Covid had ruined all trips that we had planned to do together for last 2.5 years. I had managed to get to Tanzania in late winter but finally it started to look positive that we could do a trip together too. Still on last winter one planned trip had been cancelled because of the whole destination had been closed for tourists. But now we started to plan a trip to French Guiana which is one of the least known areas in European Union – a French department in South America.
We had already for some years talked that we should one day visit French Guiana because of it could be the easiest way to start birding in South America but also because there is ESA international space-center. Hanna has always wanted to see a rocket launching in live but it is not easy as the launch schedule changes and there are often delays because of bad weather or so on.
A French group of birders had visited French Guiana last winter and we knew one of the participants, Paul Duforney. We got some information and all their observation from ebird. They had got a local guide for most of their trip and we also contacted to same guide but soon we got information that he was going to be on holiday in France during our trip. We contacted a couple of other potential guides too but only one that answered (because was maybe only one speaking English) was also going to France. But anyway we got some more information from both locals too which helped to plan the trip. Then we also got possibility to use local bird-observation app and of course used also lots of ebird which was easier to use as it was in English.
We did quite a lot of shopping because of we needed new clothes and other stuff that were necessary in very hot and humid Amazonia. We started to pack about one week before the trip and finally a couple of days before the trip we had managed to book all the necessary accommodations and a couple of trips and finally locked the final tour-program. Hanna had made a huge work contacting many places by using google-translation because of we didn’t get almost any answers to English emails. Excitement was getting high also because of a rocket-launch that had supposed to be much earlier had been cancelled and moved now to happen only 2 days before our trip – we just needed one tiny delay more…
To French Guiana
Finally on Thursday the 14th of July we started driving towards Helsinki. We stopped a couple of times on the way and finally were in Skyline airport hotel where we had booked a room. Our ordinary parking place was gone by covid and now we had found out that cheapest and easiest way was to book a room and then leave car to hotel parking place.
In the evening we ate well in hotel restaurant and still packed some things better before we went to sleep early.
On the 15th of July we woke up before 4 a.m. and soon we took a free bus to the airport. Our luggage was almost too heavy and luckily our carry on back bags weren’t weighed. Corona certificates weren’t asked anymore and there were almost no queues at all, so soon we were on our gate.
At 9:25 a.m. our flight Paris to left. It was late for about half an hour. The flight went by watching movies and about at midday we were on Paris. It was a long way to another terminal. We walked a lot and took a bus too. But again we were early at the gate and then we found out that again our flight was delayed. About an hour late our flight finally left to Cayenne a bit after 4 p.m.
It was a long flight and again I had a child sitting behind me who was kicking the seat all the time. So I really didn’t sleep much. We flew over many time-zones so it was still the same evening when we landed to Cayenne before 8 p.m. local time. Luckily we found our luggage quickly.
We got our car-keys from Sixt and soon we were walking towards the parking place. We had a lot to carry and it was extremely hot and humid outside. In thick fog we managed to find our tiny Suzuki which was at least number smaller than it was supposed to be. But we were so tired of all traveling that we just packed our car full and left driving.
We had our navigator with us and it had South America maps. So driving was very easy. There was surprisingly much traffic but all laws, limits and signs were like in Europe – we were indeed in France and EU! Roads were quite bad and outside the main roads they were awful. There were huge holes everywhere! And our car had extremely low ground clearance.
We stopped a couple of times to listen to evening sounds but heard only insects. At least we didn’t identify any birds.
Finally we turned to Hotel Belova parking place which was almost full as the hotels restaurant was very popular. We got our room where we unpacked everything we were going to need in the morning and soon we were ready to go to sleep.
On Saturday the 16th of July we woke up at 5:30 a.m. and at 6 we were driving towards Mont Rorota which we had planned to be our first destination. There we could start getting familiar with South American birds. Just before we turned to road that led to Rorota, we saw the first birds – a Pale-breasted Thrush and soon also a nice Blue-grey Tanager was seen. And while climbing up towards Rorota we saw the first Great Kiskadees and Rusty-margined Flycatchers.
When we got to the parking place the sun was just rising and from the pond that was nearby we found White-winged Swallow, Grey-breasted and Brown-chested Martins and one Barn Swallow too. On the bushes we saw some Silver-beaked Tanagers and on the sky we saw Short-tailed Swifts and a couple of Black Vultures. We heard plenty of strange voices and calls from the trees behind the pond but we had no idea if they were mostly insects, frogs or birds. Anyway I took my sound-recorder and recorded a couple of most interesting songs and calls and at least one song was identified – it was a Cinnamon Attila.
We also saw the first ever hummingbird on the bushes. It was bright green and tiny but we didn’t have our cameras ready yet as it was still very dark. The hummingbird also disappeared almost immediately so we didn’t see it well either. Anyway this observation gave us some idea how difficult everything will be with hummingbirds also later during the trip.
When we were ready, we started to climb uphill and started to walk around a 5.5 kilometers long Mt Rorota trail. The track was in the beginning in very bad shape but it was only because of the hill was so steep, all rain had made it a river too many times. The track was much better later.
It was still long time dark on the hillside and also surprisingly quiet. It was difficult to find any birds! Finally we found the first bird and also managed to take first pictures of this Streaked Flycatcher.
After some more climbing we found the first Black-headed Parrots but then we walked again a long time without seeing anything at all. And we had no idea what most of the call we heard were. Again I took some recordings and at least a Guianan Trogon and a Black-banded Woodcreeper were identified.
A Pale-breasted Spinetail was seen inside one dense bush but it disappeared immediately. Helmeted Pygmy Tyrants were calling almost like Great Spotted Woodpeckers so they were easy to identify but still this tiny bird was very difficult to see. In one tree we saw a Tropical Gnatcatcher and then we saw a Chivi Vireo very briefly. Along the trail we found some flowering bushes and it didn’t take long to find a hummingbird that was visiting them. The bird visited flowers one by one but stayed only for a couple of seconds in every flower. Then after about 10 to 15 seconds it disappeared and after 5 minutes waiting it came back again. So it was very difficult to see anything that could help with identifying and it was also very difficult to get any pictures of it. But after all we got some pictures and could tell that it was a Little Hermit.
Finally we reached Lac du Rorota where the view was more open and right away we could see some raptors. There were plenty of Black Vultures but also some Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures were seen. Also Hook-billed Kites, Crane Hawks, a Zone-tailed and a Broad-winged Hawk were seen. Surprisingly we saw also 3 Magnificent Frigatebirds on the sky.
A stunning Anhinga was perched quite close on the branches and we managed to get some good pictures. We also saw an American Pygmy Kingfisher flying fast over the water.
It started to get hot very early and we were suffering from dehydration so walking was quite hard. There were more and more other people passing us as they were walking much faster than us. Soon people were coming also towards us as they had started to walk the trail other way. One couple stopped to talk with us and they told that they had seen a Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth on the way. They kindly showed us the place from the phone-map and after a couple of kilometers walking we managed to find it. Luckily sloths are not moving too quickly! There were also some Guianan Squirrel Monkeys. But none of the animals were showing very well so after we had taken some pictures, we continued walking.
The second sloth we found was showing even worse and it was easy to notice that there were almost no birds at all now. Only new birds we identified were a climbing Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and a calling Fasciated Antshrike. Once we were back on the parking lot, we met a kind lady who told that she had just seen a couple of sloths that were showing well. We followed her for a couple of hundreds of meters and found a mama and a baby sloths hanging right above the trail. These were really showing nicely.
On the parking place we still saw a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet and once we were driving downhill we stopped a couple of times and found Tropical Kingbirds, a Short-crested Flycatcher, a Ruddy Ground Dove and then we stopped again once we got down to the shore. There we put up our telescope and scanned the muddy area. Water-level was very low so there weren’t many birds and they were far but we found some Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets and a Laughing Gull and nearby we saw also some Blue-black Grassquits, Smooth-billed Anis and Carib Grackles.
It was really getting hot and the sunshine was very biting. So we decided to visit a shop and buy something to drink and then visit our hotel briefly so we could just relax a little and drink well before heading back out. But soon we were driving towards Lagune du Larivot sewage water area.
In Lagune du Larivot we started to see lots of birds immediately. There were lots of Wattled Jacanas but also a Little Cuckoo, a couple of Black-crested Antshrikes, Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, Pied Water Tyrants, Yellow-chinned Spinetails, a Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-hooded Blackbirds, a Boat-billed Flycatcher, a Spectacled Thrush, a Buff-throated and a Straight-billed Woodcreeper and then also a familiar Osprey were seen. We also saw some birds we had already seen and then an Iguana that crossed the road quickly.
Port du Larivot was a difficult place as it was surrounded by big fences and walls so we didn’t really know what to do there but we managed to twitch a Blackish-grey Antshrike that started calling actively. We also saw a couple of Bicolored Conebills and on the river we saw some Yellow-billed Terns.
Our next place was Marais Le Blond which was another sewage water treatment plant but it was very good. Most of the species were same as one the previous places but we saw also some Striated Herons, Shiny Cowbirds, White-headed Marsh Tyrants, House Wrens, Lesser Kiskadees, a Black-capped Donacobius, a Yellow Oriole and noisy Yellow-rumped Caciques.
We still one quite boring stop in Poudriere fortress but saw only a White-tipped Pigeon and a Palm Tanager before we continued to Vieoux de Port harbor where tide was just rising.
From the dock we saw amazing numbers of birds and mostly we were interested of waders but there were also lots of egrets and herons, terns, Black Skimmers and so on! Soon we found the first amazingly pink Scarlet Ibises and then noticed two different subspecies of Cabot’s Terns which the local race “Cayenne Tern” has a yellow bill. Amongst numerous waders we found Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Hudsonian Whimbrels, Short-billed Dowitchers, Spotted Sandpipers and thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers. Also a Grey Plover, Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a locally rare Little Egret were seen.
The water-level was rising very fast so soon almost all birds had left. So we still continued to Sentier de Montabo where we still saw many of the same species but in much worse light and very distant. Only one Straight-billed Woodcreeper was seen well before it was too dark. It was then nice to get into our cool room.
