|Venezuela, Summer 2008 Birding Trip Report - Part 2 of many - Isla Margarita|
This is a work-in-progress. XZX indicates unfinshed.
Isla Margarita is a large island just north of Eastern Venezuela. An excellent birding report is http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/caribbean/tobago. Actually this is my concept of how a birding trip report should read, with detailed information about locations and species. Mine often don't go into enough detail about the species.
Isla Margarita is mostly scrub habitat with many cacti, but the tallest mountains in the center of the island have a tropical forest. Parque Nacional Laguna Restinga is a large salt water mangrove park, and another corner of the island has freshwater (check XZX) lagoons (more below).
Parque Nacional Cerro Copey contains one of the largest mountains. There is an official entrance with a guard post, as described in the link above, but our taxi driver didn't know where it was, and took us to a trailhead in the town of Copey. We walked a well-defined trail to top, but didn't see that many birds. We got a good look at the Copper-rumped Hummingbird, and one unidentified Woodcreeper was seen clearly, and two quail or bobwhites flew out from the underbrush. Half way to the top we passed a small shack with an old man and four dogs. Near the top we found another small shack with a small farm and a friendly man with a large knife who offered us pieces of an orange fruit inside a coconut-like shell. Black Vultures were common here.
We left Porlomar, the uninteresting capital for Playa la Agua, one of two European tourist destinations on Isla Margarita. The only interesting thing about Porlomar was a flock of five (feral?) Blue-and-yellow Macaws on the roof of a large hotel. Playa la Agua contains a lot of open fields with bushy vegetation and many birds. We loved our hotel, Villa del Sol, so stayed here for five days. Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Pelicans and Gulls (mostly Laughing Gulls) are abundant, and less populated sections of the beach had Least Sandpipers and various plovers including the Collared Plover. But the most interesting areas were the scrub areas. In general, common birds include the Carib Grackle, Tropical Mockingbird, Scaled Dove, Tropical Kingbird, and Great Kiskadee. Other common birds include the Yellow Oriole, Vermilion Cardinal (less common, sighted twice), Crested Bobwhite, Burrowing Owl (sighted in two locations), Buffy Hummingbird, Black-headed Grassquit, Glaucous Tanager and Palm Tanager.
Near Asuncion, the capital, is Jardin Labyrinto (XZX spell), a small zoo/rehabilitation center, which has a few parrots and toucans in cages, including one endemic and endangered Yellow-Shouldered Parrot. The zoo seems to stress rehabilitation and education, so it a worthwhile place to visit.
Laguna Restinga is worth the visit, but it opens at 9:00 AM and by then the Venezuelan sun is high in the sky. The park requires chartering a boat to reach the beach via a one hour boat ride through mangroves. We were lucky to find people to share the expense (the boat holds six). The boat guide showed us starfish and caught a sea horse in a plastic container. I expected to see many herons and ibis, but didn't see much here. Afterwards, in the late afternoon, we walked through a scrub area behind the parking lot, and finally saw the resident Brown-throated Parakeet, along with Burrowing Owls, a Vermillion Cardinal, and the common Buffy Hummingbird.
Another lagoon is near Porlomar, but is not officially open to the public, and we didn't have a car. The referenced trip report includes information, and we learned these lagoons were undergoing garbage removal and would be opened as tourist destinations afterwards. As I have written, garbage, and the Venezuelan mentality of throwing garbage anywhere, is a problem. It is also a huge problem for ocean birds whose stomachs often fill with pieces of floating platic they pick off the ocean.
We left Isla Margarita by taking the ferry from Porlomar to XZX. I don't recommend this; there was a long wait, and a ride on a very old, scary, noisy, crowded boat. It reminded me of the stories I've often heard about ferries capsizing in poor countries killing hundreds. We arrived in XZX and the only option was to charter a car with six people to one of the two nearby cities, XZX or XZX.
Continued, onward to Caripe.