Southeastern Brazil Part III Oct 24—Nov 03, 2011

Posted by Andrew Whittaker

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Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker was born in England but considers himself to be Brazilian, having moved to this biodiverse country in 1987 to work for the Smithsonian Institution, banding...

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Espírito Santo once again dished up its own special blend of montane and lowland Atlantic Forest endemics to round out our Southeast Brazil Trilogy in fine fashion. This was the breakout year for the new-and-improved version of our long-running and perennially popular Southeast Brazil Tour. Heeding the calls for shorter tours, while striving to provide a thorough survey of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, one of the world's true hotspots of endemism and biodiversity, demanded some changes and some creativity. And thus was launched the "VENT Southeast Brazil Trilogy," a somewhat expanded and revamped version of our classic Southeast Brazil Tour, divided into three complementary segments (plus a pre-trip!). And then, we held our collective breath for the results, which, by any measure, were a grand success. Part III tallied 311 species, 86 of which were regional and/or Brazilian endemics! Those folks who took the entire Southeast Brazil Tour (the "Trilogy") racked up a staggering total of 536 species, of which 181 (33.7%) were regional and/or Brazilian endemics!

We started off with a visit to the private Cafundo Reserve, which was highlighted by exceptional scope studies of two of the rarest and most localized of the Atlantic Forest endemics—Plumbeous Antvireo and Wied's Tyrant-Manakin. Birding along the banks of the Rio Itapemirim also produced a Southeast Brazil tour first in the form of roosting Boat-billed Herons.

Next up was the Pedra Azul region and Caetés, with the critically endangered Cherry-throated Tanager as our primary target. The entire known global population of this species consists of fewer than 20 birds, and seeing them has never been easy. Unfortunately, we dipped on this bird for the second straight year, after having batted over .500 for the preceding several years. Despite this disappointment, the birding at Caetés was excellent, and included, among many highlights, a nesting pair of rare Black-legged Dacnises (providing the first confirmed breeding record for the state of Espírito Santo), a male Swallow-tailed Cotinga on the nest, stunning male Pin-tailed Manakins in full display, side by side male and female Hooded Berryeaters, a pair of fancy Spot-billed Toucanets, and such specialties as Cinnamon-vented Piha, Oustalet's Tyrannulet, "Lesser" Woodcreeper (soon-to-be-split subspecies tenuirostris), and the nominate subspecies of Pale-browed Treehunter.

Our next destination was Santa Teresa. In addition to scoring a number of open-country species in the surrounding region, and picking up some more good Atlantic Forest birds at nearby Nova Lombardia Reserve, we were treated to a spectacular hummingbird spectacle at Vita Verde, where hundreds of hummers, consisting of 13 species, buzzed around us at distances that made binoculars optional. Particularly noteworthy were the crippling studies of multiple dazzling male Frilled Coquettes, which certainly live up to their Latin name (magnificus). And, seeing two species of marmosets here was icing on the proverbial cake!

We concluded the tour in the lowlands of the Linhares region, which, in addition to boasting many of the most endangered Atlantic Forest specialties, also has a strong Amazonian flavor. The grounds of our hotel treated us to Blue-winged Macaws, Dubois's Seedeaters, and a displaying male Grassland Yellow-Finch, but the real action was at the famed VALE forest reserve. Among the numerous highlights here were an amazing 13 Solitary Tinamous seen in one day (probably a record for a tour group), great studies of male and female Red-billed Curassows, stunning views of Red-browed Parrots, lekking Minute Hermits, Black-headed Berryeater, White-necked Hawk, and a wonderful male Ocellated Poorwill that we taped in for excellent studies. A visit to nearby Sooretama Reserve (which is only sporadically open to birders) also yielded spectacular views of the very rare and endemic Striated Softtail, which ended up being voted Favorite Bird of the Trip!

All in all, it was another great tour, and we particularly congratulate those of you who completed the entire Southeast Brazil Trilogy. It was a long and terrific ride! And for those who took only Part III, we trust that your appetites are whetted for more exceptional birding in other parts of Brazil's unique Atlantic Forest.

Favorite Birds of the Trip (as voted by the group)

1. Striated Softtail
2. Minute Hermit
3. Frilled Coquette
4. Ocellated Poorwill
5. Red-headed Manakin