Archive for the ‘Black-collared Hawk’ Tag

Guyana part three: the northern rainforest and the coastal region. 1st – 7th March 2020   Leave a comment

In this post I cover the final part of our visit to Guyana where we stopped at three lodges in the northern rainforest zone and then in the capital Georgetown.

 

This had been a great tour for raptors and as we left the savannah behind of course we encountered a new set of species. The familiar Black and Turkey Vultures were replaced with the much rarer and seldom seen Greater Yellow-headed Vulture …

 

… and the impressive King Vulture, both rainforest species.

 

We stayed overnight at Sumara lodge which was undergoing some reconstruction.

 

There was a Yellow-rumped Cacique colony in the clearing …

 

… and Ruddy Pigeons on the forest floor but the Harpy Eagles weren’t breeding this year so no amount of hiking in the forest could turn up one of the most sought after raptors in the world. We did however see a good range of cotingas, tyrannulets, tanagers and other forest species.

 

Then it was on to Atta Lodge, one of the best locations on the trip and definitely the best rainforest location of the trip. In the clearing around the lodge there were a group of Black Currasows wandering about like domestic turkeys and when I got to my chalet I found the shutters on both sides open and hummingbirds zipping through the room and over my bed to reach a hummingbird feeders just outside the window.

 

This Red-fan Parrot was extraordinarily tame and was presumably a rehabilitated bird.

 

… but there was no doubting the credentials of this Red-and-green Macaw.

 

Admittedly not the best of photos, but it was pleasing to see this pair of Paradise Jacamas …

 

… and the extraordinary antics of Spider Monkeys.

 

In a river bed we came across a pair of Sunbitterns …

 

… but the best sightings was this rare Black-faced hawk, a life bird for me …

 

… and the extraordinary Rufous Potoo, seen at a day time roost. There are seven species of Potoos, a nightbird related to the nightjars, all in the Neotropics. I have now seen six of the seven; the seventh Andean Potoo was a heard only in Ecuador. Rufous Potoo is probably the hardest of all to find. Common and White-winged Potoo were also seen on the trip, three species in one trip is almost an overdose of luck.

 

We also visited the canopy walkway …

 

… it was a a bit of squeeze getting everybody onto the platform.

 

Eustace wrote in his trip report: We then made a quick late afternoon visit to the afternoon visit to the canopy walkway where we worked through Todd’s and Spot-tailed Antwrens, Buff-cheeked and Lemon-chested Greenlets, Red-legged, Purple and Green Honeycreepers and a number of Flame-crested, Paradise, Bay-headed and Spotted Tanagers etc etc. We also found Green Aracari, our first Waved Woodpeckers and a pair of Golden-sided Euphonias. I should also report that we encountered no sweat bees. (The latter being an unwelcome visitor at many such canopy platforms).

 

But a lot of our time was spent in the clearing by the chalets. Here Denzel, Mike Karin and Eustace scan the treetops for cotingas. Purple-breasted Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruitcrow were regular, but the main targets, Dusky Purpletuft and Crimson Fruitcrow proved elusive. Some got a glimpse of the latter but it always disappeared before I could get anyone on to it.

 

Finally on the last morning the Crimson Fruitcrow stayed long enough for everyone to get views. I didn’t get a photo so I have used one by © Alan Lewis (no relation!) taken from the Surfbirds website.

 

For most of our time in the clearing we were accompanied by Black Curassows …

 

… certainly a lot tamer than their ‘crestless cousins’ that we saw earlier in the tour.

 

We travelled on to our next lodge at Iwokrama and stopped on route to admire some Blue-and-yellow Macaws.

 

These are some of the most beautiful of all macaws, indeed of all parrots …

 

… perhaps our familiarity of them at home from bird parks and zoos means they don’t get quite the recognition they deserve.

 

Iwokrama River Lodge is located by the Essequibo River. Our time here was divided between birding on the tracks and taking boat trips on the river.

 

One such boat trip took us to trail that led to Turtle Mountain (named after it’s resemblance to an upside down turtle shell, not because it had a surfeit of turtles on the summit).

 

On route we saw a flock of seven Capped Herons (together with a Cocoi Heron on the left), four on the bank …

 

… and three in the trees.

 

I’ve posted a number of photos of Great Black Hawk, which seemed unusually abundant on this tour, but this is the first photo I’ve posted of one in juvenile plumage.

