Venezuela - January 2010

Andes and Llanos Tour

Birding the Andes

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We arrived at our hotel, La Bravera, in the early evening and immediately homed in on the hummingbird feeders. Orange-throated Sunangels were common but only DF saw a single Longuemare’s. Other hummingbirds present were Buff-tailed Coronet, Collared Inca, Long-tailed Sylph and White-necked Jacobin.

After dinner we went looking for owls and immediately found a Rufous-banded Owl roosting in a tree close to the hotel. 

La Bravera Lodge - It was cold in the Andes! Capes were provided by La Bravera Lodge, which were useful when eating evening meal outside at 2300 metres altitude!

Jim, Cecilia, Rob, Carlos (driver) and Dave

Orange-throated Sunangel - Easily seen at La Bravera Lodge on the feeders.

Buff-tailed Coronet - Regularly seen at the feeding station.


Rufous-banded Owl - A recording of a Mottled Owl in the courtyard at La Bravera, almost immediately produced this fine specimen.

Inca Jay - Also known as Green Jay.  Several sightings in the Andes.


Squirrel Cuckoo
- Seen coming to an Ant swarm which attracted many species.  On the same perch as the Inca Jay.

Long-tailed Sylth  - Regular visitors to the feerders.


Yellow-billed Toucanet - An endemic species.  Several were seen in the Andes.

Moustached Brush-finch - A local endemic species just seen on two days in the Andes.

Slaty-capped Flycatcher
- Only a few seen during the trip.



Saturday 21 January 2012

After a pre-dawn breakfast we added Speckled Hummingbird and Sparkling Violetear to the feeder list then investigated the garden where we found White-throated Tyrannulet, Common Bush-tanager, White-winged Tanager, White-sided Flower-piercer, Moustached and Slaty Brush-finch.

After a sunny morning, mist began to roll in and the forest birding, always difficult, became even more so. However we were steadily clocking up the species. Highlights were a flock of Rose-crowned Parakeets, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Variegated Bristle-tyrant, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Thrush and Saffron-crowned and Beryl-spangled Tanagers.

After crossing the sierra we dropped down into the spectacular central valley. We passed the city of Merida to the north and arrived, an hour before sunset, at Posada Dona Rosa, another pleasant inn.

A short walk in the evening produced several Rusty Flowerpiercers, and after dinner we heard a number of Tropical Pygmy-owls.


Sunday 22 January 2012

After another pre-dawn breakfast we drove into the eastern sierra to La Mucuy where there is a recreational area which marks the start of the Humboldt Trail, a track that wanders up through cloud forest.

Before we arrived we saw a Band-tailed Guan from the vehicle which was a good start.  We reached the start of the Humboldt Trail soon after dawn and had to wake up the gatekeeper to open up for us.  The chill air was made even colder by a cool breeze and hats and gloves were called into action.  Almost immediately we saw a buzzard-sized raptor on a bare branch which proved to be a Bicoloured Hawk. The common birds of the grassy recreational area were Great Thrush, Black Phoebe and Smoke-coloured Pewee.

The trail itself climbs slowly into the thick cloud forest and was rough but not difficult walking.  At times birds seemed to be everywhere and a short time later the flock would pass through and all would become quiet again.  No sooner had we started up the trail than we started getting a good variety of birds.  Unfortunately many were high in the trees and we soon ended up with neck ache!  Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Black-banded and Montane Woodcreepers, Masked Trogan, Russet-crowned Warbler soon came our way and in a brief flurry of activity we managed to see Superciliaried Hemispingus and Oligeanious Hemispingus.  Green-and-Black Fruiteaters called at various locations and it was always difficult to determine exactly where they were.  However we did manage several good sightings.  Higher up the trail we were fortunate to have excellent views of a group of Rose-crowned Parakeets as they conveniently perched in a tree just below the trial and White-capped Parrots were seen several times.  The most exciting moment came when Cecilia and Jim saw a largish bird walking away along the track ahead of us.  It was a Brown Tinamou and despite a search along the track, the bird was not seen again.  Rather strangely we did not hear it crashing through the undergrowth either.  A excellent find by Rob of a Golden-winged Warbler high in the canopy was a lifer for Rob and myself.
  Also seen were Pearled Treerunner, Plain Xenops, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Blue-backed Conebill and Streaked Tuftedcheek.


The Humboldt Trail

The start of the trail - The path soon rises into the cloud forest.  Very few people were seen along the trail.


Humboldt Trail - A rare view through the trees.


Humboldt Trail - A fairly typical view

Chestnut-bellied Thrush
- Best site for this species.



Rose-crowned Parakeet - One of a flock of about 20 birds that landed just below the trail. 

Bi-coloured Hawk - Perched high above the start of the Humboldt Trail and in poor light.  This was the only sighting of this species during our trip.


