In February, nine ASNV participants traveled to Panama for a birdwatching tour. Gerry Abbott, the ASNV coordinator, worked with Holbrook Travel for travel and tour arrangements. Kristine “Kris” Lansing, a local participant, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Kris became interested in birding six years ago and is certified as a Virginia master naturalist. She leads the weekly bird walk at Great Falls Park and helps lead the Riverbend Walk. She has also traveled to Cuba with ASNV.
Kris went on both trips to become a better birder and both trips accomplished that goal. She described the Panama trip as a blur of bird colors - beautiful and different from local birds. She also saw various mammals, including an anteater, western night monkey, Rothschild racoon, and sloths. Most of the bird expeditions took place during the day, but the birders also went on a night ride and saw owls. The birders could see an entryway to the Panama Canal from their accommodation at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. When they visited the canal, they saw a Swallowtail Kite in its nest. Two of the birders’ accommodations, Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower, are part of the Canopy webcam group, which was one of Kris’s incentives to take this trip. Canopy Tower is a former US army radar tower turned eco-tourism complex. Kris described her stay there as “living in a big tin can”. From the 5th floor main lobby, guests could climb a ladder to the tree canopy and see birds at eye-level.
Kris recommends ASNV birding trips for their easy travel arrangements and experienced local contacts – “Just do it”, she says. After signing up, travelers only need to show up. Holbrook Travel handles all travel planning. Kris added that interested travelers, and especially novice birders, should check the itinerary of any trip. The Panama trip provided eight hours of birding each day, but the schedule was not demanding. Kris said that the birders were on the road by 7-7:30 a.m. There was a mid-day lunch stop, or lunch where they were staying on a day when they were not in transit between accommodations. An afternoon siesta followed the lunch stop. At 2-3 pm, the birders went back out until 6-6:30 pm for a bird count. Dinner followed the bird count, and evenings were free except for the day that included the night ride. In Panama, people could take breaks in the mornings or afternoons because the birders spent multiple nights in the same place. Travel between accommodations was broken up among the days of the trip. The longest travel day was four hours, and other travel days were only two hours. In Panama, the birders could eat the local fruit and drink the local water, although they used bottled water whenever possible. Dietary special needs were accommodated, and a variety of food was served daily.