Hooded Grebes - Patagonia - November 2016

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Friday, 31 March 2017

Guyana Day 12 - 31/3/17

Surama to Caiman House
Having seen a fair percentage of our targets, we sadly exited the rainforest early today to head out into the savannah in search of some very range restricted species. After last nights heavy drink intake I wasn't in too much of a rush to get up and so joined the others just as breakfast was served. It was difficult to have a lay in with squeaky bats above, to Palm Tanagers going crazy with bird song. Still, I can think of worse ways of getting up. After breakfast we left Surama and waved goodbye to the rainforest, probably my favourite habitat. Back along the access track we slammed to a halt yet again as yet another Snake had been found, this time a False Coral Snake. It was laying completely still on the side of the road and allowed very close approach, not having any venom helped here. A couple of roadside stops produced for me a Black-spotted Barbet, Spot-tailed Antwren and a gorgeous Rufous-throated Sapphire. As the trees became grasslands my mind-set changed to my next big target of the trip, this being a Giant Anteater. None seen today, but our first stop produced a very nice White-throated Kingbird, one of many range-restricted species in this part of the world. Further on the front vehicle was playing up again with the engine over-heating, and a lengthy stop waiting for it to cool down by a river produced a couple of Pale-tipped Inezias. The rest of the journey to Caiman House was in-eventful and not too many birds to speak of. Caiman House was a very nice place but basic though had a very good shower. We rested up for the afternoon and then set off into a nearby forest with a American birder who was studying in Guyana, and had only yesterday found a new bird for the country, this being a Long-billed Woodcreeper. No firsts were encountered on our walk, although an impressive flock of birds held no less than eight lifers for me, including two for Ron, the most surprising of which was a Veery. The walk took us to a river and here we waited until dusk seeing Band-tailed Nighthawks flying downriver, and a bonus Striped Woodcreeper.

Highlights for the day are:

Crested Bobwhite
Green Ibis
Band-tailed Nighthawk
Sooty-capped Hermit
Black-spotted Barbet
Stright-billed Woodcreeper
Striped Woodcreeper
White-flanked Antwren
Spot-tailed Antwren
White-bellied Antbird
Pale-tipped Inezia
Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Ochre-lored Flycatcher
White-throated Kingbird
Pompadour Cotinga
Blue-backed Manakin
White-winged Becard
Ashy-headed Greenlet
Veery
Plumbeous Seedeater
Greenish Elania


 White-throated Kingbird
 Buff-necked Ibis
Greater Kiskadee
False Coral Snake



Thursday, 30 March 2017

Guyana Day 11 - 30/3/17

Buru Buru Trail & Surama
From early morning we walked the Buru Buru Trail. Initially it started off quiet but by the time we reached the river we had notched up a good range of species. The weather had unfortunately changed with moderate rain now falling making any photography very difficult. Just after watching a small group of Capuchinbirds again high in the canopy, Ron came sprinting back to us and pointed us up the path to Stu and told us to run. I knew what I was running for but others didn't which was slightly comical. The bird in question was a Crested Eagle, one of SAs most difficult to see raptors. This got pointed out to me shortly after in with the fact I had seen four species of Potoo, a Ground-Cuckoo and now a Crested Eagle in my first trip to this region. A couple of feeding flocks later and we made it to the river where again I came over tired, and now hungry. Still, a welcome rest down by the river was nice. We briskly walked back to the lodge along a very flooded path seeing very little. My mind was on lunch, but after lunch the weather had improved and we had plenty of time to try for some calling Ocellated Crakes. Nick G was yet again in fine form and first set about in creating a channel where one would hopefully cross the path, and then went and got a mirror where one may have possibly entertained itself for a short time. Who knows what was going on but the supplies didn't attract any Crake, so we set out plan B (we got to plan F I think) to charge at any calling bird and hopefully flush it. Several plans later and still no Ocellated, but we did flush an Ash-throated Crake. I gave up and headed off to try and track down a Red-legged Tinamou, but only distant birds were heard so I gave up on that one as well and resorted to yet another Nighthawk/Nightjar session by the lodge. A fantastic spectacle of a couple of hundred Orange-winged Parrots flying over in several flocks with a sunset was very special. The evening/night then consisted of far too many beers and rum to celebrate our time in the rainforest. Stu's singing wasn't too bad either!!

