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Saturday 4th February - Friday 24th February 2012

Eustace Barnes

A stunning Grey-naped Antpitta, sat watching us from just a few feet away deep within a moss clad thicket in remote Tachira and a large family group of Venezuelan Wood-Quails scurrying around our feet in Henri Pittier National Park were just two of the highlights of our recent Western Venezuela tour. One cannot exaggerate the scale of the landscape or the density of birdlife in the Llanos with literally thousands of Herons, Ibises and Waterfowl. Our extraordinary boat trip at Hato El Cedral produced eight Agami Herons, a Zigzag Heron that sat and looked at us for what seemed an eternity and close up studies of Yellow-knobbed Curassow and a displaying Sunbittern made for an unforgettable experience. Watching a large Green Anaconda crushing a turtle the following morning added to an outstanding finish. We recorded 548 species of birds during the tour. We travelling through the cloud forest sites of the Coastal and Andean Cordilleras from Caracas to Tachira, the arid deserts in the state of Falcon, the coastal mangroves and marshes at Tucacas and Lake Maracaibo, as well as the stunning mountain scenery and paramos in the Sierra Nevada National Park to the magnificent spectacle of the Llanos we experienced one of the most diverse tours of any in South America. Venezuela has received a lot of bad press owing to the anachronistic policies of its eccentric government but it remains a beautiful country in which travel is a pleasure and which happens to be an exceptionally bird rich part of South America packed with endemics. We also saw quite a number of other interesting species including Northern Screamer, Orinoco Goose, Pinnated Bittern, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Rusty-flanked Crake, Plain-flanked Rail, Rusty-faced and Yellow-shouldered Parrots, Foothill Screech Owl, Pygmy Palm Swift, Bearded Helmetcrest, Lazuline Sabrewing, Citron-throated Toucan, Schwartz’s Antthrush, Undulated and Scallop-breasted Antpittas, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Barred, Green and Black, Handsome and Golden-breasted Fruiteaters, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Mérida Wren, Vermilion Cardinal, Tocuyo Sparrow and Rosy Thrush Tanager to mention but a few. We also had the pleasure of seeing two Giant Anteaters, a Brazilian Porcupine and an Orinocan Crocodile.