In Association with:
BRAZIL Sept/Oct - 2005
Day 1 – 24th September
Everyone met at Heathrow Airport for our early flight to Paris, connecting to Sao Paulo, Brazil where we eventually arrived the following day and met our last member of the group, Gina.
Day 2 – 25th September
From Sao Paulo we flew to Cuiaba where we were met by our local guide and a trainee, Miguel, and Augustine. We were soon aboard our coach and setting off south into the Pantanal. Roadside birds included Crested Caracara, Black Vultures and a single Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. Wet pools were alive with birds and we soon added Great and Snowy Egrets, Limpkin, Striated Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Green Ibis, Wood Storks and the ever impressive Jabiru. Five Greater Rheas were seen feeding amongst the cows and Snail Kites seemed plentiful, while Southern Lapwings could be seen anywhere, as could Smooth-billed Anis. After a lunch stop we set off along a dusty old track towards our first lodge. The lunch stop actually held some good birds and we soon found a group of Guira Cuckoos, Sayaca Tanagers, Epaulet Oriole, Black-throated Saltator, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Green Kingfisher, Rufous Hornero, Picui Ground-Doves, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, and two superb Toco Toucans. Rufous-bellied Thrushes seemed to be everywhere as did Tropical Kingbirds and then a stop beside some pools soon found us Wattled Jacanas, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Scarlet-headed Blackbird and Cattle Tyrants, while another area produced White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, White-winged Swallows, Unicoloured Blackbird, Chopi Blackbird, Black-capped Donacobius, and Rusty-collared Seedeater. Our next roadside stop had Miguel produce a superb Nacunda Nighthawk sat in the middle of a grassy field, while nearby we got to see two Burrowing Owls, Chotoy Spinetail, Lesser Seedeater, a group of Long-tailed Ground-Doves, Smooth-billed Anis, a Great Black Hawk, Savanna Hawks, Roadside Hawk, Chaco Chachalaca, Campo Flicker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird and four Purplish Jays.
Moving on a little we made another roadside stop which this time produced two magnificent Hyacinth Macaws, plus a field full of fifty Nacunda Nighthawks all flying around in the daylight together. Both Red-crested and Yellow-billed Cardinals were seen as was a singing Grassland Sparrow. We also managed to find Bay-winged and Shiny Cowbirds, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, a Whistling Heron, Cocoi Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, and a pair of fly by Scaly-headed Parrots. Other brief stops enabled us to see a perched Crane Hawk, lots of huge Jabiru, several very elegant Capped Herons, Grey-necked Woodrail, Plumbeous and Buff-necked Ibis, and beside some Muscovy Ducks we had a few Brazilian Teal. Not bad for a first afternoon in the Pantanal – imagine what we would have seen if we were not tired!
Day 3 – 26th September
We were up at dawn and after a quick coffee we got engrossed in all the birds that were literally right outside our cabins. Countless Yellow-billed Cardinals adorned a tree, along with White-tipped and Scaly Doves, a lovely pair of Narrow-billed Woodcreepers showed well and we also saw Shiny, Bay-winged and Giant Cowbirds, Saffron Finches and noisy Chaco Chachalacas. Out in the fields were Wattled Jacanas, Great Egrets and Cocoi Herons and beside the river we saw several Spectacled Caiman, Black-collared Hawks, Rufescent Tiger Heron and a couple of Grey-crested Cacholote a recent split from (Brown Cacholote). We then boarded two boats for a two hour river trip. We slowly cruised past many heron species with lots of Snowy Egrets and Rufescent Tiger Herons, there were Anhingas in the trees and swimming in groups on the river, while hanging over the river were long nests of Yellow-rumped Caciques with one pair of birds present. Overhead flew a group of Yellow-chevroned Parakeets and then just a few yards further on we drifted past a pair of Bare-faced Curassows and on the opposite bank two endemic Chestnut-bellied Guans showed well. Black-capped Donacobius were plentiful but one particular pair showed fantastically as they displayed to each other. John then spotted a Campo Oriole and as we enjoyed watching a close Pygmy Kingfisher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Bar-winged Water-Tyrant and a Plain Tyrannulet, Gina spotted our first Giant River