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The Boy in Brazil: July-August 2006 (1 Viewer)

Day Seven: 18th July

Today I got away from the forests with a trip to the seaside. One of the excursions run from Serra dos Tucanos goes to the salt pans and restinga at Praia Seca to the east of Rio. The main aim is to see the very rare Restinga Antwren but there's potential for a variety of other species.

Quite a big party headed south in the minibus and the weather was just right for the seaside, clear and sunny. It was a long drive but after a couple of hours we arrived by a large lagoon. There weren't actually many birds on the lake itself but more was happening in the fields adjacent. Most impressive were a pair of Aplomado Falcons perched up in a dead tree. Parties of Brown-chested Martins and White-rumped Swallows darted over the long grass and a punky looking Guira Cuckoo sat up in the distance.

We then moved onto some muddy salt pans nearby. It was good to be watching a few waders after all the elusive forest species. Small numbers of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs were paddling about and, at the back of the pans, plenty of White-cheeked Pintails were resting. Overhead the occasional Roseate Spoonbill would drift. As well as the usual egrets, a dark Little Blue Heron was about and a huge Ringed Kingfisher looked about the size of a heron as it flew into the pans. There were some good passerines too: a Yellow-bellied Elaenia and a White-browed Blackbird, looking good with its bright crimson breast. A couple of Yellowish Pipits were seen furtively moving through the grass - looking and sounding much more familiar to a Scottish birder than many of the other other Brazilian passerines. In some distant trees a couple of White Woodpeckers, striking looking open-country woodies, were scoped.

We continued on until we arrived at a beach front car park next to an area of restinga. Restinga is the name given to the scrubby woodland - strangely reminiscent of parts of the East Anglian coast - that's found right next to the sea and, because of its position, it has come under great threat in recent decades as more and more people build beach front properties. Large signs in Portuguese warned anyone of the consequences of damaging the protected remnant that we were about to explore, although one wonders how long this protection will last. Andy suggested to us that Restinga Antwren was a particularly good bird to see because it's very likely to be extinct within a few decades.

Before entering into the restinga, we had a quick seawatch. Offshore there were plenty of Brown Boobies in various plumages moving, along with Magnificent Frigatebirds and a few confusing yellow-billed terns. These were the much talked about Cayenne Terns, similar to Sandwich Terns but with bright yellow bills and slightly paler looking wings. A Cattle Tyrant, a terrestrial kingbird, was hopping about the car park despite the absence of large bovine ruminants. More surprising, but less new, was a Barn Swallow flying purposefully along the shore.

Initially it proved hard to see very much in the restinga, apart from the many lizards that rustled over dry ground. A few Creamy-bellied Thrushes were tucking into berries and a group of White-collared Swifts screamed overhead. In some trees were a small group of Plain-breasted Ground Doves. A Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, very like a Turkey Vulture, drifted low over the marshes, behaviour that's supposed to be a good distinguishing feature of this species. We had a few goes at playing recordings of Restinga Antwren and eventually one responded but didn't show itself clearly, as we peered into the murk of its dense scrubby habitat.

We decided to spend some more time looking through the waders on the saltpans and here there was quite a good selection, including the ubiquitous Ruddy Turnstones. Is there any coastal area on Earth where you don't commonly get this species? If there is, I've not been there. More novel were the dinky Collared Plovers, scattered amongst the migrant Semipalmated Plovers from North America. A few Least Terns were sailing over the lakes.

We decided to have one last tilt at the antwren and Andy began playing a recording on the corner of some scrub near the saltpans. Happily, we were soon rewared and a male Restinga Antwren moved into a relatively open area of canopy. Here it remained for a couple of minutes giving fantastic views at just a few metres range. This wasn't just a rare bird, it was a real beauty too - jet black with a long tail, white spotted wing coverts and undertail and a brilliant red eye. In the same bush I managed to get some good if brief views of another scarce endemic, a Sooretama Slaty Antshrike - a greyish male similar to the more common Variable Antshrike. Finally, on our walk back to the van, we got some great views of another restinga speciality: a Hangnest Tody-tyrant. The books tend to say this bird is quite non-descript but I was impressed at how bright green it was, almost like some of the lovelier Phylloscopus warblers.

After a big lunch at a local cafe, we headed sleepily back to the lodge. A very fine day, although it looked as if we might miss out until quite late on. The next day, I'd be back in the forest.
Day Eight: 19th July

I didn't have great expectations of today but it turned out to be rather memorable. The excursion was a half day walk along the Theodoro Trail, so more forest birding and I'd already seen a lot of the easier forest birds. I was intent on trying to see a few of the more elusive species I'd missed so far and so I gave Andy orders to find me a Sharpbill. I was pretty keen to get my money's worth! The Theodoro Trail runs along an old railway line through some great mid-altitude forest. It turned out to be as good a forest trail as I walked in all of southeast Brazil, although as with all of these trails how much you see can vary enormously from day to day.

