Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brazil 4 - Praia do Forte

Final location was Praia do Forte, a coastal resort on the Bahia about an hour north of Salvador. Our hotel had many Kiskadee's and Tyrants plus Marmosets. There is a nature reserve a couple of km out of town but I didn't manage to get there. The location where Brazil's national bird (some sort of blue parrot) could apparently be found is no more.The rest of the group went on a bumpy boat to look for Humpback whales, which left me a few hours to explore. I continued south on the beach and came first to where a lagoon filters into the sea. There was a sandpiper there and some SOUTHERN POCHARDS.Striated Herons everywhere.I trudged on through the soft sand occasionally going thru the undergrowth to check the lagoon. Crested Caracaras overhead. CHALK BROWED MOCKINGBIRDS in the shrubs. Finally (well only a couple of hundred metres really) the lagoon bent inland and I followed a path which therefore headed away from the coast to an area of secondary scrub. And it was brilliant there. I was just taking in an all russet bird when I turned round and saw the uniquely clear stare (I think its the yellow eye rims which do it) of a BLUE CRESTED TROGON on an nearby branch. Glorious.The only tracks on the path were those of a dog......or maybe a jaguar?? I decided to head back to the coast but then found one of those trees which is full of new birds - a TROPICAL GNATCATCHER, PALE BREASTED GROUND DOVE, SWAINSON'S FLYCATCHER, WHITE LINED TANAGER.

Brazil 3 - Manaus

On to Manaus. Up the river to our lodge where the grounds have more Cardinals, YELLOW RUMPED CACIQUE, GRAY BELLIED SWIFT over the water, BLUE AND GRAY TANAGER, BLACK NUNBIRD (prides in getting a massive insect in its beak), SILVER BEAKED TANAGER, TURQOUISE TANAGER, PALM TANAGER, WHITE THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, CHESTNUT WOODPECKER (from our hut), FORKTAILED FLYCATCHER. The pictured Toucanet I think is conclusively a GREEN ARACARI, despite Souza saying its out of range.On a late afternoon outing by boat we saw SMOOTH BILLED ANI (apparently a sure sign that monkeys are nearby) and watched a HAWK. We also had great views of a PINK DOLPHIN.Next morning our jungle walk included Rat Boa, Bullet Ant (12 months to recover from a bite) and some amazing big blue Morpho butterflies. Also glimpsed a SCREAMING PIHA in addition to hearing it all the time (our guide Anselmo says they contribute to lost folk going crazy).Afternoon trip to meet a local tribe added RINGED KINGFISHER and YELLOW BILLED TERNSunrise canoe added LADDER TAILED NIGHTJAR and a squadron of Military Macaws overhead (RED BELLIED MACAW)Later morning outing to Monkey Sanctuary ( squirrel and red-faced) and and we finally nailed the local 'hawk' as a YELLOW HEADED CARACARA,On our final day a stunning VIOLACEOUS TROGON from our hut.

Our first venture back to Manaus was taking the boat to the 'meeting of the waters' phenomenon, where a 'black' and 'green' river flow together unmingled for some distance after they merge. At the first landfall off the green river, a native village was our first reclaimed land and there were some new birds which I couldn't identify. An Antbird maybe? SPOTTED SANDPIPER.Then it was off on a speedboat along various waterways through a marshy area which was very good for birds as well as sloth and Iguana. We had great views of the magnificent BLACK COLLARED HAWK, a SQUIRREL CUCKOO, SCYTHEBILL, Snowy Egret, MUSCOVY DUCK (a very ugly motherd***er), WHITE FACED WHISTLING DUCK, CUI PARAKEET, the gigantic AMAZON KINGFISHER, LIMPKIN, BLACK CARACARA, and probably the greatest rarity deep in a flooded forest, beautiful CAPPED HERONS.Our schedule allowed a half day free in Manaus so we were determined to go to one of the sites mentioned in the World's Greatest 100 Birding Sites. The one which caught the eye was the INPA metereological tower, because it mentioned the possibility (heavily caveated) of Harpy Eagle . Our guide kindly put loads of effort into trying to find out how to get in, and eventually went to INPA directly who said that it had been closed to birders for some time because their visits had damaged/affected some instrumentation there.So the next listed venue was the Adolfo Ducke 'reserve'. An agency offered to provide a guide who had never been there before! So we decided to go it alone, and Anselmo asked to come to see if it would be a good place to bring future groups.It turns out that this is in fact a massive area of reserve with very limited access. The primary access is the Botanic Gardens, which is a very sleepy enterprise. A chap put on a shirt and boots and became a guide (which is mandatory). He led us round a maze of paths and kept looking intelligently into the trees, but the only bird we saw was a Woodcreeper which I spotted. So we decided to cut our losses and head to the other entrance described by the guide and consistent with the birding report I had found on the web. The adventure involves finding the KM 26 post on the main road, where one has escaped the city limits and is in an area of forest and big estates. At the post a track through some old iron gates heads spookily into the forest. The report describes that several km up this track is some sort of establishment. However, the first 50m has been dug up to prevent anything other than a 4x4 getting up there. So we left the car at the entrance and (somewhat nervously on my part)started along the track. The mood was not helped when an Agouti sighting prompted comment that this is a Jaguar's favourite prey, and Anselmo to confirm that yes this looked like certain Jaguar territory, and no they weren't afraid of people. I noticed that everyone had a leak in quick succession at this point.With no birds yet seen we decided to head back to the car and, as so often happens, just as we got close Leo spotted a Nunbird, which triggered Anselmo to see a Monksaci, a rare and scary looking monkey - black fur, stumpy tail and dark brown face. Very spooky to see this muscular dark figure jumping through the trees and scrutinising us. But venturing a few yards into the thick jungle also yielded good views of a RED NECKED WOODPECKER.It all felt rather strange - in a Tom Waits 'What's he building in there?' way. It is obviously an area actively used for some purpose as the track is in good nick and there are new markers every 10 yards or so. But they seem very keen to keep people out. Is it because of the special wildlife? Or some mysterious metereological experiment?Either way it seems a missed opportunity not to have organised access to some good birding facilities in this special area, as it would surely bring in good money.

