Venezuela (Bolivar state), 27 Feb. to 10 March 1995  

John van der Woude  -  www.jvanderw.nl

Birding trip report in two parts, see also part 2.


Introduction

Like in 1994, we had a marvellous birding trip to Venezuela. This year we went to Bolivar state only, which is SE of the Orinoco. Avifaunistically, this area has as well elements from the northern part of Venezuela (N of the Orinoco), as from the broad Amazonian/Guyanan region Distinctive bird groups, which we saw at many places, comprise parrots & macaws, jacamars, manakins, toucans, trogons, piha's, bellbirds, etc, so we are in the real Neotropics.

See sketchy map with places mentioned. Go back to the index page for other reports.  
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We stayed at three places: 1. at the base of the Escalera, the road going up to the Gran Sabana, passing several tropical forest zones, 2. El Palmar, for a visit to the Imataca Forest Reserve (Rio Grande), and 3. Las Trincheras in the lower Rio Caura valley. At 1 and 3 we stayed in lodges, at 2 in a hotel. This was all arranged through the Audubon Society of Venezuela (fax 58 2 910716). We had a car from Budget, but this car was not without problems, probably also due to the fact that we arrived at Carnival time, so we had the last car available. We later changed it to a much better car, in Ciudad Bolivar, also from Budget.

In general, the visited sites were forests, or rather forest borders: along roads and tracks, rivers, clearings, etc. At a few places we also walked trails into the forest. In between we also had interesting savannas. Photo right is of slash-and-burn plot in Imataca forest reserve.

The two lodges were really nice. Henry Cleve of 'La Barquilla de Fresa' at km 85 at the base of the Escalera, was very hospitable and he knows a lot of the surroundings (he is a birder himself too). We spoke mostly German with him. Breakfast is possible at 5.30 or even 5 a.m. already. As they always serve something hot at breakfast (like pancakes or arepas), you are being awakened by the smell from the kitchen. The take-away lunches are a delight, as are the dinners at 7.30. Other dinner times were possible too. The lodge is a sort of 'long house' with open-roof rooms with 4 bunk beds each, although I don't think he would have put other people in our room. Henry's garden is a nice place to bird now and then. Henry has a shelf with several books on natural history, e.g. books on mammals, butterflies, etc. Henry always closes his gate, so the car is safely parked.

 

The other lodge, at the lower Rio Caura, has a fantastic view across the river, and the food there was very good. Warden (not owner) Juan and his wife were not yet used so much to birders; for example, a take-away lunch was something strange in their eyes, a real lunch is much better of course. (A few years later we heard that Juan still was not really used to birders, alas.) We slept in a private cottage, with a view on the river (photo). There is an open house with several hammocks too, probably that's cheaper. The lodge is situated at the end of a tiny end-of-the-road village (Las Trincheras), so there is no gate, and car theft is something unheard of. Nevertheless, I put the car every night right in front of the warden's apartment.

Strikingly, when hiring a car, it is not possible (at least not in our case), to be insured against theft. Apart from some chigger bites we had no health problems. We trusted the food in the lodges so much that we even ate salads. Probably we even always had (filtered) tap water in the local juices of the lodges. Outside those we had our bottles of mineral water, or soft drinks. The night rest was reasonably good in these tropical lowlands, certainly compared to what we heard about the ordinary hotels in the area.

The weather was fine for birdwatching: sunny and nearly always dry. This is the dry period (el verano, the summer) for N. Venezuela, and to a lesser degree for S. Venezuela as well. This year, according to Henry Cleve the dry period had been very dry and long for Bolivar state. This may have negatively affected the presence of several bird groups, or the ease to find them. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the trip we had some rain in the night, and this may have induced several birds to become more active.

The dryness also meant that we had easy access to all sorts of places, by car as well as on foot. My sporting shoes were fit for every site. Care had to be taken for other animals than birds: snakes (we only saw some on the road, mainly thin tree snakes, but also a very fast fatter one), scorpions (once we nearly stepped on one of about 12 cm), and the few chiggers mentioned before.

We used a tiny tape-recorder together with several american bird sound tapes in order to check occasionally bird calls that we heard in the forests. Some study at home of Ridgely & Tudors handbooks proved valuable, as was the report by Hornbuckle (DBTRS nr V36), and of course the booklets by Mary Lou Goodwin.

