18 – 27 JANUARY 2020
By Eduardo Ormaeche
This was the first Neotropical 2020 Birding Ecotours trip, a shortened version of our set-departure Guyana trip. With only 10 days available we did our best to provide a great experience in this amazing country. Guyana, probably one of the least-known countries in South America, is synonymous of wilderness. With most of its forest still untouched, the country provides amazing landscapes, stunning wildlife, and great adventure. Our trip was focused on finding most of the Guiana Shield specialties, such as Guianan Trogon, Guianan Puffbird, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Guianan Toucanet, Guianan Tyrannulet, Guianan Streaked Antwren, and Todd’s Antwren. In addition to this selection of birds Guyana is great for many species that are difficult to see in other countries, such as Blood-colored Woodpecker, White-bellied Piculet, Rufous Crab Hawk, Crimson Fruitcrow, Black Nunbird, Capuchinbird, Grey-winged Trumpeter, White-winged Potoo, Bearded Tachuri, Black Curassow, Crestless Curassow, Crimson Topaz, and Red-and-black Grosbeak, and we saw all these species remarkably well during our 10-day trip.
Even though Guyana is a great destination the access to some birding and wildlife hotspots is not well developed, which increases the number of flights to take in order to reduce driving time and be able to explore the major number of sites in a 10- or 14-day trip. During this trip we were able to explore the Georgetown Botanical Gardens, the amazing Kaieteur Falls, the beautiful Rupununi Savanna in the south, and the Iwokrama Rainforest with the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway introducing us to many Guyana jewels. Please check our Guyana set-departure tour, which also includes an extension to look for Sun Parakeet, Red Siskin, Hoary-throated Spinetail, and Rio Branco Antbird.
Day 1, 18 January 2020. Arrival at Georgetown and transfer to Cara Lodge
We had a late arrive at Cheddi Jagan International Airport serving Georgetown and transferred to the beautiful Cara Lodge.
Day 2, 19 January 2020. Georgetown Botanical Gardens, Kaieteur National Park
We had an early start to drive to the Georgetown Botanical Gardens, which provides pleasant introductory birding to Guyana. We had a great morning, finding great species such as Toco Toucan, Red-shouldered Macaw, Festive Amazon, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Southern Mealy Amazon, Orange-winged Amazon, Black-necked Aracari, Yellow Oriole, Violaceous Euphonia, Bat Falcon, Cinnamon Attila, Black-capped Donacobious, Great Horned Owl roosting at daytime, and Snail Kite. Other finds included Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Martin, House Wren, Tropical Kingbird, and Silver-beaked, Blue-grey, Palm, and Turquoise Tanagers. We were very lucky in finding two of the main targets for the Botanical Gardens, White-bellied Piculet and Blood-colored Woodpecker.
After two hours of intense birding and seeing West Indian Manatee in the ponds of the Georgetown Botanical Gardens as well we had found all our main targets and returned to Cara Lodge for breakfast. Then we were transferred to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport to take our round-trip flight to the Kaieteur Falls. The flight provided stunning views of hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainforest along the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers.
Kaieteur Falls is the world’s largest single-drop waterfall by the volume of water flowing over it. It is about four times higher than Niagara Falls, and about twice the height of Victoria Falls with a height of 226 meters/741feet. Once we entered Kaieteur National Park we hiked to a waterfall viewpoint, where we had incredible views of Orange-breasted Falcon. After admiring the falls with excellent views we returned to the park headquarters after getting great views of another obligatory species in the country, the beautiful Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. On our flight back to Georgetown we had dramatic views of the falls from the plane. We enjoyed our tasty dinner at Cara Lodge to celebrate our first great day in Guyana.
Day 3, 20 January 2020. Flight to Lethem and 4×4 transfer to Karanambu Lodge
From Eugene Correia International Airport again we took a flight to Lethem, a remote town just on the border with Brazil in south-western Guyana. Here we were picked up by a 4×4 vehicle for a long drive to Karanambu Lodge in the northern Rupununi region. After lunch we went on a boat trip, which provided great birding with species such as Green Ibis, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Black Skimmer, Large-billed Tern, Sunbittern, Cocoi Heron, Great Black Hawk, Western Osprey, Boat-billed Heron, Capped Heron, Ringed, Green, and Amazon Kingfishers, Muscovy Duck, Pale-vented Pigeon, Wattled Jacana, and Jabiru.
A magical Guianan sunrise!
