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Rio de Janeiro and the Atlantic Rain Forest - Salvaging 2020 (1 Viewer)

Trystan

Well-known member
After a year of cancellations, lockdowns and disappointments, it was looking bleak for maintaining my personal goals of three new countries and 200 new species every year.

With a short trip to Rome, including the Vatican City under my belt, I could at least get the country target if anywhere would have someone from the UK. With the goalposts moving constantly, a number of countries were considered and dismissed.

With the UK once again entering a lockdown in November; nobody allowed to travel for tourism; and no guarantee that travel would be permitted again after the lockdown, there didn’t seem much hope.

I had, however, been in contact with the Itororo lodge in Brazil who put me in touch with Andy Foster at Serra dos Tucanos Birding Tours about arranging a last minute trip should things fall kindly. Brazil, has remained open for tourism with no additional requirements for those travelling from the UK since around August. So if this stayed the same, and the UK came out of lockdown on 2nd December and I could get some insurance to travel to Brazil, and I could time it so that my return quarantine fell over the Christmas period so as not to impact on work, then it might just be possible!

I bought a field guide, Ber van Perlo’s Birds of Brazil, and began revising a little in advance based on the list provided by Andy just in case.

I kept an eye on the flights for my dates. Direct flights to Rio vanished; then flights via Madrid vanished; flights via Amsterdam flew a day too early, but I managed to wrangle the extra day from work if it was to go ahead. Finally, we were out of lockdown; the flight prices doubled overnight! Thanks KLM.

I was able to secure insurance for travel even with the FCDO “essential travel only”, through a company called Battleface. It did not cover everything; but it covered health which was the main requirement for me to commit to the trip so on the 3rd December, I pulled everything together to start out on the 8th for 3 days in Rio, followed by 10 days Atlantic rainforest birding from Itororo lodge.

I had chosen accommodation in Rio, positioned near the canal between Ipanema beach and the big lagoon. Magaridas Pousada apartments which were very nice, with a homely breakfast and highly recommended if staying in Rio. I didn’t know for sure if this would work out well for some casual birding but it seemed the best bet, with the botanical gardens and parque Lage, also within walking distance (About 30 minutes around the lagoon). The latter is the access point to the walking trail to Christ the Redeemer – more about that later.

I arrived on the evening of the 8th, and changed some cash at the airport for a very poor rate, followed by a taxi to my hotel. I had heard lots of horror stories about card cloning using the ATMs, and having to be careful about walking around with phones, cameras etc. In truth, though I did avoid the ATMs, I felt completely safe walking about Rio, obviously staying in the tourist areas around Ipanema, Copacobana, and slightly into Leblon and Botafogo.

There was very little pestering, a quick shake of the head seemed enough to deter people along the beach and the few homeless people present on my morning walks kept themselves to themselves. Not many people spoke English, a few little Portuguese phrases and lots of gesticulating seemed to get me by.

So here’s how it went. New birds for the trip highlighted in bold, lifers in capitals, introduced species in italics throughout the report.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
9th December

Light at 5am, President Bolsonaro has decided not to implement daylight saving time this year – no problem being up and about, always find it easier to travel west than east when it comes to jetlag though there was only 3 hours difference.

The streets had plenty of trees and the trip list was immediately up and running, getting Feral pigeon out of the way as I left the apartment.

Great kiskadee was present all round the area, as was Palm tanager while it was not possible to look up without seeing Magnificent frigatebirds passing over.

Next was my first lifer of the trip; SWALLOW TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, seemed to be the only species of hummingbird around the city until I went to the Botanical gardens. This quickly followed by some other ubiquitous species; House sparrow, Ruddy ground dove and Bananaquit. I also watched a House wren playing round the base of a tree. All this and I hadn’t even walked to the end of the block.

I was heading towards the canal, which looked to be set in a park or green area on the map. On arrival, it was actually a series of fenced off little scrub areas/parks, in varying degrees of completeness, the top two were fenced off but fully viewable from the roads. The bottom one, closest to the beach could be walked in but didn’t hold much, and the most finished park was opened up about 6 am and used by dog walkers.

Not pristine habitat, but good enough to turn up a decent number of species over the coming days, along with the south west corner of the big lagoon, viewing into the tennis club grounds, these areas became my little patch to work before breakfast each day.

It was all coming a bit thick and fast the first morning, some birds I had to make notes on and identify later, but the approximate order, ran like:

RUFOUS HORNERO; Common waxbill (introduced); Common gallinule; Snowy egret; Southern rough-winged swallow; Blue and white swallow (only noted one juvenile bird here two consecutive days); Monk parakeet (introduced, not in the book, saw two groups of three birds for two consecutive days, though not tame); MASKED WATER TYRANT (My favourite, of the common birds round the park, could be very tame, like pied wagtails running round your feet; Striated heron; Great white egret; WING BANDED HORNERO; Southern lapwing; SAYACA TANAGER; Tropical kingbird; Neotropic cormorant; Black vulture; Saffron finch; KELP GULL; RUFOUS BELLIED THRUSH; PALE BELLIED THRUSH; Roadside hawk, I think there were at least 3 of this latter, resident around the parks, one adult and two juveniles. One morning, one of the juveniles was on a building trying to get in a slightly open window!

Most of these species were seen regularly while birding the area each morning with the exception of the Pale bellied thrush, which I only saw once here but much more at Itororo. I also let slide a couple of IDs which I could have backdated into the first day but have chosen to put them in later when seen again and clinched.