Otters up ahead. Two Lesser Kiskadees showed very well beside us on the water hyacinths, but a couple of Rusty-backed Spinetails were a little more difficult. We then came up to the otters and what a fantastic show they put on as instead of swimming away they came right over to us, where the boatmen even enticed a few of them to climb onto the paddles so as they could take some freshly caught Piranha. We saw about ten of these superb animals and many photos hopefully captured what would surely be the highlight of any river trip. I must say I did enjoy borrowing the bamboo cane fishing rod from the boatman and catching the biggest Piranha of the day much to the disgust of the boatman who then tried to get in on the prize winning photo. Back to the birds and we found a couple of Pale-legged Horneros and a Grey-necked Woodrail walking on the shore while in a tree top was the first of four or five Blue-throated Piping Guans. Solitary Caciques were then found and kingfishers included countless Ringed, Amazon and Green. As we came to a thick area of Water Hyacinths a magnificent Sunbittern flew in and after holding its wings out and displaying its incredible plumage it then walked slowly along the river edge towards us and even passed by one of the boats within a couple of feet – unbelievable! Gina then spotted a Sungrebe down the far end of the river and it stayed for ages on top of a log preening, while beside us a Blue-headed Trogon showed briefly. In the same view we then had views of another Blue-throated Piping Guan alongside a Bat Falcon and excellent views were then had of a male Pale-crested Woodpecker and a pair of Straight-billed Woodcreepers.
Returning up river towards our awaiting breakfast we added Black-fronted Nunbird to our list and also saw another Pygmy Kingfisher and a Sungrebe before an Agami Heron appeared on the river edge and a Greater Ani was spotted. As a finale to this wonderful boat trip the boatmen then threw out more pieces of Piranha which were then swooped upon by a couple of Black-collared Hawks. As we went for breakfast two Whistling Herons were spotted and in the tree above us our first Glittering-Throated Emerald. With breakfast over and while waiting for everyone to assemble we spotted a Southern Screamer, Plumbeous Ibis, two Crane Hawks and a White-rumped Monjita. We all watched a flowering tree and amongst the many Glittering-throated Emeralds we also found Gilded Sapphire, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Fork-tailed Woodnymph and several White-tailed Goldenthroats. We then set off on a walk into the scrub alongside the river. A Solitary Sandpiper was seen as were Monk Parakeets, Campo Flicker and a group of Guira Cuckoos and building a nest was a pair of Greater Thornbirds. As we got into the scrub we came across plenty of Picui Ground-Doves and a superb Red-billed Sythebill. A Short-crested Flycatcher sat on a fence post while nearby we connected with Great and Barred Antshrikes, Pale-lored Spinetail, Fuscous Flycatcher, Bananaquit and two Rufous-tailed Jacamars. A couple of Ashy-headed Greenlets showed well while higher up in a tall tree were Masked Gnatcatcher and a female Helmeted Mannikin. A Red-crested Finch, Plain Tyrannulet and Piratic Flycatcher were only brief and after a short wait we all got to see a Matto Grosso Antbird as well as a pair of Rufous-fronted Thornbirds building a nest ,and a pair of Blue-headed Trogons. We then returned for our lunch and to pack our bags ready to move further into the Panatanal. After leaving the lodge we made a brief stop to let everyone catch up with seeing White-rumped Mojita. Many herons were seen including Capped, Cocia, Black-crowned Night and many Rufescent Tiger. We eventually counted up to twenty Grey-necked Woodrails on this journey and several roadside stops got us White-bellied Seedeater, Chestnut-eared Aracari, and Large-billed Tern. A good roadside had us out of the coach watching a group of Hyacinth Macaws, plus Bat Falcon, Black-fronted Nunbirds, Lineated and three Little Woodpeckers, Buff-fronted Wren and several Scaly-headed and Blue-fronted Parrots. Our last roadside stop produced beside a bridge overlooking wide expanses of open wet meadows produced several Maguari Storks, Plumbeous Ibis, Southern Screamers, an obliging Bare-faced Ibis, Snail Kites and big numbers of Wood Stork and Cattle Egrets. In the grasses we had very good views of a Cinereous-breasted Spinetail and groups of Capybara were easily seen. We then continued on our way arriving at our hotel in the dark.
