Venezuela - February 2010

Off-the-Beaten Track Tour

Henri Pittier National Park

21 Feb 2010

We were on the road by 05.30, reaching Henri Pittier National Park by 07.00. An excellent breakfast, provided by a local catering company, awaited us on a table set up in a roadside glade. Sandwich in one hand and binoculars in another we began birding in earnest. The weird calls of Russet-backed Oropendolas were all around. Blood-eared Parakeets and Red-billed Parrots screeched overhead and, high up, White-tipped Swifts flew, identified by Cecilia by their call. The trees around the glade held hummingbirds: Brown Violetear, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Wedge-billed Hummingbird and Long-tailed Sylph.


Breakfast - Our first birding was breakfast in the Henri Pittier National Park.  Tables, chairs and a wonderful range of food was waiting for us at dawn.  As you can see we did not sit down much due to the large numbers of birds all around us.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the early part of the holiday was the amount of roadside birding. Even in the national parks there were very few walkers-only trails. Here the road was not particularly busy but it was an irritation to have the occasional truck roaring past. The road passed through forest but the light was poor and birding was relatively slow. Highlights were Handsome Fruit-eater, which lived up to its name and Grey-breasted Wood-wren.

The sun then appeared and things immediately picked up. We walked along a trail to the concrete shell of a long abandoned hotel hidden in the forest which served as the park’s headquarters. On the first floor was a large platform which had a feeding station and tables and chairs for our lunch. Cecilia and Leo loaded the feeding platform with fruit and within minutes birds appeared: Golden, Bay-headed and Speckled Tanagers, Orange-bellied Euphonias, Blue-necked Chlorophonias, an Emerald Toucanet and a Pale-bellied Thrush. From this platform we also saw Black-hooded and White-necked Thrushes, and a Masked Tityra.


Tree-top level birding - A session on the roof of the biological station proved very productive, especially at the feeding station.


Bird Table watching - Dave P taking a real close up view of the bird table.  A pity the bird (a Euphonia) is just exiting the photo on the left!).  Cecilia is thinking just how good Dave's binoculars are at close focussing!!

Another walk along a trail into the forest produced close views of a Slate-throated Whitestart, - and then we met an ant swarm. Woodcreepers of three species were everywhere - Plain-brown, Strong-billed and Cocoa. Plain Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, Black-faced Antthrush were also partaking of the feast and, arguably best of all,  we managed brief views of the elusive Venezuelan Wood-quail.

Huge Tree - The trail from the Biological Station took us past some huge trees.  Cecilia and Penny give an idea of scale!

After lunch we had a five hour drive to our base for the next four nights. In the early evening we arrived at the delightful Posada el Encanta near Sanare and our base for Yacambu National Park.

 

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The first set of photos are of some of the stunning birds that visited a bird table on the roof of the Rancho Grande Biological Station, which is situated in the Henri Pittier National Park.  The roof is at treetop level and ideal for attracting a range of species.  Most of these birds were very confiding.

Bay-headed Tanager   - Good numbers of this species were seen during the trip.

Blue-naped Chlorophonia - A stunning bird with a range restricted to altitudes above 500metres.

Speckled Tanager - A stunning bird close up.

Pale-breasted Thrush - Seen on three days during the trip.  A fairly widespread species.

Golden Tanager - One of the more common species of Tanagers seen during the trip.

Palm Tanager - A common species seen on all but one day.

 

Groove-billed Toucanet - An Endemic species restricted to northern areas of Venezuela, usually above 300metres.

Orange-bellied Euphonia - Seen on three days while we were at higher elevations.  The species is normally found above 900 metres and therefore has a fairly restricted range in Venezuela.

 

The following photos were either taken from the biological station roof or in the forest itself.  We were fortunate to come across a swam of Ants part the way along the trail that leads from the biological station.  Here a wide range of species were seen but the only ones to be photographed were the Woodcreepers.

Swallow Tanager - Seen close to the roof but did not visit the bird table.

Black-hooded Thrush - A species with a very restricted range in Venezuela.

Collared Trogon - One of two seen.  This is the female.

Slate-throated Whitestart - A few were seen along the forest trail.

Cocoa Woodcreeper - One of several seen feeding on a swam of Ants. 

Plain-brown Woodcreeper - Note the ring (band) in the above photo, from the team at the biological station.

Strong-billed Woodcreeper - Another species helping to devour the Ant swarm.

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