October Trip to Minas

by Richard Raby on November 3, 2008

This is my first real Blog entry since returning to Brazil this year in early October. It’s been a busy year for me at my “day-job” in England over this past Summer and the vast majority of my spare time was taken up answering enquiries about future trips and planning new Itineraries.

I am just back from my first trip of the season (9 days on the Angra, Bocaina, Canastra, Cipo and Caraca circuit) Birding was good, infact it was very good and we managed to get virtually all of our major target species including; Spotted Bamboowren, Brasilia Tapaculo, Greater Rhea, Cinnamon-vented Phia and Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Serra do Mar Tyrant-manakin was even encountered at two of our stops (a first for me) and we finally located a pair of the “worlds rarest duck”, Brazilian Merganser, on our second morning, after a little bit of a chase-around, but this, if anything, only made the event sweeter? From the groups reaction I can only conclude that this was, without doubt, The Bird of our Trip!

On the animal front, we found two Giant Anteater at the upper Canastra park, the one that we approached for Photo’s turned-out to be a mother carrying her baby on her back. Manned Wolves were seen both at Serra da Canastra and at the more reliable stake-out at the Caraca Monastery, where the “beasts” have apparently been arriving at dusk, on a nightly basis and throughout the southern spring.They are being watched by up to 100 guests and without apparent worry (so long as their escape-route, down the monastery steps, is left unobstructed). We also had good views of native rabbits at Bocaina and Caraca and a Possum nr. Sao Lourenco, along with brief views of a retreating Crab-eating Fox at the former. Upon our arrival at the World Land-Trust reserve in REGUA, which marked the end of my guiding, we managed to get stunning views of a semi-tame?

Crab-eating Fox in the Lodge gardens, on the first morning of our visit.

The weather for the trip was a little damp at the start, but this was not sufficient to really affect our birding. We found the mega-restricted Hooded Antwren on our arrival day when the rain on the coast held-off. On our second morning (in the Angra region) three of our targets ,Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant, Long-billed Wren and Spotted Bamboo-wren were all located with relative ease at established stake-outs and during breaks in the weather during this rather wet morning. Our brief stop-off at the Serra da Bocaina (we had less than 24hrs there) proved, as always, just how good this locality really can be. We managed to get great views of Large-tailed Antshrike, Black & Gold Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird and Speckled-breasted Antpitta. I found Serra do Mar Tyrant-manakin there for the second consecutive visit and as we departed we found Swallow-tailed Cotingas at their regular forest clearing along with another good SE Brazilian endemic (that can prove a difficult one to “nail”), Azure-winged Tanager.

Our Dusk stake-out on the upper Agualhas Negras track, Itatiaia, for Rusty-barred Owl was unsuccessful probably due to low cloud and generally miserable weather? But this proved to be our only “let-down” on a very enjoyable and upbeat trip.

Oh! I forgot to mention, that area of agricultural land that has been proving very interesting for seedeaters on previous trip, situated on the cross-country route between Itatiaia and the Serra da Canastra, has done it again ! This trip, along with Duboi’s Seedeaters (this species was also noted from the Serra do Cipo and at the Caraca Monastry on this trip) we managed to find a singing male Grassland Yellow-finch, a first for me and a “new species” to add to my downloadable website CHECKLIST. for the region..

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