Day 4 – 27th September
This morning we had an early breakfast, seeing up to eleven Hyacinth Macaws fly off from the lodge grounds was a great start to the day. Behind the restaurant a few of us watched a pair of Black Skimmers flying back and forth over a small pond while in the air over the fields were up to 20 Nacunda Nighthawks. Out beside the bus we watched a couple of Streaked Flycatchers, also Buff-necked Ibis and an amazingly confiding Bare-faced Curassow. In fact it was so confiding that when I returned from my room to join the rest of the group, the curassow was in hot pursuit chasing me along the track. In a small tree we got to see a pair of Thrush-like Wrens while also on show was a Common Thornbird and a bunch of Blue-black Grassquits. In the top of a tall tree we watched a hoard of flycatchers feeding on a huge swarm of flying insects. A Masked Tityra appeared as did Yellow-rumped Caciques and Palm Tanagers. As we moved on a Creamy-bellied Thrush was found and looking across to a lake we found Purple Gallinule and Yellow-billed Terns and on the grass runway were a group of Monk Parakeets. In the woods we could hear Undulated Tinamou which never showed but we did see Black-fronted Nunbirds, Rufous-tailed Jacama and after quite a wait we all got to see a Buff-throated Woodcreeper. In the tree tops a small group of Brown Capuchin Monkeys lazed around. Moving on a Fuscous Flycatcher showed well while a small feeding flock included Chestnut-vented Conebill, White-wedged Piculet, Chivi Vireo, Campo Oriole, Greenish Elaenia, Brown-crested and Short-crested Flycatcher, Epaulet Oriole and lots of Silver-beaked Tanagers. We then spent a long time trying to see Cinnamon-throated Hermit and despite one or two birds singing quite close, only a few of us managed to get brief views of this little hummer. Nearby a Moustached and a Fawn-breasted Wren were found and we also spotted a Forest Elaenia, while four Hyacinth Macaws looked spectacular as they flew low along the road. As we rounded a corner and started walking a track towards the river a couple of distant raptors turned out to be a Swallow-tailed and a Plumbeous Kite. A small group of birds in the nearby trees consisted of four or more Plain Tyrannulets, a Chestnut-vented Conebill and then a little further away was a Blue-crowned Trogon.
