GUYANA & SURINAME BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Note: This is the 2023 tour itinerary. Our 2022 tour differs; there being only one initial night at Georgetown, three nights not two at Karanambu, one night not two at Surama and two nights at Iwokrama not one.
Guyana: Day 1 Our tour begins early this evening in Georgetown, where we spend two nights at a lovely colonial-era hotel. (An airport transfer will be provided.)
Guyana: Day 2 This morning we will travel eastward from Georgetown to an area of good habitat where we will look for the Guianan-endemic Blood-colored Woodpecker and the restricted-range and patchily-distributed Rufous Crab Hawk (a species badly affected by the destruction of mangroves). The woodpecker is only known from a narrow coastal strip of the Guianas that runs eastward for around 300 miles (around 500km) from Guyana to French Guiana, so finding this species will be our top priority.
Boat-billed Tody-Tyrant and Guianan Gnatcatcher have also been found in this area, but we will count ourselves extremely fortunate if we find either of these rare, localized and restricted-range species.
Closer to Georgetown, we will make a stop at some mudflats where we are likely to find a range of waterbirds, including the spectacular Scarlet Ibis, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Striated, Cocoi, Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, Western Cattle, Great and Snowy Egrets, Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic Cormorant, Semipalmated Plover, Hudsonian Whimbrel and perhaps Royal Tern and Black Skimmer. With a lot of luck, we will also see a Mangrove Rail.
This afternoon we will visit the famous Botanical Gardens in central Georgetown where a good range of species can be found. We shall be looking here in particular for the restricted-range White-bellied Piculet.
Other birds we should see at the gardens or elsewhere in the Georgetown region include Turkey and Black Vultures, Western Osprey, the superb Black-collared Hawk, Great Black, Zone-tailed and Grey-lined Hawks, Snail Kite, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Pale-vented Pigeon, Ruddy Ground Dove, Greater and Smooth-billed Anis, Little Cuckoo, Plain-bellied Emerald, Lineated Woodpecker, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Festive, Orange-winged and Yellow-crowned Amazons, Brown-throated Parakeet, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-crested Antshrike, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Wren, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Greyish Saltator, Wing-barred Seedeater, Yellow Oriole and Carib Grackle. Mangrove Cuckoo and Point-tailed Palmcreeper are also possible.
Guyana: Day 3 This morning we will head for Georgetown’s domestic Ogle airport and fly over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers southwards over unbroken rainforest and savannas to the small town of Lethem in southwestern Guyana.
From 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. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Guyana: Day 4 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. We have an excellent chance of seeing this sought-after little gem.
As well as Red Siskin, the Dadanawa area is very good for a superb selection of savanna and wetland species including Finsch’s Euphonia and with luck the restricted-range Sharp-tailed Ibis, as well as Brazilian Teal, the huge Jabiru, Buff-necked Ibis, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, White-tailed Kite, the handsome Long-winged Harrier, Savanna, Roadside and White-tailed Hawks, Little Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Common and Plain-breasted Ground Doves, White-tipped and Eared Doves, Striped Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Short-tailed and Neotropical Palm Swifts, Black-throated Mango, Glittering-throated Emerald, Long-billed Starthroat, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, the splendid Toco Toucan, White-barred Piculet, Little Woodpecker, Laughing and Aplomado Falcons, American Kestrel, Red-bellied and Red-shouldered Macaws, White-throated Kingbird, Yellowish Pipit, Grassland Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark.
We may also be lucky and see the odd-looking Giant Anteater or a Crab-eating Fox.
After lunch, we will retrace our steps to Lethem and then continue a short distance to Manari Ranch for a two nights 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 5 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. 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.
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 White-faced and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Least and Pied-billed Grebes, Capped Heron, Pearl and Plumbeous Kites, Double-striped Thick-knee, Squirrel Cuckoo, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Pale-legged Hornero, Pale-tipped Inezia and Flavescent Warbler en route.
Guyana: Day 6 This morning we will depart very early in order to explore an area of marshlands and dry woodlands in the Karasabai area. 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 Red-and-green Macaw, 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 two nights.
Guyana: Day 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 take one or more boat trips on the nearby Rupununi River to look for the splendid Crestless Curassow. This species has not been hunted on the ranch for many years and so these days we usually encounter some on our boat trips.