Day 4, 21 January 2020. Karanambu grasslands and boat rides along the Rupununi River
Today we explored the Rupununi grasslands, hoping for Giant Anteater and Bearded Tachuri. We had good luck with Bearded Tachuri, and this is probably the best place to see this species. We also found Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Short-crested Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Grassland Sparrow, Red-breasted Blackbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Buff-necked Ibis, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, White-tailed Hawk, Plain-breasted and Common Ground Doves, Southern Lapwing, Pearl Kite, Savanna Hawk, and Grassland Yellow Finch. We checked a pond and saw two Pinnated Bitterns, White-faced Whistling Duck, and our second target of the morning, Crested Doradito. No matter how hard our trackers worked, though, we could not find the Giant Anteater, but we were fine with that since we had had brilliant views of it in Brazil last year. We returned to the lodge for a short break during the midday heat and enjoyed a nice break.
In the afternoon we made another boat trip, having great views of the species we had seen on the previous day plus Long-winged Harrier, Plumbeous Kite, Double-toothed Kite, Red-and-green Macaw, and brief but great views of Crestless Curassow. We also visited an oxbow lake to see the amazing Giant Water Lily (Victoria amazonica), the world’s largest water lily and the national flower of Guyana. At dusk we returned to the lodge, seeing Band-tailed Nighthawk and Tropical Screech Owl close to it.
Giant Water Lilies
Day 5, 22 January 2020. Capuchinbird lek and transfer to Surama Eco-Lodge
A short hike at dawn took us to the Capuchinbird trail at Karanambu Lodge. Just at dawn we heard the incredible call of this sought-after species, and it did not take long until we had two birds displaying above our heads. We thought the experience of having these birds displaying at the lek was an incredible experience as we left the lek in total ecstasy. We also found other great birds throughout the morning. The seldom-seen Tiny Hawk was seen beautifully, and in addition, we had good views of Spotted Puffbird, White-flanked Antwren, Chestnut Woodpecker, White-bellied Antbird, Olivaceous, Buff-throated, and Wedge-billed Woodcreepers, Screaming Piha, Blue-backed Manakin, Lineated Woodpecker, and Green-backed Trogon.
We returned to the lodge to have breakfast and then we checked out to transfer by river and land to the Surama-Eco-Lodge. Our boat trip took us to the Ginep Landing, where we waited for our land transportation. While we waited we managed to see Green-tailed Jacamar, Green-backed Trogon, Northern Slaty Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, and Red-eyed Vireo. On the road trip we spotted a number of good species such as a pair of King Vultures perching by the road, Pied Water Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Wood Stork, Cocoi Heron, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Scaled Pigeon, and Grey-lined Hawk.
After arrival at the Surama Eco-Lodge, a small lodge run by the indigenous community of Surama, we spent the afternoon exploring a trail where sometimes the shy Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo had been seen, but the trail was very quiet. We did, however, find Common Potoo and Least Nighthawk roosting at daytime, Great Tinamou, and a Tiny Tyrant-Manakin walking across the trail. On return to the lodge we saw several Crested Oropendolas and Yellow-rumped Caciques as well as Piratic Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Palm and Blue-grey Tanagers, Yellow-bellied Seedeaters, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-tipped Dove, and White-throated Toucan. The night was awesome, with both Spectacled and Crested Owl providing good views along the main trail.
Day 6, 23 January 2020. Birding around Surama Eco-Lodge
We spent the morning birding along the main road next to the lodge, where we had great views of Caica Parrot, Painted Parakeet, Black-headed Parrot, Red-throated and Yellow-headed Caracara, Violaceous Euphonia, Green Aracari, Band-rumped Swift, Green-backed Trogon, White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans, Lineated Woodpecker, Glittering-throated Emerald, Paradise Jacamar, and Black Nunbird. What a great morning!
We went to explore the famous Harpy Eagle trail, where a few years ago a Harpy Eagle nest had been active, but there had not been any recent records of this mythical species. However, the hike was well worth it as we found a splendid Long-tailed Potoo perching at daytime. The afternoon was rather quiet along the main trail, and a short canoe ride along the Burro-Burro River was not as productive as we had thought. But we had a fabulous morning indeed, with several lifers for everybody!
Day 7, 24 January 2020. Transfer to and birding at Atta Rainforest Lodge
We were very excited about our upcoming two full days at Atta Rainforest Lodge in the Iwokrama Forest. This was the place where we knew that we could find several of the Guiana Shield specialists, including some species that are hard to see elsewhere in Northeast South America.
