18 - 26 February 2000
by Francis Toldi and Peter Metropulos
This is a trip report about a birding trip to the Merida Andes and Llanos in Venezuela. The report is divided into three parts: Part I is an overall trip narrative (this part only posted to Birdchat); Part II addresses trip logistics and planning, including informational updates for people contemplating a trip to this area; Part III is an annotated list of species. Latin bird names only appear in the annotated species list.
PART I – TRIP NARRATIVE
The basic outline of the trip was to fly from San Francisco to Caracas via Dallas, spend one night in Caracas then fly the next day up to Merida in the Andes. We spent one night at the Hotel Belensate in Merida, then two more nights at Los Frailes above Santo Domingo while exploring various Andean habitats. We were driven from Los Frailes to Hato El Cedral in the Andes, where we spent the next four days (3 nights). Then we were driven to Barinas, from where we took a plane back to Caracas. After one last night in Caracas we flew home. We determined our own itinerary, then used Venezuela Audubon for the booking arrangements.
We didn’t see much of Caracas, what with our late arrivals and early departures. Our only time there during daylight hours was briefly on the morning of our final departure! After a series of frustrating complications, late in the afternoon of our second day of the trip we finally found ourselves at our lovely hotel in Merida, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Maria Rosa Cuesta, our superb guide for the next 3 days. Because of our unexpectedly late arrival in Merida, we weren’t able to get to our planned destination for the day, the beginning of the Humboldt Trail. Maria wisely suggested that we go instead to a dry area back down toward the Maracaibo Basin near the village of Estanques. Even in the little town there were already great birds around, including close up views of RUSSET-THROATED PUFFBIRD (“Bobito,” or “Little Stupid” to the locals), SOOTY CAPPED HERMIT, BLUE-NECKED TANAGER, CRIMSON-BACKED TANAGER, and others. We worked our way up the Estanques Road through grassy slopes with scattered trees. As we climbed higher, the forest grew thicker. Despite the late hour, we still saw about 40 species in just a couple of hours. It felt great finally to be birding after all that time waiting around in airports!
We left before dawn the next morning, stopping only briefly for coffee in the very nice-looking town of Tabay. High overhead we could see the dim outlines of the majestic peaks of this part of the Andes. As we approached the high point in the highway, we emerged into paramo habitat. GREAT THRUSH were abundant along the roadsides. We drove straight to our hotel for the next two nights, the Hotel Los Frailes, dropped off our luggage and headed straight back to Merida National Park at Laguna Mucubaji. We took a long, slow hike to Laguna Negra. What would have been a fairly simple 4Km round trip was very difficult because of the altitude. The paramo was beautiful, especially when we left the fairly thick cover of the introduced coniferous forest, although it was very dry. The Frailajones (Espletia) that typifies this region were very dry, with only a few in flower. Because of this there were few hummingbirds. We missed virtually all of our intended hummers, most notably including the Bearded Helmetcrest. The other Andean specialties were more cooperative, though even they required patience and perseverance. Huffing and puffing our way to Laguna Negra and Las Cascadas and back did net us some good birds, including SPECKLED TEAL, BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD-EAGLE, TYRIAN METALTAIL, BAR-WINGED CINCLODES, ANDEAN TIT-SPINETAIL, OCHRE-BROWED THISTLETAIL, PEARLED TREERUNNER, BROWN-BACKED CHAT-TYRANT, PARAMO PIPIT, ANDEAN SISKIN, AND PLUMBEOUS SIERRA FINCH. The scenery was also spectacular with the high peaks sharply outlined early in the day, gradually covering with mist as the day wore on.
We retired to a little restaurant near the roadhead called Refugio Mucubaji for a very restorative (late) lunch of Hervido, a soup with meat, squash and potatoes, accompanied by the very tasty arepas dipped in cream. By the time we left the Refugio all the nearby trails were well populated with happy picnickers and hikers, it being a fine Sunday.
We headed downslope back to Los Frailes, where we saw a few more good birds, including a somewhat unexpected CRIMSON-MANTLED WOODPECKER, and the more expected WHITE-CAPPED DIPPER, WHITE-THROATED TYRANNULET, STREAK-THROATED BUSH-TYRANT, BROWN-BELLIED SWALLOW, MASKED FLOWERPIERCER, AND SLATY BRUSH-FINCH. From there we dropped further down in elevation to the town of Santo Domingo where we located at least four of the very handsome TORRENT DUCK, one of which was swimming in and out of a raging torrent just as he was supposed to! Also in the area were SPECKLED HUMMINGBIRD and ORANGE-THRAOTED SUNANGEL in a flowering bush by the side of the road and many TORRENT TYRANNULET, some away from the river in a field, and one in a bush!
Just after dusk we could hear BAND-WINGED NIGHTJAR on the grounds of Los Frailes and the adjoining Hotel Paso Real, along with a couple of unexpected SOUTHERN LAPWINGS calling loudly. After a fair dinner at Los Frailes (decent food in a somewhat stiff and formal setting) we crashed into bed, dozing off to the sound of a calling ANDEAN PYGMY-OWL.
Maria picked us up just after first light the next morning. Not far from the hotel we stopped at Gustavo’s Trail. It was a crisp morning, and we seemed to have arrived before the birds had all woken up. Gradually more birds revealed themselves, but the birding wasn’t easy all morning. The trail—a rough dirt road, actually—meanders through the ecotone between open and wooded country. Visibility is difficult, with many birds singing on the wrong side of the trees, only to disappear completely! We saw a bird here and there for a good hour or so, then finally got on a good feeding flock. By the end of our couple of hours here we had seen 27 species birds, including SMOKY BUSH-TYRANT, WHITE-FRONTED REDSTART, FLAVESCENT WARBLER, BLUE-BACKED CONEBILL, SUPERCILLIARIED HEMISPINGUS, LACHRIMOSE MOUNTAIN-TANAGER (I love that name!), BLUE AND BLACK TANAGER, WHITE-SIDED FLOWER-PIERCER and MERIDA FLOWERPIERCER. BROWN-RUMPED TAPACULO were calling loudly very close by, but we couldn’t seem to get a good look an any. Is there such thing as an easy to see tapaculo?
Next we stopped in Santo Domingo for a late breakfast of Pisca Andina, a local specialty (chicken broth with egg, bread, onion and celantro) along with more of those tasty arepas. A brief roadside stop to investigate a flowering shrub turned up SMOKE-COLORED PEWEE, SLATE-THROATED REDSTART, and BLACK-CRESTED WARBLER, along with a mystery juvenile raptor that we later confirmed as a KING VULTURE.
We drove on down to the Altamira Road, not far from the La Soledad Road. It was much warmer here than at the higher elevations. The forest along the roadside was very lush, with birds everywhere, even in the middle of the day. After the difficult birding of the last couple of days it felt great to be somewhere where the birds popped out all over the place, even if most were familiar from previous neotropical trips. Mary Lou Goodwin’s warnings about theft in her Venezuela birdfinding book are right on target here—while our backs were turned our jackets and day’s snacks were lifted out of the car. Fortunately we didn’t need them anymore, but it was a bother nevertheless. In any case, the bird list for the road was great, with 42 species and the following highlights: ROADSIDE HAWK, BROWN-THROATED PARAKEET, GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET, WHITE-BEARDED HERMIT, WHITE-VENTED PLUMELETEER, RED-RUMPED WOODPECKER, CRESTED SPINETAIL (building a nest), PLAIN XENOPS, WHITE-BEARDED MANAKIN, VARIEGATED BRISTLE-TYRANT, RUFOUS-AND-WHITE WREN, YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH, PALE-BREASTED THRUSH, various migrant warblers, YELLOW-BACKED ORIOLE, BLUE-CAPPED TANAGER, SPECKLED TANAGER, BLUE-NECKED TANAGER and BUFF-THROATED SALTATOR.
