Suriname - October 2016

From 11-22 October 2016, I went to Suriname on a 12-days solo trip in search of birds and other wildlife.
I prepared my trip carefully and decided to visit only the major hot spots in Suriname that involved not too much of travelling.
As a result, I visited the bird rich savanna area around Zanderij Airport, of course the wonderful Brownsberg and the well known area's around Paramaribo.

Due to the sudden death of my father-in-law, I had to change my program and fly back to the Netherlands 2 days earlier than planned.

Very helpful as a field guide for the identification of the birds and to learn where to find the birding hot spots in Suriname is the ‘Field guide to the birds of Suriname’ by Spaans, Ottema and Robot. 
11 Oct: Amsterdam – Paramaribo: 14:20 - 18:20 (KLM)
22 Oct: Paramaribo – Amsterdam: 17:50 – 07:30 (+1) (KLM)

Tue 11 Oct: Arrival Airport Zanderij; pick-up and transfer to Banabeki B&B in Republiek (6 km); Night at Banabeki B&B
Wed 12 Oct: Birding around B&B; Night at Banabeki
Thu 13 Oct: Birding around B&B; 16:30 rental car drop off; Night at Banabeki
Fri 14 Oct: Birding around the airport at Zanderij, Colakreek, Berlijn and again around the airport; Night at Banabeki
Sat 15 Oct: Early morning birding at Kinderboerderij/Colakreek. At 11:00 self drive south to Berg en Dal Resort. Drive to Ston Island and Brownsberg; birding Brownsberg; Night at Brownsberg
Sun 16 Oct: Birding Brownsberg; Night at Brownsberg
Mon 17 Oct: Birding Brownsberg; Night at Brownsberg
Tue 18 Oct: Early morning drive to Afobaku Dam, Powakka Savanna, Joden Savanna, Blaka Watra; Night at Hotel De Plantage
Wed 19 Oct: birding garden of Hotel De Plantage; Night at Hotel De Plantage
Thu 20 Oct: Birding Warappa Creek; Night at Hotel De Plantage
Fri 21 Oct: Birding Peperpot and garden of Hotel De Plantage; Self drive to Paramaribo and walk around town: afternoon birding at ‘Weg naar Zee’; Night at Paramaribo
Sat 22 Oct: Early morning birding at Cultuurtuin; afternoon return rental car and flight back to Amsterdam

Republiek: Banabeki B&B Guesthouse: Euro 197 for 4 nights including breakfast; 6 km from airport.
Brownsberg: Accommodation by Stinasu: 4 nights in hammock camp; SRD 65 per night including hammock; SRD 12,50 for parking car.
Commewijne: Hotel-Restaurant De Plantage: Euro 115 for 2 nights including breakfast.
Paramaribo: Guesthouse De Kleine Historie, Mr. Dr. J.C. De Mirandastraat 8, Paramaribo: 3 nights Euro 78 including breakfast.

Places of interest
1. Savannah Zone
The savannah zone holds a variety of habitats. Open white sand plains with scrubs alternate with small forest patches and sometimes with palm trees. At a few spots one can find small creeks surrounded by larger patches of forest. These creeks are sometimes used by the local people for swimming. Be advised to arrive early in the morning (best before dawn) since the period of high bird activity is quite short. 

1a. Zanderij / Airport
Near Zanderij and the international airport there are different savanna habitats in a relatively small area. A must visit is a drive along a partially paved track that runs all the way around the runway of the airport. It is easily entered from the main road to the airport. From this track several sandy tracks lead to the right further south into the savannah. If you keep following the runway track you will end up on the north side of the runway. This is a great place to see Burrowing Owl, Red-breasted Meadow Lark and Eastern Meadow Lark. The “main” road from the airport that eventually leads to Brownsberg is also good for birding.
In the night and early morning you can see or hear Common Potoo’s, White-tailed Nightjars and Lesser Night-hawks. Crested Bobwhites are common, but difficult to see. Black-faced Tanagers are common. Large flocks of Red-shouldered Macaws fly over in the morning. Grassland Sparrows and White-headed Marsh-Tyrant were sitting on the fence of the airport. The song of the Red-legged Tinamou is almost constantly heard during the morning hours.

