alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

Author: Michelle Michaud (page 1 of 8)

California … here we come

3 March 2019

We made it back to the states (Apache Junction – Phoenix, AZ) from Guyana; what a beautiful country and great birds.  Many of the birds I’ve seen before in our travels of South America, but always good to see them again.  And we had new ones as well, like the Harpy Eagle.  That was such a great bird to see – the “trip bird.”  And to see three Harpy Eagles. What a great birthday gift for both Jack and I.

Back on the road again; we left Apache Junction around 11:30 a.m., making a brief stop at Fry’s (think Kroger’s or Fred Meyers) to re-supply food and ice for the trip ahead.  We then slugged our way across the AZ/CA freeways to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, and specifically to Salt Creek Campground where we are camped for the next two nights.  It was a Sunday so there was a lot of traffic on the road.  Seems like most of the cars that passed us on Interstate 10, while still in Arizona, were cars with California plates – not sure what they were finding in Arizona? 

We had read that the Salton Sea was in crisis mode – too much salt, not enough fresh water.  However, the water level didn’t seem too much different to us than what we’ve seen in previous years, but usually the beach is littered with dead fish (Tilapia) – none to be seen now.  We also didn’t see as many pelicans or cormorants as we normally do, but the pelicans may have already left for their breeding grounds.  I’m just not sure.  At least I hope that is why there were so few pelicans here.  We usually visit this area in January.  It is one of our favorite birding spots. 

As I mentioned we are staying at the primitive Salt Creek Campground.  There are six other campers here.  The site could probably accommodate another three campers comfortably.  When we got here two yahoos had tried to drive onto the beach and got stuck – serves them right.  The beach isn’t composed of sand, rather it is composed of shells or should I say skeletal remains of fish, specifically Tilapia.

We did walk the beach and did a little birding before enjoying a beautiful sunset.  There are hundreds of Eared Grebes, Ring-billed Gulls, and California Gulls on the beach and water.  Added to the mix were a few shorebirds as well – Marbled Godwit, Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpiper, and Black-necked Stilt. 

Salt Creek Beach – Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Two guys who thought their SUV could traverse the beach even though vehicles are prohibited. I hope their tow fee was significant.
American Pipit

4 March 2019

We got an early start birding – 7:30 a.m. (well early for us when camping).  Today we birded areas around the Salton Sea, including the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.  In all we saw a total of 69 different species.  Not too shabby for about 7.5 hours of birding.  The highlights were the Burrowing Owls along English Road (six of them) and the Snowy Plover on the sea shore at Sonny Bono NWR.  Oh, and two Greater Roadrunners.  One was resting on a kiosk and another was standing on a pile of dead limbs.  I got within photographing distance of the latter one when a truck came up behind us (this happen a lot) and we had to move, thus flushing the bird. 

I sent a photo of our campsite at the Salt Creek Beach Campground to a friend and her comment was on how bleak and stark the area looked.  Many places along the lake are stark.  The lakeshore is changing – one place we’ve camped in the past that had great views of the sea has changed.  Instead of seeing the sea we now see an invasive plant species – Salt Cedar.  This invasive plant is taking over everything.  Not good.  I hope the state does something to try and keep it in check.  Costly though. 

When we got back to our campground two additional spots were taken and everyone here last night had departed except for one camper.  There is a big RV behind us and they are using their generator.  This would drive my friend Bob crazy.  It is kind of annoying.  Bad enough we have to listen to the occasional (okay, frequent and very long) trains that pass nearby. 

Burrowing Owl
Pair of Burrowing Owls
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Non-native Species)
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Merlin
Immature Merlin
Greater Roadrunner on top of a refuge information kiosk
Surprisingly my only “habitat” shot
Maybe Alaska Maritime NWR could do something similar for Beluga Slough – maybe a contest for kids
Western Meadowlark
Say’s Phoebe – looks like someone left a note
Common Ground Dove
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Sweet Acacia
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Willet
American Avocet – I love this bird
Fun to watch the avocet sweep its bill back and forth in search of food
Black-necked Stilt – my what long legs you have

5 March 2019

Today was a travel day.  We left the Salton Sea early and made it to Clovis, California, around 3:30 p.m. 

Visual Vandalism
And not necessarily good for birds

6 March 2019

We spent the day visiting with my sister Pam, her husband Dan, and daughter Angie.  Angie painted a really cool bird for Homer’s Shorebird Festival’s 6×6 canvas Art Auction.  Check out the auction and bid at https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/index.cfm?auctionID=3710.  Bidding begins April 5, 2019.   

Here is her painting of a Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie by Angie N.

7 March 2019

Today was a lazy day at my sister’s house.  We did laundry; I worked on my blog (Guyana, Part 1); and watched several home improvement TV shows. Jack is glad we don’t have TV reception at our home in Homer.

8 March 2019

The goal today was to get to Boulder Creek, California, to visit Jack’s sister, Mary.  We made a stop at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos, California.  We drove the waterfowl route – about 11 miles, and observed 47 different species.  We like ‘discoveries’ – a female “Tailed Toad”-  a very distinctive looking toad (see photo). 

Welcome to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge – Sand Luis Unit
There are a lot of wetland ponds on the refuge
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
Savannah Sparrow
American Pipit
Tailed Toad, although I couldn’t see the tail. A life toad.
We hiked a trail out to a viewing platform
Viewing Platform
Sheep are allowed on the refuge as a management function
Cinnamon Teal
Blackbird? Is it Tri-colored or Red-Winged. Hard to tell.

To get to Boulder Creek, which is a very hilly, treed area (think Redwoods), we drove the Bear Creek Road.  I think this road rivals the Dragontail Road in North Carolina for the number of turns in 11 miles.  I didn’t count the turns, but it seemed as though we were always turning left or right with precipitous drop-offs and no road shoulder.  And since we don’t travel fast in our van on turns (things go flying about) the drivers behind us were none to happy with our slow-down.  Going up we didn’t have any turnouts so the drivers had to wait.  Going down we had numerous turnouts and used them regularly.  Took us awhile to get to his sister’s house.  Personally, I would not want to live in this area.  It’s beautiful, but the road in and out is not my cup of tea (I’d need something stronger and we aren’t talking about coffee). Plus all the tall trees are kind of claustrophobic.

9 March 2019

We woke to rain.  This area normally gets around 48 inches of rain a year, and they’ve had 60 inches of rain already and it is only March.  Wet, wet, wet. 

At noon we were eating lunch when I heard a commotion outside.  I went out to see what was going on and it appeared some guy was accosting a woman.  Turns out he was consoling her because just then Jack said, “that house is on fire.”  Sure enough the woman’s house looked to be totally engulfed in flames.  The fire department here is voluntary, and they did an excellent job of getting the fire contained.  Luckily with this wet weather the fire didn’t spread through the trees and engulf neighboring houses.  That was our excitement on this otherwise quiet day. 

Much of my day was spent trying to find the best flights for our trip to Uganda.  Air travel has gotten so expensive lately with fewer flight options.  I was hoping to stop off in London and do some birding in the Norfolk area.  A flight on Icelandic Air from Anchorage to London was $2500.  Ridiculously expensive right?  And I hate having to pay extra to get seat selection at the time of booking.  Really???  So nixed the Great Britain stopover. 

Jack’s nephew and family came over for dinner and a spirited game of Taboo.  We had a wonderful meal and an enjoyable evening with family. 

10 March 2019

Another wet day.  In the afternoon we went to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Boulder Creek, California.  The redwood trees here are amazing; so tall and majestic.  We did the 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Loop trail.  Not many birds, although we did see a pair of beautiful Varied Thrush out in the open, and me without my camera.  We also had several Townsend’s Warblers.  During the hike I kept smelling something that smelled like food.  Turns out the park is full of Bay Laurel trees, and thus “Bay Leaves”.  Stepping on the downed leaves emitted the smell.

