Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Suriname- Winding Things up in Paramaribo November 16, 2011

The last day of a birding trip is always hard, especially when it is someplace as special as Suriname. On most trips I am ready to go home, even with a bit of reluctance. I really didn't want to leave Suriname. We got up and I was ecstatic to find my toe almost completely normal. I have no idea what I had done to it the day before, but it was only a bit swollen and I could walk just fine. We ate breakfast at the hotel, the typical bread and egg sandwich and instant coffee. Did I mention before you can only get instant coffee in Suriname? That was the one thing I didn't like.

Sean came by and picked us up and headed back to Peperpot Park, across the river. We had really liked this place when we visited at the beginning of the trip and were looking forward to returning. We went to the entrance on the other side of the park. Peperpot wasn't open, so we birded the road, which runs parallel to the Suriname River. We were seeing some of the more common birds, when I saw a gray raptor sitting on top of a tree. It was a Slender-billed Kite, a life bird for me and one we had dipped on at the beginning of the trip. It was a very sharp looking bird and the bill really was slender!

We arrived at the park just as it was opening. A Striped Cuckoo demanded some attention near the gate. We found a pair of Black-throated Antbirds within a few dozen yards of walking in. Martin was particularly delighted with the Little Hermits we saw buzzing around. I looked up and spotted a Black-spotted Barbet high in a tree above me.  A Blood-colored Woodpecker gave us much longer looks than the bird we saw on the first day. My photos were still really horrible. One of my favorite birds of Peperpot was a bright little Pygmy Kingfisher. I had seen one in Brazil, but it was only the tail end as it flew away. This one perched and even allowed a few photos.  We were really happy to get looks at Painted Tody-Flycatcher. We were ticking like bastards, as Martin likes to say.

Sean found out a Great Potoo was being seen at the other end of the park, where we had birded before. One had been regularly seen in a tree on that end for a long time, but that particular tree had fallen in a storm. The potoo had returned and found a new roost. We hopped in the van, parked and walked in. It is amazing how such a large bird can be almost invisible. Potoos sit upright during the day with their bills pointing up. Their plumage is the color of dead bark. It is very easy to walk right past one, blowing it off as a snag. Sean and Martin found it and we got incredible looks. I wish we could have heard it call, as it has a crazy voice. Next time you run into Martin, ask him to do his imitation of it.

The next part of our day involved an owl chase. Sean knew possible roosting places for Striped and Crested Owls. He wasn't positive, but he had a good feeling. Well, Sean didn't know that we have the worst owl karma in the world. More than once we have gone for a "sure thing", only to find that the bird was sitting on a fence post in broad day light, the day before, but no where to be seen today. This adventure ended the same way, but we did have a good time looking.  We sucked it up and headed for the coast.

Martin really wanted Long-winged Harrier very badly. We had searched on our first day, with no luck.  We slowly cruised the road past grassy fields that looked perfect for a harrier. We found a Laughing Falcon near the road, a bird that could show up in Texas some day. There were plenty of Snail Kites. Unfortunately the owls must have called the harrier, because he was a no show. We did find a Little Cuckoo in a woodpile, who flew to a nearby fence to look us over. We stopped by an over-grown flooded ditch, where Sean had heard there was an Azure Gallinule. Guess what? No luck there either.

We returned to the shorebird site we had gone to on the first day. It was a quieter, but we did see a few herons, egrets and shorebirds. The ocean is only a short distance down the road from this spot. We went down and scanned the mudflats. A Magnificent Frigate Bird swooped above us. A Black-bellied Plover picked its away across the mud. The most interesting thing to me were the lung fish, wiggling from puddle to puddle. It was a bit late in the afternoon at this point, so we decided to slowly work our way back to Paramaribo.

We didn't go far, stopping at some woods along the road. We were really lucky to get very close looks at Spotted Tody-Flycatcher. I was able to get some of my best photos of the trip. Then an Arrowhead Piculet popped out. We had seen one at the Botanical Gardens on the first day, but this one was a lot closer. He was joined by a female. This is the one endemic species from Suriname. I love woodpeckers; how can anyone resist a really tiny one?

