Venezuela 1994, part 2  of birding trip report 

John van der Woude  - 

Friday 4 March, Hato El Frio.  

Before breakfast, we birded a few meters around the lodge, especially near the pond (part of an old river branch, still in use probably during the wet season; photo), surrounded by big trees: Orinoco Goose*, Bare-faced Ibis*, Green Ibis* (difficult to tell apart if we are not nearby). We also saw the first Capybara's, the huge rodents. Further bird species were: Wattled Jacana*, Black-Collared Hawk*, Pied Water-Tyrant*, Amazon Kingfisher, White-winged Swallow, Hoatzin* (a bit ordinary birds though), Fork-tailed Flycatcher. There were caymans too, very nearby, and we suspected one having snapped a small bird just before we had time to identify it. But a while later, we saw the bird again: Yellow-throated Spinetail*. Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that the birds are really tame here (even the birds of prey). Before walking back to breakfast, we still saw Green Heron, Green Kingfisher, Roseate Spoonbill, Oriole Blackbird* (large!), Turkey and Black Vulture, and Tropical Kingbird.
Then, from 8.30 h to about 12, we had our first excursion with the local guide Rafael, in a four-wheel drive car. Right from the start it was clear that he is real birder, keen to show also the small birds, and gifted with a sharp eye. He knows only the Spanish bird names, but can point them out quickly in the field guide. This first trip was heading north for some 15 km through the Hato towards the river Apure. This is the more wooded part of the Hato (photo left), although we crossed several more open parts too. We saw Saffron Finch, Vermillion Flycatcher*, Buff-necked Ibis*, Savanna Hawk*, Southern Lapwing*, Brazilian Duck*, American Woodstork, White-faced Whistling-Duck*, Jabiru, White-necked Heron (Cocoi Heron), Groove-billed Ani, Scaled Dove. Driving through a narrow road with bushes on both sides we spotted Barred Antshrike* and Ruddy Ground-Dove. Then came the first Sharp-tailed Ibis* and Rufescent Tiger-Heron*, two very typical Llanos species. In an open part of this savanna we met a pair of Double-striped Thicknee*. Further on, in wetter parts, we saw White-headed Marsh-Tyrant*, Harris Hawk, Maguari Stork, Pied Lapwing*, Little Blue Heron, Anhinga, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Yellow-headed Caracara, Ringed Kingfisher, Large-billed Tern*, Great Blue Heron. Again in some bushes along the road, between the marhes, we spotted the Pale-headed Jacamar*, one of the endemics of Venezuela. At the turning point of the excursion was a pond with a small colony of Boat-billed Heron*. There we also saw Laughing Falcon, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Osprey, Grey-necked Woodrail, and a 4 m long Anaconda! The snake moved slowly through a muddy spot where we could walk up to a few m from it. At the river Apure we had no success in seeeing River Dolphins, the water level being too low for that in this season. During the faster drive back we still spotted Lineated Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Yellow-rumped Cacique*.
We had the afternoon excursion from 15.30 h to about 19 h. A group of three German couples had arrived just before, and with them we were to share the remaining three excursions. Although they knew very little about birds, they were interested so that we didn't feel embarrassed to stop for small birds too. Also, Rafael the guide stays a birder primarily, but is keeping a sort of balance in the excursion by stopping also a while for the bigger caymans etc. However, during those stops, there are always some birds to observe nearby.

This second excursion was heading for a more open, nearly treeless part of the Hato. But first we drove around very slowly in the wooded part of the farm compound: Carib Grackle, Stripe-backed Wren*, Scarlet Macaw (5 pairs). Then, at the other (S) side of the road, we crossed the savanna: Crested Bobwhite*, Snail Kite*, Black-collared Hawk*, Solitary Sandpiper, Striped Heron (now to be one species with the Green or Green-backed Heron), Double-striped Thicknee again, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, White-tailed Hawk, two foxes, Burrowing Owl (photo right), Blue Ground-Dove, and many many caymans and capybara's. At the turning point of the excursion we met Black Skimmer, Large-billed Tern, Yellow-billed Tern*, Maguari Stork and the Giant Anteater (photo), the highlight of the afternoon.

Saturday 5 March, Hato Frio.

Before breakfast I birded a bit in the immediate vicinity of the station/lodge: Plain-fronted Thornbird* at a huge nest of sticks, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Stripe-backed Wren, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Anhinga, Ruddy Pigeon*, Yellow-headed Caracara and Red-crowned Woodpecker.


