Whos keeping an eye on me....

Friday, 28 April 2017

NE Brazil 2017 - Pt7 (Boa Nova, a full days birding)

The previous afternoon we had done a patch of forest that allowed us to get a couple of rarities with the Slender Antbird and Narrow-billed Antwren we woke this morning and still had a full day and a half birding here so were able to get fairly comfortable in our surroundings. We were staying in the small town of Boa Nova and would travel the very short distance to the Parque Nacional de Boa Nova for some serious forest birding. Still no Stygian Owl outside the Pousada, and we were met with a fair bit of gloom and drizzle. We had a whole load of targets here with some very range restricted species in the lush Atlantic forest.
Boa Nova

We were to do well during this trip for Hermit species and this morning was no different as we added a new one and another lifer to the trip list with a Scale-throated Hermit. We birded for a short while with umbrellas, mainly to keep the optics dry and we were going to spend the next hour or so looking down rather than up as we had a bit of an Antbird fest!

We parked up along a track and immediately had the backdrop of a Least Pygmy-Owl calling. We didn't try too hard but couldn't locate it immediately but it was never far away for the next few hours whilst we searched for the target species of the this area. First up was a Striated Softtail, what a little stunner of a bird and in the deepest vegetation alongside the softtail were a Variable Antshrike,  Rio de janeiro Antbird, and a Bahia Spinetail. I didn't even bother with the camera as the drizzle continues and the light was rather poor anyway, but we saw enough of the birds to continue along the track in search of the rest of the targets, but in hindsight I wish I had tried to capture the Striated Softtail on camera..... however I like this species that much I have been granted permission from my guide to use an image from his collection. So here it is Thank You Ciro Albano.......

Striated Softtail
We spent the whole of the morning along this track and with the various Flycatchers not listed here we picked up 60+ species along this stretch of track alone. A few common species (for instance Blue Dacnis, Sayaca Tanagers et al followed us around NE Brazil for the whole trip), some weren't lifers for me such as Scaled Pigeon, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Versicoloured Emerald, Hook-billed Kite, the five Channel Billed Toucans that perched high in the canopy, or the White-bearded Manakin, but dozens more species certainly were lifers and we eventually caught up and got good views of the Least Pygmy-owl from early this morning.

Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcherRed-crowned Ant-tanager, a single Red-ruffed Fruitcrow that Ciro managed to find using the scope, Fork-tailed Pygmy-tyrant, at least a couple of Long-tailed TyrantsYellow-throated Woodpecker, Sooty Grassquit, Scalled Woodcreeper, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner unfortunately we missed the  endemic White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Violacious Euphonia, Ochre-faced Tody-tyrant, Spot-backed AntshrikeYellow-olive Flycatcher, Brazilian TanagerSyrstes, Blue Manakin,, this time the male, Black necked Aracri, our fourth species of Piculet of the tour with a close view of the Golden spangled Piculet, Grey-headed Atilla, my first ever of this family, Rufous Hornero, that cleaned up the Hornero family, at last an image of the Caatinga Chachalote, we had seen plenty in Sorbal a week or so ago but never got the chance to photograph them, Ferruginous Antbird.

Spot-backed Antshrike
Rufous Hornero

Caatinga Chachalote
Long-tailed Tyrant

In terms of birding it had been a brilliant morning, but the early drizzle and cloud had meant that it had been a disappointing morning for photography. To compound matters after a little perseverance we eventually got great views of a Short-tailed Streamcreeper, I got two images, one soft and one sharp, I deleted the sharp one.... oops.
Boa Nova along the track

The sun eventually came out as Ciro gave us a lesson on Dubois Seedeater vs Yellow-bellied Seedeater identification as he tracked one down for us and at long last the sun shone on a rather smart Crescent Chested Puffbird,

Short tailed Streamcreeper

After lunch and a bit of mooching around the town we drove to a new area for this afternoons birding, we would then finish off the day trying for a Giant Snipe.  It was slow going in the now searing heat which meant that we  didn't pick up too many new species but still managed a pair of Pallid Spinetail, White-throated Spadebill, Tufted Antshrike, and it was a real shame that the Pin-tailed Manakin was a female and not the stunning male. A fair amount of time was dedicated to looking for the Black-billed Sythbill, it took forever to find and meant visiting and stopping at plenty of locations, we got it but it was a bloody hard bird to track down.... others of note were an only sighting of the trip of a White-tailed Kite, it had been a good day for Kites as this was out third species, while Chillean Eleania seemed to be the default bird of the afternoon.
Hooded Tanager


We headed off to a small patch of bogland on the edge of the forest, with a little light left we managed a Wedge-tailed Grassfinch just as the heavens opened and boy did it rain. We had a Ash-Throated Crake calling close by but never saw it and we missed the Giant Snipe which turned out to be one of the misses of the tour. Half a dozen Common Paraque on the way back to town couldn't raise the spirits. Having said that, it had been an epic days birding with eight or more regional endemics seen.

Tomorrow we travel an hour or so to meet a young lad and bird on his patch looking for a rather special bird that was thought to have been extinct..... that was until he rediscovered it a few years ago. Next day travel to meet Matheus.

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


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

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