Whos keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Venezuela - Part 4 Yacambu Park

A two day excursion to Yacambu park was eagerly anticipated, Hey we even hired a guide for both days, this would be good birding.... wouldnt it?

It started off with a quick stop to pick up our guide just outside Sanare. His garden birding was pretty special, we soon picked up an endemic in the guise of a

Green -tailed Emerald

The short drive to the edge of the national park brought with it forest cloud. However not to be disheartened we left the transport and set off on foot where we quickly got onto a pair of Crested Quetzel, we were rewarded with descent views however the forest mist made photography very hit and miss..... it certainly tested my skills and unfortunatly the weather won most of the time.

Further up the road and we had this Emerald Toucanet

and a little later we also had the Yellow-billed Toucanet
Pretty good start!

Then we had the signs of what was to follow for the next day and a half. Our guide stopped us suddenly as we listened to the loud calls of another endemic bird. This time it was the call of the Scytalopus meridanus (Rhinocryptidae) Merida Tapaculo. Yes the bird moved but it was never more than a few feet away.... listen, there a movement, even from a few feet, with binoculars and a rustling of dense foilage it took a mere 45 minutes to locate the noisy bugger.... dont even ask where the picture is!!! this was typical skulking bird birding.

Some more good birds were bagged even before we reached our base, species such as Common Bush-tanager and Dusky-capped Flycather amongst a host of others. At base we off-load the bags in the room just before the light rains come but it didnt stop us getting another endemic bird outside the restraurant, this time a
Violet-Chested Hummingbird

and within a few minutes this wonderful
Orange-crowned Oriole

We tried for some Owls and desperatly wanted the Mottled Owl but no luck even though our guide heard it at 2am....he thought about waking us but decided aginst it due to the un-earthly hour....
 a very unlikley story eh!

We woke for breakfast with thick forest mist as far as the eye could see which unfortunatly wasnt very far.... visability was down to 50 feet or so. nonetheless some very fine birds were seen even if they didnt make it onto the cameras CF card. Golden Winged Manakin, Green Jay, Fulvous headed Tanager, Slaty Antwren, the stunning Red billed sythbill (oh how I wish I got a photo.....), Plain Antvireo and Booted Rackettail to name some.

The weather didnt have all its own way though......
This fella let us know where he was with a series of loud calls, look at those eyes!
White Rumped Hawk

and another endemic even if they were a little distant
Blood-eared Parrot

It was hard work, the weather was against us (even descending the mountain to the lower lying lake we found it shrouded in mist) and many species were heard and not seen however what we did see was this stunning male
Masked Trogan

some other species seen were Golden-rumped Euphonia, Brown-capped Vireo, Grey-breasted Woodwren, Golden faced Tyrannulet and this Long tailed Sylth

Broad Winged Hawk

Blackburnian Warbler

Brown-capped Vireo

of couse we had to drop off our guide Gustavo so managed another hours birding around his feeders
Highland hepatic Tanager

and managed to get some of the more common species, and a welcome return to some better weather for images
Lesser Goldfinch - female

Lesser Goldfinch - male

Beryl-spangled Tanager

Tropical Mockingbird

the wonderful Burnished-buff Tanager

I wonder if we had some Bananas in the forest we could have tempted some more out.

It was hard work, we missed alot of species that we would have had a chance of without the constant drizzle and cloud however the only real regret was missing the Mottled Owl and not getting the shot of the Red Billed Sythbill.

Yacumbu park in the mist

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Venezuela - Part 3 The Llanos (Raptors and Mammals)

My last post was getting too big so I saved the raptors and Mammals of the Llanos (Hato Pinero) for this post. I may as well get this boring bit out of the way so you can watch the raptor fest unfold...lol
We left the lodge early to catch a boat for a planned river trip. We had  stopped at a couple of lagoons along the way, and just as the light picked up our Guide and driver shouted "Jaguar", a large cat quickly crossed the track into the trees. I got out of the car and quickly managed to get the bins on it as it strolled out of sight into the dense vegetation.... Very happy! ....... not a chance, because we turned around to get back into the car when we were confronted with this.....

Please click on the Jaguar - she really is beautiful

Stuff of dreams.....
Daylight and a 100ft away stands before us this magnificant Jaguar, excitement, deep breath hold the camera steady...bingo
One good shot was all I needed, it turned away and trotted back up the track that we had just come down, a few more shots for the memory , and a 2 or 3 minute chance in a lifetime encounter.

Bring on the birds
The Llanos turned out to be a raptor fest, large magestic birds of prey often showing very well and often being more than obliging for photo opportunities.

Savanah Hawk
No need to perch in a tree when it can sit comfortably along the trackside, even allowing me the chance to wind down the window for this shot

Crane Hawk
Common around the lagoons, often walking along the pool edges, however on this occassion a pair visited our ranch building and gave me a very intimate encounter.

