Climate Change: Panama Summer fades into the Rainy Season

Panama summer contrast photo
Panama summer contrast photo

The end of Panama Summer is when all the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves

Ah, the winds are changing. But, it is that time of year. April (and sometimes as late as May) in this country signals the turning of the Panama Summer into the Green (or rainy) season each year. Today is April 11 and it already seems to be happening, so that means it’s right on time.

The end of the Panama Summer

With the advent of Easter eggs and Passover in most countries this month, it means that Spring is on it’s way. Not so on the small isthmus of Panama. Instead, the Panama summertime is coming to an end, and a month to six weeks of the in-between weeks (where we get some very specific symptoms of that change) occur.

In Panama, the seasons are reversed from those of North America. Since Panama is just 300 miles of the equator, there are really just two seasons: Dry (or Summer) and Rainy (or Green). There’s a lot more information about each in my book that published just three months ago in January this year: The Gringo Guide to Panama II: More to Know Before You Go.

How the end of Summer in Panama looks different

The best way to describe the visual change that occurs at the end of Panama’s summer is with a few photos.

Panama summer foliage contrast

The end of the Panama dry season is when the foliage has the most brown in its tapestry

Panama dry forest in Panama summer

Look at the contrast of colors in this photo of the forest here in Panama in mid April

Panama summer flowers on the vine

The dry season does yield some spectacular flowers in mid April

Ready for Panama rain

Interestingly enough, when you’ve lived in Panama for some time, you begin to appreciate the rainy season for its cooler temperatures – though the definition of “cool” could probably be argued by some of my readers from North America. :)

So, for now, we expat locals are enjoying the last of the Summer breezes. The last remaining days when the Panama booby is calling at dusk and dawn. And, those of us with dogs are beginning to douse ourselves heavily with bug spray at dawn and dusk when we have to walk them. That’s right, the mosquitoes return in this in-between period, with vengeance!

In case, you’re wondering what the heck a Panama booby is…

Well, I’m not completely sure, but you can hear their interesting call right here in this mini-video.

Read more about the Panama expat experience

in my books on Amazon. You can get them in print or in e-book form. They’re this expat’s perspective on life in Panama as a new expat. One of my readers left a nice review which referred to them as more of a cultural guide to Panama. I like that description and I think it’s very fitting.

I wish you the best on your journey to Panama life, wherever that may lead you!

The famous Panama Toucans: my favorite tropical birds

Panama toucan
Panama toucan

The Toucan is the caricature on the Fruit Loops box

What inspired me this morning was the call of the Panama Toucans, my favorite tropical birds here in Central America. I passed two of them high above me in the tree tops this morning, while walking my dog. The sun was rising and the Summer breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean was gently waking the forest’s occupants. The birds were calling. The animals were beginning to emerge.

The Toucan, that gorgeous colorful bird which is famous for its caricature on the Fruit Loops cereal box, is easy to spot in most of Panama’s green areas. (And most of those are outside the city, mind you, as Toucans prefer the trees to the urban grid.)

That Famous Fruit Loops legend

Panama Toucan by Elizabeth Vance

The keel-billed Toucan is the variety I usually see

I see Toucans almost every day, which I love. And, they’re not that difficult to spot, once you know what to look for. But I’ve never ceased to be  amazed at how often I’ll mention the Toucan in a conversation to someone locally, and they say something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ve never seen one, but I’ve always wanted to.”

This used to come as a surprise.

It doesn’t anymore.

Because when this had happened to me a few times, I realized that most people aren’t actually looking for Toucans. They’re just hoping one will swoop down and pose on their windowsill, so they can take a picture and post it on Facebook.

Ummm, that’s not how it works, folks. You do actually have to get out  of the house and be outside for more than five minutes.

Second,the people who were going outside weren’t actually looking for the ToucanIn fact, they weren’t paying attention to anything other than their SmartPhone normally. And, sometimes they were simply watching the sidewalk trying to avoid any large holes (which are frequent in the city).

Similar to those new to Panama…

This scenario struck me with the parallel of many new expats wanting to find things in Panama, but they don’t know how or where to look. (That’s exactly why I wrote my two books, by the way, to help. And, to provide the know-how that I’ve gained over the past six years, that was never written down anywhere for those of us that came back then, as late as 2008.)

