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darknight

Brazil (Atlantic Forest and Pantanal) August 2018

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For the first time in a long time, I got to do some birding on a new continent for me. My wife had a conference to go to in Guaruja, Brazil (outside of Sao Paulo), and I tagged along, then we went birding for 2 weeks afterwards. Lifers abounded. Good times were had. We accidentally went to the wrong airport, and almost got lost in the jungle, but it was still the best vacation I've taken in a long time.

For the first 4 days, I was basically on my own in Guaruja during the day. I had originally planned on just wandering out to the edge of town and looking for some nice trails or back roads to go birding on, but was advised that this wasn't safe. In fact, a few other conference goers tried exactly that and were told by a resident that they had wandered into a bad area, and that they wouldn't be safe even in the daylight. A few conference goers were attacked and robbed outside the hotel as well, after dark. So instead, I confined my birding to the area around the hotel and up and down the beach, which were quite touristy and apparently pretty safe. 

Day 1: After a 12 hour overnight flight and a 2 1/2 hour drive from the airport, we finally arrived at the hotel. En route I picked up a few lifers, including Southern Caracara, Picazuro Pigeon and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (amazingly, picked out as we were stuck in traffic on the highway that passed through a large patch of forest). After cleaning up and having lunch, I set out to explore the hotel grounds, which were quite expansive. Rainy weather and sleep deprivation soon forced me back inside, but not before I added one more new species, Eared Dove. 

Day 2: I had some conference-related stuff to attend to in the morning, but in between talks I still managed some birding around the hotel. Lifers came hard and fast. A pair of Southern Lapwings on the beach nearby were impossible to miss. Palm and Sayaca Tanagers flitted in and out of the palms over the pool. A small group of Chalk-browed Mockingbirds hung out in the courtyard, and Rufous Hornero and Rufous-bellied Thrushes picked at insects on the lawn. Blue-and-white Swallows flew overhead, and a Kelp Gull  flew by along the beach. In the afternoon, I took a walk along the entire length of beach in front of the hotel, about 6 miles of walking total. Lifers continued to abound. At an overlook at the end of the beach I added Ruby-crowned Tanager, Masked Water-Tyrant, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird and Mantled Hawk. In a strange swampy area labeled "Central Park" in Guaruja, I added Masked Yellowthroat, South American Snipe and Smooth-billed Ani. At the opposite end of the beach, a patch of forest held Ochre-collared Piculet, Turquoise-fronted Parrots and a flyover Toco Toucan.

Day 3-4 Continued exploration of the beachfront and area around the hotel continued to be productive.  On the hotel grounds, Creamy-bellied Thrush was a skulking morning visitor, and Plain Parakeet, Brown-chested Martin, Whistling Heron, White-collared Swift and South American Terns were all seen as flyovers. A pair of Cliff Flycatchers hunted from the tall buildings around the hotel. Another trip to the viewpoint at the west end of the beach (which held a small patch of forest) yielded a nice mixed flock, and I added Gray-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Versicolored Emerald, Pale-breasted Thrush, and Orange-headed, Brazilian and Swallow Tanagers. 

eBird checklist with some pictures: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47729653

Day 5. At last, a few of us from the conference planned a morning expedition with a local tour guide to a trail outside the city. I could finally bring my camera along, though I quickly learned just how challenging photography with a superzoom could be in the rainforest. The trail we went on led along the edge of the river to an old mission, from the 1600's according to the guide. This was my first real taste of the Atlantic Forest, and it didn't disappoint. A Dusky-legged Guan destroyed some fruit in a tree directly over the trail. Saw-billed Hermit and Glittering-bellied Emerald gave brief, tantalizing looks. Two Green-backed Trogons showed themselves much better. Violaceous Euphonia, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and Blue Dacnis were all seen in quick sucession. Yellow-headed Caracaras made strange noises in the treetops. Maroon-bellied parakeets went screaming through the canopy. A female Swallow-tailed Manakin was unfortunately all by herself. Spot-breasted Antvireo and Long-billed Wren were puzzled over for several minutes before we eventually identified them. A small flock of Red-rumped Caciques kept chasing eachother around the tree tops. And just as we were leaving, a Blond-crested Woodpecker flew in and gave us great looks as it fed on dead branches nearby.    

eBird checklist, with a few pictures: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47759886

 More to come later, once I go through some more pictures and start uploading them to eBird. 

