Sunday, 15 February 2015

Birding the Atlantic Rainforest Brazil Part 2

The next three days were spent birding the mid-altitude forest between Serra dos Toucanos Lodge and the town of Nova Friburgo. Nova Friburgo was the scene of a devastating flood and catastrophic mud slide just 4 years ago which killed several hundred people. It puts the UKs recent flooding "disasters" in to perspective. The only sign of the catastrophe today in Nova Friburgo is a bare, neatly terraced grassed hill side where there were once houses. On a lighter note, Nova Friburgo is the lingerie capital of Brazil; the road approaching it is lined by shop after shop selling nothing but underwear!
Day 4 was spent along the Macae de Cima road walking a bit, driving a bit, walking a bit more and so on. It was a little slow to start. One of the target birds, the Bare-throated Bellbird, wasn't in its usual tree but there were others calling and we eventually found another perched distantly. Another target, a Serra Tyrant Manakin that had been singing from the same corner for 7 years obstinately refused to show. We were distracted by a Dusky-legged Guan looking rather ungainly as it ate fruit high in the top of a cercropia tree.

Then a magnificent Black Hawk-eagle circled over our heads

As we walked back past the Manakin it started to sing again from within the forest. Taking a narrow path through the trees and up a slope the Manakin was finally located. It was hardly the most spectacular of birds, being a nondescript dull green but it was another very local species.
We stopped for lunch but we had hardly started eating when a Surucua Trogon started calling and flew straight in above our heads. Trogons usually fly in, sit still doing very little and then fly off again. This one was very active and began feeding in the trees above us.

Walking on, we came across a very showy Bellbird calling insistently from the top of a tree above the path. Shortly after we were lucky to come across the very different female, a usually secretive bird. She had been drawn in by the male who took a keen interest in her.

Next day we birded the Portao Azul trail all on foot. We had hardly left the minibus when new birds started showing all around. First, a Dusky-tailed Antbird, followed by Scale-throated Hermit, Scaled Woodcreeper and then a Bertoni's Antbird which appeared without the need for any use of the tape. Suddenly I noticed a large woodcreeper probing a trunk with the most enormous down-curved bill, the appropriately named Black-billed Scythebill, a great bird to see. Walking on the trees seemed full of birds including Long-tailed and Shear-tailed Tyrants, Swallow Tanagers and the very attractive but difficult to photograph Gilt-edged and Red-headed Tanagers. We also had another Dusky-legged Guan wandering along the track in front of us like an elongated turkey. The icing on the cake was an Ochre-tailed Antbird, a species we had tried for repeatedly the previous day without success.
Day 6 started very well when I spotted the superb looking Blond-crested Woodpecker outside the dining room as we ate breakfast. Todays trip was a visit to the Theodoro Trail just a short drive from the lodge. This had started as a railway line, was converted in to a road and then abandoned when the new road was built. It had been almost completely swallowed by the forest and in places was slipping down the hillside but it was a great birding site. A cute little White-throated Spadebill posed beautifully for me to take its photo and we quickly ran in to a bird flock, unusual during the breeding season, but always exciting trying to sort through all the different species including several different foliage gleaners and tanagers. The endemic Azure-shouldered Tanager was one of the highlights.

                                             White-throated Spadebill

Skulking on the ground was a Rufous-breasted Leaftosser and further along a few of us managed a brief view of a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, both rather dull brown birds but with fantastic names. A Ferruginous Antbird put in an appearance (along with another Bertoni's) completing the set of 6 endemic antbirds we could hope to see. Meanwhile a Cryptic Anththrush serenaded us with its amazing song, an ascending series of notes become louder and more frantic until it seemed the bird must explode. There was little hope of seeing this secretive bird so we concentrated instead on searching for the Sharpbill whose song was a single descending note like a falling artillery shell but without the explosion at the end. It was a good three-quarters of an hour walking backwards and forwards between 2 spots on the track before the bird finally showed.

Our final full day was spent on a whistle-stop tour of open pastoral landscape to the north of Nova Friburgo with remnant fragments of forest. Our first stop gave us Blue-winged Macaw, Streamer-tailed Tyrant and the classic Guinness bird, the Toco Toucan. Another stop at an unpromising tiny roadside clump of trees produced the endemic Serra Antwren. The wonderfully named Firewood-gatherer, so named because of its huge stick nest was another bird that duly obliged. Pulling in next to a cattle yard, a quick play of the tape drew an instant response from a pair of White-cheeked Puffbirds.

Our lunch stop was also the site for the slightly bizarre looking Curl-crested Jay but with the threat of impending rain we quickly moved on to our most important target bird of the day, the Three-toed Jacamar. This is a very rare and range-restricted species with probably only 1000 individuals left. We turned off the main road on to a dirt track and stopped almost immediately at the end of what seemed like someones drive with a few large trees on our left. It was a surprising site for such a rare bird but within minutes up popped not one but three birds which put on a great show for us, a fitting end to a fantastic trip.

The drive back to the lodge added Burrowing Owl and Rufous-capped Antshrike to the list.
We had a few hours to ourselves on our final morning before our scheduled departure at 11am. I headed up in to the trees around the garden and was delighted to find (and identify) by myself another regional endemic, the Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, but it was soon time to make our final drive in our trusty minibus and return to the UK. If you are interested in doing the same tour check out Serra dos Toucanos website here. I travelled with Birdfinders (although other bird tour companies are available they use the same lodge and the same guide at sometimes a higher cost) and had a great time.

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