Archive for the ‘Common Potoo’ Tag

Guyana part two: central Guyanan gallery forests and savannahs: 26th February to 1st March 2020   Leave a comment

In the last post I detailed our journey around the Rupununi savanna and the gallery forest near the Brazilian border. In this second instalment I’m posting photos taken in the central part of Guyana especially around the Karanambu ranch and Rock View Lodge.



In this, the second post on my visit to Guyana we concentrate on the gallery forest and savannahs on the central part of the country.


We arrived at Karanambu ranch late in the day, the next morning our first target was a wonderful cotinga known as Capuchinbird (as the bald head reminded it’s discoverers of Capuchin monks). Two or three birds were present at a lek. They would puff themselves up and emit a bovine-like lowing to attract the ladies, hence an alternative English name is ‘calf-bird’. See below for recording on xeno-canto. I have seen this rare species once before in eastern Venezuela but it was as big a treat the second time as it was the first.

Recordings of Capuchinbird from xeno-canto


The ranch sits on the Rupununi River and quite a lot of our time here was spent on the river looking for specialities, especially the Crestless Currasow which is seldom seen anywhere else than here these days.


… Lesser Kiskadee, just one of a number of lookalike kiskadee species, but one that favours riverine habitats …


… Cocoi Heron, the South American equivalent of Great Blue Heron …


… and the powerful Black Caiman.


There were a number of raptors along the river, the impressive Great Black Hawk …


… the beautiful and elegant Swallow-tailed Kite (one of which has recently turned up in the Azores) …


… and a wintering bird from North America, an Osprey with lunch.


There are three species of stork in the Americas, Wood Stork which occurs in South & Central America plus the southernmost parts of the USA (see my account on my short visit to Florida prior to arriving in Guyana), Maguari Stork (see below) and perhaps the most impressive of all the enormous Jabiru (above).


Standing up to 1.5m tall, in South America it has a wingspan second only to the Andean Condor and some of the albatrosses seen offshore. It is the tallest and heaviest of the world’s 19 species of stork.


Drier areas held Green-tailed Jacamas.


Related to jacamas are the kingfishers. The New World has been rather short-changed when it comes to kingfishers with a mere six species over the two continents. I saw four species in Guyana, plus had a ‘heard only’ American Pygmy Kingfisher in Suriname and saw the more northerly Belted Kingfisher in Florida. This is a female Ringed Kingfisher, a super-sized version of Belted, and one of the world’s largest kingfishers.


The commonest kingfisher was Amazon. This, without the red band on the breast, is a female …


… whilst this stonker is the male


The size sequence of the six species (large to small) is Ringed, Belted, Amazon, Green-and-rufous, Green and American Pygmy. This is a female Green-and-rufous. Green Kingfishers were seen here but not photographed and one Pygmy was only seen, but only by a select few.


But our main target was the shy, rarely seen and elusive Crestless Curassow. This huge cracid has a wide range and has a IUCN status of ‘Near Threatened’ but Eustace said that it is seldom recorded away from Karanambu these days. Whether the IUCN threat level is now inaccurate or whether it has just become super-elusive elsewhere, I don’t know.


I have seen Giant River Otter on several South American trips but never in the numbers we encountered on this trip. We had already recorded half a dozen further south and then encountered up to 20 on at Karanambu. In addition there were some orphaned otters raised at the ranch for eventual release.


Nearly 2m long these are truly ‘giant otters’ and communicate with each other with a series of penetrating whistles.


Not everyone likes Giant River Otters and sometimes the adults are killed by fishermen and hunters. The late conservationist Diane McTurk used to take in orphaned otters at the lodge, something that still continues to this day.


This and the otter in the photo above are of these orphaned youngsters which will be released back into the wild in due course.


On our second afternoon we returned to the river, disembarked then walked through the forest to this secluded lagoon.


This Wattled Jacana was living up to its alternative name of ‘Lily-trotter’, running around on these giant Amazonian water lilies.


A Rufescent Tiger-heron stood guard …


… and Spectacled Caiman swam between the giant lily pads …


… and guess what, there were more Giant River Otters.


Also seen was the eponymous Tiny Tyrant-manakin, looking not only diminutive but also looking more like a tyrannulet than a manakin. In spite of 25 or so visits to the Neotropics I’m still in awe of those tour leaders who can take one glance at this type of minute sub-oscines and can recognise them immediately.


We returned down the river at dusk seeing good numbers of Band-tailed Nighthawks and huge numbers of Greater Fishing Bats.


Near the river we found this Common Potoo …


… we also went nightbirding in more open areas, illuminated by the inevitable savannah fires …


… but did reward us with great views of Least Nighthawk.


