The Rainforest & Savanna:
Alta Floresta & The Northern Pantanal, Brazil

17 June to 3 July 2011

with Bret Whitney and Marcelo Padua of Field Guides Inc.

Narration by Martin Selzer
photos & videos by Lynn Jackson

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17-June-11 – Today we travelled to Brazil flying from Philadelphia to Dallas then overnight to Sao Paulo. From there we connected to our flight to Cuiaba before finally moving on to Chapada dos Guimaraes by bus where we will spend the night and ultimately beginning to bird. If there is one down side to this entire adventure it is that there is no easy way to get there and back from here. Although the trip to Dallas was uneventful, our departure to Sao Paolo was delayed 75 minutes as we needed to find a substitute member of the flight crew. Fortunately we ended up landing only 60 minutes late.

18-June-11 – Fortunately clearing customs was no problem so even with the delay we still had time to find our way around the terminal in Sao Paolo which took some doing as sections, gates and wings are not necessarily uniquely marked there. Still we managed to find our way in time to catch our flight and we headed to Cuiaba where we happily found our luggage which had been checked all the way through from Philadelphia. Just because we had a luggage claim ticket stating our bags would meet us there didn’t mean that would be the case as Marianne’s misplaced luggage would prove. We then found Bret and Marcelo and our vans and were off to lunch at a churrascaria before heading to our hotel. En route we made one stop to allow some friends of Marcelo to catch up with us and deliver some documents to him. We only had to wait a few minutes for them to catch up with us. While we waited along a side road we found Red-crested Finch and Sayaca Tanagers before we were off and heading to our hotel again. We arrived at our hotel at 15:40 and after dropping our bags in the rooms set off for some late afternoon birding at 16:00.

As we were all gathering at the vans a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl was in the tree outside the front door of the hotel and a small flock of birds quickly came in to mob it. In short order we had Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers, Epaulet Oriole (tawny shoulder race), Chopi Blackbirds, Palm Tanagers, Chalk-browed Mockingbirds, Pale and Rufous-breasted Thrushes, Masked Tityra, Great Kiskadees, and Rufous Horneros. It was quite a start and this was not even our birding stop. We then headed out of town with Marcelo making our dinner reservation as we drove by the restaurant (he yelled out the van window to the owner as we drove by that 12 would be back at 19:30 for dinner). On route to our birding stop we saw Cattle Egrets and Southern Lapwings and as we got out of the vans, we noticed a Laughing Falcon being mobbed by a group of Guira Cuckoos.

It was late afternoon as we walked a forested road so we didn’t have great light but we managed to pull out an Amazonian momot (the Blue-Crown momot split south of the Amazon River), Blue Dacnis, White-Wedged Piculet, Band-tailed Manakins, White-throated Thrush (not seen as well as we would have liked but then they are skulkers and tend to be difficult to see well), White-bellied Warblers, and did an extended battle with a Southern Antpipit that never allowed a satisfactory view. It stayed in the shadows on either side of the road and only once or twice jumped into the open for a microsecond. I’m not sure it even got on the official trip list. By 17:30 it was time to clean up for caipirinhas and dinner so we called it a night and headed back to our hotel. Dinner was in town. Night in Chapada dos Guimaraes at the Pousada Solar do Ingles.

The Chapada dos Guimaraes area is a red rock escarpment along the Central Plateau of Brazil. The top of the plateau is covered with cerrado habitat. Cerrado is a grassland habitat with many species of arid-adapted trees on gently rolling ground. There are also woodland and forest patches along the escarpment.

19-June-11 - Breakfast was at 5:30 and while enjoying an ample and lovely buffet of fruit, eggs, breads and juice/coffee/tea we were “interrupted” by calling Amazonian momot, Ferruginous Pygmy-owl and Pheasant Cuckoo. We quickly finished up breakfast and went chasing the cuckoo down the alley behind the side of hotel grounds. It took some doing but we eventually got to see the cuckoo perched and calling. Normally you see these birds flying back and forth across a trail and then they disappear but this was a huge treat to have one perched and in great light. It was 6:30 when we then went birding back in the cerrado along the Aqua Fria Road and then the “Air Force Base” Road. Yesterday, as we had driven through this area, Marcelo had commented that it didn’t look very birdy from the highway. These two roads are “side roads” off the main road and we would quickly learn that looks were very deceiving as we weren’t even out of the vans when we had noticed numerous Chalk-browed Mockingbirds and Campo Flickers on the power lines.

Our first stop was from 6:40-8:00 and in no particular order we found groups of Plumbeous Seedeaters, Black-faced, White-rumped, and White-banded Tanagers, Red-crested Finches, and a single Coal-crested Finch. We also eventually tracked down Chapada Flycatchers, Rufous-winged and Barred Antshrikes, and Rusty-backed Antwren. There were also groups of Peach-fronted Parakeets feeding all around and sooner or later you were bound to get a look at one perched. We also had Black-throated Saltator, Lesser and Pale-crested Elaenia.

Stop number two was only a few minutes down the road and we immediately had a group of Curly-crested Jays fly across the road. These are the jays of the cerrado. Here we came across Chapada and Campo Flycatchers together. While visually similar, the Chapada Flycatcher is a much more demonstrative bird. This stop also produced 3 White-eared Puffbirds and a couple soaring Roadside Hawks. We then continued along Aqua Fria looking for Red-legged Seriema and Gray Monjita as it was getting along towards mid-morning and small bird activity was slowing down. We were doing this along a more pasture-like section of road. We found a monjita and while we were watching it a Bat Falcon flew by.

Stop three was between 9:15-10:00 and was specifically for Collared Crescentchest. Unfortunately, all crescentchests are more active following rain and it hadn’t rained in the area in about 10 days. This stop did produce more Curly-crested Jays and Cinnamon Tanager but no crescentchest.

Stop four was as we headed towards lunch and was along a wooded section of the ‘Air Force Base’ Road. It was a great 20 minutes of birding with Short-crested Flycatcher, White-bellied and Flavescent Warblers (really showing off their orange legs), Moustache Wren, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, White-lined and Silver-beaked Tanagers and one of the best looks at a Rufous-browed Peppershrike I can remember. Soaring overhead were Anhingas and the ever present Black Vultures.

Lunch was at a nearby waterfall, Cachoeirinha Restaurant from 11:00 to 13:00 with some birding while we waited for our food to be prepared. We found Tropical Parula, Squirrel Cuckoo, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and lots and lots of butterflies. After an ice cream stop on the way back to Pousada Solar do Ingles we had a brief siesta until 14:30 before heading back out for an afternoon of birding along Porta do Fe` (Gates of Faith) from 14:45-17:30.

