|JAGUARS AND BIRDS OF BRAZIL|
This tour was billed as `Jaguars and Birds of Brazil`, and the tour lived up to its name, we did eventually see a Jaguar and we also saw a total of 329 species of birds, including the much-prized White-winged Nightjar and the magnificent Hyacinth Macaw. The tour had four main areas of focus; the first, being the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the Americas, world famous for its huge numbers of wetland birds and for being a place where you had a very real chance of seeing a Jaguar in the wild, surely one of the most beautiful and illusive of the big cats. The second area of focus was Emas National Park, one of the largest protected areas of the endangered campo-cerrado habitat, in South America. Our third area of focus was the scenically attractive Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park and our fourth area of focus, was Currupira Lodge, where we would search for the magnificent Harpy Eagle. We had a brief look at an adult female Jaguar and enjoyed a host of wetland birds and gallery forest birds in the Pantanal, saw almost all of the target birds at Emas and Chapada dos Guimaraes National Parks, but unfortunately the Harpy Eagles had not yet started to breed at Currupira. During the tour we saw a whole host of Brazilian endemics, globally threatened species and many special birds such as Greater Rhea, Little, Undulated and Tataupa Tinamous, Boat-billed Heron, the magnificent Jabiru, both Horned and Southern Screamers, Gray-headed Kite, Chestnut-bellied Guan, Bare-faced Curassow, Sungrebe, the dazzling Sunbittern, the rather bizarre Red-legged Seriema, Long-tailed Ground-Dove, a total of six species of magnificent macaws, which included Hyacinth, Blue-and-yellow, Red-and-green, Blue-winged, Golden-collared and Red-shouldered, the highly localised Yellow-faced Parrot, three rarely observed species of cuckoo, Striped, Pheasant and Pavonine, no less than 12 species of nocturnal birds, Campo Miner, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Mato Grosso Antbird, Black-throated Antbird, Collared Crescent-chest, Fiery-capped Manakin, Chapada Flycatcher, Sharp-tailed Tyrant, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, the worlds smallest passerine, both Cock-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Dull-capped Attila and Black-faced Tanager. We also encountered a superb selection of no less than 29 species of mammals, highlights included Giant Anteater, Southern Tamamdua, Jaguar, Hoary and Crab-eating Foxes, Maned Wolf, Neotropic River and Giant Otters, the rarely observed Crab-eating Raccoon, Black-tailed Marmoset, Molina's Hog-nosed Skunk and White-lipped Peccary.
Following 30 hours of flying, we were more than pleased to arrive at our very pleasant hotel in Cuiaba, in the wild west of Brazil, situated in the state of Mato Grosso, where we were able to stretch out in a real bed, and enjoy a well earned, good nights sleep. The following morning we were up early and after breakfast, we had a quick look around the grounds of our hotel. Where we encountered Feral and Pale-vented Pigeons, Rufous Hornero, Great Kiskadee, Brown-chested Martin, Rufous-bellied and Creamy-bellied Thrushes, Sayaca Tanager and the introduced House Sparrow.
Leaving Cuiaba, we drove southwards along the Transpantaneira Road and entered the immense watery world of the world-famous Pantanal, the largest wetland wilderness in the Americas. It is a vast, seasonally flooded region of marsh and savanna, lying in the basin of the Paraguay River, which straddles the Brazilian-Bolivian border. In the space of a few hours we were treated to a wide assortment of the characteristic birds of the Pantanal. One of the first things we noticed was the numbers of Jabirus; groups of several individuals were common, while some drying pools attracted parties of more than a dozen of these imposing giants. Wood Storks and Limpkins were also unusually abundant and along some stretches of the Transpantaneira it seemed that every other fence post was topped by a Snail Kite, or a Black-collared Hawk. The receding marshes served to concentrate huge aggregations of Yacare Caimans, Capybaras, and a diverse array of waterbirds and bush birds, which included Greater Rhea, Neotropic Cormorant, Bare-faced, Plumbeous and Buff-necked Ibis, Whistling, Little Blue, Capped, Cocoi and Striated Herons, Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Maguari Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Pearl Kite, the very large Great Black-Hawk, Roadside and Savanna Hawks, Southern Caracara, Wattled Jacana, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Large-billed Tern, Ruddy, Picui and Long-tailed Ground-Doves, Picazuro Pigeon, Monk Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, Toco Toucan, Little Woodpecker, White-lored Spinetail, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Short-crested Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Martin, Black-capped Donacobius, Chalk-browned Mockingbird, Curl-crested and Purplish Jays, Silver-beaked Tanager, Solitary Black Cacique, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Orange-backed Troupial, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Grayish Saltator and Saffron Finch. We also encountered a South American Coati and a couple of Marsh Deer. We arrived at the Canto do Arancua Lodge just in time for lunch and a short siesta.