It was clear and chilly again first thing in the morning but eventually warmed up. We parked the minibus by some houses at the start of the trail and were soon seeing interesting birds nearby: Pallid Spinetail, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Green-winged Saltator. The forest was still in shade early in the morning but a few flocks of birds were already moving through with the numerous Brassy-breasted Tanagers to the fore.

As often happened, Andy stopped near a small creek to see if he could bring in a streamcreeper. Unlike every other occasion he tried it, this time it actually worked. Soon a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper was scurrying in along the ground before sitting up on a low branch and singing its head off for several minutes, just a few metres away. This was certainly a view to make up for all the other times we'd tried and failed to see this brilliant little bird. I was quite struck by how the song of the streamcreeper sounds rather similar in quality to the calls and songs of birds like Dippers and Grey Wagtails that live in the same noisy habitat in Europe. This one was certainly giving it some, its throat trembling with the effort of singing.

Some good flocks of tanagers and furnariids were on the move and amongst them I saw my first Black-capped Foliage-gleaner - meaning that I'd seen all of the species of foliage-gleaner ordinarily found in the area. Attending these roving flocks were various tyrants like Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet and Eared Pygmy-tyrant. A Grey-fronted Dove perched furtively in a tree before disappearing back into the forest as we approached more closely. Even more enigmatic was the sonorous single note song of a Solitary Tinamou, which inevitably remained out of sight.

When looking through one of the flocks, I wasn't surprised to see a woodcreeper perch up on a nearby trunk. Both Andy and myself were more surprised when we had a closer look. "Scythebill!" cried Andy. And indeed it was: a Black-billed Scythebill. Before I came away this endemic was one of the birds that I was most keen to see and I have to say it didn't disappoint. It looks like a fairly ordinary large woodcreeper, being mostly plain brown in plumage. But then there's the bill. I'm not sure why but there's something about the steeply curved bill on this species that really takes the breath away. You can see all the pictures you like but nothing quite prepares you for how incredibly shaped it is. This one briefly vanished before reappearing and giving very fine views as it explored the tree trunks alongside the trail. One of the birds of the trip.

Bigger birds were on the move through the forest as well. There were lots of noisy Maroon-bellied Parakeets, often hard to catch sight of but easy to hear. Particularly impressive were the brilliantly coloured Saffron Toucanets, of which we encountered a couple of parties. When the light catches them, the yellow in the plumage of these birds is illuminated to glorious effect. Andy told us that during the breeding season they predate heavily on the eggs and young of other species, rather like Magpies. A new bird that I was very pleased to see was Azure-shouldered Tanager. This species is blue in colour and rather similar to the commoner Sayaca Tanager. The plumage, and particularly the wings, are very bright though and the bill and lores blackish, giving them a distinctive look about the face. I enjoyed decent views of three at various points along the trail.

Eventually we came to a more open area overlooking a valley. A deep chasm had been created by a landslide and, as the path curved around the slope, it came towards a line of tall trees at the edge of the forest. This is where the Sharpbill might be, said Andy. A quick play of the tape and... almost immediately a Sharpbill called back from the trees. The song is very distinctive, a thin descending note sounding like a bomb falling, only without the loud explosion at the end. Like its near relatives the cotingas, Sharpbills spend a lot of time sitting about in trees twiddling their thumbs (or whatever birds do that's equivalent). Andy and I peered into the leaves for a few minutes until Andy suddenly reckoned he could see it. He tried to get me on to it but soon changed tactics and set up his scope. I looked through and there it was: a Sharpbill. I think this was the only way I would have seen the bird, even if it did mean I had to look through Andy's knackered old scope. I am at a loss to understand how he had found this bird because it was partly hidden and entirely motionless. He'd certainly earnt his fee for the day anyway. It was, of course, a brilliant bird - very green above and rather like a Wryneck in its shape and cryptic markings. I missed another that Andy saw briefly on the way back and two more at various other times on the trip - this is a hard bird to see and I was glad for this opportunity to get a sight of one.

There was plenty of activity on the way back to the minibus. Rather poor views were had of a male Black-throated Trogon but a few Scale-throated Hermits gave their best showing of the trip so far. I was delighted to see a pair of White-shouldered Fire-eyes, which were very obliging as they moved through the low branches. I also enjoyed better views than I'd previously had of White-rimmed Warbler and Rufous-capped Spinetail.

During the afternoon I was back on the trails at the lodge. Soon I managed good views of a bird that I knew others had seen but which had eluded me: a Black-throated Grosbeak. Despite its name, this is a saltator and is entirely black, not just on the throat. The plumage is set off by a beautiful pink bill. Nearby were a fine pair of Red-crowned Ant-tanagers.