Porta do Fe` was another very birdy spot where we found a good number of hummingbirds including a couple coquettes. Some of the birds came in a few mixed flocks that materialized and then vaporized as we walked along the road. So if you missed the birds with the first flock hopefully you caught up with them the 2nd or 3rd time around. It was typical tropical forest birding along a moderately open trail. As soon as we got out of the vans, Bret tried a pygmy-owl whistle and as if by magic the birds materialized. This was foreshadowing of the success we would have throughout the trip. The initial flock included Blue Dacnis, Hooded Tanagers, Sirystes, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Streaked Xenops, Frilled Coquette, Gray and Forest Elaenia and Blue-Crowned Trogon. It was crazy and every man for himself as birds were flying into the canopy. It was frustrating but at least the birds were staying around between two trees so as long as you focused on one of the two trees you had a chance.

The second flock a little way down the road had many of the same birds (thank goodness for second chances) and Long-billed Antwrens. We also started to get an assortment of hummingbirds now as the day was coming to an end and they were coming to flowers to feed. Our list of hummingbirds for this afternoon included White-tailed Goldenthroat, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, Amethyst Woodstar, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Glittering-throated Emerald, White-chinned Sapphire, and Gilded Hummingbird. It was outstanding. We also found Fiery-capped Manakins, Rusty-marginned and Streaked Flycatchers. The last bird we found for the day was a Saffron-billed Sparrow. Dinner was back in town again after we had returned to the inn and cleaned up. Night in Chapada dos Guimaraes at the Pousada Solar do Ingles.

20-June-11 – Breakfast was at 5:30 then we packed up and loaded the buses as we would be leaving Chapada dos Guimarares this morning without coming back to the inn. We birded the Cachoeira da Geladeira Road for about 90 minutes before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Alta Floresta. Here are major additions to the growing trip list were Spot-backed Puffbirds, several more White-eared Puffbirds, Burrowing Owl and killer looks a Coal-crested Finch. These finches are not only closely linked to the chapada habitat of Brazil and its neighbours but are highly nomadic making them problematic to find from year to year. We also had a tree full of Toco Toucans, some Channel-billed Toucans, Gray-fronted Doves, a Savanna Hawk and a large group of Guira Cuckoos and 6 White Woodpeckers putting on a serious aerial display.

Burrowing Owl

We made a quick stop at a small wooded area and flushed a Rufous Nightjar up off the trail. Fortunately it only went as far as a nearby fallen tree trunk and sat there very nicely for all of us. We then had to rush off to catch our flight to Alta Floresta.

Upon arrival we checked into the Floresta Amazonica Hotel, had lunch and then birded the forest edges in the vicinity of the hotel from 15:30 to 17:30. The hotel is built right up to some remnant prime forest in fact one of the trails leads to a known Harpy Eagle nest so we are talking about having some decent habitat just outside our “backdoors”. Highlights of this little adventure could be summed up as follows: parrots/macaws, raptors and a Blackish Nightjar. There were other birds but these were the highlights for me.

So let me start with the parrots: As we were finishing our lunch which we ate outside in the garden by the pool (yes, we were roughing it here in Amazonia), a pair of Blue and Yellow Macaws came flying over head to greet us to Alta Floresta. As our group was then gathering for our walk we noted a pair of Scarlet Macaws feeding in the trees behind the hotel Before the walk was over we would have additional good looks at more of these macaws and Chestnut-fronted, Red-bellied and Red and Green Macaws We would also have Blue-headed, Yellow-Crowned and Orange-winged Parrots by the fish ponds. Down at the fish ponds, a Short-tailed Hawk came into roost. A pair nested here last year so it may have been one of that pair returning. Soaring much higher overhead were a couple Swallow-tailed Kites and a distant White-tailed Hawk.

Don nearly stepped on a Blackish Nighjar roosting in the grass off the path when he went to go near one of the ponds. The bird didn’t fly and on closer inspection we realized it was nesting. In fact it appeared to have a non-viable egg, which could explain why it didn’t fly off. I’m not sure how Bret was able to tell that once he found the egg, since he was the only person to get that close but still it was the second nightjar we had for the day and that was pretty darn cool.

Blackish Nightjar

The entire time we were at the ponds a constant stream of small groups of Cattle Egrets (6-15 birds/group) were flying by to their evening roost. Somewhere there was a large group of Cattle Egrets gathering. There was also a nesting Crimson-crested Woodpecker here, Tropical Kingbirds, and Thrush-like Wrens at the hotel grounds. There were lots of birds around the ponds (but they were somewhat far away and best seen through scopes, so better saved for another day). This included an assortment of flycatchers and the only Pied Puffbird we would see on the tour. Night in Alta Floresta at the Floresta Amazonica Hotel.
21-June-11 – We went owling at 5:00 before breakfast for about 30 minutes and didn’t have any owls but we did had a Short-tailed Nighthawk in the clearly behind the hotel as we were heading into breakfast. While eating breakfast, Marcelo noticed a Bare-necked Fruitcrow flying into one on the smaller trees within the garden around the pool so we all put down our coffee cups and took a look.

After having breakfast we went to investigate the Harpy Eagle nest. We knew it had blown down in a storm but the hotel staff said the adult birds had recently begun rebuilding it. Whether this was actually true or just for our benefit, we had to check it out. In the clearly before we entered the forest trail, we had another great macaw show with Chestnut-fronted, Red and Green, Scarlet and Blue and Yellow feeding in the trees. We also had a pair of Lineated Woodcreepers plus Red-necked and Chestnut-eared Aracari. The Floresta Amazonica Hotel has a pretty darn good yard list and I’ve left out quite a few birds we had seen on the grounds. There was no eagle activity at the nest but we did find Cuvier’s (White-throated) Toucan and Spix’s Guan. Along the trail we found Striated Antbird. It was 8:30 and finally time to check out of the Floresta Amazonica Hotel and head for the Rio Teles Pires making a couple stops en route.

The most important stop was at a Mauritia Palm Swamp where we needed to pick up the four birds tied closely to these trees. Two of these species are more wide ranging and use the palms for nesting the Fork-tailed Palm Swift and Red-bellied Macaws. We had seen these down at the fish ponds the night before. The other two not only use the palms for nesting but aren’t really found foraging away from them. The first bird we tackled was Point-tailed Palmcreeper. A pair of these called as we walked up to the grove and performed wonderfully for us. For me it more than made up for a less than completely satisfactory first look at this species that I had a Sacha Lodge in Ecuador 2 years ago.

Mauritia Palms

The second species, Sulphury Flycatcher, took some coaxing into view. In fact, we had to try for them along the road at the bridge and fortunately it too eventually cooperated. All the time Short-tailed Hawks and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures soared overhead. A bit further down this road we made a stop for some forest species and found Black-faced Dacnis and White-shouldered Tanager. At 12:30 we boarded the boats for our ride to the Cristalino Jungle Lodge (CJL).