Little Chacalaca
Blue-throated Piping-Guan
White Hawk
Crested Eagle
Ocellated Crake
Ash-throated Crake
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Amazon Kingfisher
Capuchinbird
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Golden-spangled Piculet
Great Antshrike
Black-chinned Antbird
Rufous-bellied Antwren
Cinereous Mourner
Buff-breasted Wren
Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch
Finch's Euphonia

Crested Eagle - light rain and poor rainforest light not helping my photography here, but at least the breeze got the crest into action

Buff-throated Woodcreeper looking 90% like all the other larger Woodcreepers

 Nick G cutting his ride
Nick and Richard inspecting the mirror


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Guyana Day 10 - 29/3/17

The next three days of Guyana have now been updated. As always, a more detailed inclusion can be found on Richard's blog. The other days have been dated back to their original dates.

Surama & Harpy Trail
A very early start today as we wanted to hit the forest early to increase our chances of a Ground-Cuckoo. The forest echoed the call of Red-legged Tinamous and eventually after much play-back, a Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo was heard, game on!! We set ourselves into position and patiently waited for the bird to call again, which it did, but slightly further away. A second attempt also failed and it seemed a huge disappointment knowing we only had one more full day left after today to get this bird. We did have hope though as during the morning we would be walking the 'Harpy Trail', one of the more reliable sites for the Ground-Cuckoo, and after breakfast we made our way there. I was feeling tired or something similar and could only resort to laying asleep on the back seat. Ron and others in the back vehicle radioed us to quickly turn around and get back to them as they had found a displaying Crimson Fruitcrow. We sped back with me now in full alert and ready for action. The Fruitcrow had disappeared but thankfully returned and quickly as it had left and we enjoyed scope views of this stunning male, that initially was displaying. A huge relief to get this bird, and it seemed a good start to our morning outing. A lengthy stop here produced a large feeding flock containing anything from Tanagers to Antwrens to Cuckoos, and with most birds being new for me it was somewhat mind boggling sifting my way through the ticks.

Next up was the 'Harpy Trail' and with a high level of excitement we started the trail, not knowing that over the next two hours we were going to be treated to some mouth-watering birds. First up was a superb roosting Long-tailed Potoo, this being my third Potoo species of the trip. We watched this stationary bird for a while, being staggered by its size and plumage. Arriving at the Harpy tree the guides didn't look to amused, as the 10-month old bird didn't seem to be where it was meant to be. This was now a panic for those who hadn't seen one before, and despite further searches around likely trees, there was still no sign. This bird seemed a given so there was hope that it may return.

Ron went off on his own and yet again the echoing call of a Ground-Cuckoo blasted out of his Bluetooth speaker. Though next thing we knew, Ron came dashing back and called all of us over as two Ground-Cuckoos had come straight into his play-back. We carefully but probably very noisily moved ourselves into position. The play-back commenced and we waited for what felt like minutes, but it must have only been a matter of 30 seconds before back in the dark understorey, a shadow dashed across, followed by another. It was a tense atmosphere but eventually we all got tickable views as a Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo emerged for a mere few seconds into a clearing. It was then all just a memorable blur as the birds got closer and closer, and then circled us before remaining in a stationary position in the open before both birds melted away into their dense habitat. A huge moment for all present, especially for Nick P who's quest for this family had taken him numerous times to northern South America in search, and he let his emotions almost get the better of him.

Back at the Harpy tree our impatience on this bird got the better of us and a tactic to attract the youngster in worked a treat as the bird came straight in, although out of sight from where we were standing. After a quick negotiation of cobwebs and many branches, we had clear and in-obstructed views of the superb Harpy Eagle. Although this bird was only ten-months old, it was very impressive, especially the feet and talons, just incredible. It was a good moment to end the morning (mainly as it was now afternoon) and head for lunch. Ron's Mum was our host this time (slowly ticking off the Allicock family to) where many Red-rumped Caciques nested. The afternoon was mainly spent relaxing and taking in the surroundings. Ron took a couple of us to see a roosting Great Potoo and then as the sun went down we enjoyed for the second night running lots of Nighthawk/Nightjar activity. A brilliant day.