Continuing down to the river several Toco Toucans flew over while flying across the river were White-winged and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Brown-chested Martin and a Large-billed Tern. In the tall grass beside us we got excellent views of two Southern Beardless Tyrannulets and then a showy White-bellied Seedeater, but best of all were the stunning close views of a tiny Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant. John then found a very nice hawk-moth, we spotted a Black-throated Mango and scoped a very large Green Iguana before boarding the coach and moving on. Stopping beside a small bridge we got out and soon found several Epaulet Orioles, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Unicoloured Blackbird and then we enjoyed superb views of a Hooded Tanager. Further along the road we had a nice sighting of a very attractive Golden-green Woodpecker. It was now quite warm so we returned to the lodge in time for lunch. As we drove through the gate Pat spotted a Hyacinth Macaw sat in a low Palm Tree, so we all piled out and tried to get some photos of this impressive bird. After lunch some of the group took a siesta while the rest of us checked out the pond and marsh behind the restaurant. We soon found a pair of Pied Lapwings which were accompanied by a pair of Collared Plovers and feeding in the grass was a group of Tawny-bellied Seedeaters. Sat in the weedy fields were up to twenty Nacunda Nighthawks although you couldn’t see them until they took off and flew around. The pond was covered in huge Lily Pads and on top of these we saw Wattled Jacanas, Striated Herons, a Purple Gallinule, White-headed Marsh Tyrant and flying over was a Large-billed Tern. Along the waters edge up to four Solitary Sandpipers were seen along with a single Pectoral Sandpiper and a South American Snipe. Returning to the rooms a particularly showy Hyacinth Macaw posed for endless photos. After a rest we all met and then boarded the coach where we drove about 10km away and stopped by a small bridge. Savannah Hawks, Monk Parakeets and a Greater Thornbird perched on dead trees, Greyish Saltators sat up and then we found a couple of White-naped Xenopsaris. A male Least Bittern then flew across the reed bed allowing most of the group to see this difficult to see species and then a Southern Yellowthroat was seen. Having scanned every bush for the last hour, Martin then found the bird I had been looking for, a very nice Little Cuckoo. We slowly made our way back seeing several Great Antshrike and Matto Grosso Antbird, Little Woodpeckers and then as the sun set over a pond we were treated to excellent views of up to twenty Band-tailed Nighthawks setting off for their evening meals. The same spot was taken over by masses of Lesser Bulldog Bats and to end our day we were given an amazing light display by hundreds of fire-flies.
Day 5 – 28th September
We had an early morning breakfast at which time we took a brief look at the pool behind the restaurant and saw two Black Skimmers doing exactly what they should and skimming across the waters surface. There were also four Yellow-billed Terns flying back and forth. We then drove just
outside of the lodge and took a slow walk along the road. We soon spotted a Dull-capped Attila and then two Chivi Vireos, Toco Toucan, Silver-beaked Tanagers, a Straight-billed Woodcreeper and a Chestnut-eared Aracari. In the same area a Forest Elaenia appeared as did Plain Tyrannulet and a nice male Blue-crowned Trogon. In the top of a tree a Blue-throated Piping Guan was seen and heard to produce the strange machine-gun like sound as it vibrates its wing feathers. Nearby we eventually got to scope a Cinnamon-breasted Hermit perched just a few inches of the ground. Moving on we got excellent sightings of a Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher and then a Rufous Casiornis flew across the road and landed in a tree. A brief Plumbeous Kite was seen to disappear over the tree tops and then we took a walk along a small track into a section of woodland where a small feeding flock was causing a commotion. An Olivaceous Woodcreeper climbed a large tree in front of us while in a bush below we watched a pair of Large-billed Antwrens. Above were lots of Plain Tyrannulets, Tropical Parula, and Silver-beaked Tanagers while lower down were Rusty-backed and White-lored Spinetails. We also got excellent views of a Brown Capuchin Monkey quietly feeding. It had warmed up considerably and was now time to return to the lodge and pack our bags ready to move off back to the lodge where we had stayed on our first day. Once aboard we set off for the afternoon journey retracing our steps and having to cross countless wooden bridges all in a varying state disrepair. As we drove along we sort the usual assortment of waterbirds and other species that we had now come to expect. Mark then spotted a large snake beside the road, we reversed back and got out to see not one but two Yellow Anacondas mating underneath a tree, the largest one about 7ft long. A few other roadside birds included a Vermillion Flycatcher, several Muscovy Ducks and Southern Screamers with chicks. Our next stop was beside a shady group of trees we soon found a family of Great Horned Owls with excellent views being had of the adults and the three large youngsters. We decided because it was shady to have our picnic lunch here so this we did and also managed to watch a pair of Common Tody-Flycatchers at their nest, several Rufous Horneros, a White-bellied Seedeater and Great Antshrike. Additional species seen as we continued our journey included Roseate Spoonbills, Pygmy Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Jacamars and many Capybaras and Spectacled Caiman which menacingly waited underneath the most rickety of the bridges. We then drove into a private ranch and took a short walk along a fence and into the wood. Several Chopi Blackbirds showed well and noisy Hyacinth Macaws flew around and fed in the tree tops. We scoped a distant White-eyed Parakeet before tracking down a calling Ferruginous Pygmy Owl which we then scoped in a tree top. As we returned a huge Great Rufous Woodcreeper was spotted and we enjoyed excellent views of it shortly followed by a Chestnut-eared Aracari. Back on the coach we continued our journey with a stop to look at a very bright Scarlet-headed Blackbird and then as we walked the road three Golden-collared Macaws flew past in the distance we also found a nice Striped Cuckoo. Our last stop ended the day in style with three stunning White Woodpeckers putting on a superb show. We then arrived at our lodge just in time for a sunset.