Start of the Redwood Grove Loop Trail
Jack and his sister Mary – in front of the largest tree in the park

After our hike we went to visit Jack’s nephew and his family at their newly remodeled home – very nice.  And, we got to see the 4-H quail project. Always a delight. 

11 March 2019

Time to move onward.  I always hate to say goodbye to Jack’s sister Mary as she always makes us feel so welcomed.  Love her. 

We slogged our way through the congested San Francisco/Oakland area to Santa Rosa to spend the remainder of the day and night with Ken Wilson.  Ken owns Talon Tours, the tour company we used for Guyana.  We got to meet Ken’s wife Becky who wasn’t with us on the trip.  Both Ken and Becky will be joining us on our Uganda trip in September.   They have a tree at their house that the birds love, including about 11 Cedar Waxwings and a pair of Western Bluebirds – so I got my ‘birding fix.’  We had a very enjoyable, but short, visit.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
Becky’s macaw

12 March 2019

We left Ken and Becky’s house early (6:45 a.m.) as they were headed out for a previously planned full-day Birdathon fundraiser (later we learned they saw 127 different birds in one day).  We departed with them as we wanted to get an early start to Bridgeway Island Pond in Sacramento to try and see the Garganey – a duck species rare to the U.S.  This is an Euroasia species.  For some reason this duck decided to check out Sacramento. 

Surprisingly at this small pond, we had a total of 44 species.  And we did get to see the Garganey, a life bird for Jack and I.  The bird was a male, and a very distinctive one at that.  Hard to miss, even when it has its head tucked into its wing.  The bird was some distance off so I was unable to get a decent photo.  We stayed at the pond for 90 minutes.  There were lots of Marsh Wrens singing away on the tops of reeds, so I had to try and get photos of these charismatic birds.  I counted at least nine, but I suspect there were a lot more than that. 

American Avocet
Canada Goose
American Pipit
Osprey
Marsh Wren
Yes, I love these little guys

Afterwards we headed north with the intentions of driving the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge auto tour route.  Unfortunately, the tour route was closed due to flooding.  Our loss, but California’s birds gain.  CA has been in a drought for so many years, any precipitation is appreciated and badly needed.  So we continued north and went to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  This is one of our favorite refuges. 

We drove the 6.0-mile auto tour route and saw 46 different species.  We were surprised that we did not see any Snow Geese.  Maybe they’ve already headed north for the breeding season.  There were thousands of American Coots and Northern Shovelers.  Ducks in general were plentiful.  We also had seven different shorebirds, including the Black-bellied Plover, which haven’t been reported before at the refuge – at least not on eBird. 

Refuge Sign
Lots of wetland ponds and lakes
Killdeer
Ring-necked Pheasant
The coloring of this non-native bird is amazing
Greater White-fronted Goose
Viewing Platform
Viewing Platform Parking parking lot – tour route
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Bushtit – well hidden
Wilson’s Snipe
Turtles
They don’t mind laying on top of one another

There were also a number of jackrabbits at the refuge.  Guess the coyote population must be down. 

Jack Rabbit
My what big ears you have

Tonight we are staying at the Buckhorn Recreation Area, located at Black Butte Lake.  This campground is managed by the Army Corp of Engineers.  There are nine other campers here tonight.  Last time we stayed at this campground I think we were the only one’s here.  That was in 2016. 

Black Butte Lake
Killdeer
Acorn Woodpecker
Monofilament Line(d) nest
Not a good use of plastic (Monofilament line)
Beautiful oak habitat
Which is favored by the Oak Titmouse

13 March 2019

We greeted the day with a windy morning so we decided to head west to the coast.  We will spend a few days driving from Fortuna, California, north to around Seaside, Oregon, before heading to Portland.  We need to be in Portland by 19 March, so we have about six nights of camping or hotels.  Tonight will probably be a hotel because many of the campgrounds (state) around Fortuna are closed for the season. 

House Finch
House Finch – male in the bright red, the other two are females
Horned Lark

We chose to get to the coast via Highway 36 because it is supposed to take less time than the other routes.  Hmmmm.  I wonder if that sign showing curves for the next 140 miles is an indicator that this might not be the quickest route for us.  Our van doesn’t always handle well on curves – or rather we need to secure everything.  Jack likes to take it nice and slow instead of stopping for flying objects inside the van. Our pace makes other driver’s crazy.  We lucked out and didn’t have much traffic until we got close to Highway 101.  The trip took us an additional hour of travel time than what Google Maps indicated.  It was a beautiful drive however.  Lots of snow up high, but luckily the roads were clear. 

Despite the snow on the ground, the roads were clear

We stopped off at the Humboldt National Wildlife Refuge and spent about two hours birding the refuge.  There was a lot of waterfowl present, including twelve Tundra Swans.  I wonder if they winter here?  An Eurasian Wigeon was present, which was nice.  Haven’t seen one of those in awhile.  We get them occasionally in Homer.  I think last year I had three of them at Beluga Slough. 

Nest above the women’s restroom
Swallow nest
Trail from the visitor center
Cinnamon Teal (male)

Shorebirds present included a Long-billed Curlew.  This bird was feeding next to a Western Gull and they appeared to be about the same size.  This curlew looked huge.  There were also Willet, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and a single Dunlin.  And there were at least 11 Marsh Wrens singing their hearts out – must be breeding time.  These birds get up onto the reeds to sing allowing us decent looks at this elusive bird.  In all, we had 38 species.  The day was sunny, but the wind was fierce and thus a cold wind-chill. 

Long-billed Curlew

We did see a river otter at the refuge.  And a few ground squirrels – too far away to photograph or identify. 

We stopped in Arcata for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant.  We’ve eaten there before and enjoy the food – Pho Hoang on “G” Street.  Then we made a stop off at the Wilderness Market to buy some Humboldt Chocolate, which is oh so good (addictive).  My favorite.  I’ve never seen it sold anywhere else but here. 

14 March 2019

We stayed at the Day’s Inn and Suites just north of Arcata last night and it was the quietest night I’ve EVER spent at a hotel.  Loved it.  No noisy neighbors.

We left the hotel around 8:00 a.m., stopped for groceries, then headed to Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary – a wonderful managed wetland utilizing waste water.  Our first stop was Humboldt Bay, and a good thing too as the tide was going out.  We did get to see a fair number of shorebirds, many of which will be making their way to Alaska in another month or so.  While there weren’t too many near us, if you glassed the bay you could see thousands and thousands of shorebirds in the distance.  I wish they would have been closer. 

Willet
Humboldt Bay

We then proceeded to the “marsh” itself, and spent about two hours walking the trails and birding.  We didn’t get any new birds for the year, with the exception of a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Black-capped Chickadee.  Surprisingly we hadn’t seen a Black-capped Chickadee yet this year. 

Our first Black-capped Chickadee for the year
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow – these birds winter in California. Maybe this bird breeds in Homer?
Roosting Green-winged Teals – three males and one female
Song Sparrow – there were plenty of them
Mallard pair
The Marsh Wrens were singing their hearts out – got to find that mate.
Trail
Yellow-rumped Warbler
The “azelas” were in bloom – beautiful
Love the message – Marbled Murrelets need both the ocean and the old growth forest

Traveling north, we stopped at Crescent City and checked out the sea lions that like to soak up the sun at the Crescent City Harbor.  There were also Harbor Seals present.  We did see a fair number of loons, although most were too far away for me to identify.  Leaving Crescent City we traveled north to our campground for the night – Cape Blanco on the southern Oregon coast.  I thought we had camped here before, but now I’m not so sure as the campground doesn’t look familiar.  We got a nice spot (#16) and I was surprised that at least 1/3 of the 54 campsites were occupied for the night.  I didn’t expect to see so many campers here.  Maybe campers like it because it is six miles from the highway, rather than like many campgrounds that are right along side the highway with all the traffic noise. 