King Vulture
Harpy Eagle
Scarlet Macaw
Squirrel Cuckoo
Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo - 2
Least Nighthawk
Great Potoo
Long-tailed Potoo
Fork-tailed Palm Swift
Blue-throated Emerald
Guianan Touanet
Yellow-throated Woodpecker
Amazonian Antshrike
Crimson Fruitcrow
Yellow-backed Tanager
Paradise Tanager
Red-rumped Cacique


 Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo - MEGA
 Long-tailed Potoo - note the tail length longer then the wings
 Harpy Eagle - look at those feet
Great Potoo not giving itself away
 Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo nicely ticked off
Harpy Eagle centre shot





Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Guyana Day 9 - 28/3/17

The day before I had enquired to Ron about seeing an Antpitta, so we planned the next day for just the two of us to go in search of a Thrush-like Antpitta that had been heard yesterday. The whole group had latched on to the idea and in the end the eight of us went in search, which didn't fill me with much confidence. However, we soon heard a bird calling and went in after it. After a fair bit of crashing around we made it close to a singing bird and decided to sit and wait using constant playback. Ron had found some larvae and threw it in the direction of the bird to hopefully coax it out. Unfortunately the Antpitta hadn't realised and half-hour later the bird was still stationary and still out of sight. The decision was made to circumnavigate the small patch of dense scrub, but this caused far too much noise and the bird moved on. Being very annoyed about this I quickly walked off in the direction of the bird leaving everyone behind and selfishly made no attempt to let anyone know where I was. Thankfully this plan worked and after some careful stalking the local guide and myself found the Thrush-like Antpitta singing on a log. It was a superb encounter being such a unique species to see, and even better that this bird was ultra-elusive, made the sighting feel even more special. Richard had obviously seen me and kindly decided to stay back until I had a view of the bird, but sadly by the time he got to me it had moved on.

After breakfast, we sadly left Atta Lodge (after buying my only t-shirt of the trip) but straight away stopped on the access trail as a large feeding flock was moving through, with Fasciated Antshrike and Rufous-bellied Antwrens being the notable highlights here. Back on route south, myself and Richard were on the back and enjoying the view, and the breeze as we went. Typically though the heavens opened but not heavy enough for us to take shelter, but instead enjoying a nice shower. We jammed to halt shortly after the rain had stopped as a Green Vine Snake was in the road. Unfortunately the snake had been run over and appeared to be dead. I picked it up to move it off the road when it came slightly back to life, though not for long so I put it in the roadside grass. This wasn't the only snake business on this short journey to Surama, where out of nowhere a Toad jumped into the road in front of us and a Common Rat Snake pounced on top of it. We again slammed the breaks on and watched a surreal encounter with the noisy Toad having no chance of surviving. The Snake, after two minutes slithered away into the undergrowth and was seen to swallow the Toad, awesome!!

After a pleasant welcome to Surama Eco-lodge, we were all keen to attempt to find a Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo, probably the most sought after species in Guyana, and a major target for most in the group. We had heard the playback constantly from Ron's device over the past few days, but now we were in the prime location. Despite all the odds of trying in the mid-afternoon heat, after a series of playback, a Ground-Cuckoo was heard not far from us along a forest trail. The relief was huge but we still had to see the bird and set about a tactic of staying low, quiet and to patiently wait. This bird had other ideas and didn't play ball and moved further away, so further along the path we positioned ourselves and waited. This time the bird was getting closer, and for two lucky people (Ron and Richard), the Ground-Cuckoo put in an appearance, but for the rest of us who continued to stand missed out and were left with a sense of dread. Fair to say the rest of the afternoon was a quiet affair and little else was seen, but still there was hope that a Ground-Cuckoo was knocking about and we would try again tomorrow. At dinner, a huge thunderstorm hit the place and we all nearly got washed away from the amount of rain that fell.