But, back to the Toucan.

Here’s how to find him…

Panama toucan story by Elizabeth Vance

Looking for the Panama toucan does not require binocs

What do I tell those I meet now that have yet to spot the Toucan?

It’s really not that hard.

First, get out of the city. You’ll need to be in the forest, not near the beach.

Second, take a walk earlier in the morning – before 8 a.m. Walk somewhere where it’s safe to be looking up at the trees, versus down at your feet.

Third, leave your ear buds or your headphones in the car (or at home). They may provide you some cool tunes while you are walking, but they’ll drown out any chance of you have of hearing the Toucan.

And, that’s actually the catch, with the Toucan.

You’ll hear him before you see him.

Which means you actually have to listen.

His call sounds more like quacking than a bird, with more of a Wah-Wah quality.

Soon after you hear him, you will usually be able to spot him. Panama Toucans prefer to sit in the very tops of trees, and lord it over the rest of the forest below them.(If you had such a spectacular uniform, you might feel pretty lord-like yourself!)

When you see them fly, you’ll notice they flap their wings first, then dip down kind of in an arc (from the weight of that long yellow beak) without flapping their wings, then flap again back up again. It’s so unique that once you’ve seen it (which is always fantastic!), you’ll probably never miss one again.

So, there’s your lesson on sighting those elusive Panama Toucans. Good luck!

I wish you well on your Panama journey, whether you’re looking for the Toucan today, or considering this quirky little country to visit, for travel, to retire, or to live. And, of course, look for my books on Amazon here.

Have fun.


Funny little ways you change after living in Panama

Postage Stamp Panama 1968 Pamphila Epictetus, Butterfly
Panama has abundant nature

You won’t necessarily become amphibious, but…

There’s no doubt that living in Panama 0r any other country outside your native one will bring about changes in your way of life.

Life changes when you live abroad

Obviously. And you change, the longer you live abroad. Not just the big ways – like becoming more flexible as a human being with your expectations and your patience level (at least, hopefully). But, sometimes the way you have changed after several years of living abroad is never more obvious than when you return to your native country to visit family and friends.

Others may notice before you do

I’m not just talking about adjusting to living in the tropics, which is normally a pretty big change in and of itself. And I do talk about the differences in climate, weather and so forth in my second book (the green one – which you can see here in the right hand column of this page).

But, other than your wardrobe and perhaps picking up a new language, what are some of the other funny things we’ve noticed about ourselves – those little idiosyncrasies – that are different than when we lived in the U.S.?

You’re standing so…er…close to me!

Personal space differs in Panama

You’ll get used to less personal space…

Yep, that’s right. After living in Panama for more than six years, we’ve grown accustomed to having very little personal space. Standing close (and by that, I mean, really close) to the person you’re speaking to is so common in Panama, that now when we return to the U.S. and have a conversation with someone, we’ve noticed that we get right up next to the in inches, instead of feet. Because that’s normal in Panama.  And, normally, we kind of wake up to that reality when the other person takes a step or two back…away from us.

The trash can in the bathroom fills up fast…er

You read that right. The plumbing in Panama, like much of Central America, doesn’t function as smoothly – often – as the systems Gringos are used to up North. Therefore, if you don’t want to constantly battle plugged up toilets or be using a plunger with frightening regularity, you learn to put your soiled TP in the trash can instead of down the commode.

It doesn’t make for the most pleasant smelling bathrooms, you may surmise. And you’d be correct. But that’s the reality.

The funny thing is, once you’ve formed a new habit like this, you’ll find you do it everywhere, not just in Panama. Even when you’re back home or visiting in the U.S., you will find your bathroom trash can filling up just like that, before you realize, “Oh, wow….I don’t have to do that here.”

Ah, the changes…

Cool things in Panama

You may find yourself appreciating nature more…

And, every expat that lives anywhere – Panama or otherwise – can tell you loads more stories, no doubt. Many of the changes are beautiful. Some are strange. Some of them are usually unique to living in your new country.

Interested in learning more about living in Panama? You can read more of this expat family’s stories and experiences, and what to expect as a new Gringo in the Republic of Panama – from a cultural perspective – in The Gringo Guides to Panama.

I hope you enjoy them! And I wish you well in your journey of exploring Panama for retirement, for your move abroad, or for a new lifestyle.