Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Tag

2015 – That was the year that was   Leave a comment

With 2015 over this post looks back over the year at some of the places we have been, birds we have seen, music we have heard and people we have met.

Of course, much more detailed accounts can be found clicking on the relevant month from the list on the left of the screen (or sometimes the month after if the post was uploaded a while after the event).

IMG_4325 Purps

The year started with the traditional New Year’s Day bird boat, kindly arranged by Mark and Mo Constantine for Dorset birders. These Purple Sandpipers were photographed on the Sandbanks side of the chain ferry on 1/1/15 . Also in early January I took part in the annual winter bird race, recording an amazing 126 species in Dorset in 12 hours.

IMG_0533 Lear's Macaws

The first foreign trip was to NE Brazil which lasted more than three weeks but resulted in me seeing over 70 life birds – by far the most of any trip of the year. There were many highlights, one being cracking views of the wonderful Lear’s Macaw in a very dramatic setting.

IMG_1818 rainbow

Here I photographed the nearby town through a rainbow whilst staying at the lovely and very birdy Serra Bonita reserve.

IMG_2550 Rick Wakeman

As well as travelling we both have a keen interest in music – be it old favourites from my past like Rick Wakeman, whose keyboard skills in the band Yes were much appreciated in my youth ….

IMG_0315 Paloma Faith

…. to more modern acts like Paloma Faith. We saw Rick Wakeman in February and Paloma about a month later in Poole and Bournemouth respectively.

IMG_2841 North Cape

In early March we took advantage of a charter flight to Tromso in arctic Norway where we boarded the Hutigruten coastal steamer and journeyed around North Cape at the top of Norway in the hope of seeing the Aurora Borealis ….

IMG_2713 aurora (best)

…. which indeed we did on four nights out of five. We were lucky as some do this trip yet come away disappointed, but if we had gone about 10 days later we might have had a truly spectacular display as the aurora was seen as far south as Norfolk.

IMG_3665 Sandhills

We booked on the Birdquest tour to Colorado that started on April 1st but we spent the last week of March on our own touring Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The main reason for this visit was to see the incredible gathering of hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes on Nebraska’s Platte River. We also visited the Badlands of South Dakota ….

IMG_3987 Mt Rushmore

…. saw the Presidents heads at Mount Rushmore, the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and even drove into Montana to look for the ‘dental floss bushes’.

IMG_4439 WT Ptarmigan

For one reason or another I never got round to editing all my photos of Colorado nor did I post any on the blog but it was a superb trip and one of the highlights was finding these almost invisible White-tailed Ptarmigan at 12500 ft in the Rockies. Perhaps I can find time this year to sort out the Colorado pics.

IMG_7191 The Matterhorn

Early May saw us taking a fortnight in the Alps and southern France, seeing such wonders as the Matterhorn (above), Mont Blanc and the Eiger. I also saw what was probably the last regularly occurring European bird that I needed, the elusive Rock Partridge.

IMG_8055 Elizabeth and Marc

The whole trip was a prelude to attending Margaret’s nephew’s Mark’s wedding to Elizabeth in Donbirn in western Austria. The only downside to the trip was that I found out whilst there that my next tour, a cruise in far North-east Russia had been cancelled as the necessary permit hadn’t been issued by the Russians.

IMG_8656 WW Black Tern

Late spring brought some great birds to the Poole Harbour area, such as the Red-footed Falcon that hung around the Wareham water meadows or this White-winged Tern at Swineham gravel pits.

IMG_8606 Margaret

In June Margaret had the privilege of being invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. It was the centenary of the WI and each one of the 8000 or so WI groups across the UK was invited to send one representative.

IMG_8696 Moody Blues

Back to music again: we went to a very entertaining concert by the Moody Blues in June. Some great old songs with a great visual effects, the three founder members and four new ones all performed very well.


During the summer our group was asked to undertake an intensive radio tracking study on Eurasian Nightjars on one of the local heaths. The data is still being analysed but the initial results seem very interesting.

IMG_8786 Amber and Kara

At the end of the spring term our granddaughter Kara (R) left school to attend a sixth form college. During the summer she and a friend visited relatives in the Caribbean. Her sister Amber (L) left Dorset to study and work in Cornwall.

