Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock - Guyana 2017

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Guyana Day 16 - 4/4/17

Dadanawa Area - Red Siskin Zone
Well getting up this morning made the other early mornings feel like a lay in. I was up at 02.30 and we left Manari Ranch in two 4x4s at 3am. I opted to be on top as I wanted the fresh air. I also wanted to sleep but I soon realised after setting off that holding on around the sharp bends was going to be hard enough being awake, let alone asleep. It was an adventurous four hour journey to our destination (Savannah Fox being the only highlight) with a very experienced driver, traversing across the vast savannah trying his best to knock me off the back, and going through rivers etc. We arrived on site roughly half-hour after daylight and walked through to an area of farmland, not what I was expecting. Almost straight away a group of four Red Siskins flew over including a nice male I managed to get onto. Over the next three hours we eventually enjoyed some lovely views of Red Siskins perching nearby to us. This was my last big target of the trip and to get views as good as we did was excellent. We visited a nearby site getting more views of the Siskins and other bits and bobs, but it was too hot for any amount of interest given on my behalf.

We then went to lunch at Dadanawa Ranch finding a pair of Sharp-tailed Ibis in the now extremely hot savannah, so it was with some relief we reached the ranch and had a filling lunch, and then a pointless trek for another go with an Amazon Scrub Flycatcher. After a lengthy rest it was time to head back to Manari which took roughly four hours, but slightly interrupted due to a superb Yellow-tailed Cribo Snake, which we managed to persuade to take shelter underneath a nearby tree. Other then this, it was a superb drive back with stunning landscape views, lovely sunset and a few races between lorries and other vehicles etc. A very successful day, with just one more to go.

Highlights for the day are:

Sharp-tailed Ibis
King Vulture
Black-collared Hawk
Dusky Parrot
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant
Yellowish Pipit
Spectacled Thrush
Plumbeous Seedeater
Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch
Variegated Flycatcher
Red Siskin
Ochre-lored Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher



 Red Siskin - critically endangered due to the pet trade. This species was formerly present in Venezuela, but now only remains in Guyana and maybe some parts of Northern Brazil.
 Sharp-tailed Ibis

Yellow-tailed Cribo


 a surprisingly deep river
my view on top of the 4x4
Yellow-tailed Cribo path - the tree in the backround is where we left it




Guyana Day 17 - 5/4/17 & 6/4/17

Rio Branco Area

Sadly our final day in this wonderful country. And it ended in fine style. We only had the morning to bird but had two major targets to grab on the way. This involved driving an hour to the Brazilian border to a tributary of the Rio Branco River. It goes with no shock that our first target was an Antbird that holds the name.......Rio Branco Antbird. However, before reaching anywhere we came across a staggering Red-tailed Boa that slowly slithered across the path. I wrongly decided to grab its rear half and pull it back onto the track for a clearer view (something I regret doing but the adrenaline got to me). It however slowly slithered away to a nearby tree and we left it. A spectacular sunrise over the dry landscape was again superb, so was a surprising roost of Nacunda Nighthawks. These beauties were observed both on the ground and in the air, but without causing too much disturbance we carried onto our destination. Our drivers (the same as yesterday) are ultra keen and wanted to show us everything, however Ron wasn't keen and demanded we rag it to the Antbird site before the morning warms up.

We duly arrived and set about our quest and despite a bird singing, it wouldn't come close and getting to it looked impossible. We negotiated a few paths and after an hour of playback at various locations, we finally found a bird singing and had respectable views of it. I didn't think much of it in the book, but in the flesh it wasn't too bad. What was stunning were a pair of Hoary-throated Spinetails. The others trekked off to search for a Crestless Currasow but I couldn't be bothered (no sign of the Currasow) and had forgotten my water and retired back to the vehicles where I came across a Pearl Kite, the only one for the trip. A stop at a small wetland on our return produced a couple of Least Sandpipers.

Back at the ranch we had a few hours to pack, chill and have lunch. I made a washing line which just about worked and we were off to the smallest airport I've been to (Lethem Aiport), and the first time I've been weighed, though understandable considering how small the plane was. We said our farewells to our guides, Ron and Marissa Allicock who were all in all excellent throughout.