 

The hike up to Turtle Mountain was a little arduous, but we saw some great birds like Spotted Antpitta, but the much sought after Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo was a heard only.

 

Eustace at the lookout at Turtle Mountain. The main target was the rare Orange-breasted Falcon which we failed to see (but I have seen in in Peru with Eustace on a previous trip), we did see a White Hawk which was some compensation.

 

We also took a late afternoon boat trip in the opposite direction …

 

… arriving at some rapids where we found a feeding Large-billed Tern …

 

… a species with a wing pattern like a Sabine’s Gull.

 

A few minutes at the rapids …

 

… gave us views of common species like Great Egret …

 

… as well as the range restricted Black-collared Swallow. These two seem to be ignoring each other …

 

… but that was soon to change. Guess it was a case of making hay whilst the sun shines …

 

… which wasn’t going to be for long as there was a big storm approaching from down stream.

 

Fortunately the storm largely missed us and it was dry by the time we got back to the dock- where the biggest Black Caiman I’ve ever seen was hanging around in the hope of scraps.

 

The next day we crossed the Iwokrama River on a very dodgy ferry and started the long drive north to Georgetown.

 

Just over the other side we stopped at a site where we found some Grey-winged Trumpeters. There are three species of Trumpeter in the world, but this is the only one I’ve seen (although I did hear Dark-winged Trumpeter in Brazil).

 

The road north was unpaved and potholed and progress was slow. There have been plans to create a modern highway, which sounds great, but would open up the interior of Guyana to mining, logging and habitat destruction. I was worried that this guy had been in an accident until I saw his bike was parked on its stand. He was just having a kip on the roadside. Earlier in the trip there was a major dip on this same road when Eustace and one of the clients saw a large Jaguar on the side of the road. It might have stayed until the other two vehicles arrived but for the arrival of a motorbike coming in the opposite direction. So near yet so far. I’ve been to the best site in the world for Jaguars, the Pantanal in Brazil, but before Jaguar tourism was really sorted out and hence we dipped. I’ve always hoped since then that I would just chance on one – well maybe one day.

 

Eventually we entered the industrial heart of Guyana just to the south of Georgetown and returned to the hotel we stopped at for the first night.

 

Our time in Georgetown was divided between areas along the coast and Georgetown Botanical gardens (above). I like that the car on the right is parked on the lawn right under the ‘do not park on the lawn’ sign.

 

Our main target was the range-restricted Festive Amazon …

 

… and wild Red-fan Parrots (unlike the tame one at Atta) …

 

… and the little Blood-coloured Woodpecker, confined to coastal regions of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

 

Open areas held Tropical Mockingbirds …

 

… and the widespread Great Kiskadee.

 

Whilst an overgrown ditch gave good views of juvenile Wattled Jacanas …

 

… and adults too …

 

… some showing off their vivid yellow underwings.

 

Other species included the strange Greater Ani …

 

… and the pretty Bat Flacon.

 

Along the coast we passed the small settlement of Glazier’s Lust, surprisingly the next settlement was called Rebecca’s Lust. I guess there is some sort of romantic story involved there!

 

Recent storms had piled the debris up along the shoreline …

 

… but in the few remaining coastal forest patches we found Common Tody-flycatcher …

 

… Black-crested Antshrike …

 

… and Pied Water Tyrant …

 

… and just like I did in Florida, Yellow-crowned Night Heron …

 

… and Limpkin.

 

Two New World waders that occasionally occur in the UK were seen side by side Solitary Sandpiper …

 

… and a summer plumaged Spotted Sandpiper (these are the ecological replacements of Green and Common Sandpiper respectively).

 

There were a few raptors as well, Grey-lined Hawk (a split from Grey Hawk of the southern USA and Mexico) …

 

… Black-collared Hawk …

 

… and most notably the rare, declining Rufous Crab Hawk which is only found along the coast from eastern Venezuela to northern Brazil.

 

 

Our final stop was a creek where Scarlet Ibis come into roost but we had to leave before dusk when the majority would arrive because we had to head to the airport and our flight to Suriname.

 

 

So then it was the hour-long journey back to the international airport and our short flight to Suriname, but this was not without it’s problems. I have carried a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate with me on trips for years but have never been asked to show it. Yellow Fever isn’t the problem it once was, indeed the closely related Dengue Fever is far more widespread worldwide. We were warned to bring Yellow Fever vaccination certificates with us but Eustace’s was out of date and they wouldn’t let him board the plane.

