Ascanio Birding Tours

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Ascanio Birding Tours is the only company that seriously ties bird tourism with research and conservation in Venezuela. Based on a board decision, every fiscal year we invest no less than 20% of our profits in research projects and conservation programs with several Venezuelan NGOs, including the Venezuela Audubon, Aves de Venezuela and the Phelps Ornithological museum. In addition, we usually support students participation in professional events such as ecology congresses, field stations and workshops.

 

Our staff involves a superb team of ornithologists and naturalists, aside of professional tour managers based in our headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

As we understand that the soul of the company its their leaders, we feel proud to be involved with people with superb leading skills, great knowledge, field identification abilities and tremendous nature sensibility. Each one of our leaders is a convinced conservationist and a meticulous scientist. At the time they are taking you to the field, they are surely carrying out a conservation, publication or research project. It is our goal that all our leaders must be involved in one of these fields. Birding and birds are a passion for us, and we would like to share that knowledge with our tour participants.

 

Our office staff consists in experienced tour managers. We know the reality of South American countries, and because we are all from there, we know how to approach and track your reservations. We are expert at dealing with authorities permits and searching for the best deal with your trip reservations.

 

Here is the staff we feel proud to introduce!

 

 

David Ascanio
David Ascanio

David was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Under his father authorization, at the age of eleven (1978) he was already working at the bird department in the Parque del Este in Caracas while spent the free time at home identifying the birds of his backyard. For that, he used the newly released Spanish edition of A Guide to the Birds of Venezuela. In 1984, he joined a hiking club to ascend Mount Roraima which allowed him to document the first contemporary record of Roraiman Nightjar. In 1995, he joined Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and started assisting Steve Hilty with the field work for his successful Birds of Venezuela. In 1999, along with Bob Ridgely, he rediscovered another poorly-known species, the Plain-flanked Rail, in Falcón, while in 2004 he discover the Delta Amacuro Softtail.

 

He has been guiding treks and birding tours since 1984, including Guyana, Suriname, Costa Rica, Panama, Hispaniola, the ABC islands, Trinidad and Tobago and the Amazon River across Perú, Colombia and Brazil. In addition to many trips, David was appointed several times to join the board of directors of the Sociedad Venezolana de Ecoturismo and was once elected to join the board of directors of the Sociedad Audubon de Venezuela. Today, he is a Research Associate of the Phelps Ornithological Museum, in Caracas.

 

David holds a degree in administration and accountings. He mixes his passion for being in the field with studies of bird vocalizations using his private library with more than 600 hours of recordings. Today, this is the leading library of bird vocalizations for Venezuela. Some of his publications and workshops include the Wildlife List of Hato el Cedral (contributing author, 1993); Techniques of Environmental Interpretation, a workshop. Hato Piñero (1994); Calendar of Nature Events in Venezuela, (contributing author, 1995); Bird inventory and checklist of Hato Piñero (2005), Manual of the Ecotourism Guide & Tour Leader (1998), Bird List of Southeastern Venezuela (in prep.); plus many manuscripts. David is currently working on various publications on the birds of the Guianas and SE Venezuela, as well as on a new Field Guide to the Birds of Venezuela.

 

David is a core leader of VENT (Victor Emanuel Nature Tours). He has also worked closely with various scientific organizations. In Museo de Historia Natural La Salle he had assisted Marcos Salcedo with the identification of unknown specimens and for a decade was often appointed as the recordist for the field trips of the Coleccion Ornitológica Phelps. In the past he has guided birding tours for other companies and organizations such as Birdquest, Geodyssey, MOT Nature Tours, Caligo Ventures, Ornitholidays, Danish Ornithological Society, Smithsonian Institution and National Audubon Society. Also, he has worked with personalities such as Paul Coopmans, Peter English, Josep del Hoyo, Richard ffrench, Frank Gill, Paul Greenfield, Steve Hilty, John Kricher, Miguel Lentino, Barry Lopez, Robin Restall, Bob Ridgely, Ian Sinclair, Barry Walker, Andrew Whittaker, Hadoram Shirihai and Guy Kirwan.

 

 

Gioconda Motta
Gioconda Motta

Gioconda is our operations manager. She has amazing organizational skills and is renowned for her knowledge about the needs of birdwatchers. Gioconda is the person you get in contact with, when David is in the field. She is in continuous communication with him.

