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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Venezuela

The Tepuis, Imataca Forest Reserve, and Orinoco Delta

2016 Narrative

We arrived in Venezuela late morning and after a relaxed lunch overlooking the Caribbean had a short siesta before some late afternoon birding behind the Hotel. This produced plentiful Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds, a couple of Brown Boobies and a selection of herons, gull and terns.

The next morning we were up early to catch a flight to Puerto Ordaz on the banks of the Rio Orinoco. Our first stop eventually produced Black-collared Swallow and then we drove south with roadside stops producing Pinnated Bittern,  Rufescent Tiger and Whistling Herons, White-faced Whistling Duck, and a rather confiding Pearl Kite.

We arrived at El Palmar with time for some late afternoon birding nearby and we managed to locate White-chested Emerald, Green-tailed Jacamar, Golden-spangled Piculet, Orange-crowned Oriole and a host of commoner species.

We were to spend the next two days in the Imataca forest. On the first day we concentrated on Harpy Eagle and were soon richly rewarded, as within an hour of setting out we were watching a superb nearly grown immature sitting unconcernedly in a forest clearing edge. With the main target out of the way so quickly we were able to spend the rest of the day birding and had soon added Rose-breasted Chat, Crimson Topaz, Cayenne Jay, Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Guianan Trogon, Black Nunbird and King Vulture to our burgeoning lists.

Our second day was spent in another part of the forest and our sometimes slow but steady birding gradually produced a lengthy list including Rufous-throated Antbird, Red-and-green Macaw, Dusky Parrot, Black-necked Araçari, Guianan Slaty, Mouse-coloured and Great Ansthrikes, Screaming Piha, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Golden-crowned Spadebill and Yellow-green Grosbeak. The outward and return journeys were also productive allowing us to find to find Horned Screamer, Green Ibis, Black Caracara, Crested Bobwhite and an amazingly close perched Anhinga. 

It was then time to strike south to the Escalera but not before a final morning’s birding in some dry forest en route. This produced Hooded Tanager, Barred and Black-crested Antshrikes, Dwarf Cuckoo, Ochre-lored Flatbill, Cinereous Becard, Venezuelan Troupial and perched Black-collared and Great Black-Hawks. Just as we were leaving, a superb soaring Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle gave absolutely fantastic views. As if that wasn’t enough we had only driven a couple of kilometres when quite unbelievably an adult Harpy Eagle was spotted sitting roadside. With some careful manoeuvring of the bus we were all able to enjoy fantastic views and the cameras went into overdrive.

It was a somewhat shell-shocked group who continued south with the fairly long drive giving us all time to calm down a bit! In the late afternoon we made a stop in some lowland forest where we found Paradise Jacamar, Black-spotted Barbet, Green Araçari, Golden-collared Woodpecker and White-browed Antbird.

We were now based in Las Claritas for the next five nights and we were to spend the days birding our way up and down the Escalera, making numerous stops to sample the fascinating birdlife that can be found in this remote corner of Venezuela. Highlights were many but included the two male Black Curassows that walked across the road in front of us, the trio of Capuchinbird, White-Bellbird and after much effort Bearded Bellbird, our first Guianan Cock-of-the-rock followed minutes later by a wonderful male Purple-breasted Cotinga, the pair of Roraiman Barbtails creeping around almost at our feet in their mossy underworld, the gorgeous duo of Scarlet-horned and Orange-bellied Manakins plus the much less gaudy but very localised Olive Manakin and a whole slew of species with the prefix Tepui including Foliage-gleaner, Greenlet, Whitestart, Spinetail, Brush-finch and perhaps best of all Parrotlet. We also enjoyed some obliging Brown Jacamars, great looks at Flutist Wren and several other specialities including Streak-backed Antshrike, Greater Flowerpiercer, Ruddy Tody-Flycatcher, Rose-collared Piha and Golden-tufted Mountain Grackle. 

Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and make the return journey to Puerto Ordaz but the high quality birding continued to the end with a few brief stops en route adding Dusky Purpletuft, Spangled Cotinga, Guianan Toucanet, Ornate Hawk-Eagle and then almost as the last bird of the trip a small group of Grey-winged Trumpeters. 

Having returned to the coast the leader and several of the participants set off for the Andes and Llanos tour whilst the rest of the group with a morning to spare joined a local guide for a day in El Avila NP in the coastal mountains above the airport. This was to be a very productive morning and they managed to find a number of Venezuelan endemics including Blood-eared and Venezuelan Parakeets, Black-throated Spinetail and Guttulate Foliage-gleaner. Other quality birds included Ochre-breasted Brush-Finch, Fulvous-headed Tanager, Crested Spinetail, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Golden-breasted Fruiteater and White-tipped Quetzal. This seemed a fitting climax to what had been a truly memorable tour and we still managed to get back with time to shower and change in the airport before catching international flights.

Created: 27 April 2016