I’m back in Marica…

by Richard Raby on March 24, 2008

I’m back in Marica after another longish (16nights) trip around the Minas Gerais and western Rio/eastern Sao Paolo birding circuit. It should have been a quiet time of year for visiting this region, the majority of the forest trees are now in fruit with the southern summer drawing to a close.

Itatiaia and Ubatuba proved to be a little slower than usual and more difficult to locate some of the target species, but the other locations were, if anything, better than usual, never-the-less all locations provided exciting birding. One thing was noted however over the entire trip, this year is proving to be a GREAT Seedeater year. Whether it be the bamboo specialists feeding within the forests on the seeding bamboos or the open grassland species, noted this trip in western Minas Gerais state and feeding on sweet-corn seed-heads, this really is a BUMPER summer for Brazilian Seedeaters, with rarities to be found amongst the more regular species.

Our trip ended up recording Rufous- rumped, Temminck’s, Duboi’s, Buffy-fronted, Plumbeous, White-breasted, Lined, Yellow bellied and Double-collared Seedeaters and at Serra de Bocania we also added a magnificent male Lesser seedfinch. Blue-black grass-quit was very common almost everywhere in suitable habitat inland.

During our time at Serra da Bocaina (our first stop and my first time leading guests here) we also managed to add three “new” and rarer species to the growing location check-list, these three species being; Long-trained Nightjar, Serra do Mar Tyrant-manakin and Pale browed Tree-hunter.

At Pereque we were successful with Fork-tailed Tody-tyrant and Squamate Antbird. We also saw well, Black-hooded Antwren and a number of other area regulars, including the also endemic Blonde Crested Woodpecker.

At Ubatuba we heard Russet-winged Spade-bill at two localities and called it in very briefly at one of them. We obtained knock-out views of Slatey Bristle-front and also managed to locate a pair of the scarce White-thighed Swallow, and individual Salvatori’s Antwrens, amongst other more regular species.

The unseasonably wet weather caused a number of minor hitches during the trip. One hotel had become un-contactable by phone or email after a lighting strike on their radio telephone antenna left them unaware of our impending arrival. The upper Itatiaia park excursion day proved wet and difficult birding (but we still bagged Itatiaia Thistle-tail and Araucaria Tit-spine-tail in a brief break in the rain and others were found birding in the wet, often through fogged optics!). At Serra de Canastra we were most grateful to be in our 4 wheel drive vehicle, the only way to get about, we managed to get two pair of the globally endangered Brazilian merganser, stunningly close and unobstructed views of a very territorial Collared Crescent-chest, and from here-on the weather began to treat us more kindly.

At Serra do Cipo we lucked-in on two rare interior species, Horned Sungem Hummingbird and White-rumped Tanager, along with the more typical Hyacinth Visor-bearer, Pale-throated Serra-finch, etc. En-route to our next stop we stumbled across a good patch of semi-dry forest that produced a magnificent male Helmeted Manakin, that came in rapidly to trawling with it’s pre-recorded call.

At our next stop, Caraca monastery, we were possibly fortunate to get a fantastic pair of the Manned Wolf visit on our first night, the following night coincided with the Easter weekend holiday, and the added noise and movement from the visitors resulted in a, not unexpected, no-show. We also saw and photographed White-breasted Tapaculo and Cinamon-vented Phia here and a superb adult Bat Falcon allowed an unbelievably close approach on foot on our last morning.

The next day we birded my new stake-out in the River Paraiba do Sul valley for Three-toed Jacamar, thus taking a little of the pressure from the classic stake-out point on the Sumidoro track. We were also successful here with Blue-winged Macaw and a quite infrequently seen perched Capped Heron. We continued on to Teresopolis that same evening.

Teresopolis gave us a great days birding in the upper National Park, where we managed to bag both Black-billed Scythe-bill, and White-browed Foliage-gleaner in a large mixed flock on the lower Pico do Sino trail. Below this canopy-flock were a pair of Hooded Berry-eaters, they came and perched within a few meters of us in response to playback. Higher up we lured-in a family group of Rufous-backed Antvireo and an individual Rufous tailed Ant-thrush. On our descent towards the end of an almost perfect days birding, we were most fortunate to literally stumble across a most co-operative Varigated Ant-pitta, that returned to it’s “sentry-post”, from which it was initially flushed, on a forest floor log, thus allowing great and unobstructed views, had by all, in the fading light of the jungle interior.

Our final day, spent birding close to Teresopolis also proved a memorable day, whilst we failed miserably in trying to call-in vocalizing Sutch’s Ant-thrush and Tufted Antshrike (this possibly due to the time of year?)in compensation we did find at least three superb singing Male Teminck’s seedeater and we also saw the females feeding amongst the seeding bamboo. Further down the track we encountered a very large mixed flock comprising of Foliage gleaners, Tyrannulets, Woodpeckers and warblers and we also heard some rare Buffy-fronted seedeater singing near-by. On our way down the mountain, en-route back to Rio airport, we encountered our second Aplomado Falcon of the trip, over-flying the road.

Our trip bagged us over 350 species of which 58 are endemic to Brazil.

The Bird of the trip was a unanimous vote for the adult male Long-trained Nightjar, seen superbly well, and so unexpectedly, at dusk on our first day. We were returning from a closed-down Hotel at the end of the trail, It was nearly dark, we were not sure where we were going to spend that night. The bird over-flew us at a height of approx 30 meters. It paralleled the nearby ridge but kept in perfect view for the maximum time possible, flying against a deep blue/grey sky. Words cannot express the sensation of good-luck and the feeling that this encounter was destined to occur. Fifteen minutes further down the road/track and we found excellent alternative accommodation at another Hotel known previously to me from research trips to the region.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bevson March 27, 2008 at 1:25 am

Wow! Sounds like you had a great trip! 250 is amazing. I hope you and the pooch are doing well. Saludos, Beverly

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