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        Spanish Nature
Trip report author: John Brooks
Guide :                     Paulo Boute

Day 1. Nov 6th. Rio de Janeiro to Cuiaba

We arrived in Cuiaba in the North West of Brazil from Rio de Janeiro just before noon and were met by our guide Paulo Boute, who then drove us for 1.5hrs to our Lodge. Hyacinth MacawThe Puival Lodge is just outside the Pantanal National Park and is set in open flat country surrounded by fields that flood in the rainy season but with many trees surrounding them. The food was excellent, the pool clear and warm, and the accommodation top-class. A fantastic place to spend a few days.
After a late lunch and a swim we started birding around the Lodge and without any effort saw a pair of magnificent Hyacinth Macaws roosting in a nearby tree. Without leaving the grounds we had superb views of Blue-crowned and White-eyed Parakeets, Buff-necked Ibis, Jabiru, Greater Rhea, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, Solitary Sandpiper, Turquoise-fronted Amazon, Gray Monjita, Purplish Jay and many more. In total we saw 53 species in a matter of a few hours including excellent views of a Great Horned Owl.
Capybara were everywhere and we got within metres of a Crab-eating Fox.
Day 2 Nov 7th Puival Lodge and Pantanal
We spent the day within 1 km of the Lodge, driving and walking tracks between tree lined marshy fields.
All the herons/egrets were around including Cocoi, Striated, Capped, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Great, Snowy and Cattle egrets, as well as Plumbeous, Green and Bare-faced Ibis.
Aplomado FalconMany ducks were present including Brazilian, Muscovy, Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling Duck.
We saw Black Vultures everywhere but the high spots were good views of an Aplomado Falcon and Nacunda Nighthawk.
Ruddy Ground-doves were common but the Long-tailed and Picui were rarely seen.
A great variety of smaller birds were seen including Black-throated Mango, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Rusty-backed Antwren, Chotoy Spinetail, White-rumped Monjita, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Double-collared and White-bellied Seedeaters, Green-barred Woodpecker, White-barred Piculet, Wedge-tailed Grassfinch and Grayish Saltator.
We were lucky to get good views of a Giant Anteater crossing one of the marshy fields as it is rare to see them in the middle of the day and in good light.
Day 3. Nov 8th Pantanal to Rio Cuiaba
Today we entered the Pantanal Park which was only a few kms from our Lodge. Driving for 4 hours along the only track going into the heart of the flatlands we frequently stopped to bird before arriving at the Rio Claro where we boarded a motor boat for the 30mns cruise to our floating hotel, Flotel Jaguar, moored on the banks of the river ideally situated for our exploration of the river wildlife.
JaguarDuring the drive we saw American Wood and Maguari Storks, Southern Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Southern Screamers, Road-side and Black-collared Hawks, Osprey, Chestnut-bellied Guan plus many more including a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. We also saw a South American Coati.
The highlight of the afternoon boat ride was spotting a Jaguar who swam across the river, initially behind us, then scouted for prey in the reeds on the far bank before swimming back just in front of us to emerge in full view on the bank no more than 10mtrs from us, before strolling down the side of the river for several hundred metres. In so doing he got too close to a family of Giant River Otters who screamed, charged and chased him out of their territory. Absolutely fantastic.
Anhingas, Yellow-billed Tern, and Black Skimmers were flying over our boat and around us as were Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers and spectacular Scarlet-headed Blackbirds. We also added Sunbitern and Sungrebe.
Sitting on the balcony of our Flotel Jaguar we saw Black-hooded Parakeet and Scaly-headed Parrot to end a memorable day.

Day 4. Nov 9th Rio Cuiaba
Boat billed HeronToday we had two boat trips on the Rio Cuiaba and its ox-bow tributaries in beautiful weather. Here we saw Neotropic Cormorant, Boat-billed Heron, Pied and Collared Plover, Large-billed Tern, Grey-fronted Dove, Little Cuckoo, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Pale-crested Woodcreeper, Pale-legged and Rufous Horneros, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Yellow-eyed Thornbird, Gray-crested Cacholote, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Common Tody, Piratic and Short-crested Flycatcher, Green-backed Becard, Masked Gnatcatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Chestnut-vented Conebill plus many more from the comfort of our boat.