Day 6 – 29th September
After an early morning breakfast we set off on a walk into the nearby forest. A couple of Blue-fronted Parrots were seen perched and then at the forest edge we saw two Chestnut-bellied Guans, a Yellow-Olive Flycatcher and a very confiding Fuscous Flycatcher. As we made our way along the narrow trails we found three Black-tailed Marmosets feeding in a tree above us, a Grey-necked Woodrail ran across the track and then some of us got decent views of Flavescent Warbler. A Blue-throated Piping Guan sat in a dead tree and we got to see both Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant and a Crested Becard. Moving on a little we came across a showy Cream-coloured Woodpecker and a pair of less showy Band-tailed Antbirds, as well as Rufous-tailed Jacamar, an immature male Crested Mannikin and a couple of Rufous-browed Peppershrikes. Next came a pair of Plain Antvireos, plus Ashy-headed Greenlet, Pearly-vented Tody Tyrant and another Stripe-necked Tody Tyrant. A Buff-bellied Hermit then showed well, before a Pauraque flew off, we then had excellent views of a Pale-crested Woodpecker drumming on a tree just twenty feet away it was totally unconcerned by our presence. A Rufous-tailed Jacamar was seen devouring a huge morpho butterfly, we got better views of Flavescent Warbler, along with Black-fronted Nunbirds, White-wedged Piculet and Short-crested Flycatcher, and an absolutely superb Red-billed Scythebill. It was now hot and humid and about time we started making our way back, but not before seeing a gorgeous male Helmeted Manakin perched right beside us! and then a very unusual bird for the Pantanal was found and one not seen in this area before by our guide it was a Planalto Slaty Antshrike. Slowly heading back we managed to find Rufous Casiornis, Rusty-backed Spinetail and then a pair of Red-crested Finches. Returning to the lodge we had a short time to relax or have a dip in the swimming pool before lunch. As we waited to go out on a boat trip, several Whistling Herons showed well as did a Toco Toucan, and Nacunda Nighthawks. We were ready to go when it began to rain and thunder so we had to cancel the boat trip until the weather calmed down. Unfortunately it never did so we retired early.
