Pousada Rio Azul was to be our home base for four nights. Set on the Rio Azul just across the border from Mato Grosso in the state of Para, this fishing lodge has recently proved to be a cracker jack birding spot. The lodge sits in a clearing surrounded by good forest, though not as large a tract as Cristalino Lodge, our next destination. It has a white sand campina (stunted forest) along the entrance tract, which contains some species of birds not found in the canopy forest.
We started the day birding the campina, hoping for another species of Jay, the Plush-crested Jay. Unfortunately that was not to be. We did hear them calling briefly, but never got a look. We soon forgot our disappointment with the jay when we spotted one of our other target birds, Red-fanned Parrots. These are a very unusual parrot with a large ruff around the neck. A flock flew in and we got great looks at the group feeding. Many macaws were flying over. We had incredible looks at a Spotted Puffbird, a real looker!
Hummingbirds were zipping around everywhere. The first of many Black-throated Mangos made an appearance, along with Versicolored Emerald, White-throated Sapphire, Green-tailed Goldenthroat and Long-billed Starthroat. My personal favorite that day was an Amethyst Woodstar. Woodstars are very tiny hummingbirds that are bumble bee mimics. They don't really look like bumble bees, but they move like them. This allows them to sneak by larger hummingbirds who are guarding flowers.
After a fantastic lunch (I could rave for paragraphs about the food at Rio Azul) I made a batch of butterfly bait. This concoction of over ripe bananas, beer and molasses is guarenteed to bring in butterflies, particularly large tropical species like morphos and owl. Martin and I divided it up and spread it around the edges of the clearing with great results. Within five minutes there were several huge bugs feeding on it. If you look at my photo page you can see some of these great insects, www.flickr.com/sngcanary. We spent most of our post lunch "siesta" time photographing butterflies, instead of resting!
Later in the afternoon we walked through the forest down to the river. White-banded Swallows, which I think is the prettiest of the swallows that I have seen, skimmed over the water. A Green-and-rufous Kingfisher was working a small clear lagoon off of the main channel. An observation deck was on the other side of the lagoon which we planned on birding from later in the visit.
We then returned to the lodge and drove back to where we had seen the Hyacinth Macaws the night before, hoping for a better look. A small lake with trees surrounding it was down the hill from the main road. We drove down and parked. The macaws come into this area to roost at dusk. The sun was still quite high in the sky, so we walked the road. Amazonian Oropendalas were doing flips accompanied by their crazy mechanical calls. The trees were heavy with their pendelous nests. Carlo, the owner of the lodge, pointed down at the muddy road. There was a set of large cat paw prints. A Jaguar had walked through recently. We really wanted to see a Jaguar, but the owner of those paws was long gone.
We got back to the lake and started our Hyacinth vigil. Large numbers of large and small macaws flew in and even more flew by. We had great looks at Scarlets, Blue-and-yellows, Red-and-green, Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied. A group of Red-bellieds landed right in front of me, preening and playing. It was a great way to spend the early evening. Unfortunately the star was a no show. We did hear a distant Hyacinth calling, but we never had a sighting. Despite this we were quite happy and throughly enjoyed the evening meal.
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Southern Rough-winged Swallow