GUYANA & SURINAME BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Guyana: Day 1 Our tour begins this evening in Georgetown, where we overnight at a lovely colonial-era hotel.
Guyana: Day 2 Early this morning we will visit the famous Botanical Gardens in central Georgetown where a good range of species can be found. We shall look in particular for the restricted-range White-bellied Piculet. Other birds we should see include Great Black-Hawk, Snail Kite, Gray Hawk, Red-shouldered Macaw, Festive, Orange-winged and Yellow-crowned Amazons, Brown-throated Parakeet, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-crested Antshrike, Grayish Saltator, Buff-breasted Wren, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Wing-barred Seedeater, Yellow Oriole, Carib Grackle, and possible Great Horned Owl. (If our flight to Lethem is early, we will fit in a visit to the gardens later in the tour.)
Subsequently we will drive to the domestic Ogle airport and fly over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers southwards over unbroken rainforest and savannas to Lethem. We shall then drive across open savannas and through gallery woodlands to our base for the night on the open savannas at Dadanawa Ranch. Experiencing the tranquillity of one of the most remote places on the continent will be a significant aspect of our first mission; the search for the critically endangered Red Siskin. Driving across the savannas we may well see Pearl Kite, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Toco Toucan, White-throated Kingbird and Yellowish Pipit. We may also be lucky and see the odd-looking Giant Anteater or a Crab-eating Fox.
Guyana: Day 3 Today, at dawn, we will be on-site to see Red Siskin and we will walk through an area of savanna that lies along the base of low-lying forested hills. As well as Red Siskin, this area is very good for a superb selection of open country species including White-tailed Hawk, Variable Chachalaca, Finsch’s Euphonia and a surprising variety of tyrannids. We also have another chance for Red-shouldered Macaw. After lunch we will retrace our steps to Lethem and then continue to Manari for an overnight stay. On the way we will again spend a good deal of time birding on the savannas, stopping in particular at a number of wetlands.
Guyana: Day 4 Today we will turn our attention to two rare birds with very restricted ranges; Hoary-throated Spinetail and Rio Branco Antbird. Both are only found in gallery forest along the Takatu and Ireng rivers, where recent agricultural changes have seriously reduced the amount of available habitat for both birds. As a result, the spinetail is now classified as endangered, while the antbird is treated as near-threatened. To reach suitable habitat, we will either drive or travel by boat to the junction of the Takatu and Ireng rivers. This is likely to take us at least a couple of hours in each direction and we should encounter species such as Capped Heron, Muscovy Duck and Pale-legged Hornero en route. Although the habitat needs of the antbird and spinetail are seemingly slightly different (the antbird prefers taller trees with vine tangles and the spinetail acacia dominated riparian woodlands), they can both be found along a comparatively short stretch of the Ireng river. Afterwards we will head for Karasabai for an overnight stay.
Guyana: Day 5 Karasabai is an area of marshlands and dry woodlands. Here our prime target will be the endangered Sun Parakeet. Thirty years ago, this species was not uncommon across the Guianas. However, huge numbers were caught for the cage bird trade and the area around Karasabai is now believed to be the only place in Guyana where this species can still be found. Consequently, it is now regarded as highly endangered, although small flocks can often be seen here flying overhead.
As well as finding this spectacular psittacid, we should come across many other species while engaged in our search. These may well include Maguari Stork, Crested Bobwhite, Azure Gallinule, Red-and-green Macaw, Painted Parakeet, Hooded Tanager, Chestnut-vented Conebill and Orange-backed Troupial. This area is isolated and has not been thoroughly explored by birders, so there is a chance that we could make some noteworthy discoveries. This afternoon we will head east to the Karanambu Ranch along the Rupununi river, where we will stay for three nights.
Guyana: Days 6-7 Around dawn we will make a special effort to locate one of the oddest-looking members of the cotingids, the Capuchinbird. There is a lek close to our lodge and we plan to visit the display area to watch these odd-looking creatures.
Another of our targets whilst staying at Karanambu is the near-threatened Bearded Tachuri, a member of the flycatcher family which has declined markedly in recent years as it requires fairly undisturbed savannah grasslands. Another grassland species we will search for, provided road conditions permit, is the Crested Doradito, which also has a spotty distribution much reduced by habitat degradation. We have a good chance of finding both these grassland species.
