Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
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16 - 29 November 1995

by Rocky Rothrock


This trip involved a total of two weeks in Venezuela.  Maria and I and another couple intended to travel in a large circle beginning in Caracas, going through the Andes for that habitat, crossing the low llanos, and then birding Henri Pittier Nation Park before returning to Caracas.  Henri Pittier was to be visited last since it would enable us to bird there on a weekday rather than a weekend.  The trip began in the Caracas area (actually Maiquetia, where the airport is located).  We went were to go west from Caracas through Barquesimeto, then south through the Andes to Merida, then across the low llanos to San Fernando de Apure, north through Calabozo, and then to Henri Pittier and back to Caracas.  However, when the other couple with whom we were traveling left unexpectedly from Merida after one week, Maria and I changed plans, making arrangements to go for 4 days to Hato El Cedral in the llanos and then fly from San Fernando de Apure back to Caracas.  This resulted in our not birding in Henri Pittier, which was one of our key targets.  Although the trip was different than we expected, the birding more than lived up to our expectations.  As always, we traded off seeing more species with an organized birding tour for the enjoyment of finding and identifying the birds ourselves.

Our trip list included more than 230 species, highlighted for me by Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Racquettail, and lots of other hummingbirds, Sunbittern, Jabiru, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Whistling Heron, Stripe-backed Bittern, 6 kinds of ibis, Scarlet Macaw, Russet-throated Puffbird, Hoatzin, the wonderfully colored tanagers and mountain-tanagers (27 of the 230+ species), Red-and-Black Fruit-eaters, and Andean Guan.  And there were the other flora and fauna.  The frailejones were blooming in the high Andes.  There was a 4-meter-long anaconda eating a Black-crowned Night Heron, thousands of capybara and caimans, plust the schools of piranha.  It is definitely feasible to do your own trip to Venezuela, but it does take some planning.  Hopefully this report will be of assistance to others who are planning to do so.


The trip was at least partially planned with useful input from fellow BirdChatters.  Thanks go to Marcia Braun, Doug Tate, Antonio Salvadori, Trevor Quested, Brush Freeman, and extra thanks to both Bob Behrstock and Craig Faanes who provided multiple messages of help to my queries.

The booklet, "Birding in Venezuela" by Mary Lou Goodwin of the Venezuela Audubon Society (Sociedad Conservacionista Audubon de Venezuela), was quite useful in detailed planning.  I believe she is in the process of writing the fourth edition of this booklet.

The trip was arranged through Venezuela Audubon, largely via fax.  Mary Lou Goodwin and her staff were very helpful in implementing the itinerary we sent to her, and making helpful recommendations.  Venezuela Audubon made all the in-country lodging arrangements, and arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport on our arrival and to take us to the airport on our departure.  They were extremely helpful in making the complex rearrangements when we contacted them by telephone from Merida (see below).

We arranged for a rental car from Budget, prepaying the rental in the US.  As a result of the strange monetary situation we found upon our arrival (see below), it would have cost about half as much if we had waited

until we arrived in Venezuela and then paid as we went.  In any event, Venezuela is an inexpensive country in which to travel, with the notable exception of car rentals.

The rental car was a 4-door Mercury Tracer with air conditioning.  It performed well except for significant brake fading in the Andes.  We found it adequate, but tight, for 4 people (we did not bring a lot of clothing, but did have a Kowa scope and a tripod).  Had we to do it over again, we would not have planned to drive as much as we did.  The excessive driving, over occasionally very bad roads, was one of the reasons the other couple left (they also experienced digestive tract problems, and were pushed "over the edge" when we got to Merida and found the hotel under major construction).  The car rental, with mandatory insurance, was VERY expensive (on the order of $100/day), and flying within the country was very inexpensive (below).

