Whos keeping an eye on me....

Friday, 21 April 2017

NE Brazil 2017 - Pt5 (Lencois and Chapada Diamantina area)

We had arrived yesterday early evening at the town of Lencois and were booked into Pousada Casa de Geleia. We wouldn't have time to venture out but the birding around the garden feeders and fountain was excellent. 2 lifers for starters with a Variable Oriole and a Red-rumped cacique. The hummingbird feeders were a little quiet probably due to the aggressive Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, but every now and again a rare (for these parts), Brown Violetear tried to get a quick feed before being chased off, leaving the way clear for the Glittering-bellied Emeralds to snatch a quick feed. Planalto and Reddish Hermits kept their distance and fed on the other side of the garden.
Reddish Hermit

Planalto Hermit

Swallow-tailed Hummingbird
Glittering-bellied Emerald

We had seen a scattering of Red-cowled Cardinals in most places prior to today, Ciro had been fairly cool towards them as we had travelled from place to place, often muttering that we would see plenty so don't worry, now I know why.......  Dozens upon dozens fed merrily in this garden, both adults and juveniles.
Red-cowled Cardinal


As we enjoyed a cool beer on the veranda a host of birds came down to the path to feed on the seed or the fruit that had been put out by out hosts. Pale Baywings, Blue Dacnis, Palm and Sayaca Tanagers, BananaquitPale Breasted Thrush, Rufous Bellied Thrush and upto 6 White Naped Jays, all in the garden and all together, a great relaxing way to spend the last hour of daylight. A single Sooty Swift flew over the town whilst a Violet-capped Woodnymph added a new hummingbird species to the garden feeders, and just as the light faded dozens of Bats came from under the eaves of the Pousada and flew off into the dusky skies.
Pale Baywing

Rufous Breasted Thrush

There was  excitement about this morning s birding as we were heading to the Diamantina mountains and to the iconic Morro do Pai Inácio, one of the most well known and popular of the Chapada Diamantina’s attractions, the Morro do Pai Inácio, has an altitude of 1,120m. This popular tourist attraction in the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina, is found in the region of Palmeiras and we were heading off in search of some good regional endemic birds including the Hooded Visorbearer.

Morro do Pai Inácio

and the view from the top

Our guide Ciro enjoying the spectacular vista

We arrived with low cloud and some drizzle and as we parked the vehicle we were met with Chopi Blackbirds and Blue & White Swallows hawking over the Caatinga scrubland. A walk through the Caatinga quickly brought us a singing Grey-backed Tachuri, it sat atop some bushes but quickly dived back down, it did this a few times, with a quick photo taken we moved on and decided to try later when the light improved (alas we didn't get to see it again on the way back), a female Sincora Antwren showed really well, and further along two males gave fleeting views. We were heading to find enough plants that could be holding a Hooded Visorbearer on territory, and soon enough Ciro found a patch that looked promising. A White eared Puffbird called out from a nearby forest (which looked fairly impenetrable from where we were and one that we didn't try further for), a Rusty-winged Antshrike and Plain-crested Elaenia kept us company until Ciro heard the Visorbearer call, then suddenly dropped onto the flowers behind us. We moved into a better position and waited for it to return, it did. Ciro suggested that this species is fairly obliging and would allow us quite close, unfortunately the poor light never really improved but this fabulous Hooded Visorbearer gave us all wonderful views over the next few hours. A small party of Cinnamon Tanagers foraged in bushes and trees close by and a Cliff Flycathcher sat on a rooftop of an abandoned building. We tried for a Pale-throated Pampa finch but none were calling.

Gray-backed Tachuri

Cinnamon Tanager

Hooded Visorbearer
and displaying for us
Sincora Antwren male
female Sincora Antwren

As we headed back to the vehicle a Collared Crescentchest called but extensive searching didn't allow any views but we stumbled onto a lively area of Caatinga that held a good few species including some lifers. Lesser Elaenia wasn't a lifer but the Highland Elaenia was, as was the beautiful endemic Gilt-edged Tanager, four or five birds were busy with one in particular coming very close, too close to focus at one stage. Green-winged Saltator, Sayaca Tanagers, the first White-lined Tanagers of the trip and the now regular Red-cowled Cardinals and Blue Dacnis made this a very lively flock.
Gilt-edged Tanager

Ciro wanted to try another location for a Pale-throated Pampa finch and sure enough one was calling but we had been stopped in out tracks by a very showy pair of Sincora Antwrens, while just over the track a Masked Yellowthroat and Black-throated Saltator shared the same tree. It took a while to locate the finch and eventually Ciro located one in the scope.