IMG_8829 Margaret & Jennie

Staying on the subject of family; during late June and early July Margaret and I visited her daughter in Essex and my brother in Derby. We also visited several sets of friends including Jennie, a friend from university days, seen here with Margaret at Wicken Fen reserve in Suffolk.

IMG_9006 Leds Town Hall

We continued on to Leeds where we spent time with Nigel, another friend from school and university days.

IMG_6416 Lytchett Heath dawn

Much of July and August (and indeed the rest of the autumn) was spent in our ongoing ornithological research at Lytchett Bay and Durlston. We were able to start ringing at a new and highly productive site at the north end of Lytchett Bay where this photo was taken soon after dawn.

IMG_9121 Hen Harrier Day Poster_edited-1

One issue that featured heavily during the summer was the campaign to save England’s remaining Hen Harriers. Although this has highlighted before on the blog it deserves repeating. All the evidence points to a systematic, ruthless and totally illegal program of raptor extermination in Britain’s uplands by a small number of people in an attempt to raise grouse stocks to hugely inflated numbers. The loss of these beautiful raptors is a national disgrace and the campaign for their protection will continue unabated in 2016.

IMG_6399 Killian and DIMW

We met many old friends at the Bird Fair in Augustand attended a number of talks. Without doubt the most inspiring was vetran birder Ian Wallace’s account of his best ever day’s birding. His contribution to ornithology and birding is immense. Here he is seen talking to another birding legend, Killian Mullarney fro Ireland.

IMG_6430 Wryneck DCP

Ringing continued on a regular basis throughout the autumn producing many interesting recoveries and useful data. The most unusual aspect was the enormous influx of Goldcrests in late October and November, but I suppose the individual bird that gave me the most pleasure was this Wryneck that I trapped at Durlston in September.

IMG_6437 Guy & Lila

It’s always good to stay in contact with old friends and it was good to see Guy Dutson in early September, back for a short visit from Australia with his daughter Lila.

IMG_0585 dawn Laguna Blanca

In late September/early October I went on a tour to Paraguay. The birding was excellent and the company good but it was very hot, particularly in the first week and the mammal sightings were disappointing. Compared the mountainous parts of South America, the scenery wasn’t that awe-inspiring, but the mists over Laguna Blanca at dawn were most photogenic.

IMG_0328 WW Nightjar

We saw some wonderful birds, non more so than these two species: White-winged Nightjar ….

SW Nightjar J Newman

…. and Sickle-winged Nightjar. The latter was of particular importance to me as it was the 8000th species I have seen. The bird was trapped by the tour leader as he is taking part in a research program on this threatened species and he wanted to see if it was one of the individuals he had already ringed. In my photo the bird has closed its eyes which looks less appealing so I have used one taken by my friend Jonathon Newman.

IMG_1444 Hagia Spohia

The last trip of the year was in late November to Turkey. It was a cultural, rather than a birding trip and we visited some great sites in Istanbul such as the magnificent Hagi Sophia ….

IMG_1769 calcite formations

…. and some natural one too like the beautiful calcite formations at Pamukkale.

IMG_2244 Jools Holland

Also in the latter part of the year we went to a couple more musical performances, veteran folk singer Judy Collins in Wimborne and Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the BIC.

IMG_6777 Boxing Day dinner

And the year ended, as all years should with get togethers with family and friends at Christmas time.

As I said at the start each picture above is taken from a blog post during the year. If you wish to see more photos from that event then cloick on the relevant month on the side bar.

Well, may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy 2016, if you are a birder like me, may the year bring you lots of excellent sightings, if you are not perhaps you ought to give it ago, buying a pair of binoculars and a field guide back in 1977 was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Brazil part 5: Serra Bonita, Porto Segura and Itacare, Bahia – 29th Jan – 1st Feb 2015   Leave a comment

This is the fifth and final report on my north-east Brazil trip.

From Boa Nova we continued south to the Serra das Lontras range and the Serra Bonita reserve. From here we headed south-east reaching the coast at Porto Segura before heading north towards Salvador for our flight home.

IMG_1739 Serra Bonita

We spent three nights at the private reserve of Serra Bonita near the town of Camacan which produced some excellent birding.

IMG_1970 view Serra Bonita

There was a beautiful panoramic view over the town from the restaurant, especially first thing in the morning.