You first have to cross the Rio Teles Pires to get to the mouth of the Rio Cristalino and then it is a 20+ minute ride to the CJL if you don’t stop. Staff from CJL loaded our bags onto one boat that went ahead of us and we loaded into a second boat. Before heading to the Rio Cristalino we made a detour to Ariosto Island to check out the few birds that were on the sandy beach. These turned out to be a pair of Yellow-billed Terns and a pair of Pied Lapwings. It was a good detour to make. We then made our way to our home for the next 5 plus days. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a group of Dusky-billed Parrolets and a staff member with a glass of papaya juice. We then more or less “quickly” found our rooms as there was some juggling of the final room assignments as often happens but nothing at all serious. We then had lunch and took a short break to settle into our rooms before taking an afternoon bird walk.

Yellow-billed Terns

Facilities at CJL consist of a series of bungalows with modern bathrooms, a library/meeting room, dining area and bar. The food was plentiful and outstanding. There are a series of trails radiating out from the lodge and along the river which you reach by motorized canoe. There are two canopy towers (including one only 3 months old) from which we spent our time searching for the areas specialties.

"puddling" butterflies at the boat dock

After a brief siesta we went for a walk on the Bamboo Trial from 14:25 to 17:30. Being warm and a densely forested trail it was kind of quiet but we did manage to find some good birds including a couple of tough foliage-gleaners. First we came upon Crested or Dusky-cheeked Foliage and then within the same section of trail (or so it seemed) we found Rufous-Tailed Foliage-gleaner. It seems we started with two of the rarer and more difficult to find and see foliage-gleaners so we were off to a good start at CJL. We then heard a couple of “good” birds but couldn’t coax them into view although we did manage to get Curve-billed Scythebill and Chestnut-tailed Antbird to come into view. We also were able to find a window in the vegetation to view a Black-tailed Trogon. The trogon was happy to answer our calls but wasn’t moving for anything!

When we emerged back into the bungalow’s clearing a troop of Brown Capuchin Monkeys were moving through the treetops and a Red-Throated Piping-Guan was seen following then. We met in the library for a round of Caipirinhas while we completed the day’s checklist before dinner. Night at the CJL.

22-June-11 – After having breakfast at 5:00, we were off at 5:30 to cross the Rio Cristalino and hike into the new tower to be there as dawn broke over the forest canopy. Both of the towers are 50 meters high. This one has the canopy a bit closer to it and is supposedly a bit roomier if that is possible. There were lots of birds calling as we made a beeline to the tower. Firstly, there wasn’t enough light to see yet and we were on a mission to get to the tower to catch that first activity of the day. After about 20 minutes we were at the base of the tower and up we started. Now 50 meters isn’t all that high, unless you are uncomfortable with heights or open spaces but it is 220+ steps to the top and we were all feeling it by the time we got there. No, I didn’t count them but I learn this little piece of knowledge when we had our orientation talk a couple nights later by Dona Vitoria, the life’s soul and guiding light of the Cristalino Foundation and one heck of a lady!

Curl-crested Aracari

The view from the top was spectacular and even though the birding started off slowly once things got rolling, it was worth every step. We had Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas, Kawall’s Parrots (unknown to science less than 20 years ago), Brown-banded and White-necked Puffbirds, White-bellied Parrots, Scarlet and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Black-girdled Barbets, Curl-crested Aracari, Short-billed and Purple Honeycreepers, Masked and Dotted Tanagers. Although our look at the Dotted Tanager was backlight at best, Bret got a really good recording to document this first record of this species at CJL. Given that this tower was just opened to visitors 3 months ago providing the first canopy access to this portion of the forest, it won’t be surprising that other new records follow with more visitors. We also had Opal-rumped and Bay-headed Tanagers here. We stayed on the top deck of the tower for about 90 minutes and then went down to the next observation platform for an additional 60 minutes before returning to the forest floor around 9:00.

From 9:00-11:30 we walked the trails on the left bank of the Rio Cristalino. Because rivers in Amazonia twist and turn so much the convention of left/right depending on which side of the river you are on if you are facing going downstream is used rather than east/west. Even though the day was warming up we still had lots of activity as we walked the trail. We had Gray and Spix’s Warbling Antbirds, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Turquoise Tanager, Chestnut Woodpecker and Red-headed Manakin.

We returned to the lodge for lunch and a brief break in the day to avoid the mid-day heat before taking a late afternoon river ride. The Rio Cristalino is a modest sized river and our canoe required a small outboard motor to move our group of 12 around. Although there were almost always Swallowwing Puffbirds, White-banded, White-winged and Southern Rough-winged Swallows around as well as Ringed, Green and Amazon Kingfishers on the river, the boat we travelled in was big enough that you could be in the wrong seat to get a good look at the occasional Sunbittern, or Tiger-heron that we would scare up. Fortunately, these were actually common so if you missed a cracking good look on our morning trip, you were bound to get one in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be said for the only really good looks we had at Green and Rufous Kingfisher. But as was said more than once, you’ll see it on the next trip. It was difficult to believe that the Pantanal was supposed to be the kingfisher place on this trip, as we already were doing so well with them. We continued to have a great parrot show with macaws and more White-bellied Parrots. As we were returning to the lodge, three Red-Fan Parrots came to roost in a tree along the bank of the river. We also pulled in Amazonian-streaked Antwren when we pulled into a little slack water area to investigate what had been an old jaguar kill. This was some first day at CJL, what would the rest of our stay be like?

Along the banks of the river, long-legged waders had been represented by a few Striated, numerous Capped and a single Rufescent Tiger-Heron. There had been one series of rapids that we had to get out of the boat and cross on land. Here we had Brown Jacamar (Our third jacamar for the day. We had Paradise from the tower and Great on the trail in the morning), Glossy Antshrike, Red-capped Cardinal and Red-throated Caracara. All in all it was a fantastic day with two of my absolute favourite tropical birding experiences, a canopy tower and birding along a river by canoe or boat.

Croesus Metalmark
Semomesia croesus

The day ended up having us out on the river well past sunset and our guide did what can only be described as an amazing job of navigating by stars and moonlight. By flashlight we found Sunbittern, Long-tailed Potoo, Ladder-tailed Nighthawk and Paraguayan Caimans. We arrived at the boat landing at 18:30, met 45 minutes later to go over our checklist for the day and had dinner at 19:30. Night at the CJL.

23-June-11 – Breakfast was at 5:30 as we wanted to get a prompt departure up river for the Brazil Nut (Castanheira) Tree Trail and it was a good ride up river if you didn’t stop. We did slow down for some roosting Black Caracara and there were of course Green Ibis, Anhinga, and the usual assortment of swallows, kingfishers and herons to be found roosting everywhere. However, the star of the boat ride and the strong early contender for “bird of the day” was the Brazilian Tapir we found swimming across the river. This guy was two thirds of the way to the right bank so it kept going and then searched for a place to scramble up the bank. However where it ran into us the banks were too steep so we got to follow it for several hundred feet until in found a shallow bank and could scramble up the bank and into the rain forest. Whatever else followed was going to be icing on the cake and since it was Lynn’s birthday, I anticipated a birthday cake at dinner.

Brazilian Tapir

We then found a sleepy Capybara on the bank and we discovered the cause of the stench in the tangle the day before a decaying Anaconda was floating in the river.

