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Guyana and Trinidad

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Old Wednesday 13th November 2019, 20:19   #1
dandsblair
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Guyana and Trinidad

Sarah has wanted to see Kaieteur Falls for many years and we had both wanted to stay at Asa Wright in Trinidad after staying at Pax and doing just a day visit there some 14 year ago.

Day 1

We flew to Trinidad from London Gatwick with BA and connecting flight with Caribbean on to Guyana. We were met on arrival by a Wilderness Explorers rep and transferred to Georgetown. Arriving when the CPL cricket was on (Guyana v Trinidad) we just made it through Georgetown before the cricket finished avoiding a major delay. Our hotel the Grand Coastal on the East Coast of Demerara, just minutes from the capital’s small Ogle airport was perfect for us. This hotel had good food and seemed to offer a safe and secure environment with excellent service and good accommodation along with a restaurant/bar, gym and pool.

Day 2

After breakfast, we met the trip organiser from Wilderness Explorer (Supriya – always nice to meet the person who has organised things) before being transferred to Ogle (official name Eugene F. Correia International Airport) to take a charter flight over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers with hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall.

The Falls, which were first seen by a European on 29th April 1870, are situated in the heart of Guyana on the Potaro River. The water of Kaieteur flows over a sandstone tableland into a deep gorge - a drop of 741 feet or around 5 times the height of Niagara Falls. Seeing these falls had been on Sarah’s bucket list for close on 20 years and largely this was why we were in Guyana rather than elsewhere. When you arrive the falls are almost completely uncommercialised with only 12 visitors on our plane and one other plane of 15 just about to leave and a few national park staff here, so less than 30 people and very unlike other places such as Iguassu, Niagara or Victoria falls.

Kaieteur also supports a unique micro environment with Tank Bromeliads, the largest in the world, in which the tiny Golden frog spends its entire life, also a chance of Guiana Cock- of-the-rock; these were our main targets but we only had around 2½ hours to find these and see the falls from various viewpoints before our flight back.

Luckily at the first view area the guide pointed out a bromeliad with a frog but it quickly disappeared, but when the others walked on I looked at similar plants and quickly found another Golden Frog to photograph. Unfortunately the Cock of the Rock was absent from the small lek and then the heavens opened so we rushed back to the shelter of the centre, we were actually OK about missing this bird as we knew were had further chances later, but one lady who was over-nighting here before heading to Surinam had it as her main target and was pretty upset at not seeing it and asked me what is sounded like, I played the call to her and immediately got a response from a bird in the nearby forest but we had to leave while our plane could make it out as further rain was coming in – hopefully after the rain the lady found the bird(s).

We also saw the famous flights of the Kaieteur Swifts or Makonaima Birds which nest under the shelf of rock hidden behind the curtain of falling water. To our eyes it appeared to be a mixed flock of at least three species, White-collared, White-chinned and Band Rumped Swifts. So quite a hurried visit but definitely worthwhile and our contingency of a last day reschedule if the plane didn’t go today wasn’t required.

At Ogle airport I made use of the ATM as inland it is cash only and Guianan Dollars are needed.

Day 3

Up early and back to airport and on to a small scheduled flight (capacity 13), we again fly over miles of tropical rainforest to land at Fair View Airstrip, good to see such minimal damage to the forest on the journey. You can only take 9KG of luggage each; so no scope, tripod or additional lenses on this trip. We also had to get weighed with our small rucksacks on so they knew the total weight of the plane, having done that a couple of German filmmakers then paid hundreds of dollars to get a few crates of camera gear on the little plane and it was filled to capacity.

The Iwokrama Rainforest is a vast wilderness of one million acres. This protected area was established as recently as 1996 as the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development. The Iwokrama Forest is in the heart of one of four last untouched tropical forests of the world - The Guiana Shield of North-Eastern South America. Iwokrama was established as a living laboratory for tropical forest management because the unsustainable utilisation of these forests could result in the extinction of half the world's plant and animal species and unknown changes to global climate. Iwokrama is exceptional among conservation organisations because it joins with local people in every aspect of its work. From research to business, Iwokrama ensures local economic and social benefits from forest use and conservation. The Forest is in the homeland of the Makushi people, who have lived here and used the forest for thousands of years. People are a vital part of the ecosystem and most staff are local including guides.

The Iwokrama River Lodge is set overlooking the Essequibo River. Accommodation is in pleasant timber cabins with a veranda overlooking the river. Electricity is provided by a combination of solar and diesel generator systems. Unfortunately the satellite Wi-Fi was not working when we were here. We liked that meals were served buffet-style in the Fred Allicock dining hall, where we could chat with the rangers, admin and scientific staff and a couple of fellow birders.

We arrived just before lunch and agreed to explore the trails this afternoon with Marcie who has just been made a Senior Ranger and over lunch have a chat with the Lodge Manager on the work they do here. Iwokrama is home to many of our target bird species and we can’t wait to get going but content ourselves with some birding from the veranda. We see Swallow-winged Puffbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Silver-beaked Tanager and Chestnut-bellied Seedeater and at the start of the trail a couple of Red-legged Tinamou crossing.

