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Guyana: Jewel of the Guianan Shield (1 Viewer)

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
With only 10 days of birding on a 12-day whirlwind trip through Guyana, I can only say that this is probably one of the most underrated places in South America for birding that can cater not just to the veteran birder, but the Neotropic newcomer as well. This was my first trip to South America and I can only say that I was able to see 340 of the 364 species recorded on this trip and a great 240 of which were lifers! Some highlights included all 6 species of Cracids, brief views of the Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo, lekking Capuchinbird and Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, seeing 5 Potoo species within a 24-hour period and having 3 different owl species calling (2 were seen) within earshot of our bed in Atta Lodge. On the mammal front, over a dozen mammal species were identified including two of South America’s giants, the Giant Anteater and the Giant Otter.

Before the detailed itinerary I would like to thank our guide Leon Moore from Leon Moore Nature Experience, this man is easily Guyana’s number one birder along with being one of the eBird reviewers of the country, so any rare sightings were automatically approved by the reviewer who saw it! He put together an itinerary that catered to our budgetary constraints and helped three birders with varying experience in the Neotropics find their targets. His ID skills both by sight and hearing are second to no guide I’ve ever had the pleasure of birding with and he will go out of his way to make sure you get the bird you want, whether that is the rare Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo all the way to the widespread (and embarrassing I still hadn’t seen it) Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

Detailed Itinerary:

February 9-10 (Flight, drive to the interior and first day in Iwokrama River Lodge)

All three participants left from Miami on the same flight and arrived to Guyana in the middle of the night. We were greeted by Leon outside of the airport and began a long and bumpy ride to the interior. Only thing of note was brief views of Crab-eating Foxes crossing the road.

The drive for lack of a better term was miserable, none of us were able to sleep due to road conditions and if we could do this trip again, we probably would have done at least one flight to the interior so we could avoid doing this road twice. But there is always a positive and as we made a stop briefly after the sun rose due to me hoping an Orange-winged Parrot was something more interesting, we were able to connect with our only Opal-rumped Tanagers of the trip along with views of our first Guianan Shield endemics in the forms of Black Nunbird, Guianan Toucanet and Black-spotted Barbet.

From there a speedy drive was made to reach the ferry before 9AM and we were able to have breakfast in the lodge and catch a break from driving. After breakfast, one of us took a break since the lack of sleep throughout the night had caused him to have stomach problems (thankfully after taking a well-deserved nap, he was back to normal). However, me and the other participant wanted to see birds and so into the forest trail we went. The main target was to see and hear the Capuchinbird lek, but since the day was heating up, a few birds were showing up to the playback, but the iconic lek calls would have to wait. Only highlights in the trail at this time were our only sightings of Yellow-throated Woodpecker and Rufous-tailed Flatbill for the trip along with our first toucan of the trip in form of the very common White-throated Toucan.

We decided to take a quick break due to the heat and made use of the time for a quick nap. After a late lunch, we went directly to the trail from a different side that was hugging the river at first. Due to the time of day, the birding was a bit more productive, with Chestnut-rumped and Buff-throated Woodcreeper showing nicely, along with a bit of back-and-forth with a Cocoa Thrush and a female White-crowned Manakin. However, the best was yet to come when Leon simply said, “let’s try for Ground-Cuckoo”, he just thought the habitat looked good and began playing a recording, soon after, there was a response and we began a game of back and forth with this bird. Eventually, a second bird also responded, and then Leon simply said “it’s here” and put the scope on it. I blame my bad luck at locating the bird but I was simply unable to see it with my bins, once the other two participants saw the bird in the scope, it was my turn and all I got was an outline as the bird jumped off the view and went running back into the forest. Not the best moment in my birding history, but I’ll have to count this Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo as seen, even if it was an outline bird…

From there, we kept going through the trail and the birds kept on coming, a male Green-backed Trogon was seen in a clearing while trying for Yellow-billed Jacamar, followed by side-by-side views of both White-throated and Channel-billed Toucan to help ID them apart and plenty of flyover Blue-headed Parrots and Painted Parakeets. But soon, we were able to hear what’s easily the second most iconic call in these forests, like a bellowing calf calling from the tree canopy, an active lek of Capuchinbird was in full swing and I had just managed to see my first cotinga, which coincided with it being the bird that made me want to do international birding and placed Guyana as my number 1 place to first travel to. The birds rarely stayed for decent shots but the true experience is their odd call that echoed through the forest. As we were getting our fill of the Capuchinbirds, we heard our next target in the form of Ferruginous-backed Antbird, this is probably one of the most beautiful forest-floor birds I’ve ever seen and sadly my pictures don’t do justice to it.

