Junglaven is a Fishing Camp located close to the Ventuari River in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas. It affords a unique opportunity to birdwatch in lowland rainforest, and due to the lack of disturbance and absence of hunting, a number of species are possible here which are difficult in other areas of Amazonia. This is probably the most predictable place in the world for Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo. A further introduction to the lodge is available at http://www.venezuelavoyage.com/birdvenezuela/junglaven.htm
9am flight Caracas-Puerto Ayacucho: Airline: La Venezolana operates clean twin-prop planes carrying approx. 21 pax. 90 minute flight.
Pm at Orinoquia Lodge - a beautiful setting on the Orinoco river, with large thatched roof dwellings with 24hr electricity, fans, mosquito net, etc. $100 for 1 night, including 3 meals. Phone (in Caracas) for reservations: 9771234 'Cacao Travel'
6:45 am flight Puerto Ayacucho to Junglaven - 45 minutes over stunning topography which includes tepuiform mountains rising to 7000 feet, with granite cliffs and expansive primary forest. Our plane landed right at the Junglaven airstrip, but some planes land 12 km away, where you are met by the Junglaven jeep. Airline: 'Wayumi'
4 full birding days (except an afternoon that I took off to go fishing!)
7:30am flight to Puerto Ayacucho, connecting to 11:00am flight back to Caracas.
When to Go:
It is inadvisable to visit during the rainy season, as many areas are inundated. Dry season begins in December, though in December, access is not always predictable. January - March is the prime season. Junglaven is regularly visited by bird tours (Birdquest and Sunbird/Wings in 2004), but receives few independent travelers - we had the place to ourselves while we were there.
I utilized the services of Chris Sharpe as my guide - we had previously birded together in other areas of Venezuela, and Chris is a professional guide and conservation biologist who researches threatened species is editing the Venezuela section of the Animals Red Data Book. He is highly recommended, and has his own website, Birds and Birding in Venezuela: http://www.birdvenezuela.com (Tel./fax: +58-(0)212-2863184; email: chris(at)birdvenezuela.com)
Junglaven Lodge is owned by Capitan Lorenzo Rodriguez, who himself is a pilot. He scheduled our flights to and from Junglaven to Puerto Ayacucho, but these flights on Wayumi can also be scheduled through Marcos Braca: 0248-521-0635 (office) or 0248-521-5883 (home). To directly schedule a stay at the Junglaven Lodge is almost impossible (it took us 9 months to get a final response). Hence, the widespread belief that Junglaven has closed. Capitan Lorenzo has authorized Chris Sharpe to handle the booking process, and reservations can now be made directly through Chris. The per person rate is about $125, which includes a local guide, meals, and jeep/transportation. And fishing, should you so desire! After Chris handled all of the local bookings for us, the trip went off without a hitch.
There are two very nice bedrooms with double beds, located above the restaurant, both with private baths. There are 10 or so thatched roof cabins located about the grounds, also with private baths. Food was quite good, especially when they had fresh fish, and the tajadas (fried sweet plantains) were excellent. Cold beer was available. The staff were quite friendly and took good care of us.
The lodge is situated on a branch of a river which, during the dry season, becomes a greatly elongated lagoon which is separate from the main Ventuari River. As such, there is seasonally flooded varzea forest which transitions into primary lowland forest. The dirt road/track which connects the lodge to the Ventuari R. passes through 10 km of lowland forest with slightly undulating topography - the birding here is excellent, as there are no vehicles on this road other than the Junglaven jeep which we used for transport. The road is especially good for Grey-winged Trumpeters, which I was able to videotape as a group of 7 milled about in the road. As the road approaches the Ventuari River, the habitat changes to white sand forest and savannah, which holds its own set of special birds, such as the localized Pale-bellied Mourner. We were accompanied by Ismael, who served as our driver and local bird guide, and he was quite familiar with the birds and their names in Spanish. There were several 'Junglaven Specialties' that we did not try for, since I had seen them at other sites: Brown-banded Puffbird, Cherrie's Antwren, Brown-headed Greenlet. Our list for Junglaven was 170 seen plus 33 heard only.