Finally at 6:40 we reached the trail head and began our hike. We found Crimson-bellied parakeets, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Blue-cheeked Jacamar (our 5th jacamar of the tour) Cinereous Antshrike, Chestnut-belted Gnateaters (gnateaters are great little birds). Bret then worked his pygmy-owl magic again and this time, called in a real Amazonian Pygmy-owl. Well that little guy was mobbed by lots of birds and in a good spot to see them, now what are the odds of that happening in some very pristine and dense rain forest. Anyway we had Bay-headed Tanager, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, Black-eared Fairy, Fasciated Antshrike, Tooth-billed Wren, Flame-crested Tanagers and White-winged Shrike-Tanager in the mob. This walk also produced Musician Wren.

Group Photo: front row (kneeling): Bret Whitney & Marcelo Prena Padua
back row: Don Ware, Suellen Balestra, Marianne Walsh, Carol Ware, Mike Walsh, Sam Febba, Lynn Jackson, Judy McBay and Martin Selzer
(missing: Barbara Ann Bennett)

At 10:30 we had made it back to our boat and went down river to Kawall’s Trail with a short stop for Sunbittern and Bronzy Jacamar (our 6th and final jacamar for the trip). This trail is known for a lek of Flame-crested Manakins and we found a male of these striking birds. Lunch was back at the lodge per our routine and then we headed out to Teles Pires River and Ariosto Island for the afternoon. As we were going down river we encountered a Southern River Otter. Before landing on Ariosto Island we landed on one of the smaller islands in the river and found Amazonian Tyrannulet and nesting Ladder-tailed Nightjars. Ariosto Island used to be a private retreat for Dona Vitoria and her family and now is used for educational purposes by the CJL Foundation. On the island we found Band-tailed Antbird and Buff-breasted Wren. We made a try for Cryptic Forest-Falcon and Dot-backed antbird. We got the antbirds but the myth that field trip leaders try to maintain that forest-falcons exist persisted yet another day. It was a great day and we did indeed have a chocolate birthday cake for dessert in honour of Lynn. Night at the CJL.

24-June-11 – Today we would be going up to the ridge that we could see from the tower the first morning so breakfast was at 5:00 and we were at the boat landing at 5:30 for a short (15 minute ride) to the trail head of the Serrah Tail. This would get us again above the forest floor and out to some rocky out croppings. In some ways it would be like that first morning were we would be at the canopy level and in others we would be in slightly different vegetation because of the substrate in which the plants grew. In all we spent about 5 hours on this trail and got some nice birds for the trip including Rufous Casiornis, Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher, Spotted and Striolated Puffbirds (the extended puffbird list would hit 13 for the group by tour’s end). We had good hummingbirds up on one of the rocky outcroppings to including White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat and Rufous-Throated Sapphire. Also up top we had a chance to look at Pale-rumped and Amazonian Swifts and we got better looks at Blue Ground Dove.

Working our way down the Serrah trail we picked up Golden-crowned Warbler, Gray and White-fringed Antwrens, Natterer’s Antshrike, and Scaled-backed Antbird (This subspecies will soon be named the Xingu Antbird as the paper separating it has already been written and published. Now the SACC needs to accept the recommendation. But then it is “your checklist pal”). We also kinda/sorta saw White-crested Spadebill. I state it that way because spadebills are tiny little, hype-active birds that don’t sit still for long and perch in the understory so they are tough.

Poison Dart Frog sp.
We got back to the boat and then took a walk on the Cacao Trail to look for the local ground-cuckoo which one of the local guides had heard here the day before. We didn’t find it but it was worth the chance. This bird isn’t really well known and it is probably an undescribed species from the way the guides talked about it. Neither of them had ever seen it and only heard it once or twice. Ground-cuckoos are notoriously skittish. We were back at the lodge by 11:30 in time for a refreshing shower before lunch.

After lunch and a brief siesta we were going to go back to the new tower trail because there was an active ant swarm reported there that morning. So at 14:30 we met back at the boat launch. The guide who found the ant swarm had left a clear mark on the trail which we found. There was some activity there but for the most part it had died down. In fact when we found the ants it appeared that they were already bivouacking. Bret did hear Bare-eyed Antbird (really rare) and White-eyed Fire-eye along with lots of woodcreepers. So we gave it the old college-try with a primary focus on the antbird, fire-eye and woodcreepers in that order. It was not for the lack of trying but without an active act swarm to hold its interest, we just couldn’t pull the antbird into view. You learn that some antbirds are really tied to army ants while others aren’t and Bare-eyed Antbird is one of those that you need a good ant swarm to see. The fire-eyes on the other hand while linked to army ants don’t appear to be as critically linked to a marauding swarm so we still had a few of them active at the receding edges of this swarm (i.e. fleeting, not so wonderful looks).

Tropical Buckeye
Junonia evarete

We then turned our attention to woodcreepers. For some reason I had not been having much luck catching up with woodcreepers on this trip up till now. I’m not sure if I hadn’t been concentrating on them or if it was just bad luck but this afternoon I was determined to change my luck. This afternoon we found Spot-throated, White-chinned, Uniform (Red-billed) and Black-banded Woodcreepers. Dusky-billed still remained a mystery bird this trip but they were constantly calling so it was only a matter of time before one finally perched in view.

The last bird we chased as twilight descended was a Spotted Antpitta. One was calling in the vicinity of the tower. Now it was a matter for the group to quietly walk into the forest and get close enough to this tennis ball-sized bundle of feathers to see it. We got within 25 meters, and then it got quiet. We moved closer and it started to call again. Sam saw it but before anyone else got find it, it darted off into the forest never to be seen again. Antpittas are like that unless you are in Ecuador where they have learned to take food from people. As we landed the boat, three Bare-faced Curassows were walking along the beach. We knew there were several that could be seen walking amongst the buildings at CJL and this was the first time we had viewed them. Before dinner we were treated to an orientation video by Dona Vitoria and when we arrived back in Alta Floresta we were all given a copy to share with our friends back home. The video tells all about the lodge, her foundation and the work she is doing to save the forest around CJL. Night at the CJL.
25-June-11 – We had breakfast at 5:30 with a 6:00 departure up river to the Haffer Trail. The trail was named after Dr. Haffer who developed a theory of secondary contact as it relates to speciation. The nutshell version of this theory has to do with how species separated by a significant event for 10,000s of years interactive when they come in contact again and occupy similar habitats. South America has numerous examples of this thanks to the Andes and the tremendous changes in water levels of the Amazon Basin thanks to changes in ocean level resulting in the flooding of the region for centuries. The huge species difference on the east/west slopes of the Andes and either side of the Amazon and Madeira Rivers demonstrate this theory in action.