Brazil 2- Igacu

Off to Igacu, and first the Itapu Dam where we notched up Turkey Vulture, SNOWY EGRET, BANANAQUIT and from the car park CRESTED CARACARA.

On to the highly bizarre and downright spooky Hotel Carima where a damp dusk tour of the grounds added a WHITE WINGED SWALLOW and WATTLED JACANA and got us close enough to confirm that the hummingbirds we have been seeing are VIOLET CAPPED WOODNYMPHS and WHITE THROATED EMERALD (distinguished by the red bill). RED RUMPED CACIQUE. PALE BREASTED THRUSH.

Next day and off to the Bird Park where the aviaries are excellent for learning the local birds and especially for a very handsome pair of Harpy Eagles. But it is also a very good spot for wild birds and we saw TOCO TOUCAN, a juvenile BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON way up in a tree, PLUSH CRESTED JAY, RUFOUS CROWNED MOTMOT, GUIRA CUCKOO.

On to the stunning Igacu falls where we saw BLUE DACNIS and NEOTROPIC CORMORANT and an Azara's Aguti. On the road out a CRESTED CARACARA on the floor and ROADSIDE HAWK on the wires.

Back at the hotel it finally brightened up and I found an old orchard in the grounds where (before the mossies drove us away) we saw Smooth Billed Ani, CHOPI BLACKBIRD, EPAULET ORIOLE, SAYACA TANAGER, SAFFRON FINCH.

Short visit to the orchard before breakfast yielded one mossy bite and a CAMPO FLICKER. It was worth a bite....... Also some SHINY COWBIRDS. Then whilst waiting at the Argentinian border, a BLuE AND WHITE SWALLOW on a lamppost. House Sparrows frequent. GREEN KINGFISHER on a wire. At Iguacu, we saw South American Guinea Pig, GREEN IBIS, WING BARRED MANNIKIN then from the walkway a Broad Nosed Caiman, YELLOW BILLED CARDINAL, GRAY BREASTED MARTIN, then a Crested Caracara put up a glorious ANHINGA - really looks like a flying snake. Then Leo claimed an EULERS FLYCATCHER. After a speed boat trip under the falls we saw CATTLE TYRANT and CHALK BROWED MOCKINGBIRD.

Then, whilst rest of group went on a helicopter ride we had 30mins back in the Bird Park. Nothing new until the car park (so often the case) where we found CHESTNUT BELLIED EUPHONIA and VIOLACEOUS EUPHONIA.

Brazil 1 - Rio

Always good to see a first bird from the plane before disembarking, and in this case it was a Black Vulture. In the minibus to the hotel there came suddenly a bellow of 'Frigatebird' from Leo and there they were - MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD huge birds, very distinctive shapes. And a Great Egret.Off to Christ the Redeemer statue, where there were SWALLOWS in the air and RUFOUS COLLARED SPARROWS on the ground. And an Aqaati!The next morning off to Sugar Loaf. In the car park there, in a mango tree, GREAT KISSADEE and RUDDY GROUND DOVE. From the top, great views BLACK CHESTED BUZZARD EAGLE, hovering 300m up. Little Marmosets running around. And a LESSER KISKADEE in the trees.At the Maracana stadium, SOUTHERN LAPWING in Pele's spot on the goal line.In the afternoon, off to the Botanic Gardens which is a great birding spot. Lots of RUFOUS-BELLIED THRUSH, GRAY-HEADED TODY-FLYCATCHER, CREAmY BELLIED THRUSH, BROWN TANAGER. A lovely MASKED WATER TYRANT. A RUFOUS HORNERO taking a dustbath. TROPICAL KINGBIRD. Anne spotted 2 DUSKY LEGGED GUANS. At the pool, Kiskadee's in classic flycatcher action. Then we started seeing parrots - PLAIN PARAKEET. I had just seen glorious GREEN HEADED TANAGERs when Anne spotted our first Toucan (albeit with a cry of 'Hornbill'!). RED BREASTED TOUCAN, probably the most extraordinarily striking first sight ever. Unbelievable.We came back towards the Leme hotel along the lagoon and saw through the dusk COCAL HERON and STRIATED HERON and Common Moorhen.Next morning we trooped down on to Copacabana beach and identified the birds glimpsed yesterday as BROWN BOOBYs. Superb birds, perfect markings, streamlined and sometimes skimming inches above the water.

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