Archive for the ‘Grey-lined 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.

Costa Rica part 3: The Pacific lowlands of the south-west: 05/04 – 08/04 2017.   Leave a comment

This post covers our visits to Los Cusingos, Las Cruces, Escinos Lodge and Rio Ricon, all locations in the far-south-west of Costa Rica’s Pacific slope.

 

Before we left San Isidro we birded around the hotel seeing a wide range of birds such as this Cherrie’s Tanager which is common in the south-west of the country. This male of this species is almost identical to the male Passerini’s Tanager which we saw commonly on the Caribbean slope. However the females differ and I think there are vocal and genetic differences too.

 

We headed for Los Cusingos, the former home of ornithologist Alexander Skutch. The forest surrounding his home is maintained as a reserve and his simple house which had no electricity or running water is maintained as a museum in his honour.

We headed for Los Cusingos, the former home of ornithologist Alexander Skutch. The forest surrounding his home is maintained as a reserve and his simple house which had no electricity or running water is maintained as a museum in his honour.

Alexander Skutch was one of the most prolific and distinguished ornithologists of all time. He lived a simple life with his English wife Pamela at Los Cusingos up until his death in 2004, eight days before his 100th birthday. He was a prolific author publishing 40 books and 200 papers, mainly on tropical birds.

 

We visited his reserve in 1981, as he knew our guide well and I was privileged to meet him and his wife. Los Cusingos (we just called it Skutch’s Finca then) was one of the few places that I visited 36 years ago that I still remembered when I returned this year.

 

Among the many species we saw were White-crowned Parrot ….

 

…. Speckle-breasted Hummingbird ….

 

…. Baird’s Trogon ….

 

…. and just as we had given up on it and were about to board the bus, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper.

 

After Los Cusingos we paid a brief visit to marshy area ….

 

…. where we saw Chiriquí Yellowthroat, a species restricted to the borders of Costa Rica and Panama.

 

From here we headed to the research centre at Las Cruces, another area that I remember from the 1981 trip. The centre has extensive gardens but also areas of mature tropical forest.

 

…. with enormous fig trees (previous photo) and stands of bamboo.

 

There were plenty of birds to add to our list such as Spot-crowned Euphonia (but you would need a magnifying glass to see the spots) ….

 

…. Charming Hummingbird (which I don’t think is quite as charming as some of the other hummers) ….

 

…. and the diminutive and recently split Mistletoe Tyrannulet.

 

In the extensive gardens where a huge selection of bromiliads and other plants are propagated ….

 

…. we saw migrants from North America like this Baltimore Oriole ….

 

…. as well as this resident male Green Honeycreeper (the females are undoubtedly green but the males look more bluish to me) ….

 

…. and best of all, the tiny and scarce Garden Emerald.

 

We took a dirt road near the Panama border to look for Panamanian species like Veraguan Mango that might just have crossed the border. It was very hot as we were now close to sea level. We had no luck with the mango but it was a very birdy area especially in the vicinity of this bridge.

 

Here we saw a good selection of waterbirds; White Ibis, Southern Lapwing, Little Blue Heron and Greater Yellowlegs are in this photo and there was quite a lot else further upstream but the setting sun produced dreadful viewing conditions.

 

Grey-breasted Martins perched on roadside wires ….

 

….nearby we had good views of  Mantled Howler Monkeys (we were to hear their howls and roars every morning in both the lowlands and on the slopes of the volcanos).

 

We saw the impressive Streaked Flycatcher ….

 

…. and a number of Bare-faced Tiger Herons were nesting in the area.

 

We also had good views of Grey-lined Hawk. For a long time it has been known that there are two different populations of ‘Grey Hawk’ in Costa Rica. The northern population (Grey Hawk) extends from the north of the country to southern USA and the southern one (Grey-lined Hawk) from SW Costa Rica to northern Argentina. Recent genetic work has confirmed what birders have long suspected, that they are two different species (this was announced in the Neotropical Birding journal under the heading of ‘no more guilt about ticking Grey-lined Hawk’).

 

We headed on to Esquinas Rainforest Lodge where for the first time on the trip we stayed at the same place for two nights. It was very hot and humid, probably the most uncomfortable conditions of the trip.

 

Good birds include this male Golden-naped Woodpecker ….

 

…. the scarce Grey-capped Flycatcher

 

… and best of all, wonderful views of this Ornate Hawk-eagle with prey, thought perhaps to be a Little Tinamou. I have seen this large eagle in flight before but have never had the chance to study this magnificent bird through a scope.

 

Nearby we saw a Purple Gallinule (not to be confused with an entirely different species in Europe that was once called Purple Gallinule but is now known as Western Swamphen).

 

The so-called ‘caiman pond’ held a Spectacled Caiman that was all of 30cm long. There was a small fence about 15cm high separating the pond from the path. When Pete stepped over the fence to get a photo a security guard came running up shouting ‘peligro‘, peligro‘!

 

A night-time excursion along the access road gave us wonderful views of this Striped Owl.

 

A pre-dawn departure the following day saw us at a bridge over the Rio Rincon. Viewing downstream was very difficult due to the early morning sun ….

 

…. but fortunately most activity was in the other direction.

 

From our elevated position we had great views of this juvenile White Ibis ….

 

…. several Green Herons ….

 

…. and Spotted Sandpipers, most like this one in full sum plum.

 

Along the bank the huge Ringed Kingfisher sat patiently ….

 

…. whilst downstream a Green Kingfisher used this stick ….

 

…. to launch its fishing forays.

 

Mangrove Swallows were common ….

 

…. as were Grey-breasted Martins.

 

But the bird we had come here to see was the exquisite Yellow-billed Cotinga. After quite a wait we saw up to eight. Most were fairly distant, appearing briefly at the tops of large trees upstream or flying past rapidly. The only one that came close enough for photographs was this female. The stunning male is pure white with a yellow bill.

 

Later we visited a nearby area of mangroves.

 

The highlights here was the subtle Mangrove Hummingbird ….

 

…. and gaudy Mangrove Warbler, a resident species that is sometimes lumped with the widespread and migratory Yellow Warbler.

 

We also had good views of Osprey ….

 

…. and the first Magnificent Frigatebirds of the trip. Back in 1981 I was desperate to see this iconic species. Of course since then I have seen many thousand but the memory of that first sighting in the Pacific lowlands is still with me.

 

 

From here we headed northwards along the Pacific coast, made a boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles and eventually reached Carara NP where we stayed for two nights. These locations will be the subject of the next post.