We also intend to make a boat trip either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon on the nearby Rupununi River to look for the Crestless Curassow. Although this species has not been hunted on the ranch for many years, it remains difficult to find.
During our stay at Karanambu we will also be looking for such species as Boat-billed Heron, Pinnated Bittern, Sunbittern, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Green-tailed Jacamar, Spotted Puffbird, Black Nunbird, and Black-chinned and White-bellied Antbirds. We may also see a Giant Anteater during our stay, as this species is not uncommon around the lodge.
On one evening, we will head out into the savannas after dark to look for nightbirds and on a good evening it is possible to see at least six species of nightjar and nighthawk including Nacunda, Least and Lesser Nighthawks, and White-tailed and possibly Rufous Nightjars.
Guyana: Day 8 After a morning boat trip to visit some spectacular ox-bow lakes we will leave Karanambu after lunch by boat. These boat trips should give us an excellent opportunity to look for various river-edge wetland and open country species. We stand a good chance of seeing Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Jabiru, Wood Stork, Green Ibis, Northern Crested-Caracara, Black-collared Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk and Swallow-wing. Depending on the river level, this trip offers a chance of seeing Giant Otters as there are several family groups in the area. Both Black and Spectacled Caiman also inhabit the river and several species of monkey, including Red Howler, White-faced Saki, Brown-bearded Saki and Squirrel Monkey, can be found in the riverside trees.
We will eventually arrive at Ginep Landing, where we will connect with our vehicle for the journey northwards to the lovely Rock View Lodge for an overnight stay. On the way we could well find Sooty-capped Hermit, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Cinnamon Attila, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Pale-tipped Inezia, Cayenne Jay, Flavescent Warbler and perhaps even Orange-breasted Falcon.
Guyana: Day 9 Today we will take an excursion to a Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lek. This involves a walk from Woowetta village through pristine rainforests rich in both bird and mammal life. We shall intend to arrive at the lek in good time to watch the spectacular males displaying.
The forests here are rich in primates, cracids, parrots and cotingas and we should see a good many of these along with many antbirds, furnarids and woodcreepers. We shall hope to find an army ant swarm with its attendant followers, possibly including the rare Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo.
After lunch we shall make our way back to the main highway and from there travel to Surama Ecolodge on the edge of the rainforests, where we will spend the night. We plan to do some nightbirding and hope to find Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl and Common Potoo.
Guyana: Day 10 Today we shall walk through gallery forests and savannas near Surama, hoping to see Chestnut Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, Guianan Warbling Antbird, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Screaming Piha and many others. The savannas here are good for Southern White-fringed Antwren and Guianan Slaty-Antshrike.
After breakfast we shall head north to a superb forest trail along which there is an active Harpy Eagle nest which is built in a huge emergent tree. We may also find the rare Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo along this trail, and there are a good many other attractions here. Species we may well encounter include Red-legged Tinamou, Dusky Parrot, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Pale-throated Barbthroat, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Guianan Puffbird, Black-spotted Barbet, Golden-spangled Piculet, Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Rufous-bellied Antwren, Dusky, White-browed, Ferruginous-backed and Rufous-throated Antbirds, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Lemon-chested and Ashy-headed Greenlets, and Golden-sided Euphonia. We then continue north to the famous Atta Rainforest Lodge for a two nights stay.
Guyana: Day 11 Although the forest around Atta Rainforest Lodge is excellent for birds, the major attraction here is a 505-feet (154-metre) long canopy walkway which is only about 800 yards (750m) from the lodge. The walkway has four platforms, the highest of which is over 100ft (30m) above the ground, and these will allow us to get great looks at a range of canopy species, many of which we would struggle to see well from the forest floor. Amongst the likely highlights are Golden-winged Parakeet, Caica Parrot, Waved and Golden-collared Woodpeckers, Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwrens, Grey Antbird and Fulvous Shrike-Tanager. The walkway is also an excellent place to look for various cotingas and tyrannids, including Dusky Purpletuft and the poorly known and range-restricted Olive-green Tyrannulet. If there are any suitable fruiting trees nearby, we stand a good chance of seeing the former, as well as the more widespread Purple-breasted Cotinga. If we are very fortunate we will see the rare Blue-backed Tanager.
