Archive for the ‘Crested Owl’ Tag

Suriname: 7th – 12th March 2020   Leave a comment

A major hitch occurred in our otherwise successful Guyana and Suriname tour when tour leader Eustace Barnes was denied boarding to the flight from Georgetown in Guyana to Paramaribo in Suriname due to the fact that his Yellow Fever certificate wasn’t in order (for further details see part 3 of my Guyana blog posts). Fortunately for the group local tour leader Sean (pronounced ‘seen’ not ‘shorn’) Dilrosun was there to meet us at the airport.

The role of a second bird tour leader can vary, sometimes they are excellent birders on a par with the advertised leaders but with the advantage of up-to-date local knowledge, but sometimes they have a more administrative role ensuring that complex local arrangements run smoothly. Fortunately Sean was in the former category. That’s not to say the tour wouldn’t be better with Eustace along, two expert birders leading a tour is bound to be better than one, but the trip extension was a great success thanks to Sean’s local knowledge and skill in finding the local birds.

One area that did cause minor difficulties was that Sean didn’t have a copy of the BirdQuest Guyana/Suriname checklist and the birds on list that he used were in a different sequence to ours. In the end I supervised the checklist sessions (not that easy when one of the participants was very hard of hearing) and I wrote an account of the extension for Eustace (which unfortunately had to be severely edited due to space considerations) before the final report was published.

The flight didn’t arrive until 2300 but in true Birdquest style we stopped to see if we could spotlight a Striped Owl near the airport. No luck there, but Little Tinamou, Common Potoo and Paraque were heard, not the usual species that you record on the run between the airport and the first hotel!

Paramaribo is a fair way from the international airport so it was well after 0100 when we got to bed, indeed our ‘goodnights’ and ‘good mornings’ almost overlapped. We set off early, but not bright, to a forested area near the city where we soon scored with Suriname’s only endemic bird, Arrowhead Piculet, which we saw without difficulty.

 

 

Suriname’s only endemic, Arrowhead Piculet, is a diminutive woodpecker. As it was high above me I failed to get a decent shot and so have used one taken by my friend Martin Reid see www.martinreid.com

 

Even more impressive was the ‘drop dead-gorgeous’ male Crimson-hooded Manakin seen nearby and the Mangos (hummingbirds) in the tall trees were examined until we were sure that the males had green throats rather than black ones. Photo by Nich Athanas from GrrlScientist hosted by the Guardian

 

Our Suriname tour guide – Sean Dilrosun

 

Moving on, we stopped briefly to admire a roadside Slender-billed Kite, thanking a local family for letting use their garden to get the best photo angle …

 

Our next stop was an area of white sand forest, a low woodland growing on nutrient poor soil. On route we passed the perimeter of the airfield where we saw a White-tailed Hawk drop onto prey …

 

as well as the widespread (southern USA to Argentina) Burrowing Owl …

 

This one was probably keeping its eye on the White-tailed Hawk.

 

As well as some passerine targets we found a roosting Lesser Nighthawk …

 

… and the lovely Tropical Screech-owl in both the grey …

 

… and rufous phases.

 

We continued on to the town of Brownsweg where we swopped buses to this rugged four-wheel drive variety complete with reinforced roll bars.

 

We were heading for the Brownsberg reserve where because of a recent drought had completely run out of water so we had to bring enough for cooking, washing and loo flushing!

 

We slowly climbed up the the reserve birding on route.

 

We had driven down from Paramaribo to Brownsweg and then taken the dirt road south-east to the elevated reserve of Brownsberg at the north-west corner of Brokopondo Reservoir, the largest area of fresh water in the country. After two nights here we descended back down to Brownsweg and drove south on the highway and then west to a location in the lowland rainforest known as Fred’s Place where we stayed for a further two nights.

 

The accommodation at Brownsberg was pretty basic especially as we had to take turns to ‘shower’ using a bucket and a ladle but the views over the reservoir at dawn were spectacular.

 

Around the lodge where a number of Red Howler Monkeys …

 

… the adult males in particular were impressive.

 

Less impressive but far rarer and far more elusive where the White-faced Saki Monkeys. However as they were so retiring, keeping to the shadows, it was hard to get a decent photo.

 

In part three of the Guyana write up I posted a poor photo of the elusive Grey-winged Trumpeter …

 

… here in Brownsberg a group have been habituated at a feeding station allowing for excellent views …

 

… they even bring their chicks along with them. Note how the light catches the iridescent feathers on their breasts.

 

Among the many other ‘golden’ goodies at the site were – Golden-headed Manakin …

 

… and Golden-green Woodpecker.

 

Although only seen in deep cover we had a great listen to the song of the Musician Wren, one of the best songsters in the world. Click on the link below to hear recordings on Xeno-canto.

Song of Musician Wren from Xeno-canto

 

Another mega was the beautiful Collared Puffbird, a lifer for me and I think all of the group (photo by ‘thibaudaronson’ via Wiki Commons).

