Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock - Guyana 2017

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Monday, 24 April 2017

Guyana Day 13 - 1/4/17

The penultimate three postings of my trip to Guyana with Nick Preston, Richard Fairbank, Nick Gardner, Stuart Reeds and Paul Hopkins being guided by Ron Allicock and his wife Marissa. The savannah birding was generally hard work with high temperatures and fewer species then in the rainforest, but did include many range-restricted species.

Crested Doradito Site
The day started earlier than usual today as a half-naked Stu knocked on my door wanting a tick to to be removed, which after a bit of time I managed to do. We were heading out into the savannah north of Caiman House in search of two range-restricted species, and the possible chance of some Giant Anteaters. In the headlights as we moved through the dry land were some Double-striped Thick-Knees and several Red-bellied Macaws, though little else was evident. My eyes were tuned in to finding an Anteater as we took several indistinct tracks out into the vast wilderness. The front vehicle eventually slammed the brakes on, and looking out into the distance was a large animal running away from us, it was a Giant Anteater. Despite being overjoyed by this, it was very annoying the animal kept running away from us and eventually lost to view. We did however chase after it but in the thick vegetation it was near on impossible to find. We did however come across a roosting White-tailed Nightjar and several displaying Grassland Yellowfinch, one of the very few birds species I had seen before. A little later on I spotted another Anteater and this one was much closer and good scope views were had. We had now arrived at the Doradito site, a species which range is restricted to parts of Venezuela and Guyana, with a single breeding record for Trinidad. Where we parked was in the middle of nowhere and the mind boggles has to how these birds were found. We walked out into the grassland in a long line and after a fair bit of searching we found a pair, one of which showed very well and they were beauties. We shortly after walked around a marshy area trying for Pinnated Bittern but could only find another Crested Doradito and finally a female Bearded Tachuri. After finding our two targets of the day we retreated back to Caiman House. Another afternoon rest was had despite me wanting to venture into the nearby forest for Spotted Puffbird, but I couldn't bring my tired body to it. The late afternoon/evening was spent on a small boat on the nearby river where a very enjoyable time was had seeing a range of waterbirds, and despite seeing them before, getting up close to two Black Skimmers was certainly a highlight. Two species of Caiman was also a bonus, but disappointing to not see any Giant River Otters. Another fine day in Guyana.

Highlights from the day are:

White-tailed Kite
Long-winged Harrier
White-tailed Hawk
Orange-breasted Falcon
Double-striped Thick-Knee
Black Skimmer
Squirrel Cuckoo
White-chinned Sapphire
Bearded Tachuri
Crested Doradito
Lesser Kiskadee
Bi-coloured Wren
Chestnut-bellied Seedeater

Giant Anteater - 2
Spectacled Caiman
Black Caiman

 Double-striped Thick-Knee

 Giant Anteaters - my dream of walking right up to one never materialised, though apparently they don't like people in Guyana, so a trip to NE Brazil will be on the cards
 Red-bellied Macaws
 Swallow-tailed Kite
 Black Caiman
 Spectacled Caiman - the other Spectacled we saw had no arms
 Black Skimmer
Amazon Kingfisher
 Guyana's savannah
 searching for the Crested Doradito
 birding the river
our accommodation house at Caiman Lodge

Guyana Day 14 - 2/4/17

Caiman Lodge - Karasabai
The night before we had been given a brief by Ron informing us of our next accommodation. It was said to be very basic and we were to expect the worse, sleeping outside on the floor seemed feasible at this time. Anyway, with open minds we left Caiman Lodge at a respectable time and once again headed out into the savannah returning back to the main road. We stopped at a wetland where large flocks of Jabirus were present, and Nick G somehow found a head of a Pinnated Bittern that then thankfully started moving to allow everyone else to see it. Our only Roseate Spoonbills of the trip also flew through. Heading back towards the main road a White-naped Xenopsaris was found, and then it was straight across the main road and into the unknown yet again heading for Karasabai. The track was extremely rough and Maraissa done her best to keep me awake, which she duly did. Another wetland area was watched but little was present, although seeing a Common Tody-Flycatcher again was nice, and a Zone-tailed Hawk went over.