Birds of Note:
Great Tinamou, Little Tinamou, and Undulated Tinamou - all seen from the road, as they noisily shuffled through dry leaf litter. Variegated Tinamou - also seen from the road in primary forest. Tinamou sp. in primary forest, we observed a tinamou which phenotypically seemed to be a Gray-legged Tinamou, although it did not vocalize, and we did not hear that species vocalizing during our time in the forest. Little Chachlaca - heard only. Spix's Guan - up to 6 in one day. Blue-throated Piping-Guan - one in early am at savannah edge. Crestless Currasow - can be dependably viewed by taking a boat in the late afternoon - Ismael knows the place where 1 or 2 come to the water's edge to drink between 5:30 and 6:30pm. I also had 3 of these while I was fishing. Black Currasow - easy on the road, up to 3 at a time. Marbled Wood-Quail: a group of 6 was seen well as they crossed the road at noon. Grey-winged Trumpeter - groups of up to 7 seen on 3 separate days. Scarlet Macaws and Red-and Green Macaws. White-eyed, Brown-throated, Maroon-tailed and Cobalt-winged Parakeets. Orange-cheeked Parrots - several in the savannah. Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo - the major target bird of the trip, they appeared to be 'late risers', and we played the tape on 3 days, but didn't get a response until 9:30am. Once we located a responsive individual, utilizing a tape that had both the 'whoop' call and the bill-clacking sounds, we obtained several views of the bird, with our best views coming as the bird skulked around us in a semi-circle. The brilliant orange-red facial patch is striking and is useful in localizing the bird as it moves - we also got to see the bird run rapidly with its head held low, much like a Greater Roadrunner...It was GREAT to finally catch up with a Neomorphus! Crested Owl - a couple heard at night from the track. Long-tailed Potoo - in primary forest at night, it called in response to Black-banded Owl tape, giving alarm calls. It came in, fluttered about our heads, and found a vertical snag to perch on, where we had excellent views in the spotlight. We heard it calling spontaneously on a subsequent night. Least Nighthawk - savannah. Rufous Nightjar - savannah. Perches in bushes rather than on ground. Blackish Nightjar - savannah. Cypseloides sp. - small groups were seen on two occasions over savanna-forest borders. No Cypseloides has been recorded from this part of Amazonas. Green-tailed Goldenthroat - Savannah, feeding on inconspicuous but numerous small white flowers. Black-tailed, Amazonian White-tailed, and Amazonian Violaceous Trogons. Rusty-breasted Nunlet - excellent views of a bird Chris spotted our last morning. Tawny-tufted Toucanet - heard only - we would have increased our chances if we had spent another morning at the savannah-forest interface, scanning treetops. Ivory-billed Aracari - in forest at edge of savannah. Golden-green Woodpecker - a female very close in the forest. Chestnut, Scale-breasted, and Cream-colored Woodpeckers. Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner - in a mixed flock. Lineated and Amazonian Barred Woodcreepers. Fasciated, Blackish-gray, Amazonian, and Cinereous Antshrikes. Guinean Streaked-Antwren. Rufous-bellied Antwren - stays low in primary forest Black-chinned, Dot-backed, Rufous-throated (at tiny antswarm) Antbirds. Rufous-capped Antthrush. Rufous-crowned Elaenia - Savannah. Grayish Mourner. Pale-bellied Mourner - we had absolutely no luck after trying for a couple of hours at the savannah edge, but in varzea close to the Ventuari river itself, Chris found one calling, and we had good views. Phenotypically very similar to Short-crested Flycatcher, best identified by it's call. We had both species calling in one tree. Back at Junglaven Lodge, there were a couple of Short-cresteds, but no Mourners. White-browed Purpletuft - a pair nesting at the Lodge. Amazonian Umbrellabird - close to Ventuari River. Black Manakin - 1male in varzea close to Ventuari R. Golden-headed and White-crowned Manakins - bathing at streamside in late afternoon. Veery - very close, prolonged views of one bathing along the creek. Short-billed Honeycreeper - this is one of the few places where this is the most common honeycreeper! We had a pair, in a clearing in primary forest, and had no other honeycreepers and very few tanagers - no Tangaras at all.