Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Last Leg

For the last couple of days of our Brazil adventure we travelled down to the Atlantic Forest south of the city of Belo Horizonte.  We stayed in a lovely period hotel on St.Barbara which gave us easy access to the National Park at Caraca which is privately owned and contains a wonderful monastery.

Caraca with its monastery
A closer look at the Monastery
The grounds of the Monastery are very good for birds and we certainly saw a lot.  A small colony of Crested Oropendulas were very noisy and we watched Masked Water Tyrants and Velvety Black Tyrants by the car park.  The kitchen garden was a good spot and we found Long-tailed Tyrant, a group of White-naped Jays, 3 Dusky-legged Guans and a wonderful feeding White-vented Violetear.

Masked Water Tyrant

Velvety Black Tyrant

White-vented Violetear
For all the action in the gardens it was the fabulous forest that we had come for.  We tried two or three trails over two days and were well rewarded.  The trick is to find flocks of birds moving through the canopy and hope you can pick some out.  Trogons call from high branches and generally sit still so they are a good bird to start with. Such a bird turned out to be a splendid Surucua Trogon.
Surucua Trogon
We visited one particular trail by a small stream for a very special bird with a great name.  The Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper literally hops about by stream banks keeping out of sight for long periods.  It took quite a while for everybody to get a glimpse and for once I was last by about 20 minutes.  A bridge by the road was a really good spot and here we had great views of Swallow-tailed Cotingas.

Swallow-tailed Cotinga
 Once deep into the forest things got more difficult.  We did have wonderful moments watching many species of tanagers with very impressive names.  Black-goggled, Burnished-buff, Brassy-breasted and Gilt-edged were all observed in these woodlands.  Blue Manakin was seen by most and also White-bellied and White-browed Warblers.  In a more open area lots of grassland birds to appreciate with the star being Great Pampa Finch which looked a bit like our Corn Bunting.  An impressive Fork-tailed Flycatcher also entertained us hawking for insects.  Gasps of awe were audible when at least 5,000 Biscutate Swifts appeared in one large flock circling overhead.

Great Pampa Finch

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
The finale of our trip was after a superb supper in the Monastery dining room to gather with others outside the church on a terrace where monks laid out food and called a very shy animal in the forest.  This practise has gone on for years and is somewhat surreal.  At first only a Hog-nosed Skunk appeared to grab some food but eventually a beautiful red-coated long-legged Maned Wolf ventured up the steps for all to see.  This animal may not have been a regular because it was very nervous and would not approach the food.  It was impossible to get pictures of this but even so it was a privileged end to a fabulous trip.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible trip, Derek. I'll have to get down there. And wonderful pictures. I'm really missing the tropics.

    By the way, there are about 500 birds that look a bit like your Corn Bunting. I'm just sayin'.

    Thanks for the great reports.