Around three we get going and quickly see a Capuchin bird, unfortunately high in a tree so a disappointing photo, the next bird we saw well was another lifer in Spotted Antpitta but again despite really good views it just kept going behind the vegetation and refused to give up a photo, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Yellow-rumped Cacique and then a top target a Guianan Red Cotinga were all seen pretty well. Other birds that afternoon included Ruddy Ground Dove, Tropical Mockingbird, Black-eared Fairy, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Palm Tanager and Scaled Pigeon.

After dark we set out on the river, in hope of finding animals and night birds. We quickly saw Black Caiman, also Spectacled Caiman before seeing a sleeping Osprey, some Fish-eating Bats and a really sought after Gladiator Tree Frog then a few Ladder-tailed Nightjars gave us a nice finish to a very good first day.

We discussed the next day and decided we would stay out all morning after an early breakfast to do the Island tour and the trek up Turtle Mountain rather than have breakfast in between trips.

Day 4

So just after first light we set off on the Essequibo River to circumnavigate nearby Indian House Island and were prepared for our hike. We spend lots of time on the river and on a small tributary as the birding was excellent with first Guianan Streaked Antwren, then Great Jacamar and Red-billed Toucan giving us three new birds, we also saw Amazon and Belted Kingfisher, Scarlet Macaw, Red-fanned Parrot, Greater Ani and Barred Antshrike before we saw Pied Lapwing, Black Skimmer, Large-billed Tern and Ladder-tailed Nightjar on a spiky branch overlooking a sandbank.

Then in an area overhanging the narrow tributary we had a stunning male Spangled Cotinga right above our head, a Golden-headed Manakin, White-crowned Manakin the much sought after Green Aracari and a beautiful Chestnut Woodpecker (elegans). On the return trip we also saw the Spangled Cotinga but I didn’t even manage a photo as some Crested Oropendula chased it off. On the boat trip to the landing area we added Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Green Ibis, Cocoi Heron, Yellow-billed Tern and a flock of Black-collared Swallows before finding a perched Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

The hike to Turtle Mountain isn’t very strenuous, a well-maintained trail winds through the forest before a couple of steep climbs up the mountain to its summit. It supposedly takes 1 3/4hrs to walk up the mountain but after 40 minutes we had barely gone a few hundred yards as Guianan Red Cotinga, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Black-throated Antshike (also a lifer for Marcie), Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Grey Antbird and White-crested Spadebill did their best to hold us up. There was also Blue-grey Tanager, Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Buff-breasted Wren and Black-tailed Tityra to delay us. We had a discussion and decide we would just take our time enjoying the birds and not worry if it was going to be too late (after 11.00) and therefore too hot to see anything in the open area at the top.

The birds kept coming with Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, [b]Spot-tailed Antwren, Little Chacalaca, Green and Red Macaw, Ringed Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Black Nunbird[/B] and Coraya Wren occupying us and we tried at both rest points for Red and Black Grosbeak, unfortunately without any response. In the end we decided to come back down slowly rather than do the last climb. Seeing a beautiful Paradise Jacamar and then a Todd’s Antwren made the decision seem right for us.

We also did pretty well with monkeys seeing Wedge-capped Capuchin, Brown-bearded Sika and Black Spider Monkey.

After a late lunch we set out on a boat trip to visit Kurupukari Falls and to see the Amerindian petroglyphs, not a lot of bird activity just Green Honeycreeper, Blue-black Grassquit and Moriche Oriole added.

We then went on a drive through the forest in an area known for Jaguar sightings. No luck for us only some fresh tracks but having been lucky enough to see Jaguar in Brazil a few years ago not a disaster and we did add a few birds though Screaming Phia, Drab Water Tyrant, Purple-throated FruitCrow, Black-necked Aracari, Lineated Woodpecker, Blackish Nightjar and poor views of a male Crimson Topaz.

Other wildlife included Red-rumped Agouti and Brazilian Tapir which Marcie managed to call back across the road after it had crossed our path.
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Old Wednesday 13th November 2019, 20:23   #2
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A few birds

A few birds from Iwokrama
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Old Thursday 14th November 2019, 17:16   #3
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Atta Lodge and Iwokrama Canopy Walkway

Day 5

Just time to explore a trail around the lodge with Marcie before heading down to Atta. We finally picked up Painted Parakeet, Common and Painted Tody Flycatcher along with the usual tanagers and flycatchers before setting off. I really liked the way Wilderness Explorer arranged the handover with Marcie travelling with us to Atta and then John accompanying us to Surama.

The road to Atta is the only North – South access in Guyana and links the country to Brazil. Even so traffic is only very occasional, and it is more of a gravel track than a road, with wildlife such as Jaguar and Tapir seen along the road. It is also pretty good to bird along and the bridges are prime spots for birds and animals. Having seen a tapir yesterday we had hopes of more wildlife today and saw plenty of Red-rumped Agouti and then at a stop for Crimson Topaz male seen well but only distant photos, we had a couple of Giant River Otters in the stream below.

We tried a known area for Black Manakin and did see the female well but the male was heard only but our efforts were a bit restricted by a very heavy downpour and we had no sign of the other target Bronzy Jacamar but we did see both Paradise and Great Jacamar, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper and Rufous-crowned Elaenia.