Elk herd in the Redwoods National and State Park
Sea Lions at the Crescent City Harbor
Ah, a sun worshiper – I can relate..
They sure don’t mind sharing space
I love how these sea lions are just lazily sleeping and soaking up the sun
Western Gull
With a few ruffled feathers

We will spend then next two weeks in Oregon and Washington before heading home.  Until then …

IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

Guyana – Part 2

22 February 201

Raining again today.  David from Ireland (aka Swampy) commented that it has rained every day of our trip and we are in the dry season.  I guess the wet season is VERY WET.  They use boats to get around instead of cars, we’ve been told by the locals. 

We got to sleep-in this morning – for me a whole hour.  Instead of waking up at 4:30 a.m. with breakfast at 5:00 a.m., breakfast wasn’t scheduled until 7:30 a.m.  We left Atta Lodge today and headed to Iwokrama River Lodge, a short distance away.  Of course we are birders so the trip took up to 4 hours, rather than the normal 30 minutes. I did bird the grounds of Atta Lodge this morning and came away with two new birds – Black Nunbird and Pygmy Antwren.  The Nunbird bird is mostly black with white on its wings and a red bill.  The remaining birds were birds I had already seen before – either in Guyana or elsewhere.  Surprisingly, for just the morning, I saw a total of 16 species between periods of rain. 

Black Currasow
Black Currasow
Fork-tailed Wood-Nymph (female)
Fork-tailed Wood-Nymph (male)

We made a stop along a bridge after our driver spotted a Crimson Topaz (hummingbird).  This is a beautiful hummingbird that is red, orange, and purple with a brilliant sparkly greenish yellow throat.  I even got a photo. 

Crimson Topaz
Crimson Topaz

At another stop, we hiked a small trail and spotted a Bronzy Jacamar sitting on a branch over the trail.  All the photographers, including myself, were able to get decent photos of the bird.  Jacamars perch quietly on a limb and aren’t flighty like some birds.  Of course most daytime birds are busily feeding while the jacamar is simply roosting (resting).  Also along this trail was a pair of White-fringed Antwrens.  Jack doesn’t like these skulking, hidden birds, but he finally saw the bird well and his face lit up. 

BronzyJacamar
Bronzy Jacamar
Bronzy Jacamar
Bronzy Jacamar
Did I mention that jacamars sit still and you can take lots and lots and lots of photos of them?
Before reaching Iwokrama River Lodge we stopped off at the Mori Forest – sort of a stunted rainforest of sorts. Trees were much smaller than those found elsewhere.
Our local guide “Ron”
Our group following the leader – in search of birds
On the trail

We did another hike in search of the Saffron-crested Tyrant Manakin.  We found it, although this bird definitely blends in well with its environment.  We were also lucky to spot a Red-billed Woodcreeper.  As the name implies, Woodcreepers “creep” up trees in search of food.  These birds are, for the most part, fairly large in size.  They also have good sized bills in which to tunnel into the bark to capture their prey.  This particular woodcreeper has a rather large impressive red-colored bill.  Most woodcreeper bills are either dark or light colored.  But alas I didn’t get a photo of the bird as it was always moving from one tree to another.

Saffron-crested Tyrant Manakin

We made it to Iwokrama River Lodge around 2:00 p.m., and quickly checked into our rooms before having lunch.  We resumed birding with a boat ride at 5:00 p.m along the Essequibo River.  However, after lunch and before the boat trip was down time where we could rest, catch up on what’s happening outside of our little cabin, take a shower, read, bird, or any combination of the above.  I started out birding, but it quickly became too hot to keep that up.  I did see a few different birds, but I felt like the sun was melting my skin off.  Yeah, that hot. 

Fred Allicock building – where we ate our meals (named for our local guide’s father)
Our cabin is the first cabin
Our room
The view from our room of the Essequibo River
Our afternoon sudden downpour
Luckily the downpour didn’t last too long
White-throated Toucan
Kiskadee (Great or Lesser)
Orange-winged Parrot
Silver-beaked Tanager (Male)
Essequibo River from lodge grounds
Some of our group in the first of two boats that went out on the Essequibo River

23 February 2019

We birded the lodge grounds this morning, including a portion of Bushmaster Trail. I was surprised at how many birds there were in the area.  Along the trail we had a number of birds that specialize in eating ants.  Yay!!!  We love ant eating birds.  At one place we heard a cacophony of birds calls and watched several different Antbirds in a feeding frenzy.  The trail in front of us was swarming with ants for at least 50 feet or so.  As they advanced down the trail, we retreated.  And then the next thing you know, the ants are gone.  I guess they left the trail while I wasn’t watching.  Glad it happened though.  A few army ants are bad enough but thousands of them are not something you want to be in the middle of. 

And where there is an ant swarm there is the possibility of seeing the difficult to see Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo – which loves ants apparently. However, despite the ant swarm, the Ground-Cuckoo was a no show.

Early Morning
As we were making our way to the Bushmaster Trail – birding along the way of course – we saw this Spectacled Owl flying low along the ground and then land in this tree.
Chestnut-bellied Finch. Kind of drab on the back but …
… the front of the bird is colorful
Entrance to Bushmaster Trail
Into the forest we go
Trail conditions were good

After lunch we had about two hours to just relax and enjoy the beautiful day.  It is very pleasant here at the lodge and we are the only guests.  Around 3:30 p.m. we gathered for another round of rainforest birding.  This time we walked the road from the lodge to the main highway – about 1.6 km.  A nice walk – no jungle trail, and good birding.  We got to see the Ferruginous-backed Antbird.  This is a beautiful bird that likes to slowly walk on the forest floor in search of food – ants.  Unfortunately, such activity is not conducive to getting a good photograph of the bird.  At least not by me.

Another beautiful day at Iwokrama River Lodge
Badminton anyone?
Bottlebrush Tree, I believe
Giant Cowbird
Tropical Kingbird
Defending its perch or is that food up there it’s defending?
Okay the perch is now mine says this Great Kiskadee
We’ve seen a lot of these two-toned lizards around – Ameiva (jungle runners)
Waiting to start the afternoon birding session – Fred Allicock Building
Grey-breasted Martin
It’s nesting season time so the martins are pairing up and building nests in the eves of the Fred Allicock Building
The Palm Tanagers also like the building for nesting
On the road again birding
Further down the road it became quite muddy from the rains the previous couple of days
Most people get around on motorbikes
As the ruts can become quite deep

Further along the road we had a Spotted Puffbird.  Now that bird I could photograph.  I love the Puffbirds.  They usually sit quietly on a limb high off the ground, but rarely hidden by vegetation.  They do require you to crank you head back when you look up to see them, but well worth the sore neck.  The third cool bird was a Rose-breasted Chat.  This chat species is in a different family than our North American Yellow-breasted Chat.  As its name implied, the bird has a rosy chest so a little easier to spot than birds that blend in really well with their environment. 

We stayed out past sundown in order to find and see the Northern Tawny-bellied Screech Owl.  Who doesn’t like owls?  With some coaxing, this little owl came in close for us to get great views and decent photographs.  We returned to the lodge for dinner, to go over our checklist of birds observed and/or heard, and then off to our cottages to get ready for the following day.

Spotted Puffbird
Dried Cecropia tree leaf – would make a nice wreath
Red Howler Monkey
Spix’s Guan
Luckily no one stepped on this night spider.
The spider was quite large.

24 February 2019

Despite today being a travel day I saw a total of 82 different species.  Not too shabby?  Of those, 21 were birds I hadn’t yet seen on this trip.  I don’t have a running list of all birds seen (aka “life list”) so I don’t know how many of these are life birds.  But you know what?  It really doesn’t matter because I never tire of seeing birds – new or old.  My favorite bird?– the one I’m looking at.

