Brazil part 1: Ceara to northern Bahia – 11th – 15th January 2015   Leave a comment

I have been to Brazil twice before, to the endemic rich forests of the south-east in 2003 and to the wetlands of the Pantanal, the grasslands of Canastra and the southern Amazonian rainforest in 2008. This trip visited the coastal forests, caatinga, cerrado and canyons of the north-east states of Ceara, Alagoas, Penambuco and Bahia. Although, obviously there was considerable overlap with the birds of the south-east, I still managed to see 78 new species, about 10 more than I had expected.

This post covers the northern state of Ceara, western Perambuco and northern Bahia.

IMG_0009 mangroves

On arrival at Fortaleza we had a three-hour drive to our first destination. We didn’t get to the hotel until nearly 0200 so it was a rather short night. Soon after dawn we were birding at a nearby area of mangroves but our main target, the endemic Little Wood-Rail failed to show. Not the best start to the trip!

IMG_0016 boardwalk

Birding from this boardwalk was pleasant but a few migrant waders and coastal herons was little compensation for a serious dip.

IMG_0137 Serra do Baturite

By mid afternoon we arrived at the Serra do Baturite, a coastal range covered in Atlantic rainforest.

IMG_0099 Grey-breasted Parakeets

There was excellent birding in the area, which lifted our spirits considerably. Birds included the endemic Grey-breasted Parakeet ….

IMG_0159 Band-tailed Manakin

…. the beautiful Band-tailed Manikin ….

IMG_0204 RN Tanager

…. gorgeous Red-necked Tanagers ….

IMG_0049 Ochraceous Piculet

…. and one of the smallest woodpeckers in the world, Ochraceous Piculet, one of four species of piculet that we were to see on the trip.

IMG_0142 Rufous-breasted Leaftosser

Skulking on the forest floor we were able to glimpse a Rufous-breasted Leaftosser ….

IMG_0130 Ceara Gnateater

…. and the recently split Ceara Gnateater.

IMG_0101 Palm Tanager

It wasn’t all about rare, endemic or spectacular birds. Common species like Palm Tanager

IMG_0187 House Wren

…. and House Wren competed for our attention. House Wrens occur from Canada to Argentina and various proposals have been put forwards to divide it into a number of species, but they yet to gain approval by the various checklist authorities.

IMG_0054 pratmobile

One trouble with Brazil is that is so noisy. Many cars fit this sort of sound system in the boot of their car, which is clearly not intended as in-car entertainment but as means of annoying anyone who wants a good nights sleep.

IMG_0205 viewpoint

From a ridge over the local resort we were able to scan the tree tops for raptors but had little success. The white dot on the lake is, of all things, a Mute Swan, but somehow it didn’t make it onto the trip list.

IMG_0254 Caatinga

From Serra do Baturite we drove south to areas of extensive caatinga, a habitat comprised of xerophytic scrub interspersed with stands of cactus. Small differences in the level of aridity produce different height vegetation, which in turn leads to radically different bird communities.

IMG_0397 Caatinga Puffbird

Birds of the caatinga include the appropriately named Caatinga Puffbird ….

IMG_0410 Caatinga Parakeet

….  which was followed by the predictable Caatinga Parakeet ….

IMG_0321 Caatinga Cacholote

…. and (you’ve guessed it) the inevitable Caatinga Cacholote ….

IMG_0214 Caatinga Cacholote

…. which was captured nicely in flight.

IMG_0345 Woodcreeper to ID

In wooded area we saw Narrow-billed Woodpeckers, one of eight woodcreepers we were to see on the trip and one of 48 (if you include the similar scythebills) in South America.

IMG_0374 Lesser Wagtail Tyrant

Two species of tyrant flycatchers have evolved to look rather like old world wagtails and somewhat unimaginatively are called Lesser and Greater Wagtail-tyrant. I have seen ‘Greater’ a number of times but ‘Lesser’ was a life bird for me. Imagine the confusion when we found a pair of ‘Lessers’ (above) in the same bush as a pair of ‘Greaters’.

IMG_0319 dried up river

We visited a dried up river bed in northern Bahia, a stake out for Blue-winged Macaws, a species that prefer the tall riparian habitat. In the whole of north-east Brazil there is only one river, the mighty Sao Francisco, that never dries up.

IMG_0299 Blue-winged Macaw

And there, just as promised was the lovely Blue-winged Macaw.

IMG_0337 Masked Water Tyrant

Earlier I mentioned tyrant flycatchers that have evolved to look like wagtails, well here’s one that has evolved to look like a wheatear – Masked Water Tyrant, living in what is currently a water free environment.

IMG_0323 Streaked Fly

A more typical tyrant flycatcher (with 431 species, the largest bird family in the world) is the showy Streaked Flycatcher.

IMG_0276 Araripe Manakin

At the base of the isolated plateau of the Chapada do Araripe lies some tall woodland. Here in 1996 the gorgeous Araripe Manakin was seen for the first time. The population is estimated to be a mere 500 pairs. Although we got good views, our time with the bird was brief. The most accessible site has been converted to a theme park, we paid our entry fee but were told the park had to close, this seemed bizarre as it was only 11am, but we later learned that the park’s owner had died that morning and the staff were closing the park as a mark of respect.


With very little time available to get a decent image of this stunning bird, I have included (with permission) a wonderful shot by Ciro Albano, one of Brazil’s top birders and photographers.

IMG_0459 Burrowing Owl

We eventually reached the area around Canudos where we searched an area of scrub for the rare Scarlet-throated Tanagers, which we saw, albeit distantly. More showy species included the widespread Burrowing Owl.

IMG_0481 reflections

As the sun set, the lake where the Scarlet-throated Tanagers could be seen glowed as if lit from within. We saw a couple of the very rare Lear’s Macaws flying to roost but we knew that we had a far better chance of seeing them well the following day. More of that in the next post.

Posted February 12, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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