November 3, 2003
My friend, Donna, and I had booked reservations at Canopy Tower a unique retreat amid treetops bursting with wildlife and birds. Arriving at noon, we were ushered up the stairs to the 4th floor communal room for lunch. Three guys joined our table. Traveling independently, they were here for a week recording sounds and bird sightings, and checking off their lifetime lists. They were serious about their birds. And assumed we were too.
I like birds. I do. But am admittedly not a birder. I don''t know the difference between a Olivaceous Flatbill or White-whiskered Puffbird both common here. But I do appreciate brilliantly colored feathers, unique calls, and all things in nature. I was easy to please. Thrilled in fact to spot a toucan perched outside the dining room window! The guys thought it funny that the so-called common birds excited me more than the rare but plain brown Buffy Foliage Gleaner which they considered such a treat to see.
They shared their sightings through computer images captured throughout the week (which accumulated to 236 species by their departure). They were pleasant company, but slowly withdrew their invitation for us to join them on an afternoon trip to a pond where they planned to stand still in one spot--quietly--for hours. We agreed that we were better suited for the nature hike where we could keep moving and talking.
Our guide was Carmen, a 60ish woman from nearby Gamboa. Joining us were a couple from NY and their son, Aaron. We rode the Birdmobile down windy Semaphore Hill and hiked Plantation Road through a mature forest in Soberania National Park.
Thick jungly foliage kept birds hidden from us during our 2.5 hour hike, confirming the perks of staying in Canopy''s tree house where sightings occur outside your bedroom window!
What we did see on our nature walk were tiny frogs and thousands of leaf cutter ants carrying torn leaves, bobbing over branches, into depressions, up hills in long zigzag lines headed for the Queen. It was hard not to step on them.
The highlight of the hike was a tiered waterfall cascading into a creek bordered by giant ferns. It was here that it began to rain. And far in the distance the familiar whooping of the howler monkeys thundered in response.
Two tours are included with the price of your stay. Our evening tour was canceled because guide Carlos was in the hospital recovering from a rare fer-de-lance snake bite. So, at 10pm after everyone had gone to bed, I took my own tour. I snuck up to the darkened communal room, climbed into a hammock, and swayed in the breeze--listening to heavy raindrops fall on thick palms while thumps, chirps, whines and chatters entertained in the most delightful way.
From journal Panama's Rainforest: not just for the birds!