But we still had a long evening as we had to keep the log and identify many birds from the pictures and I had planned to listen to some recordings too but I was just too tired. And the same problem was almost every evening later during the trip too…
On Sunday the 17yh of July we woke up early again and before the sunrise we drove out from Cayenne to nearby Montjoly to La Levee. We stopped a couple of times along La Levee road and finally parked along the river. There we found a dock that had a good view to the rived and forest on the other side and another good place was a couple of hundred meters before the parking place where was an open area with several big dead trees. There was a burned car and quite a lot of rubbish which made the place a little bit unattractive. And later we found out that there were burned cars quite a lot here and there, so it stealing cars was probably quite common here.
We started to find birds almost immediately and heard some Little Chachalacas, saw plenty of Orange-winged Amazons, some Short-tailed Parrots, a couple of Rufous Crab Hawks, a Hook-billed Kite, a Ringed Kingfisher, a Crested Oropendola, a Blue-tailed and a Glittering-throated Emerald, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, both Yellow and Black-crowned Night Herons, a couple of Green Ibises, the first “toucans” Green Aracaris and so on. And still many only heard birds stayed unidentified.
When we kept on driving towards our next place on one open area we saw several Giant Cowbirds and a stunning White Hawk. Soon we continued along small roads to Paramana Sud where we had got coordinates to one of the most important species of the whole trip. On the small parking place we met older birdwatcher couple who were maybe more interested of spiders but luckily they pointed us to the exact place where we could see a huge young Harpy Eagle perched next to a massive nest on a big quite distant tree. I took our telescope so we could see the eagle much better!
We walked in the area for some tie but didn’t find much else. White-eyes Parakeets and Wing-barred Seedeaters and an Ornate Hawk Eagle that flew over us were seen. Again we saw some hummingbirds too but they were flying quite high and extremely fast so we had no idea which species they were.
Next place was Station d’epuration Concorde, one more sewage water pool that we had to look outside and through the gate. Anyway we saw 6 Least Grebes and on the sky we saw a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and a couple of Striped Cuckoos were singing. Other birds were the same that we had seen in other quite similar places. But when we were leaving we saw a big colorful monitor lizard and a two-meter long black and yellow Tiger Rat Snake crossing the road.
On the hottest time of the day we went shopping. We had to buy food and other stuff for several days. It was surprisingly difficult as there was almost nothing available that Hanna, who is very allergic to many things, could eat. Luckily we had brought lots of dried wood with us from Finland but we had planned to save most of these foods to the hardest parts of the trip. After lots of searching and translating we found something anyway and were able to start driving again.
We continued to our first savanna-area to Ancien Aerodrome du Galion. There we saw some Grey-headed Kites and Crane Hawks, a couple of Little and one Reddish Hermit, a Fork-tailed Woodnymph, funny-looking Green-tailed Jacamar, a Black-faced Tanager, a few Bananaquits, a Grassland Sparrow and a beautiful Violaceous Euphonia.
We made a brief stop in Roura harbor and on one pool that was completely overgrown but where we saw a Red-legged Honeycreeper to Kaw road that started behind Roura. The road was in really bad shape! Our too low car really wasn’t made for this kind of road so driving was very slow. Soon it also started to rain very hard so there was really no need to stop.
So in forests we didn’t see many birds even though we were driving in the middle of beautiful forests. One of the stops was still good as we found a beautiful Collared Trogon.
Finally we had driven up to Mount Kaw where we parked to Tresor trail parking place. And almost right away the rain stopped. We did a short walk along the track but it had been raining so hard that the track was very wet and muddy. And of course birds were very quiet too. Anyway we managed to find a Coraya Wren, a Black-faced Antthrush, a Guianan Warbling and a Ferruginous-backed Antbird and once we were back at the parking place we saw a flock of Silver-beaked and Palm Tanagers with a couple of Fulvous-crested Tanagers.
Soon it started to rain again so we continued along Kaw road for a long time until it started to get dark. Then we found a suitable place for our camp. We put up tarps and hammocks over a small trail that left behind the place where we managed to park our car so that it was a little bit away from the road.
After we had eaten we still kept the log and then still went to try to find owls or nightjars. The weather was really good now but we made lots of listening stops without anything that sounded like a bird. Finally we stopped close to a track to Nature Lodge and met a young man who was searching for snakes. We talked for some time and when he left, I once again played some song of a Foothill Screech Owl and surprisingly a bird started to answer quite far. The owl called for some time so at least we got one owl and it was the rarest species too.
We were happy but tired when we were driving back towards our camp. Then a Common Red-rumped Agouti crossed the road. In the camp we heard a distant owl that we sound-recorded and identified as a Mottle Owl. Then we still watched nice twinkling insects flying above the road and listened to many different insects and frogs that were calling. The day had been very long so soon we were sleeping.
Along Kaw road
On the 18th of July we woke up so early that it was still completely dark. We packed our camp and soon were birding. We made a couple of stops along the road for example next to a couple of camping areas that Hanna had sent emails but one was closed and another one was told to be full and the third hadn’t answered at all.
Anyway we started to see new birds like a couple of Bat and a single Orange-breasted Falcon. We also heard several different doves and pigeons which Plumbeous Pigeon was soon more familiar. But soon we parked to Sentier de coq de roche parking place and started to walk downhill along the path.
While walking we found no birds even though the weather was good and it was still early morning. Finally we arrived at a fence that had some watching holes from where we were supposed to watch an area where Guianan Cock-of-the-rocks were supposed to be. But we had already feared that they weren’t around this time of year as ebird had no observations at and also a French sign along the path had told that the birds were around from November to April.
Anyway we stayed behind the fence for a long time and it was strange that there were really no birds at all. After a long wait we saw an Epaulet Oriole and some Crested Oropendolas on a top of one tree. I played the call of the cock-of-the-rock few times and we got a response! After all we heard the bird calling four times but we couldn’t find it. I even managed to sound-record one of the calls.
While walking up back to the parking place we were sweating a lot. The path was quite steep and slippery as it was full of roots. We heard only plenty of cicadas and no birds at all.
When we were driving again we stopped in good-looking places and on one open area we heard harsh croaking from the top of trees. Surprisingly we found four amazing beautiful Scarlet Macaws! Soon they flew over us and disappeared. Also Green-rumped Parrotlets, Ruddy Pigeons, a Grey-fronted Dove, many Band-rumped and a few Chapman’s Swifts, several heard Green-backed and som Guianan Trogons, a Fork-tailed Woodnymph, really funny-looking Golden-headed Manakins and a single White-throated Manakin, a Green Oropendola, a Greyish Mourner, two pairs of Blue Dacnis, Swallow-winged Puffbirds, a Dusky-chested Flycatcher, a Short-crested Flycatcher, a Variegated Flycatcher, a Spotted and a Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, very noisy Screaming Pihas and a Lemon-chested Greenlet were seen. We also heard and sound-recorded both a Barred and a Lined Forest Falcon, a Cinnamon Attila, Chivi Vireos and Mouse-colored Antshrikes. But of course many voices were still unidentified. We also saw plenty of big morpho-butterflies but they were always just flying very fast so they were impossible to photograph.
Finally we were in Kaw harbor and of course it started to rain again. We were cooking under a small shelter when a local nature park service man came to talk with us. He was speaking very good English so we got some information about the area and French Guiana. We also saw some birds and luckily the rain stopped before our booked boat-trip to Kaw marshes started at 2:30 p.m.
A company named Tigdilo organized this trip with a quite small and narrow boat which was almost full – 10 persons. Our guide didn’t speak any English but some of the participants were speaking very well. Anyway our guide was really good and once he noticed that we were very keen on seeing and photographing birds, he started to show all of them and I am sure the trip became more bird-trip than usually. But I think everyone enjoyed the trip even more now as we of course told every species to other people too and soon they were also pointing every bird for us. Of course we found most of the birds first but our guide and also a man that was sitting in front of the boat very good at finding birds.
We made the first stop of the trip soon when we stranded to Kaw village. It is one of the 13 villages in French Guiana that is not accessible by any roads. We were walking around the small village for about an hour and birds were especially tame and so easy to photograph. Already on the harbor we saw a couple of Common Gallinules and Spotted Sandpipers and in the village we saw many familiar species but also beautiful Red-breasted Blackbirds and a Cinereous Becard.
When we were on the river we started to get good photographing opportunities as our guide was driving the boat very well and managed to get close to many birds even if they weren’t on the shore but a little bit further in the vegetation. The thin boat was good at going through some vegetation. So we managed to get pictures of Anhingas, Neotropic Cormorants, Striated Herons, Great Egrets, Cocoi Herons, Wattled Jacanas and Greater Anis and we also managed to see several species of kingfishers and so on. We were following the river that was getting narrower all the time and we were surrounded by amazing views. Also the weather was great so we were really enjoying!
A lonely Muscovy Duck, Giant Cowbirds, Green-tailed Jacamaris, White-headed Marsh Tyrants, Lesser Kiskadees, Black-capped Donacopiuses, several too quick hummingbirds and many other already familiar species were seen. The best bird was a Rufescent Tiger Heron that we managed to get very close. One short thunder-storm gave some real rain but we had prepared to get wet at some point.
Finally we stranded to a bottom of a narrow river-branch and walked to the woods to wait for the dusk.
A Variegated Tinamou started to call nearby and we also heard a Pauraque and a Buff-throated Woodcreeper. When it was dark we started to boat back but very slowly and everyone had headlight and we were scanning the river all the time. At least two kinds of nightjars – Spot-tailed Nightjars and Band-tailed Nighthawks – were flying above the river with many different sizes of bats. But it took quite long time before the first glimmering eye was spotted just above the water. Unfortunately this quite big Caiman was shy and dived too soon but soon we started to find more eyes and small Caimans were much easier to get very close. We managed to get just next to some of these animals that we could have touches them but of course we didn’t do that – even the smallest ones had very sharp teeth.
After all we found about 30 Caimans and many of them were seen well but maybe about every third dived early. Unfortunately we didn’t see any big ones well. We also found 11 very funny-looking Common Potoos which one of them we managed to get very close and got photographs too.
When we were very close to harbor we saw some white herons on the vegetation. We got closer and could identify them as Boat-billed Herons. Unfortunately it was completely dark and we couldn’t get close enough to get pictures of these strange-looking birds before they flew to the darkness.