Breakfast with a Bat Falcon

Our boat ride took about 40 minutes with a nice stop to watch a Bat Falcon devour a foliage-gleaner type of bird. Bret seemed to think it might have been a hookbill (not sure if this was true or he was busting Michaels’ chops as it would have been a life bird and we never found one). Bret was going to confirm that once he checked out his video on his HD-TV at home. The trip up river also yielded Silvered Antbird and the usual escorts of swallows, kingfishers and herons. We never were without birds when we were on the river and no matter how many times I saw them I just marvel at the elegance of White-banded Swallows.

This trail as many at CJL was narrow and densely forested so it was difficult forest birding with a group of 10 even with two excellent leaders but we still managed to find some wonderful birds along the bamboo thickets that are particular to this trail. Key targets along this trail were Manu Antshrike, Gould’s Toucanet, White-browed Antbird (one of my personal favourites from my trip to Carajas), Rufous-winged, Ornate and Plain-throated Antwrens, Versicoloured Emerald, Short-billed Leaftosser, Speckled Spinetail, White-fronted Nunbird and Rufous-capped Nunlet (yes two more members of the puffbird family). While this is a great list of birds, not everyone saw all of them or saw all of them well. We also found Grayish Mourner, Long-billed Gnatwren and Wing-barred Piprites.

Zunilda Emperor
Doxacopa zunilda

On the boat ride back to the lodge we had a pair of Sunbitterns put on a wonderful show for us on one of the many rocky islets in the river and numerous turtles were out sunning themselves. After lunch we were all set to go for another walk along the Bamboo trail when it started to rain. We had just left our bungalows, so rather than walk the trail in the rain; we waited out the shower on the porch of one of the “deluxe” bungalows. The shower passed in 30 minutes and we then proceeded with our walk. So even if this entire adventure seems a bit out of the ordinary to some of my friends and family for a vacation, would someone please let my mother know “I do know enough to come in out of the rain”. The other bonus of the rain was that it might make the temperature in the Pantanal more bearable when we get there in a couple days as it signalled a cold front passing.

This afternoon all it did was pretty much quiet everything down. It turned into a clean-up walk for me with the best looks at a pair of Rose-breasted Chat for me and yes, Dusky-billed and Elegant Woodcreepers. One thing I’ve learned after 10 years of going to the tropics is sooner or later you’ll catch up with these birds, so be patient. Then while hunting for Dark-winged Trumpeters (think next trip), Marcelo says, I’ve had Cryptic Forest-falcon along this trail, let’s see if one is in the area. Well don’t you know one answered and then Jorge, our local guide found it and then the darn thing came into view. I mean we are talking about a stinking forest-falcon. Things like that aren’t supposed to happen, they are one of those families of birds that tour leaders tease you with the hope and promise of seeing but you just never see. Anyway, this bird sat still long enough for us to get 2 looks each in the telescope as well as ample opportunity to study with our bins. First, I see a Barred Forest-falcon in Bolivia last September now this guy. Am I going to have to change my mind about the existence of forest-falcons?

It was a festive round of caipirinhas at 18:30 before dinner. After dinner, Dona Vitoria showed us two videos. One was on the Harpy Eagle nest behind the Floresta Amazonica Hotel in Alta Floresta and the other one was on hummingbirds of Southeast Brazil. The Night at the CJL.

26-June-11 – Breakfast was at 5:00 and we walked out to the old tower. Before heading there we tried for both Crested and Black-banded Owls behind the guide’s dormitory because Bret had heard them calling in the middle of the night. Needless to say we dipped out on them but we would try again tomorrow at a more appropriate (earlier) hour. The walk to the tower took somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes. On the way we scared a couple Collared Peccaries off the trail. The old tower is as tall as the new tower and it the steps are narrower as promised. From the top we were treated to great views of White-whiskered Spider Monkeys and Brown Capuchins in between our bird observations. There were small groups of tanagers included Black-faced and Blue Dacnis, Red-billed Pied, Opal-rumped, Paradise and Turquoise Tanagers. We had another small group of Curl-crested Toucanets and up close White-bellied Parrots who were accompanied by Slender-footed Tyrannulets (you can’t forget tyrannulets now can you?). There were also a couple Spix’s Guans in a nearby tree and a series of fly-by Kawall’s and Blue-headed Parrots, perched White-bellied Parrots, Scarlet, Red and Green and Blue and Yellow Macaws.

White-whiskered Spider Monkey

Brown Capuchin

White-bellied Parrot

At 8:00 we headed down to walk the trail back to the bungalows. Along the trail we picked up a few birds like Rufous-tailed Flatbill, Slate-coloured Grosbeak, and White-faced Nunbird. We tried for a Rufous-faced Antbird and another Spotted Antpitta but neither of these species wanted to play today. There was also a Lawrence’s Thrush that was singing its full repertoire of calls (they are renowned mimics) but it too played hard to get. We did track down a Snow-capped Manakin (thanks to a great find by Maryanne). When we got back to the bungalows half the group made a quick trip down the Bamboo trail and found Red-Stained and Chestnut Woodpeckers. The rest of the group opted for a refreshing pre-lunch showers as it was one of the warmer mornings of the trip. After lunch we would be going back up river to the Brazil Nut Tree Trail for one last visit there.

Our boat trip up river was enlivened by a Southern River Otter that stayed with us for a good 5 minutes. This guy got in and out of the water a couple times as if to make sure we all had plenty of opportunity to get good pictures.

Southern River Otter NOT peeing in the pool.

On the trail we finally caught up with Long-winged Antwren which had been uncooperative until this point in the trip. This subspecies (paraensis) is found below the Madeira and the split will be listed in the next series of updates to Clements. Since it is the only Long-winged Antwren I have seen, it doesn’t matter YET! We also found Thrush-like Schiffornis, a pair of gorgeous Red-necked Woodpeckers, Black-throated Trogon and the 13th puffbird of the tour, Rufous-necked Puffbird. The pair of these puffbirds responded to the tapes and came in but was tricky to see and it wasn’t until Marcelo asked me if I saw the dead leaves hanging about 10 meters in front where his laser pointer was on the left-handed dead leaf. Well it turned out the middle dead leaf was one of the puffbirds. Holy crap, these birds sit so still that if you didn’t see it fly in you might never have seen it. Once you knew that the middle dead leaf was the bird, it was a piece of cake but until then you were in serious trouble. On the river during our return trip, we had the Black Caracaras in the usual roost, a immature Great Black Hawk, a Snail Kite (which was very much a surprise on the Rio Cristalino) and finally as darkness was falling Razor-billed Curassows. The great thing besides seeing them was you could hear them as they huffed away into the forest. We also pulled out Short-tailed Nighthawks in the twilight as we headed back to CJL to clean up for happy hour and dinner. Night at the CJL.