 

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Day 6. We met our guide for the next two weeks, Rene Santos of Calyptura Expeditions, at 6am at our hotel. After a long drive, we finally reached our destination, Intervales State Park, perhaps the best birding site in the Atlantic Forest. We'd stay here two nights, and I couldn't be more excited. Even the entrance road was productive, producing a pair of Red-legged Seriemas, a flyover Buff-necked Ibis, and Double-collared Seedeater and Long-tailed Tyrants on the fencelines. Once we got there and checked in at the excellent Pousada Pau Pica it was just about lunch time, but we couldn't resist a little bit of birding. Rene got them to put some new bananas in the feeders, and we were soon beset by tanagers. Olive-green Tanagers were the most common, but good numbers of Red-necked, Green-headed, Black-goggled, Azure-shouldered, Diademed, and Ruby-crowned all made appearances. Green-winged Saltators and Golden-winged Caciques also made occasional forays to the feeder, while Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Plumbeous Pigeon and a single Sharpbill (we only saw two the entire trip) fed in the trees nearby. A single Violet-capped Woodnymph (the first of many) visited the hummingbird feeder. After lunch the others took a short nap, but I wandered off on my own down the path deeper into the forest. A small mixed flock turned up more new species, including Whiskered Flycatcher, Buff-browed Foliage Gleaner, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-crowned Greenlet and Lesser Woodcreeper. A pair of Wattled Jacana on the pond nearby were also new, as was a Campo Flicker on the lawn. 

Around 3, we met back up with the guide and he took us deeper into the forest. It's amazing how much more you can see with a guide. Even covering the same exact ground that I had alone, we quickly turned up more lifers. A small flock of Brassy-breasted Tanagers (the only ones of the trip) flew in, distracting me from the skulking Pallid Spinetail that I was supposed to be looking at. A Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail ran across the trail. A Surucua Trogon showed itself nicely, while a Red-breasted Toucan flew off as soon as we spotted it, and a small flock of Scaly-headed Parrots screamed by overhead. Giant and Variable Antshrikes were heard only (we eventually would see Variable, but never could lay eyes on Giant), while Bertoni's and Squamate Antbird eventually showed themselves. We worked hard for good views of an Araucaria Tit-Spinetail way up in the top of an Araucaria tree. The guide called out new birds by ear faster than I could even point my binos in the right direction, but I eventually got at least halfway decent looks at Plain-winged Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Gray-hooded Flycatcher, Gray-capped Tyrannulet, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant (my favorite pygmy-tyrant), and White-throated Spadebill, but had to settle for a heard-only Greenish Schiffornis. Way too soon it was time to turn back as the light was failing, but not before we happened into a small troupe of Capuchin monkeys, thrashing their way through the canopy looking for food in the bromeliads. My first full day in the Atlantic Forest and I added 41 new species, bring me up to 97 new species so far.

Some eBird checklists, with pictures: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47789226

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47789220

Once I figure out a good format for uploading my videos, I'll include some of those too. 

 