Finally we were back at the harbor and there we said thanks and goodbye to our guide and the rest of the group and soon we were cooking some late dinner. While we were eating a Tropical Screech Owl came to call pretty close to us. We managed to find it with our headlights and got some pictures too. After we had finished eating, we climbed a little bit up to the hill and put up our hammocks next to the path. We were both pleased wiht our Eno Skylite hammocks that were supricingly pleasant to sleep in.
Second Kaw day
On the 19th of June the Tropical Screech Owl was still calling when we woke up and soon also Variegated Tinamou started to call. Once we had walked down to the parking, we found a Pauraque and heard a Marail Guan calling.
From the harbor we saw also a Slender-billed Kite, a couple of Barred Antshrikes and a Northern Slaty Antshrike, a Black-collared Hawk, a Black-eared Fairy, several kingfishers and finally a couple of Channel-billed Toucans.
In the morning we drove a little bit back and forth along Kaw road but the weather was again rainy so we didn’t see much. And again we ate in rain under a shelter in the harbor. Then it was time for a second boat-trip to Kaw. This time we got a bigger boat from Le Morpho. This boat was very slow and it couldn’t go close to the birds. Again we stopped in Kaw village where we also ate. We had tapir and it was excellent! Also the dessert was exotic as we had ice-cream made from local Yautia Madera fruits.
Birds in the village were the same as on the previous day and the same can be said about the whole day actually. The route of the trip was much worse as we were following the bigger river and then turned to a canal where a dredge was working. We even had a stop for swimming at the most boring place there. But maybe it was a safe place to swim – maybe there were no Caimans? The weather was also rainy but anyway we saw some new birds like a Northern Scrub Warbler and a Green-tailed Goldenthroat. Of course some birds were also photographed. But it is easy to say no that if we one day come back to Marais de Kaw, we will book a two-days boat-trip so we can go further to the river delta where Hoatzins and Agami Herons can be seen.
Finally it started to rain continuously and we headed back to harbor from where we also started to drive back along Kaw road. We stopped a few times again and saw a Channel-billed Toucan, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, a Black-faced Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kites, a Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Black-headed and Red-fan Parrots, a White-throated Manakin, a Marbled Wood Quail crossing the road, a couple of Fulvous-crested Tanagers, a Buff-throated Saltator and we heard a Ferruginous-backed and a Black-chinned Antbirds and so on. Then it started to rain again and we drove as fast as it was possible to drive with our low car until Roura. There we went shopping as we had to buy food again for several days.
Our car had also extremely tiny tank which was problematic as there aren’t many gas-stations in French Guiana. There was a station in Roura but it was already closed. So we had to drive to Cayenne to fill the tank before there weren’t any stations on the next couple of days.
It was dark when we drove a long way inland and then turned to Belizon road. On the way we had seen Northern Black-eared Opossum, a Lowland Paca and a White-lipped Peccary crossing the road. Surprisingly we were stopped by a military as the road was closed to inland because of there were illegal gold-mines. We had just missed our turn to tiny and very bad road to Bonaventure Camp. Somehow we managed to drive the last 3 kilometers to the Camp and there we met a couple of men who told that the owner was somewhere but they could show us our accommodation. Our accommodation was big but after all only a simple hut (carbet) that had only low walls and a roof. But we had a toilet and shower with warm water even. But of course there were quite a few snails and other animals inside too. Other huts had group of young people drinking and smoking.
There were no beds in our carbet either but a large room for hammocks. Soon we had everything ready but we still needed to keep the log and also eat something. There were some youngsters partying in one of the sheds that luckily were so far that cicadas and frogs were much noisier anyway. From the distance we could hear a Crested Owl calling.
On the 20th of July we woke up early again and right away when there was some light we started to realize how beautiful place we were! Right from our own garden there were plenty of big trees and it was absolutely green everywhere around us. We were in a valley between some rain-forested hills and fruiting trees and flowering bushes were everywhere. Behind our hut there was a small river and there was bamboo thickets growing in some places along the river. Soon there were many different kind of birds calling around us. First bird we identified was a Little Tinamou but again most calls and songs were unidentified. Mealy Amazons were flying over us when it was still quite dark.
First we were walking only on the camp area which was quite big but then we went to walk along one path to the hillside for a couple of kilometers. It was absolutely difficult to see birds inside the rain forest. But we could find a Grey-fronted Dove, a Fasciated Antshrike, a Thrush-like Antpitta, Pygmy Antwrens, Wedge-billed Woodcreepers and a Plain-brown Woodcreeper and many other antbirds, antshrikes and and-so-on that seemed to all have very similar calls. We managed to identify Guianan Warbling and Guianan Streaked Antbird and a loud Coraya Wren. But as soon we had walked back to the camp we could find more birds visible much easier. But still some of these species were extremely difficult to identify like different kind of flycatchers and tyrannulets and so on.
Both aracaris, a Channel-billed Toucan, Dusky and Caica Parrots, White-bearded, White-crowned and Golden-headed Manakins, Lineated Woodcpecker, Screaming Pihas, Crested Oropendolas, Green Honeycreepers, Common Tody-Flycatchers, a Trilling Gnatwren, Chestnut-bellied and Wing-barred Seedeaters, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, a Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet and many familiar species were seen. There was one flowering bush in our neighbor and Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Reddish Hermit and Grey-breasted Sabrewing were visiting it. And a Long-tailed Hermit came to visit our porch and was collecting some insects under the roof.
A nice surprise was to see a Marail Guans face through a dense bush but unfortunately it disappeared too soon to get pictures. But soon it was calling with its friends in the forest. Many other small birds were seen and photographed and some were identified only from the pictures, some in the evening, some later during the trip and some at home.
We also saw some raptors like Greater and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures and Double-toothed Kites and once it was getting dark a group of about 25 Short-tailed Nighhawks came to catch insect to our garden. Slowly they moved further before they disappeared to the darkness. And after that we saw only plenty of different kind of bats.
On the 21st of July we were again birding in Bonaventure Camp and we also walked the shortest about three kilometers long trail that was partly flooded. Most of the species we saw were the same that we had seen on the previous day but we also managed to find a Golden-spangled Piculet, a Chattering Gnatwren, Purple Honeycreepers, Amazonian and Mouse-colored Antshrikes, a Dot-winged and a Todd’s Antwren, Ferruginous-backed, Grey, Black-throated and Black-headed Antbirds, Grey Antwrens, a Thrush-like and a Spotted Antpitta, a couple of Musician Wrens. Also a White-throated Toucan was calling and an Amazonian Grosbeak was singing but we couldn’t see them.
At midday it started to rain which made leaving homely Camp Bonaventura easier. We could have easily spent a week there walking trails and just relaxing in the camp with amazing birds and nature. When we come back to French Guiana, we will for sure stay longer in Camp Bonaventure.
Along Belizon road we heard one more Thrush-like Antpitta and saw a couple of Red-fan Parrots. Then close to the crossroads we saw a tame Amazonian Grosbeak and in the crossing a stunning Red-necked Woodpecker, a Red-legged Honeycreeper and so on.
We had a long drive and we didn’t make stops almost at all. So we didn’t see many birds either. Finally we parked to Botanique La Rosa garden where Hanna had found information that there was possible to sleep in hammock. We found the owner who was very old lady and she didn’t speak any English. Luckily there was a nurse visiting and he translated everything and soon we were showed a place where we could hang our hammocks. There really weren’t other places to go to sleep as the area was quite inhabited.
There weren’t many flowering bushes in the garden so only one Little Hermit was seen in flight and then in a small pool that was next to our tiny shed we saw a couple of different kingfishers.
Other birds we saw in the evening were all familiar. In darkness a couple of Guianan White-eared Opossums were running around the carbet hut were we were staying. And once again we were asleep about at 9 p.m.
Savanna walking and zoo
On the 22nd of July we didn’t find anything special from Botanical garden so soon we had packed everything and were driving again. Along the road we found a beautiful Cream-colored Woodpecker which unfortunately flew away too soon to get any pictures. And then another surprise was a Purple Gallinule that was found very close to the road.
We had to search for the right road to Savane Marivat for some time but finally we found to the right place. There we walked in wet swamp-like savanna for some time and found a couple of White-tailed Hawks, Plain-crested Elaenias, Grassland Sparrows, Wedge-tailed Grass Finches, a couple of Eastern Meadow Larks and Black-faced Tanagers, a big flock of White-eyed Parakeets, Fork-tailed Palm Swifts and a couple of Fork-tailed Flycatchers. We also heard a Bright-rumped Attila singing. We tried pretty hard to flush any snipes but couldn’t find any.
It was almost 9 a.m. when we started driving towards Zoo de Guiana. The biggest reason to visit the zoo was that there had been some recent reports of a Sun Bittern, but it was also nice to visit this zoo that had only local animals. It was also one of the only tourist-attractions in whole French Guiana.
We paid the tickets to the zoo and walked in. There were immediately some flowering bushes but only hummingbird we saw was just flying around very high and very fast. Otherwise there were only few birds around. There was a breakfast served to monkey-cages and also a couple of species of free wild monkeys, Brown Capuchins and Guianan Squirrel Monkeys came to get their part.
A Grey-lined Hawk, a Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Boat-billed Flycatchers, a Forest Elaenia, a Brown-crested Flycatcher and a Glittering-throated Emerald were seen. We walked a longish track inside the forest too but couldn’t find the Sun Bittern.
Route de Guatemala
Next we drove towards the coast and turned to Guatemala road where was had got maybe most tips before the trip. We were birding the rest day in quite small area by mostly driving and stopping in good-looking places. In this area there were plenty of different habitats from bushy coastal forests, pastures, fields and savannas. After all we drove around the area for a couple of times.
Best observations were a rare Mangrove Cuckoo, a flock of 8 Wood Storks, a Laughing Falcon, a couple of Norhern and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Plain-breasted Ground Doves, a Plumbeous Seed Eater, a Blue-chinned Sapphire, a Plain-bellied Emerald, a Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, a Golden-collared Woodpecker, a nest of a Little Woodpecker, a Black-tailed Tityra, Mouse-colored, Barred and Black-crested Antshrikes, Black-headed Antbirds, a Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwren, a Bran-colored Flycatcher, a White-winged Becard, a Turquoise Tanager, 3 flying Muscovy Ducks and a distant Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle. There were also plenty of waders, egrets and terns on the shore and so on.