The morning excursion was to a Woodstork colony (photo) in a bush in a sort of lake, N of the main road, and again through savanna. After spotting a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron, we could observe, not far after leaving the main road, two Aplomado Falcons* chasing two White-tailed Hawks in order to defend their nest tree. Before reaching the Woodstork colcony, we noted Green Ibis and White-bearded Flycatcher*, and on the way back Sharp-tailed Ibis and Lesser Nighthawk. The Germans are really getting interested in birds, partly thanks to our translations and comparisons with European birds. However, you wonder why people are travelling so far in order to look at a Southern Lapwing here without apparently even knowing their own European lapwings.

After lunch and a little rest I couldn't resist birding some more in the immediate vicinity of the station, this time more between the large trees near the pond. There I spotted very closely a Crane Hawk* on a low branch, a beautiful bird when seen against a dark green background. It resembles a crane both in colour and long legs. Further species were White-bearded Flycatcher, Stripe-backed Wren, Solitary Sandpiper and juvenile Green (Striated) Heron. Also, after the often fruitless efforts of identifying thrushes at Rancho Grande, it was nice to see an unmistakable Bare-eyed Thrush*. In general, the birds seem to remain active most of the day here.

The afternoon excursion appeared to go again through the open savanna, this time heading for a night roost of all sorts of Herons and Ibises, and again at the South side of the main road. First we drove very slowly through the same spot where I had just been. After spotting skillfully the Howler Monkeys, Rafael showed us Roadside Hawk, Crane Hawk and Black-collared Hawk together. We marvelled at a Groove-billed Ani with a frog hanging from its mouth. At a pool near the farm Bare-faced and Glossy Ibis stood together. Then we went on through the swampy capybara and cayman land and noted Little Blue Heron, juvenile Striated (Green) Heron, Brazilian Duck, Red-breasted Blackbird*, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, White Ibis, Spotted Sandpiper, Cattle Egret, Pale-vented Pigeon, Eastern Meadowlark, Eared Dove, Amazon Kingfisher. Rafael made a detour to show us a roost of Pauraques, in an open field with low shrubs of 40 cm in the middle of nowhere, but accidentally near to the place where just then the annual stick hunt on Capybara's took place. An awful but impressive sight. They take yearly 5 % from the 20.000 or so on this hato (ranch) alone, during three days.


After that we drove to the aim of this last excursion, the roost of Herons etc. We arrived there in time (about 18 h) and stayed long enough (till 19 h) to see most of the birds flying into the roost: Cattle Egret (surprising to see so many of them together in the trees - the first impression is that of an egret colony), Black-crowned Night Herons (some 20 or so), Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Woodstork, Buff-necked Ibis, Scarlet Ibis (photo), Great White Egret, Olivaceous Cormorant and Maguari Stork. Especially the flights of Scarlet Ibises coming in from over the plains at sunset is unforgettable. The total of all these birds was some 1500 I guess.

After dinner we talked with Ramon, the director of the station, about what to do the next day. During a three-night stay (from after lunch on the first day till after lunch on the fourth day) you are entitled to have six excursions. Only, in this season the two boat excursions are not possible because of the low water levels in this season. But it is good to make a walk on your own, so we decided to do that the next morning. We asked him further what makes this lodge a biological station. We didn't see any researchers nor special equipment or rooms for research. It appears that the main things that can be offered to researchers apart from the lodging and food, are a car and a local guide to point out places of special interest.

Sunday 6 March, Hato El Frio, and further on to Barinas.

Before breakfast I made a little walk alongside the farm next to the station: White-bearded Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Striped-backed Wren, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Ringed Kingfisher, Troupial, Saffron Finch, Green Kingfisher, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater* (male and female, low in the bushes), Orange-chinned Parakeet.