 

Also, once you have decided about the itinerary and dates, she follows up with the lodges, hotels, government permits and other services in order to guarantee your reservations.

 

Desiree Starke
Desiree Starke

Desiree was born in Caracas, Venezuela. At a young age, she traveled with her parents to different countries and different regions of Venezuela.

 

This experience made her instill the love for nature and learn different languages, reason that inspired her to study Tourism Administration at the Simón Bolívar University. She worked at the Hato Cedral in the llanos, Orinoco Delta, Gran Sabana and other regions of Venezuela.

 

Désirée in an excellent field assistant at the airports of the country and also a field logistic support assistant for the bird watching trips to Roraima mountain.

 

Diego Calderon-Franco
Diego Calderon-Franco

Diego was born in the Andean mountains of Colombia in the city of Medellin in 1980. A fervent birder, ornithologist and sound recordist since 2000 all over the Colombian territory, Diego has birded and explored places not visited by anyone before in the Colombia-Venezuela border, in the Central, Western and Eastern Andes, as well as in the Caribbean lowlands and the Chocó jungle. Diego holds a degree in Biology from the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia and currently he is fulltime dedicated to his own birding tours company COLOMBIA Birding.

 

Diego has been officially guiding in Colombia since 2007 and many bird watchers have successfully birded that rich-bird country with his company great services. Since his first trip to Venezuela in 2007 to attend a Neotropical Ornithological Congress, he fell in love with the SE Venezuela area of astonishing Tepuis, the superb avifaunal rich Escalera, and the amazing Orinoco delta. Diego returned in 2008 to thoroughly record bird sounds in the Orinoco river where he recorded Orinoco Softail, as well as in SE Bolivar where Bellbirds, Capuchinbird and tepui endemics where every day tasks to record.

 

Diego guides our E Venezuela tours with special delight and joy for this area of our country; additionally, he adds interesting hard to find species to our clients' lists in those trips as Red-and-black Grosbeak, Black-throated Antshrike, and Guianan Red-cotinga, among many others.

 

Mario García
Mario García

Mario has been a tour leader and naturalist since 1990, when he first visited Hato Piñero. He is our photo tour leader and a great field assistant of birding tours.

 

Mario has a great sense of humor and is tireless helping birders to find their wished birds. Mario co-authored the Bird inventory and Checklist of Hato Piñero (2005) with David Ascanio and is currently working on a DVD of the ranch. He is usually on the road birding with couples or individuals using his own vehicle.

 

Gustavo A. Rodríguez
Gustavo A. Rodríguez

Gustavo is a biologist from the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, who possesses a long experience in ecology and natural history of the neotropics, with emphasis on birds, reptiles and mammals. After conducting research for two years at the Smithsonian Institution in Panama, he spent more than 15 years leading birding trips to every corner of Venezuela, for several of the best-known international birding and natural history travel operators. He is well known by his keen identification skills, experienced musical ear and good sense of humor. Some of his publications include the Wildlife List of Hato el Cedral (together with D. Ascanio), the Bird List of Macarao National Park and several articles on bird range extensions.

 

In 2001, he moved to Germany with his wife, where he has lived ever since. There, he has expanded his birding experience to include Europe and part of Africa. He works currently as Spanish and English teacher, but continues leading trips to the neotropics. Besides Spanish, his native language, he speaks perfect English and is fluent in German. When not birding, he spends his spare time with wildlife digital photography, computer programming and playing his four-string guitar.

 

José Gustavo León
José Gustavo León

Jose Gustavo is our Perijá specialist. He has traveled more extensively than any other contemporaneous ornithologist has to these mountains. Jose Gustavo started birding in 1991 in El Salvador, when attending a workshop in bird identification, during a family vacation.

 

After he returned to Venezuela he became very interested in the avifauna of our country and focused in the desert scrub of NW Venezuela, which produced the first records of several species for Lara. In 1997 he moved to Zulia, where he mixed his profession with his passion to find birds. He is an Electronic Engineer specialized in telecommunications, a job that has brought him to remote areas of Zulia and has let him discover the best birding spots of this state of contrasts. One of these spots is the Serranía de Zurima, being the only person to work a bird inventory in more than 40 years!