We made a last stop at the Azure Gallinule spot. The vegetation in the ditch was so thick, I wondered how on earth we would ever see it, if it really was in there.  Then Martin spotted an almost white head poking up from the weeds. It was the gallinule! We watched it wind through the plants, giving us pretty good looks. Then we saw two more. These gallinules were really beautiful, very pale with a soft blue shading across the breast and a light brown back. The sun was setting and the light was fading. I said that I wasn't going to look at any more birds, as I wanted this to be the last bird I saw in Suriname. We got in the car and pulled onto the road. Then Sean and Martin saw a large bird flying over the field, a Limpkin. I hadn't seen one in Suriname, so I had to weigh whether I wanted a larger list. I looked.

We went out to dinner with Sean and his delightful wife, Jini. It was a great ending to our trip.  The food, Chinese, was really good. Their company was even better. It was a nice ending to the trip. Sean did take us back to the airport VERY early the next morning. Our trip back to Texas took a full 24 hours from the time we left the hotel in Paramaribo until we landed in Houston.

This trip was an amazing experience. Suriname is nothing like any country I have ever been in. The people are wonderful. I am amazed at how so many different groups of people get along so well. I might have mentioned before that the synagogue in Paramaribo is next to the main mosque. Hindus and Muslims lived in peace together, even during the troubles in India in the middle of the 20th century. Sean Dilrosun was a great guide. I would highly recommend him. Don't pass up the chance to visit Suriname. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thanks for sharing our trip with us!

Photos from this day:

The bird list for the day:

 1 Cinereous Tinamou- Heard
2 Magnificent Frigatebird
3 Great Egret
4 Snowy Egret
5 Little Blue Heron
6 Tricolored Heron
7 Cattle Egret
8 Striated Heron
9 Wood Stork
10 Black Vulture
11 Turkey Vulture
12 Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
13 Osprey
14 Gray-headed Kite
15 Snail Kite
16 Slender-billed Kite
17 Black-collared Hawk
18 Roadside Hawk
19 Yellow-headed Caracara
20 Laughing Falcon
21 Peregrine Falcon
22 Purple Gallinule
23 Azure Gallinule
24 Limpkin
25 Black-bellied Plover
26 Wattled Jacana
27 Spotted Sandpiper
28 Solitary Sandpiper
29 Greater Yellowlegs
30 Lesser Yellowlegs
31 Least Sandpiper
32 Common Ground-Dove
33 Ruddy Ground-Dove
34 Brown-throated Parakeet
35 Green-rumped Parrotlet
36 Orange-winged Parrot
37 Little Cuckoo
38 Striped Cuckoo
39 Greater Ani
40 Smooth-billed Ani
41 Great Potoo
42 Rufous-breasted Hermit
43 Little Hermit
44 Gray-breasted Sabrewing
45 Black-throated Mango
46 Crimson Topaz
47 Glittering-throated Emerald
48 Green Kingfisher
49 American Pygmy Kingfisher
50 Black-spotted Barbet
51 Arrowhead Piculet
52 Blood-colored Woodpecker
53 Yellow-chinned Spinetail
54 Straight-billed Woodcreeper
55 Black-crested Antshrike
56 Pygmy Antwren
57 Black-throated Antbird
58 Mouse-colored Tyrannulet
59 Northern Scrub-Flycatcher
60 Pale-tipped Tyrannulet
61 Spotted Tody-Flycatcher
62 Painted Tody-Flycatcher
63 Gray-crowned Flycatcher
64 Pied Water-Tyrant
65 Cinnamon Attila
66 Swainson's Flycatcher
67 Short-crested Flycatcher
68 Great Kiskadee
69 Boat-billed Flycatcher
70 Rusty-margined Flycatcher
71 Piratic Flycatcher
72 Tropical Kingbird
73 Cinereous Becard
74 Ashy-headed Greenlet
75 Gray-breasted Martin
76 Barn Swallow
77 Buff-breasted Wren
78 House Wren
79 Tropical Gnatcatcher
80 Pale-breasted Thrush
81 Spectacled Thrush
82 Tropical Mockingbird
83 Yellow Warbler
84 Bananaquit
85 Silver-beaked Tanager
86 Blue-gray Tanager
87 Palm Tanager
88 Turquoise Tanager
89 Grayish Saltator
90 Blue-black Grassquit
91 Wing-barred Seedeater
92 Blue-black Grosbeak
93 Red-breasted Blackbird
94 Yellow-hooded Blackbird
95 Yellow Oriole
96 Crested Oropendola