After breakfast we made the walk proposed by Ramon. It follows a dirt road that starts between the station and the farm, and runs north of the chain of old river ponds towards a true forest plot some 2 or 3 km West of the station. On the way forth we kept to the ponds as close as possible, on the way back we took the dirt road itself. The wind was rather strong today, but nevertheless we noted many species (we noted all species seen this time). On the way towards the forest plot: Bare-faced Ibis, a hummingbird (dark green), Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Savanna Hawks, Black Skimmer, Brazilian Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Yellow-browed Sparrow*, two Jabiru's, Anhinga, six Black-crowned Night-Herons together, Wattled Jacana's (we have seen a few thousand of them altogeter here I guess), American Woodstork, two Limpkins*, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, White-necked Heron (Cocoi Heron), Great Blue Heron, Rufescent Tiger Heron, White-tailed Hawk, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Great Black Hawk*. In the forest plot we saw Green-rumped Parrotlet, Little Blue Heron, Grey Kingbird, a tree full of Black-crowned Night Heron, Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird, Hooded Tanager* (male and female), Bananaquit, Ruddy-breasted Sparrow, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Roadside Hawk, a large group of Hoatzins in a large tree (some 30), Yellow-rumped Cacique, Blue-grey Tanager. Additional birds on the way back: Southern Lapwing, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, American Stilt, Solitary Sandpiper, Pied Lapwing, Scarlet Ibis.

After the last lunch we left for Barinas. Up to Mantecal the road was in excellent condition. The road from Mantecal to Bruzual is notoriously bad, that is with many stretches with holes. Driving here is not a real problem, you only have to take time for it. And this we would have done anyhow, as this is also a famous birding road. The scenery is about the same as the open savanna part of Hato El Frio, but more cultivated, with square dug-out ponds along the road. Here we saw 'all the herons etcetera', also the Jabiru. From only 10 m distance we saw Grassland Yellow-Finch* very well. Further on we saw a lone tree full of Shiny Cowbirds and Carib Grackle, this would fit nicely in a remake of Hicthcock's The Birds. We also noted a pair of Blue-black Grassquit.

During the last two hours we drove through a beautiful tropical scenery with more trees, heading along the more winding of the two roads towards Barinas, where we arrived at sunset. It took us some time to find the hotel reserved for us, and after checking in we had to drive into the centre of the city again to find a restaurant as our hotel's restaurant was closed that day. But we managed to find a nice and busy 'pizzeria' restaurant where we could sit outside and have a lomito, near to our car. The hotel (International) has a quiet location and a closed parking lot.

Monday 7 March, Santo Domingo Valley.

From the hotel, it was easy going into the Santo Domingo Valley. The first site (at 8 a.m.) was the famous 'Rio Barragan bridge',but we were really disappointed. Where there should be manakins (NE of the road), we saw only freshly planted coffee on rather barren soil between the trees left. Nearby we saw a forest fire, a sad view. Nevertheless it was nice to see some species of the coastal cordillera again. We saw Crested Oropendula*, Silverbeak Tanager, White-chinned Sapphire*, Black Phoebe, American Redstart (several), Green-rumped Parrotlet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Northern Waterthrush. Also on the SW side of the road (at the river) there was not much to see.

Further into the valley, we took the road to Altamira. This winds through heavily forested coffee plantations. At the first stop there, after some 2 km, we only saw Silverbeak Tanager, and down by the river Buff-throated Saltator, American Redstart, Black Phoebe, Blue-and-White Swallow, Yellow-bellied Seedeater*, Summer (or Hepatic?) Tanager and Bananaquit. We then drove on to the quiet village, where we drank coffee and tea in the neat shop on the first right-hand corner of the central plaza. To our surprise, a Hermit hummer came in shopping for insects along the shelves. This is the 'limpiacasa' (house-cleaner, Sooty-capped Hermit*). On the way back to the main road of the Santo Domingo Valley we now knew better where to bird, that is where you can look more horizontally into the trees in stead of only high up, and where you can park the car. We noted Blue-grey Tanager, Collared Trogon (female), Amazilia spec., Blue-necked Tanager*, Bay-headed Tanager, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Palm Tanager, Elaenia spec. (flycatcher), Yellow-legged Thrush*, Scaled Piculet* (clambering like a very small woodpecker indeed), and Thick-billed Euphonia*.

Then, at about noon, we drove on towards the so-called San Isidro tunnel track, where we should have plenty of time to see Cock of the Rock (COTR) around 16 h We easily found the steep cement road to the left (there are three warnings before with 'Peligro - camiones'). The personnel of the quarry, where the cement/dirt road ends, was really very nice to us, helped us e.g. in finding the best spot for the car, in front of the office, and wished us good luck. So we did not at all have to worry about the safety of the car. After crossing the quarry we were kept busy some time by the sound of a hidden bird in the steep, green righthand side of the track, a Mountain Wren*. The track looks promising, it is a nicely wooded side valley, but this time of the day (around 14 h) is not the best time of course in this environment. As usual, we heard some birds now and then that we could not spot, and we really wanted to find out already where the end of the track and the COTR lek would be. A few 100 m before the brook crossing we spotted a possible COTR on the opposite side of the brook valley.  