For the trip we planned, I think we would have been better off flying from Caracas to Merida and then renting a car for a few days for local Andes birding around Merida (or even renting a taxi on a daily basis).  Rather than driving across the llanos, one could fly from Merida to San Fernando de Apure and then rent another car to drive north through Calabozo and then to Henri Pittier (we understood it was much better to bird Henri Pittier on a week day, not on the weekend).  We would have missed some wonderful birding around Sanare, Bocono, and Los Frailes, but probably would have made up for it elsewhere.  On the other hand, if you are young and tireless and don't mind driving long distances over frequently bad (or downright dangerous) roads, the original itinerary might be for you.

Gasoline was VERY INEXPENSIVE.  We bought the 91 octane gasoline (the mid-price stuff) and always filled the tank for less than $1.00.  The low octane stuff was around 6 cents a gallon, and the 91 octane a bit more.

Money was a BIG issue, in a way I've never experienced it in traveling through more than 30 countries.  Before leaving the US, the sources I checked indicated an exchange rate of 170 Bolivares/US$.  When we arrived in Caracas we found the banks were giving 325 B/$, and by the time we left Venezuela 2 weeks later the rate was around 345 B/$.  In spite of this inflation, there was only one bank at the Caracas airport that would cash US travelers checks, and travelers checks were essentially useless for the rest of the trip.  Oddly enough, banks that would not cash travelers checks would provide credit card cash advances at a very good exchange rate.  (For example, when we were arranging to go to Hato El Cedral, we were quoted a rate of US$153/person/day, including tax.  When I asked what the rate in Bolivares was, and discovered they were using 170 B/$, we got a cash advance on our Visa card and it cut the cost in half!!)

However, for the first week we had to travel with an excessive amount of cash for fear that we would wind up in some remote area with no access to money, even with a considerable supply of travelers checks.  As for safety, forget concealing a lot of Bolivares - -- $400 worth of Bolivares in reasonable denomination bills was a pile of paper close to an inch thick!  If I were go again I would take a $100 travelers check to cash at the airport upon arrival, and use a Visa card for cash advances for the rest of the trip.  You can pay at least some of the hotels with a Visa card, and even the gasoline (although for $1/tank, why bother!!).

We were warned to avoid staying in Caracas because of an extremely high incidence of theft.  In fact in general people who lived in Venezuela were very concerned about theft.  We were also cautioned never to drive at night, although I think those warnings were more for road safety than for crime.

Contrary to our experiences in most countries, we found some instances of hostility, particularly in the rural villages of the Andes.  On a couple of occasions in the Andes, a man would observe our car containing four Anglos driving through, look directly at us, and then aggressively grab his crotch.  While I don't know the EXACT meaning of this, I assume it is not a positive sign of either welcome or affection!  Also, there were a lot of people who could have been friendly who just seemed indifferent.  Again, we have not experienced this anywhere else the world we have traveled.

Lastly, some familiarity with Spanish is a necessity.  I am able to "get by" on my own with Spanish, at least to the extent that I can throw myself on the mercy of someone, ask them to speak slowly, and get directions, but I miss a lot.  Also, since I can eat almost anything on a menu that doesn't move, I don't worry much about finding something to eat.  Fortunately, Maria is Cuban and speaks Spanish fluently, which minimized our difficulties.  Even for birding, some knowledge is useful.  For example, at Hato El Cedral the guides do not speak English.  It was quite useful when they were trying to point out the location of birds in the gallery forest to know words for "over, under, left, right, branch, tree" etc.  Also, the names of the birds would be given in Spanish, but the field guide also had the Spanish names so that was not a major problem.


If you are a vegetarian, you are going to have a very interesting time finding meals in restaurants in Venezuela.  My impression is that there is a lot of beef consumed in Venezuela.  Furthermore, it is not the fat- marbled corn-fed stuff you get in the US -- it's tough as nails and stringy (bring LOTS of sturdy toothpicks).  I'd characterize the food as "adequate, filling, but not gourmet."