Once we had our fill of these two amazing birds, we went out of the trail and took a boat ride for Ladder-tailed Nightjar. Other birds seen in the ride included Pied Lapwing, Cocoi and Capped Heron, Black Skimmer, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Tern, and White-banded and Black-collared Swallow. After the ride, we had dinner and went to sleep; finally getting proper rest and getting ready for tomorrow.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
February 11 (Turtle Mountain and Iwokrama River Lodge grounds)

Today marked the first of many days waking up early with the first bird of note being a Spix’s Guan that just flew into the tree between our cabins. From there, we did a boat ride to the trail head of Turtle Mountain. Birds of note were our first Greater Ani and Squirrel Cuckoo of the trip, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfisher along with our only sightings of Drab Water Tyrant.

Once we made it to Turtle Mountain the forest birding began once again, there are two deterrents for this site, the first one is that you do need some level of fitness to hike up to the mountain top, Guyana is a pretty flat country otherwise but this trail is an uphill battle at times and very slippery. However, if you have any decent level of stamina, you should be able to do it. The second deterrent is the chiggers, these nasty things are prominent in this trail and nowhere else in the trip. I got consumed by them and I can only say that if you have strong allergy reactions to biting insects, then either prepare properly or brace yourself if you do this trail. I did the former and the bites still went through.

With that said, the first part of the trail is the one with the most birds and here is where we got many of our targets including a pair of territorial Amazonian Antshrikes, a Spotted Puffbird and a pair of foraging Yellow-billed Jacamars, we came across a female Guianan Red-Cotinga while trying to locate the Jacamars, and finally had our first views of the number one sound of the Amazon rainforest, the Screaming Piha, we had heard these guys before but views were not had until the second day. We also had a small mixed flock with Gray-breasted Hermit, Brown-bellied Stipplethroat and Wedge-billed Woodcreeper among others. From there we began the hike up and the first stop gave us amazing views of a male White-throated Manakin. Little else was seen or heard but we tried many times for the Red-and-black Grosbeak with no luck and saw fresh tracks left behind by Jaguar.

When we reached the mountain top we were greeted with an amazing view of lowland rainforest as far as the eye could see, no signs of roads or deforestation, just a view that would be unforgettable to anyone who experienced it. Sadly, the main target for making the hike was a no-show for the first time in our guide’s experience, but consolation prices were given in views looking down at Short-tailed Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and a lazy Guiana Spider Monkey.

After nearly an hour with no luck, we called it a dip and we got an amazing consolation prize with up close and personal views of a Collared Puffbird! This bird just let us watch it for over 10 minutes and eventually we were the ones that decided to move on with the last new bird of note being a pair of Amazonian Grosbeak that came out to open view much to Leon’s disbelief as these are a difficult species to see, this would be a running theme throughout the trip.

We took the boat back to the lodge, had a late lunch and we went to an area with fruiting trees in the hopes of some Cotingas and Fruitcrows coming in. Unfortunately, we got a downpour that just stopped any hopes of good birding. Only birds of note were a displaying Giant Cowbird, nearly 30 Red-capped Cardinals coming in to feed in the fruiting trees along with the only Blue-and-yellow Macaws of the trip. On the mammal front, Brown-backed Bearded Sakis didn’t seem to mind the rain too much and they kept us entertained in place of the birds.