The rest of the day was a bit quiet bird-wise; I walked Ipanema and Copacobana, then followed some trails up a hill with an ruined fort which overlooked sugarloaf. To do this I had to walk through a residential area; I was a little cautious but didn’t have any problems and was even helped with directions when the right path wasn’t obvious.

Along the way I added Brown booby, small groups flying close in along the shore. At the top of the hill, black vultures were abundant and I had to pass a place where about 20 sat eyeing me suspiciously. I gave them the widest possible berth in the hope of not disturbing them and they seemed pretty tolerant, just hopping away. It was very misty over sugarloaf while in the other direction Christ kept disappearing in the clouds. This seems fairly typical, although it remained dry all day, it was often overcast and the following day was very rainy.

I mangled the ID of two raptor species here; bad light and restricted views; I suspect the latter had to be Great black hawk, all black with yellow bill, about half the size of the accompanying vultures; but I never saw the band in the tail. The former; I have no idea; from the yapping noises, I think they were juvenile, always backlit when they came to a point where I could see them through the trees.

Next bird was a mammal: Common marmoset, apparently introduced and potentially a problem for the local wildlife.

A few squeaky birds eluded me until I connected with YELLOW-LORED TODY-FLYCATCHER but the rest of the time on the hill was fruitless. On the way back through Rio, I paused at a little park with a pond which, along with some of the regulars, also produced Social flycatcher and several SICK’S SWIFTS overhead.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
10th December

I was caught out by the weather on my pre-breakfast walk, but not before sorting my BROWN-CHESTED MARTINS from my rough winged swallows; my PLAIN PARAKEETS from my Monk parakeets; and getting a surprise Yellow-headed caracara zip through too.

Today I planned to walk up the trail to Christ the Redeemer. Access is in Parque Lage which does not open until 9am. I was a bit surprised that the gatekeeper didn’t just let people in as there were a few waiting; there is no fee to go in, but they were taking temperatures and spraying sanitiser so I guess they were just following current policy.

Once in, I headed to the start point, picking up Plain antvireo along the way. The checkpoint police didn’t seem thrilled to let me take the trail, saying it was dangerous but I said I wanted to go anyway so he had to take some details on a form before I set off. This included passport number – fortunately, mine is easy to remember but anyone who does this trail should bear it in mind.

As I went up the trail, I filled my waterbottle at one of the falls you pass on the way up. I guess the water is ok, as I’m still here writing this report. The path did not seem especially dangerous, even in the wet conditions and the weather threatening to rain on me again.

If there was any bird activity, it was not apparent to me, as is often the case with forest birding, huge amounts of nothing before it all happens at once. Unfortunately for me; the ‘all at once’ occurred as I reached couple of benches and the trees opened out. This meant the misty conditions and the glare of the sun, along with me steaming up my bins every time I used them due to sweating from the climb left me unable to do much with a small party of small birds which passed through; the exception being the incredibly stunning FLAME CRESTED TANAGER which came in very close to the trail.

Two stocky parrots flew over and perched up high and obscured. I could make out the tail end of one, and I believe they were Scaly-headed parrots, but not enough to include them on the list until later in the trip.

The next bit of the trail, was what I would call genuinely dangerous. I certainly would not have wanted to do it down hill. There is a stretch of hill at about 45’, treacherous with the wet mud, but with enough vines to have something to hold, but this is followed by a stepper climb up rock with metal staples fastened into them. Once that was over, the path calmed down a bit and I eventually crossed the train line and connected with the main road up to the monument.

By this time it was raining heavily and I was feeling pretty wretched and sorry for myself at the gate where I was again temperature checked and sanitised.

I went and got some shots of Christ, 5 down, 2 to go on the modern wonders. I can’t argue with how iconic this monument is, but probably does not deserve to be in the 7 when there are places like Angkor Wat or Stonehenge to be considered. Anyway, I hid from the rain for a while and eventually it began to brighten so I had another look around. A Yellow-headed caracara was occasionally landing on the monument and new birds included Rufous-collared sparrow and BRASSY-BREASTED TANAGER. I don’t know if I’d have done better with the birds if the weather had not been so wet but overall, not great. I didn’t fancy the climb back down the slippery trail so opted to pay my way back down by van. This only got me to Copacobana so I still had a fair walk back but the weather was nicer in the afternoon and back around the lagoon I picked up RED-SHOULDERED MACAW, CHALK-BROWED MOCKINGBIRD, and later in the evening, Violaceous euphonia; Ringed kingfisher and PICAZURO PIGEON. The mockingbirds and the Pigeon seemed fairly reliable around the sports club.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
11th December

After two big walking days, I had planned to take it a bit easier, but still ended up covering a lot of ground today. Pre-breakfast I finally clinched Yellow-bellied elaenia. Really the only possible option here but very dull, barely perceptibly yellow.

I set off to the Botanical gardens, retracing yesterday’s steps round the lagoon, this time adding Black-crowned night-heron and COCOI HERON.

The gardens were only accessible at one of the gates – the furthest one, and birding was actually pretty slow there. Palm tanagers dominated but other birds I found while racking up the step count included several TROPICAL PARULA; a couple of parties of DOUBLE-COLLARED SEEDEATERS, four GREEN-HEADED TANAGERS, VIOLET-CAPPED WOODNYMPH and a couple of SLATY-BREASTED WOODRAILS.

After this I planned to take a trail into the hills to a waterfall which I spotted on the map, half way between the Botanical gardens and Parque Lage. I was quite surprised once I found the trail, that I didn’t have it to myself but that it was well used by residents. Certainly not conducive to birding; when I reached the waterfall, I found that there were at least 6 people already there splashing about so I abandoned the idea and headed back. Rained in the afternoon so this finishes the first little part of the trip.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
12th December

This morning, as per arrangement, I was picked up from the apartment at 7.30 am by Sergio, who would be the regular driver for me during the trip, and just outside Rio, we were joined by my guide for the trip Cirilo.