Black-throated Saltator

Ciro and Jeff in search of .......

We finished the morning looking for one more species and it would mean hiking up the Morro do Pai Inácio. An American Kestrel greeted us in the car park and we hiked three quarters of the way up the Tipui where we found a single Velvety Black-tyrant, Ciro and myself continued to the top and were greeted by stunning views across the mountains and another male Velvety Black-Tyrant. Unfortunately at this point I was able to take only a few pictures before my battery ran out on the camera..... it was a long way down to fetch another, so the Stripe-tailed Yellow-finch got away without having its portrait taken.
Velvety Black-tyrant

After lunch in the wonderful town of Lencois we headed off to another area for the afternoon. The birding slowed down a bit but a Purple-throated Euphonia and Gray Elaenia were new for me and a host of new trip birds were added such as Tropical Parula (cant believe this was our first sighting), Golden Crowned Warbler, Streaked Xenops, Pectoral Sparrow, Planalto Slaty-antshrike, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher and a female Blue-backed Mankin (our first of many females and not many males).

It had been a fantastic day and a half, especially with the Hooded Visorbearer this morning. The pousada and garden birding were exceptional and the town of Lencois had a reall "Hippy" vibe to it and is a hive of activity with hikers and hiking shops mingled in with loads of restaurants and  cobbled street café s.

Tomorrow we bird along the way to Boa Nova

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

NE Brazil 2017 - Pt4 (Potengi - Canudos)

We had a morning's birding the Caatinga area of Potengi with Jefferson Bob again. There were a few targets, with the main ones being White-Browed Antpitta and Ash-Throated Casiornis.

As we parked up and got out of the car, four over flying Comb Ducks were an only sighting of the trip and a lifer for me and we added Red-billed Sythbill to the trip list as we hiked up a steep dried river towards a plateau of Caatinga scrub. Not far into the hike it was pleasing to see a Great Xenops again, but much like yesterday the photo opportunity was difficult as the bird was sat in deep vegetation, although two views in two days is good enough for me. A little further on and we were rewarded with a fairly showy Ash-throated Casiornis, in fact I think we had a pair. One certainly sat out but the light was in the wrong direction, again making photography difficult.

Rufous Tailed Jacama, Greenish Elaenias, Yellow Flycatcher, Sayaca and Burnished Buff Tanagers were all we could find further on, so we doubled back and took another track. We were quickly rewarded with at least two calling White-browed Antpitta, we spent an hour trying to pinpoint one down, and eventually were able to go into the Caatinga scrub in search. It took a while but we were able to edge close enough to finally see it. It walked along a fallen log, the spent the next few minutes edging a little closer to us, overall we had good views, we left it in peace feeling very satisfied. Bobs phrase of "Os Ingleses suaram a camisa em busca do Torom!" was very apt as it had been a tough couple of hours trying desperately to get onto the White-Browed Antpitta .

The translation...... "The English sweated the shirt in search of the bird!", it made me laugh.

We could head down the mountain with the two main targets accounted for, we still added more lifers with a Grey-eyed Greenlet, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Caatinga Antwren and a Planalto Slaty-Antshrike, whilst down at the car a pair of Green-backed Becards  sat in a closeby tree, and a pair of Tawny Piculets foraged on some snags above our heads.. We had used up a large amount of the morning looking for the Antpitta and had to drop off Bob and say good by. The Potengi area over the last 24hrs had been very productive with plenty of special birds, the highlight bird for me was the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, but the encounter with the pair of Stripe-backed Antbirds was great fun to watch. I wish Bob great success with his venture in building a birding watching lodge.

