Grand Brazil Part I: Alta Floresta's Cristalino Jungle Lodge Aug 06—16, 2010

Posted by Andrew Whittaker


Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker, a senior member of the VENT staff, has led VENT tours since 1993 throughout Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Europe,...

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As usual, the comfortable Cristalino Jungle Lodge produced multiple memorable birding moments, wonderful sunsets, clouds of colorful butterflies, a wealth of primates, and fabulous home-cooking. Who among us will forget the fresh barbecue fish, the piranha soup, or those many great desserts?

Our trip highlight was a magnificent perched Harpy Eagle, seen from the tower, thanks to some sharp spotting by Tom. We enjoyed superb scope studies of the huge raptor, which was still securing an unidentified prey item in its mighty talons. After several minutes, the Harpy launched from the tree, gliding on massive wings over the canopy and out of sight!

It is always a thrill to experience dawn breaking over the vast green canopy from our perches atop the wonderfully constructed canopy towers. This year's vigils rewarded us with colorful flocks of macaws and parrots at eye level, Black-girdled Barbet, multicolored tanagers, close encounters with Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, Tooth-billed Wrens, dazzling male Spangled Cotingas, a group of the odd  Curl-crested Aracaris, and even a rare Orange-breasted Falcon, which shot past in pursuit of a Red-necked Aracari!

Forest trails produced a great army ant swarm, which was attended by the endemic Bare-eyed Antbird and the even more striking Black-spotted Bare-eye, as well as Dark-winged Trumpeter and White-chinned Woodcreeper. A stellar lineup of stunning manakins included Snow-capped, Band-tailed, Red-headed, White-crowned, Blue-backed, and Flame-crested (the latter at close range on his display perch). Primates showed well too, with no less than five different species seen extremely well.

My personal highlight was finding a wonderful day-roosting Long-tailed Potoo! This is arguably the rarest of all the Amazonian potoos, and we were very fortunate to have such magnificent scope studies during the day!

Relaxed afternoon boat trips on the Rio Cristalino were, as always, a high point of each day. Drifting with the motors off allowed us to hear the forest sounds while taking in the verdant surroundings and the towering cumulus clouds, all of which were reflected in the calm, tea-colored waters of the Cristalino. Rewards were many, and included Brazilian tapir; Razor-billed Curassow drinking at the water's edge; an amazingly responsive Cryptic Forest-Falcon; Red-throated Piping-Guan; a day-roosting Great Potoo; Crimson-bellied Parakeet; Brown-banded Puffbird; Kawall's Parrot; exquisite Capped Herons; multiple Sunbitterns; and unforgettable close encounters with a Zigzag Heron and a singing and displaying Amazonian Umbrellabird. Even the camp clearing produced highlights, from the tame female Bare-faced Curassow strolling across the lawns to the flock of Dusky-billed Parrotlets and the multitude of colorful butterflies that greeted us each day at the boat launch.

All in all, a wonderful group of birders enjoyed a fantastic Amazonian experience. I can't wait to return to this paradise next year!
Top 5 birds (as voted by the group):

1. Amazonian Umbrellabird
2. Long-tailed Potoo
3. Harpy Eagle
4. Zigzag Heron
5. Razor-billed Curassow