In the late afternoon we did some birding in a nearby patch of forest, which revealed such gems as Boat-billed Heron, Chaco Chachalaca, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, the beautiful Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Scaly-headed and Blue-fronted Parrots, Great Potoo, Common Pauraque, White-wedged Piculet, Campo Flicker, Lineated Woodpecker, Common Thornbird, Great Rufous and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, Red-billed Scythebill, Great Antshrike, Mato Grosso Antbird, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, White-rumped Monjita, Rufous Casiornis, Thrush-like Wren, the delightful Red-crested Finch, Greyish Baywing, Shiny and Giant Cowbirds, Red-crested Cardinal and the attractive Crested Oropendola. We also saw a small troop of Brown-tufted Capuchins.
The following morning we took an early morning boat trip along the Rio Clarinho, where new birds came thick and fast, these included Anhinga, the simply stunning Sunbittern, Orange-winged Parrot, Band-tailed Nighthawk, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Large-billed Antwren, Euler's Flycatcher and Lesser Kiskadee. We had breakfast back at the lodge and then continued south to Mato Grosso Lodge, on the banks of the Pixaim River, where we spent the night. While driving to the Transpantaneira Road and still in the grounds of the Canto do Arancua Lodge, we saw Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Chopi Blackbird.
We then continued southwards along the Transpantaneira Road, between Canto do Arancua Lodge and the Pixaim River. New birds along this stretch of the Transpantaneira included Green Ibis, real Muscovy Ducks, Brazilian Teal, Scaled Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Rufous Cacholote, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and Rusty-collared Seedeater. We also observed an Azara's Agouti, a Crab-eating Fox and both Red and Grey Brockets.
We enjoyed lunch at the lodge and also enjoyed watching the multitude of birds that paid a visit to the bird feeders. New birds in the grounds of the lodge included the delicate Buff-bellied Hermit, the beautiful White-winged Swallow, incredibly tame White-tipped Doves, Boat-billed Flycatcher and Black-backed Water-Tyrant. Following a brief siesta, we enjoyed a late afternoon boat trip along the picturesque Pixaim River, which produced a never-ending variety of birds, new birds included Chestnut-bellied Guan, Bare-faced Curassow, great looks at the difficult to observe Sungrebe, the range restricted Golden-collared Macaw, Nacunda Nighthawk, Variable Oriole and Yellow-rumped Cacique. We also observed a troop of Black Howler Monkeys. A little spot-lighting in a patch of nearby forest, after dinner, enabled us to see Common Potoo, a stunning Scissor-tailed Nightjar, a Great Fruit-eating Bat and a Forest Rabbit.
Following breakfast the next day, a morning walk through gallery forest along the Pixaim River, proved very rewarding, producing our only sighting of the Blue-crowned Parakeet, as well as Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Glittering-throated Emerald, Blue-crowned Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Black-fronted Nunbird, Golden-green and Pale-crested Woodpeckers, Pale-legged Hornero, Buff-throated and Straight-billed Woodcreepers, Barred Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Band-tailed Antbird, the stunningly attractive Helmeted Manakin, Forest Elaenia, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-olive, Fuscous and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Green-backed Becard, Buff-breasted Wren, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Flavescent Warbler, Bananaquit, Chestnut-vented Conebill and Hooded, Gray-headed, Palm and Swallow Tanagers. We also very much enjoyed watching the antics of a large troop of beautiful Black-tailed Marmosets.
Following lunch, we continued southwards along the Transpantaneira Road, birding as we did so, stopping to admire the many large concentrations of waterbirds in the wetlands and checking out patches of woodland along the roadside. We added a few new birds during the drive, several huge Southern Screamers, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Greater Thornbird and Unicolored Blackbird. We arrived at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve Lodge at dusk, where we were greeted by a beautifully marked Crane Hawk and several stunning Hyacinth Macaws, in the grounds of the lodge.
