Paraguay part 3: Mbaracayu, Hotel Tirol, San Rafael and Yacyreta -28th September – 6th October 2015   Leave a comment

This post covers areas of Atlantic Forest and mesopotamian (between rivers) grasslands in eastern and southern Paraguay.

From Laguna Blanca we headed south to the Mbaracayu Biosphee Reserve, 70,000ha of Atlantic forest and cerrado, arriving just before dark.

IMG_0892 forest stream

Our full three days at Mbaracayu were spent on narrow forest trails, some near the lodge, some further away or driving to more distant cerrado habitat for specific birds.

IMG_6514 wet trail

Heavy rain had made some trails rather wet ….

IMG_6509 dodgy bridge

…. and the bridges just got dodgier ….

IMG_6512 v dodgy bridge

…. and dodgier.

IMG_0714 Suracura Trogon

But we were rewarded with some excellent forest birds like this Surucua Trogon ….

IMG_1003 Bare-throated Bellbird

…. the very vocal, yet elusive Bare-throated Bellbird ….

IMG_0748 Helmetted WP

…. and two enormous and rare woodpeckers – Helmeted ….

IMG_1100 Robust Pecker

…. and Robust.

IMG_0802 craking

A lot of time was spent in this area of cerrado trying to locate the elusive Occelated Crake.

IMG_0793 Mbaracayu savana

Although I saw it, my views weren’t as good as those had by most. A few of the group returned one evening (it was a 90 minute drive from the lodge on rough roads) but I declined to go as I thought I stood a better chance of goodies down by the river, but they got cracking views of the crake and several owls and tinamous on the return drive! You can guarantee that when there is a choice to be made in birding location that I will choose the wrong one!

IMG_0789 Collared Crescentchest

We all got great views of Collared Crescentchest in the cerrado ….

IMG_0718 PlumbeousKite

…. and flocks of migrant Plumbeous Kites were all over the place.

IMG_0930 emerging termites

The kites were probably feeding on the winged termites or alates which emerged from the many termite mounds.

IMG_0932 emerging termites

Using flash it was possible to see that the mounds were covered with flightless worker termites ‘waving goodbye’ to their winged siblings.

IMG_0667 butterflies

Mbaracayu was an amazing place for insects, some, such as legions of biting mozzies and sand flies were unwelcome but we also say a wonderful array of butterflies ….

IMG_0831 cricket

…. crickets ….

IMG_0826 praying mantis

…. and back at the ledge, a praying mantis ….

IMG_0851 moth

…. and enormous numbers of superb moths ….

IMG_0856 butterfly

…. and butterflies ….

IMG_0810 tree fall

Our nocturnal drives produced several nightjar species and the much wanted Black-capped Screech Owl ….

IMG_0807 tree fall

…. but we were hindered by a tree that had fallen across the track, which had to be removed by brute force.

IMG_0697 BC Tityra f

The trees in the clearing by the lodge were very good for birds including a nesting pair of Black-crowned Tityras

IMG_6520 Dani's birthday

The lodge is adjacent to a girl’s school where they teach the girls, among other things, the tourist trade. The girls who served us our meals were very pleasant and cooked a cake for Dani, one of our drivers ….

IMG_6521 Dani's birthday

…. as it was his birthday.

IMG_6525 girls Paul and Rob at Mbaracuya

The lodge at Mbaracayu, the girls and leaders Paul and Rob.

IMG_1014 hotel tirol

The long drive south to San Rafael was broken by a night at the Hotel Tirol near Encarnacion. The hotel fell into the category of ‘faded elegance’ and seemed to be a series of rooms and buildings connected by endless red-brick arches.

IMG_1011 hotel tirol

…. and the hotel had a stand of Atlantic forest in its grounds which allowed us to add birds like ….

IMG_1035 Ruby-crowned Tanager

…. Ruby-crowned Tanager ….

IMG_1053 Euler's fly

…. and Euler’s (pronounced ‘oilers’) Flycatcher to our lists.

IMG_1084 San Rafael

At our next destination, San Rafael, we stayed in fairly basic accommodation (made more basic by the fact that there was power failure) at an adjacent farm.

IMG_1070 San Rafael

The farmer cuts the sedges in the meadow twice yearly to provide grazing for his cattle and apparently crakes often run out of cover as he does so. Conveniently he had planned to do this on our arrival.

IMG_6534 farmer and guinea pig

He leapt off his tractor and was able to catch this guinea-pig or Brazilian Cavy before releasing it in an area of sedges away from the meadow ….

IMG_1076 Red & White Crake

…. but the highlight was this wonderful views of this Red-and-White Crake that paused briefly before legging it to a nearby ditch.

IMG_1091 San Rafael

The reserve consists of a large tract of Atlantic forest surrounding this lake where we saw excellent species like the newly split Purple-crowned Plovercrest ….

IMG_1098 White-spotted WP

…. and White-spotted Woodpecker.

IMG_1121 San Rafael

Much further away we birded in an area of grassland where we saw the fast declining Saffron-crowned Oriole ….

IMG_1131 sunset & bugs

…. and after dark saw the amazing Giant Snipe (see my account of north-east Brazil in February for photos of this wonderful bird)

IMG_1306 Dark-billed Cuckoo

The last stop on the tour was at Yacyreta, an area of mesopotamian (literally ‘between rivers’) flooded grassland close to the Paraguay River and the border with Argentina. Many species were seen here including the rare Dark-billed Cuckoo ….

IMG_1238 Ochre-breasted Pipit

…. and Ochre-breasted Pipit ….

IMG_1231 Ochre-breasted Pipit

…, from the back a species that is reminiscent of the Palearctic (and vagrant to the UK) Pechora Pipit.

IMG_1346 Monk Parakeets

I’ll end this account with a photo of one of the commonest birds in all of Paraguay, Monk Parakeet. Their giant stick nests are everywhere, on power pylons, telegraph poles, trees etc. There is a small population of released birds in the UK, if they ever get established, expect some objections from the electricity and telephone companies.


By the end of the trip I recorded some 400 species (including 23 heard onlys) and had 20 life birds.

There is one birding site and one bird that I have omitted to mention, one that against all odds ended up becoming a land mark bird for me and the de facto ‘bird of the trip’. I think it deserves a post of its own!

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