Red-legged Tinamou
Rufescent Tiger Heron
Grey-headed Kite
Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo - 1h
White-tailed Nightjar
White-collared Swift
Channel-billed Toucan
Rufous-tailed Foliage Gleaner
Fasciated Antshrike - 2
Cinereous Antshrike
Rufous-bellied Antwren
Thrush-like Antpitta
Lesser Elanea
Dusky Purpletuft
Cayenne Jay
Blackpoll Warbler



 Common Rat Snake taking out at Toad. By far the non-avian highlight of the trip.
 Ants with their breakfast

 Richard taking (some) shelter from the rain
 Surama Eco-lodge
 view from the restaurant
sunset at Surama

Monday, 27 March 2017

Guyana Day 8 - 27/3/17

This morning initially started with a calling Black-throated Antshrike which we duly saw and took some pressure off as we were running out of time for this bird. We then walked the long trail that loops back onto the trail I had walked independently two days running. It was fairly quiet though hanging back from the group allowed me to see a Chestnut Woodpecker. A Guainan Red Cotinga was also a firm highlight as was another Ferruginous-backed Antbird. We had breakfast and then made our way south along the main road finding a bizarre looking Brown Vine Snake. The long wait to see my main target for the trip was now on as we were heading for a Cock-of-the-Rock lek. We briskly walked through the forest until it started going up hill and through what felt like a large cave and back out the other side. I was distracted by some roosting bats, but Ron soon called us over and just down the hill and little way was our prize, a superb male Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. I was completely staggered by how vivid the orange was, standing even more so in its dense forest. For over an hour we admired this beauty as a couple of females passed by, which aroused the male into a bit of action on its showground. We sadly left the arena stopping once again for the bats, and back down on the trail a canopy flock left us with sore necks and few ticks to show for it. Back at Atta, another quick lunch and I was back on my trail where this time I completed the whole loop, but I did get lost twice which certainly slowed me up. Much of the same from this morning, but a trio of Black Currasows were exciting to watch.

Back at the lodge, we were now attempting to find what would be a lifer for Ron, and for most of our group, a Rufous Potoo. Ron's Uncle had heard the bird a couple of times in a swampy area, and the only way or chance of seeing the bird was to cut a fresh trail through and wait and hope that it was the area where the bird was. Arriving on site, Ron and a couple of helpers hacked their way through the understorey and after a long spell called us over. It was slightly difficult terrain and thoughts of killer snakes was in my mind constantly until we finally came to a halt and waited until dark. As luck would have it, our stop point was underneath a Chestnut Woodpeckers nest hole, and so we enjoyed good views of these for a while, though my reign over Nick G. of seeing a Chestnut Woodpecker had only lasted a mere ten hours, but I was pleased he had seen one as it meant now more playback from that particular species. Once it was dark, we played the recording for Rufous Potoo, and after ten minutes one amazingly replied. It was initially distant but gradually became closer and closer to a point where we could've seen it, but with the dense mid-canopy, the bird remained out of sight and annoyingly got more distant again. This was game over but we gave it a good go and hopefully Ron will succeed in the near future. We spotlighted back seeing another Rufous Nightjar, resembling the mystery bird from a few nights back. Also of interest was a Common Four-eyed Opossum that ran across the road.

Highlights from today are:

King Vulture
Black Currasow
Black-tailed Trogan
White-throated Toucan
Chestnut Woodpecker  - 3
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Black-throated Antshrike
Grey Antwren
Brown-bellied Antwren
Long-winged Antwren
Ferruginous-backed Antbird
Guianan Red Cotinga
Dusky Purpletuft
Pompadour Cotinga
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock - 3
Rufous Potoo - 1h
Rufous Nightjar - 1




 my bird of the trip - Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock
 roosting Bats - slightly cuter these ones
 a photo to prove how skulking Black Currasows can be.

