Venezuela: Casa Maria and Hato Pinero: A Relaxed and Easy Tour Feb 01—09, 2012

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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Our 2012 Venezuela: Casa María and Hato Piñero Relaxed & Easy tour started in an unusual but exciting way, with views of six species of Psittacidae and a blast of Rufous-vented Chachalacas singing loudly. Yet we were still in Caracas, and the tour was only beginning.

Buff-necked Ibis

Buff-necked Ibis— Photo: David Ascanio

After loading our van we took the highway west to Canoabo and on to Casa María, where we were welcomed by a feast of tanagers, woodcreepers, tyrant flycatchers, and an amazing Black-and-white Owl calling at night. While in Casa María we also visited Finca La Neblina (the mist farm) and the Palmichal reserve. Feeding flocks in La Neblina rewarded us with views of Guira, Bay-headed, Palm, Blue-gray, Golden, Speckled, Burnished-buff, Blue-necked, Gray-headed, White-lined, and Silver-beaked tanagers. Two wonderful endemics—Handsome Fruiteater (male) and Rufous-cheeked Tanager—allowed extended views in Palmichal. At night we observed planets and constellations while being served great meals with superb desserts, plus good wine or German beer. Later, Norbert presented his special 3-D slide show.

After a couple of mornings in Casa María, we left the coastal cordillera and drove south towards the vast plains of the Orinoco River. Our destination was the famed Hato Piñero. This ranch was founded more than 50 years ago by the Branger family, and concerns arose when it was sold to the government more than two years ago. Happily, I can report that the manager appointed by the government has not only preserved the natural habitats, but has supported conservation efforts to promote tourism and research within the boundaries. We hope these efforts will continue!

Hato Piñero provided an impressive mix of birds, mammals, and one of the best tracts of dry forest anywhere in the Neotropics. Here, we enjoyed 11 species of egrets and herons, 7 species of ibises, and 14 species of birds of prey. Our picnic dinner allowed views of a tapir and other nightlife including nightjars and nocturnal herons. Every morning we were delighted with the dawn chorus of Buff-necked Ibis and Scarlet Macaws flying around the compound. This ranch is certainly a photographer's paradise.

Our Venezuela: Casa María & Hato Piñero tour ranks among the best we offer. This tour makes it easy to understand why I love birding in my country so much. I hope to see you again in another Neotropical destination.