I spent a while at the top of the extension trail a few hundred metres above the lodge. Here I was able to confirm Plain-winged Woodcreeper, as one gave good views in exactly the same tree where I thought I'd seen one a few days earlier. A flock of Brassy-breasted Tanagers were moving through the canopy and amongst them I picked out a Plain Xenops, zipping about the branches. On the walk back down to the lodge I was finally able to get a definitive sighting of a Scaled Woodcreeper, rounding off a rather good day for that family of birds.

The next day was the big road trip, and an epic adventure it turned out to be.
I can't wait for the rest of this report Andrew. We're off to Serra dos Tucanos next April and I'm already itching to get there thanks to your vivid descriptions.
Well done on the Sharpbill Andrew - class bird. I wonder how many people have ticked it through Andy's Scope over the past few years!

Day Nine: 20th July

Today was the big road trip, with the aim of reaching a site where we hoped to see the rare endemic Three-toed Jacamar. In getting there, we’d be passing through extensive areas of open country and forest and I hoped to pick up a wide range of species that I hadn’t already encountered. We set off early and travelled north through Nova Friburgo before heading onwards to the small town of Duas Barras. After leaving Friburgo we started making regular stops. My notes aren’t quite up to being precise about exactly what was seen at each stop but I’ll try to be as accurate as I can be.

First stop was overlooking a small valley with fields and grassy hillsides. A dark phase White-tailed Hawk was initially confusing but gave fine views as it perched and a family of Yellow-headed Caracaras were occupying another tree. In the marshy fields, a Yellow-chinned Spinetail – a smart rufous bird with clean white underparts – was creeping about. A Bran-coloured Flycatcher, small and neatly streaked, was flitting about in some low branches. Another streaky brown bird on a fence was a female Blue-black Grassquit.

A very good stop was near a large area of dead trees. Sitting in the tops was a pair of brilliant Bat Falcons – really compact, neat looking falcons with blue, red and white plumage. Overhead, a stocky, long-tailed Bicoloured Hawk drifted over. Another stop was in a scrubby, forested area and here I had a fine view of dinky looking Blue-winged Parrotlet – a tiny sparrow-sized species. A marshy spot gave distant views of a spectacular looking Streamer-tailed Tyrant, as well as Common Waxbills, White-browed Blackbird and, rather briefly, Chestnut-capped Blackbird. One area gave panoramic views over the hills and, just before getting back into the bus, Andy picked out something special. Soaring over a distant hill was a huge, broad-winged raptor – a Crowned Eagle. These magnificent birds – relatives of Harpy Eagles – are apparently becoming more common and have a distinctive silhouette with bulging secondaries and a very short tail.

Good though that was, it wasn’t the most unexpected sighting of the day. At a fairly innocuous looking patch of roadside scrub, Andy had heard and briefly seen something unusual. “Oh my God, it’s a Serra Antwren!” He rushed back to the bus to get his recorder out. He explained that this was a bird that was somewhat out of range and that even he had never seen one before. We peered into the scrub and eventually an extremely smart looking antwren appeared and gave good views. At first it looked very dark, almost black, like the Restinga Antwren we’d seen a few days earlier. Andy explained that, until recently, Serra Antwren had been regarded as the same species as Restinga Antwren and it also shared that bird’s long tail with white spots on the underside. On closer inspection the upperparts and crown were a deep chocolate brown rather than black and there was a broken white supercillium. This was a really good-looking bird and quite a bonus for the day, not least for Andy. However, the story didn’t stop there. The following day Andy told me that he’d checked the books and decided that it wasn’t a Serra Antwren after all but a similar White-fringed Antwren. This is a more widespread species but one still a little out of range and also a species Andy hadn’t seen before. Andy thought the bird we’d seen hadn’t had the right tone to the upperparts and the white was too extensive. I checked up on both species in Ridgely & Tudor and… I must admit got more confused. The picture of White-fringed Antwren in there didn’t really look like the bird I’d seen – it seemed to have too much white and much too strong a supercillium. Reading up further, it struck me that antwrens are pretty complicated and variations are poorly known. I’ll be honest and say that, even though Andy was happy with the ID as a White-fringed Antwren, I wasn’t and didn’t feel able to put this impressive bird down as either species.

After stopping for a rest in Duas Barras we headed off along a dusty track towards Sumidouro. Our first stop along this road was by another marshy field and here we were treated to brilliant views of three Streamer-tailed Tryrants perching along the fences. These are big grey tyrants with almost impossibly long tails. In the vegetation a few Black-capped Donacobius were showing wonderfully well. These are large, characterful members of the wren family with smart black caps and long tails. A dusty bit of bamboo forest further on harboured lots of Uniform Finches, a good endemic species with a thin buzzing twittery call.