I cannot fault the service and guidance I received, with Cirilo up with me at 5am every day for pre-breakfast walks around the lodge and Sergio, not only competent as a driver, but also responsible in later days for helping us connect with a couple of species we may not otherwise have seen. Cirilo, as well as being an excellent bird guide was also a good companion for the duration, with perfect English, we often diverged from birding to discuss, everything from big subjects like religion and politics to tastes in films and music.

The trip from Rio to Itororo was about 2.5 hours, not too busy with weekend traffic only. Along the way, Cattle egret and Smooth billed ani were added to the trip list.

After this the birding really accelerated, with both the increased amount of species available, and a guide to rapidly identify; the birds came thick and fast, and it was all I could do to get my head round the multitude of similar antshrikes, antbirds and antwrens along with the even more cryptic woodcreepers and spinetails.

I was very reliant on Cirilo for many of these, only really finding my feet in the latter part of the trip with more field experience under my belt but I also don’t just take the guide’s word for it so all the included species are those I was completely confident of from my own views, comparing with the fieldguide and the recorded bird calls when required.

I was welcomed upon arrival to Itororo lodge, not only by Rainer and his sister Bettina; but also by a multitude of birds at the feeding station: Magpie tanager, AZURE SHOULDERED TANAGER, RUBY CROWNED TANAGER, BRAZILIAN RUBY, GOLDEN CHEVRONED TANAGER, MAROON BELLIED PARAKEET, Crested oropendola; Blue dacnis and BURNISHED BUFF TANAGER followed by Cirilo picking out a VARIABLE ANTSHRIKE from the vegetation behind the feeders almost immediately upon leaving the vehicle.

The room was lovely, the upper floor of a two storey cabin with a view into the vale below. I was well looked after as a vegetarian with all the meals and packed lunches; the catering was really first rate. Later Bettina showed me a picture of how the lodge looked when first constructed with the hills around barren. There is a real sense of joy at the achievement of reforesting this area and helping the wildlife to recover to the current levels. I hope that this may long continue with most of the trip spent in second growth; there is hope that with the right people in charge; some of the damage which has been done can be reversed!

Immediately after settling in, we began with an exploration of some of the trails around the lodge. As with any birding of this type; use of recordings to tempt calling birds from cover; or in likely spots for species was employed for the skulkers. Birds were very active this first day and we quickly connected with ORANGE EYED THORNBIRD; OCHRE FACED TODY FLYCATCHER; BERTONI’S ANTSHRIKE; BLUE MANAKIN – Several perfoming a lek; PIN-TAILED MANAKIN – A female was the only one I managed for the trip; RUFOUS HEADED TANAGER; GOLDEN CROWNED WARBLER; Rufous peppershrike; BUFF FRONTED FOLIAGE GLEANER all the while, we were moving up to obtain views across the valley where BARE THOATED BELLBIRD was perched up sending out its ringing cry.

On the descent, BLACK GOGGLED TANAGER; PALLID SPINETAIL; CHESTNUT-CROWNED BECARD and YELLOW EARED WOODPECKER.

At the lodge for lunch, picking up WHITE THROATED HUMMINGBIRD; Streaked flycatcher; RUFOUS CROWNED GREETLET and PLANALTO TYRANNULET before setting off again on another trail for the afternoon.

New birds included STREAKED XENOPS; a difficult to see OCHRE RUMPED ANTSHRIKE was the only one of the trip; a small flock containing both RUFOUS CAPPED SPINETAIL and SPIX’S SPINETAIL was useful for comparison. Fawn breasted tanager was seen next crossing my path as I tried, and finally succeeded in getting a view of WHITE COLLARED FOLIAGE GLEANER. Back at the lodge before dinner; Grey fronted dove; BLACK JACOBIN; Boat billed flycatcher and DUSKY LEGGED GUAN, regular in the evenings at the feeders, completed an intense day’s birding.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
13th December

I had an 8 day itinerary plus 2 extra days as a back up for difficult species arranged, however, the itinerary was completely flexible to try and avoid any adverse weather. Rain came mostly in the afternoons and we did rather well at avoiding it without having to shuffle the itinerary at all; so this day was a drive into the viscinity of three towns; Duas Barras; Soumidoro and Carmo with stops at various open areas to pick up some key targets for the trip not available elsewhere.

Pre-breakfast on another trail of Itororo first produced five new birds; RUFOUS CAPPED MOTMOT; SEPIA CRESTED FLYCATCHER; GREEN BACKED BECKARD; HALF COLLARED SPARROW and Olivaceous woodcreeper.

On the approach to Duas Barras; a stop by a swampy field was chiefly to target BLACKISH RAIL, which showed along the edge of the reeds in due course, but not before adding STREAMER TAILED TYRANT; BLACK CAPPED DONACOBIUS; BLUE WINGED MACAW; Lesser yellow headed vulture and CHOPI BLACKBIRD.

A little further on, a short stop near a farm building with a few stands of trees produced WHITE EARED PUFFBIRD; CREAM BELLIED THRUSH and SHORT CRESTED FLYCATCHER and just a short distance down the road from here, another wet, reedy field on one side of the road and a thin belt of woodland on the other where there was a small flock of GILT EDGED TANAGERS. A RED RUMPED CACIQUE flew by while out in the field was YELLOW CHINNED SPINETAIL; RUFOUS FRONTED THORNBIRD and then back on the wooded side; SCALED WOODCREEPER. We tried but were not successful in locating ashy throated crake here.

