Guyana's Looking Up

Guyana's Looking Up

Greg Butcher
Published: 10/03/2009

It started with the Capped Heron. At dawn, we were sliding down the Essiquibo River in central Guyana in a small motorboat looking for waterbirds. We saw the Capped Heron land at the top of the tallest tree at the edge of the river. Why wasn’t it down by the river looking for food?

As we continued down the river, we found pairs of Swallow-tailed Puffbirds high in the canopy, periodically sallying out, flashing their white wing patches, and returning to the highest bare branch around. A group of five Paradise Jacamars with their long pointed beaks and equally long pointed tails were easy to spot by looking up. White-throated Toucans chose a high exposed perch. And when we got to Turtle “Mountain” to begin our trek, we started by chasing after a subadult Ornate Hawk-Eagle calling incessantly from the canopy.

After scrounging in the scrub the rest of the morning, we shared our lunch with a Pied Puffbird lording over us from the top of the riverside tree. And when we headed back out in the late afternoon, woodpecker-crazy Gerard insisted we look up for a very large and very Red-necked Woodpecker, a close relative of the Ivory-bill. I have always looked for manakins to be dancing at eye level, but Mike insisted that one of the birds a hundred feet above us was a White-throated Manakin.

The large Spix’s and small Marail Guan high in the roadside trees were a testament to the lack of hunting at Iwokrama. Although the full moon often produces a good assortment of nightbirds, we encountered only a couple of Blackish Nightjars by looking down. But when we looked up, even though we were dying for dinner, we were rewarded by one of the least-known birds we are likely to encounter during our trip – the White-winged Potoo, a night bird that is related to owls.

And by the time we returned to Iwokrama River Lodge and found a Rum Punch and dinner, things were really looking up!