We walked across a road and through the fence to board our 20-seater flight, no cockpit door and no cabin crew, how would I survive in Guyana!! Upon landing back in Georgetown, we swiftly got transported back to the Status Hotel, had a pizza, few beers and a decent sleep.

Highlights for the morning are:

White-faced Whistling Duck
Maguari Stork
Pearl Kite
Least Sandpiper
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Nacunda Nighthawk
Green-tailed Jacamar
Hoary-throated Spinetail
Rio Branco Antbird
Common Tody Flycatcher
Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch
Red-breasted Blackbird

Georgetown - Trinidad - London - 6/4/17

I woke up to the devastating news that a Blue Rock Thrush had been found at Beachy, why couldn't it be just one more day!! Anyway, our Caribbean Airlines flight was on time leaving Georgetown and we landed in POS with three hours until check-in for our London bound flight. This prompted the keenest birder I've ever met, Nick Gardner into arranging a taxi to Caroni Swamp to search for Mangrove Rail. I wasn't too keen to stay in the chair-less terminal and along with Richard, joined Nick in his quest. Despite no Mangrove Rail, it was lovely to see Scarlet Ibis, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Northern Waterthrush and Straight-billed Woodcreepers. A bonus however was my last lifer of the trip, a pair of Masked Cardinals.

The taxi-driver stayed with us and so with half hour until check in opening we piled back in and joined the others bang on time. Time went quick and we were on our way via St. Lucia back to LGW landing roughly on time, with negative news on the Thrush.

It had been an amazing trip, pack full of memories all for the good reasons, and I can't thank enough everyone for their fun company and organising all the bits and bobs.



Nacunda Nighthawk - a stunning start to the day finding a very impressive roost of this species

once again, the trips I take part in or organise never turn out well for Owls, and this Ferruginous Pygmy Owl was only our third species of the trip.


Hoary-throated Spinetail - a mega in all areas - looks and status

Savannah Hawk
nearly bumped into this lot


Red-tailed Boa - a beautiful snake that seemed very delicate
sunrise over Nacunda Nighthawks
 Brazil up close and showing well.
 the terminal/hut
 a very apt aircraft with a Red Siskin on the tail, and a Sun Parakeet on the other
 window seats for all
 looking down on Manari Ranch - the ranch on the far right next to the river, and the airstrip to the top of the photo.

arriving back into Georgetown


Arlington Reservoir 27/4/17

After a slow walk around Seaford Head I stopped on the way home in Sainsbury's for shopping. At aisle 2 I had an alert come through of a Red-rumped Swallow at Arlington. With my trolley a quarter-full I causally went to aisle 1 and deposited my trolley there and off I went.

I rushed to the dam wall and met Colin Holter who had kindly released the news nice and quickly, but annoyingly the bird had departed SE. This meant a long wait for me but at 1pm just as I was packing the scope up the Red-rumped Swallow appeared right in front of me, and over the next twenty minutes I enjoyed very good views.

I was now very cold and resorted to carrying on my food shop. Despite nearly being three hours later, my trolley was still in aisle 1, but warm fish cakes didn't take my fancy.

 horrid phone-scoped pic of the Red-rumped Swallow at Arlington. Leaving my memory card at home wasn't a bright idea.
my abandoned trolley still in situ on aisle 1.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Splash Point 23/4/17

A highly anticipated seawatch this morning due to the first SE wind forecast for quite some time. Although the wind was blowing, the birds didn't seem to care and passage was fairly slow for the time I was there, though Mediterranean Gulls were moving positively through. The only other highlight was a Great White Egret. I gave up and watched the London Marathon, something of a tradition. In almost perfect timing, Selsey kindly released news of two Poms that had passed around midday. After sweet-talking Paula (it did take half-hour of pleading) I was back down Splash Point joining Richard, John, Derek et al. (who had put in a full nine hours in total) and enjoyed an unexpected passage of Pomarine Skuas. It was also nice to witness the 500th Mediterranean Gull move through. To deter from getting two black eyes, I left for home missing a few more Poms, but never mind, my limbs are still intact.