Along the roadside we added Guianan Trogon and Green-backed both new birds for the life list this trip as they were split from Violaceous and White-tailed respectively, Black Nunbird and Ringed Woodpecker made it a good morning.

The journey concluded at the Atta Rainforest Lodge home of the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway where we were introduced to John by Marcie they know each other well as they come from the same village but there is rivalry between the lodges and they don’t always share info. This cost us Rufous Potoo as the guys from Surama know the only roost in Guyana they claim but it is near Iwokrama Lodge and they won’t share the info with the guides there, so unless you go back to Iwokrama River Lodge with John or a colleague or go with a foreign guide who has been shown the roost you are unlikely to get this Potoo.

The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway is situated near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground I love canopy walkways, Sarah not so much, but we were hoping for good looks at a few canopy species, which we would struggle to see well from the forest floor. We were also looking forward to spending some time is the clearing around the lodge, as Marcie said this a great place for Cotingas.
No sooner had we arrived and introductions made when John pointed out both Purple-breasted and Spangled Cotinga, he manged to get both in his scope for us and also got us Pompadour Cotinga and it was great to see the white almost clear wings as this bird flew. There were also plenty of Purple-throated Fruitcrows around but disappointingly the Crimson hadn’t been seen around the clearing for a while.

The main building is open sided with views across the gardens to the forest on all sides so always a chance that something good might appear. The gardens have a wonderful collection of Heliconias and feeders to attract hummingbirds and we saw many including; Crimson Topaz, Purplish Woodnymph, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Eastern Long-tailed Hermit, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Reddish Hermit and Black-eared Fairy.

John suggested we bird the road this afternoon and then try for some night birds on the way back as the walkway is best in the morning. We were happy to go with this but our start was a little delayed by a heavy thunderstorm that kept us under cover. While we waited we spotted a couple of new birds in Marail Guan, Black Currasow and Black-spotted Barbet as well as another Pompadour Cotinga. Transport was a little cart behind a motorcycle.

Birding was a little slow but we soon saw a couple of Green-tailed Jacamar, Spotted Tanager, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Plain Brown Woodcreeper, Red-billed Toucan, Green-backed Trogon, Rufous-bellied Antwren and Crimson-crested Woodpecker.

Before darkness we returned to the lodge access track, John pointed out Swallow-winged Puffbird and Spotted Tanager nests, as darkness set in John told us to look at a particular tree and we would wait for a bird until 18.15 just before the deadline in flew a White-winged Potoo that we could see well but it was now too dark to photograph it. We travelled back up the trail and John stopped at a well-covered area, I played the call of Tawny-bellied Screech Owl and a bird flew in and perched on an open branch to give us a good record shot.

John had asked for a list of our target birds and we had already ticked off seven of these.

Day 6

We had and early coffee and got up to the canopy walkway to hear the dawn chorus. To be honest the activity wasn’t brilliant but we did score with a few more of my target birds namely Golden-collared (Golden-green) Woodpecker, Waved Woodpecker, Guianan Puffbird, we also saw Capuchinbird, Scarlet Macaw and Caica Parrot from the canopy walkway. Rather than return directly to the lodge for breakfast we walked a trail back and added[b] Black-throated Antshike, Guianan Red Cotinga, Black-faced Hawk[/B] and Wedge-capped Capuchin and 3 Toed Sloth.

After a late breakfast we stayed around the lodge looking for some other target birds – no sign of Crimson Fruitcrow but we did get Guianan Toucanet, good views of Red-fanned Parrot (fan erect), Purple-throated Fruitcrow and Black Currasow as well as all the usual hummingbirds.

This afternoon we went to a sandy area to try again for Bronzy Jacamar and male Black Manakin, we did get the Bronzy Jacamar and a White-throated Manakin but no sign off Black Manakin. On a roadside pond we had good views of Jabiru, Striated Heron, and Anhinga and in the forest added Fasciated Antshike, Spix’s Guan and on the roadside got better views of both Green-backed and Guianan Trogon.
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Old Thursday 14th November 2019, 17:20   #4
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A few more birds

Some more birds from the area around Atta
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Old Friday 15th November 2019, 11:28   #5
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Some cracking birds in what sounds like a stunning setting - great stuff!

Life can’t be too bad if your cotingas are being chased off by oropendolas!

Cheers
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Old Friday 15th November 2019, 11:32   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKinHK View Post
Some cracking birds in what sounds like a stunning setting - great stuff!

Life can’t be too bad if your cotingas are being chased off by oropendolas!

Cheers
Mike
Thanks Mike

Yes certainly beats the Tits being chased off by a Magpie :-)
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Old Friday 15th November 2019, 11:41   #7
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Atta to Surama

Day 7

We decided not to do the Canopy Walkway this morning we would try again for the Crimson Fruitcrow – no luck; but we did add the Guianan Warbling Antbird as well as the other usual birds around the lodge.

After breakfast we travelled by 4x4 to Corkwood on the road to Surama. It was a comparatively short trail to hopefully see the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. This trail is through interesting and pristine rainforest and takes you up a trail through some rocks with at least 2 nests in the overhang. We quickly saw a single male but he didn’t show particularly well and then a second bird showed but still not great. I asked John if he minded if I have a quick play of the call. This had the desired effect of bringing a female into view and then both Guianan Cock of the Rock males returned to display to the female and give us great views of what one of our top targets for the trip.