For this trip we’ve had three SUVs for transportation.  We take turns riding in the three different vehicles.  Today, Veronica, Jack, and I were in the first vehicle and we got to see a Tapir walking along side the road.  This strange animal looks half-pig and half small horse.  Bizarre.  Here is a link to check out the Tapir: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapir.

Everyone was happy to see this bird …
… because its not always easy to find …
… the Amazonian Motmot
Beautiful flowers
I spotted this Green Ibis on a log as we were driving by. We immediately stopped but for a dead snake in the road.
Not that I wish this snake ill will, but glad we didn’t see it while it was alive – fleur de lance (highly venomous pit viper)
Roadkill – Dead Chapman’s Swift
Close-up view
Roadkill – Dead Black Nunbird. These two birds are the only dead birds we saw the entire trip.
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Now if only I can turn around …
… gracefully
Fueling the vehicles when you are out in the middle of nowhere without a gasoline station in sight.
Red-and-Green Macaw
Sumara Junction where we stopped for lunch. They have a lot of message signs along the road to Sumara from here.
Such pretty yard flowers – Sumara Junction
This one too
One of our driver’s son. He was very friendly and inquisitive.
Jack sharing his binoculars
The next generation of bird guide in Guyana
Red-rumped Cacique nests
Red-rumpedd Cacique – unfortunately you can’t see its red rump

After lunch, we made a quick transition from the tropical rainforest at Iwokrama River Lodge to the savannah grasslands at Caimen House.  While I do love the tropical rainforest, I am totally in love with Guyana’s savannah region.  Surprisingly we saw more birds in this region where we spent the afternoon compared to the rainforest where we spent the morning.  Of course, I will admit it is much easier to see birds in the open savannah than the enclosed rainforest – less places for the birds to hide.

Leaving the Rainforest
Tropical Mockingbird
Guyana Collared Lizard – on the wall at a gasoline/convenience store just south of Surama Junction
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (first year male)
White-headed Marsh Tryant (Male)
White-headed Marsh Tyrant
The countryside was beautiful
We made several stops en route. And at one stop we found this Mouse-colored Tyrannulet
And a life bird …
Three juvenile “Jabiru”
I so wanted to see this bird
Aren’t they cool?
A Fork-tailed Flycatcher in the middle of the tree. This tree had at least ten of these birds.
Here we are stopped near a river …
… where we spotted this Grey-cowled Wood-Rail
Another one of my favorite birds – rails. This one is large and colorful. More easily seen than many rail species.
And where do you find Savannah Hawks but in the savannah
Violaceous Euphonia (male)
The savannah starts to change to more grasses, less trees the further south we traveled
This part of the savannah reminded me of Africa
More open, more grasses
A Crested Caracara on a post along side the road
They had burned portions of the savannah

Before arriving at the Caimen House around 7:00 p.m, we made a stop at a great little wetland area to search for the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl and have our nightly sundowner drink.  Well I don’t drink alcohol, but everyone else had their shot of Guianan El Dorado Rum.  And we got the pygmy owl.  They have the word “pygmy” in their name for a reason. This is one small owl.  Luckily there was enough light left to get a photo or two.  I told Jack that I think I am becoming obsessed with getting photographs of these birds, instead of just taking the time to really view them through my binoculars – not something I want to have happen. 

wetland
The local community was burning the savannah near this wetland
You could definitely see the flames
Sundowner Time – Ken, Swampy, and Devon (one of our drivers)
Jack and Swampy (aka David) with their shots of El Dorado Rum
A pint-sized owl – Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Nice to see the owl in the daylight. So cute.
Sunset
Our room at Caimen House
With a good sized bathroom. Cold showers anyone? We never did have a hot shower outside of Georgetown.

25 February 2019

We had two goals this morning:  Find the Giant Anteater and Crested Doradito.  We got both.  Yay!!! In fact, we managed to see two different anteaters today.  Unfortunately, the first one was found and rounded up for us by a local villager hired to use a motorcycle.  I guess they wanted to ensure our goal.  I hate to see the animal harassed this way.  The locals feel the anteaters are old women who have died and become witches.  So they traditionally have hunted and killed the anteaters.  Where people come up with such ridiculous beliefs is beyond me or beyond reason.  The tourists’ desire to see Giant Anteater may be its saving grace?  If the tourists want to come to the area to see these large animals, maybe the locals won’t kill them.  That is one benefit. 

Sunrise
Dawn on the beautiful Savannah
Hard to imagine that most of this is underwater during the wet (rainy) season
Double-striped Thickknee (another favorite)
Yes, this is the Giant Anteater
Our mode of transportation for the tour
White-tailed Nightjar
There were several roosting in a copse of tree or on the ground
Close-up view
Pale-vented Pigeon

The Crested Doradito is restricted to a very small, specific area so we were happy to find it at a new location.  Hopefully this means it is expanding its range.  This is good news for this rare bird.  Both Jack and I got really good looks at this secretive bird.  The bird likes to pop up on a reed blade, look around briefly, then drop back down.  After this sighting we headed further into the savannah to another area where the bird had been sighted.  Here we saw our second Giant Anteater.  It was upwind of us and slowly ambled its way to within 20-30 feet of us, before smelling us, and quickly giving us the evil eye and taking off (I’m sure we don’t smell that great after being out in the hot sun and perspiring).  I did take a video of the animal.  I love its markings and form.

This is where we saw our second Giant Anteater. This one walked very close to us.
White-headed Water Tyrant (male)
Buff-necked Ibis
Maguari Stork (Great Egret in the background)
Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl
Brown-throated Parakeet

We got back to the lodge around 11:00 a.m. (it’s hot in the savannah this time of year), and had some down time before lunch.  I like these down times as it gives me time to write my blog and download photos.  There isn’t much time after dinner and completing our daily checklist, which generally ends around 9:00 p.m., to work on my blog.  With a wake-up time of 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., who has the energy to do anything but to fall into bed and sleep.

Village
This is where our guides slept
This building housed four rooms, including ours (lower right hand side)
Gary taking an afternoon siesta
Pretty flowers at the lodge

Later, around 3:00 p.m., we loaded onto a boat and made our way downstream on the Runpununi River, searching for shorebirds, waterbirds (herons, egrets), and whatever other birds had set up residence along the river.  We got to see the Pied Lapwing, which is one of the birds I was really hoping to see.  We got a quick view of the Crestless Currasow, a large black bird without a crest like most currasows. 

Rupununi River
We had the boat on the right
Lots of Black Caimen on the river. On the way back in the dark their eyes would glow if the flashlight was shined on the caimen. There were a LOT of caimen on the river banks.
More juvenile Jabiru
Jabiru
Green Ibis
Large-billed Tern
Cocoi Heron
Red-capped Cardinal – one of Jack’s favorite birds
Gary, Ann, and Taiwan David
Great Black Hawk
Pied Lapwing – What’s not to love. It’s a shorebird
Pied Lapwing
Black Caracara
Osprey
Iguana
A nest in the tree
Not sure who the nest belongs to
We were fortunate enough to get great looks at this Sunbittern …
… on the beach …
… and here taking flight
There were lots of White-winged Swallows along the river
Oxbow Lake landing
Trail to and from the oxbow lake
Owbox lake
Lily and lily pad

The intent was to return to our lodge around 7:00 p.m. but we took a detour to an oxbow lake and spent too much time there.  We didn’t return to the lodge until almost 8:00 p.m.  Not always fun being on the river when its dark – hidden hazards.  We did have a good boat captain, however.  Also, we did see some Boat-billed Herons we typically wouldn’t see during the day, but when we finally got back to the lodge I was one hungry birder. 