The male looking very menacing


a real head turner

As vultures go the Black Vulture is quite a pretty species, we encountered them in most locations but on the Llanos they were very co-operative and often perched on fence post close by to a lagoon

Black-Colored Hawk
Oi dont shout -Not sure if he was actually shouting at us, makes for a great shot though
Great Black-Hawk
A simply magnificant bird.
We had a couple of Owl sightings while on the Llanos however after an evening on the tracks doing some spotlighting we arrived back at the ranch to find this Great Horned Owl sat on our roof, unfortunatly my camera work really doesnt do this bird the justice it deserves

Suprisingly the Crested Caracaras didnt give me many photo opportunites as they were often flying at great speed
Roadside Hawk
Not always on the Roadside

Juv Great Black Hawk

Laughing Falcon
This was probably the only species that we needed a scope for and my only sighting of the trip

Yellow Headed Caracara
Overall as majestic, proud and spectacular the other raptors are I think this species became my fav. The Yellow Headed Caracara were in large numbers in and around the ranch building. They were almost friendly .... very charasmatic and certainly fun to watch as they fed on the floor and preened on walls, roofs, posts.... everywhere really.

it wasnt just about Jaguars and birds of prey

Spectacled Cayman
it has a cunning look of
"Lets Dance" or "Dont mess with me"

peek a boo

Green Iguana

if I had known how quick these things move rest assured I would not have been on my stomach taking this image!

Weeping Capuchin

Red Howler Monkey

Crab-eating Fox
we were lucky enough to see a large family together


and a funny looking tree....
Great Potoo
This was certainly one of my target birds for the trip and I never imagined we would find one 10ft away while sat ontop of a truck ... no scope or even binoculars needed for this one. I did laugh to my self once we left when I figured that I took 30 shots of a bird that was never going to move and while the truck was staitionary I was not going to move.... 30 images all the same..... but give me that opportunity again anytime!

of course it was a real shame we ever had to leave

If your ever stuck for a place to visit and really cant decide where think about the Llanos in Venezuela

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Venezuela - Part 2 The Llanos (the Birdlife)

This was the first excursion away from Casa Maria. A four hour drive to a cattle ranch and nature reserve called Hato Piñero, which covers much of the central llanos (wetlands and grasslands) of Venezuela and is situated near to Cojedes. Hato Piñero certainly offers the best of the Venezuelan llanos and is home to over 350 species of birds and mammals. The next chapter will look at the Mammals of the Llanos leaving this chapter dedicated to some of the birdlife.

We arrived late afternoon and were quickly introduced to what was going to be an exceptional raptor fest.... a pair of White Tailed Hawks displayed near to the entrance gates. A few miles further ahead we reached the ranch and soon found the local birdlife in and around the courtyard .... a magnificant pair of Scarlet Macaws and plenty of Yellow headed Caracara

This is a working Cattle ranch so for us UK citizens it was quite a treat to see real Cowboys at work

and of course where there are cattle there are birds

Jabiru - standing his ground

The ranch is only a part of the reserve, countless pools and lagoons line the tracks although this was towards the end of the dry season so some had dried and others were close to drying out. Where there was water we were treated to some stunning water birds....  so many species of Egrets and Ibis and our target birds did not dissapoint!

Scarlet Ibis

as did a host of other wonderful waders

Roseate Spoonbill

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Whistling Heron

Sharp Tailed Ibis

and Buff Necked Ibis

of course there were plenty of the smaller species at Hato Pinero including White Bearded Flycatcher, Ringed Kingfisher, White Headed Marsh Tyrant, Red Capped Cardinal, Black Crested Antshrike, Black Fringed Antwren, Vermillion Flycatcher, Bi-coloured Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, and the national bird of Venezuela .....

Venezuelan Troupial.

Hoatzin were noisy, clumsy and fun

Sun bittern 

a stunning wingspan

Russet Throated Puffbird
 pretending to be a kingfisher 

Amazon Kingfisher 

and some of the smallest species

Saffron Finch

Stripe-Backed Wren 

Brown Crested Flycatcher

Streaked Flycatcher

Common Thornbird 

Crimson-crested Woodpecker

Pied Marsh Tyrant 

 Fork-tailed Flycatcher

and not forgetting the very special endemic species
Yellow Knobbed Currasow

alas this is too long and still so much to show from the Llanos and Hato Pinero
I will follow with a another post looking at the raptors amd mammals..... dont miss it!!

now its time to roost....

Scarlet Ibis and Mixed Egrets

evening draws in on the Llanos

and a little night life..... this Double striped Thick Knee got caught in the headlights and stayed on the road just in front of us for well over a mile

a very special sighting while heading back for diner!