Sun was already setting when we drove to a place where we found big dead palm-trees. We didn’t have to wait for long before a small flock of Red-bellied Macaws arrived. It was already dark when we continued to another place that we had coordinates and we weren’t exactly there yet when we found a Great Horned Owl perched on the wire next to the road. A little bit further along the road there was a young owl calling and begging for food. To the same place we heard also funny calls of a Grey-cowled Wood Rail. But we couldn’t stay out for too long as first time during the trip there were too many mosquitoes and these little insects were much more bloodthirsty than Finnish ones. Because of these tiny animals we had taken yellow fever vaccinations that were actually necessary when travelling to French Guiana but nobody had asked to see the certificate anywhere.
In the evening we continued to Roche Corail forests that we could found out were surprisingly inhabited. There were also some groups of people on camp-fire here and there so it was very difficult to find a place to put up a camp. It took some time but finally we found a small road the led to a construction site and we just parked in the middle of the road and put up the camp there. Whole night we could listen to a couple of distant young Spectacled Owl calling. Maybe they were still begging for food?
On the 23rd of July we woke up early and found out that there had been a camp of forest-loggers pretty close to us. They were already up and they were getting ready to cut the rainforest around us. In Goolgemaps the whole forest had still been completely uncut.
It was a little bit restless but anyway we started birding after we had packed our camp. Again some tinamou was calling distant and soon also other birds started to wake up. Different kinds of “ants” were again heard but still we felt like we hadn’t learned any calls. Luckily we soon started to see birds too and luckily some of them were easy to identify like two couples of Red-and-black Grosbeaks.
We were driving along several roads in the road and stopping many times and almost everywhere we found forest-loggers. Anyway we birded there for whole morning and found Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans, many parrots like White-eyed, Dusky and Caica Parrots, Lilac-tailed Parrotlets, Sapphire-rumped Parrotlets and Orange-winged Amazons and some raptors like well showing Swallow-tailed Kites. We managed to identify some hummingbirds again: a Tufted Coquette, a Rufous-throated Sapphire and Grey-breasted Sabrewing and other species we found were for example a Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Guianan Warbling and Dusky Antbirds, Pygmy Antwrens, a Buff-cheeked Greenlet and so on. It was pretty sad to be birding in this beautiful forest while chainsaws were buzzing on the background. It made us think if we were the last birders or at least first and last Finnish birders in this place.
We still went to walk behind a quarry where a small path was leading through a bushy area, but it was very overgrown and the weather was already getting hot so there were almost no birds at all. So soon we were driving again towards new places that were closer to Kourou city.
Unfortunately our poor car was too low for some of the roads we tried but at least we were close to some places and after all it seemed that it didn’t make a big difference as there were quite a lot of birds everywhere around places that locals are calling PK11, Piste H and Piste U. We found some Striped Cuckoos, a Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, White-lined Tanagers, a Bran-colored Flycatcher, Savanna Hawks, a White-lored Tyrannulet, a Laughing Falcon etc. Midday was once again difficult time for birding as it was too hut and noisy – cicadas and other insects were too noisy!
In Kourou we first checked a couple of small lakes and on the first one we only saw one Common Gallinule but on the second we saw both Common and Purple Gallinules. We also visited Pointe des Roches briefly but the visibility was really bad because of the haze and also water-level was too high, so we decided to continue to see other places.
We decided to go to see what was possible to see along the road that went to the rocket launching area. We first drove to ESA museum but didn’t go in but decided to drive on along the road as long as it was possible. We weren’t absolutely sure if we were allowed to drive there as all other cars were some guardian cars and so on. We managed to see some distant buildings in the horizon that Hanna was familiar with from internet but before we could get any closer the road was closed completely. We were not allowed to stop along the road at all but of course we had to photograph one of the funniest traffic sign that we have ever seen – an anteater warning sign. We saw only some birds like plenty of Swallow-winged Puffbirds, a Common Ground Dove, a Laughing Falcon, a Crane Hawk and an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher.
In the evening we stayed at Pointe des Roches where amazing numbers of waders and egrets and so on were seen while waiting for one rarity to start calling. Especially Semipalmated Sandpipers were a lot but I counted also for example 160 Scarlet Ibises. Other birds were a Rufous Crab Hawk, a couple of Golden-winged Parakeets, a Ruddy Turnstone, Black-necked Stilts, a couple of Common Terns, a Royal Tern and some city-birds like Carib Grackles, Rock Doves, House Sparrows and Black Vultures.
It was already dark when we finally heard a Little Wood Rail calling. Then we immediately decided to start driving towards Cayenne and familiar Hotel Belova.
Marais de Fouillee
On the 24th of July we were driving already in the darkness. Soon we parked to a big supermarket parking lot where a Lesser Nighthawk was flying around- Then we walked a couple of hundreds of meters to a bridge and then turned to follow a small canal that was between pastures in Marais de Fouillee. And right away there were lots of birds calling and also visible.
Wattled Jacanas, a Grey-breasted Crake, a Solitary Sandpiper, Pale-vented Pigeons and White-tipped Doves, Striped and Little Cuckoos, kingfishers, Barred and Amazonian Antshrikes, Buff-breasted and Coraya Wrens, Yellow-chinned Spinetails, a Green-tailed Jacamar, a Masked Yellowthroat and many other birds were seen and heard on a short walk back and forth along the canal.
We still continued to the city and to Pointe Buzare where we saw a Blue-chinned Sapphire and then to Vieoux de Port where again lots of waders and egrets and so on were seen but nothing new.
After we had done all shopping and packing we left one bag behind to store in hotel Belova, it was time to drive to the airport. We returned our tiny car and soon we were waiting for a flight to Saül that was in the middle of rainforest!
There was nothing really happening in the airport for a long time. And when finally something started to happen, it was very strange. Finally everything was weighted (even us) and of course we already knew that we had too much stuff with us as normally a person should have maximum 10 kilos bag and 5 kilos hand-luggage. We had to pay 30€ for overweight. It seemed that we weren’t the only ones with too much stuff because the local people had all food and other daily necessities with them too. Even though there are daily flights to Saül, these flights are usually full and if you are going to book an accommodation in Saül, they want to see a copy of your tickets.
Finally our flight left towards Saül which is in the middle of French Guiana and in the middle of Amazonas. Small propeller plane flew over La Levee and Kaw marshes and then turned inland over Amazonas. Surprisingly we flew first south-west to Maripasoula where the landing was horrible! The plane did a very radical U-turn on the Suriname side of the river so that wings were almost touching the tree-tops. Then it landed to a small airport where it was raining very hard.
About half of the passengers left to Maripasoula and soon we continued to Saül. On the way it was nice to take pictures of almost intact rainforest. Only human touches we saw were a couple of gold-mines in the middle of nowhere.
Finally we landed to sandy airfield of Saül and in the airport we packed our luggage to a local all-terrain vehicle taxi and then jumped to the backseat. We could have walked a couple of kilometers to the village through a shortcut that went through some forests but it was afternoon, so we thought that it could be easier to find some birds in the village.
We drove along a bumpy road to Saül which has about 100 residents. We were dropped to A-Ke-Nou motel that we had booked beforehand. It was a cozy motel with a restaurant. There were so many other tourists this time of year that all other accomodation we had contacted had been full – or at least they had said so. This was maybe the most expensive place to stay too but we were here enjoying, so we didn’t care. And still our double was only 40€ per night. We got our room soon and once we managed to get in as the lock really wasn’t working, we unpacked everything and soon we were walking in the village and getting familiar with its birds.
And there were quite a lot of birds! A couple of Little Chachalacas and Chapman’s Swifts, lots of Short-tailed Swifts, a White-bearded Manakin, Green Honeycreepers, Epaulet Orioles with one Moriche Oriole –type of bird (nowadays a subspecies), a Southern Beardless Tyrant, a Common Tody-Flycatcher building nest just next to a road and so on.
We walked a little bit around the village but quite soon came back to our motel as it seemed that there were most birds around there. And after all we realized that we could see most birds from our balcony, and least from there we got the best photographing opportunities! There was a dry tree right next to our balcony and it seemed that almost all birds were visiting it in the afternoon and early evening. Different kind of tanagers, Violaceous Euphonias, Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, a Yellow-bellied Elaenia, a Bran-colored Flycatcher, a tame Black-throated Mango and a Fork-tailed Woodnymph and so on were visiting the tree. And next to a church there were a couple of big trees that had Yellow-rumped Caciques and we saw also one Golden-sided Euphonia too. Most of the birds went to sleep inside very large bamboo bush.
It was nice to follow what was happening in the village in the evening too. Younger people were very active and they were playing volleyball every evening and also football in some evenings. And it seemed that the whole village gathered to watch them play, in football matches the cheering was very loud! But this evening it started to rain so they had to stop early and so we also managed to go to sleep soon.
Birding around Saül village
On the 25th of July we started the morning walking through the forest to the airport. Path was muddy and quite slippery and finding birds was very difficult. Anyway we heard a Thrush-like Antpitta, Dusky, Grey Black-throated and Guianan Warbling Antbirds and Red-fan Parrots. We relaxed a little on the grass in front of the airport where we could watch Swallow-tailed Kites flying above us and tanagers visiting trees with a single Rufous-browed Peppershrike.
Then we walked a few kilometers along Roche Bateau trail and after we had heard only plenty of very noisy Screaming Pihas, we found a small group of Brown Capuchin monkeys. While I was watching the monkeys, I realized that Capuchinbird was named after these monkeys and maybe they were following these animals. I just told about this when I saw a crow-size orange bird on the top of one tree – there it was – a Capuchinbird! Luckily the bird stayed visible for long enough that Hanna also managed to see it before it disappeared.
We also found a flock of funnily called Purple-throated Fruitcrows, a couple of Spot-throated Woodcreepers, a Red-necked Woodpecker, a Double-toothed Kite, a Yellow-billed Jacamar, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antbirds, a Spot-backed Antbird, a White-flanked Antwren and many already familiar birds. We also heard a Amazonian Motmot that really sounded like a Ural Owl and saw a group of 10 Collared Peccaries.