During our stay at Karanambu, we will also be looking for such species as Red-legged Tinamou, Muscovy Duck, Wood and Maguari Storks, Green Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Pinnated Bittern, Anhinga, Crane Hawk, the beautiful Sunbittern, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, the handsome Pied Plover, Ruddy Pigeon, Burrowing Owl, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Green-backed Trogon, American Pygmy, Green-and-rufous, Green, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers, Green-tailed Jacamar, Spotted and Swallow-winged Puffbirds, Black Nunbird, Golden-spangled Piculet, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Bat Falcon, Northern Slaty Antshrike and Black-chinned and White-bellied Antbirds.
Uncommon possibilities include Boat-billed Heron, the beautiful Agami Heron (although uncommon there is a fair chance here), Azure Gallinule, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Collared Forest Falcon and Cinnamon Attila.
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 Common Potoo, Nacunda, Least, Lesser and Band-tailed Nighthawks, Pauraque, White-tailed Nightjar and with luck Rufous Nightjar.
Guyana: Day 8 After a final morning’s birding we will leave Karanambu after lunch by boat.
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 Guianan Red Howler Monkey, 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 Surama Ecolodge on the edge of the rainforests, where we will spend two nights.
Guyana: Day 9 We shall explore the gallery forests and savannas near Surama, hoping to see Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Yellow-tufted and Chestnut Woodpeckers, Painted Parakeet, Southern White-fringed Antwren, Guianan Slaty Antshrike, Guianan Warbling Antbird, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Screaming Piha, Tawny-crowned Greenlet and Cayenne Jay. White-collared Swifts might also put in an appearance.
We shall also visit a superb forest trail along which there is an active Harpy Eagle nest which is built in a huge emergent tree. The Harpy Eagle does not breed annually, however, owing to its almost unique, longer-than-a-year breeding cycle! So there are long periods when the nest is not occupied. The usual thing is to see a chick in the nest, whether young or well-grown. The adult birds only visit the nest occasionally, bringing food, once the chick can defend itself against most predators.
We may also find the rare Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo along this trail, and there are a good many other attractions here including our first chances for the shy Grey-winged Trumpeter and the gorgeous Crimson Topaz.
Other species we may well encounter include Plumbeous Pigeon, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Pale-throated Barbthroat, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Guianan Puffbird, Black-spotted Barbet, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans, Golden-winged Parakeet, Caica and Blue-headed Parrots, Southern Mealy Amazon, 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. Cinereous Tinamou, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Scaled Pigeon and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift are also possible.
We plan to do some nightbirding and hope to find Tawny-bellied and Tropical Screech Owls, although neither are easy to see in this area.
Guyana: Day 10 Today we will make 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 have a good chance of watching a number of spectacular males displaying and hear them calling at the lek.
The forest here is rich in primates, cracids, parrots and cotingas and we should see a number of these along with antbird and furnarids. Other species we could well see here include Rufous-breasted Hermit. Also possible are White-bearded Manakin and Whiskered Myobius.
We then head northeastwards to Iwokrama River Lodge for an overnight stay. We will stop at an area of white-sand forest known as the Mori Scrub. This highly specialized 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. There is even a slim but real chance of seeing a Jaguar in this area, especially late in the day, as there is a healthy population in the area.
Guyana: Day 11 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 a number of parrots, the lovely White Hawk, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, the lovely Blue-and-yellow Macaw and the uncommon Black Caracara and Chapman’s Swift. 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 another area where the shy Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo has been regularly seen at army ant swarms. If we find an ant swarm we have a good chance of seeing the striking White-plumed Antbird.
Afterwards, we will travel a relatively short distance to the famous Atta Rainforest Lodge for a three nights stay.
Guyana: Days 12-13 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 Ringed, Waved and Golden-collared Woodpeckers, Blue-cheeked Amazon, Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwrens, Grey Antbird and Fulvous Shrike-Tanager (the latter is the sentinel of the canopy mixed-species flocks). 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 fortunate we will see the splendid but rare Blue-backed Tanager and the shy Red-and-black Grosbeak.
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 the magnificent Black Curassow, as there is a family party that has become habituated to people and that regularly passes through the clearing, so we should easily add this special bird to the impressive list of species we are going to accumulate at Atta.
Other great birds at Atta include the handsome Black-faced Hawk (uncommon but fairly reliable here) and Marail Guan. We also have another chance for Crimson Topaz.
Two of our major targets will be the poorly known White-winged and Rufous Potoos. Looking for these splendid birds will be one of our major priorities, but the Rufous Potoo, in particular, can sometimes be difficult.
