so much into camping right now.) And then there’s the coordination of accommodations. It seems as though some lodges post their availability dates but many don’t. That’s caused a bit of back and forth on email with the lodges on the top of my list, crossing my fingers in hopes that they have availability that matches our schedule. For those who know the area, we did consider the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge, but holy cow, they are extraordinarily expensive–and you have to add your bird guides/tours on top of their costs. We are, however, planning on staying at their new B&B (aptly named the Canopy B&B) in Gamboa where we can tagalong with the Canopy Tower tours. The B&B fits our tastes and pocketbooks nicely. The other complication was getting from Point A to Point B to Point C. Turns out, we’ll be flying around a lot. Long story, but taking a rental car one way costs so much it ended up being the same to just fly around. Crazy. In fact, there’s still one area–getting from Bocas del Toro (where we’ll be diving) and getting to the lodge in Guadalupe, which is just outside of David. Don’t know how we’re getting there yet, but I’ll be looking for advice from our hosts at accommodations at both places–I’m sure they’ll have some recommendations.
Anyhoo, we’re going to be hopping around a bit–primarily on the western part of the country. And this is where we’ll be going in Panama (click to enlarge picture):
Look forward to my trip reports during and after our trip, but until then I’ll still be posting my other birding reports and musings.
Meanwhile, we’ve got that ol’ 1980′s David Lee Roth song, Panama going through our heads right now.
Usually when I tell people that my husband and I are birders I often get an exchange that goes something like this:
Other person: “Excuse me, did you say, birder? What’s that?”
Me: “Yeah, I said birder as in birding or what most people call bird watching.”
Other person: “What do you do exactly?”
Me: “Well, we like to find different species of birds and it takes us to interesting places like Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico and even Panama where we’re going this Spring.”
At this point some people generally drop off in their interest in hearing anything more about birding. Some will give me the raised eyebrow with a “Really?” response. Others will be eager to change the subject because they don’t’ have anything else to say because think they don’t know anyone else who is a birder. Overall, it seems as though most people think birding is just a boring hobby and so they want to get out of a boring conversation.
And then I pull out this photo…
…and I explain about our birding adventure in Belize two years ago where we were birding El Pilar and needed to hire “men with guns” (as our guide, Eric Tut put it) to accompany our group. El Pilar is on the Guatemala / Belize border and is known for its bandits. The prior year Eric had taken a group to the same area (sans men with guns) and some bandits jumped his van, made Eric pull over, tied up the birders and Eric, took their money, jewelry including wedding rings, cameras, and binoculars.
All of a sudden the boring conversation above turns a bit exciting. I generally get a, “Whoa! That’s so cool!”
Back to to the Belize adventure at El Pilar:
I’ll have to tell you, after we picked up the men with guns and were traveling in the van to El Pilar on a very hot morning, not one of us said a peep. It was quite sobering thinking that we could actually be in danger as we walked around the beautiful jungle of Belize looking for birds. I remembered the story about the group of birders in Colombia who were kidnapped by rebels in 1998, four of whom were Americans. My favorite part of that story though (aside from the outcome that they were freed), was that Todd Mark, one of the captives, said that he spent most of his time talking about birds to the rebels who captured him. “I think I bored them to death,” he said.
So I guess birding might be boring to some and in the dangerous pockets of the jungle that kind of boredom can come in handy. One just might be able to bore their captors enough to be freed.
Here are more pictures from that trip:
I’ve been in San Diego on business since last Saturday and my husb, Steve decided to tag along so he could do some birding. Before our trip Steve ordered Brad Schram’s A Birder’s Guide to Southern California, which he poured over for a whole week. So while I was in meetings at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, working on PowerPoints and making sure our meeting went without a hitch, Steve was traveling all over Southern California chasing his list of birds. It’s just as well that I didn’t see much of him, since I was working from 6:30 a.m. until past midnight every night. But his trips all over Southern Cali proved fruitful for him, though I was sorry that I couldn’t let him have the Nikon for all his birding–I needed it for my meetings. His lifers he found included the following:
- Nuttail’s Woodpecker (which he found just outside our suite at the Rancho Bernardo Inn)
- Wrentit (saw a group of them also outside our suite)
- Lawrence’s Goldfinch (about 20 of them at San Pasqual Nat’l Historic Park)
- Mountain Plovers (flock seen in the fields near Salton Sea)
- LeConte’s Thrasher (near San Anza-Borrego Desert State Park)
- Tri-colored Blackbird (seen at Kern National Wildlife Refuge)
- Oak Titmouse (East of San Luis Obispo)
- Yellow-billed Magpie (Los Alamos State Park)
- Black-shouldered Kite (Flying over the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Yesterday (Friday) my work was done at Rancho Bernardo and so I was able to relax for the weekend in the San Diego area before we were to head back to Utah on Sunday. So during the weekend Steve and I visited the San Diego Safari Park and spent today at Torrey Pines State Park and hung out in LaJolla where I was able to add a few lifers myself. Here’s my list:
- Black-shouldered Kite (Flying over the San Diego Zoo Safari Park)
- Brandt’s Cormorant (La Jolla)
- Western Gull (La Jolla)
- Heermann’s Gull (La Jolla)
I also got a good shot of a Great Blue Heron, some Turkey Vultures and some Brown Pelicans. Here are the highlights: