Photo Galleries: Brazilian Highlights 2004 John A. Kaye

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Molly and I have participated in 11 VENT tours since 1996. Brazilian Highlights 2004 was one-half of our tenth trip. We very much enjoyed having Andy Whittaker leading us, as we had already traveled with him on two other tours.

We started the trip in Saõ Paolo where we were amazed to find a wide variety of birds right on the grounds of our hotel and the stretch of greenbelt running beside it. This was a fantastic way for us to ease into birding in Brazil, and it gave us a chance to warm up our birding senses.

And boy did we need them! For the next 15 days Andy had us driving and flying to some incredibly rich wildlife habitat in Central and Northern Brazil. We stayed in places with names like Piraquara, Serra do Graciosa, Belo Horizonte, Canastra National Park, and a host of others. The people were all friendly, the food was incredible and, of course, the birds and other wildlife were fantastic. Here are just a few of our favorite memories from the trip:

- A cloud of Magnificent Frigatebirds swooping by us, sometimes flying within 20 feet of us.

- A family of Brazilian Mergansers, some of the rarest of birds found in Brazil.

- A Campo Miner pair that landed in a clearing only a few seconds after a grass fire passed through. We left the van behind and spent the next 20 minutes watching in amazement as the male put on his acrobatic flight display for his companion. All of this took place within 50 feet of us in an area of smoldering grass and still-hot soil.

- Russet-winged Spadebill, a rare and low-density species that few tour groups get to see at all, let alone as well as we did.

- Displaying Streamer-tailed Tyrants hovering, soaring, swooping, wing-flapping, and generally ignoring us even though we were as close as 10 feet to them most of the time.

- Up close views of Maned Wolf, Black Ear-tufted Marmoset, Giant Anteater

I shot over 1,000 frames in the field, and probably missed twice as many in my excitement over studying some 340 species, many of them lifers for us. I finally managed to restrict myself to displaying only 21 of these. I hope you'll enjoy them.