|Venezuela, Summer 2008 Birding Trip Report - Part 4 of many - Orinico Delta|
The Orinico Delta is an area in East Venezuela where the Orinoco River disperses into many smaller streams (the definition of a delta) before it reaches the ocean. We arrived in Tucupita at night after our bus was delayed. Tucupita is a poor and allegedly dangerous city, but is really the only access point to the delta. We were lucky to hae a friendly bus driver arrange for us to stay at the hotel where the buses stay. Even luckier, the hotel was directly on the Orinico river, and was an excellent bird watching spot. Some interesting birds here were the Bicolored Antshrike, Common Tody, White-winged Swallow, and Fork-tailed Flycatcher (very common).
We visited several tour companies and the prices they were asking for tours to the Delta were outrageous. One company wanted 1000 Bolivares per person for two nights and three days. Cash only! And a Swiss couple ahead of us had just managed to get that much cash from the bank. We were determined to find another way, and eventually ran into a Spanish couple (no Americans in Venezuela) who were in the same dilemna as us. We found Luis through Hotel Amacuro, a freelance guide who charged us less than half that price. The downside was we had to sleep in mosquito-netted hammocks. But Luis and his group took us on boat excursions to see wildlife and the local indians.
The Orinoco Delta is amazing and really unbelievable for viewing birds. Parrots, Hawks, Falcons, Caracaras, Chachalacas, Woodpeckers, Rails, Terns, and basically all
forms of birds were seen in large numbers. The Hoatzin, XZX more, is common here as well. XZX more detail. I started two days at sunrise, and in the first few hours couldn't believe the amount of sounds and action around the camp. There was a sharp dropoff around 9:00 AM, perhaps because there is so much food here, the birds all finished by that time. Alas the second day my camera partially failed, and many of the birds stayed in the tall canopy, so I didn't get all the shots I wanted. Mostly I watched from behind a storage container; the times I tried to enter the jungle I quickly left because of mosquitos and mud.
Luis took us to visit the Warao (XZX spell) indians. I think of indians as being proud self-sufficient people, but these indians seemed helpless. Their dogs were barely fed and barely alive, and they told us they had no food. They kept Yellow-crowned Amazons (parrots) in the mud on short strings. Coincidentally, during my visit Yahoo! carried a story about 37 Warao who had mysteriously died. The theory was that they had contracted rabies from vampire bats. The locals have a low opinion of the indians; they told us the government does so much for them, but they don't work and don't want to contribute in any way. I don't want to form an opinion here, but just present what I heard and saw.
Back in Tucupita, there was nothing left to do, so onward to Puerto Ordaz.