Green-backed Becard
Tawny Piculet

We has a long drive ahead of us as we were to head to Canudos and the Lear's Macaw area. but we would stop at Crato on the way to visit the Araja water park at Chapada do Araripe. We were hoping to see one of the worlds newest described species, which incredibly for such colourful bird wasn't discovered until 1996 and then only described in1998.
The Araripe Manakin is a real stunner, its range is on the north-eastern slope of the Chapada do Araripe, and we were heading to a Theme Park to try and see one. Almost immediately upon paying at the entrance booth, you walk along a paved footpath that runs along a small stream, this is prime Araripe Manakin area. Sure enough within a few minutes we had seen 7+ females but not a male in sight. As time passes you console yourself that at least you have seen an Araripe Mankin, but of course its the stunning male that makes the journey really worthwhile. Happily after twenty minutes Ciro located a juvenile male, scraggy looking and in-between moults and without tail feathers, but it was definitely a male. Blue Dacnis kept us company while we continued to search, and a little further on Bingo! Just above our heads we located an adult male Araripe Manakin. Great views and a few photos and feeling much much better, we could relax now knowing that one of the main trip targets was right above us. We headed back towards the park entrance where we had seen the females in the hope that if females are about there maybe be males....... such as these things happen in life. No surprises then when a male obliged with a few poses more or less at eye level. We saw at least 4 adult males, 1 juvenile male and over a dozen females. Ciro left us enjoying the bird for a little longer than he should have as we had used most of the daylight up and we had a long journey with poor road conditions to deal with so begrudgingly we all had to leave. It is one of the few times that I have questioned myself when leaving a place with an incredibly special bird if I will actually ever see this species again, it certainly wont be turning up anywhere unusual so the answer is probably a no......what a real shame.
Female Araripe Manakin

Male Araripe Manakin


We headed off towards Canudos were we would eventually arrive at the town in the dark and booked into the Lears Macaw reserve, tomorrow morning should be just as spectacular as today was.

From our accommodation we set off on a relatively short morning drive to the Lear's Macaw roosting and breeding site, along the way we disturbed plenty of Paraque Nightjars and a single Scissor-tailed Nightjar. We arrived at a small picnic site where we ate biscuits and drank coffee and listened to the now awakening Lear's Macaws. Two by two they passed us in the subdued dawn light, possibly twenty birds flew past. As the sun came up the incredible landscape of rusty arid sandstone came into view. A large Cactus was a great staging post for a pair of Macaws to perch and preen.

Others flew overhead and perched in bushes, 20, 30, possibly more, a thrill to see. Blue Crowned Parakeets unfortunately weren't going to steel the limelight as they flew past and a Laughing Falcon called from somewhere over there. As the sun came up, we headed a short walk to a canyon where the birds breed in the rock face. A few birds favoured a distant ledge to roost upon while most of the birds flew overhead and probably onto feeding grounds. However a single pair of Lear's Macaws were tempted to land at their nest site but a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle had been soaring in the area making them nervous, they made half a dozen attempts to come in but aborted each one. In the meantime Jeff had noticed a Bat Falcon that had landed on a stone ledge close to where we were watching the Macaws from. It had caught a bat that was partially eaten. Great photo opportunities and stunning close up views of a stunning small falcon.
Bat Falcon


The Lear's Macaw pair eventually sought enough courage to land at their rock face nest site.

A Crane Hawk and Turkey Vulture flew past the site alas it wasn't a King Vulture. We tried a King Vulture roosting site close-by but to no avail.

As we left the site we picked up a Cliff Flycatcher and Lesser Wagtail-tyrant.

It had been a superb morning in a fascinating landscape and with a truly wonderful species of bird and one of those moments where the bird, the location and the precarious existence of this bird make you realise that what you have just witnessed is incredibly special and not to be taken for granted. .

Canudos, Lear's Macaw Reserve

We now have a long drive ahead of us as we head to the "hippy" town of Lencois where we will be visiting the Chapada Diamantina mountain range.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

NE Brazil 2017 - Endemic birding Pt3 (Quixada - Potengi)

This morning we would have a leisurely breakfast before heading to Potengi, we enjoyed a little lie in where Ross (who we had bumped into the night before) had set of extremely early to try for the White-browed Guans that we saw at Serra de Baturite before dawn, he would also try later on for the Moustached Woodcreeper at Sorbal that we had already missed.

A quick walk around the area allowed me to see the biggest flock yet of the noisy Cactus Parakeets which landed a short distance behind the pool, whist a Grey-necked Wood-rail called out from the reeds. Variegated and Streaked Flycatchers posed for photos but unfortunately the Blue-winged Parrotlets didn't. The resident family of three Pygmy Nightjars had survived the nights tropical downpour and were warming themselves in the sun, before the first trip sighting of a Shiny Cowbird brought me back down to earth with a dose of the mundane! ...... I am currently sat here in the UK wishing to now see a Shiny Cowbird.
Streaked Flycatcher

Pygmy Nightjar

Other nice birds close-by were a Green-barred Woodpecker and an Ochre Backed Woodpecker that flew off before the camera was to hand, but it gave super views in the sun rather than the previous sighting in the Baturite gloom and drizzle of a few days ago. The pair of Crested Becards were still on sentry duty outside their nest and a Golden-Green Woodpecker was the last new bird before we had to leave. We picked up plenty of Spot-backed Puffbirds as we left the reserve.
Spot-backed Puffbird
Green -barred Woodpecker