It came again hot during the day and we walked back along the same track to the airport and then only Screaming Pihas were calling. They maybe are the only birds with so aloud call that cicadas and other insects are not so big problem?
While walking on the forest again I saw an Amazonian Motmot very briefly and the close to the village we saw a Cocoa and a White-necked Thrush hopping together on the path. Quite a few Plumbeous Kites were soaring on the sky and in the village we met a couple of snake-watchers and they told us that there was possible to see Red-and-green Macaws in the village near a tiny shop.
After we had relaxed a little in our room and photographed some birds again from the balcony, we continued to walk to the village. We visited the tiny store where were only about 20 different product in sale. For example there was no cola but several different kinds of beers and other alcohol products. As everything comes to the village by plain, prices were about 2 or 3 times more expensive than in Cayanne. Usually tourists are bringing their own food and snacks or then stay in accommodation with a restaurant. There was a tame Guianan Red Howler monkey living in the store and it decided to follow us when we kept on walking around the village.
Near the store we found the couples of Red-and-green Macaws. Another bird was just walking on the ground as it had a broke wing. There it was calling to its “husband” very noisily. The husband was feeding on the tree-top nearby and it was flying well and free. We didn’t ask how these birds had come to the village. Had the injured bird been found somewhere and then brought to the village to heal and get well of was the explanation darker – had it been shot and then brought to the village to stay as a pet? After all both hunting and keeping cage-birds were very popular in French Guiana. Even in this small village many people had cage-birds, but it seemed these birds had been brought from somewhere else as the most common species wasn’t a local bird. Anyway it was good to watch this healthy bird close by and take some really nice pictures. But we really thought if it was OK to tick this species as a lifer or not? Luckily later in the afternoon we saw a couple of Red-and-green Macaws flying over the village, so we didn’t have to think about it for too long.
Other nice birds we saw were some White-bearded Manakins, a Buff-throated Saltator, Turquoise Tanagers, Yellow-throated Flycatcher and Scarlet Macaw couples that were seen flying over the village for a couple of times.
In the afternoon we still photographed birds that were visiting the tree next to our balcony and got pictures of a Black-throated Mango, a Black-tailed Tityra and an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher and so on. Then we packed our backbags well so that there was only everything necessary. And before the information center was closed, we carried the rest of our stuff there to an empty room. We had managed to contact them before the trip and this was OK for them. We also told to the officer about our next few days schedule and when we were supposed to back in the village. So they knew when to come resque us if we are not back. In the evening it started to rain so we managed to get our room cooler so we could soon sleep very well.
On the 26th of July we started walking when it was still quite dark. I was carrying a backbag that weighted about 20 kilos and Hanna had a full-packed camera-bag that was also very heavy. We were wearing wellingtons as we were expecting to walk along muddy and wet paths.
We started to walk along Cascades trail and our goal was to walk as long as possible during the first day. We were full of energy as we were beginning the most awaited part of our trip – a trail-walk to Mt Galbao.
In the morning we saw both Cocoa and White-necked Thrushes and a Southern White-fringed Antwren along the trail and some already familiar calls we heard were Pygmy Antwrens, Dusky Antbirds, Plumbeous Pigeons, Green-backed and Guianan Trogons etc. We also saw a Band-tailed Antshrike briefly. As we had more zeal than reason, we decided to walk around a small extra loop, but left our bags under a huge tree between the roots. Luckily this loop was good as we heard one of the most waited songs ever when a Capunchinbird was singing its beautiful song. We also found a small flock of birds that were moving on the very top of trees and all the time behind the branches and thus they were incredibly difficult to identify. But I took hundreds of pictures of them and on from some pictures they could be identified as Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners. A Fulvous Shrike Tanager was watching this flock while just perching on a branch and was difficult to find from the tree but once it was found it was much easier to identify.
Once we were again carrying our huge bags we found Bananaquits, a Black-throated Trogon, a few Yellow-throated Woodpeckers, a Golden-spangled Woodpecker, a Common Scale-backed Antbird, Dusky and Cinereous Antshrikes, a Todd’s Antbird, a Long-winged Antwren, a Painted Tody-Flycatcher, a Golden-crowned Spadebill, Olive-backed Foliage-gleaners and an Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper. Just before Camp Roche we saw a flock of amazing-looking White-plumed Antbirds and with them there were a couple of Rufous-throated Antbirds which were also singing.
It was again very hot and moist so birds weren’t active for a long. Morning was always surprisingly short. Later most of the birds became very quiet until in the evening they were again active for a little bit longer time. Often there were also rains during the day and or then in the evening and if not then it was most probably raining at night. Now when we arrived at Camp Roche the midday rain started. So we put up one tarp and then cooked food as now we were far enough from the village to get water from the small river. We rested a little bit but after all we decided not to let the rain disturb us but continued walking along the trail towards Cascades.
Our feet started to be very tired and the trail was getting smaller and smaller and soon it was just a tiny path that was hard to follow. In some places we hard to really search for the path and we were missing a machete. We were wearing rain-jackets and carrying huge bags so we were really getting tired but we just kept on going as we still had a long way to go.
In the hot and extremely wet conditions we didn’t find many birds but an Amazonian Motmot, Amazonian and a Fasciated Antshrike were heard and a Grey-breasted Sabrewing was seen as it left just next to a path under some big leaves where it had been keeping the rain. Later we still saw a White-bearded Manakin couple and once again these birds were just staring at us from the bush while we passed them.
The last few kilometers to Camp Cascades were walked in horrible dense spiky bushes that were scratching our clothes and skin. We really got completely wet too. There was also at least one and half meters thick trunk crossing the path and it wasn’t easy to climb over with our bags. Then we still had to climb down to the riverside and there we lost the path completely. Somehow we managed to get down in one pieces and soon we found the place to put up our camp. And luckily soon the rain also stopped.
While we were cooking our dinner we could hear the waterfalls that were nearby but still some cicadas we easy to hear over that sound. Soon we thought that we heard the loudest bird in the World, a White Bellbird but unfortunately it was another cicada again – maybe the loudest in the World! A couple of funny-looking red crabs were living in our camp and were pointing their scissors to us while the sun was already setting. Soon we climbed to our hammocks to sleep.
On the 27th of July we woke up early again and then had a proper food as a breakfast. Then we packed only light bags and left everything else to the camp and started climbing up towards Mt Galbao.
Tiny path started to climb steeply immediately behind our camp. It was actually a surprise that the path was still marked with red plastic strips but it was easy to tell that this path hadn’t been used regularly. Anyway in a couple of steepest places there was a rope attached to trees to make climbing easier. Here and there we lost the path completely and continued climbing by following our GPS and also Maps.me that we had in our phones. W also saved marks so we could follow the same route when we were coming back.
Songs we heard were a Great Antshrike, Grey, Dusky and Black-chinned Antbirds, Northern Slaty Antshrikes, Green-backed Trogons, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, an Amazonian Motmot and so on. On one open area where we finally could see some tree-tops, we saw a colorful White-chinned Sapphire and a White-flanked Antwren and heard a sparrow-like Yellow-green Grosbeak.
Climbing was very difficult and hard. Our plan had been to climb up with all bags but we never could have done it in this tight schedule. But after all we were climbing the last steep hill that was the second highest top of Mt Galbao. It would have been still a couple of kilometers to the highest top but it was easy to decide that we couldn’t walk until there – maybe next time? After all we were already sure that White Bellbirds weren’t around or at least they weren’t active. Otherwise we would have at least heard seen this loudest bird in the World. We had already known that there were no records of this species in this time of year but we had hoped that there might be a bird or two to be found like Guianan Cock-of the-rock had been.
Once we reached the top there was a big three-top visible and immediately I found a huge Black Curassow perched there. Hanna still had a little bit to climb but luckily she managed to get to the top and see the curassow fly away from the tree. After a short rest we found another huge bird as a King Vulture was soaring on the sky above us. And surprisingly this big eagle decided to land to the very same tree-top. Soon also another King Vulture came to fly to the sky so atmosphere was really high!
We still walked a little bit on the other side of the top and managed to find a well-showing White-fronted Manakin but soon we had to start walking back down towards our camp. We really wanted to get there before the afternoon rain that seemed to be coming. Going down hill whould have been very tricky if rain wets the soil. Mouse-colored Antshrikes, a White-browed Antbird, a Collared Trogon and a Buff-cheeked Greenlet were singing and a small flock of Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners were seen but otherwise we didn’t see much.
While we were walking own we heard some banging noise from a top of one tree-top. There were clearly some bigger monkeys and of course we tried to see them. Fruits were dropping down and soon some fruits were dropping closer and closer to us and soon some even hit at us. It really seemed that monkeys were throwing fruits towards us, but still we couldn’t find them! Soon we kept on walking and luckily the way down was much quicker than climbing up. So soon were after a couple of hours back in our camp. Surprisingly there were a couple of snake-watchers putting up their camp to the other side of the river.
We ate well again and then did a short walk on the hillside and found a couple of Chivi Vireos and a flock of Golden-winged Parakeets. In the evening we were still searching and watching for spiders and so on. Spiders were absolutely everywhere and some of them were huge. We couldn’t find any snakes. Our neighbors were still searching for snakes for some time and after all they had found a couple but they stayed up much longer than us. But when it started to rain, they also had to give up. There was thunder somewhere in the direction of Saül but luckily it didn’t hit us. In this humidity nothing dries and we had to go to sleep in wetter clothing than usual.
Back towards Saül
On the 28th of July after a big breakfast we packed our camp and started to walk back towards Saül. We planned to walk back in two days so we could do more birding on the way. At least my legs were really tired and even though we had eaten a lot, it seemed that y bag was still as heavy as everything was so moist.
Soon we heard a Guianan Streaked Antwren, Ferruginous-backed Antbirds, Pygmy Antwrens, a Thrush-like Antpitta, Plumbeous Pigeons and so on. At a couple of open areas we found lots of birds, we also saw the first bigger bird-wave with many species when they were moving from tree to tree and passed the area. Some better species we saw were a couple of Golden-spangled Woodcpeckers and a White-shouldered Tanager.