Other species we may well encounter during our stay include Great Tinamou, Spix’s Guan, Black-banded Owl, Band-rumped and Grey-rumped Swifts, Long-tailed and Reddish Hermits, White-chested Emerald, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Black-eared Fairy, Guianan Trogon, Pied Puffbird, Guianan Toucanet, Yellow-throated, Cream-colored and Red-necked Woodpeckers, Red-fan and Dusky Parrots, Scarlet Macaw, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Black-throated and Mouse-coloured Antshrikes, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Pompadour Cotinga, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Yellow-crowned, Guianan and White-lored Tyrannulets, Helmeted Pygmy Tyrant, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Guianan Schiffornis, Pink-throated Becard, Golden-sided Euphonia, Red-rumped Cacique, Bay-headed Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper and Yellow-green Grosbeak. Groves of distinctive Mauritia palms often hold the subdued Sulphury Flycatcher.
We should also encounter some of the more uncommon, or at least harder to see, denizens of Atta, which include Variegated Tinamou, Amazonian Motmot, Yellow-billed and Bronzy Jacamars, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Ash-winged Antwren, Thrush-like Antpitta and the diminutive Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant.
Quite apart from the profusion of birdlife 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 14 Today we transfer to the Annai airstrip and take a flight back to Georgetown for an overnight stay. Depending on the flight timing, we shall have time for more birding at Atta or Georgetown.
Guyana: Day 15 The Guyana section of our Guyana & Suriname birding tour ends this morning at Georgetown. (An airport transfer will be provided.)
Suriname: Day 1 We will travel to Paramaribo in Suriname for an overnight stay.
Suriname: Day 2 This morning we will first pay a visit to a nice area of woodland where our prime target will be the tiny Arrowhead Piculet, an uncommon Guianan-endemic that is much easier to see in Suriname than anywhere else. We should also find the restricted-range Green-throated Mango.
Our next stop will be some savanna habitat not far from the town of Zanderij. The grassy white-sand plains, dotted with contorted dwarf trees and bushes, and the adjacent forest edge harbour the stunning Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Green-tailed Goldenthroat and Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin. Other species we are likely to encounter in this part of Suriname include Black-faced and Red-shouldered Tanagers and perhaps Plain-crested Elaenia. We will also explore a stretch of riparian woodland where, with luck, we will encounter the rare Glossy-backed Becard.
Afterwards, we will continue our drive south to the Brownsberg region for a four nights stay (split between two venues with two nights at each). We will probably arrive in time to start our explorations late 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 first lodge is situated on the 1640ft (500m) high Mazaroni plateau, a remnant of an enormous laterite crust. The whole region is covered in luxuriant rainforest, 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.
A major speciality that we will be looking for at the 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 (from Suriname and French Guiana into adjacent Northeast Brazil) but is fairly regularly to be found here or in another nearby reserve that we intend to visit.
Viewpoints offer fabulous opportunities for canopy watching and here we will have another opportunity to encounter the magnificent, localized and uncommon Blue-backed Tanager. This unique and colourful species occurs in low densities in the Guianas and is somewhat erratic, but Brownsberg is an excellent place for finding this cracker. We will also have another chance to find the marvellous Red-and-black Grosbeak in the mid-storey. Both White-throated Manakin and the perplexing, restricted-range but lovely White-fronted Manakin favour the berries of the melastome bushes.
One of the big 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 at Brownsberg and our cameras will go in overdrive as these cuties will perform only feet away.
We also have second chances for two more specialities; Boat-billed Tody-Tyrant and Guianan Gnatcatcher. Both are rare and difficult birds, however, so we will count ourselves fortunate if we see either.
More widespread species we may well encounter in this splendid part of Suriname include Black Hawk-Eagle, Foothill Screech Owl, Black-throated Trogon, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Musician Wren and Tropical Parula.
We should also encounter a few of the more uncommon but widespread birds occurring in the area. These include Short-tailed Nighthawk, the adorable Tufted Coquette, the rare and elusive, treetop-favouring Racket-tailed Coquette, Collared Trogon, Rufous-tailed and Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners, the endearing Spot-backed Antbird, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, the unique Sharpbill, White-breasted Wood Wren and White-lored Euphonia.
Guianan Red Howler Monkeys are quite common here and will greet the dawn with their ear-splitting roars and with a bit of luck we should also find the smart, bushy-tailed Guianan Saki or the serious-looking Brown Bearded Saki.
Suriname: Day 6 After spending much of the day in the Brownsberg region we will return to Zanderij, where our Suriname birding tour ends in the late afternoon at Paramaribo airport.