|Venezuela, Summer 2008 Birding Trip Report - Part 3 of many - Caripe|
We rode with three different cars (one taxi and two 'por puesto') from XZX to Santa Maria to Caripe. The initial part was through barren cactus scrub similar to Isla Margarita, but as we left the coast we went through some very thick tropical areas. On our first stop, I glimpsed my first sighting of a Boat-billed Flycatcher. Our destination, Caripe, was green and mountainous, but not as wet and tropical as regions we had passed through. We chose Caripe because I had been there before, and knew it was nice town with a very safe feel about it.
Caripe is famous for Parque Nacional de la GuachÃ¡ro, home of the Oilbird (called GuachÃ¡ro locally), a fruit-eating bird in the nightjar family. The birds live in a cave with 10 kilometers of passages, where 1.2 km. are open to the public. They are known for the high oil concentrations in their bodies, their eerie calls, and how they all exit the cave at sundown. I was lucky to arrive at the cave when the young were just leaving the nests, and one flew out of the cave in the daylight. Another walked too close to the cave entrance, and I sneaked a shot with a flash because I was inside the 100 meter opening area. But I was still reprimanded and should remember my page about birding ethics. I tried other shots at ISO 1600 and f/2.8 but couldn't pull it off.
We hiked the one trail near the cave to the waterfall, and also a walking trail that exists the official trail to the right. The second trail leads to some planted fields that may be illegal since they are in the national park. Aside from many Swallows, the only bird sighted was the beautiful Inca Jay (or Green Jay, called querrequrre locally), which is a common bird in most forests in Venezuela.
The fields around Caripe are full of birds, including many from Isla Margarita, but others as well. At least three species of Swallow are very common (XZX more), and an Oropendola (XZX) was frequently seen. Not being able to find a field guide was really a problem. XZX list birds seen.
The second day we hiked one of the mountains with trees (many have been cleared; deforestation is appearently a problem for the oilbirds), starting behind the cemetery. The trail eventually stopped maybe two thirds of the way to the top. On this hike we also only saw the Inca Jay. I was suprised how few birds we heard and saw in the mountains, especially compared to the city. So we left Caripe by bus to Maturin. Maturin is a crowded city with little interesting (according to the travel books). We had a six hour layover so made it to the zoo, which has quite a few animals, incuding a cage full of raptors, one with owls, and a few with Toucans, Parrots and Macaws. No photos from here though, but I saw my first Savannah Hawk and the Channel-billed Toucan. The zoo also has a African Lion in a too small cage. The entrance to the zoo is free, but I do not approve of this zoo since it does not appear to stress rehabilitation and education, and many of the animals are in small crowded cages. But in fairness we didn't talk to anyone there. Sometimes zoos in poor countries have many injured animals, or animals removed from private zoos, and don't have the resources to do better, even with the best intentions. Venezuela is relatively advanced compared to many asian countries, and does not allow keeping any native animal as a pet.
Onward to Tucupita and the Orinico Delta.