The following morning, after an early breakfast, there was much excitement amongst the group, as we prepared to drive to Porto Jofre and begin our search for a Jaguar, not in a zoo, but in the wild! Somewhat surprisingly, in the grounds of the lodge we added three more new birds, while boarding our two open-top vehicles, the diminutive Bat Falcon, a small flock of White-eyed Parakeets and a beautiful Black-crowned Tityra. During the drive to Porto Jofre we made a stop at a day time roost of the huge Great Horned Owl, which we greatly admired. We also saw a surprisingly large number of other new birds here, which included Gray-fronted Dove, Large Elaenia, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Masked Gnatcatcher and White-bellied Seedeater. During the drive we also saw a Brazilian Guinea-Pig, which crossed the road ahead of us. We spent the next ten hours slowly cruising along the Cuiaba and Three Brothers River systems, carefully examining the river bank and sandbanks in search of Jaguar, but unfortunately, to no avail. However, all was not in vain, as we did enjoy watching an Osprey, a very beautiful White-tailed Hawk, a pair of Collared Plovers, several Yellow-billed Terns and best of all, several Black Skimmers, some of them even flew alongside our boats, skimming the water with their bills, as they did so.
We spent the whole of the following day searching the Cuiaba River and its tributaries, and although we added Pied Lapwing, Little Cuckoo and Blue-black Grassquit to our ever growing birdlist, we once again failed to find a Jaguar. However, we did very much enjoy watching the antics of a large family party of Giant Otters.
The following day, was our last chance to see a Jaguar and we were determined to find one. During the drive to Porto Jofre we found two new birds for the tour, the splendid White-headed Marsh-Tyrant and the attractive White-browed Blackbird, we also saw a Neotropic River Otter. We searched diligently all morning for a Jaguar but failed to find one, but we did find a Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, yet another new bird. It was late in the afternoon, when we got the message that there was a Jaguar nearby. Our boat was opened up to full throttle and we shot off at full speed! A few minutes later we rounded a bend in the river to find several tourist boats along the side of the river. We parked alongside and in no time at all we saw a Jaguar sitting in the shade, on the riverbank, unfortunately, it suddenly stood up, took a few steps to the right and then disappeared deeper into the riverside vegetation. It was only a brief look, but non the less, it was a Jaguar, in the wild!
After breakfast the following morning we did some birding in a patch of nearby gallery forest where we found a few new birds for the tour, these included Chotoy and Cinereous-breasted Spinetails, Plain Tyrannulet and the range restricted Fawn-breasted Wren. We then travelled northwards along the Transpantaneira Road, where we taped in the uncommon Striped Cuckoo. We arrived at the entrance gate to the Pouso Alegre Lodge, just as the light was beginning to fade and during the 7 kilometre drive to the actual lodge, we enjoyed super looks at both the Giant Anteater and the Brazilian Tapir. We arrived at the lodge in very high spirits.
We spent the whole of the following day birding in the grounds of the Pouso Alegre Lodge, where spot-lighting before breakfast produced great looks at the large Mottled Owl and the diminutive Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Later in the day we added White and Green-barred Woodpeckers, Streaked Xenops, Planalto Slaty-Antshrike, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, White-winged Becard and the unobtrusive Dull-capped Attila. A little spot-lighting following dinner produced two brilliant mammals, the stunning Southern Tamandua and the very cute Crab-eating Raccoon.
Following breakfast the next day, we spent the morning birding in the grounds of the Pouso Alegre Lodge and we were delighted when Braulio enticed a pair of Undulated Tinamous out into the open by skill-full use of his playback equipment. An afternoon walk produced an Eared Dove before we began the long drive eastwards, to Rondonopolis, where we spent the night.
Following breakfast at our hotel, we continued our drive to the east and we broke the long drive, with a birding stop at a small marsh not far from the small town of Pedra Preta. The main target bird here was the Horned Screamer, a bird at the very southern end of its range. In no time at all, we were all enjoying super scope views of this very handsome bird. The small marsh also produced
Laughing Falcon, Common Gallinule, our first of many delightful Burrowing Owls, a large flock of White-collared Swifts and several White-rumped Swallows. Continuing our drive, we stopped to admire our first Red-legged Seriemas of the tour, which we found along the roadside. At our lunch stop, we added American Kestrel, to the birdlist. In the cooler hours of the afternoon, we arrived at Emas National Park and new birds came thick and fast, they included Plumbeous Kite, Aplomado Falcon, Red-shouldered Macaw, White-bellied and White-striped Warblers, Yellow-rumped Marshbird, White-banded and White-rumped Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, Grassland Sparrow and Black-throated Saltator. We also saw our first Pampas Deer, feeding just outside the park.
