12-15 July 2012 – Into the Darién and Punta Patiño
The first half of our week in the Darién involved going to Punta Patiño and Mogue with Ancon Expeditions in order to try to see a Harpy Eagle and a Crested Eagle. The trip was, in ways, amazing but also, in many ways, disappointing. The Gulf of San Miguel is amazing and the hours we spent in a dugout canoe making our way through old growth mangroves was amazing. Watching Frigatebirds wheel overhead as we passed La Palma and Punto Alegre and finally arriving at Punta Patiño was magical. The remoteness and beauty were exceptional. The trip was not really oriented at birding, despite being designed around chasing the Harpy Eagle. We did find Orange-crowned Oriole and Common Paraque our first day, as well as seeing Caiman, Crab-eating Fox, Coatamundi and at least a dozen Boat-billed Heron in the little wetland area beneath the cabins. That was very cool. The next day we headed for Mogue in the morning, heading up the Mogue river through more old growth mangroves, passing Crab-eating foxes, Common Black-hawks, White Ibis, Greater Ani and more. Arriving at Mogue we did indeed find it to be a remote, indigenous community, charming in it’s way, but complete with solar panels, satellite TV dishes and a nightly megaphone-driven religious revival. Hrmm. As far as the disappointing part of the trip, the “active Harpy Eagle nest” turned out to be a 2+ year old juvenile that was still more or less in the area, but we did not find. Additionally, despite having been told that the trip would try for a Crested Eagle as well, we found out that the Crested Eagle nest was in a different area and there wouldn’t be any effort made to go see it.
We did find Long-tailed Tyrant, White Hawk, Bicolored Antbird, Pale-bellied Hermit, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Rufous-winged Antwren and Green-crowned Woodnymph in the area, and I’m sure we could have found a lot more terrific birds in the woods around Mogue and Patiño had we actually been birding instead of hiking too fast and spending too little time looking at what was around us. The last evening in Patiño we did have a really nice outing to a rocky islet that hosts a lot of seabirds, including many Blue-footed Boobies. A nice side trip up the Patiño river estuary was terrific as well, more ancient Mangroves and genuine solitude and a bonus couple of Tricolored Herons. However, the fact that the trip wasn’t what was advertised and given that the food we were provided was quite poor given the relative expensive of the trip, and we certainly wouldn’t go on another Ancon Expeditions trip.