A quick attempt was made for some night birding without much to show for it and then it was time for bed since tomorrow was a drive and bird day.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
February 12 (Iwokrama River Lodge to Atta Lodge)

Roadside birding was on today’s itinerary for the morning, overcast skies meant that photo opportunities would be awful, but in its place, the birding activity would remain throughout the day. This drive was divided in three sections, the first one was the most productive with over 70 species seen on the main road between Iwokrama to the only known roost site of Rufous Potoo in Guyana. Some of the highlights seen along the way include a pair of roosting Blackish Nightjars, a hooting pair of Amazonian Motmots, all but one species of toucans possible in Guyana, with the Green and Black-necked Aracaris being the first one seen for the trip, six different species of Woodpecker (Golden-collared, Red-necked, Lineated, Ringed, Cream-colored and Chestnut), a grand variety of parrots including Guianan Shield endemics in the form of Blue-cheeked and Dusky Parrots, a fruiting tree with one Spangled and three Pompadour Cotingas (all female) and eye level views of Guianan Streaked-Antwren and White-flanked Antwren.

We then did a short hike in search of the Rufous Potoo which included a flushed and then calling Variegated Tinamou that was only seen by Leon. Once we reached the potoo spot, Leon just said “let’s see who finds it first” after he located it. We scanned around and eventually I was able to spot it and I can only say that it was a very pretty brown leaf-shaped bird with white spots. After we enjoyed our time with the bird we walked back to the main road and I fell twice due to paying less attention to the floor and more scanning in a vain attempt to see that Tinamou. Once we made it to the main road, we also had an immature Rufescent Tiger-Heron showing for photos and we continued to the next stop.

A stop in the white-sand forest was made thanks to the raucous calls of Variable Chachalacas on the side of the road. Alongside the Chachalacas we also heard Red-legged Tinamou and got great views without working for it of Red-shouldered Tanager (another species that Leon says that it’s impossible to predict because it doesn’t care for playback and finding it is dependent on luck). Afterwards, we finally arrived to Atta Lodge in time for lunch and a small break before going to the canopy walkway.

Birding in the Atta Lodge began by looking at the hummingbird feeders and flower garden, sadly most of the hummers seem to have stopped showing to the lodge without a clear reason, these including Tufted Coquette, Racket-tipped Thorntail and Rufous-throated Sapphire, but we still got to see three nice hummers in the forms of Long-tailed Hermit, Fork-tailed Woodnymph and Black-eared Fairy. We tried many times for Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, but all we got in return was mobbing flocks with White-lored Tyrannulet, Turquoise Tanager and Blue Dacnis.

We then went to the canopy walkway and as someone with a bit of vertigo, I can only say that the prospect of new birds was solely the reason I was up there. Sadly, before us there were some general tourists that went up the tower and we got a reminder that not everyone is a nature enthusiast by leaving the only garbage we saw within the grounds of the lodge and using the main tree of the walkway as a toilet. This also meant that the nesting Great Tinamou was a no show and we could only hear her during our stay in the lodge, another bird of note in the trail up to the walkway was a Rufous-throated Antbird that is normally seen in ant swarms, but sadly it seemed that this bird was just passing through, so no swarm for us, but lucky break to see this Guianan Shield endemic away from a swarm. The top of the walkway gave great sights of the surrounding scenery with eye level views of some sought-after targets like Waved Woodpecker, Golden-sided Euphonia and Guianan Woodcreeper alongside some more widespread but nonetheless beautiful birds like Black-necked Aracari, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Purple Honeycreeper and Bay-headed Tanager.

Owling was tried as the was setting and while we waited, we could hear Marbled Wood-Quail from the forest around us but never to be seen. Thankfully our owl of choice was more cooperative and soon we got good views at a Black-banded Owl, but as the bird only showed up when it was starting to rain, photos could not be taken and we went back to the car very wet!

February 13 (Atta Lodge)

Today was mostly to bird within the lodge grounds and nearby road for what I can only call a target sweep. We started breakfast by being greeted with the resident pair of Black Curassows that were hiding for the previous day due to the female being busy in the nest. From there, we drove down to a Common Potoo roost but along the way we enjoyed sights of a pair of Guianan Puffbirds, a colony of Red-rumped Caciques and some very cooperating Scarlet Macaws that posed for photos that just makes you fall in love with these birds.

