Serra dos Tucanos
Rio de Janeiro
December 2 - 12, 2005

With Bill and Naomi Murphy,
Jane Henderson and Bob Cohen
Martin Selzer and Bert Filemyr

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Bird List

Butterfly photos

Serra dos Tucanos is a small lodge located only 1 1/2 hours from Rio within the Tres Picos State Park in the heart of the Atlantic rain forest, the Serra do Mar .

The lodge began life as a private home but was purchased 3 years ago by a young Brit, Andy Foster, who had fallen in love with Brazil and was looking for a way to stay. Andy and his wife, Christina, now run Serra dos Tucanos catering to birders and other naturalists.

For more specific information, check out their website.

Our host and guide,
Andy Foster

Friday, December 2, 2005
We all gathered at Philadelphia Airport around 6PM for our flight to Miami, connecting to our overnight flight to Rio. Despite a close call getting to the gate in Miami on time we all arrived safe and sound.
Saturday, December 3, 2005
We got into Rio around 10:45 AM Rio time and then waited forever for the bags to arrive. One never did. But eventually we all piled into the van for our drive to the lodge. Our route took us along the harbour where we started picking out Magnificent Frigatebirds, Kelp Gulls, Black and Turkey Vultures. There were some other roadside birds but, except for Cocoi Heron , all were seen later and better.

We arrived at Serra dos Tucanos around 2PM. After dropping things off in our rooms, everyone re-convened on the veranda. This was to be our favorite hang-out during our stay as it provided excellent views of the gardens and feeding stations.

Serra dos Tucanos Lodge

Immediately there were new birds everywhere and after a lovely lunch we returned to our front row seats. Birds seen included Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Saw-billed Hermit, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Black Jacobins, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Spot-billed Toucanet, White-barred Piculet, Great Kiskadee, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager, Violaceous Euphonia, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager and Buff-throated Saltator.

Some of us decided to explore the grounds and managed to turn up a few more birds like Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbirds, Gray Hooded Attila, Saffron Finches, Double-collared Seedeaters and Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher

Soon it was time for dinner and the checklist.

Sunday, December 4, 2005
After a 6:30 AM breakfast, it was back in the van for the Three-toed Jacamar Excursion . We drove north towards Duas Barras and a full day of birding joined by 2 birders we met last night, John and Liut.

While stopping for gas we spotted Cattle Tyrants perched on the back of cattle (they must have read the book). The rest of the day was spent birding along these roads with a brief stop for coffee and a pit-stop in the town of Duas Barras itself.

Along the Duas Barras Road

We had lots of new birds along this route including Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Striated Heron, Brazilian Teal, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Plumbeous Kite, several Crane Hawks, Savanna Hawks, Roadside Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Dusky-legged Guan, Red-legged Seriema, Southern Lapwing, Picazura Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Blue-winged Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Scaly-headed Parrot, a flock of Guira Cuckoos, White-collared Swifts, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-eared Puffbird, White Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, Tail-banded Hornero, Rufous Hornero, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Common Thornbird, Red-eyed Thornbird, Scaled Woodcreeper, Planalto Tyrannulet, Bran-colored Flycatcher, White-rumped Monjita, Crested Black-Tyrant, Masked Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Short-crested Flycatcher, Social, Streaked and Piratic Flycatchers, Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Green-backed and White-winged Becards, White-rumped, Blue and white and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Black-capped Donacobius, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Gilt-edged, Burnished-buff and Swallow Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Chestnut-capped, White-browed and Shiny Blackbirds, Red-rumped Caciques, Crested Oropendola and Hooded Siskin.

True to Andy's word, the "4 o'clock" Three-toed Jacamar arrived at precisely 4PM much to everyone's delight. This is high on anyone's list coming to this area and we were very fortunate to see several. In fact they became a bit of a pest interfering with our quest to see other birds.

At the end of this amazingly productive day we returned to the lodge for dinner.

Monday, December 5, 2005
Breakfast and off again at 7AM. Once again we drove north but this time we visited the Bamboo Trail . This trail begins in a developed area and slowly climbs up through a vast expanse of native bamboo.

This is very different habitat from yesterday as we gradually climbed up to about 1450 meters. Crossing several streams along the way, the trail getting narrower and narrower until we emerged at a large meadow overlooking a house. It took us close to 5 hours to go about 4 kilometers because there were birds all along the route. This was true forest birding with dense vegetation and it was often difficult to get everyone on the bird. Patience is really the key and the realization that you won't see everything.

Still we had some great new birds, including Plumbeous Pigeon, Scale-throated Hermit, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Surucua Trogon, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Plain Antvireo, Bertoni's Antbird, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, Sharpbills, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, White-rimmed Warbler, Azure-shouldered and Black-goggled Tanagers, Sharp-billed treehunters. Rufous gnateater, Buff-browed and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, Gray-headed Flycatcher, White-bearded Antshrike, Hooded Berryeater, Rufous-capped Spinetail and Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper.

All around us came the sound of Bare-throated Bellbirds but it took forever to actually see one. That's rather embarrassing since they're big white birds that perch on the tops of trees. Still we finally got good looks.

After a lovely picnic lunch in the high meadow we slowly re-traced our steps encountering many of the same birds we found on the way up. One of the highlights of the trip back down involved 3 of our group ending up IN the water as they tried to ford one of the creeks. There are photos.

We returned to the lodge, ordered drinks on the veranda and enjoyed some more feeder watching before dinner. A new bird for the lodge was Masked Yellowthroat .

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
We loaded up again at 7PM after breakfast and headed back north to bird the Cedae Trail . This trail goes down, down, down a long road before heading back up, up, up. I much prefer it the other way round. Still it was a nice walk and we had some more good birds.

Enroute home we stopped to see Cliff Flycatchers on the wires along the roadside.

Highlights of the Cedae Trail include: Rufous-thighed Kite on nest with chicks, Scaly-headed Parrot, Scale-throated Hermit, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous and Scaled Woodcreeper, Spot-breasted Vireo, Star-throated Antwren, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Blue Manakin, Oustalet's Tyrannulet, White-throated Spadebill, Black-tailed Tityra, Golden-crowned Warbler, Rufous-headed, Yellow-backed and Olive-Green Tanagers, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Black-throated Grosbeak.

We were back at the lodge around noon. We did the checklist early because John and Luit were leaving. At lunch we had White-tailed Trogon and Squirrel Cuckoo .

We had the afternon free to read, sleep, swim, wander the trails or just sit on the veranda but it soon started to rain. Not a good omen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005
You get so used to the sound of water around here because a culvert brings water down past the house and a large creek flows nearby. Still all night long, the creek sounded louder than usual and we awoke to discover why. It was pouring and, evidently, had been all night. We were scheduled to go out to the coast today but that was postponed. Rain really puts a damper on things around here (and this is the rainy season) so we spent the day hanging out at the lodge in hopes that things might clear up enough to get out.

Serra dos Tucanos in the Rain

We read, we slept, we huddled in the cold on the veranda where we did get to watch a very nice Brazilian Ruby (male) and an Amathyst Woodstar . Time went very slowly. Finally after lunch it cleared up enough to make a brief foray outside were we found Crested Becard, Ferruginous Antbird and Gray-rumped Swifts that nest in the chimney .

After dinner we all retired hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, December 8, 2005
Today dawned more promisingly and we boarded the van for our trip to the coastal Excursion. It helped that we had a great bird at breakfast , White-throated Woodcreeper .

Again we are in totally different habitat; sandy coastal scrub and cactus. Much of this area is being lost to beach housing. Along the way we stopped to stretch our legs and had Plain-breasted Ground-Dove sitting in a tree.

We stopped to check out some salt pans and found a nice collection of shorebirds including Spotted Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Collared Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. We also had Neotropic Cormorant, Burrowing Owl, Grassland Sparrow and White-cheeked Pintail.

Stopping at some good restinga habitat we found 2 of our target species: Hangnest Tody-Tyrant and Sooretema Slaty-antshrike . We missed our big target though so we sought out some more restinga habitat, this patch right along the ocean. The sea was wild and the surf quite fearsome but we got good looks at Brown Boobies and Sandwich Terns plus more Kelp Gulls .

Walking away from the beach we finally found our bird and got good looks at Restinga Antwren . In this same area, near the saltpans, we found Roseate Spoonbill, Tropical Parula, White-browed Blackbirds and Yellowish Pipit .

To celebrate our success we adjourned to a local restaurant to enjoy an amazing meal before heading back to the lodge. We'd hoped to get a chance to explore some of the upper trails around the lodge but the rains had returned so we assumed our regular positions on the veranda.
Friday, December 9, 2005
Our destination today was Serra dos Orgaos National Park , about an hours drive away. Enroute we stopped along the roadside at a small fish hatchery and scanned the ponds turning up Least Grebes, Common Moorhens, Wattled Jacana, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and a Band-tailed Hornero .