Other nocturnal denizens of the night (photographed at roost in the day) included Lesser Bulldog Bat …


… and the little Proboscis Bat.


We also spent time exploring the nearby savannah regions. Unfortunately it has become custom for the locals to burn the grassland in the belief that the new grass is more nutritious for the horses. Very occasional burning may prevent the grassland turning into scrub but at this frequency wildlife cannot prosper …


… especially when it leaves the ground looking like this.


Around some of the marshy areas we found White-headed Marsh Tyrant …


… the seldom seen White-naped Xenopsaris …


… but our main target was the rare and fast disappearing Crested Doradito, a bird whose name sounds more like a Mexican snack than a tyrant-flycatcher.


Although I’d seen it before (indeed I’d seen all of these four enigmatic tyrant-flycatchers before) my favourite was the evocatively named Bearded Tachuri, a tiny gem of a bird.


Its main range is from south-east Brazil south through the pampas of Paraguay and eastern Argentina but it does have an outpost in the llanos and savannahs of the north.


We also saw a few Maguari Storks, the Neotropical equivalent to the Old World White Stork.


But perhaps the highlight of the savannah marshes was these views of Pinnated Bittern. In the same genus as American Bittern, Australasian Bittern and our Eurasian (or Great) Bittern, it can be a tough bird to find. I must have spent 35 years looking for the gem in the Neotropics before finally coming across one in Costa Rica in 2017 so seeing six in Guyana, and getting such stunning views of this one as it tried to hide in very short reeds, was one of the highlights of the trip.


So it was goodbye to Karanambu and a return to dodgy bridges, potholes …


… and the never ending dust as we made our way north to Rock View Lodge.


We saw big flocks of Orange-winged Parrots on route …


Birds seen included Black-tailed Tityra …


… and Green-backed Trogon (although in my photos the back looks more blue than green).


Our next location was the Rock View Lodge at Annai, run by an eccentric Englishman called Colin. Our main target was a cock-of-the-rock lek but we also managed to see a lek of Long-tailed Hermit (hermits being one group of hummingbirds that have a communal display).


Even better was the seldom seen Guianan Red Cotinga. I was very lucky to see this on the old ‘Guianan trail’ in Venezuela in 1988, but it is a hard bird to see anywhere.


Our destination was this rocky outcrop where the gorgeous Guianan Cock-of-the Rock breeds, indeed we saw a female nesting on one of the rock ledges but due to poor light conditions the photos aren’t very good.


The same fortunately wasn’t true for the gorgeous males which were lekking in an area below the caves. There are two species of cock-of-the-rock, the deep red one in the Andes and this beautiful one on the Guianan Shield.


Like many of the key species on this trip I’d seen it before on my visits to eastern Venezuela but seeing them lekking was one of the trips highlights.


From here we continued on to to two more lodges further north before we ended the Guianan section of the tour back in the Georgetown area. That will be the subject of the next post.

Paraguay part 2: Laguna Blanca and surrounding areas – 26th – 28th September 2015   1 comment

This post covers the drive from Asunción to Laguna Blanca and Laguna Blanca and surrounding areas and will be the second of three posts on this wonderful country.

Progress with uploading these photos has been slow, partially due to my continued efforts to get as much autumn ringing at Durlston in as possible, preparing slide shows for various societies, but mainly due to a computer error (that I still can’t fathom out) leading me to lose several hundred edited photos from the Paraguay trip. Fortunately I still had the originals but re-editing them has taken ages.


IMG_9911 Asuncion Bay

After the very hot and sunny conditions in the Chaco we encountered dull conditions and a 20c degree drop in temperature for the next few days. Before we left the capital we made a short visit to an area known as ‘the bay’ a marsh on the banks of the Paraguay river, unfortunately the best areas for migrant waders and other interesting birds have been destroyed by road building.

IMG_9889 LB Tern

There weren’t that many highlights at ‘the bay’ but we had good views of Large-billed Terns, a species I refer to as ‘Sabine’s Terns’ due to the striking resemblance of their upper-wing pattern to the enigmatic high-arctic gull.

IMG_9926 Jacanas

Muddy creeks, littered with discarded bottles, were full of jacanas but very few migrant waders.

IMG_6487 Asuncion

We later drove through Asunción, seeing a mix of attractive old buildings and modern high-rise.

IMG_6490 Asuncion

As with all South American cities Asunción has its poorer side as well.

IMG_0004 LW Harrier

We stopped on route at a number of marshy areas, seeing a number of excellent species such as this Long-winged Harrier.

IMG_0103 WH Marsh Tyrant

White-headed Marsh Tyrant was a welcome addition to the trip list but one I had seen many times before ….

IMG_1187 Lesser Grass-finch

…. however Lesser Grass Finch was a new bird for me.