Walking was again hard but we found many interesting species like a White-browed Antbird and a Dot-winged Antwren were identified like also a Cinnamo-rumped Foliage-gleaner, a Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, a Lemon-chested Vireo, a couple of Yellow-throated Woodpeckers, a Waved Woodpecker, a Blue Dacnis, a Short-crested Flycatcher, a Long-tailed Hermit, an Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager and so on.
We were absolutely tired when we got to Camp Roche where we immediately found lot of birds so there was no time to relax. But even while cooking food we managed to find lots of birds. On the top of huge fruiting trees there was a flock of noisy Painted Parakeets and we found also a couple of species of honeycreepers, Bananaquits and so on.
In the afternoon we made a short walk around the camp and finally found an amazing Grey-winged Trumpeter! Unfortunately it was very shy and we saw it only very briefly before it disappeared to the vegetation. Also a flock of White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds were found and with them there was a very showy Common Scale-backed Antbird. Once we were back at the camp the sun was already setting. Then we heard a Variagated Tinamou, a Thrush-like Antpitta, a Spotted and a Variegated Antpitta and also a couple of Barred Forest Falcon were calling noisily nearby. Also at least a couple of Grey-winged Trumpeters were heard calling and when we were already lying in our hammocks we heard some mammal walking around our camp. We just hoped that it wasn’t a Leopard or a Cougar or both…
When we had almost fallen asleep everything around us started to hum and we realized that it was very soon going to rain hard. Hanna was still enough awake and hurried to pack everything into our bags and put everything so that they were well covered rain-proof.
Hanna managed just to pack everything before the thunder arrived. She had managed to hang our bags and cameras to a log so they weren’t touching to the ground at all. But if everything else seemed to be safe and well, we soon found out that we had been a little bit sloppy with hanging our hammocks. I had some plants growing under me and they were touching a little bit to my back and as they soon came very wet because of the heavy rain, also my back was soon wet. Finally I had to get up and cut these plants down, but I should have done it much earlier… Hanna got wet too when large plant leaves threw water under her tarp. So we both got quite wet. But after all we managed to fell asleep – at least for some time.
On the 29th of July it was raining hard whole night, rougly 100mm! Luckily the rain stopped when we were waking up. We were delighted to see that our bags had stayed dry. We still did some birding around the camp again and saw many same birds than in the afternoon and evening. But still a couple of new birds were found when a Spot-winged Antbird and Guayanan Schiffornis were heard. And after a heavy breakfast we were ready to start walking towards Saül again.
In the beginning walking was easy even though rivers were flooding. Soon we found the same flock of White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds were found and again there was a well-showing bird with them but soon we realized that it was different bird than in the evening – this time there was a Rufous-bellied Antwren with the flock.
We had already realized that the wet forest was very dangerous place as we had heard some huge branches dropping down and some big trees had already fell down. Trees in rainforest had surprisingly small root systems and they fall down easily.
After some walking we started to be exhausted after already several days walking. In a dense and still wet forest there weren’t many birds. A step by step we kept on walking and heard Grey Anwrens, Dusky-throated Antshrikes and Spot-tailed Antwrens, a Bright-rumped Attila and some other already familiar birds. Funniest observation was a Southern Tamandua that was very close to the trail and then climbed up to one tree still right next to us. It really thought that it was hiding well while it was hanging in the middle of the branchless trunk and holding its paw in front of its eyes. It maybe thought that is it can’t see us, we can’t see her.
I was completely exhausted when we walked the last extremely muddy track and then finally came back to the village. I just sat down to the steps of the information center when Hanna went to ask if there still was a possibility to get a room from A-Ke-Nou. Luckily we got a room and soon carried our stuff there. It was the next room just a little bit further from the dry tree. But it seemed that there hadn’t been as many birds after the first afternoon.
During the day we visited the information center and told to the officer there that we were back and also took our bag from there. During the day we were still birding in the village where we saw plenty of familiar bird. It was nice to see many birds well as while in the forest it had been extremely difficult to see any birds! Only new birds we found were a flock of Blue-headed Parrots. We dried our wet clothes on a grassy hill above the village while we were again cooking. It is always so moist and dark in rainforest that it is impossible to anything dry. Cotton-clothes were difficould to get dry. Full hot sunlight was necessary for them.
In the early evening we were again photographing birds visiting the dry tree. While we were sting in our balcony we noticed that all birds were flying in the sky and coughing some insects. Many passerines and some raptors were seen before we found a flock of more than 10 raptors that were flying above the forest quite far. We hadn’t got telescope with us in Saül but we got some pictures and so managed identify them as Red-throated Caracaras.
In the evening Hanna noticed that she had got plenty of tiny ticks while we had been sitting on the grass. I had been wearing bug-poisoned clothes again so I had none. The night was very warm so we had to keep balcony-door open. So Hanna woke up several times to chase a bat away from our room.
On the 30th of July we left early walking towards the airport. We had again only necessary things in our bags and the rest we had left into our room that we had booked for the rest of the trip. Of course this wasn’t the cheapest way but it really made everything easier.
This time we walked to the airport along the road and it was much easier to see birds on forest edge. During the trip we had sound-recorded and then played birds own song for very many times but here it worked better than in dense forest. Now several birds at least visited the roadside for a second or two so we managed to see them at least very briefly. Along the road we found Marbled Wood Quails, Dusky and Black-headed Antbirds, a Northern Slaty Antshrike, Little Chachalacas, Fan-tailed Parrots, Southern Mealy Amazons, a couple of Capuchinbirds which another one was also seen and then we finally found a few Chestnut-fronted Macaws. The best bird we saw was a Red-billed Woodcreeper but unfortunately it disappeared too soon so we couldn’t get any pictures.
From the airport we continued towards Roche Bateau and in the beginning walking was easy even though the trail was going uphill for a long time. But soon our feet started to feel tired as we had already been walking for several days with huge bags. Anyway it was nice as we found birds like a Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, a couple of Thrush-like Antpittas, Grey Antwrens and Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaners.
This trail was popular and there were good bridges over the rivers. We had a lunch-break on one of the bridges that was far enough from the village to get water. Of course we were using filters to get water or then a bottle with a filter. While we were eating, we listened and sound-recorded a couple of Amazonian Antshrikes that were calling nearby.
At midday birds again disappeared even though the forest looked really good. Spot-breasted Antbirds, a Bright-rumped Attila, a Long-tailed Hermit, Fasciated Antshrikes, again a Thrush-like Antpitta and the on one fog-like open area a Variegated Antpitta and a Black-tailed Trogon, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, an Olivaceous Flatbill and a Brown-bellied Stipplethroat we found before we were in Roche Bateau camp.
Surprisingly there was a group of four Frenchmen in the camp and they had really lots of stuff. We knew that this camp for made for the local people but it was ok to use it if there was nobody else. Anyway this group kindly made room for us too and soon we also had our hammocks hanging under the roof. This group was about to begin a month trip in Amazon! They had been carrying their food for the first 15 or so kilometers and now they were going back to the village where 10 more participants were coming. They had really been struggling on the rainy night as they had been sleeping close to some river and the river had flooded so that they had even lost their shoes. Luckily they had found all shoes after a couple of hours searching. But still they had got everything wet and at least one camera was broken.
It was getting dark but we still managed to find a Long-winged Antwren, a Fasciated Antshrike, a Ruddy Quail Dove and then in the darkness a Little Tinamou started to call.
In the evening we were cooking and watching big spiders with our headlights. Ant there really was lots of these spiders even in the camp. Also several big frogs were found. Even a couple Frenchmen came to watch spiders and after they had realized how many and how big they were, they weren’t wondering anymore why we were wearing wellingtons even in the camp.
On the 31st of July we woke up early and right away I had to sound-record Guianan Red Howlers morning-shout that carried through whole forest. Then we walked a little bit along the trail backwards and soon birds started to wake up. And soon we started to hear amazing noise of Capuchinbirds! There were at least 6 birds calling and I managed to get right under them to take recordings. Unfortunately they were too high up on the tree-tops to get pictures.
We found also Amazonian Motmots, all three species of antpittas, Cinereous Antshrikes and Spot-backed Antbirds, a few White-bearded Manakins, a Red-necked Woodpecker and so on. Once we were back in the camp, we did big breakfast and from the closest big tree we found a couple of Tufted Coquettes, several Purple Honeycreepers, Black-necked Aracaris, a Black Nunbird couple, a Cinereous Mourner and so on. Also a White-throated Toucan was calling nearby and a Coraya Wren and other familias “ants” were calling. We also saw a Capuchinbird that finally showed well and we could get good pictures of this amazing bird. There were really lots of birds around the riverside-forest.
Finally we were ready for the last hard walk and it was after all very muddy walk! Luckily there rivers weren’t so flooded anymore and we managed to survive quite easily with our boots. A couple of days earlier the trail had been flooded with knee high waters in many places.
I was tired so walking was very hard. I would say that I was almost counting steps so I wasn’t in condition to observe many birds because all concentration went to staying up with a heavy bag on muddy trail. Anyway we managed to find a Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, a Black-chinned Antbird, Scarlet Macaws and Spot-winged Antbirds and so on. While we were walking very slowly we managed to see also Guianan Squirrels and many interesting-looking insects and bugs. Even a couple of small snakes were seen along the trail. I almost stepped to both of them and Hanna noticed them when they were moving after that.
Finally we were at the airport where we rested a little before continued along the road to the village. WE still saw a Squirrel Cuckoo, a Double-toothed Kite, Blue-headed Parrots, a couple of Scarlet Macaws, an Amazonian Antshrike and Green Aracaris and so on.
In the village we stopped to drink cold tap-water at information center and once again we put a couple of Dexal-pills to make water to infiltrate better and give us some electrolytes and so on. Without these pills we probably wouldn’t have managed to walk this much in just 6 days. Then we walked to A-Ke-Nou where I slept a little while Hanna was photographing garden-birds.
In the afternoon we still walked around the village and saw all the common birds again but also a White-lined, a White-shouldered and a Turquoise Tanager, a Cocoa Thrush and a tame Guianan Tyrannulet and so on. Saul village is a supprizingly good birding area and birding in village would give a good selection of bird species.
In the evening we had ordered food in A-Ke-Nou restaurant. Hanna also was made a good portion and we ate far too much. In Saül it is always necessary to order the food a day before or at least during the day so cook can get right ingredients and make the right amount of food.