A late breakfast was had and then we hit the trails of the lodge, these once again were giving targets like presents on Christmas: Paradise and Great Jacamar, King Vulture, Red-throated Caracara, a Red-fan Parrot in a nesting cavity, plus close up views of four charismatic LBJs including the endemic Tiny Tyrant-Manakin with the supporting cast of Mouse-colored Antshrike, White-crested Spadebill and Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant. If there was anything to complain was that we kept missing the Gray-winged Trumpeters that regularly forage in the area and we would not connect with this species during our stay in Atta Lodge.

After lunch, we hit the last trail of the lodge in hopes of two targets we’ve missed so far, Black-faced Hawk and Red-and-black Grosbeak, sadly both of these species were no shows, but having close-up views of another Shield endemic in a confiding Black-throated Antshrike was a nice consolation prize, especially since this one along with our next two targets were all considered by Leon to be birds of fleeting glimpses and poor views after long periods of playback calls. The other two targets were white-sand forest specialists in the form of an Olivaceous Schiffornis that was low to the ground and stayed for photos, followed by a beautiful male Black Manakin, that once again, was seen without playing a recording and it stayed long enough for everyone to get good views.

At this point we were pretty satisfied, but Leon gave us a prelude of him going to try for a bird so rare that it’s not listed in the Merlin app for the region or even in the field guide for the birds of Northern South America. The bird in question is the drab-looking, former Brazilian endemic, Pelzeln’s Tody-Tyrant. Leon played the recording without much hope as he had seen the species only three times before and had only shown to a group of birders once. But sure enough, we got a response, but it was on the other side of the road and when we got there, we were only greeted by a lek of Golden-headed Manakins. After we enjoyed these show-stopping birds, we went back on the search for the Tody-Tyrant and sure enough, it came in and we all got brief views of it before a downpour had us running back to the car. After nearly an hour of waiting, the rain finally stopped and in a vain attempt, Leon tried again from the road, only for the bird to respond and come out in the open for proper views! After that, it disappeared but everyone was cheering for seeing probably one of the rarest birds in everyone’s life lists.

However, we still had an hour left of sunlight and we were going to make the best of it, by going for one of the top birds of the trip, the Crimson Topaz. This bird had been briefly seen by me and Leon on the first day, but it had eluded us since much to dismay of everyone. So, after two days of stopping at every blackwater creek in the morning and late afternoon, we were finally going all in for this bird. We spent over 40 minutes just listening in and see if maybe it would respond to the recording with no luck, during that time a Blue-tailed Emerald made a brief appearance along with a Collared Forest-Falcon that had something big in its talons. But eventually, we got lucky and our target bird came out, showed briefly for 4 of the 5 people present and then disappeared. This game continued at least four more times but on the fifth loop, the past person was able to connect with this beautiful male Crimson Topaz and at least for him, it marked the bird of the trip.

But even with all of that, the night was young and we were about to get the owling section of a lifetime. We started as the sun was setting with a White-winged Potoo boldly responding to the call back and with that I took my worst picture of the trip since I had the camera in the wrong setting. From there, we went to the preferred snag of a Long-tailed Potoo that was missed last night due to the rain and we got it! Going back to the lodge we joked about seeing Great Potoo and being able to see all five Potoo species in a 24-hour period, only for Leon to laugh and say “this place seems good” and then playing for Great Potoo, not 30 seconds later we had this giant of the night fly over our spotlight and release that demonic sound from the treetops on the side of the road. Back at the lodge we tried a second night for Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl and we got great views of this cooperative little owl but to our surprise with would also hear Crested Owl and see a Black-banded Owl at the same time.

I doubt you can say this anywhere else, but in Guyana, you can have an owling section with 3 Potoos and 3 Owls before time for dinner at 8PM. Truly night birding unlike any other!
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
February 14 (Atta Lodge to Surama EcoLodge)

Today we started the day with another failed attempt for the Gray-winged Trumpeter in the white-sand forest. After that, it was driving out of Atta with only a small stop along the way for some better showing Black-headed Parrot and looking at a mixed forest flock for a number of small targets we’ve missed so far including White-chinned Sapphire, Rufous-bellied, Todd’s and Spot-tailed Antwren, and Buff-cheeked Greenlet.

