So long [Panama], and thanks for all the fish!

If you ever visit Panama, you should definitely have their seafood! It is quite good. And try ceviche as well. It is various marine animals (e.g. shrimp, squid, fish) cured in acidic fruit juices. I was able to enjoy both ceviche and fresh fish multiple times in the last week I was in Panama.

Random food tangent aside, I am no longer in Panama, and I am sad to be gone. The tropical rainforest is such an incredible place and there are just so many things to see. Luckily, I was able to see quite a bit in the last week I was in Panama through three events. The first event was a trip to the Panama Canal locks and Panama City, where fellow TA Eric Moody and I were actually able to get some good random birding in (of course we birded some in the city!). We also were able to get some great food, good drinks, and pick up a few souvenirs, including Panamanian coffee. The locks were also fun to see, even though it was my third time to visit them. Seeing the massive ships pass through the locks is definitely cool to see.

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The course instructors at the canal locks: Meghan Duell, Jon Harrison, and Eric Moody

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A fairly large crate ship going through the locks near Panama City.

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A great egret just chilling on the locks.

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Some really awesome Star Wars graffiti we found in Panama City.

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A yellow-crowned night-heron we saw in the city – there were actually tons of these guys along the beach.

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The Panama City skyline.

Our next adventure took us to Chagres National Park, where we were boated up the Chagres River to visit an Embera village. The Embera people are Panamanian Native Americans, though I believe their culture originally stems from Columbia. Much of the Embera live in the Darien, in eastern Panama, however there are a few villages in the Chagres National Park, who where there before the land became a park. While the villages used to hunt and harvest the land widely, they are restricted now because of the park. However, they are able to host tourists, enabling them to continue to live within the park. While we were there, we were given a small dose of the Embera culture. We learned about the medicinal plants they use, which was very interesting. We also learned about their various crafts – woven baskets and animal masks (I bought a hummingbird one!). We were also treated to their traditional dance and music. All together it was an incredible experience, and I really enjoyed learning more about these people.

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Us being boated up the Chagres River by the Embera people (guy in front).

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The Chagres River and the beautiful forest alongside it.

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Another view of the forest and river.

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The second boat arriving to the Embera village.

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Our students being taught the various medicinal plants by the village medicine man.

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The central area of the village.

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They had a pet baby armadillo!

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The Embera men playing their traditional music for us.

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Our students dancing with the villagers!

The final major event before the course ended (aside from the student independent project presentations) was an early morning birding trip that Eric and I did. We were also joined for part of the trip by one of the instructors, Jon Harrison, and a student – shout out to Ashley! None of the students had joined our previous birding trips (we woke up too early for them), so that was exciting for us. Overall it was a great birding trip. We saw a bunch of species, including some lifers for me, and Eric and I finally got to see a rosy thrush-tanager, which is this beautiful bird that we had both been looking for ever since we arrived. Here are some of the species we saw on the trip.

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Two whooping motmots hiding in the shade. The one on the left was missing its long tail feathers, but still did its tail wag display to us. It was a little pathetic looking; poor bird.

a flame-rumped tanager male

A male flame-rumped tanager showing off his namesake.

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A crimson-crested woodpecker, one of the larger woodpecker species.

A common pauraque

A common pauraque blending into the forest floor.

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A great close up of a violaceous trogon male.

A Rosey thrush-tanager

The hard to find rosy thrush-tanager, who really made us work to find him, but it was totally worth it! He was so beautiful and so was his song.

All in all, Panama and this course were great! I was very happy to visit Panama again, and the students all did amazing jobs with their independent projects. I am excited to see their final papers, and I greatly look forward to my next time in Panama. My next adventure this summer takes me to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where I am studying Calliope Hummingbirds. More on that later!

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