Venezuela - February 2010

Off-the-Beaten Track Tour

Yacambu National Park

22 Feb 2010

A before dawn breakfast and a 45 minute drive brought us to Yacambu National Park at dawn. The Park is on the southern slope of the Portuguesa Range. The altitude varies between 500 and 2200 metres and is mostly cloud forest although the northern section is much drier.

We spent the morning birding along a road. The sky was overcast and birding was slow although we did find a mixed flock of Emerald and Yellow-billed Toucanets, a Masked Trogon, a Red-headed Barbet and a Smoky-brown Woodpecker. When the sun finally broke through more birds appeared. A White-rumped Hawk perched high on a nearby dead tree and offered a rare view of this elusive raptor. Nearby we encountered Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Black-and-white Becard and the songs of several Andean Solitaires.

We lunched at the idyllic El Blanquito, a small reed-fringed lake in the forest. Here we heard the Little Grebe-like calls of Rusty-flanked Crakes but it was some time before we actually saw one. Our scouring of the reeds produced an almost hidden Masked Duck while more easily seen were the Caribbean Coot and Least Grebes on the water. A Magpie Tanager was a surprise. We then walked along a lakeside track to a flowering Immortelle tree which produced, among others, hummingbirds: Sooty-capped and Stripe-throated Hermits, Brown and Sparkling Violetears and Black-throated Mango while nearby was a feast of Tanagers: Guira, Beryl-spangled, Black-capped, Burnished-buff and Blue-necked. The drive back to the hotel was brought to an abrupt stop when we saw a pair of Bicolored Wrens next to the hotel. We checked in to our large split-level rooms and later watched the sun set over distant mountains.

El Blanquito Lagoon - A charming setting for lunch on two days with plenty of birds also.  Click on this link to see a video clip of the lagoon and the birding team in action!

Rainforest - Typical forest in Yacambu.

Roadside Birding - Quite a bit of time in Yacambu was spent birding along this road.  Generally fairly quiet but the advantage of easy walking and no ticks!


Rusty-flanked Crake - An endemic species to Venezuela and one of the sort after birds at El Blanquito Lagoon.  Despite being heard, it took some time to see two birds in the far side of the of the Lagoon.

Least Grebe - The lagoon also supported a good number of Least Grebes, which sounded remarkably like Rusy-flanked Crakes!

Caribbean Coot - At Blanquito Lagoon

23 Feb 2010  (Morning in Sanare area)

After lunch at the hotel we returned to Yacumba National Park where, in an open area, we managed to see a Pale-breasted Spinetail, a spectacular White-whiskered Spinetail and a Plain Thornbird.

We finished the day by a road in the forest looking for Merida Tapaculos. Cecilia played the recording and birds immediately answered. They were came within feet of us, singing from the ground, but were completely invisible. They proved to be a nightmare to see, moving through the undergrowth at the speed of light, never staying in a viewable position for more than two seconds. Voted the least cooperative bird of the trip!

24 Feb 2010

We returned to Yacumba at dawn and walked along the road through the forest. Here we managed to see two Band-tailed Guans crashing through the crown of a tree, a rather beautiful Pearled Treerunner, and - best of all - after Cecilia had played the call we managed to track down the rare Scaled Fruiteater. 

At the entrance to the reserve we found a Buff-throated Saltator on a pole, and in the trees, Fulvous-headed and White-winged Tanagers. After this we walked along the track towards the reserve headquarters where a Black-hooded Thrush was singing. We had been informed that an injured ‘hawk’ had been brought in. It turned out to be an Osprey with a broken wing, a very sad sight.  We then took to the trail which wandered along the side of a valley finally meeting the river at a dam. On the way we encountered a female White-bearded Manakin, and for one lucky person, a male Lance-tailed Manakin. There were quite large numbers of butterflies and this writer took time out to photograph some of them, including the beautiful Victorine Clearwing. On returning we found a Montane Foliage-gleaner and a Montane Woodcreeper. When we reached the park headquarters the Black-hooded Thrush was still singing.

For lunch we returned to El Blanquito where we encountered two new birds: a Striated Heron and a Green-backed Heron. Feeding on the immortelle flowers was a Lazuline Sabrewing and nearby we saw a Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant and a pair of Slaty-capped Flycatchers. Later, at another roadside stop in the forest, we encountered an Ochre-breasted Brush-finch and a Fulvous-headed Tanager.

Our final stop was high above the valley of the Yacumbu River where a new dam has been built. Here, by the road, the country was open and we soon found a Black-faced Tanager perched in a bare tree.

Oriole Blackbird - Seen on several occasions during the trip.


White-rumped Hawk - An uncommon species with a very restricted range in Venezuela.  We were fortunate in that this individual seemed to liketo perch in a dead tree close to the road.


Sooty-headed Tyrannulet - A species with a patchy distribution in Venezuela.


House Wren - Note the coloured rings on this bird.


Roadside Hawk - Seen most days during the trp.


Scaled Fruiteater - High in the treetops


Silver-beaked Tanager - The stunning appearance of this species is not captured in this photo.  Seen on several occasions.


Black-faced Tanager - The only bird seen during the trip was at the dam area.

Click here to see a video clip of this bird

A brief video clip was also obtained of the elusive Scaled Fruiteater as it sat very high in the trees.  Click here to view

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