A week after returning from a fascinating trip to the rainforest in Panama, in going through all the pictures I took, the incredible variety and diversity of life there continues to amaze me. For ten days, my friend Rebecca and I focused on seeing and identifying more than 200 species of butterflies while staying at the Canopy Tower near Gamboa and the Canopy Lodge in Valle de Anton. But more than butterflies, I couldn’t help but also photograph some of the many mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other flora and fauna we’d see during our visit. Starting with the more than 2000 pictures that made it home with me, so far, I’ve gotten it down to 479 butterfly pictures and 181 others and am still in the process of deleting more and working hard to try and identify those butterflies. More pictures will be posted on my website soon, but here’s a few of my favorites.
One of the first cool sightings from the dining room of the Canopy Tower was this green iguana.
Hard to see at first among the foliage, if you figure that tree is at least 5 inches in diameter and most of the tail isn’t shown, this is one big critter.
Another regular visitor to the cecropia trees outside the Tower was this young male Three-toed Sloth, who slowly and quietly would appear at times and then vanish either by hiding in the leaves higher up or patiently making his way back down the trunk.
Of course, most folks come to both the Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge for the birds, and we’d see plenty during the trip. Always fun and iconic for a visit to the neotropics are the toucans, which sometimes come in quite close to the Tower as this Keel-billed Toucan did one morning.
A day trip to Pipeline Road brought us close to a family troop of Mantled Howler monkeys, where we spotted this mother with her little one.
Other mammals we’d see included the Northern Tamandua (a species of anteater), White-nosed Coati, lots of Central American Agouti, and a couple of species of squirrel. At both the Tower and on a day trip to Metropolitan Park, we also were treated to groups of Geoffrey’s Tamarin monkeys jumping around in the trees and feeding on the cecropia. While watching a group leaping one at a time from one tree to another, I managed to get a picture of one of them in mid-leap.
Being the Green (or wet) Season, life was pretty humid and damp, but afternoon and evening rains didn’t impact our activities all that much and brought out a good number of cool looking frogs and toads. This guy at the Canopy Lodge seemed quite content to snooze away the afternoon nestled in a big leaf.
And this one, a nearly transparent Glass Frog, was just striking in appearance letting me take some pretty good pictures while it rested on a leaf.
More ominous was this small Boa Constrictor patiently waiting on a chain link fence close to the Tower’s hummingbird feeders.
And how about them bugs? The closer you’d look the more you’d see incredibly complex and colorful insects wandering about, some looking like specks of gold, others like candy, and still others like assorted extraterrestrial creatures. I have no idea what this one is, but it made me laugh as one of the more outrageous ones we saw.
Quite a few different grasshoppers and katydids around as well, including a katydid about half a foot long that appeared in the bathroom one day. One of the more colorful grasshoppers is Coscineuta coxalis.
In addition to a large variety of spiders just about everywhere were several Mantids patiently waiting for their prey. We got to watch a female first depositing its egg mass under a leaf before switching around to guard it while it hardened.
One day we came upon a pair of mating Giant Helicopter Damselflies.
Quite the amazing scene, as usually you see them floating through the trees with their fascinating flight behavior and rarely catch one just perched (usually in the dark).
Our whole point in going on this trip, however, was those butterflies, and while we’re still working through the identification of the more than 200 species we saw, here are just a couple of my favorites. And I have to acknowledge the help of Michael Castro at the Tower and especially Tino Sanchez at the Lodge for their incredible spotting ability and knowledge of where to find them and help in identifying them.
A favorite on trips like this are the 88’s, named for the pattern on their outer wings for which some species looks like the number 88 or 89 – we were fortunate to see three species on the trip, including this Blue-and-Gold 88.
I’d seen my first Jewelmark on last year’s Ecuador trip, never expecting to repeat that experience. Very cool butterflies with fascinating patterns and furry feet, it was fabulous that Tino spotted three different species for us on this trip, including the Myrtea Jewelmark.
Another amazing group of neotropical butterflies are the Greenmarks, metalmarks featuring dazzling colors.
The Royal Firetip, which we saw easily at the Tower is striking enough to make the cover of Kim Garwood’s latest butterfly book, Butterflies of Central America, Vol. 3.
Rebecca rescued this nearly finished Scalloped Owlet in the dining room one day at the Tower and gave it hospice care for several days before releasing it back into the wild when we left for the Lodge. It was touch and go there for awhile, but seemed to rally every now and then and never quite gave up.
It is not all that common to catch butterflies in the act of mating, so to come upon this pair of Thoas Swallowtails one day was a real treat.
Quite a memorable and fascinating trip, it truly is extraordinary the diversity one finds in the neotropic rainforest, and I may just have to go back again soon.