Stephen Burch's Birding & Dragonfly Website
BIRDING TRIP REPORT:
BRAZIL SERRA DOS TUCANOS AND RIO DE JANEIRO, NOVEMBER 2005
By Stephen Burch, England
Serra dos Tucanos
The lodge benefits from secure, delightful grounds, and strategically placed hummingbird feeders and bunches of bananas that attract Tanagers etc. You can sit in a comfy chair on the veranda, drink in hand, and watch the exotics coming and going - very relaxing birding! Alternatively, you can spend hours trying to get good photos of the passerines that hardly ever stop moving for more than a few seconds!
In the immediate vicinity is a steep hillside with a network of trails, which you can explore on your own - a good introduction to rain forest birding.
The lodge organises optional daily excursions. These cost me, as an individual traveller a considerable amount extra, on top of the accommodation/food cost. When I was there there was a good arrangement whereby (very) full day trips (7am to late afternoon) were alternated with half day excursions (7am to c.1pm - a good half day!). The excursions are planned in advance, and so if you are keen on a particular trip (see their website for details) or bird, it is well worth making your views known in advance - they do their best to accommodate their various guests' wishes.
When I stayed, the other guests consisted of three different pairs of birders, two of whom were staying for 2 weeks, who didnt know each other in advance. On occasion, the complete lodge is booked up by birding tour parties.
The staff were very pleasant, and the food fine though somewhat lacking in variety. Andy led all the excursions and was a brilliant birder - clearly knows his Brazillian birds inside out, both by call and sight. He had a tape playback/recording machine which worked well on occasion, bringing birds out of the impenetrable undergrowth to within a few feet of us.
While in Rio, mainly for business, there was also some rain - seemed to coincide with our freer times towards the end of our stay!
16 November 2005
With all the traffic it
took just over 2hrs to get to Serra dos Tucanos, which
was in a beautiful situation in a valley surrounded by
steep, forest covered mountains. I then spent some time
before the other guests arrived back from their half day
exercusion, getting to grips with the birds on the
feeders, which were numerous and brilliantly coloured:
notable were the Green Headed Tanagers, Blue
Dacnis and Violaceous Euphonia,
as well as Golden Chevroned and Ruby
Crowned Tanager. Hummers only a few feet away on
the feeders included Black Jacobin, Saw
Billed Hermit, Swallow-tailed and Violet-capped
Later in the afternoon the keener guest birders led a trip along the trails leading up the hillside directly from the lodge grounds. This was quiet at times, but their sharp eyes picked up a real goody in the form of a Spot-billed Toucanet - sitting really close to us by the path (possibly the bird of the trip). Also another good endemic was a Red-necked Tanager, and both White Barred Piculet and Scaly Headed Parrot were seen on the return. Also a brilliant red Brazillian Tanager (another endemic) appeared as the rain began to fall back near the lodge (in fact this species frequented the lodge area around & beyond the pool, and occasionally on the bananas).
After dinner at 7pm, I was more than ready for some sleep!
17 November 2005
Digiscoping was not well
suited to this form of birding, but having lugged
everything up here, I was determined to give it a go, and
managed some distant shots of a couple of the local
The descent was a good deal easier than going up, with plenty more species seen, including Rufous Gnateater, White rimmed Warbler and Pallid Spinetail. Near to the minibus, Andy had distant views of a Black and Gold Cotinga, but it had gone before anyone else could get on it. Grrh!
After returning to the
minibus, we drove a short way to a Swallow Tailed
Cotinga site. Fortunately at least three obliged
in nearby trees, without the need for further walking!
Also seen here was Fawn-breasted Tanager (poorly)
and Scaled Woodcreeper (better views)
After this highlight, we returned to the lodge around 17:30 - a long day, all told. Around 34 lifers today - good reward for all the walking.
Initially broad, this track gently descended to start with to some buildings, and then narrowed to a path and climbed up through the forest. Again the weather was a bit mixed, with some light rain which may have dampened bird activity somewhat, as it was slow going at times.
Near the start of the trial was however pretty productive, with Rufous Headed Tanager almost by the minibus, and then Star Throated Antwren, Plain Ant Vireo and the bird of the day, Rufous Crowned Motmot, in quick succession. These were shortly followed by Blue Manakin, and a brief glimpse of a Ferriginuous Ant Bird.
A bit lower down the trail, we were lucky to find both Rufous Capped Ant Thrush and Black Cheeked Gnateater in the same place. After the buildings, ascending the narrow path, we came across a delightful pair of White-throated Spadebill building a nest. Some of the party stopped here to photograph them, but I pressed on upwards with the remainder of the party. This was pretty productive, with several new species including Red crowned Ant Tanager and Streak capped Antwren.
