Monday, December 1, 2008

Brazil Day 4, A Cosmic Mind Blower

Brazil Day 4, A Cosmic Mind Blower We got up early on day 4 with huge expectation. Our hotel, the Floresta Amazonica, is situated in a large forest fragment of about 235 hectares. Besides incredible birds, the grounds hold several species of monkeys, agoutis, capybaras and other Amazonian animals. Its long be a favorite spot for visiting birders. It is the usual jumping off point for travel to the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, which we were visiting later in the trip, but we were using it this time before we went to Rio Azul, a very new birding lodge.

We had another reason to be at the Floresta Amazonica, though. In 2005 the hotel had an incredible stroke of luck, a pair of Harpy Eagles set up a nest in the forest, about a half mile from the hotel itself. Harpys are one of the largest eagles in the world and a much wanted species for many birders. The birds raised a chick, which tragically was shot and killed when it was about 6 months old. They nested again and successfully raised another chick, which is still alive today. Unfortunately, they do not nest every year and had not been around the hotel much for quite some time.

Right before we departed we heard that the pair had returned and was working on the nest again, so we were really jazzed, hoping we might luck out. We birded the clearing around the hotel for a while, waiting for the sun to warm things up. Harpy Eagles are not early risers. We picked up a few wanted birds, like Madeira and Crimson-bellied Parakeets, then headed into the woods. We covered the half mile to the nest site fairly quickly and then waited. A White-browed Hawk was a very welcome addition to the trip list, as its a difficult bird to get.

Finally we heard a kind of wimpy call. (Most eagle calls are kind of wimpy, if you ask me) It was the female! She made a very brief appearance and then flew off. It really wasn't a great look and we didn't want to settle, so we walked around the area for a little bit and then returned. We were more than fortunate! The female returned and started working on the nest. Then we were stunned when the male came in. He brought some sticks in, piddled around working on the nest with her and then settled into the business of making a new chick. We couldn't believe it. We had only hoped for a look at one bird, and here we had them copulating on the nest!

Any further birding seemed anti climatic! We headed back for lunch at a great local restaurant, then prepared for the 4 hour drive to Rio Azul. I photographed butterflies in the garden around the hotel while we waited for Carlos, the son of the owners of the lodge, to pick us up. It was alive with bugs and I was able to get some decent photos.

The drive to Rio Azul, which is just over the state border in Para, takes about 4 hours. The roads are very rough and the trip involves a ferry ride over a wide river. We did do some birding along the way. The deforestation was very obvious along this road. Pastures with huge Brazil Nut Trees scattered across them were everywhere. Brazil Nut Trees, which reach 50 meters and more in height, are illegal to cut down. Unfortunately, when the other canopy trees are cut, the Brazil Nuts do not do well. Obviously dying trees and snags were more common than healthy ones.

On a positive note, despite the degradation, there are huge numbers of macaws in these areas. We saw large numbers of Blue-and-yellows, Scarlets, Red-and-Greens, Chestnut-fronted and Red-Bellied Macaws flying over. Brad mentioned that there was even some Hyacinth Macaws nesting in an area near the lodge. This was a bird I really wanted to see and didn't realize was possible on this trip. Its the largest of the macaws and a gorgeous bird.

We reached their territory right before sunset, which is one of the best times to see them as they fly to roost. We set up a watch and saw many large macaws, but not the ones we really wanted. Finally, just as it was getting dark, two very large, very dark macaws flew by. It wasn't the best look, but it was nice. Brad said he had plans to come back to that area, so hopefully we would get better looks.

We drove on to the lodge, ate dinner, which included the best flan I have ever eaten, and settled in for the night hoping for the lodge's two "star" birds in the morning. I will write more about those birds and the lodge itself tomorrow.

Day List
Cinereous Tinamou
Red-legged Tinamou
Least Grebe
Neotropic Cormorant
White-faced Whistling-Duck
Muscovy Duck
Brazilian Teal
Capped Heron
Cocoi Heron
Great Egret
Striated Heron
Black Vulture
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Pearl Kite
White-tailed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
White-browed Hawk
White Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Harpy Eagle
Yellow-headed Caracara
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon
Spix's Guan
Ash-throated Crake
Solitary Sandpiper
Southern Lapwing
Picazuro Pigeon
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Hyacinth Macaw
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
Scarlet Macaw
Red-and-green Macaw
Chestnut-fronted Macaw
Red-bellied Macaw
White-eyed Parakeet
Crimson-bellied Parakeet
Painted Parakeet
Blue-headed Parrot
Yellow-crowned Parrot
Orange-winged Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Guira Cuckoo
Striped Cuckoo
Burrowing Owl
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Reddish Hermit
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
White-tailed Trogon
Green Kingfisher
Rufous-necked Puffbird
Black-fronted Nunbird
White-fronted Nunbird
Red-necked Aracari
Chestnut-eared Aracari
Channel-billed Toucan
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
White-shouldered Antshrike
Plain-throated Antwren
Screaming Piha
Bare-necked Fruitcrow
Tropical Kingbird
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Masked Tityra
White-winged Swallow
Gray-breasted Martin
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
House Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Grassland Sparrow
Silver-beaked Tanager
Sayaca Tanager
Palm Tanager
Blue-black Grassquit
Crested Oropendola
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Red-breasted Blackbird

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