But then, when we got near the end of the brook valley, we saw him, sitting and hopping in the top of a rather bare tree, nearly on eye level, and against a green background: the male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock*. He was not in a hurry, and after a while he got company of a Quetzal! We managed to see its belly and breast, and it appeared to be a male, but to make a further distinction between Crested and Golden-headed, we should have seen the underside of the tail too. This he kept hidden behind the branches. Moreover, meanwhile we saw a third large bird coming into the same binocular view. We got so excited that it took us some time to identify this bird: a Red-ruffed Fruitcrow*! These three superb birds kept quietly hopping around each other a minute or so, before the company dissolved, and we became aware that we had seen something in the order of 'once in your lifetime'. On the basis of the elevation we assumed that the quetzal should have been the Crested Quetzal*, mentioned for this spot also in mrs. Goodwin's book. All the time, there were also Russet-backed Oropendula's noisily flying around.

Heading back on the track a bit, we discovered an Emerald Toucanet, and finally heard a strange sound that might be COTR. And indeed, we found the lek after climbing down a steep path that starts at a knickpoint of the main track, with some grass in a triangle, a few 100 m. back from the brook crossing. At least ten COTR males kept each other busy with their performances, and we clearly observed that they had fixed positions on the branches, taken over and over again after hopping or flying towards the rivals. But it is not possible to have them all, or even the majority, in view at the same time, because of the leaves. Moreover, you have to keep quiet. In the beginning, when we were still looking around for the best spot, they were a bit disturbed, and hided themselves for us.

We stayed there from 15.50 till 16.30 h and when we had to leave they were still busy, although a bit less intensively. On the way back we identified a new hummer, the Green-fronted Lancebill*, with its incredibly thin bill.

Back on the main road, we drove up further. After a few km. we crossed a brook with a small chapel pressed against the steep side of the road. We stopped a few minutes here and saw three lifers: White-capped Dipper*, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant* and Gray-chinned Hermit*.

Then we went up towards the paramo. We missed the Torrent Duck at the site mentioned in all three sources.). After entering the hotel room (Los Frailes, a former monastery) we spotted a Great Thrush* at dusk.

Tuesday 8 March, in the paramo.

First thing in the morning, we strolled a bit around the hotel, which is situated in a shrub and pasture zone of the paramo, with pines: Rufous-collared Sparrow, Andean Siskin*, White-throated Tyrannulet*, Tyrian Metaltail*, Brown-bellied Swallow*, Slaty Brush-Finch*, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant*.


After breakfast we drove up to the Laguna Mucubaji, at the pass towards Apartadero. In this wonderful paramo with some pine stands (photo), at an altitude of some 3500 m, we walked very slowly a bit around the lake and a mile or so towards the Laguna Negra. We felt too dizzy to make a longer walk. On the lake (Mucubaji) we saw Speckled Teal* and Blue-winged Teal together. Behind the lake two Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles* took the air. Between the frailejones (Espeletias) we spotted Rufous-collared Sparrow, Ochre-browed Thistletail*, and Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant.

We spoke a while with dr. Carlos Rivero Blanco, the biologist in charge of the Sierra Nevada National Park (where we are now) as well as the visitor centre. There was a nice exhibition, demonstrating how life in the paramo has been adjusted to the temperature extremes of day and night. Then we drove a bit down and had a lunch in Apartadero. After us, a group of tourists, probably most of them birders, entered the restaurant. They took an awful lot of time for ordering their meals, everything on the menu had to be translated. We were glad to be on the road soon again.

We headed for the pass a few miles in the direction of Timotes. At the pass, we took a small road to the left and entered a superb type of paramo, with frailejones of more than man size. The dump uphill around the corner should be good for birding, but the smell was too terrible. Going down again towards Apartadero we stopped at several sites and walked a few 100 m around. All this paramo up from Apartadero was nice birding: Andean Tit-Spinetail*, Ochre-browed Thistletail, Paramo Pipit*, Bar-winged Cinclodes* (several), Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant* and American Kestrel.

