Day 9 - At sea, on our way to the Amazon River Oct 25—Nov 08, 2004

Posted by Peter English

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Peter English

Peter English became interested in birds while in the fourth grade. He graduated from Williams College in 1988 and received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Texa...

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Yesterday was a full day, and so much of today's update will cover yesterday's activities. Most of us left at dawn for the Brownsberg Reserve in south-central Suriname.

The Brownsberg excursion was a wonderful day in what Steve Hilty has described as among the tallest forests in South America. The area is extremely well preserved with unusually tall and straight trees. As soon as we arrived we were treated to incredible views of a flock of seven Gray-winged Trumpeters. These bizarre, mostly velvety black birds, are only found in well protected forests. They are the size and shape of a guineafowl. One of their most interesting and attractive features is the patch of iridescent feathers on their neck which is purple, green or bluish depending on the angle of the light. As we watched the flock they calmly ate in the clearing and after about 30 minutes slowly blended back into the forest.

Gray-winged Trumpeter

Gray-winged Trumpeter — Photo: Peter English

After the Trumpeters left, we divided into four groups and spread out along a narrow road to find the specialties of the area. Several groups found the very local White-throated Pewee as well as Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-tailed Trogon, White-necked Puffbird, Golden-olive, Yellow-throated, and Chestnut woodpeckers, and Guianan Toucanet. One of the great things about this forest was the very impressive mixed-species flocks – a sample of what we found in these flocks included Cinereous Antshrike, Fasciated Antshrike, Mouse-colored Antshrike, and five species of antwrens (Pygmy, Brown-bellied, White-flanked, Long-winged, and Gray). Away from flocks we found an equally impressive number of antbird species including Gray Antbird, Amazonian Antshrike, Warbling Antbird, Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Wing-banded Antbird, and Scale-backed Antbird.

Scale-backed Antbird

Scale-backed Antbird — Photo: Peter English

We all met for lunch at an overlook of Van Blommestein Lake to enjoy the cool breeze while we ate, when a shout of "Ornate Hawk-Eagle!" erupted. Within moments 4 spotting scopes were focused on a beautiful adult eagle perched only 30 yards away and everyone was treated to fantastic views of this beautiful rufous, white, and slate gray bird. Other birds we saw from the overlook included a perched White Hawk, a Bat Falcon catching insects. Just over our heads in a Clusia Red-legged and Green honeycreepers and Golden-olive woodpeckers were eating the fruit.

After lunch we went back out on the road to watch the afternoon activity. Earlier in the morning we had seen a group of three Black Curassows cross the road and walk into the forest. Curassows are very large and as a result are typically among the first species to disappear when humans enter an area. In the afternoon our good fortune continued and we found another group of four Black Curassows. Most large animals also typically disappear when humans enter and area, and then wildness of Brownsberg was underscored again when we found Brown Capuchin and a Gray Brocket Deer.

Tall forest along a road at Brownsberg

Tall forest along a road at Brownsberg — Photo: Peter English

We returned to the ship just in time to begin our departure from Suriname and steamed past Paramaribo at sunset. Since then we have been at sea on our way to the Amazon River.

Today we had a full schedule of lectures as we head south. Peter English gave a talk explaining Lek behavior, Steve Hilty gave a talk on his favorite places to go birding in South America, and Andy Whittaker told us about the birding opportunities in his adopted home of Brazil.