We spent all of the following day birding in Emas National Park, one of the largest protected areas of campo-cerrado habitat in South America. As we approached the entrance to the park, a little after dawn, we found a magnificent Molina's Hog-nosed Skunk walking along in a field. It was a great start to the day; the park yielded up a great many more new birds and a couple of new mammals, before the end of the day. New birds included Yellow-headed Caracara, the extremely range restricted Yellow-faced Parrot, a couple of superb Short-eared Owls, the endangered White-winged Nightjar, Grey-rumped Swift, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, White-vented Violetear, Gilded Hummingbird, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Rusty-backed Antwren, Collared Crescent-chest, Yellow-bellied and Highland Elaenias, the range restricted Chapada Flycatcher, Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant, Gray Monjita, Cock-tailed Tyrant, White-throated Kingbird, Masked Yellowthroat, Yellowish Pipit, Burnished-buff Tanager, Coal-crested Finch, Plumbeous Seedeater and Pectoral Sparrow. Spot-lighting after dark produced great looks at a Hoary Fox and a fleeting glimpse at a Maned Wolf.
We enjoyed a second full day in Emas National Park, where new birds included super looks at the stunning Gray-headed Kite, the beautiful Crimson-crested Woodpecker, the range restricted Campo Miner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, both Sharp-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Southern Antpipit, Swainson's Flycatcher, Pale-breasted Thrush, Purple-throated and Thick-billed Euphonias and Tropical Parula. We also enjoyed prolonged looks at a large group of White-lipped Peccaries, to add to our, by now, very impressive mammal list.
The following morning, as we were loading up our vehicle with luggage in the small town of Costa Rica, we spotted a flock of Blue-winged Parrotlets in a nearby tree and we were able to view them in the scope. The day was off to a good start, as we prepared ourselves for the long drive to Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park. During the drive we enjoyed good looks at the White-tailed Kite along the roadside. We broke the long drive with a birding stop at a small river, close to Alto Araguaia; here a few stunningly beautiful Swallow-tailed Kites were much appreciated, a Blackish Rail put in a brief appearance, a Swallow-tailed Hummingbird was greatly admired and best of all, we enjoyed great good looks at the very uncommon Point-tailed Palmcreeper.
The following day, amongst the canyons of the Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park, we enjoyed
Scaled Pigeon, both Red-and-green and Blue-winged Macaws, Blue-headed Parrot, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Long-billed Starthroat, White-eared Puffbird, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, the habitat-restricted Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Rufous-winged Antshrike, Band-tailed Manakin, Plain-crested Elaenia, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Cliff and Streaked Flycatchers, Black-faced and White-lined Tanagers, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Saffron-billed Sparrow and Green-winged Saltator, Braulio even managed to conjure up, the rarely observed Pavonine Cuckoo. We also saw one new mammal, the Southern Amazon Red Squirrel. Back at the lodge, both Yellow-bellied and Double-collared Seedeaters, were observed on the bird feeders.
A final morning in Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park produced the rarely observed Little Tinamou, the very shy Pheasant Cuckoo, the amazing Amazonian Motmot, the stunningly beautiful and rare Fiery-capped Manakin, as well as the very vocal Moustached Wren. We then drove to Currupira Lodge, on the southern edge of Amazonia. Here new birds included Least Grebe, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Black-tailed Trogon, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Lettered Aracari, Red-necked Woodpecker, Masked Tityra and the incredible Magpie Tanager.
On our last day of the tour we spent the morning birding in the grounds of the Currupira Lodge; here a pair of Tataupa Tinamous responded very well to tape playback, we enjoyed watching several Greater Yellow-headed Vultures, observed a pair of Spix's Guans, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, a large flock of Short-tailed Swifts, the beautiful Collared Trogan, the large White-throated Toucan, an obliging pair of White-backed Fire-eyes, the uncommon Black-throated Antbird, a Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, the smallest passerine in the world, and best of all a stunning Hook-billed Kite. We also added our last mammal of the tour, the Black-striped Tufted Capuchin. In the afternoon we drove back to Cuiaba, and the following morning we departed for Australia.