Before dinner I looked around the hotel a while again, and saw, in addition to the birds of this morning, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, White-capped Dipper, the wren-like White-browed Spinetail*, many Great Thrush, and a Black Phoebe in the hotel court.

Wednesday 9 March, towards La Grita.

All morning, we drove down to Merida and up to Tovar. We took the big road to the right around Merida, and were happy to spot a photo shop along this road, in order to buy an extra slide film, a rarity here. (We did not bird around Merida now, but did so on another trip, see the report of 1998.) In Tovar, we had a meal in a little, clean, blue-painted restaurant along the road just before leaving the village. The scenery from here on is beautiful, with a small-scale, full-tropical alternation of forested and agricultural parts, and this remained so during the rest of our trip.


Above Bailadores the road winds up some 10 km to a bifurcation with a small shop, where you can choose for two ways towards La Grita. We took the left one, which stays a bit lower, mostly in a beautiful dwarf forest paramo. After a few km, where the left side of the road has been reinforced with a sort of low stone wall (photo), we spotted Pearled Tree-runner* (a group, nicely performing at 10 m from us), Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager*, White-fronted Redstart*, Ochre-browed Thistletail and Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Across the pass towards La Grita (the actual border of Tachira), we parked the car after a few hair-pin turns, and this too appeared to be a fine spot for birding (again in dwarf forest with small pastures): Orange-throated Sunangel*, chased away by a Coal-black Flowerpiercer*. The hummer was apparently sucking from the holes made by the flowerpiercer in a flower with a very long calyx. But there was more: Citrine Warbler*, White-throated Tyrannulet, and yes, two Red-crested Cotingas*, together in the top of a small tree, one nicely erecting its crest. Further it took us some time to realize that besides the Coal-black Flowerpiercer there was yet another small blackish bird flitting around: Blue-backed Conebill*. Of course, there were many Great Thrush again. This spot appeared to be at 2870 m, according to the wrist altitude meter of the friendly guard of this regional park, who came along on his motorbike. I forgot the name of the park.

In La Grita, a cosy small town, we lodged in the motel Los Naranjas, in a room at a quiet court.

Thursday 10 March, from La Grita to Rubio.

We left La Grita at dawn, and headed for the hamlet of Zumbador, in order to bird early along the road to Queniquea. It was tempting to bird also before Zumbador already, in the fields along the road. But a short stop produced no more than the usual Blue-gray Tanager and Bananaquit. In Zumbador, which is again on a sort of pass at about 2700 m (with some restaurants for a hot soup), we took the road to Queniquea, which is to the left, and saw most of the birds along the first 1 or 2 km. There is a beautiful dwarf forest again, with a bit higher trees than yesterday (5 to 8 m). As the wind was rather strong, we had to look for sheltered spots, but presumably the birds did so too. Surprisingly, we started again with a Red-crested Cotinga. On this same spot, just a few 100 m after Zumbador, and right after a last, single house to the left, we saw White-throated Tyrannulet, many Orange-throated Sunangel chasing around the trees, three species of Flowerpiercer: Coal-black, Masked* and Bluish*, and apart from the usual Great Thrush yet a Slaty Brush-Finch*. A bit further on, the forest is slightly denser. There we spotted an Andean Guan*, flying across the forested slope, and Band-tailed Pigeon*, White-fronted Redstart (two bathing in the gutter of the road), the lovely Pearled Treerunner again, and Citrine Warbler.

Driving down towards San Christóbal, we entered again the subtropical and tropical zones. Halfway down there is a small picnic park, which looked promising for birding, but there was still too much wind alas: Blue-and-White Swallow, Tropical Kingbird, Black Phoebe. Further down, just before one of the bigger bridges, there is a wide dirt road to the left, going to the Chorro Nature Park. A short stop at start of the dirt road produced Chestnut-collared Swift* (a large dark swift), a Bat Falcon* eating insects on the wing, Tropical Parula, and a huge blue Morpho butterfly. Meanwhile, we see gradually more Turkey Vulture. Up till now we mostly saw Black.

We wanted to visit the day park of La Petrolia intensively. So we pressed on to Rubio, where we checked in at the hotel El Marques. They don't have a garage or closed parking lot, but around the corner lives a kind lady who hires out her garage (Bs 200). After arranging this, and having taken a short nap, we set out for La Petrolia. The hotel lady had precisely indicated how we could come there, and had provided us with a road map of Tachira (from National Car Rental). After leaving the small town by the Av. 7, there is a wide bifurcation, with a sign for La Arquitrana (the alternative name for La Petrolia) to the left. This road is in bad shape, but goes trough beautiful shaded coffee plantations (forest nearly).