On the 1st of August we had packed everything in the previous evening and early in the morning we left our bags outside A-Ke-Nou from where they would be brought to the airport. And we went first to walk to the village and then started walking towards the airport.
In the village we still visited Red-and-green Macaws and saw many other familiar birds. On the road to airport we saw again familiar species of parrots, a couple of Little Chachalacas, a Bat Falcon, several Plumbeous Pigeons, a Tiny Hawk, a Dot-winged Antwren, a couple of Black Nunbirds, a Golden-geaded Manakin, a Capuchinbird, a couple of Chestnut-fronted Macaws and so on. We also saw a small young Amazonian Brown Brocket that was hopping along the road and passed us very close.
We were in the airport early but also our plane arrived very early. We were scanning the sky towards Mt Galbao and found quite a few raptors. We saw for example a couple of Black-and-white Hawk-Eagles that were soaring on the sky. But when we were about to take our cameras an officer told us to get into the plane – and then we realized that everyone else were already there!
Our plane left much too early and after all we landed to Cayenne 45 too early too. So we were at Sixt-office 40 minutes too early and of course there was nobody there. After 50 minutes waiting the officer finally arrived and once again it was extremely difficult to rent a car with this company. Maybe one reason was that I didn’t have my driving-license as I had left it to Hotel Belova as I had somehow thought that I wouldn’t need it anywhere. But we had already rented a car from this same office so they already had all information.
Finally we got the keys and carried our bags to the parking place but our car had only just arrived. It took 30 minutes before the car had been cleaned. We had been told that Sixt had all their cars rented so we just had to wait. But finally we were ready to leave but when I started the engine and started driving and managed to get out from the parking place an alarm-light started to blink and indicated that one of the tires was empty. I had to drive back and tell to a man who had been cleaning our car that we had a problem. He didn’t speak any English but after some time he understood the problem. He called to someone, we of course thought that he called to the office, and then he told us that it wasn’t a problem, we just had to go to a service to fill the tire – or at least that’s what we understood from his French. So we just had to hope that the tire wasn’t a problem, maybe they knew about the alarm-light already?
We soon found a service which can be found only from the biggest cities in French Guiana. The tire was only a little bit emptier than the rest but one tire was much too hard! We balanced the tires and then started driving to Cayenne.
We drove once again to Hotel Belova where we were so early that we still couldn’t get our room. So we went to eat to a restaurant that was in the neighbor. It was good to get to internet and see what had happened in the World in the past week.
Finally we got our room and also the rest of our stuff that we had left behind. After a short break we still went birding. We first drove to Point de Buzare where we saw amazing numbers of waders and a Red Knot was seen as a trip-tick. Then we continued to Vieous de Port where we were a little bit too late. Water-level was rising quickly and many birds were already in flight. Hanna concentrated on photographing flying birds while I tried to find new wader or other species from the flocks. There were now about 10 Least Sandpipers, a few Semipalmated Plovers and again we saw a Little Egret too. Then in one flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers we saw 2 Western Sandpipers, but other birds were the same as on our previous visits.
Pretty early we drove back to our hotel to relax. On the next day we would start a trip to a new part of French Guaiana, so we really needed to rest.
Pripris de Yiyi
On the 2nd of August we left driving when it was still completely dark. After we had stopped in service and filled the tire again a little, we drove a long way to Pripris de Yiyi wetland. On the way we saw Crane Hawks and a Bat Hawk, Channel-billed Toucans, Green Aracaris and so on. On the way we tried to find a small pool (Lagune de Paracou) that should have Least Grebes and be a good place for photographing birds but we never found it (we found the pond site latter; it had dried). While searching for it we finally saw a couple of Guianan Toucanets, a flock of 8 Red-and-green Macaws, a Great Black Hawk, lots of Green Oropendolas, a Plain-bellied Emerald and so on.
In Pripris we parked our car and climbed to a bird-tower that was next to a parking place. There was a view over the road towards savannas. But soon we started to walk along the track and there were a couple of hides along the trail. Track was muddy but I managed to survive with sandals.
Along the track we saw Black-crested Antshrikes, a Tropical Gnatcatcher, a couple of kingfisher, a Masked Yellowthroat and so on. From the first hide we saw only one bird but it was a Pied-billed Grebe. And when we continued towards the second hide, we saw a couple of Squirrel Cuckoos and a Ruby-topaz Hummingbird.
From the second hide we didn’t see much but after some waiting we found an Azure Gallinule. We still continued the rest of the track back to the parking place and saw a couple of colorful Crimson-hooded Manakins, a Cinnamon Attila and a White-fringed Antwren. And the first time there were lots of mosquitoes during the day.
We continued to a picnic-place (Crique Canceler) that was nearby and there we cooked food and saw a couple of kingfishers and a Slender-billed Kite. A stunning Anhinga was also seen soaring on the sky.
Then it was time to start driving through St Elie savannas towards Sentier Botanique trail. While we were getting to savannas it started to get very cloudy. And after all we managed to see only some birds while driving before it started to rain very hard. Luckily the rain stopped for a short time and we managed to make one short walk along a small track in the middle of plantations and there we managed to get pictures of vultures that were drying their wings and we also saw an Ashy-headed Greenlet, a White-shouldered Tanager and a Fuscous Flycatcher.
Even it was raining we managed to see quite a lot of birds along St Elie road, there might have been much more without the rain. Even now we managed to see and photograph Red-bellied Macaws, Swallow-winged Puffbirds and other savanna and pasture-birds.
The rain got harder again so we drove until the end of the road to Sentier Botanique. There we found a carbet where to hang our hammocks. This communal carbet can be reserved from nearby city town hall. On opposite side of the road is a hidden very large carbet where we could have moved if someone with reservation comes. When the rain finally stopped, we went to walk a couple of kilometers long trail. Along the trail we found a White-breasted Wood Wren and heard Little and Cinereous Tinamous. Other birds we found were a Common Scale-backed Antbird, a Plain-brown Woodcreeper, a Greyish Mourner and when we were back at the shed, we saw a stunning couple of King Vultures flying above us. Ringed Kingfishers had a nest along the road and they were very noisy. We also saw plenty of huge spiderwebs of palm-sized spiders.
At night we heard again some owl-like calls but we had no idea which species it was even though we got sound-recordings.
On the 3rd of August it was still raining when we woke up but tinamous were calling in the forest nearby. When the rain stopped we walked along the road a little and saw an Ashy-headed Greenlet, an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher with a young, a Long-tailed Hermit, parrots, a Fasciated Antshrike and then I found a fabulous Pompadour Cotinga perched on a top of a huge dry tree in the top of the hill.
While we were packing our car we noticed that the leaking tire looked very empty! It really was leaking much more than we had thought. And we were going to drive towards west where no services were at all! We knew that in whole western part of French Guiana there were only a couple of proper gas-stations in city of St Laurent du Maroni and we hadn’t decided if we were going to get there at all. And we had no idea if there were any possibility to fix or change the tire?
The rain started again and continued all the time when we drove through St Elie savannas. So we saw only a couple of Channel-billed Toucans and Green Aracaris and so on. And when we were driving towards west, we saw a White-tailed Hawk perched on a pole but otherwise we saw almost nothing.
We had to decide to drive straight to St Laurent du Maroni where we thought we should have a possibility to get the tire fixed or changed or then get the car changed.
Before Iracoubo there was a police road-stop and a policeman also noticed our flat tire. Also at one roadwork a workman pointed out tire. But we couldn’t do anything else than keep on driving. But anyway we had to soon make a stop at Iracoubo stadium; there we found a Burrowing Owl perched on a small post in the middle of soccer-field. It was till raining but we managed to get good pictures of this owl.
Finally we were in St Laurent du Maroni and there we went first to a station where we managed to fill the tire. It had only 1.2 bars pressure. Tehn we continued to harbor when Hanna tried to make a call to Sixt office and I went out to the rain to see if there were any birds on the river. Then I wasn’t disturbing Hanna while she was at phone. About the 5th try Hanna made worked and Sixt officer answered but of course the officer didn’t speak any English. About 7th try someone was speaking English but the call ended surprisingly in the middle of conversation. But Hanna and already found out that there was a Sixt office in this town but it was still closed. But we should get there when they were opening and then they should know in the office what we should do.
In front of harbor there was a shipwreck that was now growing trees and bushes and really looked like an island. There were plenty of swallows flying above the river and with White-winged Swallows there were a couple of Black-collared Swallows. There were only several Large-billed Terns flying towards the sea.
We soon drove to Sixt but of course nobody spoke any English there. And then there was some local man who really tried to help but really messed everything more. It was clear that they hadn’t got any phone calls about our situation. Luckily soon an older officer arrived and he spoke English well. He told us that we should go to a local service where our tire should get fixed free. Unfortunately the service was now closed during siesta but it was opening after a couple of hours.
So soon we continued to birding to local sewage pools where we did one of the very few successful twitches when we managed to find a couple of Blue-and-white Swallows amongst other swallows, martins and swifts.
After we had done some shopping and drank a lot on the shore and so managed to get rid of dehydration, we drove to the service where I managed to find the right person easily. Soon we had the tire in a water-barrel. Then we tried to find the leak together but there was no air coming to the water-surface! It really started to get frustrating as the service-man didn’t really trust our story, but finally Hanna found a small leak. It was so small that man wasn’t going to fix it at all first but after all he fixed it. And after that we had no problems at all with the tire!
Finally we could start driving towards our destination Yalimapo. Even though I had been driving very slowly all the time, much slower than locals, I managed to flash maybe the only traffic-camera of the whole French Guiana! It really started to feel like we should have stayed in Saül…
We passed many poor-looking villaged and saw only a couple of Roadside Hawks on the way before we finally passed Mana and then continued along very slow roads towards the western end of French Guiana and Yalimapo. Finally we arrived to the end of the road to Hattes but we hadn’t seen any potential accommodation on the way. Covid had been very hard for local tourism industry and many accommodation-places had been closed. We turned back and parked to local national park center and asked there about an accommodation. One English-speaking man told us to drive to one garden and there Hanna found an old lady who showed us a Carbet where to stay. The cost was only 10€ per person. And soon we had hung our hammocks and were ready to go birding.