Our first stop in the park was at the entrance to the lower section of the park where we had our best birding right near the parking lot: scores of tanagers including Flame-crested Tanager, Foliage-gleaners and Streaked Xenops plus Yellow-eared Woodpecker.

We then began our walk down the road where we had a few nice birds like Streak-capped Antwren and White-necked Thrush but not the numbers we'd had at the top of the trail so we returned to the parking lot for a brief snack.

We then drove the road to the upper levels of the park, stopping along the way for a photo op of the famous peak, the Finger of God . This park is known for its rock formations and for the people who come here to climb them.

A short drive further along brought us to the upper trails of the park. We hiked up the trail to an overlook and had a nice picnic lunch overlooking the city of Teresopolis before returning to the van and driving back to the lodge.

The town of Teresopolis

Other birds seen included: Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, White-throated Woodcreeper, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Chestnut=crowned Becard and Sooty Grassquit

Before dinner, we managed a short walk along the upper trails at the lodge where we picked up a few birds, although not some of the target birds.When we did the list that evening we were surprised to find we had 85 species in the park. At the time it seemed like a slow day but, actually, we saw quite a few birds although we missed many of the target species.

Saturday, December 10, 2005
Fortunately we had great weather for our excursion to the High Altitude trail . The road we needed to take is so steep that the van could only make it part way. We then used the car to take us further up the trail but the last section we had to walk. It was and incredibly road and it's hard to imagine people hauling their little cars up it and yet many do. Rain would have made the trip impossible although it was very cool and misty early on.

The numbers of bird up here are not as great but every bird is a winner, many are endemics. Our goal was to reach the Petro Brazil station at the top of the mountain and then climb the stairs as far as we needed to find the big target of the day - Itatiaia Thistletail.

The famous stairway

Walking very slowly up the very steep and very slippery road we stopped frequently and managed to pull out some nice birds like Pallid Spinetail, Mouse-colored Tapaculo, Blue-billed Black Tyrant, Diadem Tanagers, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Rufous-tailed Antbird and Bay-chested Warbling-finch.

Near the top we came to a guard station and had to leave our passports with the guard before we could continue on to the staircase. 603 steps to the top but we were hoping not to have to go all the way to the top. At the base of the steps we picked up a very cooperative Large-tailed Antshrike .

About half way up we stumbled upon our goal, great looks at Itatiaia Thistletail so, luckily we did not have to continue the climb. On the way back down we added Chicli Spinetail and Rufous-capped Antshrike .

Chicli Spinetail

The walk back to the car was a lot easier than the climb up and we enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the rolling hills below us. It had been a great morning and the afternoon was still to come. Using the same shuttle system we used coming up we made our way down the mountain to a lower trail where we had Variable Antshrike, Dusky-tailed Antbird,, Swallow=tailed Cotinga, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Small-billed Elaenia, Olivaceous Elaenia, Euler's Flycatcher, Gray Monjita, Pale-breasted Thrush, Cinnamon Tanager and Thick-billed Saltator

When we finally left the mountain around 4PM we all knew it had been a GREAT day. Then it was back to the lodge for dinner and packing since tomorrow will be our last day.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
The rain had caused us to miss one of the excursions, the Theodora Trail. We were hoping to get that and the Wetlands Trail in today before having to leave but, again, we awoke to the sound of rain. So we were forced to spend another day hanging around the lodge. New guests were arriving that morning so we had to vacate our rooms by 10AM but we were able to use two rooms to store our gear and there was much packing and re-packing going on throughout the day. Again the veranda became our refuge as we got to spend one last day with all the birds that had become some "common" to us during our stay. Fortunately, we were rewarded with a new bird on our last day - Orange-bellied Euphonia .

The rain gave everyone with a camera a chance to photograph the birds coming into the feeders.

Violaceous Euphonia

Saw-billed Hermit

Spot-billed Toucanet

Green-headed Tanager

Black Jacobin and raindrops

After saying our goodbyes to Andy and christina and Serra dos Tucanos, we left for the airport around 4:30PM. Andy recommended allowing plenty of time because traffic on Sunday evenings can double the traveling time. We, however, made great time and got to the airport by 6PM so we had about 5 hours to kill before our flight. We took off on time and, after 8 hours, arrived in Miami around 4AM where we were whisked through immigration and customs in no time. Another 4 hours to kill before our 8:30AM flight to Philadelphia but we all arrived back home safe and sound with a slew of incredible memories of a GREAT trip.