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South-east Brazil, the Pantanal and Cerrado:
6 - 28 September 2015


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6 - 28 September 2015.
In the southeast, an extensive cold front moved through during the first week, bringing atypical cold, wet and cloudy weather. Thereafter hot and sunny. Extremely hot in the Pantanal with temperatures daily over 40 degrees.
Intervales State Park, Mogi das Cruzes, Folha Seca, Fazenda Angelim, Itamambuca, Guainumbi, Itatiaia National Park, Campos do Jordao, the Pantanal, Chapada dos Guimaraes and Pousada do Parque.

With Mike Danzenbaker and Lee Hung. This third trip to Brazil came after a 19 and 21 year hiatus since the previous two, with consequently many improvements in birding information, logistics and literature since. The itinerary was constructed with a focus on regional specialities combined with sites offering photographic opportunities. We included the Pantanal and Cerrado regions for their very different set of birds as well as an excellent opportunity to find the highly sought after Jaguar - a cat narrowly missed on previous trips to Belize, Venezuela and Peru. Logistics and guiding were set up with Kevin Easley at Costa Rica Gateway, which worked very well. We recorded around 520 species of birds. Accommodation varied from simple to excellent and food was surprisingly good, with many places offering open buffets with a range of choice. Suprisingly, coffee was a major disappointment - usually served from programmed Necafé machines and often loaded with sugar. Other than in Sao Paulo and Chapada dos Guimaraes, Internet access was poor. Due to the excessive journey times between Thailand and Brazil, the trip was broken up with a couple of stopovers with Mike and Lee in the USA.

Itinerary

Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren

Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee

3 Sep. Left Chiang Mai late afternoon on the Dragon Air flight to Hong Kong, that was on time and barely half full - no doubt on account of the recent bombing in Bangkok presumed to have been aimed at Chinese tourists. The onboard meal choice was interestingly between barbecued pork or ravori. Having asked three times what ravori was and still not understanding, decided to try it anyway. Ah Ravioli - evidently the person planning the menus had a cruel sense of humour knowing full well that Chinese hostesses were involved. Connection in Hong Kong on the Cathay Pacific direct flight to San Francisco went smoothly, with arrival in San Francisco still on the same day, having crossed the dateline. Kindly met at the airport by Mike and Lee and overnight at their place.

4 Sep. With a full day available, and taking advantage of local knowledge, a half day in the field targeting a number of holes on the list. We started with a drive to Santa Cruz, from where we worked our way northward along the coast, scanning the beaches, rocks and sea. A good stream of Sooty Shearwater heading north, plus others including Surfbird, Wandering Tattler, Common Murre, a single Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt's Cormorant, California Gull, Red-necked Phalarope, Elegant Tern and Caspian Tern.

From here we investigated Gazos Creek with several Pacific Wren and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Finally headed into San Francisco itself in an attempt to twitch a vagrant Sage Thrasher, but unfortunately dipped.

Ibis Garrulhos, Sao Paulo

A good, cheaper hotel about ten minutes from the international airport. We found it very comfortable with all the important facilities including functioning WiFi, hot shower and well-priced dinner and breakfast buffets. Few facilities in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, with only a 24 hour convenience store and a Subway sandwich shop. The hotel had free pickup from the airport. Recommended.

 

5 Sep. The midday United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Houston departed an hour late. Fortunately we'd allowed a reasonable connection time in Houston, although in the event we'd need not have worried, as United were having a bad hair day with the Sao Paulo flight two and a half hours delayed due to technical issues.

6 Sep. After a nine hour flight finally arrived at 10:00 at Sao Paulo - now totally jet-lagged and ready to crash-out, which we did at the Ibis Garrulhos hotel near the airport. Weather, for Brazil, decidedly damp and cool. Late afternoon we met up with Kevin.

7 Sep. The day started dull and overcast with more than a hint of rain. Collection of our rented vehicle early morning from Avis was delayed by the airport Avis office insisting that they had not received the booking from the main office and consequently had no vehicle for us. Applying some pressure eventually produced a vehicle, albeit uncleaned. However, clean or not, it was good to get going, plus the state of the car would be significantly worse when returned after 10 days of birding!

Chestnut-backed Tanager
Chestnut-backed Tanager

The vehicle supplied was a Fiat Doblo, that was of sufficient size for four people including baggage, but not ideal for birding due to having sliding back doors and rear windows that opened only partially. As today was a public holiday we had no problems driving out of Sao Paulo, heading south to Intervales State Park.

Rufous-headed Tanager
Rufous-headed Tanager

Red-and-white Crake
Red-and-white Crake

Few notable birds en route other than Yellow-rumped Marshbird, Whistling Heron and Burrowing Owl. We arrived at Intervales around noon, with the afternoon spent around the lodge and a few short walks in the vicinity. Some highlights were Red-and-white Crake, White-necked Thrush, Green-billed Toucan, Pileated Parrot, Giant Antshrike, Grey-hooded Flycatcher, Amethyst Woodstar, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-crowned Greenlet and Creamy-bellied Thrush. The day was mostly cool and cloudy, with rain starting after 18:00.

8 Sep. Heavy overnight rain had barely eased by dawn. A bad start to the day with the vehicle refusing to start in the cold, damp conditions. As the battery appeared OK we suspected a fuel issue, but a push-start at least had us on the road.

Pousada Pico Pao, Intervales State Park

As the park is a little remote, staying inside is the only realistic option - plus the birds are right on the doorstep, so why stay anywhere else. Simple, but fairly comfortable. All meals were taken at the on site restaurant that comprised of an inexpensive buffet. Bring soap and shampoo as, in common with many places in Brazil, these were not provided. Recommended.

Drove to the entrance barrier where in early rain we saw Planalto Woodcreeper, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Blackish Rail and Rufous-capped Spinetail. Heavy rain started at 08:00 forcing us to return to the accommodation where we spent the whole morning birding from the shelter of the veranda.

Similar species to yesterday, but some useful additions were Pallid Spinetail, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Black-goggled Tanager, Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin and Olive-green Tanager. After lunch, during a short dry spell, a quick trip to the forest to try for Spot-winged Wood Quail, that we didn't see, but instead lucked a Solitary Tinamou. Heavy rain most of the afternoon again bound us to birding from the veranda.

Conditions cold and miserable, and a warm coat would have been useful! As the rain eventually ceased by 18:00, after dinner, we drove into the forest to try for night birds, hearing Rusty-barred Owl calling and seeing Stygian Owl.

9 Sep. Clearing weather overnight brought a cool bright morning. Starting at the entrance gate with Red-ruffed Fruitcrow the pick of the early morning, we also had Sooty Tyrannulet, Buff-necked Ibis, Wattled Jacana and Cliff Flycatcher.

Rusty-barred Owl
Rusty-barred Owl

After breakfast headed uphill into the higher forest with good weather the rest of the day. A drive/walk covering 20 kilometres gave us Black-fronted Piping Guan, Spot-winged Wood Quail, a superb Crested Eagle, Festive Coquette, Spot-billed Toucanet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-spotted Woodpecker, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Cryptic Antthrush, Robust Woodpecker, White-bearded Antshrike, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Squamate Antbird, Streak-capped Antwren, White-breasted Tapaculo, Lesser Woodcreeper, Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, Oustalet's Tyrannulet, Bay-ringed Tyrannulet and Three-striped Flycatcher. At dusk we exited the park and tried nightbirding along the entrance road where we found a close Rusty-barred Owl. After dinner we tried unsuccessfully for Long-trained Nightjar. On our return a Tropical Screech Owl was calling outside the accommodation.

 

10 Sep. Started at the entrance gate again for an hour, with Red-ruffed Fruitcrow again, plus a pair of Tropical Screech Owl found nearby. Following the usual buffet breakfast we headed into the forest finding Spot-winged Wood Quail and Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, after which we again headed uphill, and in excellent weather found Saffron Toucanet, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Bertoni's Antwren, Grey-hooded Attila, Eared Pygmy Tyrant and White-collared Foliage-gleaner. On the drive out, a miraculous spot of the very rare Buff-belled Puffbird by Faustino, the local guide, was a great finish. Rain started after lunch as we left for the longish drive back to Sao Paulo, that was mostly through rain before arriving at the Ibis Garrulhos around 20:00 due to heavy rush-hour traffic.

11 Sep. Another heavy grey morning as we left Sao Paulo at 06:30, heading out of town in light traffic to Mogi das Cruzes, where we tried for the highly endangered Marsh Antbird, that was heard calling but frustratingly refused to be seen. A couple of hours were then spent checking a nearby pond, producing a range of waterside birds such as Yellow-rumped Marshbird, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, White-rumped Swallow, Double-collared Seedeater, Black-capped Donacobius, Yellow-browed Tyrant and Unicoloured Blackbird.

