Northern Venezuela Trip Jan 2005


Groove-billed Toucanet at the Henri Pittier feeders January is normally a very dry month in Venzuela. But this year it was abnormal wet. I was fearing the worst for the wet Western Andes (4500 mm rain/year). But just when we arrived there, the weather changed and we escaped the heavy rains.
The colder weather had also his affect on the birds.
The bird activity (esp. in the Henri Pittier NP) was way down, a lot of species were seen at lower altitudes and there were less flowering trees as on other years.
Less hummingbirds, but on the other hand we had several good fruit-eating species such as Golden-breasted (Pipreola aureopectus) (on 3 sites) and Scaled Fruiteater (Ampelioides tschudii) (2 times), Golden-winged Manakin (Masius chrysopterus) (2 sites) and all species of toucans.

Other good birds for the trip were: Yellow-knobbed Curassow (Crax daubentoni), Horned (Anhima cornuta) and Northern Screamer (Chauna chavaria), Chestnut Piculet (Picumnus cinnamomeus), Green-&-rufous (Chloroceryle inda) and American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle inda), 3 species of Macaws: Military (Ara militaris), Scarlet (A. macao) and Red-&-green Macaw (A.chloropterus), Perija Parakeet (Pyrrhura (picta) caeruleiceps), Saffron-headed Parrot (Pionopsitta pyrilia), Rusty-flanked Rail (Laterallus levraudi), Slender-billed Kite (Rostrhamus hamatus), Solitary Eagle (Harpyhaliaetus solitarius), Agami Heron (Agamia agami), Maracaibo Tody-flycatcher (Todirostrum viridanum), White-naped Xenopsaris (Xenopsaris albinucha), Guttulated Foliage-gleaner (Syndactyla guttulata), Scalloped Antthrush (Chamaeza turdina), Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius eximius) (range extension), Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis) and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia pyrrhophrys).
A nice bonus was a Puma (Puma concolor) crossing the road at dusk in Hato Piņero.
On this classical birding trip, we had more participants than usual (8). The wet period has undoubdtely reduced the number of species that could have been seen.
But thanks to Paul Scharf, one of the participants, and a very keen birder, who helped me a lot, we were able to see 477 species (+ a dozen only heard).
(The number could have been higher if we would have gone for common (shore)birds and looked better for common species.)
Luckily a birding trip is always a bit of a surprise. You never know what will come.

Download here the Birdlist of the trip (PDF-file).


7 Jan 2005: arrival in Caracas. Accommodation nearby. (Missing one participant).

8 Jan: At 10 am we finally arrived at our first birding spot. A nice bird for starting the trip was a Red-billed Scythebill (Campylorhamphus trochilirostris). Only half the group saw it (but later we saw it again). The Rosy Thrush-tanager (Rhodinocichla rosea) could unfortunately only be heard.
After the picnic we drove further to Henri Pittier NP, where we spend some time on the southern slope.
Best bird was a Moustached Puffbird (Malacoptila mystacalis) at a few meters.

9 Jan: In the morning we paid a first visit to Rancho Grande, the visitor centre. On the trails behind the centre we had Euler's Flycatcher (Lathrotriccus euleri), White-streaked Antvireo (Dysithamnus leucostictus), Guttulated Foliage-gleaner (Syndactyla guttulata), Grey-throated Leaftosser (Sclerurus albigularis) and Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis saturatus).
The endemic Violet-chested Hummingbird (Sternoclyta cyanopectus) came to the feeders.
Then further to the drier parts of the national park. We made a short stop for a Fasciated Tiger-heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum).
Flowering trees were a rarity on this trip, but the one we found (along the Cumboto road) was full of jewels as Blue-chinned Sapphires (Chloretes notatus), Glittering-throated Emerald (Amazilia fimbriata) and White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii).
A male Pileated Finch (Coryphospingus pileatus) came for a wash. This way we all could admire the erected red crest.
A stop near the coast usually gives us 1 or 2 Glaucous Tanagers (Thraupis glaucocolpa). This time we saw dozens of them.

10 jan: The Choroni pass is usually one of the best places for seeing mixed flocks of tanagers, quetzals and the Black-throated Spinetails.
Not this year.
But a bit later we heard again a Scalloped Antthrush (Chamaeza turdina). It took a while to come closer and finally it was very close. 5 of the 8 participants could see the shy bird.
In the afternoon we spend again some time around the visitor centre Rancho Grande.
Only a few participants joined. We ran into one of the biggest group of army ants I have ever seen at this altitude.
With of course the biggest amount of army ant followers. About 50 Grey-headed Tanagers (Eucometis penicillata), 30 Plain-brown Woodcreepers (Dendrocincla fuliginosa), many Cocoa Woodcreepers (because these army ants went well up in the trees), Black-faced Antthrushes (Formicarius analis)and some thrushes. Amazing!

