Guided by Nick Athanas.
By complete chance, this year’s tour happened to start on the last day of Pope Francis’s visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day celebrations. This had the potential for some inconveniences for those of us arriving a day early and staying in the Copacabana, but we left extra-early and luckily just managed to slip out of the city before all the streets were closed for the mass given to several million people on the beach Sunday morning! During most of the Pope’s visit, Rio was wet and soggy, but on the day he left, the skies cleared, the rain stopped, and we had a week of the most spectacular weather I’ve seen in this part of Brazil for many years. Morning and evening were cool to chilly, and daytime highs were in the 70ºs to low 80ºsF. After the first two days, there was not a cloud to be seen. Such warm, sunny weather is not always a blessing, as bird activity often dies down after the early morning, and we perhaps had more than our share of unresponsive birds. We still had a respectable list with plenty of great sightings; just a few of them include Black-backed Tanager, Brassy-breasted, and Gilt-edged Tanagers, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Restinga Antwren, Scaled, Ochre-rumped, and Rufous-tailed Antbirds, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Spot-backed and Large-tailed Antshrikes, Plovercrest, Three-toed Jacamar, Blue-winged Macaw, Red-legged Seriema, Bare-throated Bellbird, and Black-and-gold Cotinga. This tour stays only in two lodges Guapiassu Bird Lodge in the lowlands and Vale das Taquaras Lodge in the mountains. Both are unique lodges with great hospitality, and they make great bases to explore the surrounding areas. The feeders at Vale das Taquaras were the best I’ve seen on any previous tour, and we had a number of hummers there that are quite tough to find in winter, and Lila once again went out of her way to ensure a wonderful stay. Add to all of that another good-natured, patient, and friendly group, and it was a very enjoyable tour.