Guided by Nick Athanas.
This is a really fun tour – it always surprises me how much you can see in this little corner of one of the smallest states of vast Brazil. A nice variety of habitats and birding sites are crammed into this small area, and several great lodges make birding here even cooler. July is in the middle of winter, giving warm and pleasant days in the lowlands and chilly mornings in the highlands. It is also usually one of the driest months, but 2009 was not your typical year. Some locals I talked to said it was the wettest winter in the last 65 years. We did have more than our share of rain, but in the end we did not lose too much birding time to it. It maybe even helped us with increased bird activity when it was dry (sure, that’s what tour leaders always say!), and we saw a rather high number of birds for a winter tour. A few highlights that come to mind: The Gray-winged Cotinga coming in close for a change, the nonstop birding activity on the waterfall trail, nailing the Itatiaia Thistletail up those endless stairs after having given up hope, the masses of outrageously colored tanagers coming into Andy’s feeders, finding the ridiculously cute candy-cane colored Eastern Striped Manakin, racing back to see those Tawny-browed Owls on what turned out to be the only dry evening at Guapi Assu, and (briefly!) feeling like we outsmarted Mother Nature by driving out of the pouring rain and seeing a bunch of great birds along the coast one morning.