Venezuela: Casa Maria and Hato Pinero: A Relaxed and Easy Tour Feb 08—16, 2009
Posted by David Ascanio
In northern Venezuela lies a range of mountains running parallel to the coast. These mountains, known as the coastal cordillera, host one of the richest cloud forests in the world, with various life zones from sea level up to 6,000 feet. Our destination, to explore this rich ecosystem, was Casa Maria, a small lodge contiguous to one of the largest tracts of recovered cloud forest in Venezuela: The Palmichal Reserve. Two days were devoted to an area rich in tanagers, hummingbirds, flycatchers, and warblers. Every morning we started our day with views of woodcreepers, tanagers, and flycatchers coming to feed on moths over the small butterfly house, while potoos and nighthawks called every night. To explore the forest surrounding Casa Maria, we arranged two outings a day, not longer than 2 to 3 hours, and still saw an amazing number of bird species.
Hato Piñero is a ranch located in a region unique to the continent and occupying a third of Venezuela's territory, dominated by flatlands with watercourses draining into the large Orinoco River. Grasslands dominate the landscape while patches of tropical dry forest and gallery forest break the homogeneity of the region. Large concentrations of birds can be seen, and a viable population of wild cats remains. We spent several days here, and visited the roads leading to every corner of the ranch. Again, we arranged relaxed outings, not longer than 3 hours, and still saw most of what you expect to see on a regular birding tour.
Among the highlights of our tour, many agreed that Aplomado Falcon, Horned Screamer, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, and Agami Heron were among the favorites. Also, a giant river otter in Caño San Gerónimo (Hato Piñero) was the first record for the ranch.
This was our second Relaxed & Easy trip to Venezuela. In contrast to other regular tours, we spent less time in the field, but our outings were planned for the most bird-productive sites of each location. If you look at our birdlist, you'll see that we still tallied an impressive list of species!
I want to thank Gertrudis Gamarra for sharing his knowledge of the avifauna of Piñero, and Norbert Flauger for taking us into the wild areas surrounding Casa Maria. I hope to see you again on another Relaxed & Easy adventure somewhere in the American Tropics.
For an updated taxonomy of the birds of the Neotropical region, please visit the South American Classification Committee (SACC) http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCBaseline.html. Also, to see several of the videos taken on this tour, please visit the Internet Bird Collection at http://ibc.lynxeds.com/users/david-ascanio.