Sunset on the river

There was some concern among some of the people on the tour that one of the tour participants was using his flashlight inappropriately.  Our local guide was busy looking for owls, nighthawks, and nightjars after dark, but this participant was also sweeping the river.  In doing so, he flushed a large number of swallows off their night-time roost.  According to one participant, the swallows will now have a hard time getting back to their perch safely and will spend hours circling the area, eventually dropping into the river from exhaustion and drowning.  While birders are bird ambassadors, they don’t always have the birds best interest at heart.  For some the most important thing is to “tick” the bird off their life list.  Us birders need to consider what our activities do to the birds.  It’s not always good. 

26 February 2019

We had a long drive ahead of us in order to get to a particular area to see the Sun Parakeets.  This meant a 3:30 a.m. walk up call and a 4:00 a.m. departure.  Boy was I tired.  The reward for the early morning departure was we did see the Sun Parakeets.  These birds are magnificent – a very bright yellow and hard to miss when seen in the tree tops.  We had a local person help guide us to the area and he regularly sees the birds so took us right to them.  The valley we traveled in is worthy of national park status because of its scenic beauty.   Fortunately, it is part of a local community reserve and protected.   Sun parakeets in the wild are endangered.  Unfortunately, they are favorite birds of avian collectors (those people who like to have caged birds).

We saw this Burrowing Owl on our way to find the Sun Parakeet
Typical road
We stopped at this rather large wetland to check out the birds
The drive took us three hours through some diverse habitat. But finally …
… the target bird was spotted and we got out of the vehicles to take a good look at the …
Sun Parakeet
Okay so I took a lot of photos of these birds
We saw at least 15 at one time
Checking out the Sun Parakeet and other birds like the …
Laughing Falcon
… and the Red-eyed Vireo (possibly the Chivi Vireo)
A type of “Bottlebrush” plant, I believe
Beautiful flowers
Brown-crested Flycatcher

After checking out the parakeets and other birds in the area, we headed into the village of Karasabai for lunch.  Lunches here are pretty basic: chicken, beef, or fish (often all three), rice, beans, cassava (not something I care to eat), and occasionally a salad.  While they generally say don’t eat salads in South America, we haven’t had a problem.  We’ve also drank the tap water (often filtered or UV treated), and the fresh juice drinks – Yum!!!

A typical home
The village of Karasabai

After lunch, we proceeded to drive another three hours to our next destination – Manari Ranch.  We did stop for birds along the way, including seedeaters and raptors. 

We got great views of the Aplomado Falcon
Aplomado Falcon
We left the mountainous area where we saw the Sun Parakeets and headed back to the savannah
Yes, that is Brazil across the river. Our driver told us some great stories about garlic smugglers. I guess people smuggle garlic from Guyana into Brazil. And the smuggled garlic comes from China.
En route to our lodging we saw this White-tailed Hawk
He actually let us get quite close. Generally hawks will flush before you can get close for a decent photo.

Accommodations at the ranch are pretty basic and showing their age.  We got settled into our rooms and then I went out and birded the grounds.  Oh, and there is a tame river otter at the Manari Ranch that is essentially a pet.  It lives in the river but is very sociable and when it hears people arriving it comes running in from the river to greet people.  The river otter likes to “get to know you”.  One woman in our group was really put out by the attention this otter gave her.  He seemed to especially like her, which didn’t please her one little bit.  The otter has the habit of wanting to follow you around, sniff you, and hug your leg.  And, very curious.  We were told to hold tight to our cameras and binoculars as it likes to climbs up on chairs and tables.

Near the entrance to Manari Ranch
We had the end room – quite sparse
O.J., the curious river otter (tame). We were told to be careful of where we put our binoculars and cameras
While Robin hated the otter, Gary didn’t mind having it sniff his boats and pant legs.
Red-shouldered Macaw
This Red-shouldered Macaw and others were in the trees adjacent to our rooms
Orange-backed Troupial
This was a life bird for us (Orange-backed Troupial)
Boat-billed Kiskadee
Bicolored Wren
There is a tree in Guyana they call the sandpaper tree, probably because it feels like sandpaper to the touch. I guess they use it to scour items.
Brown-throated Parakeet
One of five dogs at the ranch. I don’t think dogs are considered “pets”, at least no pampered pets. This one was chewing on a leaf. Very skittish.

We had an early dinner because tomorrow we are getting up even earlier than today – 2:30 a.m. with a 3:00 a.m. departure.  Ugh.  Even for me that is too early.  Jack is exhausted by it and it seems to have exacerbated his head cold congestion and night cough.

27 February 2019

For some reason I couldn’t sleep last night.  I think I only got “maybe” 1.5 hours of sleep.  With an early start I am one tired birder. 

Our goal this morning is to find the Red Siskin.  This is a very localized species, and we traveled three hours one way to see this bird.  And luckily we got great looks at several of the birds.  Hooray!!! 

Searching for the Red Siskin
Waiting for the Red Siskin (Ann, Gary, Local Guide, Ken, and Swampy)
The reason for getting up so early is that the drive to see these birds is long (3+ hours) and the birds are most active around sunrise.
Red Siskin – are primary target bird for the day

Next we searched, and found, the Sharp-tailed Ibis.  This bird reminds me somewhat of the bald-faced ibis found in Africa.  Unbeknownst to me, with my camera I captured the bird catching and eating a frog.  And it was a big frog. 

We stopped at a river crossing (of sorts) and found this Amazonian Kingfisher waiting patiently for dinner to swim by
These large kingfishers
Sharp-tailed Ibis – probing for food
The Sharp-tailed Ibis caught dinner – a rather large frog
Jack wondered how our drivers found their way around the ranch. Of course in the first vehicle the driver was a local guide well versed in the location of the local birds.

We had a great lunch at the Wichabai Ranch house – a wonderful place.  Best lunch yet.  The place is managed by a couple who are not Guianan, so they put a western twist to their meals.  The ‘ranch’ overlooks a beautiful wetland/small open water area, rich in birds.  How many people can say they have Jabiru storks in their yard!  The owners are building some cabins so maybe this will become a future overnight (or longer) tour stop.

Common Ground Dove
Bicolored Wren in the garden
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Buff-necked Ibis
Eastern Meadowlark
Cocoi Heron
Jabiru (pair)
Palm Tanager
Pale-vented Pigeon
Plumbeous Seedeater
White-throated Kingbird
White-headed Water Tyrant
White-tailed Kite

After lunch we went in search of the Crested Tachuri, another Guianan Shield Endemic.  This is a very small bird, but we got decent looks.  The bird moves around a lot so I didn’t even bother to try and take a photo.  Not sure I could have found it among the grasses. 

Roads in this area (a generous term) are dirt tracts with many arteries so we always marveled how the driver knew where to go.  Since it took us three hours to get to the Red Siskin location (Wichabai Ranch), we headed back to our lodging at Manari Ranch shortly after finding the Crested Tachuri. 

At the lodge was an ex-pat couple living in Panama.  We’ve seen them several times throughout our tour.  They coordinated the trip on their own and are birding with local guides. I’m not sure how they are arranging in-country transportation. Many of the lodges are difficult to get to and the road system is bewildering.   Considering some of the personalities on our tour a ‘private tour’ might not be a bad way to go birding.  We have a couple of people who are scope hogs.  They think the trip is only for them.  These are definitely people who should go on private trips – alone. 

28-Feb-19

I slept like a log, only getting up once.  We didn’t have to get up today until 4:30 a.m. (as if that is a decent hour according to Jack).   I don’t think Jack signed on for these early risers, at least not as many as we’ve had.  But we have to travel some distance to get to the birds and there aren’t a lot of lodging options.  As I mentioned, lodging outside of Georgetown is pretty basic.  We haven’t had a hot shower since we left Georgetown.  And despite the temperatures outside, I prefer hot showers to cool or cold showers.  Many of the eco-lodges utilize solar power for lights but evidently not for solar showers.