From here we headed over to the fabled San Isidro Tunnel Road. The clouds were getting denser and it suddenly felt later in the day than it really was. We parked the car near the watchman’s hut, then walked through the muddy quarry area. Two CLIFF FLYCATCHERS were feeding on the rocky slopes above us. Once past the quarry area the road is beautiful: a thick, luxurious cloud forest is on all sides and across the steep-sloped canyon. We saw a few birds along the way, most notably CINNAMON FLYCATCHER, GOLDEN-CROWNED FLYCATCHER, YELLOW-BACKED ORIOLE, when the clouds settled in and a steady drizzle began. We went earlier than originally planned to the lek, and were rewarded with spectacular close-up views of about 8 ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK. What an amazing bird! While in the area we also saw a very wet LONG-TAILED SYLPH perched on a branch. Then the rain started in earnest, with a corresponding drop in bird activity. As we walked out we got a few glimpses of some birds, but that was effectively the end of the birding day. Had the weather held off for 2 more hours we would have picked up a number of additional great species in this marvelous spot. That’s life in the tropics!
On the way back up the hill toward “home” we were delighted to see two BAND-TAILED GUAN perched by the side of the road. Dinner that night was at a nice simple restaurant in Santo Domingo, then, coatless, we shivered our way back to our warm hotel room at Los Frailes, said goodbye to Maria and crashed for the night.
We awoke the next morning to mist and rain. We were driven by a friendly, but non-birding driver to Hato El Cedral via Barinas. The driver was happy to stop wherever we asked, but the steady rain made for poor birding, so we just headed on to the hato. As we dropped in elevation it got warmer, but the rain persisted for longer than we had thought it would. The further south we drove in the llanos the more exciting the birdlife grew. After crossing the Apure River there were many waterbirds about, often in large concentrations. Even from the car window we found many lifers and spectacular species including multiple species of ibis, stork and heron. One brief “roadside relief” stop alone produced WOOD STORK, MAGUARI STORK, JABIRU, COCOI HERON, WHISTLING HERON, WHISPERING IBIS, BUFF-NECKED IBIS, RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON, WHITE-FACED WHISTLING DUCK, among many other more familiar waterbirds. The small roadside trees had flocks of various flycatchers, seedeaters and finches including SAFFRON FINCH.
We arrived at the Hato El Cedral around 1 pm. As we drove up to the gate the first of many Capybara scuttled to get out of the road. A giant iguana greeted us at the front gate. We dumped our bags, then sat for lunch with the very friendly station manager and her young son. We were the only guests, but were informed that several other groups would be arriving the next day. Over the course of the lunch I explained our birding priorities, which the manager promised to accommodate as much as possible. I had some concern that we would be abandoned to a “general tourist” fate, but with a little gentle and polite persistence, things worked out great bird-wise. 120 species was typical each day of our stay, with unbelievable numbers of some of the world’s most beautiful birds, and more than a few of the harder to find specialties.
The physical setting of the lodge is very pleasant, with older “duplex” cabins scattered around a central sitting area, a small pool, a kitchen with adjoining dining room, and some newer “strip” style motel units under construction and the employee residences. There is also a nice gift shop that had a good checklist of the wildlife of the hato, some T-shirts and a few other items. The rooms are all air-conditioned, but we frequently just used the ceiling fan so we could keep the screened louvers open. The pace is very easygoing and friendly, the food tasty and straight-forward. A bird feeder in front of the dining area had RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER, RUSTY-MARGINED FLYCATCHER, BLUE-GREY and BURNISHED-BUFF TANAGERS, RED-CAPPED CARDINAL and ORANGE-FRONTED YELLOW FINCH as its regular guests. Giant BICOLORED WREN hopped about on the buildings. BROWN-CHESTED MARTIN, a bird we had chased unsuccessfully in other countries, were flying around in good numbers near the lodge. A pair of DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEE occupied a field just north of the lodge buildings.
For our first excursion we were taken by boat through the extensive wetlands near the lodge toward the wooded areas along the Matiyure River. In some places it was open hyacinth-covered water, while in others there were muddy banks and waterways twisting into the heavily wooded backwaters. Our boatman was Victor (Junior), an incredibly capable boatman and first-rate birder. His ability to spot and identify wildlife—including making subtle distinctions among very similar species, was astonishing, especially since he didn’t use binoculars.
There were incredible concentrations of wildlife too numerous to describe in this brief report: As we drifted by tens of thousands of WHITE-FACED and BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS rose into the air. The many ibis were mostly WHISPERING IBIS, but with a good number of GREEN and GLOSSY IBIS mixed in as well, with hundreds of SCARLET IBIS added a dash of color against the white of the more familiar herons. Here and there were clutches of BRAZILIAN DUCK, with pairs of ORINOCO GOOSE scattered about. SOUTHERN LAPWINGS were everywhere on the mudflats, with smaller numbers of PIED LAPWING, COLLARED PLOVER and other shorebirds mixed in for good measure. LARGE-BILLED TERNS screamed overhead. Spectacled Caiman lolled about on the banks, or appeared and disappeared in the silty gray water. Little turtle heads popped up like periscopes—Llanos Sideneck Turtles, also basking on the banks from time to time. Capybaras were everywhere—in the water, basking on the shore, lolling about on the roads, with little herds of babies attending their mothers.
We wound deeper into the wooded areas, finding many of the same species, but also YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA, GREAT BLACK HAWK and COLLARED HAWK overhead, SCALED DOVE and WHITE-VENTED PIGEON in the trees and LESSER KISKADEES joining their larger cousins, the GREAT KISKADEE. There was no shortage of other species, including WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW, various kingfishers, the beautiful ORIOLE BLACKBIRD and TROUPIAL. Diligent scanning of the wooded banks produced the bizarre HOATZIN and a gang of GREATER ANI. At one point we pulled up against a bank and Victor threw pieces of meat to a Sunbittern which hissed and opened its wings to scare back a greedy caracara. Fortunately we saw other SUNBITTERNS that weren’t classifiable as pets and that I could feel comfortable calling a lifer! While there was a certain amount of regular schtick for the tourists (corny, but fun, like piranha fishing), the vast majority of time was in silent contemplation of wild nature.
We turned into one of the quietest and most remote overgrown waterways. Victor cut the motor and silently poled us into the completely covered channel. As we sat in silence, a stunning AGAMI HERON quietly walked into view, fishing along the edge. Then in a heart stopping moment another heron flew across the channel and froze deep in the tangle of roots along the side—a ZIGZAG HERON! We spent a good 15 minutes looking from one to the other, admiring the details of their plumage. Then each bird silently stalked off in opposite directions. A little further along an AMAZON BLACK TYRANT perched briefly over the slough. On a later trip to this same channel we briefly glimpsed the impressive YELLOW-KNOBBED CURASOW. As we headed back to the lodge at dusk, BAND-TAILED NIGHTHAWK flew over the marsh in great numbers.
The peaceful solitude of our first 24 hours was replaced with the bustle of a busy eco-lodge; not unpleasant, but not as special. Nevertheless, the full lodge now justified providing music, so we sat out in the evenings and listened to the very pleasant sound of the cuatro (small guitar), harp, maracas, and voice that makes up the Llanero sound.
The birds continued to be spectacular, with new species appearing in the various habitats we visited over the ensuing 4 days. We never saw the Zigzag Heron again, nor did we expect to, despite two repeat trips to the same area. Two excursions to the gallery forest along the Caicare River produced many good birds, including SPECTACLED OWL on the day roost, CHESTNUT-FRONTED MACAW, SCARLET MACAW, SCALED PICULET, STRAIGHT-BILLED WOODCREEPER, PLAIN-FRONTED THORNBIRD, RUSTY-BACKED SPINETAIL, YELLOW-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, VENEZUELAN FLYCATCHER, CINEROUS BECARD, STRIPE-BACKED WREN, CHESTNUT-VENTED CONEBILL, TRINIDAD EUPHONI and ORINOCAN SALTATOR. Along the Caicare River our guide located an exquisite CAPPED HERON. We stood hypnotized by the moving ripples of the Amazon (Pink) River Dolphin, listening for the exhaling breath when one would occasionally break the surface. Red Howler Monkeys were in the trees.
Another excursion involved an unsuccessful search for Horned Screamer that nevertheless allowed good looks at other interesting birds including SHARP-TAILED IBIS, PARAGUAYAN SNIPE, YELLOW-HEADED PARROT, DWARF CUCKOO, BLUE-TAILED EMERALD, and YELLOW-BROWED SPARROW. On the way back from this one we enjoyed watching a Giant Anteater make its way across a nearby field. Yet another morning excursion emphasized the hyacinth-covered wetlands. Here, with diligent searching, we had a fantastic close-range view of a YELLOW_BREASTED CRAKE along with a very unsatisfying brief look at an AZURE GALLINULE. Later, back in the Matiyure woodlands we found a GREAT POTOO on its day roost, in full view!
We took a brief night excursion, which allowed us to have some good close-up looks at more BAND-TAILED NIGHTHAWK, COMMON PAURAQUE and WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR, the latter two being along the road at the edge of the Caicare River gallery forest. We also saw many Savannah Foxes here and back toward the lodge.
By our last day we felt so satisfied that we didn’t really resist being placed on the “eco-lite” tour, and spent one last relaxing late morning floating around in the wetlands looking at now familiar species. As always, the zeal to turn up every last flycatcher dims a bit as the trip goes on. Finally it was time to leave, with an uneventful drive back to Barinas, flight to Caracas, overnight stay and return to San Francisco. Our trip total was 292 species, of which 110 were new for me.
PART II - LOGISTICS AND OVERVIEW
We planned the basic itinerary largely on the basis of prior trip reports and Mary Lou Goodwin’s book, Birding in Venezuela, and then used the services of Venezuela Audubon (under Mary Lou Goodwin’s very capable direction; locate them at www.audubonvenezuela.org or email@example.com or via telephone at (58) 2-292-2812) to make the bookings. We give the highest recommendation to using Venezuela Audubon: it is great to have an advocate right there in Venezuela, and they will help you set up a trip to whatever level of comfort and expense you want. The horrible floods required some last minute shuffling of our plans that would have been difficult without a local person giving us up-to-the-minute information and assisting with the arrangements. Any extra amount for commissions is a direct benefit to Venezuela Audubon, one of the foremost environmental organizations working in Venezuela. As we traipse about enjoying the natural splendor of a place it is important to make some effort to assist in the preservation of it! One disadvantage is that you have to pay the full amount of the land cost in advance. We cut the airfare to Venezuela significantly by buying the tickets (regular American Airlines) through a consolidator, which worked out fine. A too-short layover in Dallas caused us some worry, but we and our luggage made all the connections. Also, we would have been in trouble if any personal emergency required changing the trip dates (cancellation insurance is available to mitigate this somewhat).
Security and Safety:
Despite our significant prior experience traveling in often difficult locations we managed to have some problems in Venezuela. The international arrivals terminal at Maiquetia (Caracas) airport is a den of thieves and scoundrels, especially late at night when many flights come in from the USA. Be on your highest alert for anything strange, and don’t trust anybody! We were tricked by a well-dressed English-speaking man who pretended to be our pre-arranged driver to our hotel in Caracas. At the end of this marvelous experience we were able to get out of it just by paying a large amount of money—all of the Bolivars in my pocket (about $100 worth). We were lucky—it could have been a lot worse. If you have a pre-arranged pickup, make sure that your meeting instructions are perfectly clear, and that you have information about who will be picking you up that no one else can fake. If you are on your own read the guidebooks carefully for information on where to find the legitimate taxis and buses. Do not accept any help from any helpful strangers in the terminal. We also had some sweaters stolen from our guide’s car at Altamira Road in the Andes. Be very careful about your possessions, and don’t assume that someone else will be watching your stuff for you. Despite these two bits of misfortune, we met a lot of kind, honest people. Don’t be afraid to go to Venezuela, just be extra careful, even if you have traveled in Mexico or elsewhere and think that you have seen all the tricks. You haven’t!
Having Bolivars in the pocket upon arrival—especially if you are arriving late in the evening—is very nice, but must be balanced against the lower exchange rates. Bolivars were not available in San Francisco without a special order. At the Dallas airport we exchanged $50 or so, and received a rate of 550 Bolivars to the US Dollar, with a $5 service charge. At Maiquetia International Airport we received 600 Bolivars to the Dollar without a fee. A cash machine at the National airport dispensed Bolivars at 650 to the Dollar, but with a $5 service charge from my credit card company (appeared on the statement back home). I couldn’t get my ATM card to work in that machine, though it should have. Credit card charges showed up on my statement at 654 Bolivars to the Dollar, with of course no service charge (at least not charged to me!). Bear in mind that some places (including Hato El Cedral!) do NOT accept credit cards, although others do (e.g. Hotel Belensate in Merida, Hotel Los Frailes, Hotel Campo Allegre in Caracas).
Certain itineraries require that you rent a car and drive yourself to a series of destinations. For our itinerary, we knew that we wanted to splurge and go to a hato in the llanos, at which a car would just sit unused and collect daily charges. We opted to hire a guide with a car for the Andean portion of the trip, an approach that was not as costly as we first thought it would be. As a consequence we didn’t need to rent a car, and with two people the cost of the guide was only a moderate increment more than the cost of a rental car would have been. It was great having a local guide, not only for help locating and identifying birds, but also for the companionship, the information on local customs, history, food, and general natural history of the region. It was also nice not having to drive! It helped that our guide was a marvel: Maria Rosa Cuesta, an experienced naturalist and founder of Fundandina, the organization that is reintroducing Andean Condors back into the Venezuelan Andes. Ms. Cuesta can be contacted through Venezuela Audubon. It did make some sense to fly to Merida rather than drive, although flying is no guarantee that you will have a quick trip. Our plane to Merida was delayed 3 ½ hours, and then landed in a different airport (El Vigia), but all the while the airport personnel told Maria Rosa that the plane would be landing in Merida. By the time we got it all straightened out, we lost a precious birding day in the Andes, which cost us our high elevation cloud forest birding (the start of the Humboldt Trail).
Mary Lou Goodwin’s book, Birding in Venezuela is essential for anyone planning or even thinking about a trip to Venezuela. Nigel Wheatley’s “Where to Find Birds in South America” provides a good overview, particularly useful if you are trying to decide which country in South America you want to visit. The standard field guide is de Schauensee, “A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela” (adequate, but a bit frustrating to use, now that I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Howell and Webb, “ A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America”). If more than one of you is going on the trip, you might do as we did, and one of you can carry the Venezuela guide, while the other brings Steve Hilty, “A Guide to the Birds of Colombia” (a really nice guide, with abundant information applicable to Venezuela; not small, but worth the weight). Robert Ridgely and Guy Tudor’s “The Birds of South America (2 volumes published out of an anticipated 4) is superb, though probably not something you would want to lug along on a trip to an area that already has a serviceable guide. Also, many of the species are described but not illustrated (but those that are illustrated are some of the nicest illustrations I have seen).
The ARA tapes (“Voices of New World…”) include many species in Venezuela. Bird Songs International has a fantastic CD with hundreds of bird songs and calls not available elsewhere, including some of the species for which you would most want vocalizations, such as the antpittas. It is not hard to make a compilation cassette tape for the particular birds you hope to locate. Last time I tried their website at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/bird_songs_international/english.htm. I was unsuccessful. Perhaps they have changed to a new location. You can try the mail at Wierengastraat 42, NL-9969 PD Westernieland, The Netherlands or by Fax at 31-595-528629.
For general touring, there is a decent Lonely Planet guide, and I like the Bradt Publication by Hilary Branch, “Venezuela.” Maps are a bit of a problem. I used the International Travel Map “Venezuela” which only has the broadest of overviews of this huge country. The travel guides have useful city maps and Goodwin has general schematic maps, but my map-lover’s heart was never satisfied. For such a short trip I didn’t explore topographical maps, but I suppose they must be available somewhere. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. For a checklist we used Russell Rogers 1992 “Birding in Venezuela” checklist, which could use an update (see notes on taxonomy in the annotated checklist).
There are several websites with great information on birding in Venezuela. See Blake Maybank’s website at http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/ns/maybank/Trips.htm or “Where do you want to go birding today” at http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/birding.htm (which includes a link to Erik Molgaard’s fantastic “Birdwatching in Venezuela” trip report). .
Our trip total was 292 species, of which 111 were lifers. We made no effort to drive up the list total, so there were a number of common species that we didn’t notice even though they were probably around somewhere. There were another half dozen species that “got away” (meaning unconvincing looks, heard-only without a distinctive song, etc.).
Our time in the Andes was much too short. For the region we covered, we could have used a minimum of two additional full days, one for La Azulita Road (west slope of the Andes into the Maracaibo Basin) and one for the Humboldt Trail (high elevation cloud and wet forest). As it was, our air delays cost us our partial day at the Humboldt Trail, and we were never able to get into that kind of habitat again. A short trip also puts you at the mercy of the weather. A bad weather day can really mess up your trip. We were generally lucky with the weather: we only had rain late on the final afternoon in the Andes and in the morning of our drive to the hato. If our trip had been set two days later we would have seen very little in the Andes because of steady rain. Of course, if we had come one day earlier, we would have added about 25 species (our visit to San Isidro Road was cut short by the late afternoon rain). On a longer trip a bad weather day is just a day to relax, work on the notes, do a little ordinary sightseeing, sleep late.
In general we found the birding very challenging in the Andes. Birds tended to be real skulkers, and to get a good look at even many common species required considerable effort. Altamira Road gave us a nice psychological lift. Even though most of the species were pan-tropical species we had encountered on many occasions before, it felt great to bird in a place where the birds were popping out on every branch, even later in the day. The higher elevation birds are a “quality over quantity” experience. There is nothing wrong with a shorter list at the end of a day—just be sure you set your expectations accordingly.
The season is not particularly important for some species, but vital for others. We did find most of the Andean “specialties” like Andean Tit-Spinetail, Bar-winged Cinclodes, and the like, but virtually all of the hummingbirds were absent as were the flowers that draw them to this area in other times of year. Andean Cock-of-the-Rock come to the lek at San Isidro Road in March and April, but can be more difficult at other times of the year. Be cognizant of which species you are hoping for the most, and time your trip to maximize your chances.
Other trip reports and Mary Lou’s book describe a Lyre-tailed Nightjar at the base of the road to La Soledad. Due to a fire, the nightjar has relocated to a more difficult to reach location. The man who runs the café at the base of the road can take you to the bird, but he will only do it when it is dry, as the route is very steep and slippery (too bad for us—“come back another day” on a short trip means “you are out of luck!”).
This is another area with multiple possible strategies. If you have only a little time (four days or less) this is the place for a strategic splurge. It is possible to drive around on the public roads and see many of the specialty bird species, though few of the mammals. You will probably miss the incredible spectacle of the huge concentrations of waterbirds, the slow, easy pace of the hatos, the incredible concentrations of capybaras and other mammals, and certain particularly local and hard to find bird species. As for which hato, I suspect that it is much like choosing an expensive pair of binoculars: you can argue the fine points all you like, but ultimately you will be happy with whatever you choose. Venezuela Audubon can help you avoid any that are having service problems.
There is a subtle dynamic at play at the hatos, however, that can have a significant effect on how much you enjoy your time there. It is well-described in the chapter on the hatos in Mary Lou’s book. Essentially, the hatos are virtually guaranteed to provide a first-rate “eco-lite” tour of their facilities. That means that you will have a comfortable lodging with good food, a couple of excursions a day with guides that can locate the major animals including birds. They will also entertain you with some of the touristy but fun activities like fishing for piranha and, if you are lucky, Llanero music in the evenings. Getting to a deeper level may require some careful negotiation. Speaking for Hato El Cedral (I imagine that there is a similar dynamic at the other hatos as well), there are two guides that are extraordinarily capable. They have eyes that can spot the wing on a flea at 100 meters without binoculars, and they really, really know their birds, including rare and hard to find specialties. They may not speak much English, but that is only a minor concern. Even a little Spanish is adequate; more makes it a truly magical experience, since they are also really nice guys. Even with just a field list or field guide with Spanish names and hand gestures you will get on all the good birds.
If you are lucky enough to visit the hato when there are few other guests, politely informing the station manager of your special birding interests should be sufficient to get you one of the guides that can get you on the special birds. It is a bit more complicated when the hato is full of guests, including specialty bird tours. The tour groups usually have more experience with the system and have more financial clout. The station manager may have a tendency to put you in with the other “miscellaneous” guests, which means days of eco-lite. It would be a rare bird tour group that would want to have a non-tour birder join them. In our experience, respectful and polite insistence can do the job. Being too passive could result in your being lumped with the eco-lites for all of your excursions. Being abrasive and too forceful (americanus foedus) might be counter-productive (what would you do with an obnoxious jerk if you were a station manager?), besides being a bad mode of communication for any reason.
In any case, you can do a lot of birding on your own. If the expert guides aren’t available, and in your free time (other than at the heat of the mid-day when you should be asleep, or in the pool, or sitting quietly in a shady spot) you can find many great birds. Around the Hato El Cedral Lodge and on the entrance road within walking distance you can find a number of great species, including at least 4 of the 7 species of ibis in the area, all three storks, raptors, and innumerable herons. Orange-fronted Yellow Finch, Burnished-Buff Tanager, Rusty-margined Flycatcher and others come to the feeder. Bicolored Wrens hop around the buildings. Ibis roost in the trees overhead at night. Once when walking back from a boat trip our guide stopped and said he heard a White-naped Xenopsaris, one of the most fervently-sought specialties of the area. We couldn’t locate the bird, but it was calling from a cluster of trees right next to the hato lodge! Similarly, if the guide isn’t available you can still get them to take you to a good locale, such as the Caicare gallery forest and the road along its edge. We found a number of good birds there with minimal help from the guides, including Amazon Black Tyrant, Orinocan Saltator, Trinidad Euphonia, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, and many others. Most, if not all, of the driver/guides can locate many of the birds (especially the larger localized species such as Capped Heron) you especially will want to see and may not find without the assistance of a guide. They can also escort you into good habitat, keep you out of trouble, and allow you a chance to find your own birds.
Ultimately, just relax. There are a lot of birds here, so don’t
get too worked up just because circumstances don’t allow you to see 2 or
3 of the hardest to find birds.
PART III - ANNOTATED SPECIES LIST
Deciding on the proper taxonomy for this list was a bit of a puzzle,
at least for this non-scientist writer. Basically, for the non-passerines
we have adopted the order and names used in R.M. de Schauensee's "A Guide
to the Birds of Venezuela", with some updated names from the A.O.U. Checklist
(7th ed), recognizing that South America is out of the checklist’s jurisdiction.
For the passerines we have followed the names and sequence from the two
published volumes (of four) of Robert S. Ridgely's "The Birds of South
America," even though the introduction to that fine series states that
the taxonomy used ”is not necessary an accurate reflection of present taxonomic
thinking.” For the most part we only give very general abundance
descriptions, except for birds for which we actually counted the number
LOCATIONS AND DATES
Belensate = Hotel Belensate and Environs, Merida (Feb. 19, 2000)
Estanques = Estanques Road, between Merida and El Vigia (Feb. 19, 2000)
Mucubaji = Merida National Park, at Laguna Mucubaji, Laguna Negra, Las Cascadas regions (Feb. 20, 2000)
Los Frailes = Hotel Los Frailes grounds, above Santo Domingo (Feb. 20, 2000)
Santo Domingo = vicinity of Santo Domingo (excluding Los Frailes and Gustavo’s Trail) (Feb. 20-21, 2000)
Altamira = Altamira Road (Feb. 21, 2000)
San Isidro = San Isidro Quarry Road (Feb. 21, 2000)
Apure Roadside = birds seen from roadside during drive from Barinas to Hato El Frio outer gate (Feb. 22, 2000)
El Cedral Lodge = entrance road and lodge area at Hato El Frio (NOTE: no obvious demarkation between the wetland portions of this area and the Matiyure area wetlands; in general we have included here those species visible from within 1 Km or so of the lodge) (Feb. 22-25, 2000)
Matiyure = Matiyure River and adjacent wetlands and matas (savannah/woodlands) at Hato El Cedral (Feb. 22-25, 2000)
Caicare = Caicare River gallery forest and adjacent wetlands and savannah at Hato El Cedral (Feb. 23-24, 2000)
LITTLE TINAMOU (Crypturellus soui). Heard only at Altamira.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps). 1 at El Cedral Lodge.
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax olivaceus). A few near Santo Domingo; Numerous at all El Cedral locations, Apure Roadside.
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga). Many at all El Cedral locations.
COCOI (WHITE-NECKED) HERON (Ardea cocoi). One of the more common herons at all El Cedral locations, Apure Roadside.
GREAT EGRET (Egretta alba). El Cedral, all wetland areas, Apure Roadside.
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula). El Cedral, all wetland areas, Apure Roadside.
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea). El Cedral, all wetland areas, Apure Roadside.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens). 2 individuals noted at Matiyure.
STRIATED HERON (Butorides striatus). El Cedral, all wetland areas, Apure Roadside.
AGAMI (CHESTNUT-BELLIED) HERON (Agamia agami). 1 at Matiyure, deep in secluded channel.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis). 1 at Santo Domingo; El Cedral, all wetland areas; frequently on backs of Capybaras; also Apure Roadside.
WHISTLING HERON (Syrigma sibilatrix). 2 at Apure Roadside; 2 at Matayure, 2 at Caicare only.
CAPPED HERON (Pilherodius pileatus). 2 only at Caicare; very local and
easy to miss.
1 Imataca F.R. and 2 El Dorado - Guasipati.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax). Throughout El Cedral area, but mostly at Matiyure.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax violaceus). Throughout El Cedral area, but mostly at Matiyure.
RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma lineatum). Very common throughout wetland areas at El Cedral and Apure Roadside; watch out for immature birds which have some resemblance to Pinnated Bittern.
ZIGZAG HERON (Zebrilus undulatus). 1 at Agami Heron location, Matiyure; words can’t describe the feeling of the moment when this heron silently appeared deep in the dark inlet.
PINNATED BITTERN (Botaurus pinnatus). El Cedral Lodge wetlands; never common, only a few individuals.
BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius). A few tucked in to the trees at Matiyure, 1 noted at Caicare in the gallery forest.
WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana). In moderate numbers at all El Cedral wetland areas and Apure Roadside.
MAGUARI STORK (Ciconia maguari). Small numbers at most El Cedral locations and Apure Roadside, including some on the nest along the entrance road; sometimes found in drier areas.
JABIRU (Jabiru mycteria). More widely scattered than other storks, with small numbers at El Cedral Lodge, near Caicare, and Apure Roadside
BUFF-NECKED IBIS (Theristicus caudatus). Common and conspicuous, though usually in singles or pairs, at Apure Roadside and all El Cedral locations; roosts in trees above El Cedral lodge.
SHARP-TAILED IBIS (Cercibis oxycerca). 2 on the road to Caicare; 1 in wetlands near Matiyure matas were only ones noted; not mixed in with Bare-faced Ibis; most immediate distinguising mark was the red around the bill; would have been easy to miss this one.
GREEN IBIS (Mesembrinibis cayennensis). A few individuals and groups noted, mostly at Matiyure; undoubtedly more present, but not as common as other ibis.
BARE-FACED (WHISPERING) IBIS (Phimosus infuscatus). The most common ibis, at Apure Roadside and all El Cedral locations.
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus). Only a few along Apure Roadside and El Cedral wetland areas; careful with immature Scarlet Ibis which can be very light.
SCARLET IBIS (Eudocimus ruber). Common in all El Cedral wetland areas; largest concentrations outside of the Hato along Apure Roadside
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus). Apure Roadside, El Cedral wetland areas
ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja). Apure Roadside, El Cedral wetland areas; including some fairly large concentrations (up to 15 birds).
FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK. (Dendrocygna bicolor). A few mixed in with the other whistling-duck species at El Cedral wetland areas.
WHITE-FACED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna viduata). Large flocks along Apure Roadside; uncounted hundreds of thousands in all El Cedral wetland areas; often mixed with other whistling-ducks.
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis). Large flocks at Apure Roadside and all El Cedral wetland areas.
ORINOCO GOOSE (Neochen jubata). Usually in pairs; at least 2 noted along Apure Roadside; fairly common within El Cedral at all wetland areas.
SPECKLED (ANDEAN) TEAL (Anas flavirostris). 5+ at Mucubaji.
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors). 10+ at Mucubaji.
TORRENT DUCK (Merganetta armata). 1 adult male, 1 adult female, 2 young near Santo Domingo Bridge; patience rewards—this is a bird worth searching for diligently!
BRAZILIAN (TEAL) DUCK (Amazonetta brasiliensis). Widely scattered, usually in pairs, throughout El Cedral wetland areas.
MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata). Only about 4 individuals noted, all at Matiyure and El Cedral Lodge area wetlands; usually deep within hyacinth
KING VULTURE (Sarcoramphus papa). 1 immature at Santo Domingo; difficult to identify; a good illustration of the immature plumage is in Stiles & Skutch, ”A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica” (not illustrated in de Schauensee).
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus). Common at all locations
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura). Common at all locations.
LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE (Cathartes burrovianus). A few picked out for the list at various El Cedral locations; most common in wetland areas.
WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus). 1 at Caicare, 1 in matas at Matiyure.
SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis). 1 seen near El Cedral entrance gate at Apure Roadside; surprisingly none noted within the Hato.
BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD-EAGLE (Geranoaetus melanoleucus). 3 at Mucubaji provided close up views.
WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albicaudatus). Noted at all dry country locations at El Cedral.
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus). 2 birds at Santo Domingo.
ROADSIDE HAWK (Buteo magnirostris). 1 at Altamira; Most common buteo at El Cedral.
SHORT-TAILED HAWK (Buteo Brachyurus). 1 at Santo Domingo.
GRAY HAWK (Buteo nitidis). Only 1 noted, near Matiyure.
HARRIS’S (BAY-WINGED) HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus). 1 along entrance road at El Cedral Lodge.
BLACK-COLLARED HAWK (Busarellus nigricollis). Numerous at Matiyure, especially within the wooded waterways; also a few along Caicare
SAVANNA HAWK (Heterospizias meridionalis). Several along Apure Roadside; scattered individuals in all El Cedral areas.
GREAT BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus urubitinga). 1 at Apure Roadside; 2 at Caicare.
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus). 1 at Santo Domingo was a surprise; single birds at all El Cedral locations.
YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Milvago chimachima). 1 at Caracas Airport; Very common at all El Cedral locations; 85 birds counted leaving communal roost at dawn along El Cedral entrance road.
CRESTED CARACARA (Polyborus plancus). Common along Apure Roadside and all El Cedral locations.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus). 2 at Matiyure.
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius). 1 at Los Frailes.
RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA (Ortalis ruficauda). Several at Estanques, also around Lodge and in woodlands at Hato El Cedral
BAND-TAILED GUAN (Penelope argyrotis). 2 at San Isidro, 2 from highway just west of San Isidro Road junction
YELLOW-KNOBBED CURASSOW (Crax daubentoni). Several heard then 1 later seen at Matiyure, near Agami Heron spot
CRESTED BOBWHITE (Colinus cristatus). 3 in small tree near fence along road to Caicare
GRAY-NECKED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides cajanea). 4 on various days at Matiyure
YELLOW-BREASTED CRAKE (Porzana flaviventer). 1 well seen in hyacinth from the boat on the way to Matiyure; would have missed without sharp-eyed guide
COMMON MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus). 1 immature seen in hyacinth from boat on the way to Matiyure.
AZURE GALLINULE (Porphyrula flavirostris). 1 immature seen in hyacinth from boat on the way to Matiyure; a sufficient, but very unsatisfying look; a real skulker.
SUNBITTERN (Eurypyga helias). 3 at Matiyure, not including the guides well-fed ”pet” that nevertheless put on an incredible show!
WATTLED JACANA (Jacana jacana). Abundant at Apure Roadside and all El Cedral wetland areas
SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis). 2 calling at dusk from the field behind the Hotel Paso Real adjacent to Los Frailes; abundant at Apure Roadside and throughout El Cedral
PIED LAPWING (Vanellus cayanus). A few widely scattered individuals on mudflats at Matiyure and Caicare; not at all common, but not difficult to find.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus). 1 on mudflats along the road to Caicare; not on El Cedral checklist; distinguish from Collared Plover by darker top of head, extension of white around nape
COLLARED PLOVER (Charadrius collaris). 1 on mudflat near Matiyure matas, 1 on mudflat on the way to Matiyure woodland
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria). Common but widely scattered in ones and twos throughout El Cedral wetlands
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes). A few widely scattered throughout El Cedral wetlands
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca). 5 at Mucubaji; Common but widely scattered in ones and twos throughout El Cedral wetlands
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularia). A few on mudflats near Matiyure; not as common as Solitary Sandpiper
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri). 3 on mudflat near matas on the way to Matiyure
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla). A few small groups of 2-3 birds on various mudflats at El Cedral
PARAGUAYAN (SOUTH AMERICAN) SNIPE (Gallinago paraguaiae). 7 in wet brushy area along the road to Matiyure; well hidden, and would have missed without the guide knowing just where to stop
BLACK-NECKED (COMMON) STILT (Himantopus mexicanus). Common at Apure Roadside and all over El Cedral
DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEE (Burhinus bistriatus). 2 cooperative birds in field right next to El Cedral Lodge
LARGE-BILLED TERN (Phaetusa simplex). Common and noisy, often in pairs, all over Apure Roadside and El Cedral
GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica). Small flocks and a few individuals over wetlands throughout El Cedral; never as common as Large-billed Tern
YELLOW-BILLED TERN (Sterna superciliaris). Small flocks over wetlands throughout El Cedral; not as common as Large-billed Tern
BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger). In wetlands throughout El Cedral, including a few large flocks with 15+ birds
ROCK DOVE (Columba livia). Feral birds in various urban areas in all locations, including Caracas Airport
BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Columba fasciata). 30+ in several flocks over Santo Domingo
SCALED PIGEON (Columba speciosa). Beautiful close up views of 3+ birds at Estanques
PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Columba cayennensis). Common in wooded areas at El Cedral
EARED DOVE (Zenaida auriculata). 2 near Santo Domingo; common throughout El Cedral area
PLAIN-BREASTED GROUND-DOVE (Columbina minuta). At least 5 identified near El Cedral Lodge; undoubtedly more in the area
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE (Columbina talpacoti). 5 at Estanques; common at Apure Roadside and throughout El Cedral
SCALED DOVE (Scardafella squammata). Common at Apure Roadside and throughout El Cedral
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi). A few individuals at Estanques and San Isidro
SCARLET MACAW (Ara macao). 15+, all flyovers at various places around El Cedral; this species was more common than the supposedly more common Chestnut-fronted Macaw
CHESTNUT-FRONTED MACAW (Ara severa). 2 only, at edge of Caicare gallery forest, at sundown
SCARLET-FRONTED PARAKEET (Aratinga wagleri). Large flock overhead late in afternoon at Estanques
BROWN-THROATED PARAKEET (Aratinga pertinax). 3 at Altamira; 8 at Caicare
GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET (Forpus passerinus). 3 at Estanques; 10 at Altamira; scattered flocks and individuals at El Cedral, including large flock right at El Cedral Lodge
ORANGE-CHINNED PARAKEET (Brotogeris jugularis). Large flock overhead
4 Barragan River and 20 Hato El Frio.
YELLOW-HEADED PARROT (Amazona ochrocephala). 9, mostly in pairs, in matas and edge of gallery forest near Caicare and Matiyure
HOATZIN (Opisthocornus hoazin). Many in Matiyure wooded waterways; 2 in gallery forest along Caicare
DWARF CUCKOO (Coccyzus pumilus). 2 in tree on road to Matiyure, not far from El Cedral Lodge
SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana). 3 at Caicare
GREATER ANI (Crotophaga major). 5 in trees in Matiyure, seen from the boat
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani). Common in all wetland areas at Apure Roadside and El Cedral
GROOVE-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga sulcirostris). Common at Estanques and Santo Domingo.
STRIPED CUCKOO (Tapera naevia). 2 heard only at Estanques
BARN OWL (Tyto alba). 1 calling each morning at El Cedral Lodge
TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (Otus choliba). Heard only, 1 at Hotel Belensate in Merida, 1 at El Cedral Lodge
SPECTACLED OWL (Pulsatrix perspicillata). 1 on day roost in Caicara gallery forest
ANDEAN PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium jardinii). 1 calling at Los Frailes
BURROWING OWL (Speotyto cunicularia). 2 in burrow near El Cedral Lodge, 3 flushed from Caicare road at night
GREAT POTOO (Nyctibius grandis). 1 on day roost deep in forest at Matiyure, only accessible by boat
LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis). 40+ at dusk on road from Estanques toward Merida
BAND-TAILED NIGHTHAWK (Nyctiprogne leucopyga). Common over wetlands near Matiyure and Caicare
PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis). A few flushed at night from Caicare Road
BAND-WINGED NIGHTJAR (Caprimulgus longirostris). 5+ calling, 1 seen briefly at Los Frailes
WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR (Caprimulgus cayennensis). 5+ flushed at night from Caicare Road
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris). 15+ at Estanques
SHORT-TAILED SWIFT (Chaetura brachyura). 25+ at Estanques
WHITE-BEARDED HERMIT (Phaethornis hispidus). 1 at Altamira
SOOTY-CAPPED HERMIT (Phaethornis augusti). 1 at Estanques
BLACK-THROATED MANGO (Anthracothorax nigricollis). 2 in Matiyure, 1 along entrance road near El Cedral Lodge
BLUE-TAILED EMERALD (Chlorostilbon mellisugus). 2 in matas along road to Matiyure, 1 alongside gallery forest at Caicare; originally identified as Shining Green Hummingbird (Lepidopyuga goudoti), but corrected upon consultation with D. Ascanio; (including forked tail, shining green all voer with bluish on crown and throat, white on belly).
STEELY-VENTED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia saucerrottei). 1 at Estanques
WHITE-VENTED PLUMELETEER (Chalybura buffonii). 1 at Altamira
SPECKLED HUMMINGBIRD (Adelomyia melanogenys). 1 in flowering bush at Santo Domingo
ORANGE-THROATED SUNANGEL (Heliangelus mavors). Most common hummingbird in the Andes, with numerous individuals at Santo Domingo and Gustavo
TYRIAN METALTAIL (Metallura tyrianthina). Various individuals at Mucubaji, Los Frailes
LONG-TAILED SYLPH (Aglaiocercus kingi). 1 very wet bird in the rain at San Isidro
RINGED KINGFISHER (Ceryle torquata). Common in wetlands at Apure Roadside and El Cedral
AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona). Common in wetlands at El Cedral
GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana). 2 noted in Matiyure waterways
RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda). Seen and heard in Caicare gallery forest and in Matiyure woodlands
RUSSET-THROATED PUFFBIRD (Hypnelus ruficollis). 1 well seen at Estanques; 1 at Caicare gallery forest; 1 in matas along entrance road to El Cedral Lodge
EMERALD TOUCANET (Aulacorhynchus prasinus). 1 at San Isidro
SCALED PICULET (Picumnus squamulatus). 2 in Caicare gallery forest; 1 in Matiyure woodlands
RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes rubricapillus). Various individuals at Estanques, Altamira, and in all wooded areas at El Cedral
CRIMSON-MANTLED WOODPECKER (Piculus rivoli). 1 at Los Frailes was a welcome surprise
RED-RUMPED WOODPECKER (Veniliornis kirkii). 1 at Altamira; 1 in Caicara gallery forest
BAR-WINGED CINCLODES (Cinclodes fuscus). 1 at Mucubaji, in Las Cascadas area
ANDEAN TIT-SPINETAIL (Leptasthenura andicola). 7 at Mucubaji, various locations; easiest to find of the paramo specialties
PALE-BREASTED SPINETAIL (Synallaxis albescens). 1 in scrub near Matiyure area matas
YELLOW-CHINNED (YELLOW-THROATED) SPINETAIL (Certhiaxis cinnamomea). Very common throughout El Cedral area and Apure Roadside
CRESTED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca subcristata). 1 building a nest at Altamira
OCHRE-BROWED THISTLETAIL (Schizoeaca coryi). 2 at Mucubaji
COMMON THORNBIRD (Phacellodomus rufifrons). Common in matas at El Cedral
PEARLED TREERUNNER (Margarornis squamiger). 1 poorly seen at Mucubaji on the trail to Laguna Negra
PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus). 2 at Altamira
RUSTY-BACKED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca vulpine). 1 in Caicare gallery forest; originally identified as Chestnut-crowned Foliage Gleaner (Automolus rufipileatus), but corrected after consultation with D. Ascanio.