Travelers to Venezuela, particularly in the more remote areas, should have yellow fever vaccinations and take a malaria preventive.  At the time of our trip, there was also considerable concern about dengue fever.  The best advice here is to not get bitten by mosquitoes.  In general, we did not find mosquitoes to be a problem.  Also, the public water supplies are in general not potable.  Bottled water was available, or iodine could be used.  I use iodine crystals and just get used to the taste.  I am convinced that the one time I got sick it was from bottled water that became contaminatedand I drank it "because it was bottled water."


The birding is fabulous!!  Approximately 15% of all the species in the world can be found in Venezuela (but not in 2 weeks!!) Our trip list was under 250.  My list was 231, of which 120 were life birds for me.  Since I have birded in Trinidad, Costa Rica, and Mexico, there were a fair number of Latin American species I had seen previously.  There were also a LOT of wintering North American breeding birds, particularly warblers.

We used "A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela" by de Schauensee and Phelps as a field guide.  "A Guide to the Birds of Colombia" by Hilty and Brown would also be useful, although it is fairly heavy to lug around.  The English and Latin names in the report that follows are the best match I could make of the field guide names as found in de Schauensee and Phelps with the next-to-last version of Sibley and Monroe (which is the list with my bird listing program).  Thus not all the species names in what follows are identical to names given in de Schauensee and Phelps.  I believe there have been some splits (possibly some lumps) that are not reflected in the lists that follow.  Also, the lists given are for what was added to the trip list at that location, and not necessarily the only species seen there (except, of course, for the first day).

November 16

Left the Hotel Tojamar in Macuto, picked up the other couple at the airport, and headed for Maracay, where we stayed at the Hotel Byblos (quite nice).  The last 45 minutes of driving was at night in extremely heavy traffic, in pitch darkness (the electricity had been out all day in Maracay, and returned only as we got to the hotel).  On the way along the coast were the expected
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens

November 17

Left Maracay and headed to Barquisimeto and then south and west to Sanare, where we stayed at the Posada Turistica El Cerrito (interesting, and adequate). We birded several times when we stopped to break up the driving, finding
Red-crowned Woodpecker Melanerpes rubricapillus
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus
Scaled Dove Columbina squammata
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Caribbean Coot Fulica caribaea
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Blue-and-white Swallow Notiochelidon cyanoleuca
Buff-throated Saltator Saltator maximus
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Blue Dacnis Dacnis cayana
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola

As we got into the Andes, these rest stops produced
Sparkling Violet-ear Colibri coruscans
Silver-beaked Tanager Ramphocelus carbo
Blue-grey Tanager Thraupis episcopus
Three-striped Warbler Basileuterus tristriatus
Lesser Seed-Finch Oryzoborus angolensis
Emerald Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis

It's interesting that a bird as large and seemingly obvious, and sometimes quite noisy, as the Toucanet can slip into a tree and just disappear. In this regard they are somewhat like the Amazona parrots. As with the parrots, patient scanning frequently will produce views of more than one.

In the evening at the Posada we saw our first
Saffron Finch Sicalis flaveola

A visit late in the day to our first target area, Yacambu National Park south of Sanare, was useful in that we found an unmarked small lake that was to offer wonderful birding the following day. To reach the lake, continue downhill past the turnoff to the park headquarters on the left for a couple of miles. (You might stop to view the collection of pickled snakes, and the mounted beetles and moths, outside the headquarters building -- there is some kind of prong-horned beetle displayed there that is by far the largest I've seen.) As you near the bottom of the hill you will see an unmarked paved road leading off to the right. The lake is less than 1/4 mile down this road. In the last few minutes of the day we spotted:
Grey-headed Tanager Eucometis penicillata
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Bay-headed Tanager Tangara gyrola
Yellow-hooded Blackbird Agelaius icterocephalus