The key birds today were the Rio Blanco Antbird and the Hoary-throated Spinetail.  It took us awhile to get on the antbird.  The bird was close as we heard it responding to the playback call, but it took awhile for it to appear.  Not everyone got good looks so after going and finding the spinetail (cool bird), many went back to try for the Antbird again.   Since I had seen it well before, as had Veronica, we went to the river (which borders Brazil) to search for new birds. 

Our local guide Ron Allicock – he sat in an open part of the vehicle so he wanted to be warm
Waiting for the Rio Blanco Antbird. Our local guide is the individual on the right (barefoot). He is the Rio Blanco Antbird expert.
One of our drivers (a cousin of our Guianan guide Ron Allicock)
Grayish Saltator
Pale-legged Hornero
Red-breasted Meadowlark
White-fringed Antwren. I was surprised to find this bird in the open (relatively speaking) and able to get a photograph.
Some bird’s nest
Takatoo River – Brazil is only a stone’s throw away

After getting our target birds for the morning, we went to a nearby wetland and checked for the Pinneated Bittern and Masked Duck.  The Masked Duck we found (a small duck, so you really had to look hard to see them), but no luck in seeing the bittern.  The duck – mainly females – were loafing among the lily pads.  Some of the lily pads leaves are red and looked like the male duck.  We saw quite a few species here.  I love wetlands.  Wish we had more of them – a tragedy that so many are lost or fragmented everywhere to the crush of development. 

Wetlands on the ranch proper – there were a lot of birds here, mostly along the far shore
Female Masked Ducks
Masked Ducks – Male facing to the left, female facing to the right (because we know that women are always right)
Ranch roads

As we were headed back we stopped at a few small wetlands to check one last time for the Pinneated Bittern. And, success!  We found one with its classic bittern poise and then a great view as it walked about and then flew off.  This is a large bittern.  There was a little testiness going on within our group with regards to seeing the bird in the scope – remember when I mentioned the scope hogs.  What is frustrating, is that we’ve had three scopes the entire trip.  However, today when we needed all three scopes the most, the two people who brought scopes left them back at the lodge.  And these two people are the scopes hogs. 

For such a short birding day – only four hours – I saw a total of 44 species, of which 11 were new for the trip.  And with the last bird being the Pinneated Bittern, not a bad way to complete a birding tour.  We returned to our lodging for lunch and final packing.

We had to depart our lodging around 2:15 p.m. to catch a 4:30 p.m. flight from Lethem, Guyana (border of Brazil) to Georgetown.  The flight only took about 55 minutes.  We arrived in Georgetown and were escorted to our hotel – The Grand Coastal Hotel.  I had asked Ron Allicock, our guide, to make sure we were given a room in the quiet portion of the hotel.  He failed me again.  I wasn’t too impressed by our guide.  I felt that he wasn’t giving us 100% of his time and effort.  I’m not sure I would not recommend him to any of my birding friends. Of course in Guyana you don’t have many choices for guides.

Our plane

We had dinner at an Indian Restaurant. On the menu they have Alaskan Lobster. Okay….. As any Alaskan knows, there are no lobsters in Alaska. We have crab aplenty (or at least we used to), but no lobster. Jack and I had a good laugh. The food was good, but it was no India Oven, our favorite Indian restaurant anywhere (psst … its located in Portland Oregon on Belmont Street).

1 March 2019

To catch our flight from Guyana to Florida, we got up around 1:50 a.m.  Yes, a.m. – that wasn’t a typo.  Our plane from Guyana left for Miami at 5:35 a.m., but we needed to get to the airport two hours ahead of time and it takes an hour to get to the airport from our hotel.  We flew Caribbean Airlines.  We made a stop in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  Most of the people got off the plane there, but the plane quickly filled up with people flying to Miami.  On the second leg, I had a woman sit behind me and I think she was the rudest flier I’ve experienced sitting behind me – constant movement, jerking the back of my seat, noisy, and totally oblivious.  And all I wanted to do was sleep.  I think I slept a total of 30 minutes on the 4.5-hour flight.  Needless to say I am one tired birder.  Too many early mornings the past few days.  I think I would recommend to Ken Wilson of Talon Tours  that he switch the schedule around so that you fly from Georgetown to Lethem, then bird your way to Surama, then take a flight to falls and then onto Georgetown, finishing with birding in the Georgetown area.  That way you don’t end the bird tour with the really early mornings (like we did), but start out that way.  Recovery time with afternoons off is nice but one’s body never really recovers from the exhaustion of early-morning departures.

I would definitely return to Guyana.  It is a beautiful country and is lightly developed with a relatively intact rainforest (80% of the country) – they practice sustainable logging.  Gold and bauxite mining are a different story.   With the potential of off-shore oil and gas development who knows what the future holds.  I hope Guyana stays “Green.” I especially liked the savannah area – very scenic and reminds one of the classic view of Africa (without ungulates).  Guyana does apparently have a healthy jaguar population.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see one.  I also found birding the savanna to be much easier.  No dense vegetation to forage through in search of Antwrens, Antbirds, Antshrikes, and Antpittas.  Jack calls the rainforest birds “one-second” birds because your view is often very limited.

Tomorrow we catch a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix Arizona.  We will stay with friends in the Phoenix area and then continue with our camper van travels.

Until then …

IT’S ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD

Guyana – Part 1

Jack and I decided to go on a birding tour of Guyana with the hopes of seeing the Harpy Eagle.  A blog of our trip will be presented in two parts since I have a lot of photos.  This is part 1 (the first week, of our two week trip).

Guyana is located in South America.  The country is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil.  The population is approximately 750,000 – about the size of Alaska’s population.  About half of their population lives in Georgetown (similar to half of Alaska’s population living in Anchorage).   Their road system is similar to ours in Alaska – limited, and much of it non-paved.  The climate is tropical and they have two seasons: dry and wet.  And when its wet, it is really wet.  Okay so that is where the similarities end.  Many of the major rivers flood during the wet season and people resort to traveling by boat, rather than cars in the outlying communities.  And Georgetown itself is located below sea level.

Size of Guyana in comparison to the United States

Map of Guyana showing road system (or lack thereof)

12 February, 2019

We started our Guyana adventure today with a 4:30 a.m. shuttle to catch a flight out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, with a final destination “today” of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  We took a super shuttle from our friends’ home in Apache Junction to the airport.  The shuttle arrived at 4:20 a.m. but I get pre-trip jitters and have been up since 2:45 a.m.  Needless to say, I am tired.  But maybe there is a bright side since Guyana’s time zone is 3 hours ahead.  We can acclimate to the time change better.  At least I hope so.

The flight from Phoenix to Florida had a stop-over in Houston (where we changed planes) was uneventful except for the turbulent departure from Phoenix, and we were barely off the ground.  In Houston, we didn’t board our flight until an hour past the departure time.  They claimed a light bulb in the entry needed to be replaced.  Now why that should take so long I’m not sure.  When we departed the plane, the pilot and co-pilot were overheard talking in the gangway about how a panel popped off, screws and all, when they arrived in Houston.  No mention was made of a light bulb needing to be replaced.  Maybe Southwest Airlines didn’t want to scare us?

Tomorrow we have to catch a shuttle from our hotel in Fort Lauderdale (we are staying at the Quality Inn and Suites – a so, so hotel) to the Miami International Airport where we will catch our flight to Georgetown – I know, strange flight arrangements and a hassle to shuttle to and from Miami.  We make a stop in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.   If I had been home when making plane reservations for Guyana, I would have checked into a longer lay-over in Trinidad for some birding.  The Asa Wright Center is supposed to be a fabulous place for birds.  Oh well, maybe another time – so many countries, so many birds, so little time.

