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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Venezuela: The Tepuis and Imataca Forest Reserve

Friday 8 December to Monday 18 December 2017
with David Ascanio and Diego Calderón as leaders

Price: $4,500*

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The Imataca Forest in Eastern Venezuela is one the most reliable places in the Neotropics to see Harpy Eagle. Photo: David Fisher

Eastern Venezuela is a remote region that has only recently been opened up to tourists, primarily due to the paving of a road to Brazil that runs south parallel to the border with Guyana.  This passes through vast tracts of lowland Guianan rainforest, before climbing up five thousand feet through a rainforest-covered escarpment where it is known as the Escalera (staircase).  It then continues through the rolling grasslands and ‘lost-world’ plateaus of the Tepuis, which form the magnificent landscape of the Gran Sabana.  This is one of the most exciting birding roads in South America along which a wide selection of species can be seen, many of which are confined to this dramatic region that overlaps the borders of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil – the pan-Tepui endemics.  Most of our tour will concentrate on finding as many of these endemics as possible, as well as enjoying one of the widest variety of cotingas available anywhere in the Neotropics, including Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Pompadour Cotinga, and two species of bellbird. 

However, before all that we’ll spend three nights close to the Imataca Forest Reserve, world famous for its healthy population of Harpy Eagle, one of the world’s most spectacular raptors.  Local guides stake out active nests each year, and seeing a wild Harpy is often the highlight of the tour for many participants. 

We should mention that in this remote part of Venezuela tourist hotels do not exist.  Our accommodation in the Tepuis area will be clean and functional but basic. 

This tour can be taken in conjunction with our tour Venezuela: The Andes, Llanos and Coastal Range. 

Day 1:  The tour starts midday in Caracas. There will be a chance for some light birding on the hotel grounds in the afternoon. Night at a hotel near the airport. 

Day 2:  This morning we’ll catch an early flight to Puerto Ordaz, and shortly after landing will visit the magnificent rapids on the Caroni River, close to where it joins the Orinoco, to look for Black-collared Swallow, a local speciality that nests in rocks amongst the cascades.  We’ll also see a variety of waterbirds here perhaps including the beautiful Capped Heron.  We’ll then drive to El Palmar, stopping for some pleasant roadside birdwatching en route.  Night in El Palmar. 

Days 3-4: We’ll spend two days birdwatching in the remote Imataca Forest Reserve which we access using 4x4 jeeps.  Although it has been selectively logged much of the forest here is still largely intact. The avifauna is amazingly rich, as evidenced by the presence of one of the most sought-after birds in South America - Harpy Eagle.  The Imataca Forest is probably the best place in the world to see this magnificent raptor and we’ll devote most of one day to the search.  In the process we can expect to see a host of other birds such as Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Red-throated Caracara, Painted Parakeet,  Black Nunbird, Black-spotted Barbet, White-throated Toucan, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Cayenne Jay and Green Oropendola.  

We’ll also hope to find an antswarm which seem to be fairly common in this forest, and we’ll stand quietly and watch the birds which come in to feed on the insects disturbed by the ants.  Here these usually include Rufous-throated Antbird and sometimes the stunning White-plummed as well as various woodcreepers and foliage-gleaners.  We’ll also search for local specialities such as  Rose-breasted Chat and Ferruginous-backed Antbird.  Nights in El Palmar. 

Day 5: This morning we’ll drive south through open ranchland reminiscent of the llanos in central Venezuela.  We’ll stop at various roadside pools that hold a good selection of wetland-associated birds including ,Horned Screamer, Purple Gallinule, Black-collared Hawk, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, and Yellow-hooded Blackbird. In the afternoon we’ll walk a side road through tall rainforest and scan the treetops from a clearing where in previous years we have seen a variety of raptors, parrots, toucans, aracaris, and cotingas. Night in Las Claritas. 

Days 6-9: We’ll have four days to explore the Escalera and the nearby Guianan lowland forest.  Our days on the Escalera should provide repeated views of the striking scenery of the Gran Sabana, rolling grasslands mixed with valleys filled with rainforest.  On clear days, distant flat-topped mountains known as Tepuis may form a spectacular back-drop to our birding. Along the lightly travelled road we’ll look for such pan-Tepui endemics as Fiery-shouldered Parakeet, Tepui Swift, Velvet-browed Brilliant, Rufous-breasted Sabrewing, Roraiman Barbtail, Streak-backed Antshrike, Olive, Scarlet-horned and Orange-bellied Manakins, Tepui Greenlet, Tepui Whitestart, Roraiman Warbler, Rufous-brown Solitaire, Ruddy Tody-Flycatcher, Red-shouldered Tanager, Tepui Brush-Finch and Golden-tufted Mountain-Grackle. 

The areas is famous for cotingas and we expect to see brilliant-orange Guianan Cocks-of-the-rock near a lek, and showy White and Bearded Bellbirds whose loud calls ring out across the slopes.  Other spectacular possibilities include Red-banded Fruiteater (also a pan-Tepui endemic), Screaming and Rose-collared Pihas, Pompadour and Spangled Cotingas, and Purple-throated Fruitcrow. Nights in Las Claritas. 

Day 10: Most of today will be spent driving back to Puerto Ordaz but we’ll stopping en route for some final forest birding and will also have lunch besides a marsh that holds a good selection of waterbirds some of which are sure to be new for the trip and which in the past have included Pinnated Bittern, Horned Screamer, and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. In the late afternoon we’ll fly to Caracas.  Night near the airport. 

Day 11: The tour concludes this morning in Caracas.

Updated: 15 July 2016

Prices

  • 2017 Tour Price : $4,500
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $490
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Notes

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

This tour is limited to eight participants with two leaders.