November 18

After a quick breakfast at the local pasteleria, we headed back to Yacambu. Walking around the lake and back into the wooded area provided fairly typical jungle birding -- not much at all, and then a noisy mixed flock of feeding birds. What was really nice here was the wonderful variety of tanagers. No matter how colorful the plates in a field guide, there is no way to capture in a painting the breathtaking colors and patterns of these birds. A single tree a couple of hundred yards from the lake produced one species after another, including ten species of tanager. What made this tree so attractive to the tanagers was not clear to me -- it appeared to have no flowers or fruits, yet every bird in the area seemed to spend time in it. A highlight was the Booted Racket-tail, a hummingbird that has more than a passing resemblance to the far larger racquet-tails of SE Asia. And an almost- Audubon-Moment occurred while, as I was scrutinizing at fairly close range what turned out to be a Montane Foliage-gleaner, a lovely Cerulean Warbler landed on a branch right in front of the Foliage-gleaner and spent a couple of minutes in the sunlight preening. It was also hard to get used to the number of Blackburnian Warblers flitting about. All-in- all, this was one of our very favorite spots of the entire trip. Species added to the list were
Red-eared Parakeet Pyrrhura hoematotis
Reddish Hermit Phaethornis ruber
Green Violet-ear Colibri thalassinus
Booted Racket-tail Ocreatus underwoodii
Grey-necked Wood-Rail Aramides cajanea
Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris
Cinnamon Flycatcher Pyrrhomyias cinnamomea
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
Montane Foliage-gleaner Anabacerthia striaticollis
Olivaceous Woodcreeper Sittasomus griseicapillus
Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus
Yellow-faced Siskin Carduelis yarrellii
Tropical Parula Parula pitiayumi
Blackburnian Warbler Dendroica fusca
Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica
Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulea
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
Slate-throated Redstart Myioborus miniatus
Common Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus ophthalmicus
Fulvous-headed Tanager Thlypopsis fulviceps
White-lined Tanager Tachyphonus rufus
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
Palm Tanager Thraupis palmarum
Thick-billed Euphonia Euphonia laniirostris
Orange-bellied Euphonia Euphonia xanthogaster
Golden Tanager Tangara arthus
Saffron-crowned Tanager Tangara xanthocephala
Spotted Tanager Tangara punctata
Speckled Tanager Tangara guttata
Blue-necked Tanager Tangara cyanicollis
Black-capped Tanager Tangara heinei
Black-headed Tanager Tangara cyanoptera
Swallow Tanager Tersina viridis
Oriole Blackbird Gymnomystax mexicanus

November 19

We left Sanare and headed for Bocono. We had two choices of roads -- through Quibor all the way back to Barquisimeto and then on a major road to Bocono, or a back road through the Andes from Quibor to Tocuyo to Guarico, rejoining the major road near Biscucuy. We chose the latter and found the road passable. There were places where the outer lane had sagged a foot or more below the inner lane, and other places where the outer lane had sagged right off the mountain, but there were branches in the road and/or yellow paint to warn us that part of the road was missing. Also, where you ford the streams as they cross over the road there are no guard rails, so if you cut the curve too sharply you could tumble down the chasms with the stream. Some of the species added this day were found in Bocono as we walked in the evening around our hotel, the Hotel La Vega del Rio. To get to this hotel, one drives downhill all the way through Bocono. The staff at this hotel were particularly friendly and helpful, and the food was above-average for the trip. Birds added to the list for the day were
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift Tachornis squamata
Blue-chinned Sapphire Chlorestes notatus
Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plumbea
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Rusty-margined Flycatcher Myiozetetes cayanensis
Barred Antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus
Pale-breasted Thrush Turdus leucomelas
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria
Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis
Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris

November 20

We drove back through Bocono and after a couple of tries found the unmarked road to Guaracamal National Park. We were quite disappointed to find, after negotiating the first part of an unpaved, rock-strewn road, that the small lake that was supposed to be a highlight of Guaracamal was closed on Monday!! Pleading and cajoling was to no avail, and we had to skip the lake. Birding was slow along the road. Eventually the question was raised as to why we were "risking the car on this road" and I was coerced into turning around. However, I walked further up the road and was rewarded by a fair look at an Andean Guan that landed in probably the only spot it could have to be visible, immediately followed by a very nice look at male and female Green-and-black Fruiteater, and then by one of the trip highlights for me. As I walked down the road scanning the trees, I spotted what I at first thought was a very strange butterfly. Almost immediately, however, I realized it was one of the "weird" hummingbirds that appeared on a separate page in the field guide. Indeed, it was the Long-tailed Sylph. What it did next blew me away. It fluttered up to a fork in the tree that was about 6" thick and angled about 30 degrees from vertical. Then it landed on the tree, lay flat against the trunk, placed one of its tail streamers on one side of the trunk and the other streamer on the other side of the trunk, and just lay there for about 10 minutes appearing to soak up the sun's rays. This is a very colorful bird, with long tail streamers that were a brilliant magenta in the sunlight. Further, when it flies its tail ripples in flight much as the Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, for those of you who are familiar with this bird.
Andean Guan Penelope montagnii
Little Hermit Phaethornis longuemareus
Long-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus kingi
White-throated Tyrannulet Mecocerculus leucophrys
Green-and-black Fruiteater Pipreola riefferii
Spotted Barbtail Premnoplex brunnescens
Glossy-black Thrush Turdus serranus
Moustached Wren Thryothorus genibarbis
Ochre-breasted Brush-Finch Atlapetes semirufus
Black-crested Warbler Basileuterus nigrocristatus
Blue-capped Tanager Thraupis cyanocephala
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager  Anisognathus somptuosus
Beryl-spangled Tanager Tangara nigroviridis
Blue-and-black Tanager Tangara vassorii
Bluish Flower-piercer Diglossopis caerulescens
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus

November 21

Up early this morning, and off to Santo Domingo. It's raining lightly as we stop at the pasteleria for breakfast. As we depart, a friendly passerby points out that the right rear tire seems low. He's right. So it's off to the tire repair place, which is mercifully a few blocks away. The tire is quickly repaired (a very old nail was the culprit -- looked like it had been in the tire for a long time). I learn that "gato" is Spanish for a car jack, as well as the word for cat. We again begin the long drive to Santo Domingo (actually, it's past Santo Domingo to a tiny village called Frailes) where we stay at an unusual hotel -- a remodeled monastery called Los Frailes. We're high in the Andes now. We arrive late in the day, and only add to the list
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Great Thrush Turdus fuscater
Chestnut-bellied Thrush Turdus fulviventris

Dinner that evening was distinctly better than what we have been used to.

November 22

Up in the morning and birding in the gardens around the hotel. After breakfast, we drive up the mountain to Apartaderos and bird the area around Laguna de Mucubaji. Birding is slow, but the crisp mountain air and the spectacularly blooming frailejones alone make the trip worth- while. It is surprisingly hard to find the birds in the frailejones and the shrubs, but one-by-one they are found. There are good views of paramo-habitat birds -- Bar-winged Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Paramo Seedeater. The walk to "Las Cascadas" does not produce the hoped-for Bearded Helmetcrest (a rather strange- looking hummingbird in the field guide). Speckled Teal are on the lake, and a Greater Yellowlegs is poking around on the lake shore. Later in the afternoon I bird by myself below Los Frailes -- Maria has something resembling the flu, and altitude sickness has produced a disabling headache for one of our companions. A long walk down to the river and up the other side at first produces nothing. Then in quick succession are two beautiful Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, followed by a pair of Masked Flower-Piercers, and finally an Andean Guan in a low, wide tree. The guan is so close that I have to back up a bit to get it in focus in my binoculars -- even the narrow white edging on each of the breast feathers is clearly visible. The bird is annoyed that I'm there, and is moving back and forth along a branch, raising the feathers on its crown and making unfriendly noises. Added to the trip list are
Speckled Teal Anas flavirostris
Tyrian Metaltail Metallura tyrianthina
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca fumicolor
Bar-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus
Andean Tit-Spinetail Leptasthenura andicola
Moustached Brush-Finch Atlapetes albofrenatus
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus lacrymosus
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch Phrygilus unicolor
Paramo Seedeater Catamenia homochroa
Masked Flower-piercer Diglossopis cyanea
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna

November 23

We're off to Merida. It's a pleasant, scenic drive, the road is good, and everything is going well until we find the road blocked by a police car. We assume it's a bad accident or the road has collapsed. Later we find that the road is closed by a job-action against the government. All the highway traffic is routed through towns clearly not designed for the traffic load. It takes hours to go a few miles. Along the way we drive into another part of Guaramacal National Park. It is a wonderfully sunny, cool day. We relax for a couple of hours by walking around in grassy areas and peering into the jungle, and add a few more birds to the trip list. As we are leaving, a large Buzzard-Eagle flies effortlessly up the valley.
Smoky-brown Woodpecker Veniliornis fumigatus
Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus
Slaty Elaenia Elaenia strepera
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant  Myiotheretes striaticollis
Yellow-bellied Siskin Carduelis xanthogastra
Slate-throated Redstart Myioborus miniatus
Antillean Euphonia Euphonia musica
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifrons
Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle  Geranoaetus melanoleucus

We continue battling the traffic to Merida, arriving hot and tired at the Hotel Belensate. There is major construction in progress at the hotel. Our companions are not pleased by this turn of events. This was where we were going to relax and regroup, and bird around Merida for three days. The other couple makes a snap decision that they are tired of the trip, the hotel is under construction, it's their vacation and they aren't having much fun, and they decide to leave. The next morning they are on a plane back to Caracas, and then to home. During the night I get very sick, and spend much time emptying my digestive tract from both ends. We are stuck in Merida with a rented car, no companions, and a very long drive across the llanos ahead of us. We decide to do radical surgery on the itinerary. The next morning Maria calls Venezuela Audubon, who begin the process of undoing all the paid-for hotel reservations and arranging a four-day visit to Hato El Cedral near Mantecal in the low llanos. It was a miserable Thanksgiving, but absolutely the right decision for us. As mentioned above, by paying in Bolivares rather than US dollars, we were able to cut the cost of Hato El Cedral in half.

November 24

In the evening we are driven from Merida to Barinas, where we stay at the Hotel Internacional. It's a place to stay, it's air- conditioned, and it has food. It is an old hotel, and hardly the highlight of the trip!

November 25

We leave early for the four-hour trip to Hato El Cedral. The road doesn't seem as bad as advertised when we get to the llanos. There are the normal potholes, but it's really no problem until we get to Bruzual, where the road crosses Rio Apure. From Bruzual to Mantecal, the road is the major conversation piece. It is easily passable for the few 4WD vehicles we see, and the cattle trucks (although even these vehicles must slow down for the worst of the cross-the-road "potholes" (somehow "potholes" trivializes these things -- some are big enough to drive down into, and then you must look for a low spot in the lip that won't tear up your car). As we near Mantecal we see our first major display of water birds. If you've never seen a Jabiru stork, you won't soon forget your reaction to seeing your first one! When we get to Hato El Cedral, we wait for a truck to pick us up at the locked gate. We see our first Capybara. It's a fascinating oddity -- a strange beast indeed. We study it closely. To say the novelty wears off quickly is putting it mildly. There are THOUSANDS of them, in all sizes, and they are not hard to find (at night they sleep in the roadway, and they are not always easily convinced to move so you can pass through.

After lunch we go for a ride in the truck, and begin birding. I am not going to describe in detail the next four days, except to say that there were some extraordinary experiences. Here are a few highlights:

o An early morning boatride to a marshy area thickly filled with Great Egrets, Jabirus, Roseate Spoonbills, Scarlet Ibis, etc. -- more wading birds than I have seen in anywhere in my life. The boat stops and we drift amonst them. It is a scene of nature "as it ought to be" and is so moving that Maria and I are almost in tears. There are Caimans all around us, and we are to see a 4-meter Anaconda wrapped around a doomed Black-crowned Night Heron, but the predators don't remove the peaceful harmony of the scene. As a bonus, we flush a tiny Stripe-backed Bittern, which lights on the water hyacinths(?) and poses briefly for us.