Friday, December 2, 2011

Suriname-I hate the sound of cracking bones, November 15, 2011

I was having a little trouble sleeping during our stay at Brownsberg. Some of it might have been all of the insect bites I got, because I stupidly did not use insect repellent. Some of it might have been the sounds in the night, which included a Vermiculated Screech Owl. For whatever reason, I was really tired when I woke up this morning. I told Martin that I wanted to have a little lie in and would join Sean and him at breakfast. Deep in the back of my mind I knew this was a bad idea, but I really did want a bit more sleep.

I immediately fell into a pretty deep sleep. I was awakened by Sean, who was shouting, "SHERIDAN! CAPUCHINBIRD!" He and Martin had found a pair at the far end of the compound. Martin knew just how badly I wanted this bird, so he told Sean to come back and get me, while he played bits of the call back to them to keep them around. I jumped out of bed and started putting my clothes on. My little toe on my left foot got caught in the hem of my pants and I heard a loud CRACK. The pain that shot up my foot went clear to my scalp. I said to myself "Oh, shucks. I think I broke my toe!" Actually, that is not quite what I said. I didn't care if it was broken or not. I put on my socks and forced it into my sneaker. I limped up to the van, climbed in and told Sean, "I think I might have broke my toe." I actually was laughing when I said it.

We got to the clearing and I hobbled up to Martin. His eyes were huge. He said one of the Capuchinbirds almost took his hat off it flew so close. I was a nervous wreck thinking they may have gone. Then I heard it, the craziest bird call of all, as far as I was concerned. It is impossible to describe, so here is a link to a Youtube video of them displaying- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxrQqqTa0hM
I think I would have been happy even if all I did was hear them, but then they flew in. One perched up on a bare branch and I got absolutely the worst photo of a bird I have ever taken! I was ecstatic, despite the on-going pain.

I was still in shock, when Sean told me they had found a very cool moth, that I really wanted to see, one with skulls on its wings. I thought this was the bug mentioned in Silence of the Lambs. It may have been the one that Thomas Harris was thinking of, but the movie poster shows an old world moth. Anyway, we walked over the showers and I was able to photograph the moth. The scientific name is Citheronia hamifera, commonly known as the Royal Moth. There were a number of other great looking moths on the wall and a small mantis that looked like it was made of tarnished silver.

I hobbled back out to the clearing and Martin had something really special in the scope, a male Tufted Coquette. I had only seen females and juveniles. This guy was more than fantastic! Here is a link to Martin's digiscoped photo- http://www.martinreid.com/Misc%20website/SUR11TuftedCoquette.html
This guy was amazing! The gorget feathers were beyond fantastic!

I was finding it a bit easier to walk, though I still was in some pain. I wasn't limping quite as badly.  We returned to the cabin and I checked for the Fer-de-lance and was a bit surprised to not find him in the stump. Now I was a bit worried! If he was in the stump I wasn't going to step on him. Now that wasn't the case! Who knows where he went?

A Ferruginous-backed Antbird started calling from the woods. This is a bird that is supposed to be easy at Brownsberg. We had heard it several times, but were never able to get on it. We worked our way down into the woods and Sean played his tape. The bird finally came in and we got incredible looks. I even got a few poor photos. This was my second favorite bird at Brownsberg. I have always like antbirds. This trip made me love them.