In the itinerary, bird names are given in three styles:  
1. Harpy Eagle* means: lifer  
2. Long-tailed Tyrant means: tick for the trip  
3. Blue-gray Tanager means: seen earlier during this trip.  

Observations are normally described in chronological sequence.


Day-to-day account

Monday 27 February 1995

We had good flight connections from Curacao via Maiquetia (Caracas) to Puerto Ordaz. In Maiquetia, we had to wait a few hours, and after the vouchers for the lodges etc. had been given to us by Sr. Antonio the taxi driver of Hotel Tojamar in Macuto (arranged through the Audubon), we made a short tour of 1.5 hours with him through the surrounding area. Only at a few localities there is something left of the original landscape, most of it is rapidly filled up with appartment houses. At a brook we noted (not included in the trip list) Gray en Tropical Kingbird, Lesser Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Scaled Dove, Carib Grackle, Shiny Cowbird.

We were happy that the reserved car was there, at our late arrival at Puerto Ordaz airport (20 h), and we went straight on to hotel Rasil. The parking lot there has a guard.

 

Tuesday 28 February 1995

We woke up at 6.15, to see that the day starts really earlier here than on the more westward situated Curacao. On the way to the Parque Cachamay, clearly shown on the map in the Lonely Planet Guide, we noted that the car's odometer and km-counter don't work, after we had seen already that the safety belts had no proper lock. We went on to the park first, and would go to Budget afterwards. The main entrance of the park is where the autopista runs closest to the river. The view on the shallow but broad rapids is magnificent (photo). At this point we observed Lesser Seedfinch*, Large-billed Tern, Ringed Kingfisher, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Neotropic Cormorant, Streaked Flycatcher, Greater Kiskadee, Squirrel Cuckoo, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Blue-gray Tanager, Dusky Parrot*, Black-collared Swallow*, Yellow Warbler.

At Budget we made the deal that we would have all km free with this car. They had no other car available yet. For the safety belt lock we found a hand-made solution with two pieces of wood. So, at about 11 h, we set off for the Escalera, some 350 km to the South. The first 250 km or so pass a landscape of savanna and light forests, with many small fires. We didn=t stop there, but noted Swallow-tailed Kite, Southern Lapwing, Crested Caracara, Turkey Vulture. In one of the villages we had to stop a while to let pass a Carnival group of mainly children, most of them had their faces painted black with some greasy stuff.

A bit before El Dorado the scenery changes to tropical rainforest, mostly secondary, with many clearings, old and new. There, at km 240 we stopped to hear our first Screaming Piha*, Little Tinamou, and White-necked Thrush*. The first Swallowwing* are a nice encounter, on their exposed positions. Further we there identified Lesser Seedfinch, Plumbeous Kite, White-winged Swallow, Variegated Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird. We arrived at about 15.30 or 16 h at Henry Cleve=s lodge La Barquilla de Fresa, at Km 84 (the counting starts anew at El Dorado). The late afternoon hour we spent in his garden, together with a bird tour group of Swedes. There we identified Band-rumped Swift*, Orange-winged Parrot*, Long-billed Starthroat* and Crimson Topaz* (two of the easier hummingbirds), Swallowwing again, and we were looking a long time to a pair of Channel-billed Toucan*, one of them trying to handle a frog (he finally ate it). The Swedish tour guide showed us the main difference between Social Flycatcher and Rusty-margined Flycatcher* (Rusty-margined's cap is real black; the sound is very characteristic too, a long, descending whistle). Other birds seen were Streaked Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Palm Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia*, and the first of the many Crested Oropendula here.

 

Wednesday 1 March 1995

As recommended by mrs. Goodwin of the Audubon, we went birding the dust road going West at Km 87, at the entrance of the village called 'Km 88'. This road leads through some good lowland forest patches, with fine views on small openings beside the road (photo). After c. 5 km the road bifurcates, with a guardpost on the right. At that spot there should be a Capuchinbird lek. But we didn=t make haste to get there, because along the road we saw several of the lowland species for the first time. From c. 6.30 h we observed Lineated Woodpecker, Silverbeaked Tanager, heard trogons, Little Tinamou, and Screaming Piha, saw several yet unidentified parrots flying over from their roosts probably, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-necked Aracari*, Mealy Parrot, Paradise Jacamar*, Orange-winged Parrot, Green Aracari. Further species were Cayenne Jay, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Red-billed Toucan*, Black-eared Fairy* on a branch, Slate-coloured Grosbeak*, Blue-headed Parrot* (feeding), the first of the beautiful Painted Parakeet*, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Red-rumped Cacique*, Masked Yellowthroat*, Violaceous Trogon* (female), Olivaceous Woodcreeper, saw a few Howler Monkeys, and flying overhead with clear sickels at the end of the wings a Crane Hawk.

At the bifuraction after 5 km, we didn't know where to look for the Capuchinbird, but heard somewhat to the South a strange sound, as if from a chain saw. But it was too short for that, trees nor branches can't be cut here in such a short time.

Then, at 10.50 h we started our first visit to the Escalera proper. At a dry pond at km 91 we saw Purple Honeycreeper, and Swallow Tanager. At the huge rock called Piedra de la Virgin (km 98) a Cliff Flycatcher* pair was nesting, but little stones were thrown at them by a nasty boy, the son of the couple who tried to sell something to visitors of the little shrine at the base of the rock. Apart from some lone cars the Escalera further was very quiet during our stay (but afterwards I heard that can be quite different during holiday times).

For this first day we had said to Henry (the warden of the lodge) that we would have lunch in the lodge instead of take-away. So we just went up the Escalera a bit to see how it looks like. To our surprise, the first White Bellbird* that we heard, we also saw, close by, on the top of a slender dead tree at km 111. His wattle nearly disappeared in his wide open mouth when calling. Its metallic 'doingg!' is echoed by several other individuals.

Above the road a Greater Pewee was looking for insects, and we further heard a Rufous-browed Peppershrike. On the way back we observed at the roadside a juvenal Double-toothed Kite chasing after an orange leave that came down. Lower, at a more open spot, we saw our first White Hawk*, impressive against the all green background. We passed some Blue-and-white Swallows, old friends of us.

After the lunch and a short nap we walked a bit in Henry's forest. At the backside we saw several small greenish grayish birds high up in the trees, but couldn't make anything of it. A long slow chase after a bird at the bottom produced a Spot-winged Antbird*. Back in Henry's garden there was the Black Nunbird* (again), which is apparently nesting here.

As we learned from Henry that the strange sound of the sawing machine is in fact from the Capuchinbird, we decided to go to the km 87-road again. And there we heard them again, some 100 m S of the bifurcation mentioned before. We managed to see one Capuchinbird* via a very small footpath starting 30 m after the bifurcation. This is a real lek, because the one we saw and heard right above our head, in the top of the tree, was surrounded by some 4 or 5 colleagues. Nearby you can hear that the chainsaw sound is preceded by a soft 'chchch' sound. The bird bends its bare head down while singing, so that it looks rather flat. That must also be the reason why the guard at the post on the righthand road after the bifurcation thought that they were so small. He often sees them in the tree above his post.

In the small clearings along the dust road we further saw Red-billed Toucan, Cayenne Jay, and a group of displaying Red-rumped Caciques. Back at the main road we ticked the Blue-black Grassquit.


Thursday 2 March 1995

We were able to have breakfast at 5.30 h already (yes, this is a real birders' lodge), and went up the Escalera with take-away lunches. At km 98 (the Rock) we saw the Cliff Flycatchers again (this time without the nasty boy), as well as two macaws that should be Red&Green, but that we were to see later on much better. At Km 111 we made a long stop, in order to look for Cock-of-the-Rocks. We observed Two-banded Warbler*, Gray-crowned Flycatcher* (10 cm, grey cap, 2 wing bars, eye ring, yellowish below). Fork-tailed Woodnymph*, Slate-throated Redstart. Again we saw the nice Black-eared Fairy hummer, but now cocking its tail while hovering. Meanwhile we observed one or two >oranges thrown across the road=: Guyanan Cock-of-the-Rock*. Of course this sighting is not nearly as impressive as that of the Andean COTR=s last year. Further species at this site were Rufous-bellied Euphonia*, Yellow-bellied Tanager*, Squirrel Cuckoo. Going up we saw a perching Roadside Hawk.

The next stop was km 117, another of the 'famous' points, although, when you add all the famous points from the different authors together, you'll probably get the whole Escalera. Here we heard White Bellbird and a typical clicking manakin sound. We went after them a bit into the forest and saw two displaying Scarlet-horned Manakins*. We further identified a Masked Trogon* and a male Fork-tailed Woodnymph*.

At km 118, at the clearing with the radiomasts or whatever, we had a fine view of c. 8 feeding Fiery-shouldered Parakeet* with their deep orange and blue colours. Going after a small brownish songbird in the open bushes, we flushed a Solitary Sandpiper at a sort of pool.

The first of the many Bearded Bellbird* did we hear at km 120, as well as the equally unmistakable song of the Flutist Wren*. There was also a group of Golden-tufted Grackle* flying around. At km 122 we noted Black-headed Tanager* and Roadside Hawk. Slightly beyond is a short gravel road to the left, where our guests led us to show a male Peacock Coquette* (not displaying his plumes however). Further species in this interesting half-open patch of forest were a Veniliornis woodpecker, Brown Violetear*, Black Hawk-eagle passing by, and we heard (and checked on the tape) the Variegated Tinamou*.

 

By now, the forest has become lower and thinner, although very varied (photo right). At km 131.2 our guests knew a fruiting tree, on the righthand side just before a bend with a small pool (the road acts as a dam at several places, but apart from giving a look into the forest, the pools are not especially worthwile). In this tree there was a coming and going of many birds: Bearded Bellbird (so we have seen now already both bellbirds; both are heard all around here, Bearded more than White over here), a flock of 12 stunning Paradise Tanager*, Blue-naped Chlorophonia*, a pair of Green Honeycreeper, Tropical Parula, Bay-headed Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, and to our surprise even some White-fronted Manakin*.  

In the early afternoon we went on to the Gran Sabana (photo left), the open savanna at 1300 m above sealevel, and planned to return to the Escalera forests later in the afternoon. Before and around the Soldiers Monument at km 140 we saw Black-faced Tanager*, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Tropical Kingbird, Rufous-browed Sparrow, Tropical Mockingbird, Crested Caracara, and finally the one we sought especially, Hooded Siskin* (2 males and 1 female). Their behaviour is quite like the siskins in Europe. At the river at km 141 we observed Red-shouldered Tanager*, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, American Redstart, Sierran Elaenia* (white in crown seen), Burnished-buff Tanager, Speckled Tanager. So at these first kms of the Gran Sabana you see birds of open forest and Llanos-type open savanna.

Back at km 131.2 on the Escalera we saw the same species at the fruiting tree as this morning, but also male Scarlet-horned Manakin, and a small vireo-like warbler with grey-blue head, brownish back and pale yellow below: Tepui Greenlet*. Back at km 111 I briefly saw the wren that we had heard already a few times and now it could also visually be identified as Coraya Wren* indeed.

At dusk we stopped at the pool of c. km 92, but only saw two Mealy Parrot in a tree (mostly you only see them flying overhead), and White-winged Swallow.


Friday 3 March 1995

Today we planned to do the upper part of the Escalera, and go in the afternoon to km 200 on the Gran Sabana, indicated by Henry Cleve as a good time and place to see something of the tepuis, the table-topped mountains rising another 1300 m above the Gran Sabana. During the early morning ride up the lower Escalera we noted some mammals (identified at night at Henry's library): Red-rumped Agouti (a genuinely orange-red rear part), a Tayra (a black weasel/martyr with a light coloured head), and a fresh dead Anderson's Gray Four-eyed Opossum on the road.

After two macaws flying over at km 117, and a White-necked Thrush at the roadside at km 119, we birded some time at km 120: Golden-tufted Grackle, Flutist Wren (always only heard), Black-hooded Thrush, Black-headed Tanager, both bellbirds of course, Brown Violetear, and also two birds that we could not identify other than White-faced Redstart* (/Whitestart) although this is be a rare bird here (should be on higher tepuis only). They were even in courtship display. A Furnariid of c. 12 cm, with red-brown fluffy tail, light belly and breast and dark above, hopping swiftly on the branches did we identify, also based on the altitude, as Pale-breasted Spinetail*.

We did the short gravelly side road at c. km 127 again, and were rewarded with a fine view on a Rose-collared Piha* resting a while in the trees before hurrying on again. There too were two groups of Fiery-shouldered Parakeet, and a Speckled Tanager.

The next stop was exactly at km 130. This forest looks a bit dull, but a flock of 20 Paradise Tanager pleased us much. Accompanying species were Violaceous Euphonia, Blackburnian Warbler and a Red-eyed Vireo-like bird with wingbars. By sight and sound we identified a Lineated Woodcreeper* there too. Other tanagers around were Speckled and the endemic Olive-backed Tanager* (with sharp transition from throat to breast indeed, as depicted in Ridgely & Tudor.

Again we went to the fruiting tree at km 131.2. We noted Black-hooded Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Paradise Tanager, Bananaquit, Speckled Tanager, Olive-backed Tanager, Scarlet-horned Manakin (the lek now), Coraya Wren, Slate-throated Redstart, Two-banded Warbler, Orange-bellied Euphonia, and heard Variegated Tinamou, and both bellbirds. Around km 133/134 we looked for the endemics described for this part of the Escalera, but found only (at the end of the morning) 4 macaws, most probably Red&Green (always too high in the air they are), and spended a long time on a bird sound in the ditch of the road, a sneezing 'pe-tsjew' (stress on second syllable), but the bird didn't show up.

At the rather sharp transition to the Gran Sabana, at c. km 136, we again chased a long time in the low bushes after a bird singing clear staccato whistled tunes, accelerating and decreasing in pitch. The song was responded by two others further from the road. Probably this is Black-throated Antbird. Easier species around were Swallowwing and Southern Rough-winged Swallow. We saw two Red&Green Macaw* finally clearly from above.

 

At km 142.5 we had two Tawny-headed Swallow* circling around. As we had not been able to fill the car=s tank this morning at Km 88 (gas station opens only at 7), we were glad to be able to do that here, at the military post. A while further on was even a second gas station. At km 182 flew a Maguari Stork, strange idea - so far from the Llanos, but indeed, this is savanna too. Finally, at km 193, we were rewarded with a splendid view (photo right), across a river, on a group of three tepuis, from left to right: Traamen- (means striped or stained), Karaurin- (means fishing basket) and Iru-tepui (= big tree).

 

Back at the Escalera part, at km 133/134, we heard a very thin and very high 'dog-whistle' tune, drawn out and even increasing in pitch. The bird itself was difficult to spot clearly, a greyish bird of about 15 cm: Red-banded Fruiteater*. While watching this, we nearly stepped on a scorpion of 12 cm in the gutter of the road. We identified a hummer as White-tailed Goldenthroat*: rather small, bright green (also the rump), white tail end, hermit-like face and bill. Other species around were Black-and-white Warbler, Speckled Tanager, White-collared Swift, 4 Swallow-tailed Kite, Flutist Wren and the sneezing bird again.

Back at 131.2 eight Red-throated Caracara* came by, screaming, and agitatedly landing together in a tree nearby. At km 113, at 17.50 h (nearly dusk) we heard a nightbird: a sort of staccato rolling, increasing and subsequently decreasing in volume as well as pitch, 3 seconds in total. This clearly is from the Otus guatemalae complex - Vermiculated Screech-Owl


Saturday 4 March 1995

Today we would do some more lowland forest birding. First we shortly checked the dust road going West at km 80. In this 20 minutes or so we didn=t see more than Black-necked Aracari, Channel-billed Toucan, Dusky Antbird*, Orange-winged Parrot. Then we drove on to the km 67-trail (leading to Guyana). Halfway I braked for two Bat Falcon perching on either side of the road. At this moment it became clear that we would have to change to a better car when passing along P. Ordaz in a few days - the brakes were loosening pressure.

After asking a family in the tiny village 150 m N of the km 67-trail to keep an eye on the parked car, we set off on this (old secondary?) forest trail at c. 7.30 h. Many species were seen at the first small clearing N of the track: Magpie Tanager, Streaked Flyatcher, Cayenne Jay, Green Honeycreeper, Bare-eyed Thrush (heard and checked on a tape. Further species passing by were Gray Hawk, Turquoise Tanager*, Black-spotted Barbet* (a pair), Buff-throated Woodcreeper (heard), Guianan Toucanet*, Paradise Jacamar, macaws, Red-throated Caracara, Crested Oropendula, Red-billed Toucan. In the forest beyond we met a hasty flock counting at least the fine Rufous-bellied Antwren*, Plain Xenops* and Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper* (song checked). At several places we heared Pale-vented Pigeon (sound checked). All the time we tried to hear the Musician Wren, but none was singing. The large clearing beyond produced the usual Plumbeous Kite, and King Vulture, Black Nunbird, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker.

Around noon we parked the car at the grocery shop just S of where a tiny footpath besides a brook leads to the 'km 74'-trail (which should join the 67-trail somewhere). First we ate our lunches at the steps of the grocery, and had some refrescos. The owner of the shop speaks a nice English, probably from Guyana. After a short rest at a small shady pool some 300 m from the road, we set off on the trail proper for a mile or so. The promised Golden-headed Manakin* was there indeed. Again we met a too hasty mixed species flock, and couldn't make more of it than a foliage-gleaner, a large woodcreeper, Bananaquit, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, and a flycatcher (probably Ochre-bellied). At a small brook we saw White-crowned Manakin*. This walk was concluded by a group of 10 Crested Oropendula and finally a hermit, too fast for me (Reddish, we would see this species better the next day).

We headed back for the Escalera once more, and were surprised by a Sunbittern* flying low across the road from a pool E of the road at c. km 82 or 83, not far from Henry's. Henry said us that evening that we had been really lucky, he had seen this bird only twice here. Further inspection of the pool (viewed from the road) produced a White-tailed Trogon*, heard so often already, but seen for the first time now.

 

As indicated by Henry, we parked the car at km 102, where locals come with small trucks to fetch water from a pipe W of the road. Just 15 m S of that pipe a small footpath leads after 100 m to a strange spot of bare rock with enormous bromeliads, and a fantastic view over the vast forest West (photo), especially now with a low sun. Red-legged Honeycreeper (a group of 8), and Spotted Tanager* hung around. In the water of the bromeliads small frogs should occur. We didn't see them there, but I found one on the way back to the car, crossing the trail, a dramatically black-and-yellow spotted little frog (Hydrobates leucomelos, according to Henry). The car began to have ignition problems too, now!

At sunset we yet stopped at the pool at km 92: Black-spotted Barbet, Purple Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis.


Sunday 5 March 1995

After saying goodbye to Henry Cleve, we set off North for El Palmar, but planned to do yet the km 27.8 track mentioned in Hornbuckle's report, as well as some marsh birding along the road from Villa Lola to El Palmar. But the first marsh birds were there already at the pool of km 82: Muscovy Duck, Wattled Jacana, Ringed Kingfisher.

A short visit to the W-bound km 80 track produced a pair of Yellow-headed Parrot*. There were playing and preening each other at a high branch, and performed an acrobatic show for us. After they left, a pair of Red&Green Macaws came to do the same on exactly the same spot. Further species were a.o. Cayenne Jay, and once more we heard the Variegated Tinamou (checked on the tape again).

At km 45.5 we stopped to take a picture of a black slash-and-burn plot W of the road (see photo at beginning of report). Nearby, in the forest on the E side of the road, we heard a Capuchinbird. Driving down the main road, we saw several toucans and aracari's crossing. Then we turned down the track E at the Pepsi stall at c. km 27.8 (still always the km-counting S of El Dorado). At the start we paid some attention to two little doves: Plain-breasted Ground-Dove*.

We drove on this track for about 2 km through clearings and forest patches, well into a larger forest, and worked back from there until the last clearing at c. 1.5 km from the main road. The forest is tall, and the openings (cutting of single trees) along the track are just large enough to give some good views. We heard Screaming Piha (several), Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, a cat-like miaul, and a nice clear, whistling bird song, somewhat complaining, consisting of two notes, the first 0.5 sec, the second 1.5 sec and lowering in pitch. We saw Black-tailed Tityra, Lineated Woodpecker, Violaceous Euphonia, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Black-eared Fairy, and a real Reddish Hermit*. We thought that we at last got to see a Screaming Piha, but from its flycatcher behaviour it is clear that it is a Grayish Mourner*. Further species in the forest were Black-and-White Warbler, Paradise Jacamar, and Black Nunbird.