STRAIGHT-BILLED WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus picus). 3 at Caicare in gallery forest
MONTANE (SPOT-CROWNED) WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger). 1 at Gustavo’s Trail
BLACK-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE (Sakesphorus canadensis). Heard and seen several individuals in woodlands at Caicare and Matiyure
BARRED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus doliatus). Heard and seen several individuals in woodlands at Caicare and Matiyure
WHITE-FRINGED ANTWREN (Formicivora grisea). 2 seen in Caicare gallery forest
CHESTNUT-CROWNED ANTPITTA (Grallaria ruficapilla). Heard several giving distinctive 3-part song, only at San Isidro
BROWN-RUMPED TAPACULO (Scytalopus latebricola). Heard many at Los Frailes and Gustavo’s Trail
YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster). 3 at Estanques, a few at El Cedral woodland areas
FOREST ELAENIA (Myiopagis gaimardii). 1 Estanques, 1 Caicare gallery forest
SOUTHERN BEARDLESS TYRANNULET (Camptostoma obsoletum). 1at El Cedral Lodge area, 1 along El Cedral entrance road
WHITE-THROATED TYRANNULET (Mecocerculus leucophrys). Common at Los Frailes, Mucubaji (all locations), Santo Domingo, Gustavo
TORRENT TYRANNULET (Serpophaga cinerea). 10+ at Santo Domingo, some in odd places (in fields and even shrubs, 50+ feet away from river!)
VARIEGATED BRISTLE-TYRANT (Phylloscartes poecilotis). 3 at Altamira
COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum). Common at all El Cedral locations
YELLOW-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias flaviventris). 2 Caicare gallery forest
CINNAMON FLYCATCHER (Pyrrhomyias cinnamomea). 2 at San Isidro
ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens). 2 studied at length at close range at Estanques
TROPICAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus). 1 seen, several heard Altamira
SMOKE-COLORED (GREATER) PEWEE (Contopus fumigatus). 1 along roadside at Santo Domingo
FUSCOUS FLYCATCHER (Cnemotriccus fuscatus). 1 Caicare gallery forest
BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans). 1 at Hotel Belansate in Merida, several at Santo Domingo (one feeding young)
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus). 1 Apure Roadside; several at matas and roadside brush in Matiyure and Caicare areas; 1 at El Cedral Lodge
BROWN-BACKED CHAT-TYRANT (Ochthoeca fumicolor). Common at Mucubaji (all locations), Los Frailes, Gustavo
SMOKY BUSH-TYRANT (Myiotheretes fumigatus). 3 at Gustavo
STREAK-THROATED BUSH-TYRANT (Myiotheretes striaticollis). 3 at Los Frailes, 2 at Gustavo
CLIFF FLYCATCHER (Hirundinea ferruginea sclateri). 2 San Isidro, on cliff right at quarry
CATTLE TYRANT (Machetornis rixosus). Common at El Cedral Lodge and at forest edge at Matiyure and Caicare
AMAZONIAN BLACK TYRANT (Knipolegus poecilocercus). 1 at Matiyure in the Agami Heron location; 1 in Caicare gallery forest
PIED WATER-TYRANT (Fluvicola pica). Common at all wetland locations at El Cedral and Apure Roadside
WHITE-HEADED MARSH-TYRANT (Arundinicola leucocephala). Common at all El Cedral wetland locations
VENEZUELAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus venezuelensis). 5 total at all El Cedral woodland areas
DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer). 1 seen, several heard, Estanques
BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarhynchus pitangua). 1 at Altamira, probably others elsewhere!
GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus). Estanques, Apure Roadside, all El Cedral locations
LESSER KISKADEE (Philohydor lictor). A few in all El Cedral wetland
2 Hato El Frio.
RUSTY-MARGINED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes cayanensis). 5 at El Cedral Lodge; undoubtedly others, but we only started to seriously analyze this group of similar-looking species on the last day
SOCIAL FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes similis). 3 at Estanques, various at El Cedral entrance road, Apure Roadside
GOLDEN-CROWNED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes chrysocephalus). 1 at San Isidro, 1 at Caicare gallery forest
STREAKED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes maculatus). 1 at Altamira
PIRATIC FLYCATCHER (Legatus leucophaius). 1 at Estanques
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus). Common at all locations
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis). A few birds at Caicare forest edge and in wooded areas near water at Matiyure
FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus savana). Single birds at various matas and forest edge at El Cedral
CINEROUS BECARD (Pachyramphus rufus). 1 at edge of Caicare gallery forest
WHITE-BEARDED MANAKIN (Manacus manacus). Various heard at lek, 1 seen at Altamira
ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK (Rupicola peruviana). 7 at lek at San Isidro
GREEN JAY (Cyanocorax yncas). 1 at Hotel Belensate in Merida; 5 at San Isidro
BROWN-CHESTED MARTIN (Phaeoprogne tapera). 3 noted at El Cedral Lodge and a few overhead at other El Cedral locations; never common
GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea). 5 at Estanques; a few noted near El Cedral Lodge
WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW (Tachycineta albiventer). Common at Apure Roadside and throughout El Cedral
BROWN-BELLIED SWALLOW (Notiochelidon murina). Common at Los Frailes, Gustavo; a few as low as Santo Domingo
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Notiochelidon cyanoleuca). Flocks at San Isidro
SOUTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis). Common at Estanques, Santo Domingo, San Isidro
BANK SWALLOW (SAND MARTIN) (Riparia riparia). 1 noted over mudflats from the boat on the way to Matiyure
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica). Flocks at Estanques, El Cedral Lodge and vicinity
BICOLORED WREN (Campylorhynchus griseus). A few were generally conspicuous around the El Cedral Lodge
STRIPE-BACKED WREN (Campylorhynchus nuchalis). 2 at edge of Caicare gallery forest; 1 along El Cedral entrance road
BUFF-BREASTED WREN (Thryothorus leucotis). 2 along entrance road at El Cedral
RUFOUS-AND-WHITE WREN (Thryothorus rufalbus). Several at Altamira
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon). Common at Estanques; also at El Cedral Lodge and all El Cedral woodland areas
GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucophrys). Heard only at Gustavo, Altamira and San Isidro
TROPICAL GNATCATCHER (Polioptila plumbea plumbea). 2 at Caicare gallery forest; 3 along El Cedral entrance road
SWAINSON’S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus). 1 at Altamira
YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH (Platycichla flavipes). 2 at Altamira
GREAT THRUSH (Turdus fuscater). Common along roadside at upper elevations, including Mucubaji and Gustavo
BLACK-HOODED THRUSH (Turdus olivater). 1 at San Isidro
PALE-BREASTED THRUSH (Turdus leucomelas). 2 at Altamira
WHITE-CAPPED DIPPER (Cinclus leucocephalus). 1 at Los Frailes; 5+ along river at Santo Domingo
TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus gilvus). Present at virtually all locations
PARAMO PIPIT (Anthus bogotensis). 2 at Las Cascadas at Mucubaji, took patience and quite a bit of walking to turn this one up
RED-EYED (CHIVI) VIREO (Vireo olivaceus chivi). 3 at Altamira; at least 1 at Matiyure woodland
GOLDEN-FRONTED GREENLET (Hylophilus aurantiifrons). 2 at Altamira
YELLOW WARBLER (Dendroica petechia). Common at all El Cedral locations
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Dendroica striata). 1 at Altamira
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Dendroica fusca). A few birds each at Altamira and San Isidro
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla). A few at Estanques, Altamira
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Seiurus noveboracensis). 1 at Caicare gallery forest, 2 at El Cedral Lodge
SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus). 1 at Santo Domingo along the roadside; A few at San Isidro
WHITE-FRONTED REDSTART (Myioborus albifrons). Several at Gustavo, Santo Domingo
BLACK-CRESTED WARBLER (Basileuterus nigrocristatus). 1 along roadside at Santo Domingo
THREE-STRIPED WARBLER (Basileuterus tristriatus). 1 at San Isidro
FLAVESCENT WARBLER (Basileuterus flaveolus). 3 at Gustavo
MASKED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa cyanea). A few at Los Frailes, Gustavo
MERIDA (COAL BLACK) FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa gloriosa). 1 at Los Frailes, 3 at Gustavo
WHITE-SIDED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa albilatera). 1 at Gustavo
BLUE-BACKED CONEBILL (Conirostrum sitticolor). 3 at Gustavo
BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola). Common at most locations
CHESTNUT-VENTED CONEBILL (Conirostrum speciosum). 1 at Caicare gallery forest
BLUE-NECKED TANAGER (Tangara cyanicollis). A few at Estanques, Gustavo and Altamira
BLUE-AND-BLACK TANAGER (Tangara vassorii). 5 at Gustavoos Frailes
BURNISHED-BUFF TANAGER (Tangara cayana). 3 at Estanques; 1 at feeders at El Cedral Lodge; a few at other El Cedral woodland locations; note that female is not illustrated in de Schauensee, but bears some resemblance to Rufous-cheeked Tanager (see illustration in Morton & Phyllis Isler, ”Tanagers,” the ONLY book I have seen that illustrates the female!)