After a bit of driving, we arrived to the clear highlight of the day, the Cock-of-the-Rock trail. We walked about half a mile in, went through a rocky structure and even saw a female bird on the nest, but the true show began once we sat down with clear views of the lek these three male Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock were using. These birds were clearly the trip birds and they knew it, we spent the better part of an hour just watching them and even when we had a Marial Guan showing close to us, we cared little and just focused on these bright orange birds that are engrained in my mind whenever I think of Guyana at this point. Honestly one of the best birds to see in any trip in the region and the crown jewel of the Guianan Shield. Our guide mentioned how he wished this was the true national bird, and while that bird is amazing in its own right, its hard not to agree when you see one of these beauties with your own eyes.

From there, we drove once again towards Surama EcoLodge with a brief stop along the road for our first Cayenne Jay of the trip. Lunch was had at the lunch and once again, we went into the forest in hopes of finding those damn Trumpeters! But we had no luck, instead we had a Great Potoo perched at the entrance of the trail, a Ferruginous-backed Antbird hop on a log next to us, and a Capuchinbird come in to clearer views than the ones at Iwokrama due to the fact that our Trumpeter recording also had a Capuchinbird call in it. However, the only new bird of the trip was a pair of Guianan Warbling-Antbirds that seemed to have taken too long to show up in our trip so far.

Since we would not stay in Surama, we drove out early to go for our lodging for the next two nights, Rock View Lodge. Along the way we got to see the brisk change from rainforest to grassland and the main birds of note being our only Black Caracaras of the trip in the forest side and our only Aplomado Falcon on the savanna side.

Rock View Lodge itself was a very nice place to stay and while not catered exclusively to birders and nature lovers, it still had a bit for everyone. Birds like Pale-breasted Thrush, Orange-backed Troupial and Yellow Oriole were present in every corner of the lodge’s grounds; while the grasslands out back gave us our first views of Yellow-crowned Parrot, Buff-necked Ibis along with a cooperative pair of White-headed Marsh Tyrants and the biggest surprise as a first for the lodge, we got a pair of Bearded Tachuris without even trying for them!

At night, we could hear both Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and Tropical Screech-Owl as we had dinner and slept. One thing I should note is that while the food and beds were good everywhere in the interior, it seemed (at least to me) that the food got better the further we went in, with Rock View offering the best food and our last stop in the interior, Caiman House, being close second on the food side but number one in the beds. This might just be my own bias as it was the most recent site we visited, but I can say with confidence that you will have great food and good beds anywhere in the interior of Guyana, just be prepared for showers without heating (but these weren’t too bad after a day in the field).
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Nice report. I agree Guyana is very under rated.
I would rate it most unspoiled country in South America with some great birds. Jealous of Ground Cuckoo as we heard it only.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
February 15

Today started with an early morning in the main road near Surama in hopes for finding Dusky Purpletuft, Crimson Fruitcrow and any male of the Cotinga species. However, the only bird we got to show for it was the first cooperative pair of Red-and-green Macaws of the trip, a lonesome female Pompadour Cotinga and exclusively for those in the front seats, a flyover pair of Caica Parrots.

From there, we had breakfast at Surama with the main event being a pair of Ash-throated Crakes coming out to feed in the open for us! And since we still had some time to kill before the boat ride this afternoon, driving around was the best option to get some more species, these included a pair of Red-bellied Macaws in a nest, a Brown-chested Martin, a White Hawk being harassed by a Crested Caracara, and a Pearl Kite that was being carefully watched by a Long-billed Starthroat.

From there we had an early lunch and boat ride towards the nest site of the Harpy Eagle, almost as if foreboding what was to come, I slipped a bit going to the boat and as a result, my camera now has a bit of Guyana mud on the left side. Boat ride itself was long but pretty exciting as it was a long boat going through a narrow river and a bit of limbo for some of the fallen logs. On the way to the nest, we had views of a number of widespread but still good species like Green Ibis, four species of kingfishers with the hard to find Green-and-rufous Kingfisher being surprisingly common, we also had good raptor representation with Double-toothed Kite, Great Black Hawk and Laughing Falcon being some of the standouts. On the mammal front we had our first ID-friendly bat of the trip in the Proboscis Bat as the one creature we flushed from every log we went under and a very vocal family of Giant Otters that did not stay long enough for a photo.