Another area where we will want to spend some time is the clearing around the lodge, as this is one of the best places to see another of Guyana’s specialities, the Crimson Fruitcrow, a species seen here on a regular basis as it often comes to feed in nearby trees.
The clearing is also a reliable site for Black Curassow, as there is a family party which has become habituated to people and regularly passes through the clearing. With reasonable luck, we should be able to add this bird to the impressive list of species we hope to see around the lodge and walkway.
Other species we hope to encounter during our stay include Spix’s and Marail Guans, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Red-fan Parrot, Eastern Long-tailed Hermit, Crimson Topaz, Pied Puffbird, Guianan Toucanet, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Black-throated Antshrike, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Pompadour Cotinga, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-sided Euphonia and both Red-and-black and Yellow-green Grosbeaks.
Another of our major targets will be the poorly known White-winged Potoo which, after dark, can be found both around the lodge and at the walkway. Looking for this bird will be one of our major priorities, but we will need a bright moonlit night to stand a reasonable chance of seeing it.
Quite apart from the profusion of bird life there is also a good selection of mammals to be seen including Guianan Red Howler Monkey, Weeping Capuchin and Guianan Saki Monkey. If we are very fortunate we will even see Jaguar, which is seen with some regularity along the main road.
Guyana: Day 12 Today we will drive to the Iwokrama River Lodge for a two nights stay. We will stop at an area of white-sand forest known as the Mori Scrub. This highly specialised forest type is important for Guianan Red-Cotinga (although this species is hard to find), Black Manakin, Rufous-crowned Elaenia and Yellow-throated Flycatcher, all of which we will look for.
Afterwards we continue towards the Essequibo River, driving through some excellent forest where we are likely to find Black-headed Parrot and also have another opportunity to find Grey-winged Trumpeter.
Guyana: Day 13 After an early breakfast we take a boat up-river to the Turtle Mountain Camp, from where we can walk an excellent trail through tall lowland rainforests to a low hill that gives spectacular views over the vast rainforests in the area. The area is good for Black Curassow, a good number of parrots and possibly Bronzy Jacamar. We also have another chance for the rare Red-and-black Grosbeak. Even the rare Orange-breasted Falcon is seen here with some regularity. This is also another area where the shy Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo has been seen at army ant swarms. If we find an ant swarm we should find the striking White-plumed Antbird. This afternoon we will return to Iwokrama River Lodge, birding along the river en route.
Guyana: Day 14 Today we will return to Georgetown by road for an overnight stay. The journey is a long one, but we will stop for some birding in the forests en route.
Guyana: Day 15 An early morning departure takes us eastward from Georgetown to an area of good habitat where we will look for Blood-colored Woodpecker and the localized Rufous Crab-Hawk (a species badly affected by the destruction of mangroves), the last of the many range-restricted species we will have been searching for. The woodpecker is only known from a narrow coastal strip which runs eastward for just a few hundred miles (around 500km) from Guyana, so finding this species will be one of our main priorities. We will also look for Mangrove and Little Cuckoos, Point-tailed Palmcreeper (uncommon), Boat-billed Tody-Tyrant (uncommon) and Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet. Guianan Gnatcatcher has also been found in this area, but we will count ourselves extremely fortunate if we find this rare and localized species.
We will also visit a new area for the regionally-endemic Arrowhead Piculet, a wonderful addition to Guyana’s superb birdlife.
We may make a short boat trip that should give us great views of the bizarre Hoatzin, five species of kingfisher, the localised Green-throated Mango, and Plain-bellied and White-chested Emeralds.
Closer to Georgetown, we will visit some mudflats where we are likely to find a range of waterbirds, including the spectacular Scarlet Ibis, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird and Black Skimmer. With luck we will also see Clapper Rail on the rising tide.
Our tour ends this evening at Georgetown.
Suriname: Day 1 Our tour begins this evening with a flight from Georgetown to Paramaribo airport at Zanderij in Suriname, where we will spend the night.