Now close to Karasabai, Brazil was in touching distance. Our accommodation was found and we settled in with the owner knowing we were coming and it all seemed really nice, including electricity and a shared bathroom. It was extremely hot and we rested for sometime before driving into a nearby valley to find one of the top targets of the trip, the Sun Parakeet. This species has been decimated by the cage-bird trade but is now legally protected, though no doubt are still threatened. We stopped at a regular sight but there was no sign. Driving slowly on Marissa at the wheel shouted Sun Parakeets and to our right in a tree were six bright yellow birds feeding. We all jumped out and called back the front vehicle and for maybe 30-seconds enjoyed lovely views of certainly the most favourite Parakeet to date. They soon took flight calling as they went. We birded the valley up until dusk finding a couple of Laughing Falcons, Green Aracari but no more Parakeets. In fact, these were the only Parakeets we saw during the whole time in Karasabai, very lucky.

Highlights from the day are:

Pinnated Bittern
Roseate Spoonbill
Crane Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
American Gallinule
Sun Parakeet - 6
Burrowing Owl
Green Aracari
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet
Scrub-Flycatcher sp.
Lesser Elania
White-naped Xenopsaris
Brown-chested Martin
Yellow-hooded Blackbird
Red-eyed Vireo

 Jabiru - no doubt South America's equivalent of Africa's Marabou Stork
 Crested Caracara
 Yellow-hooded Blackbird

Sun Parakeets - certainly a trip highlight

 approaching an area that very few tourists have set foot, those that have are mainly birders hoping to see the Sun Parakeets.
 Sun Parakeet valley
sunset looking into Brazil

Guyana Day 15 - 3/4/17

Karasabai to Manari Ranch
We headed back out into the valley for first light to search for the Parakeets, but we had no luck with these. We saw some nice species to compensate however, but as the morning warmed up I became lazy and decided to speak to Marissa and then listen to some music. The others thankfully hadn't seen anything and we gave up and headed back to our accommodation, with Marissa letting me drive a couple of miles which was fun. I went to overtake Ron but with having to go off road to do so I had to hang back.

We left the area and headed back to the main road where we tracked south towards Manari Ranch, our last area before flying back to Georgetown. The journey wasn't as long as I thought and we soon arrived at a very nice setting alongside a small river and very nice accommodation. We were left to do as we pleased for the afternoon. I again chilled out catching up on sleep, communications back home and going for a little swim in the river. A few fish were nibbling my feet but as no Anacondas were present I dived in. Afterwards I walked up the nearby runway for any night birds and peacefully watched the sun go down. Several Least Nighthawks were hawking around a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks were singing nearby.

Highlights for the day are:

Laughing Falcon
Brown-throated Parakeet
Great Horned Owl
Least Nighthawk
Eastern Long-tailed Hermit
Green Aracari
White-bellied Piculet
White-bellied Antbird
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Hooded Tanager
Orange-backed Troupial

 Lineated Woodpecker
 Brown-crested Flycatcher

 Laughing Falcon
White-bellied Piculet - phone-scoped

 Manari Ranch
sunset at Manari Ranch

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

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Splash Point 9/4/17

A very productive seawatch this morning in what felt like perfect conditions. A constant stream of birds up until late morning and by 11am the passage had eased significantly.

Totals 6am - 11am are as follows:

Brent Geese - 878
Common Scoter - 831
Sandwich Tern - 603
Arctic Skua - 12
Shelduck - 4
Whimbrel - 31
Gannet - 49
Little Gull - 80
Razorbill - 3
Commic Tern - 46 (most confidently identified as Common)
Mediterranean Gull - 30
Red-breasted Merganser - 2
Teal - 23
Velvet Scoter - 26
Auk sp. - 10
Red-throated Diver - 13
Great Skua - 1
Little Tern - 4
Shoveler - 5
Gadwall - 4
Tufted Duck - 15
Bar-tailed Godwit - 2
Wheatear - 1 in off

Harbour Porpoise - 1

 7 Little Gulls and 3 Common Terns passing Splash Point

Little Gulls moving past Splash Point