This was our last day at Brownsberg. We packed the van at 11:00 AM, check out time. We did do a bit more birding and had one last lunch at Rocky's restaurant.  I noticed some butterflies fluttering around and took a few photographs. I really did not want to leave. I felt like I could have stayed for months at Brownsberg, cold showers and all. We got in the van and started the drive down the rocky entrance road. My toe was not hurting that much I began to suspect it was not actually broken. One the way down we ran into some Bearded Saki Monkeys, species number 6!

We arrived back near the airport in the mid afternoon. We were going to work for some of the birds we missed at the beginning of our trip. Sean took us to another spot to look for Black Manakin and Saffron-crested Tyrant Manakin. It was threatening rain again. We walked into the scrub and finally did find Black Manakin. The Safron-crested remained elusive, though we did hear it. It did sprinkle a bit, but not badly. Sean took us to a spot where Red-bellied Macaws roosted. We saw dozens and dozens of birds flying in. Even though we had seen them before on both this trip and in Brazil, it was still impressive.  We added our final member of the toucan family for the trip, Black-necked Aracari at the same spot.

We drove back into Paramaribo and checked into the same hotel that we had stayed at earlier. Sean asked if we would like to have dinner with him at a good Chinese restaurant and we agreed. He gave us a time when he would swing by and pick us up. The hot shower at the hotel was pure bliss after the cold showers at Brownsberg! Sean came by and we went over to his house, where we got our lists in order. We went to the restaurant, which was really good and his wife met us there. It was a really nice evening. Sean and his wife are both great company, a lot of fun to be with. We made arrangements for Sean to pick us up in the morning for a last day of birding and returned to the hotel, where I was tempted to take another shower. At this point, my toe was a little swollen, but I had no pain to speak of. I am not sure what I actually did to it, but I wasn't complaining.

 Pictures for the day- http://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/sets/72157628246125757/

 1 Red-legged Tinamou-  Heard

2 Turkey Vulture

3 Swallow-tailed Kite

4 Ornate Hawk-Eagle

5 Yellow-headed Caracara

6 Laughing Falcon

7 Russet-crowned Crake - Heard

8 Gray-winged Trumpeter

9 Scaled Pigeon

10 Gray-fronted Dove

11 White-eyed Parakeet

12 Red-bellied Macaw

13 Golden-winged Parakeet - Heard

14 Dusky Parrot - Heard

15 Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift

16 Long-tailed Hermit

17 Gray-breasted Sabrewing

18 Tufted Coquette

19 White-chinned Sapphire

20 Green-backed Trogon - Heard

21 Swallow-winged Puffbird

22 Black-necked Aracari

23 White-throated Toucan

24 Waved Woodpecker

25 Lineated Woodpecker

26 Red-necked Woodpecker

27 Mouse-colored Antshrike

28 Cinereous Antshrike - Heard

29 Pygmy Antwren - Heard

30 Ferruginous-backed Antbird

31 Scale-backed Antbird

32 Thrush-like Antpitta - Heard

33 Plain-crested Elaenia

34 White-headed Marsh-Tyrant

35 Great Kiskadee

36 Purple-throated Fruitcrow

37 Capuchinbird

38 Screaming Piha - Heard

39 Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin - Heard

40 Black Manakin

41 Golden-headed Manakin

42 Wing-barred Piprites - Heard

43 Buff-cheeked Greenlet - Heard

44 Gray-breasted Martin

45 Coraya Wren - Heard

46 Pale-breasted Thrush

47 White-necked Thrush

48 Bananaquit

49 Palm Tanager

50 Bay-headed Tanager

51 Burnished-buff Tanager

52 Purple Honeycreeper

53 Red-legged Honeycreeper

54 Slate-colored Grosbeak

55 Pectoral Sparrow

56 Green Oropendola - Heard

57 Finsch's Euphonia

58 Vermiculated Screech-Owl