Panama’s Lake Gatun: Monkeys, Monkeys, Monkeys

Geoffroys Tamarin
Geoffroy’s Tamarin Eating a Grape

We Traveled on Lake Gatun after our walk along the Pipeline Road. The Lake has a touch of Disneyland to it, but it is well-worth the visit. People have likely been visiting the Lake because of the ease of seeing wildlife for hundreds of years, so the animals don’t seem to be bothered by us.  It didn’t hurt that the gentleman piloting our small boat came with a supply of grapes, something that seems legal in Panama. The Geoffroy’s Tamarin in the trees have been a look out:

Once it let the troop know, about a dozen or so of these small monkeys boarded our boat. In exchange for grapes, they pose for photos.

Waiting For a Grape

We also encountered more White-headed Capuchins, though they stayed up in the canopy.

The canopy around Lake Gatun also held quite the assortment of wildlife. Fabio, my EcoCircuitos guide, who accompanied me on the boat (the boat captain didn’t speak English) spotted these tiny bats (definitely taking to the limit of the capability of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm lens here).

This next photo is interesting. I was going through my photos at the end of the trip and I couldn’t quite remember why I took it and nearly deleted it.

Before: Can you see anything?

As I looked at it a bit more closely, I started enlarging sections. Much to my surprise, I found this Green Iguana. These guys grow to six feet in Panama.  Unlike here in Florida they are Panamanian natives.

After: A Green Iguana

Given that I live in Florida, I tend to be selective in the birds I photograph. Egrets for example; well let’s just say an egret needs to be doing something pretty special to garner my attention. And, well some birds are just too fast for me (I do keep trying). This Broad-winged hawk, on the other hand, was neither too common nor too fast for me. It  just sat and stared at us, so I had to take this photo.

Broad-winged Hawk

We only spent about an hour on Lake Gatun before we headed out to the Panama Canal to take photos of a very different sort. It was well worth the visit.

Jungle Boat

 

 

Panama: Photographing the Pipeline Road

If you have been following my Panama blog posts, you know that I primarily visited Panama to see the Panama Canal and learn more about its history. But I did want to spend some time learning about the rainforest. I have worked with the travel planners at EcoCircuitos.  So when my educational trip to the Smithsonian Research Institute fell through,  EcoCircuitos instead organized my trip to the rainforest with my guide, Fabio. We hiked about a mile and a half, along the muddy, Soberania National Park Pipeline Trail, about a thirty minute drive from Panama City, near Gamboa. Because we stopped every few feet to photograph something, this was more of an amble, than a hike.

Almost immediately after we started our hike, Fabio spotted a troop of white-headed Capuchin monkeys up in the canopy. They weigh about eighteen ounces or thereabouts.

White-Headed Capuchin Monkey

Our next wildlife visitors were a couple of these Central American Agoutis. To me they look a tailless squirrel, but they weigh in at close to five pounds. They seemed to not even notice us.

Central American Agouti
Central American Agouti

Next up the ants. Central American leaf cutter ants build roads and cities. Some sources claim they have the second-most complex social structure on the planet, with royalty, casts, farms and gardens of beneficial fungus, slaves and armies.  They crossed the trail on their road and just kept on going across the trail and up a tree. The folks a Science Nation  have a great video and a description of the ant cities can be found at Elegant Entomology

We next caught sight of a mantled howler monkey troop.  I was fortunate to get this awesome photo before he made a point of exhibiting his underside for the rest of the time I watched.  He’s about two feet long and weighs in at about ten pounds.

Howler monkey
Mantled Howler Monkey

We saw quite a few lovely Blue Morpho butterflies, quite common in Panama, but they seemed in a hurry and refused to pose for a photo.  This little butterfly was far more accommodating.

butterfly

The canopy is lush and ripe with fruit during the rainy season so no need for a bird to drop down to eat and few plants flower in this shade.  I do love this little kissing lips plant, though.

Kissing Lipa
Kissing Lips
Consulting with the Ranger
Consulting with the National Park Ranger

We were only on this trail for a few hours, but it was time well-spent. In particular a guide familiar with the area and my trusty telephoto lens made this a most enjoyable photo expedition. November is the rainy season, so the canopy shades the rainforest and often the afternoons are cloudy and drizzly. The lush, green, canopy mutes the light, even on sunny days.  A telephoto lens is mandatory as so much activity takes place in this canopy. Needless to say, my lite-weight Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 lens, extended out to its full 300mm, did a great job here. I can’t wait to go back during the dry season!