Trip report: Southeast Brazil (Oct 2007) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Nick Athanas and Scott Olmstead.

Ask me what comes first to mind when I hear the world “Brazil”, and I might mention the great birds, nice Brazilian hospitality, the Churrascurias, Caipirinhas, futebol, beaches covered with sun-loving locals, the beautiful landmarks of Rio, and the like. We saw all of this on our tour (though often from a distance!), but one of the more incredible features was the weather: The weather was good, and sometimes too good. A mild cold front for the first week of the trip gave us welcome temperatures in the lower elevations, a few clouds, but no rain. In fact, apart from a brief storm at Canastra, we had no rain at all for the entire trip. Once the front moved away, hot and dry conditions prevailed for most of the rest of our time, even up in the mountains. This made bird activity quieter than might normally be expected, yet we still managed to see a greater proportion of the endemics and regional specialties on this tour than on any previous one I have led. How often can you see every cotinga on the list including the ultra-rare Gray-winged? We had an amazing run on antbirds, missing only Great Antshrike, the most widespread of them all. The birds truly did perform spectacularly despite the drought, and we even had a few unforgettable mammal moments: a rare Oncilla in the road, that beautiful Maned Wolf at Caraça, and one lucky person even saw a troop of Muriquis, or Woolly Spider Monkeys: the biggest and one of the rarest of the New World monkeys.

Everything went smoothly, with a near total lack of logistical problems. Long drives are an unavoidable part of birding tours in Brazil, but the comfortable van, convenient restaurants, good luck with the traffic, and the occasional impromptu birding stop made them easy to bear. I still have not had a flat tire on a Brazil tour, a streak that I hope continues for many years. Our group was pleasant and entertaining, not to mention helpful with finding birds and getting people on them, and that always adds to the enjoyment (and the list).

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