Southeastern Brazil Part II Oct 14—24, 2008
Posted by Andrew Whittaker
Espírito Santo offered, as always, superb birding. Our new Fazenda hotel was excellent, with very birdy gardens and a breathtaking view of the magnificent Blue Rock. We began with a search for the Cherry-throated Tanager, an ultra-rare species that we had scored on 7 occasions out of 9 prior attempts. This time we were not so lucky. The region was in the midst of a severe drought, which dampened vocalization and the responsiveness of many species. Although we heard the tanager, it was unresponsive, and eluded us despite much effort. Given that the entire known population of this species consists of fewer than 20 birds, finding it is never a given, and to have enjoyed our previous level of success is truly remarkable.
While searching for the tanager, we encountered lots of other neat birds, among them some of the most sought-after Atlantic Forest endemics. Topping the list was the elegant and rarely seen Shrike-like Cotinga (or Elegant Mourner), followed by the bizarrely beautiful Swallow-tailed Cotinga (we even found two nests), multiple Sharpbills, Crescent-chested Puffbird, and the seldom seen Black-legged Dacnis. However, a very responsive Variegated Antpitta stole the show for many, followed by excellent studies of Brown Tinamou and a delightful Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. The area near the photogenic Blue Rock rewarded us with scope views of a perched Aplomado Falcon, as well as an excellent Red-legged Seriema, and a nearby marsh provided wonderfully responsive Ash-throated and Rufous-sided crakes. The mammals at Caetés gave the birds a run for their money, as we were treated to spectacular views of the endangered buffy-headed marmosets and a sleeping collared anteater.
The quaint town of Santa Teresa provided a hummingbird feeder extravaganza wherein one had to decide whether to ogle the whopping-big Swallow-tailed Hummingbird or the bee-sized Frilled Coquette. Nova Lombardia gave us my trip highlight (and voted top bird), an exquisite displaying male Pin-tailed Manakin that came into tape-playback within a few feet of us on multiple occasions! Other notable observations were tail-quivering Oustalet's Tyrannulets, singing Wied's Tyrant-Manakins, and spectacular Red-necked and Gilt-edged tanagers among many other highlights.
We finished with a visit to the lovely Linhares lodge and its huge forest reserve, again drier than we had ever seen it (is the weather normal anyplace anymore?), having not had a significant rain in over six months until two days before we arrived. We concluded our tour with a bang with exceptional views of a record-breaking 13 ultra-rare Red-billed Curassows and an up-close-and-personal Solitary Tinamou. Forested roads provided fine studies of flashy White-eared Parakeets, Blue-winged Macaws, Red-browed Parrots, tiny Minute Hermits, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Black-headed Berryeater, White-crowned Manakin, Yellow-backed Tanager, and many others. Dusk owling produced neat views of Tawny-browed Owl, Brazilian Pygmy-Owl, and Ocellated Poorwill. However, the highlight here was a flock of stunning endemic Ochre-marked Parakeets that displayed and allopreened at point-blank range in beautiful afternoon sun.
Along the way, we enjoyed numerous wonderful meals (including visits to multiple churrascarias), sinfully good icy caipirinhas, and loads of famously friendly Brazilian hospitality. All in all, a most congenial group of birders saw a bunch of really special birds, and had great fun in the process!
Favorite Birds of the Trip (as voted by the group)
1. Pin-tailed Manakin
2. Ochre-marked Parakeet
3. Variegated Antpitta
4. Red-billed Curassow
5. Elegant Mourner