We arrived in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, on March 16th and after settling into our rooms we headed out for a pre-tour exploration of the Botanical Gardens, which is more of a park and host to over 200 species of birds. Some of the birds we observed during a short period included Black-capped Donacobius, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Red-shouldered Macaw, Wattled Jacana, Orange-winged Parrot, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Lesser Kiskadee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, White-bellied Piculet and Gray Kingbird.
The next morning we returned to the gardens before breakfast and then drove to the airport for our flight to the Annai Village airstrip. The flight stopped first at Lethem on the border with Brazil, affording us a brief fly over of Brazilian territory. After a late lunch at Rockview Lodge we drove to Iwokrama Field Station in a very large open Bedford truck, standard transportation in the area for groups of birders.
Before entering the forest we encountered Savannah birds such as Savannah Hawk, Double-stripped Thick-knee, Yellow-headed Caracara, Crested Bobwhite, Ruddy Ground Dove, and Glittering-throated Emerald. Once we entered the forest, traveling the main (dirt) highway from Georgetown to Brazil, we encountered Great Jacamar, Black Nunbird, Guianan Toucanet, Red-necked Woodpecker, Spangled Cotinga, both Buff-throated and Straight-billed Woodcreeper, while Gray-breasted Martins and Band-rumped Swifts foraged overhead.
As we arrived at Iwokrama River Lodge on the banks of the Essequibo River we were welcomed by the calls of a near-by Spectacled Owl. Over the next two days we visited many of the forest trails and waterways of the river and a patch of Mori Scrub, a low-growing sandy soiled forest on the east bank where some of the birds we saw included Bat Falcon, Waved Woodpecker, Black Manakin and Red-shouldered Tanager. Some of the birds we saw during our stay at Iwokrama include Capped Heron, Green Ibis, Muscovy Duck, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, King Vulture perched in the forest, Short-tailed Hawk, Little Chachalaca, Large-billed Tern, both Blue and Yellow and Scarlet Macaws, Black-headed Parrot, Red–fan Parrot, Grey-rumped Swift, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Pied Puffbird, Black-necked Aricari, Golden-collared Woodpecker, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrikes and Long-winged Antwren.
We also visited a Butterfly Farm venture at the Amerindian village of Fairview where we found White-throated and Golden-headed Manakins. During nocturnal forays we were able to see Kinkajou, Spectacled Caiman, Boat-billed Heron, and Ladder-tailed Nightjar. It was here on the Essequibo River that we had our first sighting of the Giant River Otter.
On the morning of our 4th day we drove to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway and Atta Lodge, our home for the next two nights. The newly constructed rooms were comfortable and the food was excellent. Birding from the canopy walkway was quiet though we did have one fruiting tree in the distance that drew in many toucans and tanagers. The birding from the clearing that surrounds the lodge was very good and we were well entertained by Black Currasow, Golden-winged Parakeet, Caica Parrot, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Eastern Long-tailed Hermit, Swallow-wing, Black-spotted Barbet, Chestnut Woodpecker, Warbling Antbird, Guianan Red Cotinga, Dusky Purpletuft, Pompadour Cotinga, Black-tailed Tityra, Yellow-backed, Fulvous-crested, Turquoise and Paradise Tanagers to name but a few.
Other sightings we enjoyed include Gray-headed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Red-throated Caracara, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Plumbeous and Ruddy Pigeons, Painted Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Blue-cheeked Parrot, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo (excellent looks), Reddish Hermit, Violaceous Trogon, Paradise Jacamar, White-necked Puffbird, Channel-billed Toucan, Dusky-throated Antshrike, Pygmy Antwren, Dusky Antbird, White-crowned Manakin, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Long-tailed Tyrant, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Cayanne Jay, White-vented Euphonia, Spotted Tanager, Dotted Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, and Yellow-green Grosbeak. In addition we also saw Red-rumped Agouti and Grey Brocket Deer.
The next morning, following more rewarding bird activity around the lodge, we left for Surama Eco Lodge, located in the Makushi Amerindian village of Surama, home to our guide Ron Allicock. Along the way we visited a Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lek where we had excellent views of both a male and a nesting female. Along the trail we also encountered a flock of Purple-throated Fruitcrows, the eighth of the nine species of Cotingas we would see on the tour. Along the road to the lodge Ron took us to his favorite ‘Hummingbird feeders’, a group of flowering trees, where we watched Black-throated Mango, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Rufous-throated Sapphire, White-chinned Sapphire, Black-eared Fairy and Long-billed Starthroat.
Early on our first morning in Surama we headed into the forest in search of a reported Harpy Eagle. With great delight we watched the female bird perched close to her nest, a life bird for all on the tour. On the way back we watched a pair of Black-tailed Trogons excavating their nest in the side of a termite nest. During our stay in Surama we also saw Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Pale-vented Pigeon, brown-throated Parakeet, a ‘day-roosting’ pair of Mottled Owls, Great Potoo, also at a day-roost, Channel-billed and Red-billed Toucans, Ringed Woodpecker, Screaming Piha, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Variegated Flycatcher, Fulvous-crested Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Grassland Sparrow, and Moriche Oriole. We also encountered a very aggressive group of Black Spider Monkeys along one of the trails.