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Day 7. We start pre-dawn. While yesterday had been postcard-beautiful weather, today the clouds had moved in and the sky was a leaden gray. Our first stop at the moth light was less productive than hoped, since it was a bit too chilly for many insects to have been attracted to the light. A Chestnut-crowned Becard showed up to check for moths, then a Planalto Woodcreeper. From there we headed over to the edge of a nearby marsh, where the guide had a pair of Red-and-white Crakes that would come out for some food. A pair of Orange-breasted Thornbirds gave good but brief looks in the edge of the marsh, in response to playback. The guide also had a tame flock of Spot-winged Wood-Quail, that came right up to us and almost fed out of his hand. The Variegated Antpitta wasn't so cooperative, and all we got was a brief glimpse as it flew off. We had better luck with our next target, a pair of White-browed Warblers which took a surprisingly long time to find, even thought they were calling loudly right in front of us. Since we still had a little bit of time to kill before breakfast, we wandered around the grounds, and were lucky enough to spot a Bicolored Hawk  that flew in and landed in the open, giving us great views (it would be the only one we saw all trip). A pair of Tropical Screech-Owl would be the first owls we saw of the trip. After breakfast we wandered deeper into the forest, stopping at a spot where the guide had a Gray-bellied Hawk nest staked out. the nest was obvious enough, but no hawks were in view. A nice little mixed flock moved through the clearing, and I was soon distracted by a dizzying array of tyrannulets and pygmy-tyrants and tody-flycatchers. In quick succession we got Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, Oustalet's Tyrannulet, Bay-ringed Tyrannulet, Brown-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant and Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher. After 20 minutes with no sign of the hawk, we started heading back to the car, resolving to stop by on the way back. Just before we got back to the car, we heard a noise and looked up to see a Black Hawk-Eagle with the Gray-bellied Hawk in hot pursuit. With an audible thwack the Gray-bellied Hawk hit the Hawk-Eagle so hard that it was knocked from the air and forced to land on a nearby branch to collect itself. Upon regaining its equilibrium, it quickly exited the scene, looking for less aggressive prey. Alas, it was all over before I could even get my camera turned on, but it was one of the definite highlights of the trip!

Deeper into the forest, we parked on the side of the road and started walked along the bamboo-lined track. A nice mixed flock of skulking bamboo specialist was very easy to hear but hard to see as they slowly made their way through the dense vegetation. White-collared Foliage-gleanerSharp-billed Treehunter, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Plain Antvireo, Ferruginous Antbird, Ochre-rumped Antbird, and Streak-capped Antwren were all new. White-shouldered Fire-eye, Rufous Gnateater, White-throated Woodcreeper, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner and White-bearded Antshrike were frustratingly vocal but never showed themselves. A Magpie Tanager foraging high up in the trees in a mixed tanager flock was so different looking from the rest of the tanagers that I was initially convinced that it was a jay, much the the confusion of the guide when I tried to point it out. On the walk back, a happened to look up and see a bright white bird on a bare branch that resolved itself into a Bare-throated Bellbird. It flew off just after I snapped a few pictures, and it would be the only one we'd see the entire trip. Back at the hotel, it was time for lunch, but not before one last new species, a Shear-tailed Gray Tyrant hanging out right next to the pousada. 

 

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After lunch, we went in search of some of the species that had evaded us in the morning. We found a female Pin-tailed Manakin, but never could find any males. Blue-winged Parrotlets and Pileated Parrots were new, initially just seen as flyovers but eventually found perched later in the trip. Barred and Collared Forest-Falcons, plus Laughing Falcon, all joined the "heard only" category initially, but we managed to eventually see Barred Forest-Falcon and Laughing Falcon later in the trip. At this point taking in all the new birds was almost too much to process, especially with the myriad of antbirds and antwrens and foliage-gleaners and various flycatcher-like things that despite several months of preparation I just never quite mastered. So it was nice to spend some time with a group that I'm more familiar with, hummingbirds. We stopped at a bend in the road next to a small pond that the guide had apparently scouted out a few weeks ago as being a good spot for some tough to find endemics, but it also happened to be a great spot for hummers, with a number of red flowering shrubs along the road. Dusky-throated and Scale-throated Hermit were both seen well, and a very cooperative Black-eared Fairy (our only one of the trip) flew in and perched right in front of us for several minutes, giving us point blank views. The hoped for skulking endemics never showed themselves, so Slaty-Bristlefront, White-browed Woodpecker, Sibilant Sirystes, Cinnamon-vented Piha,  and Pavonine Cuckoo stayed in the heard only column. We had better luck with Streaked Xenops, Olivaceous Elaenia, Three-striped Flycatcher, Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites, and Long-billed Gnatwren, at least getting glimpses of all of them. 