We arrived at La Petrolia at about 16.40 h, to learn from the guard that they would close at 17 h! But we soon realized that we would come back here tomorrow, and that we could see some of the surroundings after closing time now. La Petrolia is a small park (a few ha only) around the first oil well of Venezuela. There are many different trees, of differing heigths too, but well spaced, with lawn between (photo). As it is situated against a rather steep slope, you can choose your position so that you have a fine level look into the canopy of the trees. Today however, we didn't come much further than the entrance area (where the car is parked right in view of the guard), and saw in the remaining 15 minutes: Red-crowned Woodpecker, Palm Tanager, the beautiful Yellow-tufted Woodpecker*, Shiny Cowbird, and circling overhead an unmistakable Black Hawk-Eagle*.

Then we put the car in front of the cafe ("Grande Restaurante") 100 m from the park, and took the path to the river. At the garden fences at the start of the path, we studied three seedeaters. One was easy - the Yellow-bellied Seedeater. The other two were difficult, and could only be identified after checking (back home) the guides of Costa Rica and Colombia as immature male (probably Ruddy-breasted) Seedeater and second-year male Gray Seedeater*. Further we saw Tropical Parula, and a large black woodpecker flying in the distance. At the river, a lovely place with a hanging bridge just 100 m or so from the road, we saw Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Green Kingfisher, Solitary Sandpiper, Roadside Hawk, Crested Oropendula, many Black and Turkey Vultures, and a group of tiny swifts with a very short tail ('only wings') - Short-tailed Swift*. Further species were Crested Caracara, Ruddy Ground Dove, Social Flycatcher on a telephone pole, Black Phoebe and Streaked Flycatcher*.

That night we had a good dinner at the restaurant called El Caldero. The walls are nicely decorated with old-time photographs and woollen tapestry. The restaurant is near a central plaza on the other side of the main road. Of course we went there by car (the streets are too dark), and were able to park the car in view of our table.

Friday 11 March, La Petrolia and to the airport.

We left the hotel at about 7 h, and headed once more for La Petrolia. We wanted to be at the airport at about 14 h, and planned (thanks to the road map we got yesterday) to go there directly from La Petrolia, so we would not come back in Rubio. About halfway the 8 km or so to La Petrolia we made a short stop: Green-rumped Parrotlet, White-lined Tanager, Tropical Parula, Silverbeaked Tanager, American Redstart and Streaked Flycatcher.

Then we stayed in the tiny park from 8 (opening time) till 11.30 h. Yesterday it was rather windy, now there was no wind but some very light rain, the first rain of the trip. As there are many open picnic shelters in the park, we managed to keep on birding. At the entrance we saw Cattle Tyrant, Saffron Finch, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, White-winged Becard* and Squirrel Cuckoo. Further on we met the Yellow-tufted Woodpecker again, three of them pestering a Red-crowned Woodpecker. Further species were Bare-faced Ibis (on the lawn), Boat-billed Flycatcher, White-vented Plumeleteer*, Blue-necked Tanager, Burnished-buff Tanager*, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Thick-billed Euphonia (male). Seemingly, there was another Euphonia too. Only afterwards, on the basis of the descriptions in the guide of Costa Rica, we were able to identify it as juvenal male Thick-billed Euphonia in its first breeding season. It showed nesting behaviour indeed. From the nearby forest we heard a Rufous-vented Chachalaca. Near the small buildings in the park we saw a House Wren. Then we witnessed the display of two very, very small birds, probably Pygmy-Tyrants. They swirled constantly in an 8-loop around two bushes! After a Smoky-brown Woodpecker, an Elaenia (clear crest, white below), and a Northern Waterthrush we saw a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird bathing on a banana leaf. It simply swam across the leaf! So we had some more advantage of the rain, apart from the fact that the temperatures stay rather low. The park abounds in hummingbirds, probably most Rufous-tailed.