Digue del Panato
We headed to Dugue Del Panato where a straight road went through a reedy area to a green forest. There were immediately lots of birds and we started birding by walking around a small sewage-pool. There we saw a Spot-breasted Woodpecker and the first Ash-throated Crakes. Then we continued along the road and stopped many times and heard plenty of Russet-crowned Crakes and saw Plain-bellied Emeralds, a Least Bittern, a Roadside Hawk, a Black-bellied Whistling Duck that flew over us, a Piratic Flycatcher and so on.
Inside the forest there weren’t many birds but it was already noon. Just a couple of Little Chachalacas were calling and while we were driving back it was already getting dark. Then we saw a Lesse Nighthawk flying above the road with bats.
In the evening there was very restless near our shed as people were walking here and there and one young man visited our carbet and tried to sell something even it was already completely dark. He clearly came to check if there was something to steal. So we had to take everything expensive into our hammocks and it made sleeping even more difficult.
As we couldn’t fell asleep, we still went to walk to the Hattes beach where we hope to see at least one tortoise laying eggs. But the laying had been a few weeks earlier and now we found only some nests that dogs had dug open.
When we got bag to our carbet and tried to get to sleep a huge dog came to sit into our floor. We realized that it was a trained watchdog! It growled when someone got near to our canopy and unfortunately there were people walking whole night. The locals went to the shore to collect shells and crabs. Of course it was nice to have a guardian but for sure it didn’t make sleeping any easier.
On the 4th of August we woke up when a Tropical Screech Owl came to call next to our accomodation. Then we drove to Digue del Panato when it was still dark. All the same birds were again active. We also saw a few Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying and Least Bitterns were both heard and seen. We also saw a Long-winged Harrier flying over us and both crakes were again heard and also seen briefly. Barred and Black-crested Antshrikes were noisy as were Blue-headed Parrot-flocks too when they were flying over us. Other nice birds were a Little Woodpecker, Red-bellied Macaws, a Piratic Flycatcher, a Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and so on.
Other birds we found were a Silvered Antbird, an Olive-grey Saltator, a Blue-chinned Sapphire and a Long-winged Harrier. In the forest Brown-throated Parakeets were noisy and we also saw a couple of Little Chachalacas. There were really lots of birds so the morning was excellent!
While we were driving back we still photographed a Yellow Oriole that was building nest along the road and also a couple of Cinereous Becards. Then we had to start driving back towards east.
We still made a couple of stops in Yalimapo and Mana but without better birds but a small group of Midas Tamarins. Then we continued towards Mana rice-fields and made the first stop at the gate of Terre Rouge farm. There we saw a Northern Caracara, a Zone-tailed Hawk, a couple of Savanna Hawks, a Yellow-headed Caracara and heard a Northern Slaty Antshrike.
At the former rice-fields we tried to find a way to the middle of the area where the best pools were. But all the tracks either stopped completely or were too muddy to walk. After last days heavy rains the thigh mud was too soft, sticky and slippery to walk. There were also lots of cows in the area and therefore there were lots of barbed-wire fences. The day started to get very hot too so after a couple of hours searching, we had to give up. We never found a way to get to the best area!
Anyway there were a couple of pools next to the road too and we found some waders like a couple of Least, Pectoral and Stilt Sandpipers. We also saw Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in flight but not a single White-cheeked Pintail. We had hoped to get a couple of other lifers and trip-ticks from the pools but for sure we tried as hard as we could to find a way without success.
Finally we had to keep on driving and after some driving we stopped to photograph the same Burrowing Owl again.
In the afternoon we drove close to Pripris de Yiyi and turned to Trou Poissons. But after 20 meters the road was far too bad for our car. So we had to park to the junction and continue by feet. We were worried to leave our car so close to the main-road but we had no choice.
It was hot and moist and we were already very tired when we walked along the straight road towards savanna. There was one house on along the road and extremely aggressive dog attacked us from the gate. It followed us for 30 minutes barking all the time. Again I was missing to Saül forests…
Finally dog gave up when we were getting to better savanna-area. But when we got away from the road we found out that whole savanna was flooding! There was 5 to 10 centimeters water everywhere! We were sure that there were no pipits or other similar species in this biotope. So we came back to the road and continued further along it.
Anyway we started to find some birds and saw Grey-headed Kites, Plain-crested and Lesser Elaenias, Plumbeous Seedeaters and an Eastern Meadow Lark. We also saw a couple of Long-winged Kites flying over savanna and on the top of one tree we saw Plain-bellied Emeralds, White-necked Jacobins and a Ruby-topaz Hummingbird.
We continued to walk to a drier area that we finally found and soon found several Grassland Sparrows and finally a family of Bearded Tachuris but we couldn’t find any Yellowish Pipits. A small flock of Red-bellied Macaws and other parrot flocks were flying around but soon we had to start walking back. The sun was already setting.
While walking back we heard several Cinereous Tinamous and again saw some nightjar, but finally we were back at our car and the crazy dog was again following us.
We had no plan where to continue. Finally when we were passing Sinnamary, we noticed a big hotel and decided to go to ask for a room. The hotel was expensive but we were so exhausted that we just wanted to get a shower and soft bed. Unfortunately restaurant was closed so we had to cook with trangia in a balcony. And then there was only cold water coming from the shower… There were only handfull of people staying in this enormous hotel complex.
In the evening we packed everything quite ready before went to sleep.
The last day
On the 5th of August we slept a little bit longer but soon we were driving towards east again. We made a few stops along the road, almost always when there was a possibility to stop – there were no bus-stops and wery few wider places along the roads.
Surprisingly we saw again a Pompadour Cotinga and also a Guianan Sciffornis etc. When we were passing Roche Corail, we decided to turn to the forest-roads and drive around there a little. In a couple of stops we managed to find a Paradise Jacamar, a Pompadour Cotinga couple (again), a Waved Woodpecker and several noisy Swallow-tailed Kites.
Finally we decided to continue to Kourou and there we headed to ESA space-museum. It was nice to be a tourist at least once during the trip. Luckily there was more information in English than Hanna had thought so the visit was worthy.
After the museum we continued to Pointe des Roches to relax and also to watch what rising tide would bring to the shore. We were sitting on a bench a little bit away from the dock from where we could see a small patch of mangrove. I was already falling asleep when Hanna noticed a rail walking quite openly along the shore. It passed us quite fast so Hanna managed to get only a couple of pictures but soon I noticed another bird coming. Now Hanna was ready and got better pictures and it was nice to see these rare Little Wood Rails well. For example in Birds of Northern South America this species is not included.
Also a Little Blue Heron and a Scarlet Ibis passed us nicely along the shore and we also took pictures of Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a Green Ibis that were on the trees. But after all we had to start driving towards Cayenne.
Somewhere along the way I saw some tinamou running across the road but I couldn’t say which species it was. In the afternoon we still drove to La Levee where we had read that a Toco Toucan had been seen a couple of days earlier. Our schedule was tight but we still could wait for a toucan for an hour or so until 5 p.m. But we couldn’t find Toco Toucan but saw the last new and the 385th species of the trip – a Black-crowned Tityra. Also Green Aracaris, Short-tailed Parrots, a Spot-breasted Woodpecker and a Grey-cowled Wood Rail that crossed the road were seen.
Finally we had to start driving towards the airport. There we left our car to the parking lot and even though I really wanted to go and give some feedback to Sixt-office, I didn’t do that.
Again there was a strange atmosphere in the airport. First there was nothing happening and finally when we queued to get our tickets, we were told that the plane had been overbooked! And of course it was us that weren’t going to fit to the plane, even though we had bought our tickets very early and now were in the airport much earlier than many other passengers. So now I finally lost my nerves to the officers and maybe because of that everything started to go smoother and soon we were told that we could make it to the plane.
After all the plane was quite a lot late but the most important thing was that we were finally sitting in. When the flight left we were both sleeping like babies and it felt that the flight wasn’t too long at all.
In Paris we took a bus again to another terminal and it took some time again to get to the right gate. So the waiting wasn’t too bad. And finally our flight to Finland left and again it wasn’t difficult to fall asleep.
When we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa it wasn’t a surprise that Hanna’s bag never arrived. It was easy to guess that it was left behind already in Cayenne airport. But it was better that the bag was there than in Paris where had been a mess with luggage for several weeks and many people had been waiting for their bags for weeks already.
Soon we took a bus to our airport hotel and then found our car from the parking lot and started a long way back home. In Hamina we saw a European Nightjar flying over the road and in Simpele an Eurasian Eagle-Owl almost hit a truck that was driving in front of us. Finally at 1 a.m. we were at home. There we dropped our bags in plastic bags to our balcony and left to Papinlahti to put up mist-nets. Then after a couple of hours sleep we had SSP-ringing when the sun was rising.
Tips for traveling in French Guiana:
Birding in French Guiana is tricky but very rewarding. This country has lots of potential and could be major birdwatching destination in South America. It is part of European Union and one of the safest destinations in Southern and Midle Americas.
Observations, identification aid and news of wildlife in French Guiana:
Leaflet of coastal species:
Leaflet of Cayenne region fauna:
Leaflet of waders:
Leaflet of poisonous snakes:
Leaflet of frogs and toads:
Sentier: circular trail
Layon: trail that you have to walk back
Piste: Driveable or nowadays undriveable dirt track. Some roads drawn to official maps are very poor tracks on wet ground. Asphalted roads are driveable with caution. Unpaved major roads were barely driveable with a normal car.
Map of trails in Saül. Was not available in printed form:
Amazonian natural park:
You should do accommodation inquiries in French. Google translate works well.
Hotels can be found only in cities. Many hotels and other accommodations were closed.
Budget accommodations around country: http://www.escapade-carbet.com
Carbet: Roof and horizontal poles where you can tie your hammock.
Gite: Roof, walls and a bed where you sleep under mosquito net. Room is not necessarily insect proof.
Hamac: Hammock. Night temperatures are so high, that you might only need light blanket or thin sleaping bag under your back. You do need mosquito net and tarp if you sleap outside. There are lots of youtube videos that share tips and tricks to more pleasant sleeping in hammock. Remember that your gear also needs a raincover.