IMG_1647 RT Jacamar

Here are a few birds from the Serra Bonita forests – Rufous-throated Jacamar ….

IMG_1807 Crescent-chested Puffbird

…. Crescent-chested Puffbird ….

IMG_1981 Blue Mannakin

…. Blue Manakin ….

IMG_2149 Treehunter sp nov

…. but the star bird was this undescribed species of Heliobretus treehunter. A full description is in the pipeline and it will probably be given the vernacular name of Serra das Lontras Treehunter. This is a copy of a print by Ciro Albano and is used with permission.

IMG_1827 rainbow Serra Bonita

A middle of the day shower produced a stunning rainbow over the town

IMG_1818 rainbow

… giving some most unusual effect when I engaged the maximum zoom setting.

IMG_1837 Wn thrush

Feeders around the HQ gave some great photo opportunities – here a White-necked Thrush with two Green-headed Tanagers.

IMG_1928 GH Tanager & G Honeycreeper

A Green-headed Tanager with a Green Honeycreeper.

IMG_2056 Green Honeycreeper

Female Green Honeycreeprs are just that, but the male is more of a blue colour.

IMG_1956 Chestnut-bellied Euphonia

Chestnut-bellied Euphonias were out numbered by their orange-bellied cousins but I have kept a photo of that species for later.

IMG_1924 RN Tanager

and finally the incredible Red-necked Tanager.

IMG_2103 Serra Bonita feeders

The hummingbird feeders were filled just before dusk to give the birds some calories before their overnight fast. Here Sombre Hummingbirds and a Black Jacobin vie for position.

IMG_1883 VC Woodnymph

A male Violet-capped Woodnymph catches the light just right.

IMG_1885 imm Black Inca

Only the immature Black Inca shows this brown moustachial stripe.

IMG_2157 Frilled Coquette

A tiny female Frilled Coquette. The smallest hummer in the world is the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba but the coquettes are not far behind.

IMG_2077 Serra Bonita views

Our final success at Serra Bonita was distant views of the rare Mantled Hawk from the highest peak.

IMG_1468 Hawk moth

The owner of Serra Bonita is a moth expert and runs a mercury vapor light regularly. Of the 24,000 species known from Brazil, he has identified 12,000 just on this reserve. This contrasts with just 2,500 ever recorded in the UK where there are thousands of moth enthusiasts trapping on a regular basis. I’ve no idea of the name but presume this is some species of Hawk-moth.

IMG_1476 moths

An unidentified micro-moth, a clearwing and what I presume is a one of the Geometridae.

IMG_2170 Variagated Fly

From Serra Bonita we continued to the most southerly point of the trip at Porto Segura. On route we saw many interesting species varying from the widespread Variegated Flycatcher ….

IMG_2209 Olivaceous Flatbill

…. Olivaceous Flatbill ….

IMG_2298 Southern Roughwing

…. and Southern Roughwing ….

IMG_2207 Eastern Striped Manakin

…. to the range restricted Eastern Striped Manakin ….

IMG_2222 Least Pygmy Owl

…. and Least Pygmy Owl.

IMG_1479 1st Portugeuse in Brazil - hotel foyer

Porto Seguro is famous as the first place in modern Brazil to be visited by Europeans, being first visited by the Pedro Álvares Cabral expedition in April 1500. As the area lay within the part of the world allocated to Portugal by the Treaty of Tordesillas, a Papal Bull declaring that all newly discovered lands were to be divided up between Spain and Portugal, the region was claimed for Portugal. This characature of Pedro Álvares Cabral was painted on the wall of the foyer of our hotel.

IMG_2066 Golden-bellied Euphonia

From Porto Seguro (the southernmost point of the trip) we headed north to Itacaré, our final birding destination. On route we stopped at our guide Eduardo’s brother’s house where we could see lots of nice birds coming to the feeder such as this Orange-bellied Euphonia ….

IMG_2335 RL Honeycreeper

…. Red-legged Honeycreeper ….

IMG_2344 Brazillian Tanager f

…. and a female Brazilian Tanager

IMG_2418 Aracari to ID

The following day we birded nearby forests seeing many species such as this Black-necked Aracari ….