 

Another treat was seeing Lined Forest-falcon. Forest-falcons are a group of seven elusive falcons of dense neotropical forests that seldom show well and seldom if ever appear above the canopy. I had previously seen this species in Venezuela but it was a particular target for one participant who had repeatedly dipped on it in the past. It took some time but we eventually got great views. (Photo by Tony Castro via Wiki Commons).

 

But one of the best of all was the beautiful Crested Owl, found at its daytime roost. I have seen this bird before in Colombia but only at night so it was great to study every nuance of the plumage.

 

There are 256 species of owls in the world. Many are small lookalike scops or pygmy owls that are best separated by voice, some are medium-sized Strix and Ninox owls and then of course there’s the big eagle-owls and ‘megas’ like Great Grey and Snowy of the far north. But I challenge anyone to find a more impressive owl than Crested.

 

This snake shot across our path but as yet I’ve been unable to find anyone who can identify it for me. Can any ‘herpers’ out there help?

 

After a final morning’s birding at Brownsberg we descended to the main road and headed south …

 

… turning off westwards onto this dirt road for the long drive to ‘Fred’s Place’.

 

Fred, an indigenous Suramimese, once saw a remote inselberg from a plane. He was able to locate the site on the ground after days of trekking through virgin forest. He obtained permission to build a lodge beside the river which now caters for naturalists and trekkers. The accommodation consists of a series of huts along the bank with a central cooking and dining area. It was a lovely place to stay and much comfortable than Brownsberg.

 

We could watch Long-tailed Hermits and other hummers whilst eating our meals.

 

Among the many birds we saw was this White Hawk …

 

… White-throated Toucan …

 

… Channel-billed Toucan …

 

… and this Paradise Jacama swallowing its prey.

 

Two other Jacama species posed for photos, Yellow-billed …

 

… and Brown.

 

Another of those Neotropical ‘near-passerine’ Families are the Puffbirds. Some members of the puffbird Family like the Collared Puffbird above can be hard to see but these Black Nunbirds certainly weren’t.

 

Another conspicuous bird (in its choice of perch – if not in its numbers) is Long-tailed Tyrant which was seen occasionally on dead snags along the roads.

 

There weren’t as many cotinga species in Suriname as in Guyana but we did get good views of Purple-throated Cotingas but unfortunately not the elusive Dusky Purpletuft.

 

We came across this stand in the forest, was it a strangely located beverage stand? Apparently drinks are left by locals as a gift to the spirits of the forest.

 

There was good birding to be had along the river as well.

 

Sean took us to a spot near the lodge where the tiny and very elusive Zig-zag Heron occurs, we got some reasonable views but no photos.

 

Damp areas where good for the delightful (yet poisonous) poison-arrow frogs.

 

On one part of the river we found a colony of White-banded Swallows …

 

… here are two adults and a juvenile.

 

But the most exciting moment occurred on our last morning, setting off on yet another failed Dusky Purpletuft search we came across this Harpy Eagle sat in a tree. This is (well at at least the females are) the largest of all the eagles, adapted to snatch monkeys and sloths out of the trees. The legs are so powerful that the tarsus is as thick as a man’s wrist.

 

It was only there for a few seconds but I managed to get this flight shot. Most encounters are of birds at known nests and just coming across a one randomly by a trail is a rare event indeed.

 

So that was it, we left Joe’s place and returned to Paramaribo for the overnight flight to Amsterdam and then onto Heathrow. I had been away for nearly a month and the world had changed in that time.

What had been a problem in just one city in China when I left had become an epidemic in Europe and now we were flying back to it. I was quite shocked that we had (quite rightly) our temperatures checked before we left Paramaribo but not on arrival at Amsterdam or Heathrow.

Of course from mid March 2020 until now I’ve not been able to go anywhere and indeed I’ve spent the last 450+ nights sleeping at home. During periods of relaxation of lockdown rules I’ve been able to do some birding outside the immediate area, but there’s been no UK holidays, let alone foreign ones and of course there have been no additions to my life list.

I can’t complain, Coronavirus has affected me far less than many people who have had to endure real tragedy and hardship but I’m really looking forward birding in some remote location once again.

So my blog is now up to date apart from perhaps posting photos of a few of things I’ve seen in the last year. In addition there are a few foreign trip over the last decade where I’ve either only posted a summary or not posted anything at all. I’ll probably start sorting out some photos from those.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica part 9: La Selva and Braulio Carrillo National Park; 19/04 – 22/04 2017   Leave a comment

This is the 9th and final post on my trip to Costa Rica. I have uploaded so many photos because the wildlife on this trip was so photogenic and Costa Rica was so rich in wildlife that I felt it needed to be shared with a wider audience.

Costa Rica’s efforts to nurture and conserve the natural environment are to be applauded. I doubt if there are many places on earth where so many interesting species can be seen in such a small area.

Before I start, here are a couple of signs that raised a smile, not necessarily all from the areas covered in this post.

 

One of the best ‘beware of the dog’ signs I have ever seen.

