Archive for the ‘Spectacled Caiman’ 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.

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.