IMG_2395 B& W Hawk-eagle

…. and this magnificent Black-and-White Hawk-eagle. This is the first time I have seen an adult of this species and the first time perched.

IMG_2435 mangroves

Later in the day we called in at an extensive area of mangroves in the hope of see the two species of rail that we had failed to find earlier in the trip, Little Wood-rail and Mangrove Rail. It was very hot and we had no luck. We hoped to return the next day but unfortunately it didn’t pan out that way.

IMG_2443 beach resort at Itarce

We had lunch by the beach at Itacaré ….

IMG_2444 Eduardo and brother

… at a beach restaurant run by (on the left) Eduardo’s brother Leo.

IMG_2484 lake

In the afternoon we visited the Catitu private reserve.

IMG_2450 BH Berryeater

We saw four excellent species of cotinga, both Black-headed Berryeater

IMG_2289 WW Cotinga

…. and White-winged Cotinga showed well. Bare-throated Bellbird was seen at a distance (but I only got very poor photos) but the best of all, the rare Banded Cotinga, was seen perched at such a distance that it couldn’t be identified until it flew.

IMG_1486 Itacire

Our final night was again spent in the pleasant holiday resort of Itacaré. The following morning we revisited Catitu in the hope of better views of Banded Cotinga. We had a very birdy morning but failed with our primary target. This was the only day on the whole trip when I failed to pick up a life bird.

IMG_1490 fiesta

Then it was  long drive north to Salvador for our flight to Lisbon and home. Initially following the coast road, the journey was delayed by poor roads, heavy traffic, a funeral procession and (above) a fiesta, but we arrived at the airport in good time, so concluding an excellent trip. I personally recorded just short of 500 species. I had expected 65 life birds, 70 if I was very lucky, I got 78 and saw a couple of fantastic species that I didn’t know were even possible on this itinerary. There is a lot of driving on this trip but the results make it more than worthwhile.

WW Potoo IBC Ciro Albano

But I will finish this narrative with another bird that deserves the epithet of ‘bird of the trip’ and one that wasn’t on my radar at all at the start. We bumped into Ciro Albano and his group at Veracel reserve near Porto Segura and after dark we all were able to get great views of two White-winged Potoos. Photo by Ciro Albano from the Internet Bird Collection.



Brazil part 4 – Boa Nova, Bahia – 23rd – 25th January 2015   2 comments

Continuing the journey south through north-east Brazil, our group arrived at Boa Nova in Bahia State on the afternoon of the 23rd.

IMG_1421 Boa Nova hotel entrance

Although I have stayed in worse, the accommodation in Boa Nova was clearly the least luxurious of the trip. Entrance to our rooms was through a padlocked gate in the street. I understand that a new hotel has been opened recently so this shouldn’t put others off visiting.

IMG_1416 room at Boa Nova

Rooms were a bit dingy, there was a lot of noise from the street and I was plagued by mosquitoes in the night. There was even the legendary chewing gum on the bedstead (from 1950’s Lonnie Donegon song for those too young to remember).

IMG_1486 BB Scythebill

The birding however was outstanding. This Black-billed Scythebill, a rare relative of the woodcreepers, gave reasonable views.

IMG_1609 Pink-legged Graveteiro

Several Pink-legged Graveteiro’s, showed in the canopy. This species of furnarid was only described in 1996.

IMG_1501 Sharpbill

Sharpbills gave their falling bomb whistles from the trees. This species has been considered to be a cotinga or has been placed in a family of its own, but has now ended up in the Tityridae along with such other neotropical oddballs as the tityras, royal flycatchers, schiffornis, myobious, purpletufts (see below), xenopsaris (see below), becards and some of the mourners.

IMG_1528 Ochre-rumped AB

As usual ant-thingies were a regular feature. This is an Ochre-rumped Antbird ….

IMG_1411 Slender AB

…. a male Slender Antbird ….

IMG_1698 Slender Antbird f

…. and here the even more elusive female Slender Antbird.

IMG_1738 Buff-throated Purpletuft

One of the cutest birds of the trip was the diminutive Buff-throated Purpletuft. Now, as I said above, a member of the Tityridae.

IMG_1478 Weid's Black-tufted eared Marmoset

Mammals even got a look in. This is the rare Weid’s Black-tufted-ear Marmoset.

