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A Report from

Brazil - Atlantic Rain Forest November 2005,

Chris Padley.

Having not been abroad for over 18 months because of illness we decided to take the plunge and go somewhere warm & good for birding in November. In the past I had planned my own itinerary for birding trips but this time I fancied having the work done by someone else. I was browsing through Birding World when I came across an advert for Serra dos Tucanos Lodge in Brazil. After going through every bit of the website & checking through the possible species I reckoned I was in for about 150 new species, which, considering previous visits to Central America,Venezuela, Argentina & Ecuador, would not be a bad haul. I contacted Andy Foster, the English owner of the Lodge by e:mail with a string of questions and within a matter of a few hours had all the answers & was hooked. Andy was very helpful & worked out an itinerary  to help us to see the most species. He also sold us a pocket guide to all the birds we could expect to see on the trip compiled by himself & Ber van Perlo. At £25.00 it was worth every penny as there were no single guides available on the region. It was all we needed & was invaluable.  We booked our flights with Iberian Airlines through ‘Journey Latin America’, sent off our deposits & waited to go. No malaria, no medical requirements except insect repellent & no visas if you have a UK passport with at least 6 months to run. You must take either your passport or a photocopy of it wherever you go as you may be stopped by the police

On arrival at Rio de Janiero 5 hours late we were picked up by our taxi driver & driven  approximately 100 Kms to the lodge. One of my main memories of Rio was the large numbers of Magnificent Frigatebirds wheeling around. It took about 2hrs to get to Serra dos Tucanos, a very attractive & well kept lodge which was in a beautiful situation in a valley surrounded by steep, forest covered mountains. On arrival We were greeted  by Andy & his delightful wife Cristina, given refreshments & shown to our room. We had chosen a superior room which was slightly more expensive but was well worth it for as well as a balcony overlooking the gardens & feeders  it had an overhead fan which was great for the hot nights.

We were quickly back downstairs on the comfortable veranda chairs drink in hand  & seeing our first birds. A Blond-crested Woodpecker was quickly noted as one of my hit birds -  never to be seen again – unfortunately Helen was looking at something else & missed it! The humming bird feeders were working overtime with constant visits by Black Jacobins, Sombre Hummers, Saw-billed Hermits, Swallow-tailed Hummer & Violet-capped Woodnymphs & the hands of bananas were attracting a variety of Tanagers & the occasional parrot. It was pretty hectic for a while.

While this was all happening we were introduced to the other guests, a Dutch couple Astrid & Ronald Messemaker who were also there for two weeks like ourselves & were superb birders and also 2 brothers Andy & Graham Senior – the former a birder & the latter not but a great laugh! (over the next two weeks we had other guests for just a few days & it all worked well) We went for a short walk around the grounds adding several more species to our lists & then decided to unpack & shower before dinner. After dinner on most evenings some of us went round the grounds finding & photographing bats & frogs. There were several resident Cane toads who ventured onto the veranda each evening to catch the insects, totally unperturbed by our presence. A log call was held by Andy prior to dinner each evening.

Helen & I went on all of the excursions on offer, sometimes twice, as did most of the group – even on second visits we always picked up a goodly number of new species since Andy would vary the route. Some guests go for a week & then visit other regions. We wanted a leisurely trip. Andy is preparing to offer a trip to the Pantanal in the future which can be combined with a stay at Serra dos Tucanos.  Andy was very flexible & did his best to accommodate the various guests’ wishes. He organised daily excursions  which can be viewed on his website prior to your visit. Breakfast was always at 6.30am &  we would depart in the lodge minibus at 7.00am. On one day we would take a packed lunch or eat in a restaurant, returning to the Lodge at about 6.00 pm. The following day would be a morning trip returning for lunch at 1.00pm. The afternoon was then free for swimming in the pool, birding from the veranda or walking round the extensive grounds with its well laid out trails up into the hills- all on the property. We readily exchanged information as a group so that if  a new bird was found we all soon knew about it. As it happened we all wanted to see everything & he obliged as much as possible. Andy is an excellent bird guide – up with the best. He knows the bird calls extremely well & his sight is excellent. He has a good sense of humour & good naturedly took a lot of stick from all of us  & we all had a great time. Forest birding is hard work  at the best of times & there are many LBJ’s but we saw the vast majority well.. On the days when I felt that I needed a white stick he got me on to nearly everything. We had many highlights – the stunning male Plovercrest, superb views of the rareThree-toed Jacamar, Itatiaia Thistletail & Rio de Janiero Antbird to name but a few. On all my trips to Central & South America I have heard but never properly seen a Tapaculo. On this trip not only did I see one but actually photographed a Mouse-colored Tapaculo. Andy uses a mini disc player to ‘tape’ out difficult species so there is no need to worry about taking recordings with you.

On some of the excursions it was hard going as I tired more easily than the others – the High altitude trip is up a mountain on a smooth cobbled track & the minibus is unable to make it to the top – so you have to walk! I struggled a bit but there were so many new birds being seen that I always managed to catch up with the party in time to see the birds. The highlight for Graham, the non-birder was to find one of the birds of the trip – a Black & Gold Cotinga with his pair of ‘theatre glasses’ while the rest of us with our thousands of pounds of optical equipment had failed. We never heard the end of that! For reasons of space I will not list the birds that we saw but if anyone would like my list please contact me by e:mail

The staff were very pleasant & could not be more helpful. Both coffee & tea were available at all times & a bar system worked  well on very relaxed lines – you helped yourself & signed for what you had. We found the food very enjoyable – there was always plenty & a good variety over our stay, always with salads available. None of us had any gut problems while we were there –we all tried everything. They even came up with a barbeque one evening. The kitchen was very willing to cater for differing dietary requirements – Helen does not eat fish & was always well catered for. While Andy was doing a great job with the punters Cristina was looking after everything back at the lodge.

Generally speaking the weather was good but it was fairly hot. We did have a  couple of days when we had torrential rain When the forecast was not good Andy altered the itinerary & we headed for dryer areas.Often the weather would be good on the other side of the mountain A good brolly is advised however! If the heat is a problem, our summer is a good time to visit as it is much cooler – the birds also go round in flocks at this time.

We had a fantastic birding holiday & I can thoroughly recommend this location If this has whetted your appetite I recommend the following website -        -    which will tell you all you need to know as well as give you up to date species lists, excursions etc. Many of the photographs on the site were supplied by Ronald which will give you some idea of how well we saw the birds. One picture was mine! Any delays in replies to e:mails could be due to a quaint local custom of removing the copper telephone cables which gives the telephone engineers overtime! The lines were down for a few days while we were there. Mobile phones worked O.K.

Our only problems of the trip were the delays encountered with Iberian Airlines from start to finish. Other guests flew with Varig or Air France & had no delays.

The total cost of the trip, flights, full board accommodation, all excursions, transfers to & from the airport, bar,  laundry – everything was £3200 for the two of us for the 16 day trip which we considered to be very good value. If I can be of any help to anyone please contact me by e:mail


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