We then visited a nearby Harpy Eagle nest about an hour’s walk on flatish trails. The nest itself is in a huge tree but unfortunately something seems to have gone wrong recently. We knew immediately that the adults were not around as there were monkeys in the trees nearby. The guys from Surama who monitor the nest said there was an egg a few weeks ago but when they returned expecting to weigh and examine a chick there was just egg shell. They have no idea what happened and are unsure if the birds will return imminently to try to breed again, a real shame as we were hoping to see the Harpy Eagle as we have only seen one before and that was many years ago in Venezuela.

John had kept one last treat in store, a roosting spot for Long-tailed Potoo where we saw not only the last of my target birds but also a chick huddled up to the parent.

Surama

The Amerindian community at Surama is located miles from anywhere. The village is set in five square miles of savannah which is ringed by the forest covered Pakaraima Mountains. Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and they still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears. The guides have lived their entire lives in the rainforest and have an incredible understanding of nature and how to utilise its resources in many cases having previously been hunters.

We were allocated a pretty elderly guide called Milner (it turns out Supriya had asked for the most senior guide to be allocated to us), I’m sure at his best, the guy was good but although he was able to hear birds distantly and ID them correctly, I think he now had trouble seeing and even pointing at birds whne they weren't calling, he just waved in the general direction of a bird, he had a young trainee Jon with him who didn’t know the birds but who had decent eyes so not a complete disaster but having spoken to a couple of guys we met a few times in Guyana the other guides here were much better. Milner also didn’t communicate well – more on that later.

I suspected something was a bit off when he was calling Flycatchers and Birds of Prey wrong and then correcting himself to Jon after I had called the correct name to Sarah. He also made mistakes on tanagers and parrots so not just tricky species. He also didn’t ask what we wanted to try for. I knew that a birder had seen Ground-Cuckoo here just last week, so we headed off to the area of that sighting. On the way we hadLesser Kiskadee, Plain-crested Elaenia, Tropical Kingbird, Savanna Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Guianan Red Cotinga, we heard the Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo and I played the call for a while as we went off the trail and tried to seek out the bird but when we heard some sudden flapping right by us it turned out to be a pair of Crested Owls, one bird flew but the other just sat feet away from us and gave us our best ever view of this tricky bird. I think the commotion scared off the Ground Cuckoo as it didn’t call again.

On the way back to the lodge we added an unexpected Blue-throated Piping Guan, Lesser Nighthawk and Red and Green Macaw. A short night walk with Milner (he only wanted to go a few hundred yards) added White-tailed Nightjar.

Compared to the other lodges Surama needs some work, the room was pretty dirty and full of bat droppings (not all recent) and they are using a temporary dining area while they build a new facility, we didn’t find out why the original area near reception wasn’t in use. However the people were really friendly.

A few GCotR shots
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Old Saturday 16th November 2019, 12:13   #8
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Day at Surama

Day 8

I mentioned to Jon and the manager over dinner last night that I would like to try for Crimson Fruitcrow, Cayenne Jay, Blue-backed Tanager and the Ground Cuckoo tomorrow.

That meant an early breakfast and going back on the road towards Atta, where the Fruitcrow had been seen feeding recently.

To be fair the guys tried calling the Fruitcrow as well as me using a little playback for a couple of hours but nothing doing, fortunately we were seeing quite a few other nice birds including Purple-breasted Cotinga, Spangled Cotinga, a couple of nice Black-headed Parrots and then I spotted a Blue-backed Tanager fly that we all then saw fly into some nearby trees, unfortunately we couldn’t pick it up again with Milner and Jon trying to claim a Black-faced Dacnis as the bird. We tried a few places and saw Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Green-backed Trogon, Green Oropendula, Black Nunbird and Dusky Parrot.

The driver then had a suggestion of where the Fruitcrow was seen recently, fairly close to the village. We tried that area until the rain came but all we saw was Yellow-rumped Cacique, Guinan Streaked Antwren and Crimson-crested Woodpecker, as we walked back to the roadside a small group of Cayenne Jays.
That was it for the morning, not a bad return and we returned to the village for lunch and a rest.

The plan for the afternoon was a walk of about 3 miles across the savannah and through the rainforest to the Burro Burro River. We would then paddle on the river for opportunities to see Giant River Otters, Tapir, Tira, Monkeys etc. It all started pretty well with views of Pearl kite, Lineated Woodpecker and Guianan Trogon as we walked the first mile or two, we then reached a river. We asked Milner if this was where we got the boat, he said “later” and sat down, we thought we were resting and waiting for the boat.

While waiting I tried calling the Ground Cuckoo and heard a response a long way away, despite trying for a while it didn’t get closer, turns out from talking to the two other birders who were here they were trying the same things on the other trail about 800 m away, no wonder I don’t count heard only!!

After about an hour or more we were a little concerned that nothing was happening, I said to Sarah if we don’t start soon it will be dark before we finish, Jon then said “do you still want to do the boat trip”, yes of course I said, Oh – we are still a mile away from the boats. I was pretty angry but just said “let’s get there quickly then” but Milner struggled to keep up with us and then to get down a steep slope to the boat, so in the end we only got about a 40 minute boat trip, no animals seen just Ringed and Green Kingfisher , Black-collared Swallow and Black-necked Aracari.