27- June-11 – We tried for the owls this morning behind the guide’s quarters and the kitchens from 4:30 till 5:30 when we went to breakfast. After breakfast we then had to put our bags out so the staff could help get them to the boat landing because today we were leaving first thing to get back on the boats and head back to Alta Floresta. The Bare-faced Curassows were walking around the grounds outside the kitchen as we left as if to say good-bye.

female Bare-faced Curassow

Our bus was right on time to meet us once we crossed the river and this was not as good a thing as you would have thought because it ran into a wasp nest that was in a tree hanging over the road. Needless to say that upset the wasps and a couple people got stung before we could put some distance between us and the nest. We managed to load up the bags and drive passed the nest without repeating the incident. Once clear of the nest we did bird along the road at a couple of spots. One of the better finds of the morning was a baby Common Pauraque that our bus driver found in the road while we were birding. We also found a family group of Bar-breasted Piculets, Chestnut-backed, Plain-winged and Amazonian Antshrikes, Pygmy Antwren, Slaty-capped Shrike-vireo, and a flock of Palm, Paradise and Turquoise Tanagers in our brief time before we had to continue along the road to Alta Foresta.

Lunch was at the Floresta Amazonica Hotel and then we were off to the airport to catch our flight to Cuiaba. The flight was delayed by about an hour but once we landed we quickly found our driver and our bus and started our Pantanal adventure on the Tranpantaneira Highway. Because we landed late it was rush hour as we left town and we actually were in traffic for the first time in a long while. It was rather strange after all that time at CJL and being the only people there. We made a stop at a petrol station to top off the tank and had Nacunda Nighthawks feeding in the lights of the service area. Our destination this day was Pousada Piuval where we would spend the night. We pretty much arrived there as the sun was setting so we didn’t see much although we did chase a lot of caiman and capybara off the road and we did have the first crab-eating fox of the trip

The Pantanal covers areas of Mato Grosso and Mato Gross do Sul in Brazil,and adjacent Bolivia and northern Paraguay with the Rio Paraguay basin. The Pantanal has a pronounced dry season from April to October but otherwise it is seasonally inundated during the rainy season. Its habitats vary from semideciduous and evergreen forests to well-drained savannas to palm woodlands to permanent marshs and seasonally flooded grasslands. This variety of habitats creates a spectacular opportunity for diversity and concencetrations of wildlife during the dry season.

28-June-11 - Breakfast was at 6:00 and we would then be taking a boat trip out on the shallow lake that is on the property at Pousada Piouval in the morning. We would then have lunch there before we continued our journey south to Pouso Alegre where we would spend the next night.

The marsh behind the lodge was loaded with birds and pulling yourself away from scanning it into breakfast was difficult. There were Buff-necked, Plumbeous, and Bare-faced Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets, Whistling and Cocoi Herons, Savanna Hawks, Snail Kites, Southern Screamers, and the corral behind the lodge had Bay-winged Cowbirds. As we left, Vermillion Flycatchers and Cattle Tyrants were noted along the entrance road and a pair of Red-legged Seriema was seen out in the pasture. We soon came across a couple Greater Rhea, Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Gray-necked Wood-rails, Red-Capped Cardinals, Limpkins and we hadn’t gotten near the boat launch yet.

Greater Rhea

Our boat trip was wonderful. The lake was calm and the day was gorgeous. Although we stayed together on the lake, we split the group in half into 2 smaller boats than we had been travelling on the Rio Cristalino as this was a very shallow lake. First we would be checking the reedy edges for Least Bittern and then landing at a board walk and going to an observation platform to enjoy the nesting colony of egrets and Wood Storks.

We eventually found several Least Bitterns, all the herons one could expect to see, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, and Yellow-chinned Spinetail. Having found the birds of the reedy edges, it was time to go to the boardwalk where it seemed like we found every Limpkin in the world, a couple Black-collared Hawks, Roseate Spoonbills, the first Jabiru of the trip, Great Antshrike, Unicoloured Blackbirds, White-lored Spine-tail, Gray-crested Cacholote, a White-tailed Goldenthroat, and Glittering-throated Emerald.

From the tower we noticed a Marsh Deer walking amongst the cattle, a flock of South American Black Skimmer, Black-capped Donacobius, Monk Parakeets, and I found an American Pygmy Kingfisher that some but not everyone was able to see. Somehow, that bird stay in an area that allowed about half the group to find. If it hadn’t been near the Donacobius, nobody else would have seen it. We also had a pair of Mato Grosso Antbirds at the base of the tower.

After the boat trip we birded the road back to the lodge making a couple stops in the wooded section. We did get Black-bellied Antwren here, Planalto Slaty-Antshrike and Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant in this stretch of road. We also stumbled across several Chestnut-bellied Guans before heading back for lunch as it was about 12:45. It was close to 14:00 when we loaded up the bus and made the move south towards Pouso Alegre.

What was amazing along the highway was the number of egrets, herons, Snail Kites and caiman to be seen everywhere. You couldn’t help but take notice of the abundance of them and consider the number of fish, amphibians and other food sources that must exist to feed them. Along the road we found Chaco Chachalaca, Scaled Doves and Picui Ground-dove at our rest stop. We made one stop for birds and what one minute was “one of them there birdless places” soon had Yellow-collared Macaws and Olivaveous Woodcreeper, Long-winged Antwren, Forest and Gray Elaenia, Purplish Jay, Tropical Parula, White-bellied and Flavescent Warblers, and Hooded, Guira, White-lined, Silver-beaked and Palm Tanagers.

We arrived at the entrance gate to Pouso Alegre around 17:00 and slowly drove the 7km into the lodge watching for animals. We made one attempt for Pale-crested Woodpecker and ended up with Cream-colored Woodpecker. We found lots of Capybara and a Coati Mundi before finally arriving at the lodge around 17:50. We had dinner about an hour later and went back out for some night spotting. We found a Common Potoo and a Crab-eating Raccoon tonight in addition to all the Capybara and Caiman. Night at the Pousada Pouso Alegre.

29-June-11 – Breakfast was supposed to be at 6:00 but it was a bit delayed so we birded the grounds while waiting for everything to be ready. Since there were Hyacinth Macaws, Monk Parakeets, Rufous Horneras, Cattle Tyrants, Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, Shiny and Bay-winged Cowbirds around so it wasn’t difficult to kill the 30 minutes it took for breakfast to be ready. We then walked the road to see the Great Horned Owl nest that was just a few hundred meters away from the cabins. Along the way we picked up a Red-billed Scythebill, Vermillion Flycatcher, and White Woodpeckers chasing Great Rufous Woodcreeper, more Hyacinth Macaws, Plumbeous Ibis and finally the owls. We then walked back to the cabins and got on the bus to ride back out the entrance road in search of Long-tailed Doves. This Pousada is a really good place to search for them and your best bet is to slowly drive the ride and search for them feeding in the edges of the road. During our search we found Golden-green Woodpecker, Great and Barred Antshrike. In the marshy areas we had both White-headed Marsh-tyrant and Black-backed Water-tyrant, Great and Lesser Kiskadee and most of the long-legged waders we have been seeing all along since arriving in the Pantanal. We returned to the gate to search for Pale-crested Woodpecker and had to try a couple areas before we finally found a pair of these Celeus woodpeckers. We were pretty sure we even found a nest hole and I was pretty sure I had found a strong contender for one of my favourite birds of the trip. Having gotten the three primary targets of the morning (scythebill, dove and woodpecker) it was time to return to Pousada for lunch and the rooms to pack. After lunch we would be heading south yet again to the “end of the road” at Porto Jofre. We will be spending tonight and tomorrow night here before retracing our steps, on the Transpantaneira Highway.

