Bird Count in Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, Venicio Wilson

Guest Expert Venicio Wilson, c. Guillermo Duran

Did you know that you can see as many as 24 different species of birds in one hour of bird-watching in Pedasí? Members of the Pedasí community and the Azuero Earth Project explored the rich diversity of birds in Pedasí on May 18, 2013 with guest expert Venicio Wilson Altamiranda, naturalist tour guide and bird expert. Venicio studied Biology in the University of Panama. He started his career in bird watching twenty years ago when, by accident, a copy of the recently translated “Guide to the Birds of Panama” fell into his hands. Now he is a guide on nature and bird observation tours. He is on the board of Audubon Society of Panama and a member of Bird Life International.

AEP staff and community members join Venicio Wilson for a bird-watching expedition in the Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, c. Guillermo Duran

Venicio introduced event participants to the field of bird-watching at the AEP office. Characteristics important to bird identification include color, behavior, and song. For example, Venicio explained, ¨the Yellow-Green Tyrannulet ´waves´ to bird watchers by flapping its wings up and down rapidly, behavior that can help to distinguish it from similar species¨. For beginner bird-watchers, all you need is a good pair of eyes and patience in order to observe behaviors, to note specific colors, and to listen to unique bird songs. Basic tools for more serious bird-watchers include binoculars, telescope, camera, recorder, and microphone. Venicio recommends Bushnel H20 binoculars as an excellent brand that lasts.

Venicio Wilson with AEP staff member Leo Mena and Pedasí Scouts Group 90 at Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, c. Guillermo Duran

Venicio led a group on a bird observation and counting exercise at the Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge near Playa Bajadero/Arenal. This wildlife refuge extends from Punta del Tigre to Punta Mala along the Pedasí district coast and contains some of the most beautiful sand dunes in Azuero. AEP staff and bird-watchers noted 25 different species of birds at Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge in only one hour of observation. Birds observed include the Mangrove Warbler , the American Oystercatcher, the Ringed Kingfisher, the Palm Tanager, and the Straight-billed Woodcreeper.

The rich diversity of birds spotted during this exercise provided evidence that there are indeed many birds here on the Azuero Peninsula, especially in protected areas. Venicio pointed out that there is an endemic species of hummingbird (yet to be named) and the Azuero parakeet that only live in Cerro Hoya, La Tronosa and nearby forests. Bird counts conducted by the Audubon Society of Panama each Christmas in Panama for the past 47 years have shown a decrease in bird species, which could be due to destruction of bird habitat.

Ringed Kingfisher spotted at Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge, c. Ruth Metzel

Venicio encouraged participants to publish their bird sightings on e-bird.org or xeno-canto.org, online platforms to compile bird sightings and map bird migration around the world. As he explained: ¨The common citizen can help a lot with bird counts. Everyone knows something and can contribute¨.

The Azuero Earth Project would like to thank the Audubon Society of Panama for its donation of binoculars for this event.

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

Resources from event:

Venicio Wilson´s Powerpoint presentation

List of birds viewed at Pablo A. Barrios Wildlife Refuge (in Spanish)

Information on Audubon Panamá bird-watching tours