It was clear it was going to be dark soon and too late to try for the Ground Cuckoo where we had heard it yesterday, but to make the most of the light we just set off without Milner. I have to say I wasn’t happy and stormed ahead of Jon and Sarah only slowing down when we were nearly at the Savana and a herd of cattle were in the forest, it was now nearly completely dark and I decided to step off the track and wait for them as I had a torch in my backpack, just as well I did move of the trail as they managed to stampede the cattle as they came through, with perhaps 50 cattle running at pace just yards from me. We laughed about it but it could have been dangerous.

I said to Jon we would rather he accompanied us to Letham tomorrow and we wouldn’t be going out for a walk with Milner tomorrow morning before we left.
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Old Sunday 17th November 2019, 11:11   #9
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Surama to Lethem and Georgetown Botanic Garden

Day 9

This morning I choose to just have a short walk myself with Sarah relaxing around the lodge before breakfast and our departure. I didn’t see a huge amount just Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Southern House Wren, Roadside Hawk, Tropical Mockingbird and Tropical Kingbird. In retrospect our mood in Surama was not helped by numerous Chigger bites.

There is an airstrip in Surama but planes to/from Ogle/Lethem only land if there are 6 or more passengers flying, we had to drive to Lethem on the Brazilian border stopping occasionally as we spotted birds and at a few pools. We added a few birds including White Ibis, Jabiru, Wattled Jacana, Vermillion Flycatcher, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, White Hawk, Red-throated Caracara, Ruddy Ground Dove, Zigzag Heron and White-headed Marsh Tyrant

Back In Georgetown

On arrival at Ogle Airport we were met by Colin our driver from our last time in Georgetown and transferred back to the Grand Coastal Hotel. Colin would get our luggage from the office and pick up our guide who would take us to the Botanic Gardens and also be with us tomorrow.

An hour later after a quick change and shower Colin and Carlos picked us up, It was immediately obvious that Carlos was a another good guide, communicative and with knowledge of the birds birders want in the area. The gardens are said to host more birds than any other capital city garden in the world, a tall claim.
All I can say is the gardens are very birdy, even with the park full of families as the Guyana v Barbados, Caribbean Premier League final was being broadcast on a big screen from 17.00.

As well as Snail Kite, Gray Hawk, Carib Grackle, Greater and Lesser Kiskadee, Tropical Gnatcatcher there were some really good range restricted birds like Red-shouldered Macaw and the very rare Festive Amazon which we saw well. On trails in the back of the gardens we saw Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-crested Antshrike, Silver-beaked Tanager, Ashy-headed Greenlet and then the star bird of the day Blood-coloured Woodpecker, views into the setting sun though, so not so good for photos but Carlos said he had a place for it tomorrow.

We did try unsuccessfully for Golden-spangled Piculet but then added Plain-bellied Emerald, Spotted Tody Flycatcher, Lined Seedeater and Wing-barred Seedeater which were all target birds for the afternoon, there were also Yellow warbler, Violaceous Euphonia, Grey Saltator, Yellow-headed Caracara, Southern Lapwing and Toco Toucan to observe.

Other wildlife was also in evidence with some Brown Capuchin monkeys and 2 West Indian Manatees seen by the pools.

We returned to our hotel for dinner and drinks, sitting in the bar to watch the conclusion of the cricket. Unfortunately for the locals after winning all ten group matches and the semi-final Guyana lost their first match of this year’s competition in the final to Barbados - so they still haven’t won this tournament.

Parties were thus subdued and all the Guianan flags sold earlier were no longer waving. Just as well for us really as we had a 03.20 alarm and 3.55 pick-up for our trip to the Mohaica River tomorrow.
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Old Monday 18th November 2019, 17:10   #10
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Mohaica River

Day 10

Disappointment about last night’s cricket result from Colin and Carlos when we meet up but we were quickly on with the day. We travelled eastward from Georgetown along the Atlantic coast to the Mahaica River.
The narrow winding road to the boat landing ran parallel to the river and took us through an area that has been mainly used for the cultivation of rice. The area along the river has been well preserved and provides an excellent riverfront ecosystem and holds good numbers of Guyana’s national bird, the Hoatzin, this is closest site to Georgetown with certainty of getting the birds.

Upon arrival at the river landing we had a quick toilet break and cup of coffee before heading out onto the river. No sooner had we set off than three Giant River Otters started showing, even Colin was able to watch then from the river bank as they played on the river diving and resurfacing quite a distance away.

We were lucky in seeing the range-restricted Blood-coloured Woodpecker yesterday as it has been badly affected by habitat loss in the ‘Guianas' coastal region. This woodpecker is now only known to live along a narrow coastal strip which runs eastward for just a few hundred miles from Guyana, however Carlos had told us he know a spot where the birds usually shows. We had to visit the trees a couple of times before we finally got a bird to pose almost in the open for us. There was the added bonus of also seeing White-barred Piculet one of two rare Piculet we were looking for.