To try and convince them that his old certificate was OK (after three injections ten years apart, you are considered immune for life) he borrowed mine. I was caught between one official saying ‘get on the plane now its about to depart’ and another stopping me getting to the room ‘out back’ where they were quizzing Eustace. Eventually I got my certificate back, ran for the plane which took off the moment I was seated.

So we were heading to Suriname without our designated leader – what happened will be the subject of the next post.

Eustace did get a repeat vaccination and certificate in Georgetown and over the next few days made his way overland to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. He wrote the following in the trip report about his overland journey.

The entire trip, but perhaps especially the journey from the border to Paramaribo, could have been the subject of a Tarantino movie. It involved a minibus packed with fifteen or so Haitians, Venezuelans, an assortment of illegal Guyanans and me. Off we set, crammed in to a tiny van together with a Chestnut-bellied Seedeater in a cage lodged on the console between myself and the driver. Along the narrow uneven surface called Highway 1, the speed crept up to about 140km per hour, while the driver, using a couple of mobiles was arranging the next run. I got the impression business was good with Venezuelans and Haitians fleeing to Brazil. The Guyanans started kicking off, smoking joints and drinking a few beers adding to my discomfort. On arrival at the city limits, the various passengers were dropped off at their pre-arranged safe houses on the outskirts of the city. The stuff of novels!

This was one journey I was glad I didn’t have to make.

Guyana part one: the southern savannahs: 22nd – 26th February 2020   Leave a comment

In the last post I explained how and why I stopped off for a few days in Florida on my way to Guyana in February 2020, here is the first of several posts on the Guyana part of the trip.

Although I had been to neighbouring Venezuela twice before, including its south-eastern border with Guyana, there were still plenty of new birds in Guyana for me including two particular goals, Sun Parakeet and Red Siskin. Although Birdquest had offered tours to Suriname before, now the first time they offered a trip there as an optional extension to Guyana, making this tour combination an irresistible attraction.

As the considerable avian attractions of Venezuela are now out of bounds to all but the most foolhardy of birders, then interest in Guyana, which shares many of its avian wonders, can only increase in the future.

 

I arrived in Guyana well after dark to find that the international airport was an hour’s drive south of Georgetown, so it was quite late when the taxi dropped me off a the hotel. Georgetown is situated by of the mouth of the Essequibo River, just under the ‘I’ in Wakenaam Island in the map above. Guyana was previously under French and then Dutch administration but the British took control in 1796, it gained independence from Britain in 1966. The capital Georgetown was named after King George III in 1812 and it is the only South American country where English is the national language. Initially we flew down to the Rupununi Savanna in the south-west, from here we drove slowly back to Georgetown over the next ten days.

 

Flying in from Miami we passed the Bahamas, an island group that I’ve never visited despite having a nice range of endemic birds (one for future perhaps).

 

As I said above, I arrived late that evening with time only for a quick chat with tour leader Eustace Barnes. The following morning I met the rest of the group and we departed for the nearby Ogle domestic airport where we caught a flight to Letham in the far south.

 

Here’s the view from the light aircraft as we left Georgetown with the Caribbean in the distance …

 

… and here the view of Letham and the Rupunui River as we came into land. On route we saw the large extent of rainforest and savannah that still exists in Guyana, as befits a country with the second lowest population in South America (about 790,000) however we did see a lot a clearing made by illegal gold miners who, as well as felling trees, use toxic chemicals like mercury to extract the gold.

 

Letham airport didn’t have much going for it, but soon we met our drivers and set of in three 4x4s to the 1700 square mile Dadanawa ranch tucked away in the vast expanses of the Rupununi.

 

With an avifauna not that dissimilar to the Venezuelan llanos we had plenty to see on route.

 

Eventually we arrived at the pleasant Wichabai lodge. These savannas can flood in the rainy season hence building it on stilts.

 

Of course we saw the ubiquitous Palm Tanager around the building …

 

.. but from the upper deck we saw Long-winged Harrier (above) and more importantly four Sharp-tailed Ibis, a declining species that I haven’t seen since my first trip to Venezuela in 1988! Unfortunately, although we got good scope views, they were too distant for photos.