13 February 2019

We woke to a torrential downpour and roaring thunder in Fort Lauderdale so we were worried about our shuttle making it on time to pick us up and get us to the Miami International Airport for our flight to Guyana.  Luckily the weather calmed down by the time our shuttle van arrived and we were deposited at the Miami International Airport around noon for our 2:30 p.m. flight.  We checked in right away, then headed to the TSA screening area where we slowly crept through the line to the screeners.  This TSA station serves around nine different airlines and only one screening station was open.  So it was crazy busy.  Luckily we had plenty of time to make our flight.

We flew to Guyana on Caribbean Airlines, a new airline for us.  The flight attendants seemed much more security conscience (seat belts fastened, window coverings up, clear under-seat area, table trays upright, kids in a separate seat belt, etc.) than what you see when flying on other airlines in the U.S.  I was impressed.  The flight wasn’t entirely full, and most people got off in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  So we were surprised when we were told to make our way to our seats (we couldn’t exit the plane) because the flight from Port of Spain to Georgetown airport was full.

I hate when someone larger than me sits in the seat next to me and decides to take up half of my space.  I shouldn’t be penalized for being small, yet I always am when I fly.  The person next to me on the leg from Port of Spain to Georgetown was a large woman with a child on her lap.  I was fortunate that the child went to sleep right away, but I still had to lean off to the side to have breathing space – luckily I was in an aisle seat.  I almost felt claustrophobic.  The only really negative thing that happened on our flight was I dropped my glasses on the floor and then stepped on them, breaking the thread/twine that holds the lens in place.  I will try to get them fixed in Georgetown.  Luckily I brought a spare pair of eyeglasses — I need them for long distances, including birding.

We got to the international airport near Georgetown Guyana around 10:30 p.m. and went through Immigration and Customs with no problems.  Okay I did try to give the immigration officer Jack’s passport instead of my own, but she was nice about it – they never seem so smile, but she cracked a small one.

Our driver was waiting for us outside and took us to our lodging in Georgetown, which is located about an hour away from the airport.  Not sure what the distance is, but a Florida driver could probably make it from the airport to our hotel in half that time.  I felt safe with our driver.  Maybe it was the road conditions that resulted in low speeds.

We made it to the hotel about 11:30 p.m., checked in, and then I tried to go to sleep.  I was so tired.  Jack fell asleep pretty easily.  I think I took about almost two hours to go to sleep, and we had a 6:15 a.m. walk up call.

14 February 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day!  We reluctantly got up at 6:15 a.m. to make a 7:00 a.m. breakfast and a 7:30 a.m. departure to the Botanical Gardens in Georgetown.  It wasn’t far to the botanical gardens where we spent about five hours birding.  There are a lot of great birds there, if you just wait for them to fly by or fly into the trees.  Many of the local birds are beginning to build nests, so we got to see the males in breeding plumage and to contrast them with the females- where there is a difference, of course.  And there was a fair amount of copulation happening too.

I saw a total of 46 different birds.  Not as many as I expected, but was told we had a good day.  I missed a few of the birds seen by others.  That is always to be expected.  Our tour doesn’t official start until tonight, but our local guide agreed to spend the morning with us and provide transportation.

Some of the birds here are familiar birds, like the Great Kiskadee, which we see a lot of when in Texas, the House Wren (southern version), and Black-crowned Night-Heron.  But we had a lot of new birds as well – parrots and tanagers, for example.

We came back for lunch and then a little relaxation time, which for me means working on my blog and downloading photos.  There are eight people on our tour, plus Ken Wilson, owner of Talon Tours (our bird tour company).  I think all but two people had cameras and of those with cameras, only three had the big, expensive cameras.   The rest of us have smaller digital zoom cameras like mine.  I wish more people did.  Those big cameras can get in the way of birding at times.

Our room the first night. We had to move to another room for the remaining three nights. That one has two beds, but otherwise similar.  The rooms were comfortable, if a bit noisy.

Yellow-bellied Eleania

Shiny Cowbird. The females were waiting for the Yellow -chinned Spinetail  female to finish building her nest before the cowbirds laid their eggs in the spinetail’s nest.

Yellow-chinned Spinetail

Lilies

The snout of a manatee

Saw several of these dead frogs

In search of birds

Tropical Kingbird

Yellow Oriole

Striated Heron – this heron is small

Here the heron is looking down into the water for food

Great Egrets in breeding plumage. Note the green lores.

Snail Kite – Adult Male

How the bird holds on is beyond me???

Wing-barred Seedeater – Male

Southern Lapwing

The botanical gardens in Georgetown

Immature Black-collared Hawk

Juvenile Black-collared Hawk calling out to its parent – feed me

Cattle Egret

Wattled Jacana preening

After all that hard work preening I need a good yawn

Spotted Caimen

Orange-winged Parrot

The parrot at its nest hole

This is a Spotted Tody-Flycatcher nest

Juvenile Striated Heron

Immature Wattled Jacana

Roadside Hawk

A different type of pond lily

Ruddy Ground Dove

Gray Kingbird

Red-shouldered Macaw

Our group in search of birds

Tropical Kingbird

White-bellied Piculet

15 February 2019

Four-thirty a.m. came too early.  The first night we were in room 202.  The rest of our stay we were moved to room 110, which is located just off the restaurant area.  Last night the hotel had a special Valentine’s day celebration – dinner, music….  So, at 10:00 p.m. I put in my ear plugs to drown out the loud music so I could get some sleep.  Since I didn’t get much sleep the night before, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  Thankfully.  The Valentine music was romantic classics so easy listening and no live music, dancing, or heavy drinkers.

We began our tour with a 5:00 a.m. departure, made a quick stop for breakfast (of sorts, kind of a quick food place), then went to a place called “Bounty Farm”. Supposedly Talon Tours is the only bird tour company with access to this place for birding.  Supposedly.  I think anyone that uses our local guide – Ron Allicock – probably has access to this site for birding.

We birded the grounds (area behind the chicken factory and chicken cages).  The area is a mix of different fruit trees, unique trees, and varied wet habitat all within a nicely groomed landscape so open and easy walking and good birding.  The highlight for both our tour guide and local guide was the presence of three Slender-billed Kites. They were very excited because they had never seen this bird on previous trips.  My favorite bird was the Chestnut Woodpecker.  Here is a link if you want to see what this bird looks like:  https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/chewoo2/overview.   The bird was behind some vegetation making a photograph problematic.

After the farm we headed to a spot alongside the road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Point-tailed Palmcreeper.  The bird, if it was around, stayed hidden.  We did get a good look at two Black-capped Danocobius.  One person in our group, David, was really hoping to see this bird (life bird for him) so he was a happy birder.  The bird is quite striking (see photo) so I was happy to see it again.  Jack and I first saw this bird in Eucador in 2008.

After a quick stop for lunch, we headed back to the Botanical Gardens with the goal of spotting the Festive Parrot, which often show up there in the late-afternoon.  We were there for around an hour or so, when two of the parrots started calling and we rushed to to spotted location.  We got decent looks of them flying, where you could really see their red rump – a good mark for identifying the bird.  They also landed on a nearby tree, briefly of course, so we got good views then as well.  With that success, we proceeded back to our hotel for dinner and to go over our species list for the day.

I was tired, but unfortunately our room is just off the restaurant so we hear all the noise of the people working and eating there.  Finally, around 10:30 p.m. I called the front desk asking them if they would tell a noisy group of people to keep the noise level down. I’m not sure if they went out and asked them to keep it down or not because the noise level continued (talking and laughing – it carries far in the large room), so I went out and asked them to keep it down.  They finally came to their senses  (maybe my shouting at them helped) and either left or kept the noise to a minimum.  I finally got to sleep, although sleep was fitful.  And we have another early day tomorrow – another 5:00 a.m. departure.