Day 5. Nov 10th. Rio Cuiaba to Pantanal Lodge.
We were sad to leave our moored hotel where the food was excellent and sitting watching the sunset over the forest and river was magical. A truly memorable setting.
Great Black HawkAfter our boat ride back to the track we drove for several hours along the tract we had come along two days previously to our overnight stay at The Mato Grosso Hotel. Good accommodation and good food in a beautiful setting on the banks of the Rio Cuiaba.
During the day we added several new species together with some old ones including Great Black Hawk, Southern Crested Cara-cara, Chaco Chacalaca, Bare-faced Currassow, Common Piping-Guan, Black-fronted Nunbird, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, Band-tailed Antbird, White-lored and Cinereous-throated Spinetails, Helmeted Manakin, Black-capped Donacobious, Flavescent Warbler, Subtropical Doradito and Yellow-billed Cardinal with the White-eyed Attila being special.
We were lucky to see Tapir, Seba’s Fruit-eating Bat and Cavy (Brazilian Guinea Pig) Marsh Deer and Black-and-Gold Howler Monkeys.

Day 6. Nov 11th Pantanal to Barra do Bugres.
We had a 6 hour drive from the Pantanal north to the edge of the Amazon Basin. We stayed in the Currupira Lodge for two nights. Chestnut eared AracariIt was located in a densely wooded valley deep in the countryside with top-class accommodation and food. Over the millennium the valley has been populated with plants and creatures from Amazonia but is higher, drier and not so humid as the Basin. The climate was perfect not only for birding but the swimming pool was fed by mountain spring water and was beautifully refreshing.
We went for an evening drive and climbed an observatory named after our guide, who was a well known and respected ornithologist.
The high-lights were Dusky-headed Parakeet and Red-shouldered Macaws. But many other species were seen including Undulated Tinamou, Plumbeous Kite, American Kestrel, Gray-necked Woodrail, Lesser Yellowlegs, Golden-cheveroned Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Pauraque, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Great Antshrike, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher and Moustached Wren.

Day 7. Nov 12th. Around Currupira Lodge.
We started the day birding low-altitude pastures with forested clumps.King VultureEverywhere were herds of white Brahmas and horses being bred for cowhands as the Pantanal and surrounding areas need to be managed for horseback, as for the greater part of the year machines would sink into the wetter parts. In the afternoon we went walking in one of the forests.
The stars were King Vulture and Swallow Tanager but others seen were Red-winged Tinamou, Savanna and Crane Hawks, Blue-and-Yellow and Red-and-Green Macaw, Orange-winged Amazon, Squirrel and Guira Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Black-tailed and Blue-crowned Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Brown and Rufous tailed Jacamar, White-necked Puffbird, Lettered Aracari, Campo Flicker, Yellow-tufted, Little and White Woodpecker, Amazonian Antshrike, Warbling Antbird, Red-billed Scythebill, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Masked and Black-crowned Tityra, Magpie Tanager, Lined and Capped Seedeater, Orange-backed Troupial, Yellow-rumped Cacique plus many more.

Day 8. Nov 13th Barra do Bugres to Chapada dos Guimares
Today we drove to Chapada stopping to bird a track with savannah vegetation. Low bushes and rolling countryside with huge vistas. Yellow headed CaracaraWe also went to Bridals Vale waterfall where the birding was excellent and stupendous views. We stayed overnight at Quineiral Lodge where once again the accommodation and food were of a high standard.
During our birding we saw Least Grebe, Swallow-tailed Kite, White-tailed Hawk, Yellow-headed Cara-cara, Red-legged Seriema, Blue-winged Macaw, Peach-fronted Parakeet, White-collared and Dusky Swifts, Yellow-ridged Toucan, Lineated Woodpecker, Planalto Woodcreeper, Yellow-bellied and Plain-crested Elaenia, Boat-billed, Variagated, Streaked and Rusty-margined Flycatchers, Tropical and White-throated Kingbirds, Band-tailed Manakin, Blue-and-white and Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Curl-crested Jay, Pale-breasted Thrush, Violaceous Euphonia, Blue Danis, Black-throated Saltator, Crested Oropendula plus others.