As we drove to Potengi we stopped suddenly as Ciro spotted a couple of Red-legged Seriema in a field, one strode off quickly but the other stayed around long enough to get the camera out of the window. Great bird..... we also had our only sighting of the trip of a single Ringed Kingfisher.
Red-legged Seriema

We arrived at Potengi and booked into the comfortable Pousada Menos Paga and quickly travelled on to meet a local guide Jefferson Bob. After a hearty lunch at his home, we drove to his patch at the Sitio Pau Preto area. A host of Caatinga speciality birds were here so we eagerly set off into dry farmland and bush. Even the most common of species such as White Monjita and Rufous -fronted Thornbirds were new for me so right from the very start I knew this was going to be a good afternoon of birding. The endemic White-throated Seedeater and handsome Copper Seedeaters mixed in with the Grassland yellow-finchs and White Monjitas along the trackside and dry stubbly fields, and yet more Burrowing Owls sat on the barbed wire fence posts along the tracks. Bob has a site for the wonderfully named migratory species, White-naped Xenopsaris, I was hoping our timing was right to get us onto this smart bird. Sure enough a pair of males flitted between a thorny bush and a wire fence, my first sighting of the Chalk-browed Mockingbirds (I had missed the ones whilst travelling and sat in the back seat.... ditto for Guira Cuckoos) were also added to the ever growing life list.
 White-naped Xenopsaris
We continued along the track and parked up, the heat was fairly oppressive but we had no need to worry as we didn't venture more than fifty yards from the car and the birding became red hot. First off, an Ultramarine Grosbeak was giving good views as I tracked it around with the camera but we were distracted by a small mixed flock which held both Lesser Wagtail-tyrants and a Greater Wagtail-tyrant, Orange-headed Tanager, Southern Scrub-flycatcher, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-tyrant and Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (the only non-lifer in the mixed flock). Most of these species are fairly common, but that 20 minutes or so gave me a host of new birds and we hadn't really done any walking yet. Further up the dry track a pair of Stripe-backed Antbirds gave us superb photo and video opportunities, this is a really smart species, we could have stayed for the afternoon, but we had a date with a stunner of a hummer.
Ultramarine Grosbeak
Stripe-backed Antbird
We arrived at another area of Bobs patches (pardon the pun, but we were now walking through his vegetable patch, proper garden birding.). Red-cowled Cardinals seemed to be the most abundant bird here, but Bob had a special bird feeding on some flowering plants, we had to wait a while but sure enough it didn't let us down. A stunning Ruby-topaz Hummingbird initially teased us with fleeting visits where it seemed to feed at the rear of the plants giving good views but zero chance of photos. Glittering Bellied Emeralds and a single Swallow-tailed Hummingbird made more frequent visits and fed on our side of the plants, the Swallow-tail Hummingbird can be a very territorial species and often chases every other hummingbird away, so maybe that is why it was only making fleeting visits, or was it the ever calling Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl that was perched high in the tree above us. Whatever it was, things changed and it made more frequent visits and allowed some photo opportunities..... (not sure I fully seized the opportunity though and never did quite nail that shot!). Again this was species that we could have easily stayed longer but we had another area to explore, as we left the veg patch we passed a pair of Little Woodpeckers, a Zone-tailed Hawk passed low overhead and a young Campo Troupial foraged in a hedge close to the car.
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird


The Owl and the hummingbird
A Glittering-bellied Emerald hummingbird attacks a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl
The main Target at the last location of the day was the Great Xenops. Ciro had already warned that it can be a difficult bird to see so it was a relief to all when we heard one calling a soon as we parked up, and even more relieved when it showed itself only a few minutes later. Certainly an amazing looking bird and it was one of the species high on the trip target list. It wasn't the only endemic on show, a pair (particularly the male) of Silvery-cheeked Antshrikes put on a display virtually out in the open, and we managed descent views of a Red-shouldered Spinetail, a Chestnut-vented Conebill was probably the best of the rest amongst the many Tanager species, Thrushes and Eleanias.
Great Xenops
Silvery-cheeked Antshrike
We had cleaned up on all the targets well before the light faded which allowed us some downtime for a beer before we headed back to Bobs for yet another hearty meal. Bob is currently building (with donated funds) a lodge for birders to stay whilst visiting this area and will be a great base for birding areas a little further afield. I can imagine to photo opportunities here are amazing if ou can allow the time to stay for a few days.

Tomorrow we bird locally in the morning before travelling on again.