Suriname: Day 2 This morning we will pay a short visit to the savanna habitat not far from the Zanderij International Airport. The grassy white sand plains, dotted with contorted dwarf trees and bushes, and the adjacent forest edge harbour an interesting avifauna. Exploration should produce the stunning Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Northern Slaty-Antshrike, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin and Black Manakin. Groves of distinctive Mauritia palms often hold the subdued Sulphury Flycatcher. Other species we are likely to encounter in this part of Suriname include Plain-crested Elaenia, Black-faced and Red-shouldered Tanagers, Grassland Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark.
We will also explore a stretch of riparian woodland where we hope to connect with Ringed Woodpecker, Red-rumped Cacique and White-vented and the localized Finsch’s Euphonias. If we are lucky will encounter the rare Glossy-backed Becard.
Afterwards we will continue our drive south to the Brownsberg Nature Park for a four nights stay. We will arrive in time to start our explorations this afternoon.
Suriname: Days 3-5 The 14,800-acre (6000-hectare) Brownsberg Nature Park is situated in the district of Brokopondo, about 70 miles (115 km) south of Paramaribo, in the vicinity of the large Van Blommestein reservoir. The mountain is named after the unsuccessful, 19th century, American gold digger called John Brown. Later bauxite was mined in this part of Suriname, but earnings were thin, so in 1969 the Brownsberg Nature Reserve was created. Remains of these ill-fated mining activities are still scattered around the area. Our lodge is situated on the 1640ft (500m) high Mazaroni plateau, a remnant of an enormous laterite crust. The whole region is covered in luxuriant rain forest, low and dense in places, and lofty and rather open in others. Well maintained dirt tracks and walking trails offer easy access to the different forest types. Several rivers have eroded their twisted course through the area, creating some impressive waterfalls.
Viewpoints offer fabulous opportunities for canopy watching and here we will be hoping to encounter the magnificent, localized and rarely-seen Blue-backed Tanager. This unique and colourful species occurs in low densities and is somewhat erratic, but the Brownsberg is an excellent place to get acquainted with this cracker. We will need some luck to find the marvelous Red-and-black Grosbeak, a shy mid storey inhabitant. Both White-throated and the perplexing, but lovely White-fronted Manakins favour the berries of melastome bushes. A major speciality that we will be looking for at Brownsberg is the impressive, regionally-endemic Band-tailed Antshrike. The rare White-throated Pewee is only known from a handful of localities in northeastern Amazonia, but can occasionally be found here or in another nearby reserve, which we intend to visit.
One of the highlights of our visit will be our encounters with the enthralling and often very tame Grey-winged Trumpeters. These much-wanted birds have become extremely docile here and our cameras will go in overdrive as these cuties will perform only feet away. Venezuelan (or Guianan) Red Howler Monkeys are quite common here and will greet dawn with their ear-splitting roars and with a bit of luck we should also find a smart, bushy-tailed Guianan Saki or a serious looking Brown Bearded Saki.
We also plan to visit another area where there are two major specialities: Boat-billed Tody Tyrant and Guianan Gnatcatcher.
Other species we hope to see in this splendid part of Suriname include White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Ruddy Pigeon, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Dusky Parrot, Roraiman Screech-Owl, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, the rare and elusive treetop-favouring Racket-tailed Coquette, the adorable Tufted Coquette, Collared and Black-throated Trogons, Waved, Golden-collared and Golden-olive Woodpeckers, Rufous-tailed and Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Mouse-coloured Antshrike, Ash-winged Antwren, the endearing Common Spot-backed Antbird, the hard to see Thrush-like Antpitta, Sooty-headed, Yellow-crowned, Guianan and White-lored Tyrannulets, the diminutive Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Sulphur-rumped Myobius, White-bearded Manakin, Guianan (or Olivaceous) Schiffornis, Pink-throated Becard, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Musician Wren, Tropical Parula, Bay-headed Tanager, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager (the sentinel of the canopy mixed species flocks), Black-faced Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper and White-lored Euphonia. If we are particularly lucky we could find the unique Sharpbill.
Suriname: Day 6 After spending much of the day in and around Brownsberg we will descend to the Zanderij area, where our Suriname birding tour ends early this evening at Paramaribo airport.