Still in the Duas Barras area, now in some rolling hills we hoped to find Red legged sereima and White tailed hawk but those birds had other ideas, so we had to settle for WHITE RUMPED MONJITA; GRASSLAND SPARROW; FORK TAILED FLYCATCHER, Blue black grassquit and Grey breasted martin instead.

Dropping down to another farm building with an open field and some patch wooded areas; a party of GUIRA CUCKOO’S; a pair of YELLOW BROWED TYRANTS, a CATTLE TYRANT and several Shiny cowbirds were on display. After a little time scanning; a WHITE TAILED HAWK came in and landed on the telegraph post giving excellent views; and before leaving this stop; we added CHESTNUT CAPPED BLACKBIRD, a little distant but plenty more seen later in the trip.

Before leaving the Duas Barras area; we had one more stop to make, targeting the FIREWOOD GATHERER, named for the wood it collects to produce its nest. We walked along the road a little way, picking up Plumbeous kite perched distantly; a CAMPO FLICKER passed too briefly, but fortunately had landed in a tree round the next bend where there was also Hooded siskin. The van had gone ahead and was waiting for us by another farm where a CLIFF FLYCATCHER was active from a wire by the building.

Now in the Soumidoro area, we made another stop in similar habitat and noted the first of many Turkey vultures for the trip; a pair of BLUE WINGED PARROTLETS were elusive in nearby trees but settled eventually. We then walked up a small road over a stream, in open wooded country to a huge old tree which had somehow survived the deforestation process. Two WHISTLING HERONS were in a field near the stream and the only Ferruginous pygmy owl was sat watching us from a low branch of the huge tree. Heading back to the van, I finally connected well with WHITE EYED PARAKEETS, several flocks had passed over during the day but always too quickly for satisfactory views.

Next a brief unscheduled stop because Cirilo had noticed a couple of ducks on the bank of a stream through a field. A good spot, securing the only BRAZILIAN TEALS of the trip.

The furthest stop, after passing through the town of Carmo, was some degraded woodland in search of the THREE TOED JACAMAR. This proved very easy with a couple of birds seen sat up in prominent positions in the trees. We had a slim chance of Rio de Janeiro antbird here but it was not to be, we continued to find good new birds for the trip in the form of SERRA ANTWREN; CRESCENT CHESTED PUFFBIRD, Yellow olive flycatcher and American kestrel.

The return journey was mostly uneventful with the exception of one stop where SOUTHERN CRESTED CARACARA was in a field. A lucky stop as further scanning produced the only BLACK NECKED ARACARI of the trip along with distant views of WHITE BROWED BLACKBIRD. Cirilo called Giant cowbird, but I wasn’t fast enough to get anything but two dark birds flying into the distance.

The evening around the lodge was dry so I chased down the regularly calling TROPICAL SCREECH OWL that evening relatively easily. We had not heard any other owls around the grounds but did try on some subsequent days for other possible species.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
14th December

Nothing new from the lodge this morning before heading to the Cedae trail at Cachoeira de Macacu after breakfast. This was a really productive trail as we connected with a bird wave almost as soon as we had started. STAR THROATED ANTWREN; Red crowned ant tanager; WHITE BROWED FOLIAGE GLEANER; BLACK CAPPED FOLIAGE GLEANER; SPOT BREASTED ANTVIREO; SQUIRREL CUCKOO; LESSER WOODCREEPER and OCHRE BREASTED FOLIAGE GLEANER were all present amongst some previously seen species, including the Buff fronted foliage gleaner, allowing excellent comparison with the latter.

As we descended, the birds thinned out but we continued to add the odd species, starting with Chivi vireo; then SPOT BILLED TOUCANET; a party of RED NECKED TANAGERS and Cirilo was pleased with a PALE BROWED TREEHUNTER which is normally tricky to see. We followed the trail to the bottom of the valley where we joined a stream and there is a pumping station. Just before this by an exceptional stroke of luck, a SOLITARY TINAMOU was walking along the path. It saw us as we saw it and it immediately flew into the vegetation but even with this briefest of views I was really pleased to see my first tinamou.

As the path opened out by the stream crossing, Collared swifts were passing overhead and a pair of CRESTED BECARDS were present. This was the end of the trail, but the return trip kept producing. Firsty, White throated spadebill, closely followed by a nicely perched SURUCUA TROGON. GREY HOODED ATTILA was calling and obstinately refused to show for some time. While waiting, a WHISKERED MYOBIUS FLYCATCHER showed briefly before Cirilo managed to locate the Attila. Calling Black throated grosbeak did manage to elude us, but the trail finished nicely with a PLAIN XENOPS and no less than 3 MANTLED HAWKS circling with the Black vultures as we left the trail.

We then moved on to the nearby, Theodoro trail and ate a packed lunch from the van while noting SCALE THROATED HERMIT. The birding pace was much slower as might be expected in the afternoon so stops were less frequent. Euler’s flycatcher was the first new bird along the trail followed by a couple of RUFOUS BREASTED LEAFTOSSERS keeping low in the undergrowth. Next was a target bird for the trail, BLACK BILLED SYTHEBILL which was then ironically seen again the next two days in different locations. Sometimes when writing these kind of reports where the birds are coming so frequently, it’s not possible to do justice to the pleasure that the birds give but the next two species do deserve singling out. The very attractive BLACK CHEEKED GNATEATER, followed by the unabashed SLATY BRISTLEFRONT, singing its heart out from a low perch, one of the trip highlights for me.

