Sunday, August 30, 2009

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.

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