 

The most important contribution of Jose Gustavo to the Ornithology was done when he reached the Sierra de Lajas, a part of the Serranía de Perijá, a safe place close to the Venezuelan-Colombian border, where we have recently seen the Recurve-billed Bushbird and other Perijá endemic species.

 

Jose Gustavo is currently working in a database of the birds of Zulia, where he has incorporated data not yet published since the field study of Dr. A. Pons. This task has allowed him to find more than 20 species not previously recorded and new information about the distribution of the birds. He is today, the most reliable source of ornithological information for Zulia.

 

Nacho Areta
Nacho Areta

Nacho was raised in the northern Patagonia city of Neuquén (Argentina). A passionate sound recordist since 1999, he has obtained a wealth of recordings of birds from Argentina that will soon be published in a DVD of birdsongs of the southern cone of South America. Nacho holds a degree in biology (Universidad Nacional de La Plata) and is actually finishing his PhD in systematic and evolution of the seedeaters in the Capuchinos group, where he fuses his interests in natural history, evolution, conservation and systematic.

 

Deeply concerned about nature and culture conservation, Nacho has worked extensively in a project on the sustainable use and conservation of the Turquoise-fronted Parrot in the Chaco region (Proyecto Elé) and is actually part of a conservation project of the Atlantic Para Pine forest in Misiones province (Proyecto Pino Paraná).

 

Since his first visit to Venezuela in 2003 as nest-searcher of a research project in life-history evolution of passerines, he has been delighted by the beauty of the birds, landscapes and people of the country. His contributions to the ornithology of Venezuela include the nest discovery and only known recording of the Venezuelan race of the Yellow-throated Spadebill, the first recording of the voice of the Stygian Owl in the country, the finding of a second breeding locality of the rare Spot-fronted Swift and a work on the behavior and systematic position of the Venezuelan endemic White-throated Barbtail. He is actually working in the bird inventory and CD of bird voices of the PN Yacambú, and has recently joined the Tepui avifauna research group.

 

Nacho has been working as a field-guide for the last two years throughout Argentina, from the northern Puna plateau to the southern sub-antartic forests of Tierra del Fuego and has worked with David in the lowlands and highlands of Venezuela.

 

Alejandro Nagi
Alejandro Nagi

Alejandro is David’s colleague at the Phelps Ornithological Museum, and one of the best field assistant in the museum expeditions. His passion for birds have taken him into bird vocalizations, traveling virtually over most of the country learning about bird voices and bird behavior. Alejandro is responsible for most of the recent relevant records in Hato El Cedral. When he’s not guiding a bird tour, he may be working in the field with scientists or in one of the ranches of the llanos (plains).

 

Gertrudis Gamarra
Gertrudis Gamarra

Gertrudis is the senior local guide of Hato Piñero, and is the person who taught David Ascanio so much about the llanos birds. They started working together in 1984, and they have been reporting more and more new information about the birds of the Llanos ever since. Gertrudis is a classic Llanero (cowboy), and has tremendous skills finding the Agami Heron, the Green-and-rufous Kingfisher and the whole spectrum of cats during the ranch´s night outings, from the fairly common Ocelot to the always shy and difficult Jaguar.

 

Victor Delgado, son
Victor Delgado, son

Victor Delgado (Musiú) is our guide for El Cedral Ranch. Victor was born in the ranch and from an early age he was already searching for birds with David Ascanio in his birdwatching tours. Victor has exceptional eyes and is quite famous for finding Zigzag Heron in the ranch. He is also tireless in finding  uncommon or rare species and has an incredible ability to find anacondas and anteaters. He is highly requested by birdwatchers, as his guidance promises great birds!

 

Luis David Ascanio
Luis David Ascanio

Luis is David’s son. He is currently a trainee as a future birding guide. During vacations, he goes with his father and younger brother Carlos to find birds and other wildlife in the Venezuelan llanos and the Orinoco Delta. He is also keen with other wildlife such as snakes, capybaras, cayman. He is already co-authoring a bird book for kids with his father and younger brother.

 

Carlos David Ascanio
Carlos David Ascanio

Carlos is the second of David’s son. He is very enthusiastic about bird vocalizations and nowadays he can imitate the songs of about 20 bird species! He has an amazing capacity to memorize bird songs and behavior. Along with his brother and father, he is already co-authoring a bird book for kids.