The lack of further photos at this site shows just how difficult photography was!


After a picnic lunch we moved down through the traffic jam of Sunday afternoon day-trippers from Merida and drove along the winding mountain road to our next hotel, Los Frailes.

We arrived at Los Frailes in the late afternoon. This hotel, on the site of a former monastery, is in a shallow valley above a fast-flowing stream and surrounded by mountains. Given the exotic surroundings, the hotel gardens were remarkably English with foxgloves and hydrangeas and other familiar plants. However the birds were very un-English. Two hummingbirds were immediately seen, Tyrian Metaltail and Golden-tailed Starfrontlet. On the foxgloves was a Merida Flowerpiercer while a Streak-throated Bush-tyrant and a Brown-backed Chat-tyrant were also present.


Monday 23 January 2012

After another early breakfast we explored the grounds of the hotel, where, after hearing several on the previous days, we finally obtained brief but clear views of a Merida Tapaculo. Nearby we found a Blue-backed Conebill.

Great Thrush - Very common in the Andes, this one perched on the roof of Los Frailes.

Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant - Seen in the grounds of the hotel.

White-Capped Dipper - Four seen on one day.

Golden-tailed Starfrontlet - Seen only at Los Frailes.



Plumbeous Sierra-finch- Seen at over 4000 metres altitude, well above the tree line.


Blue and Black Tanager - A small party were observed distantly in a valley well below Los Frailes.  This was the only sighting.

On another beautiful cloudless but cold morning we drove into the paramo at over 4000m in La Culata National Park. Here the terrain was dominated by a low succulent, espeletia, whose yellow flowers colour the mountains later in the year. Birds were scarce but worth finding: Andean Tit-spinetail, Streak-backed Canastero and the endemic Ochre-browed Thistletail. Two caged Andean Condors by a nearby village were a rather sad sight.

On the way back down we stopped at Mucubaji Laguna, a beautiful mountain lake, where we found Andean Teal, Blue-winged Teal and a single Lesser Scaup.

Highlights of the rest of the day, which was spent driving along mountain roads and taking short walks along tracks were an adult Black-chested Buzzard-eagle followed by a sub-adult, a pair of White-capped Dippers, Citrine Warblers in roadside trees and a small flock of gorgeous Blue and black Tanagers.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

We left Los Frailes so early that dawn was just breaking when we arrived at the San Isidro Trail. This track passes through a quarry carved out the mountainside but soon becomes a shady track though forest. Here we saw the largest numbers of butterflies of the trip, but the principal attraction was, of course, the birds. They began with Cliff Flycatchers on the quarry walls and White-tipped Swifts flying around. Once among the trees we found a pair of Red-headed Barbets, a Swainson’s Thrush and a Yellow-legged Thrush. Then we ran into an ant swarm. We could hear the calls of Immaculate Antbirds and eventually we managed to see them. Three of us moved to a different spot to try to get a better view but RA stayed where he was. Soon he was waving to us and signalling to approach very carefully. In front of him, only 2m away, was a Spotted Nightingale-thrush lurking in the undergrowth. This very hard to see species was arguably the bird of the trip.

Soon after we heard the harsh call of our main quarry, and then saw the bird, a male Andean Cock-of-the-rock. We eventually saw four. When we arrived at a small open area by a rushing stream we took a break. We crossed the stream with some difficulty and walked as far as the San Isidro Tunnel where the trail ends. The tunnel itself is a 1.5m high hole in a cliff almost hidden by vegetation. We did not venture in. On the return we discovered that the ant swarm had moved on. 

San Isidro Trail

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock - After a couple of brief and difficult views of this species, we managed to get a much better view of this bird as it perched on the downhill side of the trail.  Unfortunately after it eyed us up, it was soon gone.

Black-mandibled Toucan - A party of about five birds seen at a roadside stop.



Band-tailed Guan - One of the first birds we saw when arriving at San Isidro.


Many-banded Aracari -  One of only four seen in a loose flock at a roadside stop not far from San Isidro.

Cliff Flycatcher - Rather a nice bird for a flycatcher!  Several were feeding on the cliffs at the start of the San Isidro Trail.

Cinnamon Flycatcher - Another smart flycatcher.  Only seen at San Isidro.

The rest of the day was spent driving and stopping at various likely spots. It was one of those days when, wherever we stopped, there were new birds. Highlights were: flocks of  Scarlet-fronted Parakeets, Blue-headed and White-capped Parrots, a Northern Violaceous Trogon, several Many-banded Aracaris, a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, a hard to see Golden-headed Manakin, many tanagers including Black-faced and Guira, a Golden-rumped Euphonia, an Orange-crowned Oriole and many migrant warblers, including Cerulean.

We then left the Andes and drove down to the plains, finishing in a motel outside Barinas which was by the road to our final destination, Hato Cedral.


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