An area of open country was being frequented by some good flocks of hirundines including a delightful Tawny-headed Swallow, a compact brown hirundine with a bright orangey head. Other stops yielded a good view of a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, a Burrowing Owl and several Biscutate Swifts. Around a farmyard a neat looking Tail-banded Hornero was unperturbed by a fire burning nearby. Another stop yielded two excellent new birds sitting right next to each other. First was a White-rumped Monjita - a smart pale tyrant with a white head and rump. Next to it was a Firewood Gatherer, a streaky Furnariid with a bright rufous crown, which builds huge stick nests. Eventually lots of scanning of the hillsides turned up two Red-legged Seriemas, strutting nonchalantly through the grass.

We stopped for lunch in a spot Andy thought would be productive, and he wasn't wrong. Almost immediately, we were able to get great views of one of the birds Andy was hoping for - a Gilt-edged Tanager. In fact there were lots of these glorious yellow, black, green and blue jewels moving through the roadside trees. Amongst them was a single Orange-headed Tanager, a neat grey bird with a round peach coloured head. A flock of Double-collared Seedeaters were flitting about in the low vegetation; most were obscure looking females and immatures but there were some easier to recognise males too. A Long-tailed Tyrant, an impossibly smart black bird with a white head and slender tail projections, was flycatching in the canopy. Other flycatchers were in amongst the tanagers, including a vivid green Hangnest Tody-tyrant and a tiny Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcher.

Soon we were moving onwards through Sumidouro and into Jacamar country. For such a rare bird - only known from two sites - Three-toed Jacamar habitat is remarkably unremarkable: a bit of straggly dry scrub that barely merits the word 'forest'. I was worried that they might be hard to see, having heard that on the previous visit it had taken an hour. But... Andy stopped the bus at the first likely spot, lifted his bins and there was a Three-toed Jacamar at the top of the tree. Soon another was picked out nearby and both sat about, occasionally shooting out to catch an insect. These were my first Jacamars and of very probably the rarest species. I was quite struck by their incredible long spear-shaped bills and long tails on what's otherwise quite a small bird. They sit still, swinging their head robotically from side to side like a Dalek. This is actually a plain species, mostly grey in colour, but very characterful.

We'd been watching the Jacamars for several minutes when one of the other folks on the trip asked Andy to identify a bird she'd seen perched on another nearby tree. This turned out to be a brilliant White-eared Puffbird - a really chunky bird with a big, hook-tipped pink bill and narrow barred tail. It just sat motionless as we admired it. More frustrating were the Curl-crested Jays that were calling but staying out of sight in a distant patch of forest.

We carried on further to see if we could locate more Jacamars but were unsuccessful. Andy stopped at one point to 'show us a nice bird', which was actually a Barn Owl, roosting under a bank by the road. It looked quite dark brown on the back compared to British birds. We also had some great views of a couple of Tufted-ear Marmosets, small monkeys with long bushy tails and tiny faces, that were nervously crossing the road as we watched.

On our return, the Jacamars and Puffbird had gone from the site where we'd seen them earlier, but we managed some other good birds there. A Common Tody Flycatcher flitted in the trees and reasonable views were had of a Sapphire-spangled Emerald, a nice green hummer with blue throat and white belly. On the road back to Sumidouro, Andy screeched to a halt and reversed back, saying he'd seen something worth stopping for. His sharp eyes had picked out two beautiful Blue-winged Macaws sitting atop a distant tree. These aren't huge Macaws but have the distinctive white faces and brilliant green plumage with a red spot on the forehead. In the same tree I got good views of a Crested Oropendola, showing its chestnut underparts as it waved its long tail about.

We carried on the long road back through Friburgo to the lodge having seen over ninety species. Quite an epic day with some unforgettable birds, even if I can't remember where they all were.
A few pictures of Sombre Hummingbird, taken in the garden of Serra dos Tucanos.


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Day Ten: 21st July

Apologies for the lengthy delay since I last added to this trip report. Anyway...

Today was my final full day at Serra dos Tucanos and we were off on an excursion to the place where I was planning to stay next: Reserve Ecologica de Guapi Assu or REGUA, as it's known. The excursion was just for the morning and we would only have time to explore the wetlands and some of the lowland forest. The reserve itself is enormous and extends high up into the Serra dos Orgaos mountain range.

Because the habitats were different to those I'd visited so far, I expected to see a few new species. On the way to the reserve we stopped off at a small roadside pool and were soon seeing good birds through the low shroud of mist. White-headed Marsh Tyrants, a bird that proved to be common at REGUA, were flitting after insects from the small island. These are quite strange looking birds, with white heads and variably dark bodies. As well as perching on open branches like many tyrants, they swoop low over the water like slow-motion swallows. Appropriately enough there were plenty of real swallows humming low over the ground and water, including a few White-rumped Swallows. A couple of Chestnut-capped Blackbirds were seen nicely as they perched high in a tree and two Burrowing Owls were crouched low down on the ground.

The day was already warming as we set off along the trails that go through the area of pools and marshland that form the REGUA wetlands. This habitat has only been created in the last few years and their appearance reminded me of gravel pits in England. Such thoughts were soon dispelled when we noticed that the grey brown lump in the water at the first pool was the head of a Broad-snouted Caiman. Incredibly, the various waterbirds, including Moorhens and Least Grebes, were swimming about the motionless head with casual impunity. Other species on the open water included Brazilian Teal, the drakes with coral pink bills, and Wattled Jacanas with their brilliant bronzy wings flashing as they flew. A few American Purple Gallinules, showing their neat tricoloured bill pattern, were lurking about in the edges. I was particularly taken with the creamy coloured Capped Herons, whose elegant head plumes tumble down from a smart black cap.

The surrounding paths and vegetation abounded with Yellow-chinned Spinetails and Tail-banded Horneros. Rather brief views were had of a couple of Yellow-browed Tyrants, looking a bit like short-tailed Yellow Wagtails. Performing much better was a Sooty Tyrannulet, quite a big and dark tyrannulet that frequents marshy areas. We also enjoyed great views of three species of kingfisher, a big green Amazon Kingfisher together with its 'mini-me' version, the Green Kingfisher and a huge Ringed Kingfisher, almost as big as a heron as it perched commandingly above the lake. The scrub and grass were busy with birds too, with lots of Saffron Finches, Double-collared Seedeaters and Blue-black Grassquits diving about. A Giant Cowbird, large and long-tailed flew overhead and a furtive Red-rumped Cacique showed its pale eye and bill through the leaves. Most impressive was a Striped Cuckoo, hunched up in a bank of scrub as it sang.

From the wetlands we went into the forest, where we hoped to encounter a few of the local specialities. One bird that turned out to be very easy to see was Chestnut-backed Antshrike. These are characterful densely barred birds - gratifyingly easy to see compared to most antshrikes. A Long-billed Wren was singing its resounding song from low down in scrub and eventually showed fairly well, the long straight bill that provides its name being very clear. The Moustached Wrens that were also heard were much less obliging and couldn't even be glimpsed. The trees harboured a good selection of tyrants. Fuscous Flycatchers and Short-crested Flycatcher tested identification skills but a Grey-hooded Attila was much more distinctive with its hefty bill. A few mixed flocks were scrutinised carefully and eventually we were able to see both White-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens side-by-side, adding to the growing list of antbirds for the trip. A few White-bearded Manakins were seen briefly in the low vegetation but only an olive-grey female was seen properly.

In the forest I was surprised by a large brown bird that had flopped upwards from the ground. Andy assured me it had been a Rufescent Tiger Heron and happily I was able to enjoy much better views from the tower hide that overlooks the wetlands when one of these incredibly smart waterbirds perched up beautifully in a dead tree for several minutes. As we approached the tower, we surprised a small flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks, which lived up to their name as they flew across to the other side of the lake. A couple of Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures drifted over the nearby hillside. Soon we were returning to the car park but I'd been impressed with my morning at REGUA and was looking forward to returning.

In the afternoon I explored the trails at the lodge once more. The garden feeders were lively as usual and I had great views of a male Green Honeycreeper, a bottle green tanager with a long down-curved bill, as it came to the feeders. Up on the extension trail I met Scott, one of the other guests, who had lured in a pair of Scaled Antbirds with his tape. I managed brief views of one of these incredibly spotty 'humbugs on legs' before it disappeared down the hill. I also had great views of a tiny Streaked Xenops, feeding busily in the low branches as dusk began to fall.
I was wondering if you lost interest in posting the reports. Please keep them coming, they are great!

That marshland at REGUA must be a good place to photograph some water birds. Will try to make a visit there soon.
Will add another report or two over the weekend. Here's a few pictures from Serra dos Tucanos:

1. The gardens
2. The nearby river
3. A view through the forest to the lodge
4. One of the forest trails
5. A view down the valley


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Andrew Whitehouse said:
the REGUA wetlands... reminded me of gravel pits in England...

...only with birds! ;)

Sounds like a fantastic place. Chestnut-backed Antshrikes were one of my favourite birds - highly amusing. I thought Capped Herons were pretty smart as well.