BAY-HEADED TANAGER (Tangara gyrola). Fairly common at Altamira, San Isidro
SPECKLED TANAGER (Tangara guttata). 5 at Altamira
THICK-BILLED EUPHONIA (Euphonia laniirostris). 1 at Estanques
TRINIDAD EUPHONIA (Euphonia trinitatis). 2 seen at Caicare gallery forest; others heard only in other El Cedral woodland areas
SUPERCILIARIED HEMISPINGUS (Hemispingus superciliaris). 2 Gustavo
LACHRIMOSE MOUNTAIN-TANAGER (Anisognathus lacrymosus). 7 at Gustavo
BLUE-CAPPED TANAGER (Thraupis cyanocephala). 1 at roadside Santo Domingo; 2 at Altamira; 1 at San Isidro
PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum). A few at Estanques, Gustavo, Altamira
BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus). Present in moderate numbers at most locations (except higher elevation areas)
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra). 2 at Altamira; 1 at San Isidro
SILVER-BEAKED TANAGER (Ramphocelus carbo). Common at Altamira, roadside near San Isidro
CRIMSON-BACKED TANAGER (Ramphocelus dimidiatus). 2 at Estanques
WHITE-LINED TANAGER (Tachyphonus rufus). 2 at Gustavo; A few at San Isidro and Altamira
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna). Fairly common at Mucubaji, Santo Domingo, Gustavo
RED-BREASTED BLACKBIRD (Sturnella militaris). Flocks in fields in open country on the road to Caicare
ORIOLE BLACKBIRD (Gymnomystax mexicanus). Fairly common at all El Cedral locations
YELLOW-HOODED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius icterocephalus). In wetlands on the way to Matiyure
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis). Common at Estanques, Apure Roadside and all El Cedral locations
CARIB GRACKLE (Quiscalus lugubris). A few birds at Estanques; common at various El Cedral locations, including at the feeder at the El Cedral Lodge
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula). 1 at Estanques
TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus). Several pairs in woodland edges of Caicare and Matiyure
YELLOW-BACKED ORIOLE (Icterus chrysater). 1 at Altamira
YELLOW ORIOLE (Icterus nigrogularis). A few single birds at Apure Roadside, El Cedral Lodge and forest edge at Caicare
SCARLET-RUMPED CACIQUE (Cacicus uropygialis). Heard only, small flock at San Isidro
YELLOW-RUMPED CACIQUE (Cacicus cela). 2 at edge of Caicare gallery forest
CRESTED OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius decumanus). 3 at Barragan River; undoubtedly others, but not noted in our field notes!
RUSSET-BACKED OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius angustifrons). 1 at Estanques, others at Santo Domingo, San Isidro and Altamira
STREAKED SALTATOR (Saltator albicollis). 1 at Estanques
GRAYISH SALTATOR (Saltator coerulescens). 2 at Estanques; 3 at Altamira
BUFF-THROATED SALTATOR (Saltator maximus). 1 at Altamira
ORINOCAN SALTATOR (Saltator orenocensis). 1 seen, 2 heard at Caicare gallery forest
RED-CAPPED CARDINAL (Paroaria gularis). Common at Apure Roadside and all El Cedral locations
BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina). 1 at Estanques; a few in grassy margins at El Cedral, but never common
SLATY BRUSH-FINCH (Atlapetes schistaceus). Fairly common at Los Frailes, Gustavo
SLATE-COLORED SEEDEATER (Sporophilia schistacea). 1 at Estanques
GRAY SEEDEATER (Sporophila intermedia). A few along the entrance road to El Cedral
YELLOW-BELLIED SEEDEATER (Sporophila nigricollis). Common at Estanques
RUDDY-BREASTED SEEDEATER (Sporophila minuta). Common along roadsides and in brush at El Cedral
SAFFRON FINCH (Sicalis flaveola). 1 at Estanques; a flock at Apure Roadside; 3 at El Cedral along entrance road
ORANGE-FRONTED YELLOW-FINCH (Sicalis columbiana). Common at feeder and around buildings at El Cedral Lodge; also present at most other El Cedral grassy roadsides; surprisingly, more common than Saffron Finch
PLUMBEOUS SIERRA-FINCH (Phrygilus unicolor). 3 at Mucubaji on trail to Laguna Negra
YELLOW-BROWED SPARROW (Ammodramus aurifrons). 1 seen along El Cedral entrance road; 3 seen along road to Matiyure; heard commonly in other brushy El Cedral locations
GRASSLAND SPARROW (Ammodramus humeralis). 3 along entrance road to El Cedral
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis). Common at Estanques, all high elevation areas as low as Altamira
ANDEAN SISKIN (Carduelis spinescens). Flock at Laguna Negra and another at Las Cascadas at Mucubaji
LESSER GOLDFINCH (Carduelis psaltria). A few at Estanques
Species names follow J.F. Eisenberg, ”Mammals of the Neotropics" as
supplemented by David Ascanio and Gustavo Rodriguez, ”Wildlife List
of Hato El Cedral.”
BLACK-EARED OPPOSSUM (Didelphis marsupialis). 1 sleeping in tree at Matiyure.
WHITE-EARED OPPOSSUM (Didelphis albiventris). 1 dead on road near Los Frailes
GIANT ANTEATER (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). 1 walking across field at dusk in matas near Matiyure
LESSER ANTEATER (Tamandua tetradactyla). 1 in tree at Matiyure
BAT SPECIES. A few flying in the lights at Los Frailes, numerous bats of various shapes and sizes at El Cedral
RED HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta seniculus). 5 in Caicare gallery forest
WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus). Numerous at El Cedral
AMAZON (PINK) RIVER DOLPHIN (Inia geoffrensis). 5 in Caicare River
CAPYBARA (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris). 1000’s at El Cedral in the roads, in the ponds, on the mudflats, large, small, with at least six species of bird identified on their backs.
REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
Species names follow the Ascanio/Rodriguez checklist for Hato El Cedral.
SPECTACLED CAIMAN (Cayman crocodilos). 100’s in wetland areas at El Cedral. Although Orinoco Crocodile are present at El Cedral, we never got a convincing view of one. To add to the confusion, the local word for ”crocodile” is ”caiman.”
IGUANA. (Iguana iguana). Very common around El Cedral
SNAKE SPECIES. Most seen were in the beaks of various birds at El Cedral!
LLANOS SIDENECK TURTLE (Podocnemis vogli). Common in wetland areas at El Cedral
RED-FOOTED TORTOISE (Geochelone carbonaria). 1 wandering around the grounds at the El Cedral Lodge was described as a wild animal
FROG Sp. “Rana Platanera” according to our guide, some kind of
leaf frog at San Isidro; is there a good source of information for reptiles
and amphibians in Venezuela?
701 Walnut Avenue
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