Day 7 – 30th September
After an early morning coffee we set off on a pre breakfast boat ride. The usual array of waterside birds were seen including herons and egrets, Pale-legged Horneros, Anhingas, Grey-necked Woodrail and plenty of Caiman. We then found a dead Anaconda on the side of the river bank. In a tree top we had a nice sighting of a group of Blue-fronted Parrots while nearby we picked up Squirrel Cuckoo, Lesser Kiskadee, Sayaca Tanager and a Campo Oriole. As we slowly cruised along we also spotted a Blue-throated Piping Guan and several Bare-faced Curassows sat in a tree right below a Great Black Hawk. Above Fork-tailed Flycatchers flew over in small groups and on a low bush we got close to two Common Iguanas. Further on we passed by a Sunbittern and as we looked at two Blue-crowned Trogons flying over we found a flowering tree with Buff-bellied Hermit, Black-throated Mango, White-tailed Goldenthroat and Glittering-throated Emerald. We then turned around and cruised back to the lodge and continued on in the other direction. Both Great Black and Black-collared Hawk were watched coming in and picking up pieces of fish thrown out by the boatmen. We went a little further and got stunning views of two immature Black Skimmers sat on the bank. Three Golden-collared Macaws flew over and perched in a tree top before we got the excellent sighting of a Sungrebe swimming slowly ahead of us. We then went ashore and took a short walk to a group of tall trees in which a roosting Great Potoo showed wonderfully. Back in the boats we returned towards the lodge adding Capped Herons, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers and a Spotted Sandpiper. After breakfast we loaded the coach and set off towards Cuiaba and on to our next lodge in the dry Chapada dos Guimarae. We saw many birds along the road journey including up to twenty Greater Rheas, Bare-faced Ibis, Plumbeous Ibis lots of Brazilian Teal accompanied by up to ten White-backed Stilts. A group of Chestnut-belled Guan were spotted as well as Chestnut-eared Aracaris. A short stop at a café for some drinks produced two Plumbeous Kites a Streaked Flycatcher and a Jabiru which circled overhead, while a game of table soccer was eventually won by Miguel and Augustine. After seeing a couple of female Marsh Deer we eventually found a nice stag sat in a pool of water. A stop for a very nice buffet lunch then saw us continue our journey. With most people asleep in the coach we then spotted a Red-legged Seriema stood in the shade of a tree. We got out and scoped this much wanted and excellent bird. As we approached the tall cliffs of Chapada we spotted two Blue-winged Macaws flying past. Then after driving into an area to view some waterfalls. We got out of the coach and walked the last few hundred yards having just had excellent views of four perched Blue-winged Macaws. A noisy raucous call then drew our attention to a pair of Red-and-green Macaws which flew over and away. Perched in a tree top we scoped several Peach-fronted Parakeets and in the same tree was a Chalk-browed Mockingbird and a Sayaca Tanager. We also scoped our first Plain-crested Elaenia and two Blue Dacnis flew in and showed well. A superb male Swallow Tanager was spotted and soon joined by a female, and nearby we could scope some White-eyed Parakeets. A little further down the road we found a gorgeous White-eared Puffbird and then down towards the waterfall we spotted White-lined Tanagers, Sayaca Tanagers, Silver-beaked Tanager, a Thick-billed Euphonia and several excellent views of Red-winged Macaws flying below us. On a fence post we watched a pair of Pale-bellied Thrushes, some more Red-and-green Macaws flew past and actually beside the waterfall a Bat Falcon was sat on patrol and we managed to scope both White-collared and Great Dusky Swifts which were flying in and perching on the sheer rock face right behind the cascading water. It was to leave so we drove to our hotel just a short distance away.
Day 8 – 1st October
This morning we had an early breakfast and then set off the short distance to Chapadas named after the dry scrub that dominates this area. As we drove along a dusty track, two Burrowing Owls were spotted. After stopping we started our walk on a very sandy track which in itself caused a few distractions as it was covered in the tracks of many birds, mammals and insects. A Black-throated Saltator was soon spotted and then a Plumbeous Kite and fast flying Scaled Pigeon flew over. Our first tanager of the day was a very obliging White-rumped Tanager and this was shortly followed by an equally showy White-banded Tanager, and then a Plain-crested Eleania. We moved on a little and got superb views of a pair of Rusty-backed Antwrens, while a Lesser Elaenia showed well and the sound of Red-winged Tinamous could be heard frustratingly close. Then next bird, a speciality of the area was a Rufous-winged Antshrike which was then followed by our first