The Austral Spring 2012

by Richard Raby on January 29, 2013

“Autumn” 2012 summary

After working the Northern summer in Cambridge, England,  I encountered the unusually hot Austral spring of my 2012/13 season (with temperatures in the high thirties centigrade) as I arrived in late September. This rapidly changed into a more typical climate for the spring season until we entered into December…….. when it all went hay-wire again.

December is typically the most guaranteed WET month of the year here in South-eastern Brazil, but this was not the case this time. After almost a month of “drought” the early southern hemisphere summer- rains finally arrived in January, it’s been over-cast and rainy, with only occasional breaks, ever since. A most strange southern summer, and it appears to be a full month out of synch?

Guiding wise I conducted 3 groups in October-November and we did well with species and the weather, although my mid-October trip was only really saved by the fact that the rain was intermittent & light and it was still highly bird-able, using rain-gear. Bird activity was little affected and probably even extended later into the mornings due to the cooler conditions (many species abscond after about 09.30am  if the morning is too hot & sunny).

This season I’m sticking closer to “home”, I visited Ubatuba, Pereque, Serra da Bocaina, Teresopolis and Marica. Notable species included Buff-throated Purple-tuft feeding low down, at Fazenda Angelim,  early-nesting Swallowtailed Cotingas, displaying Long-trained nightjars and an unusual Toco Toucan on the road up to Bocaina (generally an interior, gallery forest species, but expanding), and at Teresopolis the notable species were a Spotted Bamboowren that appears to have taken-up residence there (I’ve seen it on the last 3 visits  now) and an  untypical  encounter with a  Pale-browed Tree-hunter, at unusual altitude in the lower National park. In Marica a vagrant fully adult male Vermilion Flycatcher appeared in the restinga (coastal sandbar scrub-forest), what a brilliant species, and only my second record of this bird for South-eastern Brazil.

Here the breeding season appears to be well over as I write this blog, bird-song has dropped-off and a number of out of season species such as dispersing raptors and migrant flycatchers have been noted over the past few weeks.

My extended time free in Marica this late spring/ early summer has been well spent pursuing my survey of the local butterflies. A good number of new species have been found, documented/photographed (and added to my ever expanding Marica list), two “key” butterfly species have been re-found (both large and showy species that I first found a number of years ago here) and better documented. One of these species turns out to be rarer than I thought, and it is now considered Critically Endangered, this re-discovery and my subsequent divulgation  has even excited local Brazilian researchers.

As I write this blog I’m preparing for my second “block” of visits for my season, this time in late Feb-March. I have three groups and we will be visiting similar regions to those visited last spring, Ubatuba, Serra da Bocaina, etc. These end of summer visits can be good, just as good as spring visits, the reason I have found, is that we have more birds, and they are now  in family parties, These larger parties can prove easier to observe than paired birds and younger birds can also be unusually “tame” and even inquisitive , often affording excellent, close-up views.

A Critically Endangered "re-found" Local Butterfly

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