Bahia research trip Jan 08

by Richard Raby on February 5, 2008


I’ve just arrived back from my Southern Bahia State research trip, and it proved to be a good one! Not only did I managed to “dribble” the bad weather here in Rio state (it had apparently been raining here every day that I was away) but I also managed to find three of my four main-target species for the trip, including one species hoped-for but not seriously expected.

Deciding to be a little radical, I opted to travel by Motorcycle. In the past I’ve found these two-wheeled trips to be far more memorable than those conducted by car, and this trip proved to be just as emotional as ever.

Leaving the Marica lodge in Rio state, my first stop was in the next state north, Espirito Santo, and at Comboios, a Marine turtle laying-beach. Upon arrival there though, the weather had turned very windy and hardly conductive to a night-time’s beach-search (the turtles tend to come up to lay at around midnight and on nights with a full moon), due to the adverse weather(almost certainly caused by the bad-weather arriving from the south) I continued heading north and to Concecao da Barra, where I spent the night. The following morning I visited the nearby and rather new state forest reserve at FLONA da Rio Preto. As it was now the weekend there was no- one to actually show me around the Nature trails, although I did manage to see a few interesting species on the drive through the open park to the HQ. Birds such as Rufous-breasted Hermit, Eared Pygmy Tyrant and a party of very obliging Golden-crowned Parakeet, that I photographed were noted along with other “typical” low level jungle species with which I am well familiar with. This small reserve appears to be worthy of a further visit in the future.

Next it was off to Bahia state, the main objective of my journey, rare Cotingas and Manakins. Stopping at Itamaraju where I found an excellent hotel, I arranged to visit the nearby Monte Pascoal National park early the following morning. This locality is featured in Nigel Wheatley’s “Where to Watch birds” book of 1994 and has changed very little from his desciption. The following day provided some excellent birding in the jungles around Monte Pascoal. The day was especially good for Manakins and I managed to both see and record Blue-backed and Eastern-Striped Manakins, along with also discovering a large lec of Red-headed Manakin. I and my guide climbed the 600meter monte pascoal mountain and obtained good, if rather distant views over looking the forest canopy below us, but the best bird-activity was definitely in the lower sections of the park. The more interesting species seen here included Greyish Mourner, Thrush-like Wren and Black-necked Aracari. Bare-throated Bellbirds vocalized continuously and Black-headed Berryeater was heard calling once.

Continuing northward the following morning my next stop was at Porto Seguro where I managed to arrange entry into the CEPLEC forest reserve on the main Eunapolis-Porto Seguro road for the following day. This sandy-plains forest reserve owned by the Brazilian ministry of agriculture represents a sample of pristine forest, and the area appears to be a strong-hold for the endemic and endangered Back-headed Berryeater (more than 6 calling birds being noted on a walk of approx 3-4 kms), Screaming Phia was also observed here in the interior alongside a host of Red-headed Manakin, the latter appearing to prefer the jungle edges though? A number of that unusual Buccinadae, the Swallow-wing were seen perched on high, dead snags above the canopy , a female Rufous throated sapphire gave great photo oportunities, and the globally endangered parakeet P. cruentata was heard calling overhead.

The following day I birded a dirt-road/track close-by the CEPLAC reserve that also penetrates virgin jungle, there had been some overnight rain and the going was pretty muddy, so I decided to park the m/cycle and walk this track rather than to ride it, birding by ear. What a fortunate decision, the track was almost impassable to normal transport but on foot It was easily passable and the birding was absolutely fantastic, two hours later and 3kms along the track, I had toted-up a great list of species of which 4 were lifers for me(White-winged Cotinga, Cinereous Mourner, Long-billed Gnatwren and Band-tailed Antwren), two were second encounters (Little Tinamou, White-fringed Antwren) and another species represented only my third ever encounter (Crane-Hawk), also seen were the endemics and endangered Red-Browed Amazon Parrot, Blue-throated Parakeet (Pyrrhura cruentata), along with the locally common Black-necked Aracari, Channel-billed Toucan, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow breasted Flycatcher and a great Grey-capped Flycatcher that came in to “trawling”, what a morning! That afternoon I spent researching hotels etc. in the area in respect of future visits to this fabulous region.