EARED PYGMY TYRANT and RUFOUS GNATEATER completed the birds seen along the trail, and rounded off another brilliant day.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
15th December

The morning walk around the lodge trail was very productive with five new birds, all lifers. BLONDE CRESTED WOODPECKER; GLITTERING BELLIED EMERALD; PLANALTO WOODCREEPER; WHITE WINGED BECARD and SHARP TAILED STREAMCREEPER.

With the rapidly growing list; I had suggested a target of 200 lifers as a target to which Cirilo diplomatically agreed, though later admitted he thought it a bit optimistic; but with the amount of Atlantic forest or Brazilian endemic birds in the area, along with my limited experience of South American birding; a very large proportion of what I was seeing was new to me so I was keen to keep pushing.

The day’s trip to Caledonia, a trail up a mountain with radio masts at the top proved less successful for some of the target birds, Black and gold cotinga, Grey winged continga and Itatiaia spinetail all dipped. The former two birds heard but not seen and the latter, only occurring near the top of the mountain, the last bit of the trail is up 600 steps with access controlled by the company managing the masts. Due to Covid (allegedly), they were not allowing people up this trail, though the gatekeeper did kindly let us through to the bottom of the steps to try our luck, it was to no avail.

Regardless, as we continued to climb the mountain, the bird list climbed with us, RUFOUS BACKED ANTVIREO and WHITE RIMMED WARBLER gave themselves up easily, as did THICK BILLED SALTATOR which is apparently quite tough to get normally. Frustrated by the cotingas, along the way, consolation by way of BLUE BILLED TYRANT and the very impressive DIADEMED TANAGER, which was another target for this walk.

A pair of RUFOUS TAILED ANTBIRDS also performed well and then we reached a small plateau where we could scan further for the cotingas before making it up the last bit of the trail. A SMALL HEADED ELAENIA, sat up nicely and then MOUSE COLOURED TAPACULO began to call. There were several birds calling to one another and moving in thick cover but eventually we got onto one and watched it perform its repetitive chant.

After the gatekeeper had let us check the area beyond the fence, I finally got good views of another key target here, the GREEN CROWNED PLOVERCREST, followed by BAY BREASTED WARBLING FINCH.

The return walk continued to turn up new birds, but with the Cotingas missing, we were already planning a return here on one of the spare days. Although I hadn’t set any targets before the trip, the time and effort put into trying to see these birds now made them top priority! There was another trail up the mountain to not quite the same height, using the SBT tv station road. E-bird suggested that there were records of the spinetail from here so we decided that would be a trip for another day.

We returned to the plateau and continued to scan for a while, enjoying eye level views of BLACK HAWK EAGLE before beginning to descend, picking up VELVET BLACK TYRANT, SERRA DO MAR TYRANULET and a little further down, MOTTLE CHEEKED TYRANNULET. A Grey winged cotinga called nearby, and we paused some time trying to locate it but it never called again, though a SHEAR TAILED GREY TYRANT was perched up here.

Back near the van, Black and gold cotinga continued to taunt us from some obscured position but GREY BREASTED SPINETAIL came through noisily.

We then decended further in the van to Sao Bernardo, where we hoped for more luck with Swallow tailed cotinga. Driving in, a Pale vented pigeon flew across while the trail produced our only SWAINSON’S FLYCATCHER of the trip. We also added WHITE SHOULDERED FIRE EYE and CHESTNUT HEADED TANAGER but I failed to get decent views of Serra do Mar tyrant manakin. Heading back towards the van, we were checking some birds high in the conifer trees, tanagers, and a black tyrant species, when suddenly, the SWALLOW TAILED COTINGA was there. A little too high and distant to be called a good view, but a relief after failing the other cotingas.

So ended the day, as rain stopped play back at the lodge with the remaining light of the day
 

Trystan

Well-known member
16th December

The whole day spent around the lodge today was overall disappointing in terms of numbers but two of the four new species seen were the only ones of the trip. The day started well enough, with fly over SCALY HEADED PARROTS before breakfast, firming up my belief that the birds I saw back on the 10th were also this species.

During the day we walked a wider circuit than previously, working a bamboo section of trail but we probably used up all our luck for the day in the first ten minutes when we had our second tinamou of the trip. A BROWN TINAMOU was walking along our trail, and though it saw us and began walking away, it stayed on the trail for a while affording amazing views and was also a lifer for Cirilo!

After that, a long and fruitless walk took us to the early afternoon when we finally connected with a WHITE THROATED WOODCREEPER, always moving and obscured, we did see this species better once more in the trip.

After lunch, the forest seemed similarly deserted, and on reaching the top of one of the trails with a small bench, we sat it out in the hope that a toucan or trogon missing from the list may come through. Instead we did at least manage GREEN WINGED SALTATOR along with better view of the Whiskered mobius flycatcher and a surprising Plovercrest. The weather then turned ugly and we retreated to the lodge but not without getting a soaking.

Based on this result, and that we had a second day scheduled to stay at the lodge later in the trip, I made some rearrangements, paying for an additional day out instead, hoping to double up on chances to catch some species that we might otherwise not have a chance for.

An evening walk for owls, and there may have been a Black capped screech owl calling distantly but we were not certain. It may have been frogs!
 