Brown Vine Snake - extremely thin I almost dismissed it as a twig



the arena for the Cock-of-the-Rock

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Guyana Day 7 - 26/3/17

The next three days of the Guyana trip are now updated onto the blog, keep scrolling down. The other days have now been back-dated to their original dates. Again, a more detailed story-line and a more varied selection of photos will be available on Richard Fairbank's blog which can be viewed by clicking on 'birding never sleeps' on the blog list.
Atta Lodge, Iwokrama
This morning we planned to walk the canopy walkway. I lagged behind again but catching up with the others on the walkway it was obviously quiet so I gave this up and went off on my own finding a vocal Blue-black Grosbeak and a small group of Grey-winged Trumpeters on the trails below. I felt I had done well and so went back for breakfast to enquire about the days plan, which in turn seemed feasible for me to head off again on my own. I had heard about an ant swarm along a different trail and so I went in search of this. Along the way I was pleased to find a Guianan Toucanet and a couple of other brown jobs, but soon I found the ant swarm which was attracting more stunning White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds. I stayed put hoping something else would appear, and this duly happened but was in fact a flock. Looking around to my left I was staggered to see a large group of Grey-winged Trumpeters slowly coming towards me. I slowly moved to a position where I could clearly see the group, and they ignored me and got within a few metres of me. A great experience but I wished Richard was alongside me knowing Trumpeters are one of his favourite families. I carried on for five minutes but got stopped in my tracks by a very loud call of a Rufous-winged Ground Cuckoo. I legged it back to the ant swarm to find Ron and the others playing the tape. Slightly gutting but good to know I now knew the call, and now I was in the company of the others, and over the next hour we notched up a great tally of species. Probably the highlights was a stunning Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Great Jacamar, Black-bellied Cuckoo and a stunning Black-faced Hawk. The latter was an impressive find by Ron knowing the feather found on the path probably related to this species, and upon playing a recording one duly arrived above us and we enjoyed fine views.
A quick lunch was had as I was eager to get back into the forest. I walked the same trail as yesterday an came across much of the same as yesterday but a large feeding flock of Grey Antwrens also held a Long-tailed Woodcreeper, but with more mammal encounters including a Red-rumped Agouti and many Red Howler Monkeys, making me think a Jaguar would be close by, but this wasn't to be. Back at the lodge a vocal Amazonian Pygmy Owl caused much panic and running around though was eventually pinned down by Ron, how he spotted it I have no idea. After this chaos we walked down to a small bridge and waited for a Crimson Topaz to come in, and scrutinised many Swifts and eventually found the little-known Chapman's Swift. We then drove further north having had a welcome fizzy drink as I was feeling rather malarial, and tried another spot for White-winged Potoos. We found two bird this time, but the top highlight here was a surprise Sunbittern that flew past us in the pitch black and landed on the track. We spotlighted it back to the lodge on top of the 4x4s seeing very little. A brilliant day and my liking for Atta Lodge was increasing by the hour.
Crane Hawk

Black-faced Hawk

Grey-winged Trumpeters - 16

Sunbittern

Ruddy Quail Dove - 4

Scarlet Macaw

Lilac-tailed Parakeet - 5 bvd

Caica Parrot - 2

Black-bellied Cuckoo

Amazonian Pygmy Owl

Chapman's Swift - 1

Crimson Topaz

Great Jacamar

Guianan Toucanet

Long-tailed Woodcreeper - 1

Ferruginous-backed Antbird - 1

White-plumed Antbird

Rufous-throated Antbird

Guianan Red Cotinga - 1

Blue-black Grosbeak

Green Oropendola
 Grey-winged Trumpeters showing very well
 Ferruginous-backed Antbird
 Black-faced Hawk
 Red-rumped Agouti
 roosting Bats
Chapman's Swift - a tricky bird to identify but with photos its possible. The uniform underparts very diagnostic from any other Swift in the region, as is the shape of the wing. The upperparts were also uniform.
Amazonian Pygmy Owl - phone-scoped shot. How Ron spotted this I have no idea, even if it did fly in viewing through the bins it was nearly impossible to see.
 Iwokrama Canopy Walkway
watching the Ferruginous-backed Antbird, with Richard viewing on his trusty Gentleman's stool.