Monday, June 7, 2010

Birding in Guyana Part 6: Down from Turtle Mountain

Monday, June 7, 2010
Red-and-green macaw.

This post is a continuation of Part 5: Trekking Up Turtle Mountain. Walking back down from Turtle Mountain, one might think, would be easier than walking up. However we took a different forest trail—one that was a tad rootier and rockier—winding through more giant trees and deeper shade. As it was already afternoon, the forest was growing quieter. The first recognizable sound I heard was a grunt, quickly followed by a bad word, emanating from my own mouth as a result of stepping awkwardly on a root and twisting my ankle.

This was to be the first solid evidence than I had made bad footwear choices for this trip. Feeling the pressure of the trip's weight limitations, I took the minimum footwear I thought necessary. I packed light hiking boots (Merrills, which always seem to be too small once you leave the shoe store), some Keen flip-flops, and a new pair of rugged Crocs. I was wearing the Merrills when I stumbled, and the ankle support was not enough, apparently. I did not break anything, but the ankle would remain tender throughout the trip.

If I were going back to Guyana today, I would take better, more supportive hikers, plus a pair of beater tennis shoes (ones I could leave behind at the end of the trip), and some regular Keen sandals. In the heat, humidity, rain, and rivers your feet are damp a lot of the time in Guyana. Blisters and sore spots make it necessary to give your feet a break by changing into alternative footwear. Once my hikers became uncomfy, my choices were the Crocs (which raised immediate blisters), and the Keen flip-flops, which were neither safe nor rugged enough for the trails we hiked.

Just as I was regaining my composure after a litany of whispered, banned-from-the-radio words, we began seeing birds. Simultaneously it began to rain buckets. We stepped in lively fashion down the trail to a clearing where some open-sided buildings gave us shelter from the storm. When the rain quit, the bird activity resumed. Parrots, macaws, toucans, tanagers, woodcreepers, and a range of other feathered wonders caught our eyes.

Asaph and Tim scanning from the shelters.

We scanned the treetops on the forest edge identifying the parrots and macaws that were preening after the shower. We shook the rain off our "plumage" too, and wiped lenses dry. Then back on the trail en route to the boat landing.

Waved woodpecker, male.

We did not get very far. One of our most interesting encounters was with a pair of waved woodpeckers. One of which—the male—stayed long enough for scope looks and photos. It was picking something off the bark of a huge tree and wiping it through its feathers. We could not tell if it was sap or ants or something else. But the bird was sufficiently engrossed in its ablutions that we got very close to it.

A small flock of painted parrots (above) was foraging in fruit trees next to the path and a pair of yellow-billed jacamars (below) was hawking insects in an adjacent clearing. We all stopped to admire these cooperative birds and our reverie was broken, not by the rain re-starting (which it did), but by the prodding voices of our leaders admonishing us to finish the hike back to the boats (which we did).

Yellow-billed jacamar.

The boat ride back to Iwokrama gave us a chance to cool off after the intensely humid hike. The cooling air actually made the sun enjoyable. Had we been stationary, it would have been another story altogether.
Cooling off on the boat ride back.

Back on the friendly grounds of Iwokrama, we split into groups—some heading off for a siesta, some hoping the solar-powered wireless would be working, and the rest of us off for—what else—birding. Wally lead us along the Screaming Piha Trail in search of Guyana's weirdest bird: the capuchinbird, or calf bird. We heard them on their lek, high in the canopy, and we got modestly good looks at these cartoony creatures, but the daylight was fleeing and the show was soon over for the day. I'll tell more about a subsequent encounter with the capuchinbirds in a later post.

I wish I could remember the name of that trail we was a really cool name, too...

Moments after emerging from the trail, we took to the boats again, motoring across the river to a small island where there is a family-run bar.
Pelin, Michael, Andrew, and Steve are all cuckoo for coconuts.

We drank rum poured into cut coconuts, which is mandatory on any trip to the tropics, apparently.
When the coconuts were all gone, we had cold Banks Beer and watched the sun kiss the sky goodnight. Funny, my ankle felt fine at this point.


On June 9, 2010 at 11:20 AM Rondeau Ric said...

Is this the same ankle that has given you problems in the past?
Calf high biker boots might be in order.
I can just see it now, a white dude in shorts with big black boots. The locals would love it.