o Watching the flights of Scarlet Ibises arriving. The mature birds a heart-stopping red in the sunlight, contrasting sharply with the brown juveniles mixed in with the flock.

o Meandering through the gallery forest with Ramon, who only knows the Spanish names of the birds. It adds something to the experience to learn both the Spanish and English names of the birds (one of my favorites is the very common American Redstart, called Candelita Migratoria, or loosely, "migrating little candle" in Spanish). We get excellent views of a pair of Russet-throated Puffbirds at a large termite nest high in a tree.

o A fruiting tree full of Scarlet Macaws -- I count 25, and know I didn't count them all.

o Catching Piranhas. Nothing to do with birding, and I'm sure it was a "touristy" thing to do, but it was sobering to see what they did to a piece of meat. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see what those teeth could do if you were in the water with them. And their bright orange belly is really quite striking.

o Thornbird nests. These amazing nests reminded me of a very large bale of hay stuck in a tree. Some of them must be six feet long and perhaps 18" in cross section. Although they look like they would be unusually protective, I watched a Roadside Hawk land on one and begin tearing it apart.

o Seeing on the order of two dozen Forktailed Flycatchers in a very small area. How can a tail that long be helpful?

o Making the mistake of picking up an Armadillo. These guys are so nearsighted that if you walk up to them very slowly they don't know you are there. When you pick one up, it is so startled that you are afraid it might have a heart attack on the spot!

o Stopping the truck at dusk to get out and pick up all the baby Caimans in the road so we wouldn't run over them. The mother plunged into the water and left them to fend for themselves. They hunkered down next to little clumps of grass, and were easily picked up. They were about 6" long, you could easily hold a half dozen in one hand, and even as small as they were they would open those little mouths, show their little teeth, and hiss quite fiercely!

I'll let the following list of birds seen at Hato El Cedral speak for itself. It is about as spectacular as I imagine birding can get in terms of not only the number of species, but the sheer number of birds. Also, the accessability of the birds is part of the attraction. It's hard to pick out favorites, but the Hoatzin clearly is one that has to be seen to be believed. The Burrowing Owls are just plain cute! (We saw 14 of them on one excursion along a dirt road.) There were numerous Sunbitterns as well, and I was very surprised to see how colorful the Wood-Rails were in the sunlight -- they look quite drab when they are in their normally shadowy world. The subtle shading on the Whistling Heronns made them special as well. There were a few very good looks at Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture.

Anyway, here's the list.
White-faced Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  Dendrocygna autumnalis
Orinoco Goose Neochen jubata
Brazilian Teal Amazonetta brasiliensis
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata
Amazon Kingfisher Chloroceryle amazona
Greater Ani Crotophaga major
Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti
Double-striped Thick-knee Burhinus bistriatus
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
Pied Lapwing Vanellus cayanus
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger
Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus
Crested Caracara Polyborus plancus
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga
Whistling Heron Syrigma sibilatrix
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi
Great Egret Casmerodius albus
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Striated Heron Butorides striatus
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Rufescent Tiger-Heron Tigrisoma lineatum
Scarlet Ibis Eudocimus ruber
Whispering Ibis Phimosus infuscatus
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Buff-necked Ibis Theristicus caudatus
Green Ibis Mesembrinibis cayennensis
Roseate Spoonbill Ajaja ajaja
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture  Cathartes burrovianus
Wood Stork Mycteria americana
Jabiru Jabiru mycteria
Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster
Vermillion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
Pied Water-Tyrant Fluvicola pica
White-headed Marsh-Tyrant Arundinicola leucocephala
Yellow-browed Tyrant Satrapa icterophrys
Cattle Tyrant Machetornis rixosus
Fork-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus savana
Grey Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis
Rusty-margined Flycatcher Myiozetetes cayanensis
White-bearded Flycatcher Phelpsia inornata
Yellow-chinned Spinetail Certhiaxis cinnamomea
Grassland Sparrow Ammodramus humeralis
Yellow-browed Sparrow Ammodramus aurifrons
Red-capped Cardinal Paroaria gularis
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
Saffron Finch Sicalis flaveola
Yellow-backed Oriole Icterus chrysater
Yellow Oriole Icterus nigrogularis
Red-breasted Blackbird Leistes militaris