Trystan

Well-known member
17th December

Activity at the lodge before breakfast improved with the birds perhaps glad to see the back of yesterday’s storm. While we continued to fail to connect with calling cryptic antthrush and variegated antpitta, we had more success with DUSKY TAILED ANTBIRD and GREY CAPPED TYRANNULET

Today was a trip to Regua, which is a lower altitude wetland area with some forest trails. As we approached, there were a couple of MUSCOVY DUCKS, my first proper ones. From the van we were quickly on our way, Cirilo spotting a perched RUSTY MARGINED GUAN along the way. Greater anis were numerous here as were Wattled jacanas. A female BRAZILIAN TANAGER appeared briefly and a WHITE CHINNED SAPPHIRE was pipping from its perch. A few White headed marsh tyrant were present along the water’s edge and I managed to catch a Rufous tailed jacamar just as it flew away.

A little patience found CHESTNUT BACKED ANTSHRIKE and then Cirilo found a likely spot for RUFOUS SIDED CRAKE, a pair came to investigate the call emerging briefly from the reeds before moving along.

As we left the water and began the forest trail we quickly found SILVER FLANKED ANTWREN and several White bearded manikins, all female though. The only Green kingfisher, zipped under the bridge of a stream as we crossed and we finally caught up with WHITE LINED PICULET which was a surprising omission up to this point.

I was very please with a showy SOUTHERN ANTPIPIT further along the trail, then there was a lot of activity up in the canopy. Unfortunately, after yesterday’s soaking, the left eye of my binoculars had steamed up internally and not managed to fully dry out yet. Looking up into the backlit trees was very difficult. I connected with Orange bellied euphonia and eventually YELLOW BACKED TANAGER, but there was also, according to Cirilo a Brown tanager calling and I never did manage to get onto this difficult bird all the while, a big movement of noisy Red rumbed caciques adding to the chaos. Also difficult was a group of at least three SOORETAMA SLATY ANTSHRIKES. Easy enough to hear and see moving above but not to get much colour. Better views later in the day of this species though.

As we looped round towards the back of the main lake, we added LONG BILLED WREN and PURPLE THROATED EUPHONIA. A bird perched up near the water turned out to be a GREYISH MOURNER, somewhat out of its usual habitat and we connected with a RUFESCENT TIGER HERON flying over the lake to cover.

The afternoon was spent a short drive from the main reserve in some agricultural land, picking up Savannah hawk along the way. Here we targeted BURROWING OWL, one was perched on a mound waiting for our arrival and my binoculars were fully functional once again. A pair of HOODED TANAGERS was a nice bonus along with Grey rumped swift and the expected RED COWLED CARDINAL, this latter has expanded its range in Brazil and probably only here do to escapees from caged populations.

Into the late afternoon , we tried a location nearby called Santa Rita. Here we hoped for and eventually succeeded in getting views of ASHY THROATED CRAKE but not before adding a couple more species, the WHITE WOODPECKER and WEDGE TAILED GRASS FINCH.

In the evening, we decided that a return to this area with one of the free days would be beneficial if we stayed later as we should be able tp pick up South American snipe, Giant snipe and have a change of Tawny browed owl. This would mean skipping a meal at the accommodation and taking a double packed lunch.

That evening however, we returned as normal and noted a Rusty barred owl calling close to the lodge. Despite quickly rushing out with the torch, the bird was not to be found.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
18th December

Today was to be spent on a trail at Macae de Cima. No joy with new species around the lodge in the morning and despite hitting a nice bird wave on arrival at the trail, the only new species amongst was the YELLOW BROWED WOODPECKER.

Our luck with Antthrushes finally changed here, with a BRAZILIAN ANTTHRUSH calling near the trail and then responding and showing quite well. This was followed up with a HANGNEST TODY TYRANT.

After managing to connect with a RUFOUS CAPPED ANTSHRIKE, we finally picked up the first of the larger antshrikes, courtesy of a stunning male GIANT ANTSHRIKE. A bird which had continued to elude us to this point finally gave itself up here, the harshly named DRAB BREASTED BAMBOO TYRANT which I though looked rather sweet.

The only Tropical pewee of the trip was flycatching from a high perch ata stretch of road which Cirilo said was the best spot for a few of the target birds. These were WHITE BEARDED ANTSHRIKE, SPOTTED BAMBOO WREN and Tufted antshrike, the first showing really well, the second showing badly, and the third refusing to show at all. Also in this area we picked up LONG TAILED TYRANT before heavy rain sent us back to the van for cover. During a lull we picked up YELLOW TYRANNULET before the rain came again. We also came across a female or juvenile hummingbird that we believe was most likely Sapphire spangled emerald but glittering bellied emerald was also a possibility and remains unresolved.

Next we followed Sergio’s suggestion to take a trail to the bottom where he had taken Andy previously “to look for a bird on the ground near the gate” was how he put it. We assumed this would be Cryptic antthrush but upon arrival, Cirilo heard the call of WHITE BIBBED ANTBIRD which duly showed and was definitely one of the highlight birds of the trip for me. Another wave of birds passed through the area, various previously seen tanagers, woodcreepers and foliage gleaners present amongst before we headed back to the lodge.

I decided to try my luck with the RUSTY BARRED OWL after dinner a little further up the road than the night before as Bettina had also heard it the night before near her house. Cirilo made the mistake of taking an early night because no sooner had I played the call than the owl came straight in. It circled the tree once. Landed, had a look at me, circled the tree again, and left. Result!
 

Trystan

Well-known member
19th December

With the main itinerary over, we were now using the two extra days plus the day we were supposed to be at the lodge to run some repeat trips and target missing birds. Today was to be the repeat run to Regua staying late for the Snipes.

