Panama
Panama has been rated the world's happiest country. Perhaps because of the booming economy. Panama City is a high rise city at narrowest point between Atlantic and Pacific. Now being called the Hong Kong if the west. But there is plenty of birding in and near the City. We went with guide Mario Bernal (during our 2011 stopover on the way to Ecuador). Our guide was provided through our hotel, La Estancia, on Ancon Hill, a great birding location itself and a very comfortable place to stay in the Canal Zone.

The Metropolitan Park has great views of the city and birds such as this trogan, and the Yellow-headed Caracara.

We visited Panama in January 2013, with time in Boquete on our own with a rental car and in Darien with a group tour. While in Panama City we learned about Audubon Panama and their special programs including hawk migration observation in Panama City. Boquete is a very popular cloud forest birdwatching location in western Panama. Our B&B - Boquete Garden Inn – is a great place to watch birds (favorite with tanagers - see below) and jumping off spot for hiking in various locales, including Volcan Baru national park. Our favorite was Finca Hartmann, a private coffee plantation managed for wildlife.

Darien is quite the opposite – difficult because of lack of tourist infrastructure and impossible to see without a guide. We went with Jose Carlos Garcia, Birding Panama and local guide Issac T. Pizarro and saw amazing birds and a remote forest at the end of PanAmerican Highway, between Colombia and Panama. The big payoff was seeing the Harpy Eagle, a very large forest eagle (for pictures see Pizarro's Facebook page), and many other tropical forest birds, such as the bat falcon, longtailed tyrant, piratic flycatcher, crimson crested woodpecker, etc. An unforgettable experience. It is also a place you can see South American birds during the right season.

Guide Pizarro on right, Garcia second from left at the rear.

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