2011 Brazil

Rio de Janeiro

3 August to 6 August

A fairly uneventful Air Iberia flight to Rio.  Then a couple of days doing 'the sites'; spending some time on Ipanema Beach; and enjoying Rio's night life.  We did do some wildlife watching in the botanical gardens and near Christ the Redeemer.
common marmoset
night heron
The view from Christ the Redeemer

toco toucan
masked water-tyrant
channel-billed toucan

7 August to 11 August

The Transpantaneira 

Early in our drive we got superb views of one of my favourite birds: sunbittern.
Although it was rather frustrating being with non-birders, it was a very enjoyable drive.  Perhaps one of the most amazing things was the huge number of Pantanal caimans.

Conditions weren't always ideal for photography, but I did get a few reasonable shots:
marsh deer
black-capped donacobius
Capybara were very common, on the drive.

Perhaps the most interesting bird was a great rhea, a species I've only since once before.

Rio Cuiba/Porto Jofre

Most of August 8, 9 and 10 was spent on the Rio Cuiba, looking for jaguars.  Luckily this was successful: we had three sightings.  Two 'twitched' and one that I located.

We saw plenty of other stuff.  The mammal highlights included:
plenty of black howlers;
several encounters with giant otters;

and both lesser and greater fishing bats.  This is a greater.

We saw a variety of amphibians and reptiles.  Including several green iguanas.
Birding from a boat had its limitation, but we still saw a fair amount.  The rather 'unreal' hyacinth macaw being the highlight.

ringed kingfishers and

Amazon kingfishers were fairly common

as were large-billed terns
and rufous-tailed jacamars.
pied plover

Sadly, although they were seen fairly regularly, bare-faced currassows were always in dark patches of forest, making them hard to photograph.
Rufescent tiger-herons were frequently seen.
12 August
The Transpantaneira 

The highlight of this journey was the amazing site of a fight between a Pantanal caiman and a yellow anaconda.
We never saw the end of this fight, but as the picture below shows, it looked like it was only going one way; the decline of anacondas, in the Pantanal, has been linked with the increase in numbers of Pantanal caimans.

Long-nosed bats were seen flying from a nearby bridge.

After arriving at the Rio Claro Lodge, it was time for some gentle birding, chilling out and some horse riding.  Birds seen included Nanday parakeets.
In the evening it was time for a spot-lighting drive.  This was both good: I got three mammal 'ticks' and frustrating: not long enough; pretty hopeless as far as photography went and - above all - the tapir was far too brief!
The first mammal seen was crab-eating fox.
Then came my two new ones: crab-eating raccoon (no photo) and Brazilian rabbit (crap photo) and then the night mammal I'd really been looking forward to, Tapir.  Sadly it disappeared before I could either watch it for long enough or get a proper photo.
12 August

Our last day in the Pantanal was spent birding around the hotel.  The highlight was black-tailed marmoset; it's a pity the photos were so crap!
Other wildlife included: golden-green woodpecker;
pale-crested woodpecker
and brown capuchin.
13 August

We spent the day flying back to Rio, picking up the hire car and driving to Tresopolis.

14 August

Serra Dos Orgaos

The highlight here was undoubtedly good views of a pair of, the rare and endemic, hooded berryeaters.  Sadly, this is the best photo I managed.
Other good birds here included: brassy-breasted tanager, spot-billed toucan and spot-winged wood-quail.

15 August

A long, long drive to Caraca.  When we arrived we weren't disappointed with our accommodation - a monastery complete with its own bar - was one of my favourite places I ever stayed, and by miles the best value of our trip.
We only had time for a brief look around before dark.  Although the main target of our visit was seen at dusk, the best views were had in the grounds of the monastery, after a superb dinner, and while drinking beer, when a maned wolf came to feed on scraps of meat, put out by the monks.  Not an altogether natural experience but to get such superb views of such a wonderful animal, which I had wanted to see for years was still fantastic.  Especially when everyone else had left, and only Michelle and I were still there.