IMG_1546 White-naped Xenopsaris

In a drier, more open area we saw a pair of White-naped Xenopsaris. This species occurs over a wide area but is always scarce. This is the fourth South American trip I have seen this bird on, but up to now it’s just been one per trip.

IMG_1426 Steve Lowe at Boa Nova

Part of two afternoons were spent searching a rocky outcrop ….

IMG_1431 Boa Nova

… it was covered in cacti so you had to watch your step.

IMG_1540 WT Seedeater

We had great views of several seedeaters including this White-throated and the rarer Dubois’ ….

IMG_1457 Pygmy Nightjar

… but our main target was Pygmy Nightjar which we found just before dusk, perfectly camouflaged on the rock.

IMG_1581 Hummer and cacti

The flowers of the cacti attracted many hummingbirds ….

IMG_1567 Ruby-topaz Hummer

…. a female Ruby Topaz Hummingbird ….

IMG_1579Ruby-topaz Hummer

…. and the brighter male. Hummingbirds have feathers that shine iridescent from certain angles. The entire bird will never glow at the same time. As this bird turns its ruby crown will turn black but its gorget will light up a bright orange.

IMG_1576 Glittering-bellied Emerald

Similarly this Glittering-bellied Emerald will only live up to its name when viewed from a certain angle.

IMG_1594 Giant Snipe

But the bird of the day, no, the bird of the trip, was seen at a nearby marsh after dark. We had fantastic views of a Giant Snipe by torchlight. Almost half as big again as a Eurasian Woodcock, this monster of the marshes showed well for several minutes. OK the photos aren’t brilliant but it was some way away and lit just by the torch beam. Araripe Manakin and Lear’s Macaws were expected highlights of the trip, this wasn’t, hence my decision to give it the honour of  ‘bird of the trip’.


Brazil part 3 – Pernambuco, Alagoas and Bahia States. 17th – 22nd January 2015.   Leave a comment

The last Brazil post dealt with our visit to the Canudos Biological Reserve and its wonderful Lear’s Macaws. From here we drove south-east to Jeremoabo and the following day continued to the coast at Palmares in coastal Pernambuco.

IMG_0673 Pectoral Antwren

Pectoral Antwren, one of many species of antwren seen on the tour and one that is restricted to far eastern Brazil, was a highlight of our time at Jeremoabo.

IMG_0698 Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls could be seen along the sides of the road in open areas.


The area around Palmares is part of the ‘Pernambuco centre of avian endemism’. Unfortunately the vast majority of forest has been converted to sugarcane or banana plantations and the remaining endemic birds are critically endangered. Some forest does remain, but it is severely fragmented. In Europe or North America forest birds would disperse from one patch to another so bolstering the population, but here each population becomes increasingly isolated and inbred so numbers are falling at an alarming rate. Alagoas Foliage-gleaner, Pernambuco Pygmy-owl and Cryptic Treehunter may already be extinct and Alagoas Antwren, Pinto’s Spinetail and White-collared Kite may soon be following them into oblivion. Originally three days were scheduled for this area but rather than ‘flog a dead horse’ our time was cut to a day and a half, allowing us to see some of the specialities without wasting time on birds that had already disappeared.


IMG_0770 forest patches Frei Caneca

Frei Canaca reserve is typical of the plight of the NE Brazilian coastal rain forest, being encircled with and fragmented by plantations. We saw some good birds here but they were in very low density and it was hard work!

IMG_0717 Forbes Blackbirds

I wasn’t able get good photos of any of the Pernambuco forest birds but in coastal marshes we saw and photographed the equally rare Forbe’s Blackbird.

IMG_0833 WH Marsh Tyrant

The attractive White-headed Marsh Tyrant is a much commoner and widespread bird.

IMG_0868 King Vulture

Overhead we had great views of the largest of the lowland New World vultures (the Andean Condor of course is the largest).

IMG_0889 Fringe-backed Fire-eye

Further south in coastal Bahia State we came across another range restricted antbird – Fringe-backed Fire-eye.

IMG_0919 sunset in palms

We visited nearby palms at dusk and were fortunate to see …

IMG_0925 Jandaya Parakeet

…. the endemic Jandaya Parakeets flying to roost.