Once we reached the nest trail, we were mostly greeted by the same rain we had on the ride in and sadly the lack of Harpy was confirmed by a pair of Black Curassows freely cleaning themselves in the tree right in front of the nest along with some Guianan Spider Monkeys howling in the background. A nesting colony of Crested Oropendolas provided a distraction, but sadly no Harpy for us. The boat ride back was mostly the same birds, but we did have some standouts including two different Blue-throated Piping Guans and while looking for a Green-tailed Jacamar, we got a surprise bird in the form of Silvered Antbird, along with two cool reptiles, Spectacled and Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman.

Not much else was seen until we reached the boat ramp with Common Pauraque and Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl making their presence known.

February 16 (Roadside birding and Caiman House Field Station)

Today was our first day of complete savanna birding, but a little bit of birding around the Rock View Lodge grounds gave us our only looks at Tropical Gnatcatcher along with our first Ashy-headed Greenlet and Burnished-buff Tanager.

Roadside birding was our main goal until we reached Caiman House and it was mostly easy to get and ID species, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Yellow-hooded Blackbird and Wattled Jacana foraged in a pond next to a farm, while our first Jabiru of the trip made itself known alongside a convey of Crested Bobwhites and great roadside views of a Pinnated Bittern. A brief stop was made in a dry forest and we hit the jackpot with close up views of Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Black-crested Antshrike, Chivi Vireo, and Finsch’s Euphonia in a decently sized mixed flock. We also were able to connect with a very territorial White-naped Xenopsaris but our attempt with Crested Doradito would end in just good views of Maguari and Wood Storks.

We arrived around midday to Caiman House Field Station only to be greeted by someone’s pet Gray-winged Trumpeter that almost felt like it was mocking us since we didn’t see the bird for the rest of our stay there. After lunch, we took a nice hammock break but by 3:30 we were back in a nearby forest to get all of our targets for the area including Undulated Tinamou, Golden-spangled Piculet, Northern Slaty-Antshrike, White-browed and White-bellied Antbird, Blue-backed Manakin and Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher. From there we walked to the river we would explore tomorrow and were greeted by a pair of calling Crestless Curassows, sadly the birds wouldn’t show, but we spent the better part of an hour listening and tempting them to come out with no avail. We got rained out back to the lodge and we called it an early night since tomorrow was an early start.

February 17 (Caiman House Field Station)

Today we were birding before the sun rose with both Least and Lesser Nighthawks showing well on our drive to wetland we would bird this morning. A trio of Muscovy Ducks flew by and a chattering family of Yellow-chinned Spinetail made it clear where their nest was. The target however was Crested Doradito and similar to other skulking birds we’ve had before, Leon was surprised by how close and cooperative this little, golden flycatcher was. On the walk back to the car we flushed a Paraguayan Snipe and then with a good field breakfast we had a pair of Yellowish Pipits join us. The drive back was mostly a failed attempt to see a Giant Anteater but we did get to see a pair of Bicolored Wrens and a roosting White-tailed Nightjar.

Around 10, we were back at the lodge and had a break until the afternoon since we were able to get all of our targets yesterday, but even from the comfort of a hammock, we were able to add a new trip bird in the form of Brown-crested Flycatcher.

The boat trip this afternoon was mostly a second chance to see a Crestless Curassow and outside of a really bad view me, Leon and the lodge guide had, we were not able to connect with the bird. This was partially due to the skittish nature of these birds, but also to our boatman being somewhat unskilled in delicate actions. Simply put, we told him to shut the engine and let the river drift us to the birds, he accidentally tried to do it without the engine off in the head of the moment. Beyond that, the boat ride had mostly species we had seen before with Pale-legged Hornero, Crimson-crested Woodpecker and an Olivaceous Saltator being the standouts. On the boat ride back upriver, we had over 20 Band-tailed Nighthawks foraging over us and soon after we had both Great and Lesser Bulldog Bats fishing alongside our boat.