Black-faced Tanager and a superb Aplomado Falcon which flew overhead. A little more activity on a corner soon produced Coal-crested Finch feeding on the ground and then after a bit of a struggle we all saw a Pale-breasted Spinetail. Much easier was a Curl-crested Jay sat in a tree top and in the same area we spotted Red-crested Finch, a scruffy White-tailed Hawk, and Plumbeous Seedeater. Before turning around at the end of our walk we spotted Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Roadside Hawk and more close encounters with the unseen Red-winged Tinamous. A very obliging Southern Beardless Tyrannulet was seen and in the same spot we got excellent views of a pair of the newly split endemic Chapadas Flycatcher. A singing hummingbird was tracked down until we found and identified it as a White-vented Violetear. Back on the coach and as we slowly drove along the track an American Kestrel was spotted and then a Greater Rhea ran across the road right in front of us. We continued on to the waterfall for an early lunch. With a little time spare we looked at the fall and its resident swifts which included lots of White-collared Swifts and for some of the group who managed to get good views with trees as a background, a few similar Biscutate Swifts were identified. A pair of gorgeous Red-and-green Macaws flew past in perfect light conditions – watch a picture that would have made! We had yet another fantastic midday meal before returning to our lodge where a little siesta or swim in the pool was had during the hottest part of the day. A couple of South American Foxes were seen by some of the group from their rooms before we got back onto the coach and set off for our afternoon walk in an area of remnant forest. A Campo Flicker was soon located as was a Red-winged Macaw sat in a small bush. Plumbeous Kites circled around and sat in tree tops while above them wheeled a cloud of White-collared Swifts. Once we entered the forest we got to grips with Greenish Elaenia, Squirrel Cuckoo, Swallow Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper and a calling Moustached Wren. Next we got excellent views of Rufous-browed Peppershrike, followed by Rusty-fronted Tody-Tyrant and a male White-backed Fire-Eye which sat singing for ages. A Buff-throated Saltator then appeared along with Pale-bellied Thrush and a superb Blue-crowned Motmot. Moving on a little we found a pair of White-bellied Warblers, followed by a Black-fronted Nunbird and then two stunning little Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers perched on a dead tree. Along a small side track and with the light dropping fast we had a last flurry of activity with a Variegated Flycatcher, a Guira Tanager another look at a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Red-legged Honeycreeper and then a fly over by a Blue-headed Parrot. To finish the day we positioned ourselves in the middle of the track for the finale which was two superb Short-tailed Nighthawks whistled in by Miguel. Just perfect!
Day 9 – 2nd October
After breakfast this morning we met beside the coach and straight away found a Grey Monjita sat in a small tree. We drove back to the forest that we had visited yesterday afternoon and immediately found a Curl-crested Jay as we got out of the coach. Walking towards the main forest we saw several Plumbeous Kites including one or two perched and we heard a close Short-billed Tinamou but there was going to be no chance of seeing it. We did however find a perched Blue-tufted Starthroat followed by good views of a Planalto Tyrannulet. On the road we got to see a Saffron-billed Sparrow followed by a Fuscus Flycatcher, Crested Becard and Large-billed Antwren. Moving on we got superb views of two displaying male White-backed Fire-Eyes before finding a Latticed Aracari and a small group of tanagers. A Blue-crowned Motmot showed well perched over the road and then we got very good views of a Small-billed Tinamou as it walked from one side of the road to the other. Before we reached the bottom of the road and an open area of farmland we enjoyed seeing a Sepia-capped Flycatcher. After a nice pair of Blue-and-green Macaws flew over we scanned the area and saw Masked Yellowthroat, Lesser Seedfinch, Rufous Hornero, two showy Peach-fronted Parakeets and a Cattle Tyrant. A short walk, and some of the group got to see a Purple-throated Euphonia which then flew off and could not be relocated. Nobody missed the Bran-coloured Flycatcher which did its best to try and hide away, while beside us an immature Ruby Topaz hovered around a flowering bush. It was now time to leave so we were picked up by the coach and then set off towards our next destination. A roadside stop at an overlook soon found us a couple of Cliff Flycatchers, as well as White-necked Thrush, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Buff-burnished Tanager, Masked Tityras and a pair of Rufous-collared Sparrows. Continuing on we arrived in Cuiaba