The mighty Harpy Eagle

A journey by land, river, swampy roads on foot and on horseback. Going through remote communities with the aim of take photos and admiring the Harpy Eagle.

Here in Panama, from school we learned that the harpy eagle is one of the largest birds on the planet. In photography or textbooks it is impossible to understand what this majestic bird means. And I say majestic, not only because of its size but also because of its inspiration for various Latin American countries.

For the Republic of Panama it is its national bird, in other latitudes it has served as inspiration in the creation of legends or stories that have served to scare children. Memories at Easter my grandmother forbade us to go play in the field because the harpy eagle could lift a man.

I am not going to give you complicated information on the Harpy Eagle. I will focus on explaining to you my experience and what I learned in my travels in photographing and enjoying this bird.

The beginning of the journey

The tour begins in the center of Panama City towards Darien. It can last about four (4) hours to the city of Meteti. This time, we decided to spend the night there. At about 05:30 we got up to have breakfast and leave as early as soon as posible to the boarding area.

Certainly, it’s an area that does not have any type of port facility. When we arrived at the boarding area, the first thing to do is inform the police who control the area and record the movement of all travelers. Once the review is over, equipment, material and people are loaded into the canoe.

The canoe is a type of boat between a canoe and a boat, besides, this allows an outboard motor as thrust.

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Once everything is ready, we set out to navigate the Chucunaque River. Our visit was in the rainy season (April – December). In summer (January – March) you can cross the river in a 4×4 vehicle. After 20 minutes, we arrived at an village called Alto Playon, where our guide had already organized the horses and helpers. This allowed us to travel more comfortable and leave our hands free to take pictures and videos of the road.

After a short rest we began our journey to go to the nest of the Harpy Eagle. We traveled for an hour and a half on horseback to the point where we would leave the horses and continued on foot for another hour to the sighting point.

Maybe you should know that Darien is a tropical jungle, so part of the preparation that must be taken is to have your full vaccination chart and, as essential, bring your mosquito repellent, whether in the form of spray or ointment. Also, include enough water and always a hat. Consequently, I suggest long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, however, I´ve seen brave men in shorts.

Once we reached the sighting point, our guides have been in charge of locating us some points from where we can observe and photograph the majesty of the Harpy Eagle.

Águila Arpia. Darién, Panamá.

What you need to know

The female eagle is much larger than the male, she is mostly in charge of the care and surveillance of the nest. Although she also does hunting work. The male must watch over the food and contribute to the protection of the nest.

The harpy eagle is a respectful raptor. It is the largest bird of prey in the American continent. It is a formidable predator and is capable of hunting in a heavily wooded environment. His look is unmatched. The claws, wings and famous crest are worth seeing live and no photograph can do it justice.

Upon arrival we had to wait in sepulchral silence. Both parents were hunting. We arrived at the nest around 10:30 a.m. And as I have already mentioned, these birds have extraordinary vision, so our movements were limited and in maximum silence.

We were able to enjoy the sighting for about two and a half hours. We were denied the chance to see the chicks for the foliage around the nest. But it was an extraordinary experience to see and enjoy the harpy eagle in its natural environment.

After a while we resumed our way back to the Alto Playon community where we had lunch and enjoyed a well-deserved rest. It’s time to negotiate prices and take some sourvenirs

It goes without saying that we are planning the next trip to Darien at another sighting point. On this occasion we hope to confirm that the chick is bigger and we can take pictures of it.

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