IMG_0084 Strange-tailed Tyrant

But the most exciting moment was seeing the wonderful Strange-tailed Tyrant, one of the main reasons for visiting Paraguay.

IMG_0028 Many coloured Chaco Finch

Other birds seen in these roadside marshes included the attractive Rusty-collared Seedeater ….

IMG_0176 Field Flicker

…. ‘Field’ Flicker these days, unfortunately, lumped with Campo Flicker ….

IMG_0124 Shiny Cowbird

…. the ubiquitous Shiny Cowbird ….

IMG_0628 YC Spinetail

…. the rather poorly named Yellow-chinned Spinetail ….

IMG_0142 Streamer-tailed Tyrant

…. and an amazing pair of displaying Streamer-tailed Tyrants, at 40cm in length, probably the largest of all the tyrant-flycatchers.

IMG_6492 Laguna Blanca

In the mid afternoon we made it to our accommodation at Laguna Blanca, which consisted was a series of fairly basic rooms with bunk beds by the lake shore, but with the toilets and showers 100m away. It was wet for much of our time here so this ment putting on wet clothes/boots for a nocturnal visit to the loo.

IMG_0615 Laguna Blanca

The lakeshore was very attractive ….

IMG_0220 Ash-throated Crake

…. and we had just enough time before dusk to obtain good views of an Ashy-throated Crake.

IMG_0356 night drive Laguna Blanca

However it was our nocturnal wanderings that was the highlight of our time at Laguna Blanca, indeed the highlight of the entire trip.

IMG_0304 WW Nightjar

It didn’t take too long to find our quarry, the rare White-winged Nightjar.

IMG_0290 WW Nightjar

We were able to move into a position where we could all see it well without flushing it, this one turned out to be a female. Know only from a three sites in Brazil, two in Paraguay and one in Bolivia, this is a highly range restricted and endangered bird.

IMG_0274 WW Nightjar

Flash photography revealed the details of its plumage, but females don’t have the eponymous white wings so the search for a male continued.

IMG_0328 WW Nightjar

Eventually we saw a male in display flight, fluttering around to reveal its white wings and deliberately landing heavily on the ground with a thump. No photos were obtained in flight, but we did get this cracking view of it on a branch. This bird, above all else was the reason I came to Paraguay.

IMG_0332 Common Potoo

On the way back we came across another stunning nightbird, the bizarre, although widespread, Common Potoo.

IMG_0481 WW Nightjar m

The following day was wet, windy and rather cool. We went out looking for goodies like Cock-tailed Tyrant and as we wandered through the wet cerrado Richard accidentally flushed this male White-winged Nightjar.

IMG_0485 WW Nightjar m

…. and I managed to get a couple of mediocre flight shots showing the wing pattern from above ….

IMG_0482 WW Nightjar m

…. and below. It seemed at the time that this would be the undoubted ‘bird of the trip’ for me but there was another encounter right at the end of the trip that would push it into second place. More of that later.

IMG_0519 Buff-bellied Puffbird

It wasn’t just us who got soaking wet, this Buff-belied Puffbird looks in need of a hair dryer.

IMG_0404 White-rumped Tanager

Other birds seen that morning included White-rumped Tanagers and ….

IMG_0381 Shrike-like Tanager

…. the aptly named Shrike-like Tanager ….

IMG_0439 Cock-tailed Tyrant fem

…. and this bedraggled female Cock-tailed Tyrant (note the falling rain drops in the photo).

IMG_0474 Cock-tailed Tyrant

Eventually the cute little male Cock-tailed showed well.

IMG_0537 sunset

Much of the afternoon was given over to searching for tinamous with varying degrees of luck. As darkness fell breaks in the cloud appeared ….

IMG_0551 eclipse

…. which was good news as there was an eclipse of the Moon that night. As usual we had an early start so I didn’t stay up to see the Moon fully covered by the Earth’s shadow and anyway as the photos were hand-held, I probably wouldn’t be able to take photos at totality anyway.

IMG_0585 dawn Laguna Blanca

The following day with all the moisture in the air, the sunrise over the lake was spectacular ….

IMG_0588 dawn Laguna Blanca

…. as the sun rose and shone through the mist ….

IMG_0576 dawn Laguna Blanca

…. the entire lake lit up in a dazzling show of light.

IMG_0605 cobwebs

So that was our time at Laguna Blanca over. Unfortunately this marvelous area with its fascinating wildlife is under threat. The reserve is leased by the conservation organisation Para la Tierra but the owner’s plan to sell. Although Para la Tierra has first option to buy they will be competing against rich cattle ranchers and soy farmers. A recent competition which secured EU funding to the winning applicant failed by a narrow margin. Unless external funding can become available this precious site could be lost forever.