Thursday, January 24, 2013

Save the Amazon - please help!

The Amazon rainforest is a spectacular place - vast and diverse, it plays a crucial role in many natural processes that affect this entire planet.  Books, texts, articles and many other forms of media have been written on all aspects of this incredible forest, so I won't go into those details here, but recently a pressing issue has come up in the Kichwa community of Sani Isla in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  

For a while now they have been resisting the pressure from Petroamazonas, a large oil company who wants to take over their land, a pristine area of lowland tropical rainforest that holds some of the highest biodiversity on earth in the Western Amazon.  The oil company is getting more and more persistent and now the courageous people of Sani are willing to "die fighting" for their land, which protects incredible biodiversity and where jaguars, harpy eagles, macaws, tapirs, anacondas and other rare and vulnerable wildlife calls their home, in addition to the 400+ community members itself.  

Several years ago, Sani opened up a beautiful eco-lodge, Sani Lodge, on their land not far from the community, which has attracted visitors from all over the world to experience this pristine rainforest, learn about Amazonian culture and gain a greater understanding of our natural environment and the world we live in.  The lodge employs members of the community in all aspects and strives to provide exceptional experiences to everyone who visits, and they do a wonderful job at it.  If the oil company moves in, the future of the land, the community, the lodge and so much more are questionable.

A large-scale petition was released today requesting signatures to support the community in their battle with Petroamazonas.  It is addressed to President Rafael Correa and is requesting his support in further protecting this area of Ecuador from oil exploration.  I have a number of friends in this community and despite the fact that they are few in comparison to the oil company, they are willing to stand up and fight for their land, their culture and the Amazon as a whole.  They are doing all that they can and more but need our help.  Please show your support and sign this petition here!!!  

~ Jenn 


This morning I woke early to go for a walk and do some birding towards Pipeline Road.  There was a flurry of bird activity around the entrance to Pipeline Road, including Golden-collared Manakins in full display, Black-bellied Wren, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Plain Xenops, Dusky Antbird, Rufous Motmot, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher and so much more.  I met with a tour group staying at the Canopy Tower and they offered to show me where the Mottled Owls have been seen along the road.  On our way, we spotted a Northern Tamandua!  

The Northern Tamandua, Tamandua mexicana (and its closely related cousin to the south, the Southern Tamandua of the Amazon) is an arboreal rainforest mammal, spending much of its time in the trees.  They are highly specialized to feed on ants and termites, with a long snout and tongue to reach into ant and termite nests, very powerful front claws to break into nests and a long, prehensile tail.  It is mainly nocturnal but can be occasionally seen active during the day.  This is my second sighting of a Tamandua since I've been here, last week I found one waddling across Pipeline Road!  Anteaters are one of my most favourite mammals, so this little guy made my day! 
Northern Tamandua
Northern Tamandua (Tamandua mexicana), Pipeline Road
~ Jenn

The Meeting Place

I've been in Gamboa just over a week now, and its been a great week to say the least.  I got settled in Gamboa as soon as I arrived, living right beside the tienda in town and only a short walk from one of central America's greatest birding destinations, Pipeline Road.   In fact, I couldn't wait to head out to Pipeline Road the next morning, to re-familiarize myself with the birds of the area and their songs & calls.  
Fasciated Antshrike
Fasciated Antshrike (Cymbilaimus lineatus), Gamboa Rainforest Resort
While out on Pipeline Road Saturday morning, I enjoyed great looks at Chestnut-backed Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Broad-billed Motmot, Slaty-tailed Trogon and so much more while showing a couple nice Dutch ladies the wildlife in the area.  I also spotted some familiar faces - my hawk-banding mentors Dorothy and Gary Balkwill, whom I met years and years ago while visiting Holiday Beach Conservation area back at home during my childhood.  We were so surprised and happy to see each other, we quickly made plans to meet up later as they were staying at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in town for a couple weeks.  
Tawny-capped Euphonia
A Tawny-capped Euphonia (Euphonia anneae), gulping down a large berry in El Valle de Anton
Over the last couple days, Dorothy, Gary and I visited some great places outside of Gamboa.  Eager to see something new yet never anticipated it happening on this vacation, we decided to go to El Valle de Anton, a picturesque town located in the crater of an extinct volcano 2 hours west of Panama City.  We rented a car and we were off!  We spent our morning in El Valle birding along the road up to La Mesa and Cerro Gaital, and even though it was later in the morning, we had great views of Tawny-capped Euphonia, Silver-throated Tanager, Black-faced Grosbeak, Tawny-crested Tanager and much more.  The rest of the day was more laid-back, we ate at Ty's Canadian Bar & Grill in El Valle (owned by a couple from Chatham, Ontario!) and drove around the area before heading back to Gamboa for the night.  

The next day we birded Metropolitan Park in Panama City, a great location for dry forest specialists and a great diversity of species right in the city.  We walked the Roble trail and were delighted to see mixed flocks and a nice abundance of birds, despite a late start because of a flat tire that needed to be changed.  While on the trail in Metro Park, we met up with fellow birder and friend of mine Adam Timpf, who had just arrived in Panama City the previous day and will be around for the next 6 weeks or so.  You can check out Adam's blog here, I'm sure he'll be making updates from Panama and his birding adventures as well.  After our morning of birding, the four of us enjoyed a delicious lunch at my favourite Panamanian restaurant, El Trapiche, which now has a new location in Albrook Mall!  So convenient... 

In my first week here I have met up with a lot of friends, old and new, some expected and some surprises, and many more to come, as well as re-acquainting myself with the resident (and migratory) birds, Gamboa seems like the place to be!  This coming week I am off to El Real and Rancho Frio in the Darien with my good friend Jose Perez!  Cerro Pirre specialties, Black Oropendola, and .... fingers & toes crossed... Harpy Eagle!  

Much more to come from Panama!  

~ Jenn 

P.S. Gamboa has beautiful sunsets, I took this photo at dusk the other night while on one of my walks through town.   

Gamboa Sunset

Friday, January 11, 2013

Panama Bound

Well, I'm off again!  This time I'm headed to my beloved Panama, and very much looking forward to soaking up some sunshine and heat, see friends and continue job searching from there, as well as enjoying the incredible wildlife it supports.  Come visit, we'll go birding!

Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo
Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Neomorphus geoffroyi, Pipeline Road, Panama, Feb 2012
Happy birding,
~ Jenn