Keep them coming...
tom mckinney said:
...only with birds! ;)

Sounds like a fantastic place. Chestnut-backed Antshrikes were one of my favourite birds - highly amusing. I thought Capped Herons were pretty smart as well.

Keep them coming...

Hey there's lots of birds on gravel pits. If you like Canada Geese. Have you finished your epic yet Tommo?
Day Eleven: 22nd July

It was my last morning at Serra dos Tucanos, so time for one more wander up the hill along the extension trail. There was a fair amount happening, especially near the lodge, and I enjoyed decent views of Eared Pygmy Tyrant and Plain Xenops, along with a sandy coloured female Black-throated Trogon. Happily I was able to rustle up some good views of a pair of Scaled Antbirds at exactly the spot where I’d glimpsed one yesterday.

The walk back down provided tantalising views of a very good bird. Birding in the forests, you soon become sensitised to any sight or sound of movement on the ground and, from the corner of my eye, something caught my attention in the leaf litter. I turned, very slightly, went to lift my bins and it was off – a woodcock sized grey brown bird, with short rounded wings. Quickly it swept in front of me and into the forest and out of sight. It had been a Brown Tinamou and I guess this was a typical view.

Before lunch I was able to enjoy the hordes of parrots, tanagers and hummingbirds at the feeders one last time. Today, a pair of Green Honeycreepers were visiting, the female lacking the male’s black face but still a beautiful leaf colour. A bird that had eluded me up till this point was Rusty-margined Flycatcher, a small kiskadee rather similar to the Social Flycatchers that could often be seen in the garden. As a parting gift, one was showing nicely as it dashed about the edge of the lawn and the small pond nearby.

After lunch I said goodbye to Andy and all the others, and was on my way by taxi back to REGUA. The journey went smoothly and I was soon setting myself up in my very comfortable room at the lodge. Much to my surprise I had the place to myself and remained the only guest for most of my stay.

The lodge is situated on a small hill overlooking the wetlands and towards the mountains beyond. The feeders in the garden weren’t quite as busy as those at Serra dos Tucanos but brought in some different species. Almost immediately, I had great views of a Yellow-backed Tanager, a bird I’d only seen poorly before. A White Woodpecker also showed nicely in the small garden trees.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I went for a walk around the wetlands. At the bottom of the hill below the lodge I saw a couple of small birds in a tree by the side of the track. They were a pair of Hooded Tanagers, a small grey, black and white species. They were soon on their way but I expected I would see more. As things turned out, these were the only Hooded Tanagers of the trip and when I mentioned my sighting to Lee, an English birder who’d been volunteering at REGUA for several months, he told me he’d never seen any there. As with a lot of foreign birding, you don’t always know a good sighting when you see one.

The track prior to the wetlands leads through some dry scrub, which was full of Saffron Finches. Amongst them were a few warbler-like Chestnut-vented Conebills and I had much better views than yesterday of a Yellow-browed Tyrant – certainly one of the best-looking tyrants I saw. Overhead, I was both surprised and impressed to see groups of Blue-winged Macaws. Some even came down in the tall stands of bamboo across the wetlands. The bird list I had for the reserve didn’t mention macaws being found there.

A bird that had proved difficult to see the previous day was Masked Duck, a small and unobtrusive relative of Ruddy Duck. Today I was able to find four, three stripy brown females and a smart drake with red body, black face and blue bill. They sat, almost motionless and half submerged, in amongst the floating vegetation on the lake. Another ‘notable’ duck was a proper Muscovy, which seemed to be in residence. Well at least it was more ‘proper’ than the ones on your local duck pond anyway.

As dusk fell, I sat up in the tower and watched squadrons of Cattle Egrets as they came in from all directions and roosted out on one of the islands, almost smothering it in a white blanket. I wandered back in to the lodge in the gathering gloom but there was just enough light to pick out a finch singing in a patch of scrub. It was mostly grey but with a bright orange crest – a Pileated Finch and the only one I was to see.

In the evening I had a great meal at the lodge, in the company of some of the volunteers. Lots of Caipirhinhas and cans of Guarana – a ‘stimulating’ soft drink you can get in Brazil that I took rather a shine too.
A few pictures for you.

1. A view from the lodge at REGUA
2. A female/ immature Masked Duck
3. Sunset at REGUA
4. Sunset complete with Cattle Egret roost in the distance


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Nice sunset! Good work with the Tinamou - we never managed to see Brown Tinamou but heard them a few times.