The road from La Petrolia to the main road from San Christóbal to Santo Domingo was very scenic, and drove there very slowly. Nevertheless, we definitely wanted to have ample time at the airport, and this proved to be wise. On the busy main road, we came to a halt because of an accident far down along the road. The custom here is to wait for the police and not remove the cars after an accident. After some 10 minutes we had a talk with the truck driver behind us, and we said that we were happy to have plenty of time left for our plane. Then he told us that the day before, he had had to wait somewhere for three hours because of an accident. So we became a bit nervous. But after some 30 minutes more, we gradually started driving again, and arrived at the airport with still ample time left for having a dinner and returning the car to the friendly Avis employee. Strolling a bit around on the parking lot I heard and then saw - without binoculars here, this is also a military airport - a last tick of the trip, the Striped Cuckoo.

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Species list

(Names as in the field guide of Venezuela. Sequence too, generally following the colour plates.)

HP          = Henri Pittier National Park (Rancho Grande)
LL           = Llanos
SD          = Santo Domingo Valley
AP          = Paramo at Apartadero/Los Frailes
GR          = La Grita + Zumbador (dwarf forest)
PT          = La Petrolia (Tachira)
GR->PT: Between GR and PT

Little Tinamou HP
Crested Bobwhite LL
Venezuelan Wood-Quail HP
Rufous-vented Chachalaca LL PT
Band-tailed Guan HP
Andean Guan GR

Neotropic Cormorant LL
Anhinga LL

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron LL
Black-crowned Night-Heron LL
Boat-billed Heron LL
Capped Heron LL
Rufescent Tiger-Heron LL
Green-backed Heron LL
Great Blue Heron LL
White-necked Heron LL
Great Egret LL
Snowy Egret LL
Little Blue Heron LL
Cattle Egret LL
Maguari stork LL
Jabiru LL
American Wood-Ibis LL
Limpkin LL
Glossy Ibis LL
Scarlet Ibis LL
White Ibis LL
Buff-necked Ibis LL
Green Ibis LL
Bare-faced Ibis LL PT
Sharp-tailed Ibis LL
Roseate Spoonbill LL

Orinoco Goose LL
Brazilian Duck LL
Blue-winged Teal AP
Speckled Teal AP
Black-bellied Whistling Duck LL
White-faced Whistling Duck LL

Osprey HP->LL
Black Vulture everywhere
King Vulture LL
Turkey Vulture most places, esp. Tachira
Yellow-headed Caracara LL
Crested Caracara LL PT
Laughing Falcon LL
Roadside Hawk LL
Crane Hawk LL
Snail Kite LL
Savanna Hawk LL
Black-collared Hawk LL
Harris' Hawk LL
White-tailed Hawk LL
Great Black Hawk
Ornate Hawk-Eagle HP
Black Hawk-Eagle
Bat Flacon GR->PT
Aplomado Falcon LL
American Kestrel
Burrowing Owl LL

Lesser Nighthawk LL
Pauraque LL

Grey-necked Wood-Rail LL
Wattled Jacana LL

Pied Lapwing LL
Southern Lapwing LL
Greater Yellowlegs LL
Lesser Yellowlegs LL
Solitary Sandpiper LL PT
Spotted Sandpiper LL
Least Sandpiper LL
Noble Snipe LL
Black-necked Stilt LL
Double-striped Thicknee LL

Large-billed Tern LL
Yellow-billed Tern LL
Black Skimmer LL

Pale-vented Pigeon HP
Scaled Pigeon LL
Ruddy Pigeon LL
Band-tailed Pigeon AP
Scaled Dove LL
Ruddy Ground-Dove LL PT
Eared Dove LL
White-tipped Dove HP LL

Scarlet Macaw LL
Red-billed Parrot HP
Brown-throated Parakeet LL
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet HP
Blood-eared Parakeet HP
Green-rumped Parrotlet LL SD PT
Orange-chinned Parakeet LL

Striped Cuckoo PT->
Squirrel Cuckoo HP PT
Groove-billed Ani LL
Smooth-billed Ani PT
Hoatzin LL
Green Jay HP

Chestnut-collared Swift GR->PT
Short-tailed Swift PT
White-tipped Swift HP

Orange-throated Sunangel GR
Tyrian Metaltail AP
Green-fronted Lancebill SD
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird PT
White-chinned Sapphire SD
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird LL
Violet-headed Hummingbird HP
White-vented Plumeleteer PT
Long-tailed Sylph HP
Sooty-capped Hermit SD
Gray-chinned Hermit SD