We checked out of Surama Eco-Lodge and were transferred by land to Atta Rainforest Lodge. After a welcome drink and checking-in we were greeted by three Black Curassows in the lodge clearing, and flowering bushes attracted White-necked Jacobin, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, and Reddish Hermit. In the afternoon we explored a white-sand forest patch, where we had excellent views of Black Manakin, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, and the fabulous Pompadour Cotinga. Then we explored a trail where Rufous Potoo was roosting at daytime. We searched along a black-water stream next to the road, hoping to find the stunning Crimson Topaz, and after we had waited for some time we sadly saw the female only. Other birds here included Guianan Streaked Antwren and Black Nunbird.
Day 8, 25 January 2020. Iwokrama Canopy Walkway and Atta Rainforest Lodge area
This day will be long remembered by everybody who participated on the trip as one of the best Neotropical experiences ever had, as it was simply an amazing day. We started by walking to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, which not only provided good views of the endless canopy forest but also a good chance to encounter a number of Guiana Shield specialists. Along the way we managed to see a single Black Curassow and not long afterward a family of the most-wanted Grey-winged Trumpeters.
Once at the canopy platforms our first bird was Black-eared Fairy, which was followed by Guianan Trogon, Guianan Puffbird, Green Aracari, Guianan Toucanet, Golden-winged Parakeet, Red-and-green Macaw, Green Oropendola, Spangled Cotinga, Guianan Tyrannulet, Red-fan Parrot, Black-necked Aracari, Little Chachalaca, Blue-throated Piping Guan, and Todd’s Antwren. We explored the trail back to the lodge and enjoyed the most-wanted Black-faced Hawk and brief but good views of Spotted Antpitta. Other species seen included White-flanked Antwren, Cinereous Antshrike, Saturnine Antshrike, Mouse-colored Antshrike, Rufous-bellied Antwren, Brown-bellied Antwren, Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, and the localized Waved Woodpecker among many other forest species. We also were lucky to find a small army ant swarm, which provided great views of White-plumed Antbird and Rufous-throated Antbird as well as White-chinned and Plain-brown Woodcreepers.
We returned to the lodge to get a shower before lunch after a great morning. After a short rest we gathered at the lodge clearing, waiting for Crimson Fruitcrow, but it did not make an appearance this afternoon. We returned to the white-sand forest, where this time we saw White-crowned Manakin, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Helmeted Pygmy Tyrant, and Bright-rumped Attila. A short time later we spotted Golden-collared Woodpecker.
The day was ending, so the plan was to go back to the black-water stream and wait for the male Crimson Topaz. While waiting we were shocked by the unexpected appearance of a young Puma crossing the stream, using a fallen tree as bridge. This amazing animal did not look scared by us and remained on the log for a couple of minutes before it disappeared into the woods. After all this excitement we finally spotted a male Crimson Topaz showing briefly but in all its splendor. We were enjoying the hummer when I could not believe what I was seeing: A full-grown adult Puma with two young ones was crossing the road in front of us. I have seen Pumas in Patagonia in Chile, but after almost 20 years of exploring the Amazon Rainforest this is the first time I had the privilege of seeing this majestic creature in the forest.
Puma (photo by John Christian)
Puma (photo by John Christian)
And the day was still not over! We waited until it got dark and John played the tape of White-winged Potoo, which flew in quite high but right above our heads, allowing us to watch all its main features. Just before we returned to the lodge we finished the day with good views of Tawny-bellied Screech Owl. What a day!
Day 9, 26 January 2020. Birding around Atta Rainforest Lodge and flight to Georgetown
We had only a couple of hours at Atta Rainforest Lodge before we were transferred to Iwokrama River Lodge and from there to take our charter flight to Georgetown. We decided to spend those hours in the lodge clearing and scan all the trees arounds. The strategy paid off, finally giving us scope views of the most-wanted Crimson Fruitcrow. What a way to finish our stay at Atta Rainforest Lodge!
Not much that was exciting happened after we left the lodge and arrived at Iwokrama River Lodge. After lunch there we had some time to check the riverbank, enjoying views of Black Skimmer, Large-billed Tern, and Pied Plover among other usual suspects. Then we were transferred to the Fairview airstrip, which might be described as a dusty, smooth road in the middle of nowhere, to take our charter flight back to Georgetown. There were incredible views of the forest from the plane! We arrived at Georgetown with enough time to drive to a nearby coastline, where we found our last two targets for this trip, Scarlet Ibis and Rufous Crab Hawk. Back at Cara Lodge we had our last meal together and celebrated another great Birding Ecotours trip.
Day, 10. Transfer to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport
After breakfast we were transferred to the airport to connect with our international flights home.
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species list included.