1b. Colakreek / Kinderboerderij
The area is just a few kilometres past the airport. Colakreek is a popular resort with recreation facilities for local people. It can be busy at times and not very rewarding for birding purposes. Much better is the road on the right near the entrance of the resort which leads to the village of Republiek and Kinderboerderij. A walk on this road can provide excellent birding. The area is rich in parrots and parrotlets. I found here Plain-crested Elenia, Yellow-bellied Elenia, Red-shouldered Macaw, Cacai Parrot, Pale-breasted Thrush, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Spangled Cotinga, Blue-black Grassquit and many other birds.

1c. Powakka savanna
Powakka is a nearby Amerindian village. The Amerindians have planted pineapples in such a way that the plantation seems part of the natural habitat. When the pineapples flower, Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds and Green-tailed Goldenthroats are humming around. This is one of the best places to spot the rare Pale-bellied Mourner and the race albimarginatus of Swainssons Flycatcher. Plain-crested Elaenia and Rufous-crowned Elaenia are common here and you may see Lesser Elaenia. With a bit of luck one can see one of the beautiful colored Cotinga’s in the canopy at the edge of the savanna.

1d. Phedra savanna forest
The type of savanna forest near Phedra is called ‘dwarf forest on white sand’. Three species of birds which are thought to be rare are actually common in this type of habitat: Bronzy Jacamar, Black Manakin and Saffron-crested Tyrant-manakin. Rufous Nightjar has also been heard.

1e. Berlijn
Not that easy to find! Take the dirt road 5,5 km on your right coming from beyond the airport. Berlijn was the first slave-plantation, which has been given to the slaves after the emancipation of the slaves. The small village and the surrounding area are now the communal property of the descendents of the slaves. Behind the village of Berlin there is a creek. This is a fine spot to stay during the hot hours of the day. You can also do some bird watching in the forest on the opposite side of the creek. The creek can be crossed by foot over a partially damaged wooden bridge. This bridge leads to a small old grave yard. From the bridge you can see in the trees a colony of Yellow-rumped and Red-rumped Caciques, together with Giant Cowbirds. At a very small bar, I drank a nice cold bear and offered also one to some locals.

2. Brownsberg Nature Reserve
This reserve is the only National Park in Suriname and the most popular nature destination. It is located on a  500m high forested mountain located 130km south of Paramaribo. It has unique habitats such as moss forests. It is also one of the prime bird-watching areas. It is usually fairly easy to find several species of antbirds and woodcreepers. The area holds specialties like grey-winged trumpeter, capuchin bird and white bellbird. The park’s bird list counts 350 species. From the top of the plateau you have magnificent views over the forest canopy and Brokopondo Lake in the back. The park has an extensive trail system. A trail-map is available at the parks office. The park can be approached by driving the paved road to Zanderij. From here take the unpaved and rough road towards Kraka. Turn right at the junction near Kraka on a better unpaved road towards the village of Brownsberg. From here it is another 13km climb to the park’s plateau. A 4WD car for the journey is recommended especially in the rainy season. 
Stinasu is the semi-governmental foundation for nature and wildlife protection in Suriname and they manage the area. All reservations for accommodation must be arranged through Stinasu. If you want to visit Brownsberg, drop by at their office in Paramaribo, or contact them in advance. Stinasu will arrange a package (transport and a place to sleep). They also organise all-inclusive birding trips. Note that office hours are early in Suriname, so the office also closes early (before 15.00).
The star birds of the emplacement are the confiding Grey-winged Trumpeters that are fed by restaurant owner Rocky every day. On the mountain is a little café/bar where you can buy drinks and where you can also get meals, including breakfast. If you want meals, it is useful if you indicate this in advance.
There are various trails to follow but the Mazaroni Track is perhaps the best birding spot in Brownsberg. I found a seemingly endless stream of birds here, where activity doesn’t seem to slow down during the hot hours of the day. Antbirds are especially common along this trail. Mouse-coloured and Amazonian Antshrikes and Dusky and Warbling Antbirds are the most common species. Sometimes Black-headed Antbirds, Scale-backed Antbird, Golden-headed Manakin, White-fronted Manakin and White-throated Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites. Woodcreepers are common, with Wedge-billed, Amazonian, Barred, Buff-throated and Chestnut-rumped. Also Pectoral Sparrows in the dense undergrowth and Amazonian White-tailed Trogon is regular.