By now it was getting into late afternoon, and activity had slowed way down. It was also cooling off quickly. We tried a few spots for Violet-crowned Plovercrest, Half-collared sparrow, Striped Cuckoo and Gray-throated warbling finch to no avail, but did pick up a bonus Yellow-rumped Marshbird, a small family group of Three-striped Flycatchers and a White-spotted Woodpecker, and got good looks at a Aplomado Falcon. As the sun set, we had plans to spotlight for Long-trained Nightjar, but it was too cold so none showed up. Our owling was similarly unsuccessful, with a single Long-tufted Screech-Owl responding briefly to our playback, but never coming any closer. A mildly disappointing way to end the day, but all in all it was still an excellent day with an astounding 55 new species. That is probably the single largest number of lifers I've ever gotten in one day. 

Here's some more videos: 

30545740618_9579220c63_b.jpgSlaty breasted Wood Rail by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

43696564774_2c9d7ee41e_b.jpgSpot-winged wood-quail by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

29476553047_31631125ed_b.jpgBicolored Hawk by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

44414656921_5df0969cd2_b.jpgred and white crakes by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

29476588457_04c76fa898_b.jpgblack eared fairy by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

43696575464_749b899fa8_b.jpgthree striped flycatchers by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

43505832585_8e33f913d2_b.jpgscale throated hermit by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

29476575707_8b9c623a97_b.jpgWhite-spotted Woodpecker by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

44364301032_6ddc979f5e_b.jpgDSCN3496 by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

43696293144_fdd84cf755_b.jpgDSCN3491 by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

Edited by darknight

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Day 8:

Alas, our two days at Intervales passed too quickly. I'd have loved to explore deeper into the park, and seen some of the old growth forests. I doubt I'll ever get back to SE Brazil, but if I do Intervales will definitely warrant another visit. I was surprised at how undeveloped and underutilized the tourism infrastructure was in the area. We saw maybe half a dozen other birders and maybe a dozen others who were hiking/exploring caves in the area, and that's it. For how close it is to a city of 15 million people, that seems surprising. The food at the restaurant was simple but very good, mostly salads, rice and beans and an occasional lasagna (lasagna was popular everywhere we went. I wasn't expecting that).

We  still had a few hours to kill before we had to get on the road, so there was time to try for a few more species that had evaded us yesterday. One that I was really excited to see was Hooded Berryeater. We kept hearing one all morning, but it took nearly an hour before we finally found it, perched high up in the canopy not moving. A Solitary Tinamou called in the distance in the early morning, but remained out of sight. This would be a major miss of the trip, we never could lay eyes on any species of Tinamou, though that's probably not too surprising. We had better luck with Star-throated Antwren and Spotted Bamboowren, both gave brief but satisfying looks deep in the undergrowth behind the pousadaFinally it was time to pack up and head out, but one last check of the feeders turned up two new lifers, Yellow-legged Thrush and Burnished-buff Tanager. 

eBird checklist with pictures: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47820489

And a few more videos: 

43744602164_c64326bb64_c.jpgWhite spotted Woodpecker by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

44462578101_a8ddf3ddeb_c.jpgRuby-crowned Tanager by Bird__Nerd, on Flickr

After a very long drive across Sao Paulo we reached our next destination, Ubatuba. Nothing good can be said about the traffic we encountered, but even so I got a few new species on the car ride, includinga surprise Gray-headed Kite perched in a tree on the side of the road and a fly-by flock of White-eyed Parakeets. When we finally arrived in Ubatuba at the hotel in town, there was just enough time for a little birding in the park across the street from the hotel. In the fading light I got one last lifer, Shiny Cowbird. eBird tells me that the pair of Yellow-bellied Elaenias weren't actually lifers, but I have no memory of seeing that species before, so they were basically lifers. We retired early (I'm pretty sure I was asleep by 9pm), ready for another 6am start tomorrow. 

