|Venezuela, Summer 2008 Birding Trip Report - Part 5 of many - Caracas (and Puerto Ordaz)|
Onward to Puerto Ordaz. It was Sunday so we had to take a 'por
puesto', or a hired car. Puerto Ordaz is a middle class city near a
large dam. The city boast three large city parks, or recreation
areas, all of which are great for birding, although a little too
civilized to host exotic birds like, say, a Harpy Eagle. You will see
Capuchin Monkeys, and might see Sloths and Capybara. The largest
of the parks has areas that are not too crowded, where you can see
parrots, chachalacas, and probably most birds found in this region of
Venezuela. I found an interesting area walking along two miles on the
main road from the large park back to Puerto Ordaz, along the side of
the dam. The fenced-in area across the street is protected and lush
and wet, and contained a number of raptors including a probable eagle,
but none of which I could identify without a field guide.
Puerto Ordaz would be an awesome location to live, because it is
equidistant to incredible places like Los Llanos, Orinico Delta, the
Caribbean, and the Grand Savanah/Amazon. Not to mention the Andes
just a little further west. But locals told us crime was as bad as in
Caracas, and for me, a blue-eyed blonde guy, staying in one place too
long might not be wise.
Alas my camera broke and we headed back Caracas. Trying to get my
camera fixed by Canon Venezuela totally failed (I decided to write a
strong letter to Canon/Japan about the experience), so I had one sent
from the United States, which took 12 days using UPS. I filed a
claim, but they denied it. So, I was in Caracas unhappily killing time
for 12 days.
Back in Caracas. Parque del Este is an extremely large park with a
zoo. The zoo has a Harpy Eagle in a relatively large cage, and many
other birds in small cages. I tried to take some pics, but the local
park workers said I needed a 'permiso', apparently because of my
professional looking camera. Many people in Venezuela asked me if my
photos were for personal use. I think Venezuelans are conditioned by
their government to think that foreigners are out to exploit their
resources, and somehow me taking pictures was just that. Around the
time I was here a zoo worker was killed by a snake in the reptile part
of the zoo.
Parque del Este is full of birds, including Rufescent Tiger-Herons,
Chachalacas, Scarlet Ibis, and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, and dozens
more species. In a tropical climate really any large enough green
area will have lots of birds. We even saw a Three-toed Sloth changing trees.
The other zoo in Caracas is in the suburb of Caricuao. I really
enjoyed my visit there; we met Antonio, the man in charge of the
animals, who took us backstage and gave us a lot of inside scoop about
the animals and the zoo. In general I don't find many zoos I approve
of, but Antonio runs a great shop here. He showed us how he gets some
birds ready for release. Another reason I like going to zoos is to
see local birds who are attracted by opportunities to snag food meant
for the zoo animals.
Walter Arp (1927-2006) was a brilliant but undiscovered Venezuelan
painter of tropical birds. His work is being exhibited in Caracas
from March 2008 to January 2009, in the Sabana Grande area.
Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden) is another excellent place to see
birds inside the city. It might be better than Parque del Este
because it is on a forested mountain ridge which provides more
cover for some species not comfortable around people. In fact, if you
walk along the trail up the mountain, and then keep going up, you
reach a dirt road at the top of the ridge, which seems to run for
miles. The park ranger told us this was used by anti-drug police,
which didn't make much sense since the park is completely inside the
city and not on any border. We were there on a Sunday, and in
retrospect I don't recommend for a tourist to go off trail like this.
The most interesting thing I saw was what appeared to be a puma
footprint (see my photo in the Venezuela User Album). This would be
amazing, that a puma could live in a square mile (guess) park in one of
the most crowded cities in the world.
The cement wall in front of the park has a painting of the US with a Hitler
swastika and a McDonalds symbol showing their enslavement of South America
through chains. The gaurd told us there were too many people painting the
sign for him to stop, and he would take it down. Three weeks later it was
still there. See my photo in the Venezuela User Album.
Finally my camera arrived from the US. UPS needed 12 days to send it
to me at a cost of over $300 and another $100 for taxes. They ignored
my requests for a claim. I was so happy to leave Caracas.