 

Like the llanos, the Rupunui savannahs were excellent for raptors with species like the impressive Laughing Falcon …

 

… Savannah Hawk …

 

… Black-collared Hawk …

 

… and White-tailed Hawk.

 

So it was off early the next day, driving on rough tracks to a remote part of the ranch and a very good bird indeed.

 

Red Siskins were were once widespread across northern South America are now restricted to tiny areas of Venezuela and southern Guyana.

 

 

In captivity they can be made to mate with domestic canaries to produce red variants and so are in high demand for the pet bird trade. Relentless trapping has reduced the population to a few thousand but even at this highly protected site the current situation doesn’t bode well. Our leader Eustace has commented as follows: Unfortunately, aviculturists have not only discovered this population but also discovered a loop hole in the law regarding ‘natural resource’ exploitation in native communities. It goes like this – native people (as they live in tune with nature) are allowed to carry on using resources as they have done for countless millennia [including] controlled’ burns, taking fish, hunting and it seems, now trapping Red Siskins for pets! These are then sold to the avicultural community quite legally. Can you believe it?

 

Given their rarity I didn’t attempt a close approach so I’ve supplemented my photos with (an uncredited one) from Wikipedia.

 

The road back was equally bumpy …

 

… whilst negotiating the rocks we saw our first Great Black Hawk and then  noticed some Giant Otters in the river – but more about them in the next post.

 

… and after some lunch we departed and head off to our next stay at Manari.

 

Raptors seen on route included more Long-winged Harriers.

 

We went on a drive into the savannah that evening but for some reason had to use vehicles provided by the lodge, which were some of the worse I’ve ever been in, having to be pushed to start them and basically just falling apart.

 

We carried on the following day passing open savannah and gallery woodland.

 

We checked a number of spots along the Iring River, a tributary of the Rio Branco that forms the border between Brazil and Guyana (yes, that’s Brazil on the far bank). We found the localised Hoary-throated Spinetail but despite trying over and over again there was no sign of the Rio Branco Antbird which can only be seen along the banks of this one rive system.

 

Parrots were quite common and sightings of Red-and-green Macaws occurred regularly.

I guess this cyclist was used to seeing flocks of White-faced Whistling Ducks flying overhead …

 

… but we aren’t, so a stop at this small pool was in order.

 

This area has numerous wetlands and small lakes and we enjoyed the sight of many waterbirds including the enormous Jabiru (Stork).

 

I mentioned in the Florida write-up that this is no longer Northern Caracara. Although split from Southern Caracara for a few decades the split hasn’t stood up to scrutiny and the populations north and south of the Amazon rainforest have been reunited as Crested Caracara.

 

Among the great birds we saw that afternoon were this lovely Chestnut Woodpecker …

 

… Painted Parakeets …

 

.. and Double-striped Thick-knee – a close relative of the Stone Curlews we get in the UK.

 

With both birds facing in opposite directions you can see how the ‘double stripes’ formed by the supercillium and coronal stripe wrap around the head and almost meet on the nape.

 

That evening we stayed at Karasabani, this small village of indigenous Guyanans is the focal point of efforts to save the the endangered Sun Parakeet.

 

That said they weren’t all that welcoming. In spite of the fact that we had booked the whole guest house we found we were double booked. Eventually some sort of accommodation was sorted out for some of the group elsewhere.

 

It was a noisy and fairly uncomfortable night, with some unusual co-inhabitants, but well worth it for what we were to see the next day.

 

The next morning saw us birding along the road in the forest and it didn’t take long for us to find a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl.

 

Calling in the daytime and with a range from south Texas to Argentina, this is one of the most frequently encountered owls in the Neotropics.

 

Many other species were seen including Green-backed Trogon …

 

… and a species of puffbird known as Swallow-wing.

 

It didn’t take all that long before we came across of flock of the exquisitely beautiful Sun Parakeets.

 

Very popular with the pet trade Sun Parakeets (or Sun Conures) were once being trapped at the rate of 800,000 a year. There are now more in captivity than in the wild (from Wikipedia).

 

Once seen throughout the northern part of the Brazilian state of Roraima and southern Guyana, this species can now only be seen with any regularity in this tiny area around Karasabani, perhaps a couple of thousand wild birds survive.

 

From Karasabani we continued north to Karanambu ranch where we stayed for three nights, this and other areas in central and northen Guyana will be illustrated in the next post.