November 26
Rufous-vented Chachalaca Ortalis ruficauda
Crested Bobwhite Colinus cristatus
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda
Dwarf Cuckoo Coccyzus pumilus
Scarlet Macaw Ara macao
Chestnut-fronted Macaw Ara severa
Brown-throated Parakeet Aratinga pertinax
Green-rumped Parrotlet Forpus passerinus
Yellow-crowned Parrot Amazona ochrocephala
Burrowing Owl Speotyto cunicularia
White-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus cayennensis
Pale-vented Pigeon Columba cayennensis
Limpkin Aramus guarauna
Azure Gallinule Porphyrio flavirostris
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Collared Plover Charadrius collaris
Savanna Hawk Buteogallus meridionalis
Black-collared Hawk Busarellus nigricollis
White-tailed Hawk Buteo albicaudatus
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albonotatus
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Maguari Stork Ciconia maguari
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
White-fringed Antwren Formicivora grisea
Pale-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis albescens
Tropical Gnatcatcher Polioptila plumbea
Trinidad Euphonia Euphonia trinitatis
Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch Emberizoides herbicola
Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina
Grey Seedeater Sporophila intermedia
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater Sporophila minuta
Yellow-rumped Cacique Cacicus cela

November 27
Hoatzin Opisthocomus hoazin
Sunbittern Eurypyga helias
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica
Yellow-billed Tern Sterna superciliaris
Great Black-Hawk Buteogallus urubitinga
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius
Stripe-backed Bittern Ixobrychus involucris
Sharp-tailed Ibis Cercibis oxycerca
Bicolored Wren Campylorhynchus griseus
White-winged Swallow Tachycineta albiventer
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Orange-fronted Yellow-Finch  Sicalis columbiana

November 28
Crimson-crested Woodpecker Campephilus melanoleucos
Russet-throated Puffbird Hypnelus ruficollis
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris
Black-throated Mango Anthracothorax nigricollis
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Band-tailed Nighthawk Nyctiprogne leucopyga
Crane Hawk Geranospiza caerulescens
Mouse-colored Tyrannulet Phaeomyias murina
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher Tolmomyias flaviventris
Black-crested Antshrike Sakesphorus canadensis
Plain Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons
Straight-billed Woodcreeper  Xiphorhynchus picus
Buff-throated Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus guttatus
Golden-fronted Greenlet Hylophilus aurantiifrons
Scrub Greenlet Hylophilus flavipes
Buff-breasted Wren Thryothorus leucotis
Brown-chested Martin Phaeoprogne tapera
Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis

November 29

Up early for the long drive to San Fernando de Apure. The road is a marked improvement over the road from Bruzual to Mantecal. One thing to note is that the plane to Caracas left about 10 minutes BEFORE its scheduled departure. In correspondence with another BirdChatter who had taken this flight recently, they were told that the flight had departed more than an hour before it was scheduled to on the day before. I've never had a flight that left before its scheduled departure. So if you are flying in Venezuela, you better be alert to the possibility that you can be early and your plane may have already left!

I hope to go back to Venezuela again some day. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again on my own. There's lots of habitat we didn't cover, and some we did cover we didn't cover very thoroughly. The area around Merida was tantalizing, and we bypassed that. Everyone goes to Henri Pittier and we missed that completely. And then there's the whole Canaima/tepui area in the southeastern part of the country that we did not plan to visit.

Rocky Rothrock
Internet address:
Holmdel, NJ 07733
Work telephone: (908) 758-2136
Home telephone: (908) 264-9119