As I mentioned earlier this river is one of the best places to spot Guyana's national bird, the Hoatzin, also known as the Stinkbird, or “Canje Pheasant". This odd bird is an unusual species of tropical bird found in swamps, riverine forest and mangrove between the Amazon and the Orinoco delta in South America. The Hoatzin is herbivorous; it eats leaves and fruit and has an unusual digestive system with an enlarged crop which functions as a rumen. It also produces a horrible smell to scare away potential predators, hence one of its local names and when we visited a nesting area you could certainly smell the birds.

Along the way we saw loads of good birds including Sungrebe, Long-winged Harrier, Pale-vented Pigeon, a really photogenic Little Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Green-throated Mango, Amazon Pygmy Kingfisher, Green-tailed Jacamar, Coraya Wren, Black-crested Antshrike and Straight-billed Woodcreeper.

When we were watching some Howler Monkeys, Carlos also spotted the poorly known White-bellied Piculet.

A little later than planned after a very full morning we headed to the batman’s house for an Indian style breakfast and saw the threatened Great-Billed Seed Finch near the house.

After breakfast on the drive back to Georgetown we saw Magnificent Frigatebird, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Little Blue Herons, Cattle and Snowy Egrets, Snail Kites and the mangrove endemic Rufous Crab Hawk.

When we got back to the hotel, we met Supriya for a debrief, she confirmed we weren’t the only ones with concerns about Surama and Wilderness Explorers are trying to get them to listen to concerns and perhaps learn some customer service from Atta staff which they partly run.

This afternoon we took a drive through the heart of the city to see the sites and visited the Stabroek Market area. It was Sunday so not too many afternoon commuters were using the old ferry to board the river taxis which are used to cross the Demerara River. The river taxis are an alternative route to using the Demerara Harbour Bridge and we would be on one.

The heavens opened just before we got on our boat which fortunately was covered, just as well the weather was fine this morning as there was no cover at all at Mohaica. The rain didn’t ease as we slowly cruised along the bank of the Demerara River, just before the Demerara Harbour Bridge, once the longest floating bridge in the world at a total length of 1,851m long we saw our first Scarlet Ibis of the trip.

We also saw Magnificent Frigatebird and Osprey but the light was really poor in the rain that got heavier and heavier. Eventually we crossed under the bridge and tied up the boat near to a mangrove that is a nightly roost of many birds. The birds did come in Tri-Coloured Herons, Little Blue Heron, Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, with both Night Herons coming out, however as is normal for us (four times we have seen scarlet Ibis roosts and every time it has rained) we didn’t see the sun set as the flocks of Scarlet Ibis flew across the sky and settled into the Mangroves for the evening.
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Old Monday 18th November 2019, 17:12   #11
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Guyana's National bird

The Hoatzin
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Old Tuesday 19th November 2019, 14:38   #12
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David, I don't see on your Flickr.com, picture of Zigzag Heron. Do you have any?
I've spent four days on Rio Claro in Pantanal, looking for this bird, unfortunately, I didn't see any, just heard a call.

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Old Tuesday 19th November 2019, 17:06   #13
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Sorry didn't get a photo

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David, I don't see on your Flickr.com, picture of Zigzag Heron. Do you have any?
I've spent four days on Rio Claro in Pantanal, looking for this bird, unfortunately, I didn't see any, just heard a call.

Mietek
Sorry we didn't get a photo.
We also didn't see the bird when we did a Pantanal trip, so don't think they are easy there.
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Old Tuesday 19th November 2019, 17:29   #14
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Wow, Guianan Cock of the Rock looks a bit special!

Great pics as usual David & Sarah!

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Old Wednesday 20th November 2019, 10:38   #15
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Wow, Guianan Cock of the Rock looks a bit special!

Great pics as usual David & Sarah!

Stu
Yes Guianan Cock of the Rock was brilliant - more colourful I would say than both Andean Cock of the Rock sub species.

Thanks again
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Old Wednesday 20th November 2019, 10:48   #16
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Return to Asa Wright Centre

Trinidad Part 1

Day 11

Picked up by Colin at 7.00 after quick breakfast and transferred to Cheddi Jagan International Airport for our departing flight to Trinidad. The flight was on time and we were met by driver to take us to Asa Wright Nature Centre. We spent a couple of weeks in Trinidad and Tobago almost 15 years ago, at that time we stayed in Pax Guest House but as we had a guide who had close association with Asa Wright we were able to spend a day there and unusually had even been allowed down to see the Oilbirds. Since that time we had wanted to come back to Trinidad and stay at the Asa Wright Centre.

The driver gave us quite a bit of news on our hour journey to the Centre, when he heard we had been before. Kenny Calderon our guide for a week back in late 2004, had given up guiding a couple of years ago and now ran a bar that we actually drove past, Oda and Gerard still run Pax but it is a little run down now, but most worryingly he thought the Oilbirds had left the cave.

When we checked in we were told the right room but given the wrong key, the room we had the key for was not very spacious and hadn’t been fully cleaned, fortunately when we went back to reception they confirmed we were in the wrong room, ours had a view over the forest and was much bigger and luxurious, they told us to have lunch and they would move our luggage to the correct room.

