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WESTERN VENEZUELA

Saturday 20th February - Sunday 7th March 2010

Mark Van Beirs

A pair of Ocellated Tapaculos almost grovelling at our feet, allowing incredible studies of their exquisite finery, while we were hiding in a patch of dense bamboo in a remote corner of the Táchira Andes was the highlight of our recent Western Venezuela tour. Another climax was the fantastic boat trip at Hato El Cedral, which yielded splendours like Agami and Zigzag Herons, Yellow-knobbed Curassow, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Brazilian Tapir and Green Anaconda. 577 species were recorded on our travels through the northwest of the country, which covered the subtropical forests of the Coastal Cordillera, the cactus-studded desert of the state of Falcon, the extensive marshes of Lake Maracaibo, the scenic paramo and the bamboo-cloaked mountain slopes of the Andes and the incredible waterbird spectacle of the fabled llanos. Although Venezuela received a fair amount of bad press lately, due to rising criminality in its cities, questionable nationalising of some of the larger ranches and some bizarre acts by its unpredictable government, it remains an easy country to travel through and a delightfully bird rich place with lots of specialities waiting for the international birder. Other particularly interesting species noted on this tour included Northern Screamer, Orinoco Goose, Pinnated Bittern, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Solitary Eagle, Rusty-flanked Crake, Plain-flanked Rail, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Saffron-headed, Rusty-faced and Yellow-shouldered Parrots, Foothill Screech and Spectacled Owls, Pygmy Palm Swift, White-tipped Quetzal, Citron-throated Toucan, Schwartz’s Antthrush, Grey-naped and Rusty-breasted Antpittas, Blackish Chat-Tyrant, White-naped Xenopsaris, Barred and Golden-breasted Fruiteaters, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Mérida Wren, Vermilion Cardinal and Tocuyo Sparrow. Other appealing creatures included Giant Anteater, Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, Pink River Dolphin, Jaguarundi and Orinocan Crocodile.