Guided by Nick Athanas.
Another nice trip with a friendly group, great lodges, and a better-than-average birdlist, which was really quite surprising considering it was a winter trip and we had more than our share of bad weather. Persistence and luck can often make up for the annoyance of some rain. We had great sightings of some tough birds including Long-trained Nightjar, Stygian Owl, White-bearded and Tufted Antshrikes, Half-collared Sparrow, Black-backed Tanager, Black-legged Dacnis, and the best views we’ve ever had on any tour of the rare Gray-winged Cotinga.
July is winter in Southeast Brazil with pleasant temperatures, shorter days, and theoretically less rain. I’m beginning to wonder about that last part. We had quite a lot of rain on this trip, and also have had some the last few times we have run the trip in July. Not heavy downpours, but light drizzle that persisted on and off for several days. Maybe it’s climate change, or maybe just an odd roll of the dice, who knows. We didn’t let it dampen our spirits, and the great hospitality and comfortable lodging at Guapiassu and Vale das Taquaras helped make for a pleasant and productive tour.
We started in Rio, where most of the group had arrived early to see some of the sights of this beautiful city, which is gearing up for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. We stopped by the airport to pick up the last arriving member of the group and headed off to Guapiassu Bird Lodge, stopping briefly to look at a few open country birds like Savanna Hawk and Masked Water-Tyrant, arriving before lunch. The hummer feeders were relentlessly guarded by Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, but Glittering-throated Emeralds, Violet-capped Woodnymphs, and a single Rufous-breasted Hermit occasionally snuck in and grabbed a few sips of sugar water. A small flock of Maroon-bellied Parakeets landed in the trees and slowly clambered down the banana feeders for a snack. After lunch we started with an easy walk around the wetlands, spotting many birds such as White-faced Whistling-Duck, Brazilian Teal, Masked Duck, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cocoi Heron, Capped Heron, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Rufous-sided Crake, Greater Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Amazon Kingfisher, White Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, Wing-banded Hornero, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Gray-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, White-bearded Manakin, Long-billed Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Yellow-backed Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Red-rumped Cacique, and Violaceous Euphonia. Fierce Broad-snouted Camians and herds of bizarre Capybara watched us as we went by, occasionally panicking and canonballing into the marsh. We returned to the lodge and relaxed over some delicious caipirinhas before having dinner and an early night. A horde of bats were busy draining the hummer feeders. They moved so fast we couldn’t see much, but a camera flash was enough to freeze them and get a good view.