We had no sooner sat down for lunch, the dining room has the same views as the veranda, than I was grabbing my camera and calling Sarah, first a Guianan Trogon flew into the tree in front of the window, then a Bearded Bellbird called and flew into a tree giving us a partial view in our first few minutes here. It took ages to find the Bellbird last time we were here.

A bit on the Asa Wright Nature Centre. It is surrounded by secondary rainforest, with superb views across the Arima Valley, the Centre is a non-profit making Wildlife Sanctuary and by most accounts is a world-class destination for birdwatchers. Over 170 species have been recorded at this former coffee, cocoa and citrus plantation, many of which can be seen from the wonderful veranda. A network of well-marked trails meander through the 200-acre conservation area and there are natural pools for bathing.

After lunch we decided to sit on the veranda before walking a couple of trails. We had no sooner sat down watching the Hummingbirds, including Coppery-rumped, White-necked Jacobin, female Tufted Coquette, Brown Violetear, Green Hermit, White-chested Emerald and Blue-chinned Sapphire when the only other guest pointed out the Bellbird in the same tree we had seen it earlier.

On the trails we saw a single Trinidad Motmot, Golden-headed Manakin, lekking White-bearded Manakin, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Orange-winged Parrot and Bare-eyed Thrush.

We just got back to the veranda and sat down when I called “Bellbird”, the Bearded Bellbird flew right across us into the open area of bare branches and offered a photo opportunity for the next 10 minutes.

I was talking to one of the guides and asking about the Oilbirds, he told me that officially they are not doing tours down to the cave at the moment as numbers are way down and sometimes no birds are present. He agreed to ask if we could go down there tomorrow when his boss was changing the batteries and collecting the cards from the camera traps by the cave. While we were enjoying the Bellbird sitting and calling he told us that two couples had been really struggling to see the Bellbird; we later did some birding with Ted and Marti (US) and Dave and Anne (Canada). Sods law just as they were walking up the stairs to the veranda after a day out the bird flew off.

After dinner we did a short night walk – no birds but we did see Sac-winged Bat, Land Crab, Houseman’s Spider, Shield Tarantula, Stick Insect and Moon Snake.

Day 12

This morning after breakfast our planned Guided Orientation walk became a walk down to the Oilbird cave. Dave and Anne also came with us. There was no guarantee we would see any birds and we agreed with Marvin that we would not enter the cave unless the birds were calling and then only to the front of the cave and no photography at all in the cave. It is a nice trail to the cave in any event and we saw Double-toothed Kite, Long-billed Starthroat (we only saw two this trip), Golden-green Woodpecker, White-flanked Antwren, Streaked Flycatcher, Yellow-legged Thrush and Golden-headed Manakin. As we approached the cave we could hear some gurgling, there were birds around, Marvin changed the batteries and then called us forward. Sarah and I had seen the birds last time and even got a decent photo just like the one on the sign. This time there were only four Oilbirds present, down from around 130 last time and all that was visible from the front of the cave and could be photographed from outside was the side and tails of the bird. We were OK with that and Dave and Anne had at least managed to see a life bird for them. We quite were lucky as Ted and Marti despite staying 5 nights didn’t get down to the cave and some discussions were ongoing when we left to determine if a subset of a Motmot Birding tour could go down to the cave on the same basis as us.

Still at least a few birds are back and there was no sign of obvious predation of any birds (the main suspect was an Ocelot) with feathers being found in the same spot a number of times before the camera traps were installed.
On the way back to the Centre we added Red-crested Ant Tanager, Green Hermit and Rufous-breasted Wren.

We had pretty much seen all the target species last time we were on Trinidad so apart from a trip to Caroni we were content to just do local walks.

In the afternoon, I found a fruiting tree where both male and female Bearded Bellbirds were feeding, I photographed the bird on an obvious branch against the skyline so that I could point out the area to Dave – and glad to say he and Anne finally got the male Bellbird. We were extremely lucky with this bird as we saw a Bellbird on 7 out of 8 sessions we had but despite calling Ted a couple of times when the bird was in sight they didn’t get to see / photograph the male despite trying for 5 days.

The other birds we added in the afternoon were Cocoa Thrush, Green Honeycreeper, White-lined Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia, White-necked Thrush and Grey-fronted Dove.

Short walk again tonight and we saw Common Long-tongued Bat, False Coral Snake and Agouti.
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Old Saturday 23rd November 2019, 14:59   #17
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Asa Wright and Caroni Swamp

This morning around the lodge and then this afternoon a trip to Caroni Swamp.

We went out for a walk after breakfast, Turquoise Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper, Bearded Bellbird, White-bearded Manakin, Silver-beaked Tanager and Green Hermit.
Of course as we were going to see a Scarlet Ibis roost this afternoon the heavens opened and the rain looked as though it was here for a while. From the veranda we added Black-hawk Eagle and Orange-winged Parrot.

Fortunately it stopped raining by lunch time as we left for the swamp with Ted and Marti and a local guide/driver Dave.

On the way to the swamp we stopped briefly at some pools and fields, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Pied Water Tyrant, Wattled Jacana added.

It was noticeable how much the area has changed, new parking area, signage around the launch area, proper road, toilets and a covered visitors area and much bigger boats, fortunately we were going on a boat just for us with other tourists going together on another boat. The guy from Nanan’s said they try to keep birders separate as we like to stop much more and go much more slowly. It worked for us.

