Brazil, Portuguese Doesn’t Sound a Thing Like Spanish!
We just returned from a two-week trip to Brazil, birding the Sao Paulo area for half a day, then heading into the Amazon in the states of Mato Grosso and Para. The trip was extremely successful, with 500 species, including some heard birds. We loved the people and the lodges we stayed at, and both would go back in a heartbeat.
We landed in Sao Paolo on November 11 at about noon. Rick Simpson, a British ex-pat birder, met us at the airport and we immediately headed southeast to get our first trip birds. After a quick stop for some lunch, we stopped at a small marsh along the road. A few familiar birds were wandering around, Great Egret, Wattled Jacanas and Common Moorhens. I picked up two life birds very quickly, White-faced Whistling Duck and Brazilian Teal. Southern Lapwings, another new bird for me, foraged in the grass.
Rick pointed out a small rusty colored bird, which was picking around in the open. He said it was a Yellow-chinned Spinetail. I had seen a few different spinetails in Ecuador, but I had never seen one in the open like that. A White-headed Marsh Tyrant perched on a stick. Martin called out a Burnished-buff Tanager, one of my target birds for the day. Chestnut-capped Blackbirds fed in the sodden grass. I thought I saw a bird from home, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, but quickly corrected my ID to Fork-tailed Flycatcher, which were quite common. We heard the rattling call of a crake, but it stayed concealed in the tall grass.
We drove further down the road and parked in the yard of a small farmhouse. The woman who owned it came out to say hello. Rick uses her yard to park in quite often when looking for our target bird. She was very nice, but it was at that point I realized that our limited Spanish was going to be useless. It’s hard to believe both languages have the same roots! I got the phrase book out and learned a statement I would use many times, “Eu nao falo Portugues”, “I don’t speak Portuguese”. Most Brazilians will reply to this phrase “Not even a little?” It is an extremely beautiful language. Maybe someday I will try to learn.
The bird we had come to the farmhouse for was in a marsh across the road. We followed a well marked, albeit soggy, path to a clearing. Rick got out an I-pod and played a call. Very quickly a bird answered and we saw some stealthy movements in the reeds. Finally our target popped up, an antwren, which is either a variant of a recently described bird, or a new undescribed species. It’s a rather long story, which I won’t tell here, but what ever it turns out to be, it was really great to see it. Antwrens can be extremely difficult to see and this one gave us great looks. We hoped it would be a portent of antwrens to come.
A trail through some second growth forest was nearby, so we trekked that. Several species of thrushes were feeding in the trees. We picked up several tanagers, including Black Googled and Ruby-crowned. It was a good area for flycatchers. I spotted what looked like a huge White-winged Dove flying over. It was the first of many Picazuro Pigeons.
Heading back into Sao Paulo, we stopped again at the first marsh. Most of the same birds were present, along with a Yellow-rumped Marshbird, another neat ictarid. We heard the rattle again and were thrilled when the bird had the good graces to walk out in the open. Even Rick was impressed. It was a really lovely bird, a Rufous-sided Crake. We finished the evening with dinner and a good night’s sleep at the Marriott near the airport, where we would depart for the Amazon in the morning.