Wednesday, 23 December 2009

On the Road Again - Canned Heat

If I had just one local wish as I wait to return to Caracas this morning, it would be that my lift didn't turn up. Maybe I've labored the point a little but this place is 'Magica'! Last evening we went on yet another safari with many new things to see, not least of which was a magnificent Tortoise / Terrapin / Turtle, which I haven't been able to put a name to yet. In addition COLLARED PLOVER, SOLITARY SANDPIPER, GREY SEEDEATER, BAND-TAILED NIGHTHAWK* and SHORT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER* were all added to the list. As on previous evening drives we returned to base with the spotlight activated and again the afore mentioned Nightjars/hawks were present in their hundreds, there were 3 Great-horned Owls but unfortunately no 'hat trick' as far as Cats were concerned. Then came the highlight of the evening (if not the trip) as one of the Common Pauraques (the 'e' is pronounced) took off from underfoot, misjudged the height of the vehicle, hit a young girl in the face and landed (winded) in the lorry. I was quick to recover it and kept it until we got back to camp where it appeared no worse for wear, and after a photo-call returned to the wild.

Total Trip List - 662 Total 'Lifers' - 457 Total Endemics - 51

As yet unidentified Terrapin??

This amazing creature was about a meter long.

A short study of Common Pauraque

The food here has been sensational, and so there was no missing dinner when we returned, but soon after once again Mario was keen to get me out on another sortie, this time to find Spectacled and Tropical Screech Owls. To my mind he was a little over confident, almost tempting providence, and in the end we 'dipped' on both. However, he was not daunted by this and invited me on yet another mission early this morning in search of roosting Great Potoo, the result of which you can see below.

Great Potoo, unusual to have eyes open at roost.

Band-backed Wren

The 'endemic' White-bearded Flycatcher

I could only afford about a hour this morning to join the safari, but even then lots of new things joined the photograph list. The Wrens were particularly pleasing as thus far we had only had 'tickable' glimpses.

Black-collared Hawk

I had to have a bath at some stage and this cool pool seemed like just the place!

Roseate Spoonbill, not the most colourful specimen, but like Wood Stork, which I still haven't captured, this species seemed particularly intolerant of human activity.

Anhinga, dubbed the Snakebird as only its neck is visible when on the water.

Grey-breasted Wood Rail

Little Blue Heron

Tortoise, size can be gauged by the human hand holding it, about as big as a duck egg.

So, time to leave - boo hoo - but some fantastic memories and fine people. Unfortunately, I leave with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth as yesterday afternoon a light aircraft arrived carrying 4 of the brothers now managing this wonderful property. The landing was closely followed by the arrival of 2 jeeps full of government officials. Thus far, I had been told, the take over of the property had been just speculation but now Chavez's people were here mob handed and the reality was sinking in for the people employed here. It is only the rich and institutions that allow these kind of places to work and exist (where would our own castles, stately homes et al be without them) but this visitation seems lie the beginning of the end of Hato Pinero as I have been priviledged to know it. Mario particularly is distraught, having crought and guided people here for 15 years, but says this will not continue if the worst happens. I for one will be tightly crossing my fingers but sadly, it seems, it will not be enough.

For myself, I don't know quite how things are going to pan out but this afternoon I will be starting a 'Charm Offensive'. I have a ticket to Quito, Ecuador for the 5th January but am now 15 days ahead of the game, so I'll be at the mercy of the airport (Avianca the Colombia Airline) to change my ticket or not. This to me is all part of the great game of travelling independantly and look forward to the challenge. The good news for the readership is that you may get a break from my ramblings, so until I next get access Best Wishes to ALL!