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EASTERN VENEZUELA

Saturday 12th February - Saturday 5th March 2011

Pete Morris

The stunning Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo was our bird of the trip (Pete Morris)

The stunning Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo was our bird of the trip (Pete Morris)

It’s strange that for such a great birding destination, Venezuela seems to get relatively little attention currently. I guess it’s just not as in vogue as some other destinations are currently. Fortunately, we’re very aware of the potential, and once again we went around some of the premier sites in the east and the south of the country, notching up great bird after great bird. In total, we recorded no fewer than 631 species of birds, an excellent total for this tour which focused on the remote mountains of Sucre and Monagas, the fabulous forests of the Rio Grande region in the Sierra de Imataca, the famous Escalera, and, on the extension, the endless forests of Junglaven. We were blessed with pretty good birding conditions throughout, with not too much rain (in fact we were following a La Niña induced drought which may have had some effect on the birds), and with the help of our jovial, friendly and enthusiastic driver, got around safely and comfortably. Indeed from a birding perspective it was a truly amazing trip with a splendid selection of tour highlights which included a stunning bill-clapping Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo at close range, which was not surprisingly our bird-of-the-trip! Many of the group came for the Harpy Eagle and were not disappointed as a formidable 19 month old youngster gave great views. The rest of the highlights are almost too many to summarize, but perhaps special mention should go to a superb selection of cotingas including the excellent Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, the amazing Capuchinbird, colourful Red-banded, Handsome and Golden-breasted Fruiteaters and Rose-collared Pihas (if it’s a cotinga?), Bearded Bellbird and the rarely seen Dusky Purpletuft. We also saw a brilliant selection of colourful manakins including the amazing Crimson-hooded Manakin and the outrageous Scarlet-horned Manakin, whilst an impressive list of jacamars and puffbirds included Bronzy Jacamar and Brown-banded and Spotted Puffbirds. We enjoyed globally endangered endemics such as Scissor-tailed Hummingbird, White-throated Barbtail and Grey-headed Warbler, scarce Tepui endemics such as the stunning Roraiman Barbtail, Tepui Foliage-gleaner, Tepui Antpitta and Greater Flowerpiercer, and we found other rarities in Bolívar such as Tepui Parrotlets and Blue-cheeked Parrots, the impressive Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon, the scarce Black-throated Antshrike and the tiny Tiny Tyrant-Manakin! Other much enjoyed species included Slender-billed Kites, a very close Black Hawk-Eagle, a delightful Russet-crowned Crake, impressive Giant Snipes, some fantastic displaying Little Hermits (like toy helicopters!), an amazing male Tufted Coquette, the superb Crimson Topaz, a brilliant selection of antbirds (which included the amazing White-plumed and Ferruginous-backed Antbirds), obliging Plain-backed and Sucre Antpittas and many, many more! At Junglaven we added a number of specialities including Cherrie’s Antwren, Black and Yellow-crested Manakins, Amazonian Inezia, Citron-bellied Attila, Pale-bellied Mourner, Plumbeous Euphonia and many more though sadly the much wanted Grey-winged Trumpeter only showed to about half of us. We also had some bonus time in the Caracas area where we visited some brilliant hummingbird feeders where the endemic Violet-chested Hummingbird was the star of the show and we also found a number of other goodies including splendid White-tipped Quetzals, endemic Black-throated Spinetails and Caracas Tapaculos and a very pink Rosy Thrush-Tanager!

This impressive Harpy Eagle came in second (Pete Morris)

This impressive Harpy Eagle came in second (Pete Morris)