Crested Eagle
Crested Eagle

Double-collared Seedeater
Double-collared Seedeater

Brazilian Tanager
Brazilian Tanager

From here, drove two hours to Folha Seca where as soon as we arrived the long-promised rain started. Sheltering under the veranda we saw Brazilian Tanager, Saw-billed Hermit, Frilled Coquette, Brazilian Ruby and Violet-crowned Woodnymph.

Saw-billed Hermit
Saw-billed Hermit

Although many hummingbirds were at feeders, the dark clouds and poor light made for terrible photography. Overnight in Ubatuba. Rain continuing into the night.

Ubatuba Palace Hotel

A fine hotel in the middle of Ubatuba town and central to several birding sites. Rooms good, though with a strange window design with only half the window covered by glass; so potentially noisy at night, although this proved not be a problem. Great buffet selection. One of the few places with functioning Internet. Highly recommended.

12 Sep. A slight delay and confusion over breakfast timing that should have been 05:00 but staff not available till 05:30. However, it mattered little as the poor weather continued with rain practically the whole day. Arrived at Folha Seca around 06:45 where a walk along the track provided Black-cheeked Gnateater, Ferruginous Antbird, Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher and Blond-crested Woodpecker.

Rain started around 08:00, so we sought shelter at the hummingbird feeders with a similar selection to yesterday but with Amethyst Woodstar and Black Jacobin additional. Around 16:00 gave up on the weather and returned to Ubatuba.

13 Sep. Originally we'd planned to head up to Guainumbi, but news of potential accommodation issues, combined with the predicted poor weather at higher elevations, made us decide to spend another night at Ubatuba. Rain had already started when we left the hotel at 06:00, and continued as we walked the entrance track at Fazenda Angelim, although we found Spot-backed Antshrike and Unicoloured Antwren along the way. The next four hours were spent sheltering from the constant rain and scanning the forest edge, finding Flame-crested Tanager, Buff-throated Purpletuft and White-necked Thrush, but unsurprisingly little else. Around 11:00 we returned to the hotel to wait for the weather to improve. Out again at 13:30, and down the coast to Itamambuca, where in continuing showers we found a few new species for the trip - Pied Water Tyrant, Channel-billed Toucan, Bicoloured Hawk, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Rufous-winged Antwren and Crested Oropendola.

14 Sep. Another cloudy and damp morning, but at least the rain had ceased. Returned to Folha Seca where we walked the forest for a couple of kilometres, hearing Uniform Crake. Also Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, Black Hawk-Eagle, Reddish Hermit, Plain Antvireo, Unicoloured Antwren, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Fork-tailed Bamboo Tyrant, Sharpbill and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. A pre-lunch checkout from the hotel and drove to Guainumbi where we arrived at 14:00.

White-throated Hummingbird
White-throated Hummingbird

Plain Parakeet
Plain Parakeet

As not actually raining we headed straight to the forest hide waiting for Brown Tinamou, that took just over an hour to appear. Back to the lodge where we spent the rest of the day with light rain starting at 16:00. Nonetheless, a nice collection with White-throated Hummingbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Velvety Black Tyrant and a surprise Dubois's Seedeater. It's sad to report that due to the property having recently being sold to a new owner, the lodge and accommodation is now closing down. Although the new owners are currently committed to keeping the land as a reserve, access is now closed to the public. As no food was available at the lodge we drove 15 kilometres to a very local restaurant in the middle of nowhere, that was surprisingly good.

15 Sep. After eight days finally a day without rain, with a clear, bright and really beautiful morning. We started with three hours around the garden and feeders with hope of Black-legged Dacnis and Green-chinned Euphonia - both of which had been seen in the last few days. However, they were not to be, so around 09:00 we headed out onto trails into the forest. In a couple of hours we found Brassy-breasted Tanager, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Lesser Woodcreeper and Sharp-billed Treehunter.

Left at 12:45 to drive to Itatiaia National Park, where we arrived just before dusk. With it having been raining here most of the previous week we had considerable problems getting our vehicle up the steep, muddy and slippery drive of the Hotel Ype. After four attempts we made it. At dusk we tried a couple of spots for Tawny-browed Owl obtaining excellent views.

