Guided by Nick Athanas and Iain Campbell
It’s not often that we headline a trip report from the Americas with a mammal, but this time there was absolutely no doubt what should go there. We had changed the itinerary for this year to include a much better chance at seeing the continent’s biggest cat, at the expense of a lot of extra travel time, increased cost, and, thanks to an unfortunate cold front, a significant amount of discomfort! However, seeing a Jaguar like this was one of the top wildlife experiences of my life, and not a single one of us thought it wasn’t totally worth it; it was the unanimous choice of the best sighting of the trip. Kitties or not, this is still always a memorable trip. The Amazonian rainforest at Cristalino produced the usual parade of beautiful birds like Black-girdled Barbet, Gould’s Toucanet, Razor-billed Curassow, Dark-winged Trumpeter, tons of parrots and macaws, and even the ultra-rare Fiery-tailed Awlbill. It was another exceptionally dry year (second in a row!), so the forest was crispy and quiet, making some of those understory skulkers especially tough, but looking back on the list now, we still saw lots of neat stuff. The Pantanal, as always, was spectacular, with huge numbers of birds everywhere we looked. It’s tough to pick favorites out of so many, but iconic species like Hyacinth Macaw and Jabiru are always on the shortlist, as well as specialties like Chestnut-bellied Guan and Pale-crested Woodpecker, along with more widespread species like Red-legged Seriema, Bare-faced Curassow, Agami Heron, and Maguari Stork.