For the past several days I have been exploring the tropical rainforests of Panama as part of an Arizona State University study abroad course. My summer teaching position this year is to help out with a tropical biology field course, which involves a small number of students traveling to Panama, exploring the tropics, and conducting their own research project. For this post, I will provide a quick overview of what we have done and seen so far, and in the next few weeks I will dive more into some of the special aspects of the tropics.
Pipeline road – a classic gateway into the tropical rainforests of Panama
Currently, we are here during the rainy or wet season in Panama, which means there is a heavy downpour once a day – typically in the afternoon. Despite the rain (which is great to see coming from my arid fieldwork), we have been having a great time and have seen so much!
The ASU study abroad Tropical Biology course crew
We have mostly been hiking in tropical rainforests along the Panama Canal. Specifically, we have been hiking down a famous road called Pipeline road. Here are a few things we have seen so far:
A mantled howler monkey – the grey spots around its upper chest or throat are bot fly sores.
A cocoa woodcreeper climbing up a tree
A three-toed sloth slowly moving across the canopy.
A social flycatcher – one of the common arial flycatchers in the town of Gamoba (where I am living currently)
A grey-headed chachalaca – a bird with an awesome name!
I had to include a hummingbird picture (or two!) so here is a molting violet-crowned woodnymph
This is a rufous-tailed hummingbird – a common species in central Panama
This is a really neat looking orb-weaver, and our class came up with several hypotheses to explain its web pattern (e.g. prey attraction or predator avoidance).
A white-whiskered puffbird hiding among the branches
A black-throated trogon – these birds do this really interesting rump display to potential predators as a pursuit-deterent signal (meaning the predator has been spotted so it should give up the chase)
A black and green poison dart frog.
We also hiked a cloud forest, which is a high elevation rainforest, and saw several different plants and animals from what we found along Pipeline road. Cloud forests are some of my favorite places, so I will definitely have a blog post specifically on them later! Here are some pictures of what we saw there.
In the cloud forests, there are many many epiphytes – plants and mosses growing on the side of trees.
A view of the cloud forest understory
A really interestingly shaped fungus
The backside of a green honeycreeper – this bird is really gorgeous and unfortunately this photo does not do him justice
A hepatic tanager – which can also be found in Arizona – overlooking the forest
A fairly well hidden bay-headed tanager – look for his rufous head.
A plain ant vireo singing her heart out
A really neat shaped flower that we found
A view of the forest and mountain peak we hiked.
So far, I have already seen a ton of amazing things, and I have only been here a week. I still have a little more than two left to go, and I am every excited to continue to explore this amazing place. It feels great to be back!