11 jan: We left early and made a stop in the middle of Cojedes. Rewarded with a tree full of Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds (Chrysolampis mosquitus), with perfect light from behind us.
Two King Vultures (Sarcoramphus papa) greeted us when we entered Hato Piņero. The first afternoon excursion gave us an introduction to all the birds typical to the llanos.

12 jan: A good day with our first Yellow-knobbed Curassows (Crax daubentoni) (very common here), White-bearded Flycatcher (Phelpsia inornata), Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata), Troupial (Icterus icterus), Pale-tipped Inezia (Inezia caudata), Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus margaritaceiventer), Muscovy Ducks (Cairina moschata), Lesser (Chordeiles acutipennis) and Nacunda Nighthawks (Podager nacunda). A Puma crossing the road, was a good end of this rewarding day.

13 jan: The boat trip was reserved for the last morning. 5 species of kingfisher ( Ringed (Megaceryle torquata), Amazon (Chloroceryle amazona), Green (C. americana), Green-&-rufous (C. inda) and American Pygmy (C. aenea)) were easily seen, as well as Agami (Agamia agami) and Yellow-crowned Night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea).

14 jan: In Yacambu NP following birds could well be seen: White-crowned Manakin (Pipra pipra), Long-tailed Antbird (Drymophila caudata), Rusty-flanked Rail (Laterallus levraudi), Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi), Red-eared Parakeet (Pyrrhura hoematotis), Band-tailed Guan (Penelope argyrotis), Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii).

15 jan: Finally we had Tocuyo Sparrow (Arremonops tocuyensis). Unfortunately not seen by everyone. In the Andean foothills we added Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus), Pale-headed Jacamar (Brachygalba goeringi), Capped Heron (Pilherodius pileatus) and male and female Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata).

16 jan: The morning couldn't have started better than with this Saffron-headed Parrot (Pionopsitta pyrilia). Not only one of the most beautiful parrots, but it also is restricted to Colombia, Venezuela and a tiny part of Panama.
Paul had a male White-crowned Manakin (Pipra pipra).
Meanwhile I tried to call out Rufous-&-white Wren (Thryothorus rufalbus) and Stripe-breasted Spinetail (Synallaxis cinnamomea). They were very helpful this time.
On the San Isidro road, there was first a female Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana).
Some went with me through the mud; For their wet feet they got rewarded with Golden-winged Manakin (Masius chrysopterus), Golden-breasted Fruiteater (Pipreola aureopectus) and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus).
The ones that kept their feet dry had better views of the male Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana).

17 jan: Las Tapias isn't as good as it used to be, but still it is worth a visit. Some birds, such as Orange-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus mavors), Lacrimose Mountain-tanager (Anisognathus lacrymosus), 3 species of flowerpiercers and plenty of Superciliaried Hemispingus (Hemispingus superciliaris), can be seen easily here.
We were even lucky that some Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias (Chlorophonia pyrrhophrys) came out for their morning songs.
Carole and Paul found within the tangles a singing Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (Grallaria ruficapilla). The ones that didn't see it had 2 more chances during this trip.
In the paramo a long time was spend to see Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerinii). But at the end only Eric had a brief view.

18 jan: The whole day was spend in La Mucuy, better know as the Pico Humboldt trail.
It had rained a lot and a fallen tree even blocked the road for our vehicule.
But probably due to this heavy rain and wind, lots of fruits has fallen on the ground and Lined Quail-doves (Geotrygon linearis) were everywhere. We counted 15 along the start of the trail.
Higher up we had as well Green-&-black (Pipreola riefferii) as Barred Fruiteater (Pipreola arcuata). The wanted Antpittas - Undulated (Grallaria squamigera), Grey-naped (G. griseonucha) and Slate-crowned (Grallaricula nana) - could only be heard.
Walking down we had a good Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus fuscater).

19 jan: A quiet day along the Estanques road. Today the weather changed and we had a whole day perfect sunny weather. But probably not so good for birding. New for the trip were: Speckle-faced Parrot (Pionus tumultuosus), Blue-crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica), Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii), White Hawk (Leucopternis albicollis), Moustached Brush-finch (Atlapetes albofrenatus) and Saffron-crowned Tanager (Tangara xanthocephala).

20 jan: On the way towards the Carbonera road we had a Plain-breasted Hawk (Accipiter ventralis) on a telephone wire.
The Carbonera road always produces good flocks and is good for raptors climbing in the good thermals. We saw Hook-billed (Chondrohierax uncinatus) and Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), Grey (-lined) (Asturina nitida) and Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris).
But best bird was undoubtely the Golden-winged Manakin.
Even though half of the group saw it in San Isidro, here the light was perfect and the male sat closeby.
Other good bird was a White-winged Tanager (Piranga leucoptera).