Leaving Surama, we drove into the Rupununi Savannah towards Rockview Lodge, our home for the night. During our brief stay here we encountered Buff-throated Ibis, a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls, Burrowing Owls at a nest site, Toco Toucan, White-tailed Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Southern Lapwing, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Nacunda Nighthawk, Glittering-throated Emerald, Barred Antshrike, Short-crested Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Pale-breasted Thrush, Burnished-buff Tanager, Gray Seedeater and Wedge-tailed Grass Finch.
On the morning of the ninth day of the tour we drove to Ginep Landing, a patch of bare soil on the banks of the Rupununi River, where we met the boats that took us up-river to Karanambu Ranch, our home for the next three nights. The ‘transfer’ took about 2 ½ to 3 hours including birding along the way and a stop at a riverbank beach for the traditional Karanambu Rum Punch and a look at a small Mata Mata Turtle, my kind of birding. Our sightings included Pearl Kite, a pair of Jabiru Storks standing atop their enormous nest, a White Hawk soaring above the river, Anhinga, Cocoi Heron, Osprey, Great Black Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Pied Lapwing, both Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Lineated Woodpecker and Red-capped Cardinal.
Our time at Karanambu, a working cattle ranch, ecolodge, and Giant River Otter conservation center, was spent exploring the many expansive habitats of this part of the Rupununi. Rivers, oxbow lakes, fresh water wetlands and woodland and gallery forests make up this vast habitat. The river trips offered us wonderful sightings of Black Caiman, Giant River Otter, Capybara, Crestless Curassow, Neotropical Cormorant, nine species of herons and egrets including Rufescent Tiger Heron, Rosette Spoonbill, Roadside Hawk, Least and Band-tailed Nighthawks, Green Kingfisher, Green-tailed Jacamar, and Finsch’s Euphonia.
In the forests we found Squirrel Cuckoo, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Pale-legged Hornero, Black-banded Woodcreeper, White-fringed Antwren, White-bellied Antbird, both Short-tailed and Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrants, ‘leking’Capuchinbirds, our ninth cotinga for the tour, Blue-backed Manakin and Lemon-chested Greenlet. Crested Oropendola and White-tipped Doves were resident birds in or under the very large Mango trees at the lodge, as was the Tropical Screech Owl that called outside our rooms each night. We visited many of the oxbow lakes by trail and by boat, and sometimes a combination of both, on one occasion finding a troop of Squirrel Monkeys foraging amongst the trees bordering the lake.
One evening we watched the world’s largest water lily, Victoria Amazonica, open its flowers and attracting a beetle for pollination purposes, all while we sipped rum punch in the setting sun. The next evening as we watched two Sunbitterns foraging along the banks of an oxbow lake, we were treated to the appearance of a Tapir or Bush Cow as the locals refer to it. This, the largest of South American mammals, made its way to the lake, drank, then slowly waded across and disappeared into the forest bordering the far bank.
While searching the grasslands early one morning we found the first of the four Giant Anteaters we were to see. Locating this wonderful and strangely proportioned animal was a much-anticipated highlight for many in the group, though seemingly abundant in the area, a sighting is by no means a sure thing. Grassland birds we watched included Eared Dove, Bearded Tachuri, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Red-breasted Blackbird, Vermillion Flycatcher, Grassland Yellow-Finch and Ruddy–breasted Seedeaters. On the many ponds and wetlands we visited in the savannah we found both Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Pinnated Bittern, Striated Heron, Sharp-tailed and Buff-throated Ibis, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Purple and Azure Gallinules, Solitary Sandpiper, Wattled Jacana and Yellow-billed Tern.
On the morning of day 12 we drove to the ranch airstrip to board our charter flight to Kaiteur Falls where we were able to spend some time observing the spectacular 741 ft sheer drop. During the last hour of our time at the falls we were the only people present. Our flight to the falls, which lasted for just over an hour, was uneventful though I consider flying continuously over untouched rainforest for that length of time to be an amazing event. The ability to view the falls from both the air and the ground is truly memorable. An added bonus was the cock-of the- rock lek located at the site, as was the great looks we had of a female Tufted Coquette. In addition we watched White-collared and White-tipped Swifts, Red-shouldered Tanager and Banaquit. Our day ended as our charter flight transported us from the falls to Georgetown.
Our final day of birding in Guyana began with a drive along the coast toward the town of Mahaica and the Mahaica River where our target bird was the Hoatzin, the national bird of Guyana. Additional birds we saw along the river from our small open boat include Common Black Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Black-collared Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Striped Cuckoo, White-bellied Piculet, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Southern House Wren, Blue-black Grassquit, Wing-barred Seedeater, Carib Grackle and Yellow Oriole. While driving back along the coast toward Georgetown we found Rufous Crab Hawk and numerous waders taking advantage of the low tide to forage in the mudflats. Among them were Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Scarlet Ibis.
We ended our visit to the country of Guyana with an afternoon tour of the historical landmarks of the city of Georgetown. During our tour of the country we had seen and heard a total of 332 bird species and witnessed some of the abundant mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects that make this part of the world their home.
Still on Cloud Nine
Hello Ken, I am still on Cloud 9 over that wonderful trip to Guyana. The best trip to South America that I have ever had. My personal list was just under 300 species and 86 (probably more) were Life Birds for me. I don’t know if I would climb the Panorama trail again but other than that I think the time at each lodge was just about right and all of the walks, boat rides, and drives were great birding experiences. Ron is an incredible birding guide. So between the two of you, we could hardly miss a sighting.