Bounty Farm

Smooth-billed Ani

Silver-beaked Tanager – Female

Greater Kiskadee

Lesser Kiskadee

Ringed Kingfisher – this is one large kingfisher

White-bellied Piculet

Checking out the nest hole

Guess it will work

Roadside Hawk

Violaceous Euphonia – Male

Violaceous Euphonia – Female

These lily pads are HUGE!!!

Turquoise Tanager – Male

Common Tody Flycatcher with nest material

This lily pads are at least three feet across

Lineated Woodpecker

Slender-billed Kite

Blue-and-Gray Tanager

Owl butterfly

Ken – Robin – Ron (our guide)

Black-necked Aracari

Giant Damselflies (we would call them Dragonflies)

Pale-breasted Thrush

Barred Antshrike- Male

Ron Allicock – Local Tour Guide

This is a forest area of Bounty Farms

In the forest we had to cross several bridges – all in need of repair or replacement

Here “Swampy” aka David (from Ireland) had to get a hand across this foot bridge. It was kind of precarious.

Bamboo – you can see how tall it is with Jack standing next to it

Yay! Fungi

This one spiraled

Crimson-crested Woodpecker

We were looking for the Point-tailed Palmcreeper here. Didin’t find it, but still got some good birds despite all the garbage.

Great Kiskadee

Black-capped Danocobius

Greater Yellow-headed Vulture

Ruddy Ground Dove

Here we are back at the Botanical Gardens in Georgetown

Northern Scrub Flycatcher

Little Blue Heron (Immature)

Pearl Kite

Pearl Kite

Lots of interesting trees

16 February 2019

Getting up at 4:30 a.m. for a second day in a row with little sleep makes for a cranky Shell.  We loaded into a van and made our way towards the Suriname border.  We stopped briefly along the highway to look for a Rufous Crab Hawk and found several.  Great markings on this bird.  Kind of reminds me of the Harris’s Hawk.

We eventually turned off the main highway and worked our way to a boat landing on the Mahaica River, were we got into a boat and motored along (slowly) searching for birds – primarily the Hoatzin.  This bird looks prehistoric.  The birds weren’t very cooperative (like they were for us when we saw them in Ecuador and Peru).  When we finally saw them they were partially hidden by the vegetation.  Always nice to see the bird again – one of Jack’s favorites – even if the views were partial and brief.  I always like being on the river.  We had some great views of the Long-winged Harrier and Little Cuckoo.   There were at least five species of hummingbirds observed – both along the river and at boat Captain’s house and yard.

The road we took to catch the boat actually had some good birding as well.  We had the Pied Water Tyrant and the Red-breasted Meadowlark – think a large Vermillion Flycatcher.  The Carib Grackle was present, but not in large numbers like we’ve seen Great-tailed Grackles in the United States.  But the Carib Grackle is a new bird for me (Life bird).

We made a quick stop at Hope Canal, an entrance to the Atlantic Ocean.  This place was busy with Fisherman repairing their boats, with other people just hanging out.  And domestic goats were everywhere.  We stopped here to check out the mud flats, but unfortunately we came at the wrong time.  We should have stopped here on our way to the river.  I think the reason we didn’t stop here first was because the local guide wanted to make sure we got on the river at a decent time to see the Hoatzins.  My favorite bird at Hope Canal was the Scarlet Ibis.  We had four ibis fly over and their coloring against the gray sky was spectacular.  Hard to miss those birds.  We also got to see two Magnificent Frigatebirds.

We got back to our hotel at a decent time, then were told to have our bags packed quickly as they are being driven to our next destination for arrival tomorrow.  Tomorrow, we are taking a charter flight to see the Kaieteur Falls and then will fly on to our lodge at Sumara. Jack’s looking forward to seeing the falls, although the poor guy has caught a head cold.  Luckily I don’t think we have quite the same early morning wake-up call as the past two days.

Rufous Crab Hawk

Rufous Crab Hawk

Gray-breasted Martin

Our group getting on a boat for a trip on the Mahaica River

Long-winged Harrier

Local dog

The river traverses rice fields

Carib Grackle

Pied Water Tyrant

Pied Water Tyrant Nest – you can see the bird in the nest (see the center of the nest)

Pretty flowers

Little Cuckoo

We saw several of them

Up front – Ron Allicock (local guide) and Veronica

One of the houses along the river

Looking up river – Gary on the right

An “Eleania” species.  No one seemed to know which one.  Some of us are leaning towards Lesser Eleania.

Two Yellow-chinned Spinetail

Twig Anole …

… a type of lizard

This is called “Hope Canal”. Lots of garbage around. Sad.

Fisherman doing boat repairs

Taiwan David on the trail out to the coast

Amazon Kingfisher

Dive, dive, dive

17 February 2019

Today we checked out of our hotel and caught a commercial flight to Kaieteur Falls (part of Kaieteur National Park).  The flight was about 1.5 hours and I got to ride in the co-pilot’s seat.  That was a new experience for me.  Luckily the pilot didn’t need my assistance.

We spent two hours at the national park/falls looking for birds, specifically the Guianan Cock-of-the Rock.  We found several of these birds, all in trees.  Hard to miss the bright orange color.  These are the weirdest looking birds to me.  All orange except for a few black splashes on their wings and head.

We hiked to the falls, which were quiet magnificent.  These falls are the highest “single-drop” waterfall in the world at 780 feet, over three times as tall as Niagara Falls.   Quite impressive.  Beautiful.  While at the falls proper, we did see several birds, but most notably was the Orange-breasted Falcon in search of food – some of the many swifts flying around.

At the end of our two hours we hopped back on to the plane and off we went to Sumara Ecolodge where we will spend the next three nights.  We got to the lodge around 1:30 p.m., and proceeded to have a late lunch.  We had the rest of the afternoon off before meeting up again around 4:00 p.m.  Jack, who isn’t feeling well, went to our room to rest.  I went out into the hot sun to look for birds and I was able to add a few new birds to my list.

In the late afternoon, our group went out birding.  The target bird this afternoon was the Great Potoo.  We found two of these birds (a pair) as part of our forest walk.  The potoo feeds at night so during the day they roost (they look like a statue) and are easily photographed if you can find the bird.  It takes a lot of noise to flush these birds.  I know, because our group was making a lot of noise, despite the admonishment of our local bird guide.  We then spent some time birding until nightfall.  Shortly before dusk we had our first “sundowner”.  This is where the locals bring out the El Dorado (Guyana product) Rum.  They even gave each of us a short glass with the Guyana flag on the side.

But we weren’t done birding yet.  Our goal at dusk was to spot nighthawks and nightjars.  We found both the Least and Lesser Nighthawks.  Both great finds.  Then it was back to the barn, so to speak, for dinner and going over our checklists (a daily event).

With birding tours, the guides always handouts a checklist of what birds might be seen on the tour.  Then they go over the checklist each night to mark what birds were seen and/or heard.

By the time we finished dinner and gone over our checklist, we were ready to turn the lights out and go to bed with scheduled 5:00 a.m. breakfast.

Jonathan, our pilot to Kaieteur Falls

tarmac

Ready for takeoff

Off we go … and lift off

All of us crammed into the small plane

Occasional views of mined areas

We circled the waterfalls

Jack getting off the plane

Our small plane

The runway at the falls.  It didn’t seem very long.

Veronica on the path to the falls

Sundew – carnivorous plants

About the size of a dime (each)

Rufous-crowned Flycatcher

Another view of the flycatcher

Tropical Kingbird

The “Golden Frog” loves these plants – the plants are big but the frog is …

small … Golden Frog hiding in the fronds

I was surprised at how really small they are – think quarter size

On our way to the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lek

Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (male)