The following day I continue to explore for good jungle birding-tracks around Porto Seguro, and I found another excellent one some kilometres to the south. In the forest/forest-edge itself I found a number of mixed Tanager flocks comprising of Flame-crested, Yellow-backed and the recently split(from turquoise tanager),White-bellied Tanager, T. brasiliensis. The flocks also included Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Buff-throated Saltator ,Plain Xenops and a Piculet, silhouetted high on a dead trunk and almost certainly Golden-spangled Piculet? Approaching midday I found that my track was exiting the real jungle and the ground was becoming more sandy. The vegetation becomes sparser, with bare sandy patches/openings, and there are a wealth of bromeliad and cacti and even orchids growing on the the lower trunks and sometimes on the leaf-litter itself. Boat-billed Flycatcher and Tropical Kingbird , common everyday species are now calling around me, but in the shaded sub-canopy of the tallest tree that commands a vantage-point over-looking this stunted “restinga” scrub-forest there is a perched and large passerine. The instant that I lift my binoculars and start to focus, it is obvious that I have achieved my goal for the trip. There, sat looking back at me, and at a range of no more than 50meters, is a FABULOUS male BANDED COTINGA!!! I have to almost pinch myself to make sure that I’m realy awake! My camera is over my shoulder and I get a couple of very distant, and shaky shots off, none that really are worth anything, but this is a memorable moment, this is a bird I’ve been dreaming of seeing, for a number of years now, and to encounter one on my first attempt is almost unbelievable luck. I ride back to my hotel grinning from ear to ear and singing into the breeze from my open-faced helmet, very happy with life!

After finalizing my regional research into hotels the following morning I headed south back towards Rio state. En-route I explored a well forested river valley near Itabata, noted on the outward-bound leg of the journey. I spent the night in the town of Jaquare, nr. Sooretama in northern Espirito Santo state. The following morning I found a municipal road that passes through the Sooretama Biological reserve, my time here was limited, but I did manage to see White-necked Hawk and Olivaceous Flatbill on my ride through the jungle and I heard Thrush-like Mourner and Thrush-like Wren along with some typical antbirds (sooretama-slately Antshrike and white-flanked Antwren) and Tanagers (flame-crested, yellow-backed), a rufous –tailed jacamar was flushed from a perch over the road as I passed, and a number of Trogon Sp? Were heard vocalizing. Distantly calls of tinamou were almost certainly those of Yellow-legged Tinamou?

After re-joining the tarmac interstate (BR101) I continued heading south until reaching the mountain resort of Santa Teresa which is situated approx 35 kms inland and west of the highway. This was my second visit to Santa Teresa, The town is located at an altitude of 600meters in the serra do mar coastal mountain range it is surrounded by reasonably well preserved forest. There appears to be local interest in preserving and even reforesting areas adjacent to the town and there are 4 forest reserves in the area. I arrived late on the Sunday afternoon and I again had limited time available. I found that the nearby Novo lombardia Biological reserve appears to be a place where visiting birders ARE NOT WELCOME, not even walking along the municipal road that cuts through it! I also found that the Museum and it’s excellent grounds are closed to visitors on a Monday, and that here is also the place to get permission to visit a third area of local forest, the Estacao Biologica de Santa Lucia.
I visited a fourth area of preserved Forest the recently designated Parque of Sao Lourenco but I found the going moderate to difficult in a pretty depredated wood-lot that will take a few more years of preservation to really become interesting?

On a more positive note I did find an excellent hotel close to the town and boasting it’s own private forest reserve and nature trail, a number of interesting species were heard vocalizing from the forest and two scarce and endemic hummers were seen (Sombre Hummingbird and Frilled Coquette), another resident kindly opened up his farm-gardens and a well forested track for me to bird, but the wet weather was closing in from the south and against me. Regarding my two main target species for the area, Cherry Throated Tanager and Serra do Mar Tyrant Manakin, I failed to find or at least, gain access, to suitable habitat and I will need to visit the area again on another research trip, but I am at least, now, beginning to have a better understanding of what will be required to successfully bird this region in the future.

Leaving Santa Teresa the following morning I completed my journey back to the Marica Lodge in the rain, and to find that the weather had been just as this for the past Eleven days. My garden orchids were however really enjoying this unseasonable deluge and many were showing fresh signs of impending flowering.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

China Aquino February 10, 2008 at 11:23 pm

boa noite SR Richard,eu não sou observadora de pássaros mas voltando deste carnaval chuvoso no Rio, fiquei fascinada com a quantidade de patos que vão e vem principalmente pela manhã em São Conrado onde estive hospedada.

Vc teria alguma informação para mim ? de que espécie são,onde vivem e para onde vão ?
è intereessante notar que quase sempre, eles vem perto da praia no sentido sul norte e voltam lá longe no mar no sentido norte sul,e algumas vezes, passam no meio dos predios vindo sobre o campo de golfe Gavea,passando abaixo da minha varanda que ficava no 11o andar entao pude ve-los em formaçao , por cima !
ficaria muito agradecida com alguma info !

Richard Raby April 4, 2008 at 12:57 pm

To the first comment writer ( In Portugues) Your “patos” would be neo-tropical Cormorant or “Bigua” in Portugues. They would be passing back and forth from their roosting grounds which are normally in trees on islands, probablty in Barra da Tijuca, and their hunting grounds (they feed on fish) mostly in brackish in-land waters. probably in Lagoa de freitas and the Barra region/ jacarepagua, in rivers & lakes RR

luiz alfredo beira April 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm


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