Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birding in Guyana Part 4: On the Road to Iwokrama

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Channel-billed toucan

In part 3 of my series of posts about birding in Guyana, I promised to show you some of the birds we saw on our six-hour drive along the road from Rock View Lodge to the Iwokrama Forest Reserve and Ecolodge.

My mind is back on Guyana for a couple of reasons. First of all there is just so much to share about my trip there. Secondly, the upcoming issue (July/August 2010) of Bird Watcher's Digest features Guyana in our regular travel column "Far Afield." Julie Zickefoose writes about her trip to Guyana in an article entitled "Journey to the Lungs of the Earth."

Thirdly, I've just finished the rough edits on a podcast about Guyana for "This Birding Life." That should be ready for listening within a few days.

In our last Guyana blog post, we left off just after a flight from Georgetown to the Annai airstrip in the interior. We lunched at Rock View Lodge and climbed aboard three 4 x 4 trucks for transport along the lone road in the interior of Guyana to Iwokrama. The road bed was red clay and very dusty. I felt lucky to be in the lead vehicle, which was also the lone truck with air conditioning. The day was as hot as the hinges of Hades, but even the delicious comfort of the cool truck cab could not keep us from leaping out each time we spotted a new bird.
Red-throated caracara.

King vultures mixed with blacks and turkeys overhead. Several species of caracara added themselves to our list, including a screaming family group of red-throated caracaras. Small clusters of swallow-tailed kites skimmed the tree tops. The landscape was changing from open savanna scrub to forest edge and then to proper forest. As it changed, so did the bird life.

Swallow-winged puffbird

Swallow-winged puffbirds sallied forth from snags. Macaws and parakeets whirred across the roadway opening. Roadside hawks lived up to their names.

Roadside hawk

Strange bird shapes appeared everywhere, causing excited shouts from our truck.

We'd get out, optics swinging onto targets and shout out names, or more likely families of birds, or even MORE likely things like "I have a large dark raptor with a long tail." Or "I've got some sort of jacamar on that snag on the left."
Distant yet unmistakable paradise jacamars.

Or "Some tiny green thing is singing and hover-gleaning over here in this fruiting tree." Our guides helped call out the birds' names when they could.

The farther along the road we we, the deeper and older the forest got. Soon we passed through the gate into the Iwokrama Forest Reserve and it was here that we entered the true rain forest.

Sign at the Iwokrama gate

We continued driving and stopping for birds for the next few hours. When all the trucks in our convoy finally got together, our tour leaders told us we were running really behind schedule. Since we still had a long way to drive before reaching the Iwokrama River Lodge, we had to swear that we'd only stop for the rarest of the rare. Suggestions were made for what would qualify as a stop-worthy sighting: Jaguar, harpy eagle, and anaconda were all mentioned. I threw in "A Pittsburgh Pirates' World Championship" knowing full well that we'd be more likely to find the other three creatures together, playing poker in the middle of the road before I'd see the Pirates hoist the World Champion flag over their stadium.

We made better time the rest of the way, but still stopped a few times. Once for a long, bright green snake that had been killed in the road.

Stopping for a dead green snake.

And a few times for new bird species. We arrived at Iwokrama well after dusk, dusty, hot, hungry, and tired—but happy for a great day of birding along the only read road in Guyana's interior.
Our late dinner at the Iwokrama River Lodge and research station

Here are a few of the bird images I captured that day.
Spix's guan

Muscovy ducks in a roadside slough.

Red-billed toucans.

An immature rufescent tiger-heron.


On May 27, 2010 at 6:52 PM Erik said...

If you ever grow weary of these fam trips, let me know. I'll be happy to suffer through a few.

I hadn't considered Guyana for the travel list but after seeing Julie's and your posts, I'm ready.

On May 27, 2010 at 7:25 PM CNemes said...

Wow! Gorgeous photos--I particularly like the one of the toucan taking flight (mostly because the second individual looks like he's mooning you.) Have to agree with Erik--I'm ready to stow away on the next flight to Guyana.