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EASTERN VENEZUELA

Saturday 16th March - Saturday 6th April 2013

Pete Morris

Rose-breasted Chat (Pete Morris)

Rose-breasted Chat (Pete Morris)

Our 2013 tour to Eastern Venezuela was truly a tour of two halves. The main tour, targeting the endemics in the Eastern half of the country was a resounding success. Here we focused on the remote mountains of Sucre and Monagas, the fabulous forests of the Rio Grande region in the Sierra de Imataca and the famous Escalera. We were blessed with pretty good birding conditions throughout, with not too much rain and despite numerous bus changes, petrol shortages and the like, we got around safely and comfortably. Indeed from a birding perspective it was a brilliant trip with a splendid selection of tour highlights. Harpy Eagle was high on most people’s wants lists, and we were not disappointed as we saw first a fledged juvenile followed by an amazing adult. The rest of the highlights are almost too many to summarize, but perhaps special mention should go to a superb selection of cotinga-like birds including the excellent Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, the amazing Capuchinbird, colourful Red-banded and Handsome Fruiteaters, Rose-collared Pihas, and brilliant White and Bearded Bellbird. We also saw a stunning selection of colourful manakins including the amazing Crimson-hooded Manakin, the outrageous Scarlet-horned Manakin, and the localized Orange-bellied and White-throated Manakins. We enjoyed globally endangered endemics such as Scissor-tailed Hummingbird, White-throated Barbtail and Grey-headed Warbler, scarce Tepui endemics such as the stunning Peacock Coquette, Roraiman Barbtail, Tepui Foliage-gleaner, Tepui Antpitta, Flutist Wren and Greater Flowerpiercer, and we found other rarities in Bolívar such as Blue-cheeked Amazons, brilliant Guianan Toucanets, the scarce Black-throated Antshrike, and the tiny Tiny Tyrant-Manakin! Other much enjoyed species included Slender-billed, Hook-billed and Grey-headed Kites, a delightful Russet-crowned Crake, an impressive Giant Snipe, Hoatzins, the Oilbird spectacle, some fantastic displaying Little Hermits (like toy helicopters!), Tufted and Racket-tailed Coquettes, the superb Crimson Topaz, a stunning Rose-breasted Chat, Musician Wren, the adorable little Sucre Antpitta and a brilliant selection of antbirds which included the amazing White-plumed and Ferruginous-backed Antbirds, the rare Plain-winged Antwren and many, many more! We also had some bonus time in the Caracas area where found a number of other goodies including endemic Black-throated Spinetails and Caracas Tapaculos. So that was the story of our success. Next is the tale of woe, as on the extension we attempted to visit Junglaven in remote Amazonas state. Here, despite best efforts, we were thwarted by a Military General who refused, for no apparent reason, to sign some papers, and as a result, we were not allowed to visit. This in a way, sums up the problems in this potentially brilliant birding country, and now, post Chavez, and into Maduro’s reign, we can only hope for improvements in the future. The upshot for us was a couple of extremely frustrating days in Puerto Ayacucho before we threw the towel in, jumped on our personal charter flights, and flew back to Caracas. We weren’t going to let an obstinate General completely ruin our plans, and instead enjoyed some quality time in Henri Pittier National Park. Here we added a number of unexpected quality birds including the brilliant Scallop-breasted Antpitta and Helmeted Curassow, both of which gave incredible views. These were backed up with a number of other northern cordillera specialities including gorgeous White-tipped Quetzals, Black-backed Antshrike, the bantam-like Schwartz’s Antthrush, Venezuelan Bristle-Tyrant, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Venezuelan Flycatcher and Fulvous-headed and Rufous-cheeked Tanagers as well as some impressive Fasciated Tiger-Herons. Not what we were expecting, but some cracking birds all the same!

Harpy Eagle (Pete Morris)

Harpy Eagle (Pete Morris)