where we were treated to a fabulous lunch. After this we boarded the coach and set off on the 1½ hour journey to our next lodge. On arrival at our ranch style accommodation we were shown to our cabins and then had time for a short rest. Within the grounds were numerous butterflies also White and Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers, Blue-headed Parrots and sat on the very top of a tree was a lone Swallow-wing. All on board the coach we then drove towards an area of forest, first stopping alongside several small ponds. A quick scan soon picked up plenty of Brazilian Teal, a group of White-faced Whistling Ducks, a Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Southern Screamer, Amazon Kingfisher, White-backed Stilts and a Greater Yellowlegs. Continuing on into the forest we changed our transport from a comfortable coach to a truck which would take us several kilometres to the other side of the forest. Once aboard we slowly bumped our way along the track ducking at every overhanging bush or vine. A brief stop enabled everyone to get excellent views of two Undulated Tinamous which even walked out in the open as they crossed the track. Further on we spotted a couple of Magpie Tanagers before reaching a point at which we climbed off the truck and set off on a short walk along the narrow trail. We were soon near a clearing and `Miguel explained that the huge tree in front of us was where a pair of Harpy Eagles had nested in 2004. After walking a little further and glancing up at the tree from a different angle I was amazed to see a huge tail hanging down from behind a large branch! Sure enough there it was one of the most awesome eagles in the world a huge Harpy Eagle. This immature bird was totally unconcerned by our presence and allowed fabulous views and unprecedented digi-scoping opportunities. In the same area if you could tear your eyes away from this magnificent raptor there were also Scaled and Plumbeous Pigeons, Yellow-rumped Caciques and more Magpie Tanagers. Reluctantly we walked away from our star bird and returned to the truck, but not before seeing a very nice Pit Viper lying amongst the leaf litter. A few other bird species fell into insignificance as we returned to the main track and our awaiting coach. Before returning to the lodge we decided to try for a few night birds, but this was not to be the night,
although we did hear, an Austral Owl, and were treated the sight of thousands of Fire-flys lighting up the forest it was a truly magical experience. We returned to the lodge and after our meal and checklist some of the group retired while myself, Gina, John, Chris and Mark formed the Brazilian Bug Club! We gave ourselves the task of finding the biggest, ugliest or most extraordinary of insects, all of which were being attracted to lights around the lodge.
Day 10 – 3rd October
Up early this morning we set off to a nearby ranch where we were just in time for sunrise and the spectacle of fifty Red-bellied Macaws leaving their roost and flying noisily overhead. While watching these we also found Black-faced Ibis and several Fork-tailed Palm Swifts. Beside the road we watched a pair of Red-bellied Macaws mating and also got to see Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and a Crimson-crested Woodpecker fly over. More swifts were spotted but this time they turned out to be Sooty Swifts. We returned to the lodge for breakfast after which we returned to the beginning of the forest we visited yesterday. Passing the small ponds we noticed five Muscovy Ducks and on a water trough was a single Dusky-headed Parakeet. As we parked the coach two Black-tailed Marmosets were seen up in a tree and then nearby a Laughing Falcon showed well. As we searched for a calling Black-tailed Trogon Andy found a Dark-billed Cuckoo, a Hook-billed Kite circled overhead we then managed to get some good scope views of the Black-tailed Trogon. Moving on we entered a track within the forest and saw a Crimson-crested Woodpecker and a White-shouldered Tanager. It took a long time to get everyone to see a pair of Black-throated Antbirds that were well hidden within a thick tangle. Some of the group also saw an Azara’s Agouti before we returned the way we had come. Almost back and we all got excellent views of a Lineated Woodcreeper as it made its way up and down some close tree trunks. It was now getting decidedly hot so we returned to our lodge and had either a swim or a siesta before lunch and our afternoon departure for Cuiaba Airport. Once here we said our farewells to Miguel who had been an outstanding guide, and to his light-hearted assistant Augustine as well as our excellent safe driver Manuel. Back at Sao Paulo we said goodbye to Gina and then all fell asleep on our long flight back to Paris and on to Heathrow. I would like to thank everyone on this tour for making it such a pleasure to lead. It was a bonus to have such a wonderful group and an excellent local guide.