Brazil: Alta Floresta's Cristalino Jungle Lodge Jun 29—Jul 09, 2009
Posted by Andrew Whittaker
"Here she comes!" We watched spellbound as the huge Harpy Eagle powered its way through the canopy before landing on the rim of its massive nest. The majestic predator closed its wings and proceeded to transfer a large opossum from its mighty talons to its four-month-old youngster. A flurry of excitement shot through the group as superb scope studies were secured, and camera shutters whirred as we all captured this special moment. Just seeing the world's most powerful raptor is a dream come true for any birder, but to observe one delivering prey to a nestling was truly special! We were even more privileged to witness the massive youngster's first flying lessons off the nest—what massive broad wings!
As usual, the comfortable Rio Cristalino Jungle Lodge provided us with multiple memorable birding moments, wonderful sunsets, clouds of colorful butterflies, and lots of primates. This year we were also treated to some superb-looking snakes, including a rainbow boa and a stunning black, white, and orange king snake. Throughout, our energy levels were maintained by routinely superb meals that featured a number of regional dishes and fresh-caught fish.
An early morning vigil from atop the wonderfully constructed canopy tower (donated by a VENT client) rewarded us with breathtaking views of the forest canopy, as well as colorful macaws and parrots at eye level, close encounters with Tooth-billed Wrens, dazzling male Spangled Cotingas, Ringed Woodpecker, singing Gould's Toucanet, and a group of the odd-looking Curl-crested Aracaris. We were even treated to a flock of six migrating Snail Kites passing silently over the canopy!
Forest trails produced a great army ant swarm attended by the highly wanted endemic Bare-faced Bare-Eye, the spectacular Black-spotted Bare-Eye, and the elusive White-chinned Woodcreeper. We scored well with puffbirds, including a lovely Rufous-necked Puffbird at point-blank range, an interesting juvenile Spotted Puffbird, and a very vocal Striolated Puffbird. We also managed to locate a stunning Flame-crested Manakin on his display perch. After a successful search for the bamboo-inhabiting Manu Antbird, we were confronted by a large group (30+) of the poorly-named white-nosed bearded saki monkeys, with their flaming-pink noses!
Relaxed afternoon boat trips on the Rio Cristalino were, as always, a high point of each day. Drifting motor-free down the black waters, as they mirrored the forested banks and the towering cumulus clouds overhead, was idyllic. Birding rewards were many: Razor-billed Curassow, coming down to drink; Red-throated Piping-Guan; a day-roosting Great Potoo; Crimson-bellied Parakeet (in full sun); Kawall's Parrot; exquisite Capped Herons; Sunbitterns; and two Amazonian Umbrellabirds. And who could forget the last-minute Pavonine Cuckoo in the spotlight, or the monster (6 m-long) Amazonian anaconda we found along the bank?
And we can't fail to mention that unforgettably tame pair of Bare-faced Curassows that strolled the lawns of the camp clearing almost daily, or the clouds of thousands of colorful butterflies that provided a daily spectacle! All in all, a wonderful group of birders enjoyed a great Amazonian birding trip with many unforgettable experiences. I can't wait to return again to this paradise!
TOP 5 birds (as voted by the group):
1. Harpy Eagle
2. Scarlet Macaw
3. Gould’s Toucanet
4. Bare-faced Curassow
5. Amazonian Umbrellabird