IMG_0942 mangrove creek

Searching mangroves the following morning we located several of the recently split Mangrove Rails, but they refused to be coaxed from deep cover and remained a ‘heard only’. However a chance encounter with another tour group gave us great scope views of the coastal Rufous Crab-hawk, but it was too distant for decent photos.

IMG_0960 Comb Duck

On route we saw the trip’s only Comb Duck, a species recently split from the Old World Knob-billed Goose.

IMG_0968 Chestnut-headed Blackbird

Chestnut-headed Blackbirds frequented these roadside marshes.

IMG_1376 Lencois

Moving back inland, we stayed for a couple of nights in the charming town of Lencois. From here we explored the nearby Chapada de Diamantina and surround caatinga.

IMG_0685 toilet signs

You’re not going to be confused as to which is which with these toilet door signs!

IMG_1013 Cassiornis site

A nearby river valley held two very special birds ….

IMG_0978 Sao Francisco Sparrow

…. Sao Francisco Sparrow, named after the regions largest river ….

IMG_1002 Ash Br Casiornis

… and Ash-throated Casiornis, a seldom seen tyrant flycatcher that looks more like a furnarid.

IMG_1063 rock outcrop

The Chapada de Diamantina consists of many tepui-like rock outcrops and is scenically very attractive.

IMG_1066 Sincora Antwren

Among the many great birds we saw was Sincora Antwren, a bird described as recently as 2007 ….

IMG_1088 Serra Finch

…. and Serra Finch, another eastern Brazil speciality.

IMG_1414 tapaculo gully

One of the best birds we saw in the area was another recently described species, Diamantina Tapaculo. To get to see this rarity we had to battle our way through thick scrub and climb down into this rocky gully. Our first attempt was unsuccessful, which was frustrating as our leader had already located it on a ‘recce’ whilst we were having lunch, so we knew it was there. But our attempt the next morning was successful, but no pictures were obtained of this little skulker.

IMG_1093 Red-cowled Cardinal

This slightly blurred photo of a Red-cowled Cardinal looks like (but isn’t) something out of John Dunning’s ‘South American Land Birds’. Long before any good field guides existed for South American, JD mist-netted many South American species and photographed them in a special photography cage, complete with a few branches to perch on and a pale blue background to mimic the sky. For a long time this book was the best guide available.

IMG_1099 Campo Troupial

Also endemic to NE Brazil is the Campo Troupial, a species of icterid or New World blackbird.

IMG_1119 Cinnamon Tanager

Cinnamon Tanager, another eastern Brazilian bird.

IMG_1132 Red (Hepatic) Tanager

The former Hepatic Tanager has been split into three, the Central American populations which reach as far north as the south-west USA, retain the name Hepatic Tanager, the Andean forms are now known as Tooth-billed Tanager and this, the lowland form, is appropriately known as Red Tanager.

IMG_1151 rocks nr Lencois

The following morning we climbed high into the tepui-like cliffs of the Chapada de Diamantina, but early morning mist obscured the views.

IMG_1160 Stripe-tailed Yellow Finch

Out targets, Stripe-tailed Yellow-finch ….

IMG_1175 Hooded Visorbearer

…. the beautiful Hooded Visorbearer ….

IMG_1181 Velvety Black Tyrant

… and the drab Velvety Black Tyrant soon fell.

IMG_1171 outcrops nr Lencois

On the way down we found the cloud had lifted slightly, partially revealing the dramatic scenery.

IMG_1257 BT Saltator

Lower down we found the stunning Blue Finch, but at a considerable distance. However this Black-throated Saltator performed at close range.

IMG_1282 Shrike-like Tanager

The Shrike-like Tanager is just that, a spitting image of the Old World Lesser Grey Shrike, apart from lacking a hooked bill and an evil look to its beady eye.

IMG_1356 caatinga nr Mucage

Not far from Lencois we birded an extensive area of caatinga.

IMG_1298 Plumbeous Seedeater

Plumbeous Seedeater was one of many scarce or range restricted seedeaters we were to see on the tour.

IMG_1330 Collared Crescentchest

We had great views of Collared Crescentchest. The four species of crescentchest are now considered to be a separate family Melanopareiidae, rather than being included in the tapaculos.

