Venezuela: Hato Pinero Feb 16—23, 2008

Posted by David Ascanio

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David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent 33 years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, the Amaz...

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Unique to the continent, a third of Venezuela's territory is represented by a continuous set of flatlands, running from the mouth of the Orinoco River west, until it meets the Andes. Here, grasslands are dominant, although patches of tropical dry forest and gallery forest break up the homogeneous landscape. This region hosts large concentrations of birds, a viable population of wild cats, and capybaras (the largest rodent in the world) run freely. Welcome to the Llanos!

Geographically, the Llanos are divided into two regions: the east and the west. While the first is drained by the rich soils of the Andes (western Llanos), the second (eastern Llanos) is drained by the poor sandy soils of the Guianan shield. Hato Piñero is located in the upper western Llanos of Venezuela, in an area comprised of many habitats. In the north, a visitor can see the rounded hills (locally named Galeras), while the central area of the ranch is dominated by dry forest. The south is a floodable plain, locally called savannas. Across the river and its tributaries, the Gallery Forest is also an important area of distribution of many bird species, and the Palmales in the south are the only location to find low Llanos bird species.

This year's tour was our inaugural Hato Piñero Relaxed and Easy tour. In contrast to previous tours, we spent less time in the field, and arranged our field trips to visit the most bird-productive sites of the ranch. And we still tallied an impressive list of birds!

I want to thank Gertrudis and Simon for sharing their knowledge and company in the field. The lodge staff was tremendously kind, satisfying our requests and specially arranging fresh fruits for the outings every day. I hope to see you again on another Neotropical birding experience!