We quickly checked the lake at Regua for Capped heron but no luck, before moving on to a different trail. Here we fell short on the target of White bellied tanager (a subspecies of Turquoise tanager), at the beginning of the trail and Salvadori’s antwren at the end of the trail but in between we continued to find more new species. SAW BILLED HERMIT; UNICOLOURED ANTWREN; Ochre bellied flycatcher; EYE RINGED TODY TYRANT; PLAIN WINGED WOODCREEPER; SCALED ANTBIRD all picked up successively as the day progressed. Hummingbirds, I had noted were thin on the ground and when they were around often very skittish so it was a delight that the next bird, REDDISH HERMIT hovered in close proximity to me before perching up nearby to preen.

Luck continued as a WHITE NECKED HAWK zipped over the trees, glimpsed as it passed though. I then struggled to see RUFOUS WINGED ANTWREN in the canopy.

After lunch, we headed to another trail at nearby Wadenor, hoping for Frilled coquette but the weather now had other ideas. A Channel billed toucan from the van was nice but by the time we were half way up the trail another wave of rain came through. In the drizzle we managed YELLOW FRONTED WOODPECKER then had to take cover under the dubious shelter of a dilapidated old outhouse as another wave of heavy rain came through. As the rain seemed to be passing, we set off again, only for the rain to send us hurrying for cover once again, at a slightly less dilapidated building higher up.

About half an hour passed before any sign of abating and the chances of the coquette were now over. Walking back down the trail was like a stream, but it was brightening as we reached the van giving some hope that we could still get the snipes this evening. Birds were becoming more active and I set up the scope on a tree with a few Maroon bellied parrots and tanagers in it, to find that one of them was the earlier target WHITE BELLIED TANAGER. We now set off to the Snipe site at Boa Sorte, picking up a couple of Black bellied whistling ducks at Matumbo along the way.

This was the lowest point of the trip, having rearranged things to make it possible, and the promising quick finding of SOUTH AMERICAN SNIPE, the Giant snipe, though heard from the reeds, did not show. We were expecting some circular flight displays in the failing light but got absolutely nothing. To compound this, the Tawny browed owl began to call from the hills behind but failed to respond to the recording and the opportunity for those species was now gone.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
20th December

Back to Caledonia today but this time up the SBT road. Before breakfast, spirits lifted by finding a pair of BLACK COLLARED TROGONS on the lodge trails.

We were now targeting a couple of the larger antshrikes, Hooded berryeater and the two cotinga species and hoping that if we took the trail right to the top we would be able to get the Itatiaia spinetail too.

TUFTED ANTSHRIKE seemed to understand the plan at least and we had great views of this species hen we began to struggle again, both in terms of finding new species, and in terms of the climb. Beyond the SBT buildings, we found a door in a wall which was bolted but not locked and beyond this, the trail up, which was overgrown and steep.

We persisted in the hope of the spinetail, and Cirilo tried the Long tailed antshrike several times along the way to no avail. No cotingas were calling. We eventually reached the top. It was possible that the trail continued back down the saddle to the main peak but by silent agreement, we knew we were not risking taking the trail any further. There was no sign of the spine tail here, and a hawk passed overhead which has to remain unidentified. After half an hour or so, we gave up and headed back down, the descent not quite as bad as we thought it was going to be and this time successfully connecting with LONG TAILED ANTSHRIKE.

We spent some more time scanning from around the SBT buildings but still no cotingas or berryeater. Once again, Sergio came to the rescue; knowing we had dipped on the Seriema he had a friend, a priest, who had some regularly visit the gardens and hills around his monastery.

We decided to cut our losses and try this instead. On arrival we parked outside the closed gates. The birds were not around. A quick play of the call resulted in a responding call from somewhere behind the tree line but the birds did not come in. Scanning the hillside I found CRESTED BLACK TYRANT perched up and a couple of Campo flickers and Scaly headed parrots flying through kept us interested as we waited when suddenly, there was not one but three RED LEGGED SERIEMAS walking in from the other side of the fence, a family with two adults and a juvenile.

We spent some time with the birds and I tried feeding them some crackers I had left over from lunch. This seemed to go down very well, I suspect the birds are being fed by the monastery anyway but fun as it was, feeding tame Sereimas through a barred fence felt a bit like a zoo.

After an overall disappointing day, and with a day and a half only remaining, we needed to decide the best strategy for the remainder of the trip. At this point I was on 196 lifers and the easiest way to ensure 200 was to do the Soumadoro run again, however, as Sergio was not available for the last half day, this would mean forsaking the cotingas.

I contacted Andy back in the UK about the possibility of another driver for the last half day, meaning we could do Soumadoro tomorrow and half a morning at Caledonia for one last chance of cotingas.

Andy was confident he could arrange this so the plan was set.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
21st December

Any niggling doubts about getting the 200 species as the birds seemed to be drying up were eased with two new birds at the lodge in the morning. The SERRA DO MAR TYRANT MANAKIN, a long name for a rather dull bird, the yellow crest rarely showing was finally caught up with and Cirilo was excited to hear a WHITE BREASTED TAPACULO calling which duly showed, or at least showed its back to us. This was Cirilo’s second lifer of the trip and completed all available Tapaculos for the area.

After breakfast, we began retracing the route taken on the 13th, stopping for less time as most birds had been seen, and trying slightly different points. BRAN COLOURED FLYCATCHER at the first stop was no problem, we tried a detour toa site for Rio de Janeiro Antbird at an airfield but it was all locked up with no access. At least we got the big 200 out of the way nearby though with GREY HOODED FLYCATCHER. (At least I thought so at the time but taxonomy meant 200 was actually Curl crested jay)

At the stop overlooking the large expanse of grassland, we had Grassland yellow finch, this was a little confusing as my fieldguide has this as Misto yellowfinch but this split seems not to be widely accepted.