16/17 August


We enjoyed watching the wolf on both days, but also spent the days wandering the, very hot, trails.  Another 'target' species was masked titi-monkey.  This proved rather elusive, but eventually we got reasonable views.
Other mammals were seen: Guianan squirrel, back-tufted marmoset and red brocket deer.  Birding was hard work.  The highlight was probably red-ruffed fruitcrow.

18 - 20 August


After a long drive we arrived at Sao Roque de Minas, unfortunately I arrived feeling very ill and only had the energy for a very gentle walk around the town, seeing white-eyed parakeets.

The hummingbird feeders at Vargem Bonia provided hummingbird photo opportunities:
stripe-breasted starthroat
swallow-tailed hummingbird
On the lower road, I managed to get some photos of red-ruffed fruitcrow.

Birds seen at the waterfall included great dusky and white-collared swifts, as well as the superb helmeted manakin.  Sadly this was the best photo I could manage.
Sadly, we failed to find the very rare Brazilian merganser.  An evening attempt to find our main target species, giant anteater, was unsuccessful as well as being very tricky in a 2WD.  However, we did see a bird I was very keen to see, especially after failing in Bolivia, red-legged seriema.
We spent 8 hours driving around looking for anteaters in our totally unsuitable car.  We did see some good birds such as white-eared puffbird
and streamer-tailed tyrant.
Despite this, moral was getting low; we pulled into the visitor centre and Michelle went to see if her Portuguese was up to the challenge of asking the best place to look for anteaters, while I used the facilities.  Suddenly, I heard a scream.  A rapid adjustment of clothing later and I was outside.  The guard had said that occasionally an anteater walked past the centre, on the other side of the valley; he'd taken her outside to show her where and there one was!
An ambition of mine I'd had since reading Gerald Durrell books, as a kid, had finally been achieved!  I think if it hadn't been for the constant scraping of the bottom of our car I'd have stayed another day, to get closer views, but we decided to quit while we were ahead and leave for the coast.

21 August

The day was spent getting to Ubatuba, a 10.5 hour drive, and consuming a gorgeous meal at the nice, but expensive Hotel Solar dos Aguas.

22 - 25 August

This was meant to be a chill out on the beach time, for Michelle, but lousy weather meant only one day was spent on the beach!  Apart from the first morning, when we just looked from our balcony, the weather was just about good enough for birding.
Looking from our balcony wasn't totally without reward as several species were coming to the bird feeders, including this green honeycreeper.

The highlight of the Ubatuba area was undoubtedly the garden of Fazenda Folha Seca.  The owner of this Fazenda seemed to spend most of the day, and I'd imagine a fair amount of his money, topping up his bird feeders.  With the result that hundreds of birds were present; the numbers of hummingbirds was almost unbelievable!  It did seem a bit like cheating, but it was a good place to take photos.

festive coquettes were especially common

plain parakeet
blue dacnis
violaceous euphonia

green-headed tanager

26 - 29 August Itatiaia National Park

The first shock was Hotel Ype, which proved to be the most expensive hotel I've stayed in, in my life! Admittedly I do general seek out the budget end of the market.

To recover from the shock, I spent a while composing myself by staring out of my room window.  It was almost worth the shock, as a Tayra chose this moment to walk past our room! I was now in double shock, and my camera was on my bed, so it was disappearing by the time I took some photos.

It would have been difficult to imagine a much better start to my visit; indeed this was the highlight!

Typically of rainforest, the birding was hard work and photography was difficult. Infact we spent quite a while around the hotel watching birds and capuchin monkeys coming to the numerous bird feeders.
saffron toucanet
yellow-fronted woodpecker
female blue-crowned trogon
black-google tanager
swallow tanager

We tried a bit of spot-lighting.  As usual for me, we saw very little, but this toad, Bufo ictericus, was pretty impressive.

We then left the reserve and moved into a, considerably cheaper, hotel in the town.

30 August

Agulhas Negras Road

Sadly road works meant we had a frustratingly short time in this superb area.  Our car struggled with the rather dodgy roads as well.  Sadly I failed to get any decent shots of some of my favourite birds, such as red-rumped warbling finch, plovercrest, diadem tanager and black-capped piprites.

bay-chested warbling finch
Brazilian ruby
brassy-breasted tanager
Then, sadly, it was back to Rio - getting very lost within the city - and home.