Hyacinth Macaws

We did make a couple birding stops to stretch our legs and we also had to stop twice for cattle drives that we encountered. While cars and trucks can find room to pass each other on the highway it was courtesy to stop for the cattle so we wouldn’t scare them. We also gave the one group of cowboys a round of cold drinks from the cooler as it is a hot and dusty job that they have. We had 100s and 100s of herons and egrets and every little pool seemed to have its own Jabiru. There were Striated Herons flying out of every tree we passed and we passed a lot of trees. The same could be said for Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers. If we had commented that this was a tough place for a fish to make a living the day before, it wasn’t getting any easier along this stretch of road. We made special stops for Scarlet-breasted Blackbirds, Chotoy Spinetail, Green-backed Becard and one of the stars of the day, Helmeted Manakin. We also got to watch 100s and 100s of Snail Kites come into roost at dusk. I never knew that they roosted communally and in the Pantanal that is a quite impressive sight. Night at the Hotel Porto Jofre.

30-June-11 - After having breakfast at 6:30, we went to go birding along the Rio Cuiaba and search for Giant River Otter and Jaguar. The river separates Mato Grosso from Mato Grosso do Sol. Prior to going to breakfast we had gone down to the river and enjoyed the sunrise. While there I spoke to a family who had been out for the previous 2 days without having seen a jaguar. At breakfast, Bret was incredibly optimistic our chances of seeing a jaguar today. The plan was to look for a jaguar sunny itself on a bank. Bret was optimistic because of the “cold” front that has passed through that would entice the cats to lounge on the river banks more than hot steamy weather would. Think of a nice spring morning in early May in the Delaware Valley (he also had known of a couple sightings from the day before but didn’t let on to that information until dinner time).

So we set off and continued to marvel and the number of Rufescent Tiger-herons, Striated Herons, Wood Storks and Ringed Kingfishers everywhere along all the waterways we went. At one of the first sandbars we came to we found a good sized group of South American Black Skimmers, Pied Lapwings, a Collared Plover, Large-billed and Yellow-billed terns. We would find lots of skimmers along the river today. We pulled along the shore and found a nice group of immature Boat-billed Herons, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Orange-headed Tanagers, and Band-tailed Antbirds. We also came across a group of a dozen Blue-throated Piping Guans who had to cross the river. We sat and watched as one by one they made the crossing. It seemed to be the morning rush hour for Piping Guans.

A family of Giant River Otter

We then went up a side channel which was the Rio Piquiri looking for Giant River Otter and found a group of 4. Initially we found the otters around a fallen tree and we were able to drift into the bank and got up close and personal with them. They swam around the boat and submerged branches for some time before getting bored with us and swimming off to the other side of the river. This was great and another of the mammals I really wanted to see but still no jaguar. At some point we also went up the Rio Tres Irnaos` (Three Brothers) although I’m not exactly sure when this happened during the course of the morning. Once the otters lost interest in us we continued our way along the river, all the time our boatman had his radio on. He was listening to all the other people on the river looking for jaguar and waiting for a message that someone had found a jaguar. We weren’t alone out here in our quest.

Then the message finally came in that someone had a cat on a bank and off we went. Previously, our boatman had been relaxed, sitting back and watchful. Now he was standing, tense and had our 150 hp Yamaha outboard engine working. To use a phrase we were making “way good time”. Bret turned to me and said, “At this speed we aren’t going to see anything hiding in the vegetation, I hope he knows where he is going”. After about 5 minutes we rounded a bend in the river and found another boat anchored and knew we were in the right area but the cat had since moved off and was no longer in sight. We stayed there for 15 minutes and then went off in search of another one but the first boat stayed and would call if the “kitty” came back into view.

Sure enough, the cat wandered back into the sunlight and once again 150 hp was hurtling us along the Rio Cuiaba, in fact we left a couple of other boats in our wake. We again found our friend who called us along with 3 other boats and this time the Jaguar. We watched him for 15+ minutes. WOW, although our checklist had over 660 species of birds this was the one animal more than any other I really wanted to see and to be able to watch one for an extended period of time, well it was the absolute highlight of the trip!


The guide who called all the others and found this cat, claims the best strategy is once you find one is to stay in the area even if they walk back into the vegetation because the odds are they will return to the river’s edge sooner or later. So just anchor up in the shade and wait. They are curious animals and not afraid of humans so if you are patient; you will be rewarded. Everyone in our group decided this was the best use of CB radios and outboard motors any of us could ever think of.

After lunch and a brief rest we went out birding again at 14:30 and as phenomenal as the morning was the afternoon gave it a run for its money. We would be birding the section of the Transpantaneira Highway just north of Porto Jofre that Marcelo called Campos Do Jofre up to an abandoned research station, the Old Idama Biological Station. We would stop at a couple of patches along the way specifically looking for Subtropical Doradito. This is a bird that breeds in the Andes between 9000-11000 feet in wet, marshy areas and this stretch of the Transpantaneira seems to be a wintering area. It also is more easily accessed than the bird’s breeding grounds. Our other target for the afternoon will be Cinereous-breasted Spinetail and any seedeaters in the area. Well given the success rate we’d been having don’t you know we found 2 or 3 Subtropical Doraditos, a couple Cinereous-breasted Spinetails and had great looks at Blue-fronted Parakeets. We tried again for Fawn-breasted Wren but dipped out on them but did pull in more White-lored Spinetails, Silver-beaked Tanagers and Moustached Wrens.

Nacunda Nighthawk
Great Black Hawk

We finally made it to the Idama Station at dusk. From the main road discerning ears could hear Collared Forest-falcons and Undulated Tinamous. Now the cynical tour participant (and there was more than one on this tour when it came to these species) would say show me. Since we were losing light we made our way into the station grounds and don’t you know there was an Undulated Tinamou walking around. How about that? We all managed to see it before it walked off into cover. We then went to work on the forest-falcon. Sure enough we teased that guy into view. It was a buffy-coloured individual. While waiting for this guy to come into view, Carol found a Great Potoo perched overhead and we had a wonderful woodpecker show with Pale-crested, Crimson-crested and numerous Little Woodpeckers feeding actively in the last light of the day. There also was a Plumbeous Ibis proclaiming this patch his own.

We returned to the bus to toast our day’s successes. The guys had brought two bottles of wine with us. So we toasted the jaguar and the excellent afternoon of birding while doing the checklist on the bus before driving back to Porto Jofre. It was a memorable day. How else to you describe a couple hours birding in which you see Subtropical Doradito, Cinereous-breasted Spinetail Undulated Tinamou, Great Potoo while calling in a Collared Forest-Falcon (yes Virginia Forest-Falcons are not mythical creatures) and top it all off with a glass of wine while doing your checklist. On the way back we had a couple Crab-eating Foxes, a Marine Toad and Anaconda on the road. Night once again at the Hotel Porto Jofre.