Hotel Ype, Itatiaia National Park

An old hotel situated at the end of the road inside Itatiaia National Park. In need of maintenance, but still a fantastic place to stay due to the views and location. Staff very helpful with early morning coffee. Rooms comfortable, though most with bats in the roof. Nice place to chill out. Feeders in the garden, but a good idea not to rely on the kitchen, so bring some fruit if possible. Longish and very steep driveway not readily negotiable with a two wheel drive vehicle if wet. Recommended.

16 Sep. Another day of fantastic weather. Early morning around the bird feeders of the hotel and immediate vicinity. Several Uniform Finch were the highlight as well as Dusky-legged Guan, Short-crested Flycatcher, Crested Becard, Green-billed Toucan and Dubois's Seedeater. We then worked areas downhill for several kilometers before lunch. Following a short siesta, walked other sections of the road finding Buffy-fronted Seedeater, Slaty Bristlefront, Blue-winged Macaw, Gilt-edged Tanager and Rufous-capped Motmot.

17 Sep. Decided to devote a full day to Agulhas Negras on the western side of park. We worked the access track from the start to the abandoned pousada near the top. Great weather again with hardly a cloud in the sky, so consequently very hot at midday. A good list of birds included Rufous-tailed Antthrush, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Red-rumped Warbling-Finch, Bay-breasted Warbling Finch, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail and Itatiaia Spinetail.

Rufous-tailed Antbird
Rufous-tailed Antbird

Blue-and-white Swallow
Blue-and-white Swallow

18 Sep. Early morning around the hotel with Buffy-fronted Seedeater, Uniform Finch, Amethyst Woodstar, Frilled Coquette and Saffron Toucanet. A longer walk down the road picked up White-collared Foliage-gleaner, White-browed Foliage-gleaner and Black-capped Foliage-gleaner.

Frilled Coquette
Frilled Coquette

Quite some effort expended for Swallow-tailed Cotinga to no avail. A three hour drive to Campos do Jordao, where in the garden of the accommodation, we immediately jammed Swallow-tailed Cotinga. Late afternoon we ascended into the hills for late evening Vinaceous-breasted Amazon and, after dark, Long-trained Nightjar. Being a weekend the town was packed with local tourists.

Campos do Jordao Home

Campos do Jordao, being an upmarket resort town in the cooler hills, accommodation is not cheap. The Campos do Jordao Home was fairly new with good facilities and comfortable rooms. A good breakfast was provided. WiFi working but slow. Quiet location on the edge of town. Recommended.

19 Sep. The first couple of hours spent along the road toward Horto Florestal. In the Araucaria forest we again found Vinaceous-breasted Amazon, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail and Curl-crested Jay, while nearer town we saw more Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Plush-crested Jay, Grey Monjita, Masked Water Tyrant and Sooty Tyrannulet.

A short breakfast at the accommodation and then up into the forested hills with heard-only Variegated Antpitta and Speckle-breasted Antpitta plus Brown-breasted Bamboo Tyrant and Serra do Mar Tyrannulet.

Then drove back through town and up to Pedras do Bau. Very hot, even at 1,800 metres altitude, so the birding very slow. Unfortunately, being the weekend the entrance road was busy, with consequently dust from traffic to deal with. Our main target, scanning from hills, Sooty Swift was unfortunately not found. However, Black-capped Piprites was a great find. On our return to the accommodation we discovered the substantial breakfast remains had still not been cleared, so we effectively had a free dinner.

Maroon-bellied Parakeet
Maroon-bellied Parakeet

20 Sep. We left pre-dawn at 05:00 to drive to the Quiririm area to try for crakes. Following recent rains, plenty of wet areas meant more potential crake habitat, so it took 20 minutes before an initial Ash-throated Crake was heard and glimpsed running in the long grass. Drove to Sao Paulo airport, dropped our very dirty car, for which we received a cleaning fee, and took the Azul flight to Cuiaba which left on time. Our second vehicle rental issue then ensured. Although pre-booked with Dollar, for some reason the rental had been passed on to local operator Referencia. Unfortunately the girl on the Referencia desk seemed to be totally clueless as to how to rent cars, not even recognising a driving licence, and after 30 minutes of pondering, proudly announced the Internet was down and she couldn't help us and tried to off load us to a third company. Eventually they agreed they did have a vehicle and we left after more than a hour faff, with our originally booked Fiat Doblo.