IMG_1346 Grey-backed Tachuri

Other goodies included the tiny Grey-backed Tachuri, a diminutive tyrant-flycatcher  ….

IMG_1404 Sharp-tailed Tyrant

…. the dainty Sharp-tailed Tyrant ….

IMG_1395 scary spider

…. and some scary looking spiders.

IMG_1380 Mucage area at dusk

Dark clouds gathered as dusk fell ….

IMG_1369 Least Nighhawk

…. but that didn’t prevent an impressive gathering of 15 or so Least Nighthawks.

From here we continued south heading for Mucage and Boa Nova. This will be the subject of the next post.

Brazil part 2: 16th Jan 2015 – Lear’s Macaw   2 comments

IMG_1345 lifer time in brazil

This was the sticker on the wall of our accommodation at Canudos in the state of Bahia in Brazil, however we hadn’t come all this way to see Hyacinth Macaw, which occurs in the Pantanal in the far south-west, but its near relative Lear’s Macaw.

Edward Lear

Many birds are named after people. Often these are the discoverers of the bird or ornithologists who the describer feels needs recognition. but only seldom are birds named after people who are more famous for their activities in other fields. There are a few exceptions, some birds are named after royalty (for example King of Saxony Bird of Paradise) and Allan Octavian Hume (1829 – 1912) is better known as a political reformer and the founder of the Indian National Congress than for his extensive work on the birds on India. Another Victorian ornithologist better known for his non-ornithological work is Edward Lear (1812 – 1888). Picture from Wikipedia.


Lear, of course, is best known for his comic poems and short stories, including the ‘owl and the pussycat’ and ‘a book of nonsense’, a collection of limericks. He was also a talented artist and was employed by the Zoological Society as an ‘ornithological draughtsman’. Picture from Wikipedia.


He painted many birds including the illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots in 1830, which contained this picture, thought initially to be either a Hyacinth Macaw or the now extinct Glaucous Macaw, but later recognised to be a species in its own right and named Lear’s Macaw  Anodorhynchus leari after it’s illustrator . The trouble was nobody knew where it came from, occasional skins and birds in the pet trade would turn up but it wasn’t until 1978 when Helmut Sick mounted an expedition to a remote area in north-east Brazil that the breeding grounds of this enigmatic species were found. Thought then to number only about 250 individuals, this area now known as the Canudos Biological Preserve is protected and numbers have increased to around 1000. Picture from Wikipedia.

IMG_0490 Lear's site pre-dawn

Of course, the area is now much more populated than when Sick first visited, but to be there for first light still requires a 0330 start from the town of Canudos. We transferred from our minibus to a open-backed 4×4 for an hour-long drive along bumpy tracks. We arrived at the lookout as dawn was breaking.

IMG_0492 Canudos Biological Preserve

Soon macaws stared coming out of their roost but views were poor.

IMG_0495 Lear's Macaw

A small number perched on nearby cacti.

IMG_0512 Canudos Biological Preserve

Once it was fully light we could appreciate the beauty of our surroundings.

IMG_0523 Canudos Biological Preserve

One sandstone ridge after another stretched to the horizon.

IMG_0520 Canudos Biological Preserve

After a while all the macaws made their noisy departure, we thought that was it, but the local ranger took us to another nearby canyon ….

IMG_0545 Lear's Macaws

… here we had views of 50+ Lear’s Macaws, either perched distantly or in flight.

IMG_0538 Lear's Macaws

One group repeatedly flew close …..

IMG_0533 Lear's Macaws

…. and perched up nicely on a nearby cliff ….

IMG_0529 Lear's Macaws

…. before flying off again.

IMG_1347 back of pickup

Then it was time to join the ranger’s dog in the back of the pick up ….

IMG_1348 back of pickup

…. and hold on tight for another bumpy ride on the return to Canudos for a late and much appreciated breakfast.

IMG_1350 outcrop

Lear’s Macaw didn’t quite make it as bird of the trip, two complete surprises, Giant Snipe and White-winged Potoo, pipped it at the post ….

IMG_1353 canyon lands

…. but the morning at the Canudos Biological Station, with its stunning eroded sandstone outcrops and canyons plus the wonderful macaws, certainly warranted the title of ‘experience of the trip’.


Posted February 19, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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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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