3. Warapa Creek
Warapa Creek can be divided into three distinctive landscapes: a dark mangrove forest, an open grass swamp with some mangroves and a dead mangrove forest, a natural habitat, with naked hard mud seperated form the ocean by a low beach wall which is overgrown with low trees. The important target species the Rufous Crab Hawk is extremely common in the whole area. The near-endemic Blood-coloured Woodpecker and the Guyanese endemic Arrowhead Piculet are also common, but not always easy to spot. Straight-billed Woodcreeper is common, and you can see Buff-throated Woodcreeper. The Pygmy Kingfisher can be seen at close range, when sitting on the large arch-shaped stilt roots of the Red Mangroves in the first part of the creek. There the Ashy-headed Greenlet is easy to find. Spectacular birds such as Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork can be seen in the last part near the ocean. An observation hut on the mudflat in front of young Black Mangroves gives a splendid few on the Ibises, egrets, night-herons and the migrating North American shorebirds. The creek can be reached within two hours from Paramaribo by car and boat.

4. Paramaribo

4a. Cultuurtuin
This is a park about 2km from the city centre of Paramaribo. The best place to visit is the area around a man made lake surrounded by several trails. The park holds many old trees good for woodpeckers and also lots of flowering trees attracting hummingbirds. The park’s bird list counts about 140 species. On the leaves of the large water-lily you may see caiman sunbathing. Least Grebes have been sighted in the pond and you have a fairly good chance to see Lesser Kiskadee. If the Erythrina trees are not flowering, then hummers (Green-throated Mango, Black-throated Mangoes (common)) will almost be absent. I found here the Guyanese endemic Arrowhead Piculet, Black-crested Antshrike and a nicely purched Bat Falcon.

4b. Chocopot
This isolated 1km patch of swamp forest is around 8km from the city centre. Though not formally protected as a nature reserve, it is one of Paramaribo's most rewarding and accessible sites for bird watching and monkey spotting (howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, brown capuchins). Barred Antshrike, Palm Tanagers, Silver-beaked Tanager, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Pale-tipped Inezia, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, Glittering-throated Emerald, Blue-tailed Emerald, Slender-billed Kite, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Buff-breasted Wren, Common Tody-flycatcher, Crimson-hooded Manakin, Blackish Antbird, Pale-breasted Thrush and Spectacled Thrush are common. 

4c. Peperpot
Peperpot is an old overgrown coffee- and cacao plantation which has not been used for decades. It is located at the eastern side of the Suriname river only 6 to 7 km from Paramaribo. It can be approached from the city centre by crossing the huge bridge over the Suriname river. After the bridge you have to take the first road to the right. This road leads through a mixture of cultivated areas with marshes and small forest patches. After following this road for about 4km there is a track to the right with after about 50m a red/white barrier. This is the main entrance to the plantation. The main track turns to the right after about 100m leading through the completely overgrown plantation. Peperpot is an excellent place to find an array of Flycatchers, several Tanager species and Great Potoo. Peperpot may possibly be the best site in Suriname to find the highly sought after Guyanese endemics: Blood-coloured Woodpecker and Arrowhead Piculet.

4d. Weg naar Zee
“Weg naar Zee” which is Dutch for “Road to the Sea” is located just 8 to 10 km northwest of Paramaribo. You can reach Weg naar Zee by taking the Kwattaweg leading west outside of the city. At 8km from the centre you turn right on the Henri Fernandesweg. This is just after you have passed the former plantation of Welgelegen, and just before you see a shop called Genade at the right hand side. This road runs through freshwater swamps and grasslands. At the sign Bedevaartsoord an unpaved road runs straight on to a Hindu temple while the paved road bends to the left here towards an open-air cremation site. At both sites you have excellent views across the large mudflats and mangroves. From the access road you can see various heron species, Snail Kites and other birds of freshwater swamps.

To see all the animals that I photographed in Suriname, please see here.