Next was a tentative stop where Cirilo hoped for FERRUGINOUS ANTBIRD. Though I think he wasn’t confident, there was a response from the bird and it showed very well.

All along the way we had been looking for Toco toucans but this bird did not make the list in the end, however, each time we stopped in an area for them, we still seemed to pick up something new. At the next stop it was a pair of CURL CRESTED JAYS, perched out showing well.

At the Soumidoro stop, we connected with TAWNY HEADED SWALLOW, a species we expected, but dipped the first time around.

We stopped for lunch at the same spot at previously, this time SWALLOW TANAGER perched briefly and a PLANALTO HERMIT flew through, then returned, ticking away but invisible somewhere in a large stand of bamboo.

Instead of heading up to Carmo, we now tried a different trail at Rio Grandina. Here, targets of Masked yellowthroat and Green Schiffornis eluded us but instead we found RUSTY MARGINED FLYCATCHER and a perched RUFOUS THIGHED KITE which was being mobbed by a couple of Piratic flycatchers. Also of note, a male Brazilian tanager was here and stunning to see.

Overall a very good day and not quite over. As we got back to the lodge a little early and it was not raining in the afternoon for a change, I decide to have one last walk for CRYPTIC ANTTHRUSH. The problem I felt was that although the birds were often vocal, they were always higher up the slopes and reluctant to come down in response to recordings during our morning walks.

I found a rather overgrown and underused trail in the general direction of a calling bird and after a while, it did begin to ascend. When I felt that walking any further would move me away from the bird, I tried the call and was pleased that the bird seemed closer. I found a spot with a decent view of the ground and was rewarded when the bird hopped into view.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
22nd December

Oh dear, the weather. The forecast said rain by 10am, this normally meant, rain by noon so I wasn’t too worried but after breakfast, with our replacement driver we headed back to Caledonia for a last attempt at the cotingas. The cloud was getting thicker as we were getting higher and by the time we were in position, it looked set to rain heavily and it was only 7.30.

Black and gold cotinga was again calling and again we could not locate it and then, as feared, the rain hit. We took cover in the car and hoped it may pass. It did briefly and we risked the trail again. Now a cotinga was calling nearby but try as we might, we could not see it, then Cirilo had it fly into a tree, but as I came over, it lest immediately and all I saw was a black bird drop and vanish.

Not good enough but we had an idea where it went and it began to call again. Suddenly, the female bird was following through and I finally had BLACK AND GOLD COTINGA, even if it was all green! We spent a bit more time here trying to pin down the male and I did manage another poor view of it as it flew before the rain came again and amazingly we connected with another new bird as we retreated to the car, a BUFF BROWED FOLIAGE GLEANER was chipping away in the understory.

With the rain beating down and the forecast to continue, I was ready to admit defeat, there was no viable way of getting up the mountain to the other cotinga, but rather than cutting the morning short, Cirilo suggested we try Sao Bernardo again as it was lower down in clearer sky, he thought we had a chance of Cinnamon tanager there at least.

Upon arrival, the rain had stopped, though it still looked grim above us. He tried the tanager call and we waited. We were wondering if my 210th lifer of the trip was possible, when it was suddenly there, in the form of a WHITE CRESTED TYRANNULET. It didn’t hang around but as we followed its movement into the trees, we did see the Swallow tailed cotinga fly through again.

Strangely, the weather was improving, the heavy cloud was moving away in the opposite direction and suddenly, the CINAMMON TANAGER was out singing. We watched a pair as the weather got better and better.

It had to be done, I suggested that if our driver was agreeable, we had another go at getting up the mountain. We had about 2 hours to make the drive, make the climb, try the cotinga, and get back to the car to get back in time for lunch, shower and return to Rio for my flight.

The driver was agreeable so up we went. We marched up the hill at quite a pace until we were at the cotinga altitude and began listening and scanning. Cirilo tried the recording for good measure but no response.

A couple of gorgeous Diademed tanagers fed nearby on the ground but we continued up to the plateau and began to scan. We had about 30 minutes available. After 10 minutes we had nothing. Wisps of cloud came and went, visibility improved on one side, and vanished on the other. We even tried scoping up the hill to the forbidden steps and played the spinetail call loudly just in case it could hear us down below.

Then Cirilo heard the call of the cotinga to the left of the plateau. We refocused our attension. 10 minutes left. Another call, we knew more or less where the bird was but couldn’t see it. Back and forth with the bins and then, suddenly, it dropped out of the tree. It was not the best view in the world, a golden green back and some grey wings for a split second dropping into the vale below, but it was quite the most dramatic ending to the trip imaginable. GREY WINGED COTINGA with the last throw of the dice.

We got absolutely drenched on the way back to the car, but I really didn’t care. The rain set in for the day and was very heavy most of the drive back to Rio and I realised how lucky we had been to avoid this throughout the trip. Instead I had an incredible trip with 287 species seen, 210 lifers and 97 endemic species with a further 9 species heard only.

Despite the UK developing a new strain of Covid in my absence, return flights went smoothly.

All that remains is to thank Rainer and Bettina for their hospitality at Itororo lodge, to Sergio for his driving and input, to Cirilo for his excellent guiding throughout, and to Andy for pulling everything together and helping with the adjustments to the itinerary at short notice.
 

Trystan

Well-known member
For anyone interested in a concise list of what I saw and heard without having to read through the waffle above, I've attached a PDF here.
 

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JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
I've really enjoyed reading this Trystan, we stayed at Andy's place for a couple of weeks back in 2005, had a great time and saw a lot of the same stuff as you, which this report has brought back to mind, so thanks for taking the time to share it.
 

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