Wednesday, 19 January 1983

VENEZUELA 1982/83. Part II: Llanos

16 January 1983.  San Silvestre Road.  We got an early bus along the San Silvestre Road where we spent most of the day.  It was a superb area and obvious highlights were an absolutely stunning Sunbittern and 4 Hoatzins at km 37 and 3 Double-striped Thick-knees at km 25.  We also saw Whistling Heron, White and Scarlet Ibises, Americna Little Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Spinetail, Red-capped Cardinal and a 3-4m Anaconda as it swam through a culvert under the road.  We got a bus back to Barinas and part way down the Santo Domingo Road, getting off at km 31 where we camped by the road.

Double-striped Thick-knee

San Silvestre Road, km 25
Eastern Meadowlark
Southern Lapwing
Yellow-headed Caracara
Greater Kiskadee, the commonest and most widespread of several similar looking tyrant flycatchers
Tropical Kingbird, the commonest and most widespread of not quite so many similar looking tyrant flycatchers
Amazon Kingfisher
the smaller Green Kingfisher
Whistling Heron
Sunbittern - stunning even on a blurred image 
17 January 1983.  Lower Santo Domingo Valley.  We had stopped at km 31 in the hope of seeing Torrent Duck, although we didn’t think it was a particularly reliable site.  This proved to be a very good move as there was a Torrent Duck family on the river right where we camped, superb.  We also saw White-capped Dippers on the river before returning to Barinas and catching a bus to Bruzual in the Llanos.  We arrived late in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day birding around some pools at the western edge of town.  It was nice to see get better views of some of the wetland species we’d glimpsed from the bus.  Highlights included Pied Lapwing, Black Skimmer, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, Band-tailed Nighthawk (30+ at dusk) and White-tailed Goldenthroat.  We found some food in town and camped on its edge, being careful not to be too close to the pools where we’d earlier seen an alligator.
Santo Domingo River above the Paez Dam.  As it turned out a perfectly chosen camp site
Torrent Ducks - male and chick - almost from our campsite.  The northern Andean race of Torrent Duck is much whiter below, and as a result perhaps more spectacular, than those found further south
male, female and chick, the latter looking much larger in this image
blurred Dwarf Cuckoo at Bruzual
18-19 January 1983.  The Llanos.  Bruzual was superb but after a few hours we had to drag ourselves away.  Waiting for the bus to Camoguan a friendly local policemen came over to see what we were doing but my offering him a look through my binoculars nearly backfired when Steve picked up two Scarlet Macaws flying our way.  I grabbed my bins back and saw them as they flew past and out of sight, they were to be our only sighting of this spectacular species.  We caught the bus to Camoguan, crossing south over the Rio Apure just after Bruzual and crossing it back north just short of Camoguan.  At times it was a frustrating day, to be driving past wetland areas some with lots of birds on them.  Despite the temptation we never saw anywhere that looked good enough to warrant a two hour stop, for that was how long it would be before the next bus, and were always slightly worried that if we did get out we’d later find somewhere even better a bit further on.  This was the one day of the trip that we most wished we had our own vehicle and possibly as a result of not being able to check every lagoon we never saw Orinoco Goose.  Birds we did see included 2 superb Sunbitterns (fast becoming a favourite of mine), Scarlet (200), Sharp-tailed, Cayenne and Buff-necked Ibises, Boat-billed Heron, Rufescent Tiger Heron (common, I saw 14), Jabiru and Maguari Storks, Brazilian Duck, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Collared Plover, 16 Hoatzins, Scarlet and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Yellow-headed Parrot, Spot-breasted Woodpecker and Bicoloured Wren.  On 19th, after a look around Camaguan which produced little we caught a bus to Calabozo and then Maracay.  This section of the Llanos was disappointing with many fewer birds/species seen and  Laughing Falcon our only new bird and other highlights limited to Scarlet Ibis, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Black Skimmer and Large-billed Tern.  We wished we’d spent longer between Bruzual and Camoguan. 
Alligator eyeing up adult Wattled Jacana.  Big enough to make us very careful where we camped! 
juvenile Wattled Jacana
Roseate Spoonbills, mainly
Scarlet Ibis
Bare-faced Ibis
Rufescent Tiger-Heron
Ringed Kingfisher, as big as kingfishers get ...
they gave the appearance of having borrowed most of their flight feathers from a different sized bird, an impression their flying does little to contradict!
Sunbittern in sunshine, an unbeatable combination?

a stunning bird in every respect
and a firm favourite from the trip

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