Whos keeping an eye on me....

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

NE Brazil 2017 - Pt 6 (Lencois - Boa Nova)

We just had the two targets this morning and would stop at Palmeiras before travelling on to Boa Nova. The Targets were Sao Francisco Sparrow and Broad Tipped Hermit. A short stretch of roadside would be our birding area for the next few hours, or longer if the tricky Sao Francisco Sparrow didn't cooperate! This species can be tricky. ...... well not today. As soon as we parked up we heard the Sao Francisco Sparrow  calling across the road in bushes and it didn't take long for it to pop out and flit (do Sparrows flit?) around for a few minutes. It decided to flyover our heads and sing in the near side bushes. Great views of a smart bird.

Sao Francisco Sparrow
 



With that tricky one sorted we were able to chillax and enjoy the birding before picking up the other target...... or so we thought.

We probably weren't going to pick up much new stuff here but a much better view of a Green winged Saltator was appreciated,  Pileated FinchRufous Tailed Jacamars and an assortment of Flycatchers, Yellow breastedStreaked, Brown-Crested, Variegated kept us busy whilst we searched tor the really easy Broad-tipped Hermit! yeah right. We listened, searched and watched the time pass. More species came and went, Caatinga Antwren and Silvery-cheeked Antshrikes, a showy Golden-green Woodpecker, Hooded Tanagers amongst the other tanagers. The first sighting of a Short-tailed hawk flew over with a Crane Hawk as time ticked by. Eventually (not sure how long we had searched) but Ciro heard and spotted the target. Jeff and myself didn't, as it darted behind us, Damn! so we waited a while longer. Of course Ciro is a trooper and he wouldn't leave until we had seen one, and around mid-morning the Broad-tipped Hermit dually obliged. We had 450km to Boa Nova so without further ado off we set, well we got about 400yrds before we had to stop for an East Brazilian Chachalaca that flew into a roadside bush.

Rufous-tailed Jacamar
 
 
East Brazilian Chachalaca.... honestly
 
 
Brown-crested Flycatcher
 
 
Golden-green Woodpecker
 
 


We made plenty of  stops en route to try for a few species. The first target was Rufous-sided Pygmy Tyrant. This was an easy capture as this very smart little bird perched up for us and sang heartedly, and then Ciro called us back over the road as he had heard a Horned Sungem. A quick apology to the Pygmy-tyrant and a run across the road we stood in silence while Ciro tried to pick up its call again. In the meantime I picked up a Rusty-backed Antwren.  The Horned Sungem was one of my most wanted trip species so it was an anxious few minutes until one flew fairly close and perched, We all got onto it, it was a male and its a stunner. Unfortunately a rival male decided to contest a fight and they both flew off one in pursuit of the other. No picture, sometimes the view just has to be enough.
Rufous-sided Pygmy-tyrant
 


Rusty-backed Antwren
 
 

We stopped a short while later to locate a Collared Crescentchest, another stunning little bird. More stops along the way kept the bird action ticking over very nicely with a Blue Finch that Ciro found easily enough at the right location, whilst very closeby two Red Legged Seriemas called to each other but we didn't have time to go looking. An unplanned stop on the edge of a village was a hive of activity in a stubble field. Just about every seedeater in the area were congregating. Copper, White-throated, Yellow-bellied and yet one more lifer with a Plumbeous Seedeater. We continued en route, and yet again you cant beat local knowledge as Ciro pulled into an orchard type area where we bagged a few more lifers with a White-vented Violetear and Brown Chested Martins. It had been a great mornings birding, yes the Broad-tipped Hermit had been frustrating but we had seen every target and got a bonus with the Chachalaca.

female Blue-backed Manikin
(unfortunately hadn't seen the male upto this point)

 
Collared Crescentchest


Copper Seedeater


White-vented Violetear

 

This afternoon we had one more stop before reaching Boa nova. This was under a small bridge alongside a busy main road. Ciro played back for a short while and within a few minutes we had a Diamantina Tapaculo, under a bridge along side a busy main road..... madness! We got a very quick glimpse of a Spix`s Spinetail (we would get stunning views in a few days time), and alongside the bridge a pair of lovely Yellow Tyranulets. Add a White-tailed Hawk for good measure, now we really do have to make tracks.
Yellow Tyrannulet
 

 
Campo Flicker
 


Before booking into our accommodation in the town of Boa Nova we had enough time to track down a few targets that are restricted to a very small area of the Bahia region of NE Brazil. The Slender Antbird is endangered and has a very small fragmented range and population as the habitat is declining rapidly, mainly for cattle pasture, whilst the Narrow-billed Antwren is considered as Near Threatened.and although its population is believed to be small it appears to tolerate some forest fragmentation, both of these species were on this evenings target list. The good news is we got both, firstly a pair of Slender Antbirds mingled with three White-shouldered Fireye, both the male and female Slender Anbirds giving great photo opportunities, a Lesser Woodcreeper, the first of the trip and another Planalto Slaty-antshrike were seen whilst we searched for the Narrow-billed Antwren. We didn't have to move too far or wait too long, first a Hang-nest Tody-tyrant and then the Narrow-billed Antwren. Unfortunately this bird didn't give me any chance of a photo. Booked in just before dark we hoped that the Stygian Owl that had been roosting in the large tree outside our Pousada the previous nights would shuow up, alas it didn't, and wouldn't the next night either.
 
Planalto Slaty-Antshrike
 
 
Slender Antbird - male
 


female
 
 

Tomorrow a full days birding in the Parque Nacional de Boa Nova.

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
 

 
Bananaquit
 
 
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.