Saturday, 16 February 2013

Mazaroni Plateau to Tonka Island

Our final morning on the Mazaroni Plateau and the moment I had not been looking forward to. However, before any of that there was still a good deal of 'birding' to be done which started with all the right vibes! As we drove to the first location in the forest a
flew directly overhear. OK, not the best of views and certainly not great images
but a bird long awaited having seen the 'Lesser' version in Belize in 2004. 
Apart from this lone BUTTERFLY, that was all we saw during our last few hours
and that's when my worst dream started to become reality.
First of all the rain started, in Biblical style,
more or less coinciding with the 'snapping' of one of the the steering rods on the Toyota 4 x 4. The repair would necessitate welding, which wasn't going to take place today, and the minutes were ticking away for us to make our rendezvous at the bottom of the mountain. Step forward my most resourceful guide Otte who, in minutes 10, had arranged for alternative transport to get us there. That all sounds well and good, but when a 'flimsy' people carrier turns up to convey us down the 'Mud Chute' my little ol' pinky started twitching which it (and others I might add) didn't stop doing until we safely reached the bottom.
Our rendezvous was at the Tonka Island Ferry Terminal where our 'carriage' was already waiting.
A chance for a quick look around as the
stores and other personnel were loaded and it was
'let go fwd let go aft'.
I was put in-charge of the wheelbarrow, for now at least!
while getting to know the others, in what is a 'dug-out' canoe with raised gunwales hewn from a single tree. FRITZ is the owner of Tonka Island and probably Suriname's most eminent Botanist, while his daughter LEANDER serves as Chef and Housekeeper during our stay.   
The lake, which I never did get the dimensions of but note it features on even the smallest scale maps, is 'man-made' to produce hydro-electric power. A lot of forest and a number of villages were lost as a result
but many of the completely submerged trees have had a subsequent profitable knock-on effect. Deprived of whatever makes them rot, this underwater lumber is now 'felled' by divers, transported ashore on this barge and is much sort after.
Just a glimpse of the carved out hull of the boat.
Looking through the glare of the sun and the ever darkening sky
we could see Brownsberg and the Mazaroni Plateau in the distance.
Only a short distance to complete the 40 minute passage
and already a 'Lifer' hoves into view.
nesting in one of the water-bound dead trees.
Our accommodation for the 2 days stay
as the FERRY is taken back to berth,
the luggage is hauled up the beach in the wheelbarrow
and Leander sets about getting the kitchen ready for dinner.
Meanwhile, Otte and I are already in the field with time for a quick scout around. 
Not a lot of birds on this tiny patch, but there is one that legends are made of,
let's hope we get lucky!
Lots of dead MILLIPEDES on the beach,
and already a RINGED KINGFISHER, which I had wrongly 'called' as Belted sending Otte into dreams of only the 'second record' for Suriname.
However, the day did end as it had started, with a 'Lifer' as c3
landed in a tree some distance away.