Heading south toward the Pantanal, we pulled into the last fuel station at Pocone before hitting the long dirt road through the Pantanal. Very important to totally fill the vehicle here as it's a 145 kilometre drive each way, plus daily driving around with no access to fuel. Being a Sunday we had issues finding anywhere to stock up on water and beer before hitting the dirt. Very hot, with temperatures around 40°C. Our first stop, just short of the Pantanal entrance, around Puival held a fantastic selection of birds coming thick and fast, including Greater Rhea, Red-winged Tinamou, Horned Screamer, Jabiru, Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Plumbeous Ibis and Sunbittern. Continued to head south picking up Chestnut-bellied Guan, Chotoy Spinetail, Bare-faced Curassow, Limpkin and Red-billed Scythebill. After dark Little Nightjar on the road. Overnight at the Hotel Mato Grosso, with a visiting Brazilian Tapir in garden late on.

21 Sep. At dawn a few Nacunda Nighthawk still patrolling the river adjacent to the lodge. We took a pre-breakfast drive along nearby tracks finding Greater Thornbird, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, White-wedged Piculet, Long-tailed Ground Dove, Picui Ground Dove and White Woodpecker. Following breakfast a longer field session until the heat became too much, finding a huge list of species; Mato Grosso Antbird, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Buff-bellied Hermit, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Purplish Jay, Rufous-backed Antwren, Helmeted Manakin, Rufous Casiornis, White-lored Spinetail and Forest Elaenia to mention a few. Uncharacteristically, we took a siesta till 15:30 after which we walked from the lodge into the adjacent forest. Generally rather quiet but we saw Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Helmeted Manakin, Chestnut-bellied Guan and Bare-faced Curassow.

An interesting incident after dinner with a two metre Yellow Cayman immediately outside the restaurant door - apparently very unusual despite the large number in the river. A couple of staff managed to lasso it and for some bizarre reason let it loose in the central patio area of the lodge, from where it positioned itself immediately outside the doors of the guests. Pretty stupid really as anyone unwittingly going for a night stroll could have opened their door to a huge surprise and lost a leg.

Capped Heron
Capped Heron

Long-tailed Ground Dove
Long-tailed Ground Dove

Crab-eating Fox
Crab-eating Fox

Hotel Mato Grosso, Pantanal

Comfortable rooms with A/C and good showers. Buffet food fine. Quiet location. Even had TV and a small swimming pool. Supposedly had WiFi Internet, but so slow as to be unusable.

22 Sep. Early morning around the hotel, keeping a watchful eye out for any wandering cayman. After breakfast a longer walk in forest along the the river with both Pale-crested Woodpecker and Cream-coloured Woodpecker. Drove in heat to Porto Jofre where we found the roads much dustier and both temperature and humidity higher.

A number of Rusty-collared Seedeater were along the road. Late afternoon birding fields and forest edge nearby, recording many waterbird species and a Yellow Anaconda crossing the road. Overnight at the very pleasant Hotel Pantanal Norte.

Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre, Pantanal

A higher end resort, expensive and very comfortable. Boat trips along the river - this is currently the most reliable place to look for Jaguar. Good rooms and food. Swimming pool for those hot afternoons. Despite the remote location the Internet worked well.

23 Sep. Despite the good birding, including Hyacinth Macaw in the ground of the lodge, our main target was to be Jaguar, so out at dawn on a boat, heading up-river. Although recently Jaguar has been quite reliable here, there's always a possibility of a dip. Amazingly, only 10 minutes into the trip and the boatman spots a male Jaguar swimming close to shore and disappearing up the bank, with just time for a few photos. What a incredible start.

An hour later we heard of another Jaguar, discovered by a different boat, so motored at least 15 minutes to where a female was patrolling the bank, totally oblivious to the boats and cameras present.

Jaguar
Jaguar

Jaguar
Jaguar

Flushed with success we spent a further three hours birding side tributaries finding Pied Plover, Yellow-billed Tern, Boat-billed Heron, Southern Screamer and host of others. Very hot after 10:00. Back for lunch around midday, after which we took another break, going back to the boat at 15:00. Proceeded down river this time to a quiet, narrow tributary till dark, with Nacunda Nighthawk, Mato Grosso Antbird, Sungrebe, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Greater Ani, flyover Hyacinth Macaw and many Band-tailed Nightjar at dusk.

