Karen, my wife, and I have been traveling to Guyana for the past ten years. Working to establish a viable ecotourism effort run by the Macushi people we hoped to provide some relief for the parrot population which has been legally trapped for the pet trade. In our travels we have endeavored to bring a small group of tourists each year which would support the two village based lodges (one of which Foster Parrots, our non profit sanctuary for domestically kept parrots) built for the village of Nappi, until the rest of the world discovered this amazing wildlife destination.
As a parrot rescue/sanctuary organization our focus has always been on the parrots but one cannot help but become a “birder” when visiting Guyana. I have now seen 7 distinct individual Harpy Eagles amongst a plethora of other rare birds on our visit. White Bell Birds, Great Potu, Crested Eagles, Bat and Orange Breasted Falcons, Capuchin Birds and Jabiru Storks (by the dozens) are just some of the species we see regularly on our visits.
A regular stop for our groups has always been the giant waterfalls known as Kaieteur Falls. On our many visits it was always a dream to see macaws in the area but for the first 7 annual visits we only able to visit the area around the falls for a few hours as our plane literally “dropped in” on our return from the interior on our way back to Georgetown.
Our luck was to change in 2011 when our group of tourists visited the falls to witness an amazing display by two Red and Green Macaws who not only flew past us on our lofty perch on the cliffs overlooking the falls but who turned and made repeated flights in front of the falls, much to our delight!
Upon our return I sent the photos to Dr. James Gilardi of the World Parrot Trust who loved the photos but whose first comments were about the swifts in the photos. He was very excited to tell me all about how these swifts actually fly THROUGH the falls to get to their nesting and roosting places in the cliffs behind the falls. Suddenly, the swifts became a much more significant part of the experience for me.
As we prepared for the 2012 expedition back to Guyana and as we gathered the 8 people we needed to make the trip we received inquiries from two entomologists who expressed an interest in the trip if we would extend it to two weeks instead of our usual 10-11 days. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for as it was now my fervent wish to spend a couple of days at the falls where I would be able to spend an entire day or two on that lookout overlooking the falls in the hopes of once again photographing those wonderful macaws.
As I sat at “Johnson’s View” overlooking the falls (for three straight days) I did indeed see the macaws return, so many times as it happened that I could have set my watch to their arrival as their daily routine never varied.
But… those damned swifts were ever-present and their aeronautical acrobatics were constantly entertaining me. Especially when an Orange Breasted Falcon entered the fray to hunt for his dinner. The swifts taunted and out maneuvered the falcon for hours until he finally gave up to look for easier prey.
Their beauty and agility won me over and although I loved the sight of the macaws the photos that I most valued from those days were of the swifts. As if some intergalactic battleships surrounded by the nebulae-ish background of the falls took my breath away over and over throughout those three days at the falls. The photos of the swifts are difficult to appreciate in this small format but hopefully their beauty will come through and perhaps spur some of you into visiting this amazing and unique place before it is gone forever. Mining has reared its ugly head in the area and the local Amerindian village eats macaws. Hurry…