Bret and Marcelo celebrate a great day

01-July-11 - After having breakfast at 6:30, we began the drive north and experienced the southern end of the Transpantaneira Highway at dawn. Our goal was to reach Pousada Curicaca (the Buff-necked Inn) by late afternoon. We will be spending the night there.

We went birding in the wetlands behind the rooms at Hotel Jofre after breakfast while people were gathering their things and putting them on the bus. Here we found a small group of Nacunda Nighthawks, Southern Lapwings, a pair of Southern Screamers perched in the top of the largest tree in the area, Vermillion Flycatchers, Tropical Kingbirds, Wattled Jacana, and a surprise migrant for the area, a Gray Monjita.

After about 30 minutes we were back on the bus and heading north. Our first stop was just outside the gates of the hotel for the elusive but soon to be ticked by everyone Fawn-breasted Wren. Of course this required a bit of dust-dodging along the Transpantaneira Highway but once that inconvenience was dealt with we got the wren along with one of the snazziest looking Toco Toucans we had seen on the trip, a couple Chestnut-eared Aracari and a White-wedged Piculet.

We tried an “old reliable’ spot for an American Pygmy Kingfisher. This proved that the kingfisher was home but also that these little devils are not the most cooperative birds in the world as it dashed by a couple times at warp speed. We did manage a second look at a pair of Mato Grosso Antbirds here so something good came of the stop. A bit further along we also got 2nd looks at Subtropical Doradito and the other species of bird that apparently winters here, Bearded Tachuri. This was the 2nd straight year for this bird in this area of the highway on this tour.


We continued down the highway and as luck would have it, Bret’s Ferruginous Pygmy-owl call continued to work its magic and another phenomenal flock of birds materialized out of a birdless void. It all started with a Large Elaenia which quickly appeared and disappeared. Then in no particular order or significance the following joined the fray: Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Masked Gnatcatcher, Vermillion Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-lored Spinetail, Little Woodpecker, White-wedged Piculet, and Barred Antshrike. It was another one of those flocks in which it was every birder for themselves; the activity was wonderful for a few minutes.

Our third stop of the morning was the old abandoned fisherman’s check station which produced Great Horned Owls on a nest, a roosting Common Pauraque, Common Tody Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and finally a look at Fuscous Flycatcher. We birded and had lunch at Pousada Rio Clara from 12:30-14:30 before heading on to Pousada Curicaca.

We arrived at the gate some time after 15:15 and driving down the entrance road enjoyed another display of the effects of a waterway concentrating wildlife. Either side of the roadway had caiman scurrying down the banks into the water. There were the usual assortment of herons and egrets all along the route. We had Green, Amazon and Ringed Kingfisher along the way as well, and it still was a pleasure to see them here on the next to last day of the tour. Near the end of the drive we had a lone Roseate Spoonbill which added a brilliant splash of colour to the mix. It was almost 15:30 when we arrived at the bungalows, which were built amongst the forest. The Pousada is unique in that they did not clear away the forest but rather built all the structures within it.

We met at 16:00 for a short walk which was notable for Purplish Jays mobbing a Collared Forest-falcon. Yes, two days in a row we got to see a Collared Forest-falcon and that means that we saw 3 forest-falcons on this tour. I guess I won’t be able to say I don’t see forest-falcons any more now. I still need to work on my issues with tinamous and hemisphingouses but clearly there is hope if I’ve been able to work through my forest-falcon issue. There is always the next trip. We also had a pair of Gray-headed Tanagers as we emerged from the trail. Caipirinhas, checklist and dinner was at 18:15. After which about half of us went owling. We called in a Tropical Screech-owl but did not succeed in calling in either a Spectacled or Mottled Owl even though we wandered around until 22:30. We did manage to find a caiman on the trail.

juvenile Rufescent Tiger-heron

02-July-11 - After having breakfast at 6:00, we birded around the Pousada Curicaca for a little less than an hour when we came to the realization that not much was happening due to arrival of yet another cold front so we packed and cleaned up and left around 8:15 for the trip home. That’s not to say there weren’t some birds around. There were at least 4 Great Rufous Woodcreepers on the tree outside of Bret and Marcelo’s room at first light and Bare-Face Curassows walking the grounds behind the dining hall.

juvenile Boat-billed Heron

On the ride out we had a great mix of waders to escort us on our way back to the Pantantaneira Highway. We then headed to Cuiaba with a stop on the way looking for Streamer-tailed Tyrant. We did not find the tyrant but we did find two Magauri Storks, a couple gorgeous Capped Herons, Whistling Herons and Savanna and Black-collared Hawks. We also had Scarlet-breasted and Uncoloured Blackbirds and Epaulet Oriole at our tyrantless spots. We stopped for lunch before checking in for our flight from Cuiaba to Sao Paolo.

In Sao Paolo we had to get new boarding passes for our flights home because we were transferring from Tam to other airlines, lucky us. The airport was a mad house as an apparently abnormally high number of people were leaving on their winter’s holiday today because the airport was insanely busy. We waited nearly 90 minutes in line to get our new boarding passes and were immediately offered $800 vouchers by the ticket agents when we got to them if we would fly the next day. We were also advised to proceed directly to the security line because it was moving slowly. Even though we had hours to catch our flight we heeded this advise and it took another 90 minutes to get through security. We then had our flight switch gates 3 times as flights were so backlogged. Ultimately we were delayed about an hour, which meant we’d have about 45 minutes once we landed in Miami to clear customs, gather our bags and make our transfer tomorrow to make our scheduled flight home.

03-July-11 – We landed and were at the gate in Miami about 45 minutes late. Of course we were about as far from customs as possible and had to take the elevated tram to get there. The only good thing was there wasn’t another person in line when we arrived. By the time we made it to the baggage transfer point, it was 5 minutes after boarding for our flight to Philadelphia was supposed to begin and before the baggage handler would not accept our bags, they looked at our boarding passes and very politely advised us to proceed to the “Re-booking Desk, as we would not be making the flight”. There wasn’t a line there and we quickly were placed on the 2:55 flight home. Since it was not quite 8:30AM, we now had nearly 6 hours to kill, so we went to the Top of the Flight Restaurant, relaxed and had Sunday Brunch.

From there it was just a matter of waiting for the flight. This flight took off and actually landed 20 minutes early and we finally got home around dinner time.

It was a wonderful trip. Close to 500 species of birds were seen and heard by the group, 80+ species of butterflies, a jaguar was seen for 15 minutes, a Brazilian Tapir was seen well, a group of 4 Giant River Otters was watched for 5 minutes, several Southern River Otters were seen, as were numerous other mammals in this wonderfully diverse collection of habitats that we visited.

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