Jaguar
Jaguar

Hyacinth Macaw
Hyacinth Macaw

24 Sep. An early morning stroll on the boardwalk that crosses the lake on the grounds to the forest edge on the opposite side - Fawn-breasted Wren together with Epaulet Oriole, Hyacinth Macaw and Scrub Euphonia were found, as well as Southern Screamer, Buff-necked Ibis and Greater Thornbird around the lake. We then birded the better forest along the dusty dirt road outside the lodge, with White-eyed Attila, Gilded Sapphire, Rufous Casiornis and a probable Cinnamon-throated Hermit, frustratingly zipping past a few times. On return to the accommodation, discovered the official check-out time was 08:00, to which we pleaded innocence, thereby nicely delaying our departure to 11.00.

Jaguar Lodge, Pantanal

A more economical lodge about two thirds of the drive into the Pantanal. Likely the best place to photograph Hyacinth Macaw that feed on the palms in the grounds and come to drink at pools opposite. Accommodation wise, best considered as rustic with showers, A/C and rooms in need of maintenance. Staff and food were more than OK, but Internet not working. The simplest place we stayed.

In the heat of the day, started the return journey, scanning for seedeaters en route, finding many Rusty-collared Seedeater plus a single White-bellied Seedeater. Arrived at the Jaguar Lodge around 15:00 where still very hot and humid. Late afternoon walked roads and fields and edges, but nothing new. some excellent fly-past Hyacinth Macaw coming to drink opposite the accommodation.

25 Sep. Early start for the longish drive to the cerrado habitat around Chapada dos Guimaraes. A few stops en route with Golden-collared Macaw and Blue-and-yellow Macaw major highlights plus another zip past Cinnamon-bellied Hermit. A longer look for Red-legged Seriema around Puival was a disappointment, but in the process we stumbled across an Upland Sandpiper. Nearer to Chapada dos Guimaraes we explored roadside habitat. Although wind and showers made conditions less than ideal we still found Orange-winged Parrot, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Hooded Tanager and Red Pileated Finch. Overnight at the very pleasant Pousada Vento Sul.

Pousada Vento Sul, Chapada dos Guimaraes

Nice simple place, that looks quite new. The owner speaks excellent English and as a local tourist guide, appears to know a fair bit about birds in the area. Good A/C, shower and a fridge pre-stocked with beer - what more could you ask. Even has a small pool. An excellent breakfast was included. Situated on the edge of town so quiet. Internet worked well. Highly recommended.

Pousada do Parque, Chapada dos Guimaraes

Definitely the place to stay at least one night as this pousada is situated inside a closed section of the national park, so birding is undisturbed. Similarly really good for nightbirds. Rooms quite small but comfortable, though with no fridge. Good buffet food and a small pool. Internet not working. Recommended.

26 Sep. An 05:00 coffee then down road and into the cerrado. A few rain spots, so generally overcast and cool. Suprisingly few birds at dawn, but this improved an hour or so later - Coal-crested Finch, Collared Crescentchest, White-vented Violetear, Burrowing Owl and Scaled Pigeon, but we couldn't find the hoped-for Horned Sungem. After breakfast we visited the nearby cliffs for Biscutate Swift, also finding Crested Black Tyrant and Wedge-tailed Grass Finch. We then headed into the national park. Great place and very peaceful. Along the sandy entrance track we found Fiery-capped Manakin and during a later walk through woodland, Planalto Slaty Antshrike and a very close Undulated Tinamou heard. Very quiet otherwise. Night birding good with Rufous Nightjar, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Little Nightjar, Striped Owl, Tropical Screech Owl and Pauraque.

 

27 Sep. Another early start with Ash-throated Crake running about in the long grass below the accommodation. Along the forest trails we had Fiery-capped Manakin, Helmeted Manakin, Band-tailed Manakin and, after a long hunt, Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin. Other picks of the morning were Russet-crowned Crake and Scissor-tailed Nightjar at a nest. Late afternoon again in the cerrado adding flyover Scarlet-shouldered Macaw and a White-eared Puffbird.

28 Sep. Another early coffee then down to damper forest near town - with Pheasant Cuckoo, Amazonian Motmot, several Red-shouldered Macaw.