We made it back to the lodge for a late dinner and met a BBC filmmaker that was doing a little wildlife holiday with his friends. We spoke a bit and learned his name was Colin Stafford-Johnson and unlike us, his group had luck seeing a Harpy Eagle but on a different site further into the interior alongside Jaguars. It was nice to meet other visitors during our trip and at least one of us was happy to accept the beer they were sharing.

February 18 (Caiman House Field Station to Georgetown)

Today was a long day of driving, but it could also be called a redemption day to get some of the species we had missed so far. The day started really good on that regard with Leon taking us on a back road to finally get distant views of a Giant Anteater! Everyone was happy and excited, but things only got better when we went back to the main road and got a second Anteater, this time it was on public land, so we could get closer and take great shots of this crazy South American mammal. Birding wise, most of the birds were the same, but a brief stop for gas granted me briefs views of the only Sooty-capped Hermit of the trip.

From there, we kept driving towards the coast and a brief stop on the roadside by Atta Lodge gave us great views of a foraging Capped Heron and we were able to connect with one of two missing white-sand forest targets in a pair of Bronzy Jacamars. We made a second stop on the forest where we originally had the Red-shouldered Tanager and once again we had a bird just show up while we were locating our final target, the Rufous-crowned Elaenia.

From there it was a normal drive to the river crossing with a pair of Variable Chachalacas flying over the road and staying still long enough for decent views of the bird. Since we were back to the bumpier side of the road, I tried closing my eyes to see if a nap would make things go faster and they did, until I had everyone yelling if I got to see the Trumpeter that was in the middle of the road! Much to my dismay, I hadn’t and I dropped the biggest F-bomb I had in a long time. Thankfully, Leon said that it was just the first bird of a group and with a little of playback magic, we were able to see a Gray-winged Trumpeter come up to the road and look at us for a few seconds before calling the rest of the group and running across. By the end of the experience, we had a total of four Trumpeter and I was just cheering for finally getting this bird off my missed list.

After that, it was a late lunch on a roadside gas station and the last stop of note was for a Collared Plover in the middle of the road. It was weird seeing a shorebird so far from any body of water or even open habitat, but it seemed like this area to park trucks was good enough for it to forage? The drive to Georgetown continued and we arrived past 9PM to our hotel, we were tired and mostly thankful that the roughest day was over. Tomorrow was our last day of birding and it was to target the species most tour companies get on their first day in the country.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Enjoying this - good read and some great birds; very envious.
Glad you are enjoying it, it was a great trip with some great birds but a few things left me wanting more or to go back. If nothing else my family says that Guyana impacted me more than any other place I've been to.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Nice report. I agree Guyana is very under rated.
I would rate it most unspoiled country in South America with some great birds. Jealous of Ground Cuckoo as we heard it only.
All I got was an outline bird, so not much better here, someone from the group got to see the red around the eye and the white belly, so I'd say he's the one we both should be envious of.

As for underrated and unspoiled, you will get 100% agreement from me, it was amazing how easy we got some really sought after Amazonian birds right from the roadside, when I hear people saying they had to bushwack and try really hard for some of these birds. A great example is Rufous Potoo and Collared Puffbird, they are widespread but they are so difficult to locate that even the person in our group with over 1500 birds in Northern/Central South America had not connected with either species.

I'm both excited and worried to see how the rest of South America fares for me, especially in the unspoiled side, there was deforestation and mining in Guyana, but almost all of it was so far and away from where we were that not once did we come into contact with people outside of the lodges or on the main road.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
February 19

Last day of birding in Guyana and it began with a drive to the Mahaica river for the last boat ride of the trip. Along the way, the rice fields gave us views of the first birds that are exclusive to the coast, these include the Long-winged Harrier, Carib Grackle and the Guianan Shield endemic Wing-barred Seedeater.

