Update after a full season guiding

by Richard Raby on January 7, 2009

Today, for once the day-break is sunny . It has been a very wet spring in South Eastern Brazil. We are now into Summer (started here on the 21st December) but the rains continue, this is not unexpected as a “normal” rainy season starts towards the end of November and lasts into early January, but everyone in Brazil is hoping that the virtual daily rains since September will finally abate, and leave us with a typical Brazilian summer?

On the plus side of things I have never seen South-Eastern Brasil So green, all of the pastures, woodlands and forest are just an infinite shade of green, green, green! Areas in recuperation are thriving and this wet period is definitely helping some plant species re-colonise generally drier areas, where the shade that they will then produce, will help others do the same. If this abnormal weather has been brought-on by deforestation and global warming then I can see some sort of climatic balancing action here which may well help restore things to a certain status quo?

Throughout this extended rainy season I have been conducting tours, we have been fortunate and have managed to avoid the worst rains and bi-pass any flooding, bird activity has been generally very good, I have however noticed a distinct reduction in raptor sightings which are possibly due to the lack of good soaring conditions? In compensation we seem to have had a good season for Owls with one addition to my area list, Great-horned Owl, seen in broad daylight near Itatiaia, and good views of a rarely seen species, Black-capped Screach-owl called in with “playback” on my now annual visit to the CVRD reserve at Linhares, Espirito Santo state.

One Raptor that “broke” the above rule and appears to be doing very well at the CVRD reserve in Linhares, at least, is the globaly endangered White-necked Hawk, seen is very good numbers whilst travelling the forest trails there.

My new stake-out for low-level jungle species at Silva Jardim produced great views of a family group of Golden-Lion Tamarin, this greatly endangered primate is the subject of an international captive breeding and re-introduction program here. Whilst at Silva Jardim we also saw and recorded the endemic Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant, this was doubly interesting as it reinforces a similar sightings made last season in the adjacent Marica region. Seasonally dry forest appears to be a new Bio-type for this species which is normally found in the lower levels of humid primary forest in the damper foothills of the serra do mar.

This season the upper serra da Bocaina region is proving better than ever with a number of Serra-do- mar Tyrant-manakin leque’s now located, after the first birds were discovered there in 2007. Another leque, this time of Black and Gold Cotinga has also been encountered with singing males seen closely on virtually all visits. Speckled-breasted Antpitta and Large-tailed Antshrike have also been regularly seen here on most visits. In early December 08 we were dive-bomed at dusk by a drumming South-American Snipe, that was recorded and then played-back the drum to it!

At Pereque we are regularly finding three enigmatic endemics/ quasi-endemics, Fork-tailed Tody-tyrant, Spotted Bamboo- wren and Long-billed Wren, along with a wealth of the more common low-level Humid Jungle species. On my last trip we located a family group of Buff-throated Purple-tuft feeding low-down on mistletoe berries. This is my second encounter with this very localized and rare endemic Cotinga in the Pereque valley. They are almost certainly breeding close-by and now it is just a case of finding their preferred perching trees to possibly be with a new “stake-out” for this highly elusive and endangered species, this would be something new in Rio de Janeiro state (the classic stake-outs for this species are all in Ubatuba, Sao Paolo state).

At Itatiaia it has been a good year for the Frilled Coquette with at least two males visiting the Hotel Ype feeders regularly for most of the spring. I have found a new stake-out for Bearded Antshrike, the previous one (on the Jeep Trail) gets very “worked-over” by other visiting birding groups these days. I have also seen and heard Slatey Bristle-front a number of times in what appears to be a “new “ colony nr. the Hotel Simone and I’ve both heard and seen Fork-tailed Tody-tyrant regularly in bamboo patches around the 1000meters altitude mark in the lower park, they appear to be rather wide-spread but doing well, so long as you recognise their rather distinctive voice?

At Campos do Jordao the Vinaceous Amazon Parrot roost at the Horto Floresta appears to be very dependable. Whilst there I heard a Black & Gold Cotinga singing in the Forest above the Horto, this may be a range extension for this highly localised species? Black capped Piprites appears to have had a good year both here AND at Upper Itatiaia and I’ve managed to call-in a number of spectacular males of this lovely endemic to photograph. The renown stake-out for Helmayr’s Pipit at the Pedra do Bau hang-glider ramp also remains “good” with at least one resident pair present in Oct-Dec 08.

My visit in October to the Serra da Canastra found Brazilian Merganser doing well after what appears to have been an extensive ringing program by the local University. Whilst it is certainly a little annoying to be chasing-down already rung birds I can accept the reasoning behind the need to identify and spot individuals in any form of behavioural studies. It is good to see this species apparently recovering and re-colonising old and abandoned territories? I wish the study project well but ask them to please leave at least a few of these magnificent saw-bills free and without the markings of ringing / bar-coding or “chipping”, the manias that modern-day man feels so obliged to apply to demonstrate his concern and final control over natural things, things endangered by his own very actions. I have a sneaky feeling that If we just reversed a bit of the habitat destruction, or just enforced a few good laws on preventing local river pollution and fishing then this species would probably know what to do next, without the need for our intervention in capturing and ringing it!

Richard Raby

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