Before we boarded the boat we took a walk up to the main gate and found a Masked Cardinal, counted as a lifer as we never did do the armchair tick for our list after it was split from Red Capped Cardinal since we last visited.

The sun came out for us and it was caps and sunglasses for a change. The boatman is part of the Nanan family and gave us a lot of local history of how his grandfather and father had been instrumental in getting the sanctuary gazetted and protected. How they had stopped natural gas exploration but his grandfather had then been beaten to death by thugs. We told the boatman that we had been to the swamp before, some 15 years ago and wondered whether he knew the guy that had taken us out back then. I showed him a photo on my phone of the trip and he did recognise the boatman, but sadly he had unfortunately died a few years after our earlier trip.

The boat trip was hugely enjoyable, with quite a few birds seen, Striated Heron, Tropical Screech Owl (this bird wasn’t on our life list despite hearing it numerous times and having fleeting non tickable flight views a couple of times) we saw an adult and then two young birds. Also Cocoi Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Crested Oropendula, Little Blue Heron and Common Potoo. Then we got to the open area, this is the reason people come here to sit and wait and then watch the Scarlet Ibis come into roost, in this particular area of the swamp up to 15,000 birds fly in, along with the egrets and herons. It was so nice to see the birds against almost blue skies rather than in rainy dull conditions.

We also saw quite a bit of other wildlife, Trinidad Frilled Lizard, four types of crab, butterflies, moths etc. with Reticulated Python and Capybara being perhaps the most notable sightings.

A couple of representative Scarlet Ibis shots as the birds including juveniles come in to roost.
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Old Sunday 24th November 2019, 19:38   #18
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Got to say those GCOTR photos are extraordinary, especially the first 2 photos..........the depth of colour is just so intense.

What a bird! Beautifully captured as usual.
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Old Monday 25th November 2019, 10:13   #19
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Got to say those GCOTR photos are extraordinary, especially the first 2 photos..........the depth of colour is just so intense.

What a bird! Beautifully captured as usual.
Thanks Nick. These birds really did live up to expectations.
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Old Monday 25th November 2019, 10:21   #20
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Final days

Day 14

Last full day around the Centre with time on the Veranda and walking the trails. One of the guides had mentioned a quiet area where a male Tufted Coquette fed. Around the feeders and lodge the females seem to chase the males away from their favourite flowers, so apart from a short walk, I spent most of the morning here getting loads of poor images and a couple of acceptable flight shots of this bee sized bird.

Other birds were the usual but we added Euler’s Flycatcher, Forest Elaenia, Pale-vented Pigeon and Short-tailed Swift to the trip list.


Day 15

Our last morning in Trinidad

Leisurely morning just taking photos around the lodge before our pick up for the airport just after lunch.

When talking to a few guys from the Motmot tour group it became clear that Asa Wright was really overcharging for trips out, we knew where to find the Trinidad Piping Guan and the Red-bellied Macaws from last time, confirmed when talking to other guests and when we heard the price that was being charged - US$155 per person I suggested they just get a taxi, in trying to be helpful I spoke to our driver, who was picking someone else up to go back to the airport, but he said he was not allowed to do it as it was taking revenue from the centre, even though he was free on the day the guys wanted to go, wanted to do it and would do it for US$40 or $50 dollars per person and knew the birding spots. The drivers are really unhappy at this situation as what is then happening is that guests will use a driver with no contact with the centre who get the fare, while they have no work because people are not going on the centre organised trips. He was hopefully things might change as it was discussed at the meeting of all staff just the day before.

However, to be safe in the mean time I would do what 2 friends of ours did and just negotiate a price for a trip and waiting time with a taxi driver when at the airport. I would suggest it is then sensible to have them pick you up at the bus stop right by the centre access road to avoid any bad feeling with the local drivers.

Our afternoon transfer to the airport and our return flight to London all went smoothly.

Summary

In summary a very successful and enjoyable trip. We saw over 80 life birds in Guyana and a couple in Trinidad. We used the Restall – “Birds of Northern South America”, supplemented with "Checklist of the birds of Guyana" and Ffrench – “Guide to Trinidad and Tobago” and for planning had various Wilderness Explorer publications and the Bradt – Guyana guide. With hindsight I would probably have swapped Surama Eco Lodge for Karanambu or Rock View Lodge based on feedback we received at the time from other people we met, however in a few months Surama may be back up to standard.
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Old Monday 25th November 2019, 10:32   #21
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A few more photos

A few more photos. I'll post a PDF of the report to make it easier to read in next day or so.
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Old Wednesday 27th November 2019, 11:09   #22
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Easier to read version

PDF and a few more hummers
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Old Wednesday 27th November 2019, 15:33   #23
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A delightful report on what sounds like an amzing trip David and Sarah! Many thanks indeed for sharing!

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Old Wednesday 27th November 2019, 20:01   #24
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Yes, good stuff, as usual.
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Old Wednesday 11th December 2019, 12:11   #25
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Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by foresttwitcher View Post
Yes, good stuff, as usual.
Quote:
A delightful report on what sounds like an amzing trip David and Sarah! Many thanks indeed for sharing!

Thanks - we really enjoyed it
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