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Day 9. Ubatuba. The lowland rainforest seem to be much dense than that what we experienced in Intervales, with lots more bamboo and a thicker understory. Our first stop was Fazenda Angelim, an old coffee farm that had been converted into a preserve. The species I was most excited about here was the diminutive Buff-throated Purpletuft, and I was not disappointed as we quickly found one perched out in the open (way up in the top of the canopy). I soon got distracted by the flood of new birds though, with a lek of White-bearded Manakins calling from in the nearby forest, a flyover Gray-rumped Swift and White-necked Hawk, a pair of Orange-eyed Thornbirds just hanging out in the open at the edge of the forest and a Crested Oropendola that stopped off briefly in a dead tree before continuing on into the forest. The feeders turned up the first Green Honeycreepers and Golden-chevroned Tanagers of the trip, and nearby we eventually tracked down a calling White-barred Piculet. Deeper into the forest we turned up a small mixed flock, and got Flame-crested Tanager, Pale-browed Treehunter and Black-capped Foliage-gleaner. A little side path led to a gorgeous stream, but our attempts at Riverbank Warbler and Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper were met with silence. All was not lost though, because a pair of Black-cheeked Gnateaters gave us great looks, though it was too dark for my camera to even focus properly on them. Continuing on that theme, we tracked down Yellow Tyrannulet, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant and Fork-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant deep in the bamboo thickets, and eventually enticed them to come out for good looks, but no pictures. Rufous-capped Antthrush would be even harder, offering brief glimpse as it skulked on the forest floor, though they were quite vocal. Next the guide led us up a steep trail behind the owners house, where we encountered the best mix flock of the trip. Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, Pale-browed Treehunters, White-throated Woodcreeper and Lesser Woodcreeper, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Whiskered Flycatcher, another Buff-throated Purpletuft and a few species of Tanagers all streamed through the canopy over our heads. Our guide then heard a Bellbird calling at the top of the hill, so we raced up there to try to get a better look at it, but alas it wouldn't show itself. The view (once we caught our breath) was amazing though, and he explained that he hoped to be convince the owner to install a canopy tower at this site. There are a few recent unconfirmed records of Kinglet Calyptura from this site, a tiny canopy-dwelling species that was long though extinct until a pair was rediscovered outside Rio in 1996, then vanished again. Not surprisingly, we didn't see any, but our guide is sure that it's still out there somewhere. We did, however, have better luck with Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers, a small family group flew into the clearing and hung out on a dead snag for quite a while, allowing me to get some decent shots and video of them. 

Back down the hill, we went deeper into the dense tangle of bamboo. This site also hosted another incredibly rare species in the past, the Purple-winged Ground Dove, a bamboo specialist that's declined to near extinction. Alas, we didn't see that species either, and a missed a Ruddy Quail-Dove that the guide only heard in the distance. We did get great looks at a Reddish Hermit singing and displaying on its lek, which was a worthy consolation prize. The last new species for this site was a Bran-colored Flycatcher that we spotted on the way back to the car. Before we headed out, I wanted to try again to get some pictures of the White-bearded Manakins, as I wasn't able to get any in the early morning gloom before. By now they had stopped calling, so we never relocated any, but we did get some great looks at a pair of Spot-breasted Ant-Shrikes, which I got a short video of. 

By now we were getting hungry, so it was back to Ubatuba for lunch at a fish restaurant that our guide liked (he lives in Ubatuba) and then an afternoon siesta. Rested and recharged, it was off to Sitio Folha Seca, where someone had an amazing humingbird feeder setup. Over a dozen feeders attracted hundreds of hummingbirds, and we spent about 3 hours just taking it all in and trying to get good videos and pictures of them. Festive Coquette was by far the most common species, and they dominated the central feeders just by sheer numbers, despite being the tiniest hummingbirds present. Brazillain Ruby, Saw-billed Hermit and Violet-crowned Woodpnymphs were also quite common, and small numbers of Sombre Hummingbird, Glittering-throated Emerald and White-chinned Sapphire were also present. The fruit feeders also offered great looks a Violaceous Euphonia and Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, as well as more Green Honeycreepers, Blue Dacnis and Red-necked and Green-headed Tanagers. Alas, fading light and vicious biting flies eventually drove us to leave. So concluded our brief but productive visit to Ubatuba; we'd head back up into the mountains to Itatiaia first thing in the morning. 

eBird checklists, with photos:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47890152

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47890154

I'll try to pick out the best hummingbird videos, tonight or tomorrow. 

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