Guyana Photo Expedition

Glenn Bartley has recently posted photographs from his recent photographic trip to Guyana.

Here is an excerpt from his trip report. Visit his web site for the photographs and to sign up for his email newsletter.

(All images © Glenn Bartley)


"Early in November I set off for my annual fall photo shoot. I always try to find a new and exciting place to visit and this year I chose Guyana as my destination for a variety of reasons. Having spent quite a bit of time in the tropical Andes, Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest I wanted to visit a new eco-region. The northeast part of South America is made up of an area known as the Guiana Shield. This vast area of rainforests and savannahs is still quite intact and uninhabited. The region supports a good number of endemic species that can be found there and nowhere else making it a perfect opportunity for some unique new shots.

Guianan Red Cotinga
Guianan Red Cotinga

Arriving in the capital of Georgetown I began my trip with a nice easy day trip to the city botanical gardens. To be honest I wasn't expecting much but was pleasantly surprised! These little islands of habitat within urban areas can be super productive at times. Offering an oasis for the birds that live nearby these types of parks can sometimes yield some great photo opportunities. As an added bonus the birds get pretty used to people so they are less shy and more photographable. It is definitely nice to start a trip with an easy day of shooting! Especially on this trip as these easy photos would prove to be the exception rather than the rule…

Fasciated Antshrike
Fasciated Antshrike

The next day it was time to really get started. I had a long 8-9 hour drive away from the coast and in to the rainforest. Even though it was a really long drive it was nice to see such beautiful and relatively undisturbed forest. Guyana has well under a million people and no real infrastructure away from the coast. As a result it has been able to maintain much of its original forest cover. An anomaly to be sure in the world today.

My first real photo site was in the Iwokrama Rainforest region. I had 4 nights here to get started on the special birds of this area. As I eluded to above there is no easy shooting in Guyana. There are no hummingbird or fruit feeders to pad the portfolio. Capturing quality images in Guyana requires trekking around in the extremely hot and humid rainforest and listening for birds. Finding a mixed flock or a bird on territory is the main goal. Patience and perseverance is essential as you have to work fairly hard and seize fleeting opportunities where you find them. While some photographers may find this frustrating I will admit that this is actually my favourite style of shooting. The challenge and skills required to get quality photographs in the rainforest make the images that I do capture feel that much more special.

Pied Plover
Pied-Plover

After four nights it was time to move on down the road to my next site that was just a few hours away. En route I was stopping and keeping an eye out for one of my top targets for the entire trip – the Crimson Topaz hummingbird. For years I have wanted to see this species and was really hoping that this would finally be the trip to capture an image. Most field guides state that the Topaz is most often observed as it feeds over small “blackwater” streams in the rainforest. Because of this, the best chance to spot them is at bridges where the road intersects these waterways.

I stopped at each stream I passed on the journey between lodges. After several unsuccessful attempts I did manage to see a STUNNING male topaz at one of the bridges. Unfortunately he only stuck around for a few seconds and was not in a photogenic location. What a tease!

Waved Woodpecker
Waved Woodpecker

When I arrived at the next lodge my local guide told me that there was another stream nearby where he often sees the Crimson Topaz. Spurred on by this promising news I set out that afternoon for another attempt. Sadly no sign of the bird at all!

The next day I decided to shift focus back to the rainforest trails and to other birds. Back at the lodge for lunch I met a few birders who couldn't stop talking about the beautiful Crimson Topaz that they had seen that morning at the same stream I had been at the following afternoon. The news was both frustrating and encouraging. I still had a chance!

Scarlet Macaw
Scarlet Macaw

The following morning I was determined to stake out the stream once again. Finally luck was on my side and an incredible male Crimson Topaz perched on a branch above the stream for me. It was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip!"