Fr 21 jan: In the morning we went up the Olinda II mountain. This is a place were there are few species but some really good ones. We heard as well the Rusty-breasted Antpitta (Grallaricula ferrugineipectus) as the Northern White-crowned Tapaculo (Scytalopus atratus).
In the afternoon we birded the lower parts of La Azulita.
A group of 8 Military Macaw (Ara militaris) were circling just above us.
Other goodies were: Lemon-browed Flycatcher (Conopias cinchoneti), White-eared Conebill (Conirostrum leucogenys), Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis) and another King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa).
The cars couldn't drive down till the lowest point, so we mostly had to walk back to the vehicles.
Still exhausted we saw a Solitary Eagle (Harpyhaliaetus solitarius) soaring at eye level. For most the best bird of the trip.
Due to the rain the previous days, the road was difficult. It took us some effort to get back up with the vehicles.

Sa 22 jan: A second day in the foothills. In the morning we had some great birds. First the Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis griseoventris), which is undoubtly a different species than the one we saw in Rancho Grande, White-flanked Antwren (Myrmotherula axillaris), Rufous-breasted Hermit (Glaucis hirsuta), Bronze-winged (Pionus chalcopterus) and Yellow-crowned Parrot (Amazona ochrocephala) and a Crested Guan (Penelope purpurascens).
In the afternoon we drove further to Rio Frio. In one flowering tree, we had Spangled Coquette (Lophornis stictolophus) (only Eddie) and Shining-green Hummingbird (Lepidopyga goudoti). In another was Violet-chested Hummingbird (Sternoclyta cyanopectus), Violet-fronted Brilliant (Heliodoxa leadbeateri) and Bronzy Inca (Coeligena coeligena).
Our goal was Citron-throated Toucan (Ramphastos citreolaemus), which came nicely in the top of a tree.
Further a female Golden-headed Manakin (Pipra erythrocephala), Stripe-throated Hermit (Phaethornis striigularis), lots of parrots: Rose-headed Parakeet (Pyrrhura rhodocephala), Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus), Orange-chinned Parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis), Bronze-winged Parrot (Pionus chalcopterus), Scarlet-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga wagleri).
Best bird came at the end of the day: Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo (Vireolanius eximius). This is a range extension as it has never been seen before in the Venezuelan Andes. A new species for the whole group (incl. me).

Su 23 jan: In the morning we made a quick visit to yet another foothill location. Although we had gone to similar ahbitat the day before we had a lot of new species. Among them 2 Red-lored Parrots (Amazona autumnalis) and a couple of nesting Mealy Parrots (Amazona farinosa). An immature Southern Nightingale-wren (Microcerculus marginatus) posed a while on a branch at just 2 meters away.
The boat trip in the Catatumbo. I have been considering to get it off the list as it has been worsed every year. We used to seen here plenty of Snail Kites, Herons, kingfishers, Ibisses, etc.

Mo 24 Jan: We left early for a long drive. Just stopped at 8 am for a nice group of Pygmy Swifts. In the afternoon we arrived in the Maracaibo area. At a stop we had nearly all the typical dry area endemics, we wanted to see: Maracaibo Tody-flycatcher (Todirostrum viridanum), Chestnut Piculet (Picumnus cinnamomeus), White-whiskered Spinetail (Synallaxis candei), Northern Scrub-Flycatcher (Sublegatus arenarum), Slender-billed Inezia (Inezia tenuirostris), Black-backed Antshrike (Sakesphorus melanonotus), and even a Glaucous Tanager (Thraupis glaucocolpa).

Tu 25 Jan: A very tough drive up in the Perija mountains. The track was steep with lots of lose stones. Besides it has just rained and some 4-wheel drive cars couldn't make it up the hill.
But our excellent driver bumped both cars up the hill.
Probably due to the changed weather, we didn't have the species I expected to see. Best birds we had were: Military (Ara militaris) and Red-&-green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Perija Parakeet (Pyrrhura (picta) caeruleiceps), Scaled Fruiteater (Ampelioides tschudii) and a Spangled Coquette (Lophornis stictolophus).

We 26 Jan: Ending the trip in Campo Boscan. A habitat comparable with the llanos, but with different species. We ended the trip with a White-naped Xenopsaris (Xenopsaris albinucha).

Th 27 Jan: All participants were tired of this exhausting 3 weeks and everyone prefered a relaxing morning before returning home.
The trip wasn't always easy and sometimes exhausting. Always birding from the early morning till late in the evenings.

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