Crested Quetzal SD
Collared Trogon SD

Pale-headed Jacamar LL
Rufous-tailed Jacamar LL

Amazon Kingfisher LL
Green Kingfisher LL PT
Ringed Kingfisher LL

Groove-billed Toucanet HP
Emerald Toucanet SD

Golden-olive Woodpecker HP
Smoky-brown Woodpecker HP PT
Red-crowned Woodpecker HP LL SD PT
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker PT
Lineated Woodpecker LL
Scaled Piculet SD

Olivaceous Woodcreeper HP
Plain-brown Woodcreeper HP
Lepidocolaptes Woodcreeper HP
Black-banded Woodcreeper HP

Bar-winged Cinclodes AP
Ochre-browed Thistletail AP
Andean Tit-Spinetail AP
White-browed Spinetail AP
Plain-fronted Thornbird LL
Yellow-throated Spinetail LL
Pearled Treerunner GR
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner HP
Gray-throated Leafscraper HP

Barred Antshrike LL
Plumbeous Antshrike HP
Rufous-tailed Antthrush HP
Black-faced Antthrush HP

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock SD
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow SD
Red-crested Cotinga GR
Masked Tityra HP
Black-tailed Tityra HP
White-winged Becard PT

Cattle Tyrant LL PT
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant AP
Gray Kingbird LL
Tropical Kingbird LL GR->PT
Social Flycatcher PT
White-bearded Flycatcher LL
Streaked Flycatcher PT
Golden-crowned Flycatcher HP
Boat-billed Flycatcher PT
Great Kiskadee LL
Dusky-capped Flycatcher HP
Cinnamon Flycatcher HP
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant AP
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant SD
Vermilion Flycatcher LL
Elaenia spec. SD
Common Tody-Flycatcher LL
White-throated Tyrannulet AP
Venezuelan Bristle-Tyrant HP
Black Phoebe SD AP PT
Greater Pewee HP
White-headed Marsh-Tyrant LL
Pied Water-Tyrant LL
Fork-tailed Flycatcher LL

Southern Rough-winged Swallow PT
Brown-bellied Swallow AP
Blue-and-white Swallow HP SD
White-winged Swallow LL
Barn Swallow LL

Bicolored Wren LL
Stripe-backed Wren LL
Moustached Wren HP
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren HP
Mountain Wren SD
House Wren PT

White-capped Dipper SD AP
Tropical Mockingbird LL
Yellow-legged Thrush SD
Great Thrush AP GR
Black-hooded Thrush HP
Bare-eyed Thrush LL
Pale-breasted Thrush HP

Rufous-browed Peppershrike HP PT
Blackburnian Warbler HP
Tropical Parula PT
Citrine Warbler GR
Northern Waterthrush HP SD PT
White-fronted Redstart GR
Slate-throated Redstart HP SD
American Redstart SD PT
Bananaquit LL SD

Green Honeycreeper HP
Purple Honeycreeper HP
Blue-backed Conebill GR
Coal-black Flower-piercer GR
Bluish Flowerpiercer GR
Masked Flowerpiercer GR

Swallow-Tanager HP SD
Golden Tanager HP
Blue-necked Tanager SD PT
Burnished-buff Tanager PT
Bay-headed Tanager HP SD
Speckled Tanager HP
Thick-billed Euphonia SD PT
Violaceous Euphonia PT
Orange-bellied Euphonia HP
Hooded Tanager LL
Blue-gray Tanager everywhere
Palm Tanager HP SD PT
Summer (or Hepatic?) Tanager SD
Silver-beaked Tanager HP SD PT
White-lined Tanager HP PT
Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager GR
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager HP
Magpie Tanager HP

Russet-backed Oropendula HP SD
Crested Oropendula SD PT
Yellow-rumped Cacique LL
Carib Grackle LL
Shiny Cowbird LL PT
Oriole Blackbird LL
Troupial LL
Yellow Oriole LL
Yellow-backed Oriole HP
Red-breasted Blackbird LL

Eastern Meadowlark LL
Paramo Pipit AP

Red-capped Cardinal LL
Buff-throated Saltator HP SD
Rufous-collared Sparrow LL AP
Slaty Brush-Finch AP
Blue-black Grassquit LL
Yellow-bellied Seedeater HP SD PT
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater LL
Gray Seedeater PT
Yellow-browed Sparrow LL
Saffron Finch LL PT
Grassland Yellow-Finch LL
Andean Siskin AP

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