Peach-fronted Parakeet
Peach-fronted Parakeet

A final session back at the cerrado was much improved over yesterday with White-eared Puffbird, Collared Crescentchest, Chapada Flycatcher and, finally, a Horned Sungem though the later didn't hang around much at all. Late morning drive back to Cuiaba, from where we took the Gol flight to Sao Paulo plus connections to Houston and San Francisco. United Airlines to Houston receives the award for the most miserable airline meal of all time with a single croissant for breakfast on a 10 hour flight.

29 Sep. Arrived at San Francisco on time at 09:30, and headed to the car rental offices to collect our pre-reserved car at Payless Car Rental. This was somewhat misleading as once at the central airport car rental offices one discovers that although the majority of companies have desks and vehicle pickups, several including Payless operate from outside the premisses. So it's necessary to take a shuttle link 10 minutes away. A bit like Ryan Air these guys with the basic $220 5 day rental coming to over $480 after insurances and taxes. They also charged a rip-off $20 for the airport to office transfer and wanted $20 a day for a GPS which was declined. One to be avoided. After a quick refresh at Mike and Lee's headed down to Ventura - a six hour drive we could have done without after 14 hours of plane travel. Overnight at the Best Western just off Highway 101.

Western Gull
Western Gull

30 Sep. A lie in bed - first for a long time - as our boat wasn't till 09:00. A surprisingly rough crossing, with difficulty to land the boat at Santa Cruz Island due to the swell and strong side wind. We had about four hours on the island; more than enough to find several Island Scrub Jay, the first of which we found inside ten minutes. Although we'd expected to find them eager to feed at picnic tables this was not the case, with most feeding under low scrub digging over leaves. Other species included Song Sparrow, Allen's Hummingbird, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Grosbeak and Say's Phoebe. The return crossing was less rough and produced more seabirds including Pomarine Skua, Black-vented Shearwater, Pacific Loon and Red Phalarope. Left Ventura Harbour by 17:30 and motored north a couple of hours to Paso Dobles.

1 Oct. An early start at 05:30 to continue the drive toward San Benito County, where we arrived slightly later than planned having missed the turnoff to the birding spot. Our targets here were Bell's Sparrow and Lawrence's Goldfinch, both of which had been reported in the last week. To our surprise - this being California - it was actually raining and pretty chilly most of the morning, which resulted in very low bird activity. However, toward midday the sun finally appeared and over the next couple of hours we found several small groups of Lawrence's Goldfinch, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Wrentit, Steller's Jay, California Thrasher, Purple Finch, California Quail and Bewick's Wren. However, we failed on Bell's Sparrow, most likely due to the damp weather enabling them to avoid visiting the limited drinking pools. A return to San Francisco.

2 Oct. An earlier return to San Benito County for a second attempt for Bell's Sparrow. The weather was perfect, with a cool, bright, clear morning. No sooner had we arrived than we found a fair number of Lawrence's Goldfinch, and it didn't take too long either to find a perched-up Bell's Sparrow singing in the early morning sun. A further wander found more Lawrence's Goldfinch, another Bell's Sparrow, California Quail, Hutton's Vireo, California Thrasher, Western Bluebird, White-crowned Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow and several fox sparrows, which despite photos remained unidentifiable being either Slate-coloured Fox Sparrow or Large-billed Fox Sparrow - a real headache to separate these two. On our drive north we detoured through grassy valleys near Hollister, finding three Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Cassin's Kingbird and Red-tailed Hawk. Late afternoon we visited the Shoreline Park area finding Peregrine Falcon, Blue-winged Teal, Surf Scoter and a range of waders such as Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher and American Avocet.

3 Oct. Our final day, with a morning visit to Half Moon Bay, from where we scanned the sea hoping for Marbled Murrelet. We did find a couple of distant blobs, but it would have been quite a string to have claimed them! However, in a few hours we found Great Northern Loon, Peregrine Falcon, Sooty Shearwater, at least 1, 000 Brown Pelican and Elegant Tern. Late afternoon revisited Shoreline Park adding Sora, Anna's Hummingbird, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck and Ring-billed Gull to the trip list. A Mexican dinner to celebrate the end of a very successful trip and then off to the airport for the midnight flight to Hong Kong and onward to Bangkok and Chiang Mai where arrived late on 5 October, due to connection issues in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird

Species List

Species list.

Galleries

Bird images from this trip in preparation......