The return back followed the same route up to the minibus, which we reached at around 12:45, was quieter, but the morning had netted me about 17 lifers.
at the lodge, I returned to the lodge grounds in search
of more pics, and also had good views of a Squirrel
Cuckoo near the pool, where a Crested
Becard was found nesting.
species of Parakeet were also seen regularly on the
bananas by the lodge, Plain Parakeet and
Reddish Bellied Parakeet:
19 November 2005
Again we were off at 07:00, heading up the same road as two days ago, and through the town which appears to be the lingerie capital of Brazil! This time I was in the front of the minibus, and benefited almost immediately, seeing a Channel Billed Toucan fly across the road (the rest in the back dipped!).
stop was to bird bushes right by the road, where we
picked up Gilt edged Tanager and also a Dusky
Legged Guan on the road edge in the same general
area. After quite a drive, we turned off onto a track and
had a good short stroll which produced White
eared Puffbird and Common Thornbird
as well as more Tanagers - this time Orange
Headed and Cinammon. There was
also an impressive Grey Headed Kite
overhead, and a nice (but common!) Masked Water
Tyrant on wires:
There was then more driving with several short road-side stops, which produced a very tame pair of Blue winged Macaws (pic below), and various marshy areas which contained a different species mix such as Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Striated Heron etc (all species seen last year in the Pantanal and elsewhere). But Fork Tailed Flycatcher was new, and impressive with its very long tail streamers.
At around 12:00, we turned off the tarmaced road, onto a dirt track towards the Three Toed Jacamar site. We arrived here shortly, and all piled out to find these very localised and sought-after birds almost immediately. I managed some pics, but it was difficult as they were silhoettes (see below). I have to say that the more common Paradise Jacamar seen last year at Cristallino was actually a more impressive bird!
Shortly afterwards, the rain which had been threatening for some time arrived with a shortish burst. This quickly made the dirt track very slippery. We then had some hairy moments when we came across a Brazillian truck heading uphill towards us, and sliding all over the road! Fortunately, we managed to squeeze by without it hitting us. We then pressed on to end of the dirt road, to make sure we would not get stuck in the mud, only stopping again when nearly at the main road. Here we saw White rumped Monjita, and the impressive Greater Ani. Shortly afterwards, we then turned off the main road again, and drove a short way along a dirt track and stopped for lunch. This was a pleasant spot, which produce various birds including Blue Winged Parrotlet. Fortunately, the rain was long gone, and it was getting quite hot in the midday sun.
we went for a longer walk along the track (Andy was
concerned about driving and getting stuck if it rained
again). At one point, things didn't seem to be going too
well, and none of Andy's recordings were producing any
birds! However, this phase suddenly stopped and quality
birds began to appear. First off was a Variable
Antshrike, then a delightful pair of Crescent
Chested Puffbirds which stayed nice and still on
a branch for plenty of digiscoping at a reasonable range
(see below). More goodies at this spot were a very
distant Magpie Tanager, and a tiny White
We then walked back along the way we had come, with Andy playing his recordings almost continuously. Suddenly, he heard a reply, and we all walked through a gate into a field with various bamboo clumps. In one of these, the tape lure produced for us brief glimpses of a Rio de Janeiro Antbird! As Andy said, this is the rarest bird I am ever likely to see! According to Andy, there is currently only one known site for this bird in the world, and we were at it! Also there was a Green Barred Woodpecker here.
This was about it. Despite plenty of scanning of the hillsides, there was no sign of Red Legged Seriema (this is now my Brazillian bogey bird, having dipped last year as well). The drive back took around 2hrs, with a brief stop at an impressive viewpoint which had mountain/rock formations ("Finger of God") and the bay, with a distant Rio de Janeiro behind.
I believe the total group list for today was around 100 species, with 27 lifers for me. Very good, considering the overlap on water birds etc seen last year. A long and tiring expedition, though, with a return late afternoon, but well worth it with the Jacamar and Antbird sightings.
I was advised to depart early afternoon to avoid the Sunday evening congestion caused by everyone returning to the city after the weekend (apparently nearly 1 million leave the city each weekend). As I found later, Rio traffic is bad enough during the week! This early departure time worked well, and the traffic was not too bad, so the journey to my hotel took around 2.5hrs.
Rio de Janeiro (20 - 28 Nov)
Pestana & Copocabana Beach
In better conditions later in the week, other non birders had what can only have been Swallow-tailed Hummingbird round the elevated hotel pool, while I had reasonable views of several Kelp Gull and Brown Booby offshore, though I didn't dare take any optics onto this notoriously unsafe beach.
Despite the rain, there were quite a few reasonable birds in the Gardens, which seemed secure, with a few guards around. The most notable were several (4+) Channel billed Toucans, which were quite approachable (later on in the morning it brightened up a bit, and I reckon I could have got some reasonable pics, if I had brought all the gear along). There were also several tame Dusky Legged Guans around, and a few rather more retiring Grey Necked Wood Rails - but even they were right out in the open in places. There were also some Tanagers, including Green-headed and the more universal Sayaca and Palm. Raptors included a pair of probably Roadside Hawks, and some falcons which might have been Bat Falcons (not seen well).
Quite a good spot to spend a relaxing few hours. Nothing very rare, though and no lifers. Probably it would have been a better place to visit before staying at Serra Dos Tucanos than afterwards.
When I had finished here, it proved very easy to hail a Yellow and Blue Taxi for my return to the hotel (which was cheaper than the way out - BR20). No security problems at all.
For the systematic click here
© All pictures copyright Stephen Burch