Just been thinking about where to go next year. I thought about Ecuador, but Brazil is becoming ever more appealing...
I was up early in the morning to embark on a wander along the Sao Jose Trail, which runs up into the mountains beyond the wetlands. I was joined on this by Adilei, one of the rangers at REGUA. I hadn't asked for this but Adilei just came along anyway, which was a good thing because I'd heard that he was very adept at whistling birds in. A slight problem was that Adilei didn't really speak much English and my Portuguese, well, needs work. A solution, at least as far as birds were concerned, was that we could communicate through the much maligned Souza's 'All the birds of Brazil'. I had the English copy and Adilei had the Portuguese version. Lots of pointing and page flicking ensued whenever anything notable was seen but doing this we could both make our IDs understood. So Souza has its uses (actually it was also very helpful for dealing with any ants I found in my room too, so well worth taking along).

We skirted around the edge of the wetlands, where Adilei was soon pulling in a pair of exquisite Long-billed Wrens to give terrific close views. His eyes were just as alert, as he picked out the first non-feeder-visiting Blond-crested Woodpecker I’d seen. Adilei had a particular liking for the insistent call of Grey-hooded Attila, one of which seemed equally impressed with his willingness to communicate:


The forest on the way up the hill was a bit quiet but we regularly heard White-beared Manakins. These often stayed hidden but eventually I managed to get some good views of the smart male birds, giving the curious snapping noise that they use in display:


At one point I heard a song I recognised, a Scaled Antbird. I briefly managed a view of one in some distant scrub but Adilei seemed to be more interested in another bird that was calling slightly closer to us. He began calling it in but at first I couldn’t see anything. Eventually, a bird came into view, hopping along the ground – a terrific White-bibbed Antbird. This was a female but the male soon appeared very close by as it was drawn in by Adilei’s incredible imitation. Another wonderful endemic antbird.

As we began heading back down the hill, Adilei pointed out a distantly calling Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and I was pleased to get good views of an Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, a good endemic that had previously eluded me. They’re quite striking birds with broad white tertial edges as well as the distinctive eye ring. The forest on the descent was really lively, as good as any I visited, with lots of mixed flocks of tanagers on the move and some impressive birds amongst them. Yellow-throated Woodpecker and Rufous-capped Motmot both gave decent views and finally managed to see another Fawn-breasted Tanager – my first since early on day one. I was pleased to see some more Becards, a group of birds I’d struggled with up to this point. There were a pair of the hefty Crested Becards and a lemon chested Green-backed Becard. A few White-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens were in the flocks lower down where a strange looking and rather large flycatcher came in above our heads. Adilei gestured towards the picture of Greyish Mourner in his copy of Souza and, sure enough, that’s what it was – rather plain grey with a slight rusty tinge and a broad bill with pale pinkish base. Quite an engaging bird.

Hunting is prohibited on the reserve but apparently people sometimes poach. In the forest we nervously passed a bloke who was heading out with a shotgun in hand, although he didn’t seem to have ‘obtained’ anything. Apparently this guy was known and he was asked a few days later what he’d been doing hunting in the forest. He said he wasn’t hunting but likes to go for walks in the forest with his gun to protect himself from wild animals. He also claimed to be Lord Lucan. Actually I just made that last bit up.

After leaving the forest, we headed around to the tower overlooking the wetlands and were able to enjoy very good views of a pair of Aplomado Falcons, first of all perched in a large tree and then hawking over the marshes. A couple of Caimans were out on the main pool, a rather big one at close range. I was glad I was up the tower, unless Caimans have a hitherto unrecognised ability to climb ladders. On the way back to the lodge a couple of small flycatchers were zipping around the scrub. They were very busy and bright yellow – the latter feature a big clue to them being Yellow Tyrannulets.

After a splendid lunch I had a fairly easy afternoon, chatting in the garden with Nicholas and Racquel who founded the reserve and going for another wander around the wetlands. I finally managed to see a Common Thornbird in the scrub, having seen their huge stick nests all over the place. Another flock of Blue-winged Macaws squawked overhead. As I reached the track leading to the tower a large brown bird was spooked from the marsh. Initially I assumed it was a Rufescent Tiger Heron but as it turned and flew into the distance it showed a long outstretched neck. It was a Limpkin, my first, and it disappeared off down the valley and into the late afternoon sun.
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Great stuff Andrew.

We followed in your footsteps arriving for a 2 day stay at Guapi Assu lodge on 9th August having done 2 weeks in NE Brazil - seeing Araripe Manakin, Lear's Macaw and lots of other birds.

The REGUA lodge was wonderful! Nicholas Locke is a real enthusiast and a stay of several days at his lodge is a must. He is working extremely hard to return the area to its natural state, planting and extending marshes. During our visit there was a release of captive bred Red-billed Currasows into the wild.

Best birds we saw were a cracking pair of Shrikelike Cotingas.

Day Thirteen: 24th July

Just when you thought I'd forgotten all about this... Sorry it's been so long since I posted. I'll try and be a bit more prompt next time!