The Poms were unexpected due to no other sightings from Hants, Dorset or beyond, with Worthing keeping us updated on what flocks were moving through, and by the time they reached us the flocks had increased in numbers with some flocks coming very close to shore.

Totals 05.20 - 09.00

Whimbrel - 43
Bar-tailed Godwit - 9
Mediterranean Gull - 137
Common Scoter - 124
Common Tern - 1
Gannet - 8
Great Skua - 8
Arctic Skua - 4
Dunlin - 4
Sandwich Tern - 11
Red-throated Diver - 2
Pintail - 2
Shoveler - 2
Great White Egret - 1
Little Gull - 2

13.15 - 15.00
Pomarine Skua - 18 (2@ 13.30, 7@ 13.35-13.40, 4@ 14.09, 5@ 14.42)
Great Skua - 3
Arctic Skua - 3
Commic Tern - 70



Pomarine Skuas past Splash Point - it does help having a very understanding other half.



Saturday, 22 April 2017

Seaford Head 22/4/17

With a northerly breeze blowing I was expecting a few grounded migrants this morning, but this wasn't to be. The main highlight was a showy male Ring Ouzel, a Wheatear and a flyover Siskin.

Splash Point after produced a bit of movement with plenty of Whimbrel and Mediterranean Gulls, but hopefully will improve for tomorrow.

 views started like this.....
 but then got much better.
Ring Ouzel near coastguard cottages

Friday, 21 April 2017

Wood Warbler + more 21/4/17

A mammoth 15 hours of birding today all over Sussex. The highlight by far was finding a splendid male Wood Warbler at Foxhole Farm in the Cuckmere. The bird sang continuously an called every now and then. Other than this a late Fieldfare on Seaford Head was a surprise. Unfortunately I didn't see the Hoopoe at Church Norton, but a nice Whinchat here and a Spoonbill at Medmerry nearly compensated this. Still a really good day out after a tough week at work.

Seaford Head
Fieldfare - 1
Wheatear - 2
Willow Warbler - 10
Yellow Wagtail - 1

Splash Point
Arctic Skua - 1
Little Gull - 4

Cuckmere Haven
Wood Warbler - 1
Redstart - 1
Sand Martin - 1
Whimbrel - 8
Bar-tailed Godwit - 2

Abbot's Wood
Nightingale - 2

Pagham/Medmerry RSPB
Whinchat - 1
Spoonbill - 1
Little Ringed Plover - 2


 male Wood Warbler at Foxhole Farm
 a late Fieldfare on Seaford Head
Whinchat at Church Norton


Saturday, 15 April 2017

St. Martin's, Isles of Scilly 14/4/17

A great day out with Jake and Ian. We left Ovingdean at 2.30am and arrived in good time in Penzance at some point during the early morning for a MacD's breakfast. It was then time to board the trusty Scillonian III where thankfully for Ian the crossing was a smooth one. A few Manx Shearwaters and large pod of Common Dolphins were the only bits on offer. Once at St. Mary's quay the decision to book a faster boat over to St. Martins was very wise as this allowed us roughly three hours on the island, rather then barely two hours if we had chosen the regular boat.

It was a brisk half-hour walk up to Daymark from Lower Town and with two Scilly regulars by my side, there was no chance of getting lost. When we finally reached 'Bread and Cheese Cove', a downhill jog led us to a Scilly lad who allowed us to look through his scope at the stunning male Rock Thrush. The bird showed admirably for twenty minutes (at times getting in a tussle with some Wheatears) before flying further around the cove becoming more distant until it was finally lost. After a packed lunch and a rest we slowly wandered around to Higher Town quay seeing only a couple of Great Northern Divers.

At 3.45pm the same speedy boat picked us up and we joined the Scillonian III at St. Mary's quay soon after, where another smooth crossing was had back to Penzance. The journey home was long and tiring and I arrived at 12.30am.

Another successful Scilly day twitch and thanks to Ian and Jake for making it a fun day. What made it even better was finding out that the Rock Thrush was Ian's 500th species in Britain, and Brighton getting another win towards their Championship title!!


 looking down towards Bread and Cheese Cove