 

Although the sign had been taken down, you can’t help wonder why it was put up in the first place!

 

You’re hardly going to advertise dirty bathrooms are you?

 

Since we left San Jose on April 1st we have been to the south and west to areas near the Panama border, north-west along the coast to Hacienda Solimar, back into the mountains at Monteverde, north along the mountain ridge then descending to the lowlands near Cano Negro and along the Caribbean slope near Volcan Arenal. This final post covers the area around La Selva on the Caribbean slope.

 

La Selva is a reserve belong to the OTS Biological Station where we stayed for the last three nights of the tour. Accommodation was quite acceptable but it was a 1km away from the dining area, which meant it wasn’t easy to pop back to your room for something you forgot. As the area catered for young people performing biological research projects and tourism was a sideline, meals were served up in a school canteen manner and although adequate, didn’t match the service and quality we had experienced elsewhere. Many of the trails were concreted ….

 

…. and even had guide rails. This is great if it encourages those with reduced mobility to get around but it did distract from the wilderness experience somewhat. Oh, and the concreted trails didn’t prevent me from almost stepping on a Fer-de-Lance on the way back from dinner!

 

Now to the birds; on the first afternoon we had a run of good birds near our cabins, the bandit-masked Laughing Falcon ….

 

….. the tiny Bat Falcon,

 

…. and best of all the enormous but exceedingly rare Great Green Macaw.

 

Near to the restaurant we saw beautiful Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker and the delightful all-white Snowy Cotinga but the latter didn’t pose for photos.

 

Birds of prey that breed in North America but winter in South America must pass through Costa Rica as they cannot cope with long sea crossings. Most probably pass along the Caribbean coast and most had probably passed through by the time we arrived, but we were privileged to see a flock of about 100 Mississippi Kites .

 

Collared Peccaries were common and easily seen around the research centre …..

 

…. although potentially dangerous if cornered, these seemed completely accustomed to people walking by.

 

The taxonomy of the larger toucans has been in flux with several former species lumped, but in most areas there are two types, a ‘croaker’ and a ‘growler’. In this area the ‘croaker’ is represented by Keel-billed Toucan ….

 

…. and the ‘growler’ by Yellow-throated (aka Chestnut-mandibled) Toucan.

 

Most male euphonias are blue-black with yellow underparts and crown however Olive-backed Euphonia bucks the trend.

 

I saw two ‘lifer’ tanagers in these forests, Emerald (which I didn’t photograph) and Black-and-Yellow (which I did).

 

White-faced Capuchin Monkeys showed well ….

 

…. as did this Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer.

 

At nearby Braulio Carrillo National Park we had great views of the stunning Snowcap, one of the prettiest hummers of all, but we failed to see the localised Lattice-tailed Trogon.

=

The White-whiskered Puffbird is normally rare and only seen on about 2/3rds of trips. we saw between 15 and 20 over the three weeks.

 

Buff-rumped Warblers were seen regularly along streams.

 

…. and we had more great views of Crested Guans.

 

We also saw the bizarre Basilisk aka ‘Jesus Christ Lizard’ (as it can run across the surface of water for short distances) ….

 

…. and some delightful poison-dart frogs (delightful that is until you touch them as their skin contains neurotoxins).

 

One of the last additions to our list came as we walked to breakfast on the last morning (having just seen my life Slaty-breasted Tinamou) we found a juvenile Tiny Hawk. Some of the non-tinamou watchers joined us further down the track, we walked back to show them the Tiny Hawk, only find that it had gone and been replaced by an adult of the same species.

 

During our time at Braulio Carrillo National Park we were taken to an area of farmland and woodland by a local guide. We were shown a whole range of great birds, like this Thicket Antpitta ….

….. and this Great Potoo. Potoos have evolved an unusual defense strategy, they are able to roost out in the open because they look and act just like a tree stump.

 

Later we were shown a roosting Crested Owl. This large and magnificent owl was roosting in a thicket and getting a good angle to photograph it without disturbing it was tricky.

 

Then we were shown something really bizarre; just what is Rose photographing?

 

…. Honduran White Bats, tent-making bats that shape a Heliconia leaf into a tent by biting the central rib to form an inverted V and then roosting underneath it.

 

So that about wraps it up, we left La Selva after a late breakfast on the 22nd and arrived at San Jose airport in the early afternoon. We all went our separate ways; some flew home that afternoon, some stayed on for further adventures in Costa Rica and I stayed overnight and flew on to Newark the next day to stay with my friend Patty in Connecticut for a few days (see earlier post).

I obviously research foreign tours before I book them, so trips usually come up to my expectations, but seldom exceed them. This was an exception, I found this tour, with its carefully honed itinerary, that squeezed as many goodies into 22 days as you could possibly imagine, to be most satisfying. There were disappointments of course, but not very many. Even though I had been to Costa Rica before, twice to Colombia and Venezuela and three times to Mexico I still picked up 87 new birds considerably more than I expected.

I can highly recommend Birdquest’s Ultimate Costa Rica tour.