 

Then we entered the 'last clearing' at c. 1.5 km from the main road, and located to the N side of the track. It was 9.45 h when, from a shady spot on the track looking at the first Long-tailed Tyrant of the trip, I saw from the corner of my eye something big landing in one of the lone dead bare trees in the clearing (photo), and heard many shrieking bird sounds. Shakingly, but for about 3 minutes, we were watching now the unbelievable at only 60 meters from us, with the sun in its face: an adult Harpy Eagle*! All the details were fitting: big (about 1 m), dark upperside, light head with dark eyes (looking frighteningly straight at us), black band at breast, white below, very thick legs, fine but clear barring at transition from legs to belly. When the bird started scratching its throat, bending its head down anyway, we clearly saw the divided crest. The bird was not as massive as a female should be, so we think it's a male. Before it sailed away, at right angle from us and towards the sun (so giving another fine view of the bird - heavy banded underwings, and again clear black breast band contrasting with belly and head), we had taken some pictures with the 135 mm lens (back home this appears to be just enough). The Harpy disappeared in the forest, probably not very far (it sailed already upwards again), but we didn't see it again.

Of course, we were extremely happy with this absolute highlight of the trip, and decided that we would not spend half a day with a guide from El Palmar to go for the radiotagged juvenal Harpy in the Rio Grande forest. The Swedish tour leader had told us how relatively disappointing this juvenal in fact is, because it has not yet a black breast band, so can hardly be distinguished from a Crested. The famous nest has fallen down, so the adults (not breeding this year) are not readily found there anymore.

Other birds at the Harpy clearing were Red&Green Macaw (4, well seen from above), Paradise Jacamar (2), 1 adult King Vulture, Swallowwing.

Driving the main road further down towards Villa Lola we still noted White-shouldered Tanager*, several Swallow-tailed Kite, a group of 15 Painted Parakeet, a dead Band-rumped Swift (picture taken). Afterwards, in the more arid region we saw Yellow-rumped Cacique, Smooth-billed Ani, Scarlet Macaw, Black Vulture, White-winged Swallow, Crested Caracara, Great Egret. In this savanna area, at c. km 111 (counting from Ciudad Guyana here), we had a pleasant lunch stop at Bodega Los Aceiticos (the last bodega of about 4). In the shade of a fruiting tree we drank two Manzanitas each and ate our lunch from Henry, meanwhile observing there in the tree Buff-throated Saltator, Great Kiskadee, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Brown-throated Parakeet, Red-crowned Woodpecker.

At 14.30 h we left the main road at the 'Villa Lola' crossing and took the yet quieter road to El Palmar. After 3 km and some Yellow Oriole, the road went down to a large pond on the S side of the road: Anhinga, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Wattled Jacana, Vermillion Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant, White-necked Heron, American Kestrel, Solitary Sandpiper, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant (a pair), Social Flycatcher, White-winged Swallow, Green-backed Heron, Blue-black Grassquit, Yellow-hooded Blackbird*, Neotropic Cormorant, Grassland Sparrow* (indeed a sparrow in the grass marsh), Southern Lapwing. So we feel as if back in the Llanos. A short while further is another pond with some extra species: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Red-breasted Blackbird, White-tailed Hawk (2 in courtship display), Green Ibis. After stopping the engine of the car, we had some ignition problems again.

Before reaching El Palmar we yet saw Savanna Hawk (juv.) and the omnipresent Crested Caracara. To reach the Parador Taguapire we had to go to the central plaza and ask for the direction there. The Parador is situated near an enormous tree on the top of a low hill at the W end of the village, and the street has been named after that tree: Colina de la Ceiba. We were welcomed by the owner, mr Stofikm, and had some beer (very cold) right away. After refreshing ourselves a bit in our very hot outer room, we made a short sunset walk west: Yellow Oriole, Blue-gray Tanager, Tropical Mockingbird, Eared Dove, Barn Swallow, Common Gallinule, and several pairs of large parrots flying around to their roosts probably. A real large roost we saw of parakeets, probably Brown-throated, but too far away.


Continue with part 2