An early start and Adilei and I were off to do the Waterfall Trail, a scenic trail leading up into the mountains through some wonderful forest. To get there we required a lift for a few miles to the start of the trail. As we trundled along one of the farm roads, it soon became apparent that various stops had been scheduled into the journey. First up was by a few roadside trees and the driver had 'casually' noticed some birds perched up in the branches. These were, gloriously, a couple of Rufous-tailed Jacamars, larger and gaudier cousins of the Three-toed Jacamars I’d seen a few days earlier. These are much more widespread birds but share the same watchful, robotic movements and long spiky bills. Next stop was at a barn, where I wasn’t totally surprised to be shown a sleeping Barn Owl up high in the eves. We also managed a few Burrowing Owls sitting out in the fields too.

We were dropped by a small cottage on the edge of the forest. In the distance a huge swirling flock of several hundred swifts were circling – probably a mixture of White-collared and Biscutate Swifts. Almost immediately a striking black and white raptor flew at tree top level into the forest. It had rather short and rounded wings and a long tail – no less a bird than a Collared Forest Falcon and a tricky species to see. The cottage garden contained several hummingbird feeders, which were festooned with hummers including my first Glittering-throated Emerald.

The forest was fairly quiet initially but Adilei showed me the enclosure where the Red-billed Curasows are being kept until being released as part of a reintroduction programme. These really are extraordinary looking birds, big and black with long tails and strange curly projections on top of the head. After some more walking up through some wonderful forest, we eventually started to get to grips with a few birds outside of cages. Up in the treetops, a roving flock of Olive-green Tanagers moved through. These are rather plain as tanagers go, but quite noisy.


Having only seen the subdued female previously, I was particularly pleased to finally get views of a male Pin-tailed Manakin, at least after Adilei had patiently tried to get me onto it, not easy when you don’t share a language. He was less successful at getting me to see precisely which leaf, amongst several possible, a Sharpbill was sitting by. I craned my neck to enjoy a good view of a White-necked Thrush, a compact thrush with pinky-buff underparts and a thin white gorget. Adilei was on form with his whistling and managed to bring out one of the birds I was most keen to see. After a few minutes of patient waiting a Rufous-capped Antthrush trotted calmly across the path just a few metres in front of us. This is a particularly smart antthrush, mostly black but with the starkly contrasting reddish crown from which it gets its name.

We stopped for lunch by the waterfall, a lovely spot even if the waterfall had been badly depleted by the current drought. I spent most of lunch looking at the startling array of butterflies that seem to gather in any sunny spot in the forest. As we started back down the hill we soon encountered a busy flock containing a regularly encountered triumvirate of species: Black-capped and White-eyed Foliage-gleaners and Red-crowned Ant-tanagers. But accompanying them this time was another bird I’d been trying to see for a number of days, a brilliant looking Spot-backed Ant-shrike. This is a really fine bird, a great mass of black and white spots, and I was able to enjoy some great views as it moved through the lower branches. The bird I was really hoping for was sadly less cooperative. At the appointed spot, Adilei let out a penetrating wolf-whistle, which was soon returned. Great, I thought. Then nothing. The call was that of a Shrike-like Cotinga and it didn’t want to play ball today.


We were met at the bottom of the trail and made our way back to the lodge, enjoying fine views of a pair of Cliff Flycatchers on the return journey. As we went past the reserve office, Lee (an English volunteer at REGUA) raced out to tell us about a Tufted Antshrike he’d been watching earlier that day. He offered to take us the short distance to where the bird had been and the three of us marched, rather swiftly, along a track and into a fairly young area of forest near to the lodge. Adilei was soon whistling up the call and the bird was responding beautifully. Except for the fact it was sitting in the middle of an incredibly dense patch of scrub.


Sometimes there was a movement and, eventually, a view through the branches of a large and dark bird, with a pointed crest. Not great, and frustrating given how close by it was, but a view. Some consolation came from a pair of quite exquisite Moustached Wrens, which were regularly showing in the low scrub by the trail. These aren’t brightly coloured but are just about as neat as any bird can get.

Finally, Lee and myself headed off to the wetlands for dusk and watched a pair of Aplomado Falcons in the trees and a few Blue-winged Macaws heading into roost.

Below are a couple of pictures taken at the waterfall.


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Thank you Andrew - another good read. Worth waiting for I must say.

Over 300 species and most of them new to you?! That's a pretty impressive Id exercise Andrew - Great Report, well done!
We camped at the middle camp site and climbed up to see Grey-winged Cotinga about four years ago , did you pass the country club at the bottom on the road to Terrasopolis? That is where Ricardo Parrini (ace birder) refound the Kinglet Calyptura C. cristata he had two birds in October 1996 for two? days, I heard that this species has been seen recently in the Ubatuba area.
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