Once on the river, the birding took a turn for the better with great views of two widespread but monotypic families from South America, the Hoatzin and the Black-capped Donacobius. However, the birds did not stop there, we stopped by a dead snag that felt like a Christmas tree giving us bird after bird, some of these were Blue-black Grassquit doing mating displays, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Green-tailed Goldenthroat and Blood-colored Woodpecker to name a few. We also had great views at some cooperative Little Cuckoos and a proactive Coraya Wren came out in the open letting me take what’s currently two of the three photos this species has on eBird for Guyana.

After a late breakfast, we went around Hope Beach in search of more endemics from the coast, some of the birds seen included White-bellied Piculet, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher and Bicolored Conebill. We then drove down the road trying to locate a Rufous Crab Hawk among the many Snail Kites that seemed to adorn every corner of the city. Eventually we were able to connect with this cool raptor and we moved on to the mud flats to find a few Scarlet Ibises among the rare wintering residents like Whimbrel, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted and Solitary Sandpiper.

We had a late lunch in the restaurant next to the hotel and I can simply say that it was the least enjoyable meal of the trip due to the food quality. But from there, we moved to other mud flats to see if we could find any shorebirds but the tide was out too far and the birds would not come close.

Thankfully, our final stop of the trip was the Georgetown Botanical Gardens, this spot of greenery was recently opened to the public after nearly two years of Covid closure and we weren’t the only ones making the best of the gardens on that nice Saturday afternoon. Most of the birds seen were repeats from earlier in the trip but some were new like a fruiting tree filled with male Violaceous Euphonias, some very cooperative Mealy and Orange-winged Parrots, and more Ruddy Ground Doves and Snail Kites than we’d care to count. However, the best sightings of the afternoon came in the shape of a cooperative pair of Toco Toucans that seemed to be nesting in the tree by the road and scope views of some Festive Parrots. A special note goes to a flyover Zone-tailed Hawk which was the last new bird of the trip.

From there we called it a day and went on to have a celebratory dinner that I still think about the taste of it a week later. We said our goodbyes to Leon, thanked him for his services and he informed us that next morning he had someone ready to take us to the airport in his place as he had barely slept 5 hours in the last 2 days!

February 20

Early morning flight, thankfully nothing to note, we all left on time towards Miami and finished this great trip through what’s likely the most underrated birding destination in South America.
 
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Bill Atwood

Registered User
Supporter
United States
Sound like a fantastic trip! Guyana is a special place. Did it a couple times years ago just as it was becoming known as a birding destination. Your list is a fair bit better than what we had.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
A few photos from the trip. I should make it clear that I'm a birder with a point and shoot camera. Simply put, no experience taking manual photos in the right settings. So you if go to Guyana, you can get shots like these too as long as you have a decent camera and a bit of luck.
 

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lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
Sound like a fantastic trip! Guyana is a special place. Did it a couple times years ago just as it was becoming known as a birding destination. Your list is a fair bit better than what we had.
A lot was seen but a lot was missed too, including some big targets of the region like Crimson Fruitcrow and Sun Parakeet. Well, you can say it gives me more reasons to go back in the future.
 

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
What an exciting selection of birds, and mouth watering pics to boot. Very enjoyable bit of escapist reading.
The fact that Guyana is treated as the final frontier of South American birding amazes me considering how tame some of the birds were (those Macaws and Trumpeter were literally roadside birds!). If they implemented a better system of feeders I can only imagine how much better some of the photos would have been and what kind of rare tanagers and hummingbirds I could have seen.

Glad it gave you a good escape from daily life, I use a lot of reports here for the same reason, so it's good to know mine had a similar effect for others.
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
I’m not sure I would call Guyana the final frontier in S America? I would say there are far more intrepid destinations to be had if you want - S Bolivia, areas in central Amazonia, particularly NW Amazonas province and parts of Acre and Roraima, Brazil, around Leticia and more of S Colombian Amazon, many of the remote mountainous regions of Peru, and lots of the remote Venezuelan Amazon are far less explored. I have the distinct impression that Suriname and Fr Guiana are also far less explored (or at least far less birded) than Guyana.

I definitely agree that Guyana is far less popular than one might expect given the quality of forest, the birds on offer, and the infrastructure in place.
 
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