Venezuela: Casa Maria and Hato Pinero: A Relaxed & Easy Tour Jan 31—Feb 08, 2014

Posted by David Ascanio


David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent over 35 years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, the...

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A colorful welcome by a parade of tanagers, euphonias, and trogons was a wonderful way to begin this unique tour in the Neotropics where a myriad of tanagers, flycatchers, and waterbirds can be seen while looking for birds in a relaxed and easy style.

Bay-headed Tanager, Casa Maria

Bay-headed Tanager, Casa Maria— Photo: David Ascanio

We began in a cloud forest in Casa Maria where we enjoyed Bay-headed, Speckled, Blue-gray, Golden, Black-headed, White-lined, Silver-beaked, and Blue-necked tanagers at the feeding station. At the lodge, Rufous-and-white Wren, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, and Cocoa Woodcreeper serenaded us every morning. The mosaic of colors was complemented by daily visits to the bird feeders from Collared Trogon, Buff-throated Saltator, and Thick-billed Euphonia.

Casa Maria is so rich in birdlife that it is always difficult to decide where to begin birding. We decided to start our days at the light bulb to enjoy the feast of passerine birds coming to feed on moths, such as Rusty-margined and Social flycatchers, Plain-brown and Black-banded woodcreepers, Grayish and Streaked saltators, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, and Guira, Burnished-buff, and Palm tanagers. A regular pair of Barred Antshrikes guarded their territory near the light bulb.

To complement this explosion of birds we also visited the edge of a cloud forest where the endemic Rufous-lored Tyrannulet was observed, along with the near-endemic Venezuelan Tyrannulet. Our afternoon outings included visits to the various areas of Casa Maria (including Norbert’s lab) and an unforgettable 3D slide show.

Jabiru, Hato Pinero

Jabiru, Hato Pinero— Photo: David Ascanio

After two days, although it was difficult to leave, we had to move to another great location: the plains (llanos). In Hato Piñero we spent the next three days exploring the ranch at length. Provided with a safari truck, we visited patches of tropical dry forest, scrubby vegetation, secondary growth, wetlands, and grasslands. The mix of birds we encountered here was extraordinary—from enormous Jabiru and colorful Scarlet Ibis to wood-rails, Sunbitterns, primitive Hoatzins, and dozens of Yellow-knobbed Curassows.

Rounding up a fantastic tour, we also observed a good number of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, including Spectacled Caimans, Llanos Side-necked Turtles, Capybaras, iguanas, and a 20+ minute encounter with an Ocelot.

I hope you enjoyed this tour. I am sure you will agree that Hato Piñero is among the best birding locations in the Neotropics!