Day 9. Nov 14th. Transfer to Rio
We managed to bird early morning around Chapada before we drove to Cuiaba airport where we flew via San Paulo to Rio for an overnight stop at the Linx Hotel five minutes from the airport. Here we saw clouds of Magnificant Frigatebirds.
Burnished buff TanagerHowever before we flew we had our lunch at a grill near Cuiaba which was memorable. A continuous and unlimited supply of a range of meats presented and sliced on long skewers. No more food that day.
However we did manage to see a good range of birds including White-vented Violetear, Narrow-billed Woodpecker, Southern Antpipit, Great Kiskadee, Brown-chested Martin, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Golden-crowned Warbler, Black-faced, Shrike-like, Palm, Sayaca, Silver-beaked, Burnished-buff, White-lined and White-rumped Tanagers, Red-pileated and Saffron Finch, Blue-back Grassquit and Plumbeous Seedeater. Other more common species which were seen practically everyday have not been listed here.

Day 10. Nov 15th. Rio to Itatiaia National Park.
We started early and drove for three hours to reach our next destination where we stayed for three nights. Brazilian TanagerThe Hotel do Ype is set at 1000 metres in the Atlantic Forest in the Mamtiqueira Range stretching for 100’s of kms between Rio and San Paulo. The forest is all that remains of this type of habitat as over 90% has been lost to agriculture. The hotel has a number of private chalets overlooking the forested slopes with fantastic views. They also have numerous bird-feeders which were a constant source of enjoyment. The accommodation and food were of a very high standard and it was enthralling to see the constant movement of the birds from the dining room and the chalets..
Dusky-legged Guan’s strolled around the feeders and Blue-winged Parrotlets were in the trees. We birded the lower area of the Hotel and the feeders seeing Dusky-throated and Scale-throated Hermits, Black Jacobin, White-spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tyrant, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Black-goggled Tanager, Brazilian Ruby, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and Green-winged Saltator.

Day 11. Nov 16th. Around the Hotel.
Surucua TrogonThe weather was not good with low cloud spoiling visability, however we managed to bird in the surrounding area including a very productive spot in the grounds of an abandoned hotel.
We managed to see new species such as Maroon-bellied and Plain Parakeets, Violet-capped Woodnymph, White-throated Hummingbird, Green-billed Toucan, Rufous-capped Spinetail, White-throated Woodcreeper, Star-throated Antwren, Plain Antvireo, Ferruginous Antbird, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Slaty Bristlefront, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Cliff Flycatcher, Masked Water-Tyrant, Gray-hooded Attila, Social Flycatcher, Greenish Manakin, Southern House Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Bananaquit, Rufous-capped Motmot, Brazilian, Golden-chevroned, Fawn-breasted, Green-headed and Gilt-edged Tanagers, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-throated Grosbeak and Red-rumped Cacique.

Day 12. Nov 17th. Around the mountains.
We left early to drive up to 3000 metres so we be there at dawn. Here we were a long way above the clouds and visibility was excellent. The habitat was open with low bushes and quite cold as we had become used to warmth.
Frilled Coquettes and Surucua Trogons were the highlights, but many more species were seen including Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail, Sick’s Swift, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Versicoloured Emerald, Itatiaia Thistletail, Scaled Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped and Variable Antshrike, Mouse-colored Tapaculo, Highland and Olivaceous Elaenia, Planalto and Gray-capped Tyrannulet, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Yellow-legged Thrush, White-rimmed Warbler, Olive-green, Brassey-breastedBay-chested and Buff-throated Warbling Finch, and Diademed Tanager, Great Pampa-Finch, Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch and Hooded Siskin.

Day 13. Nov 18th. Drive to Ubatuba.
Swallow tailed HummingbirdWe birded around the Hotel until 10.30 and then we drove to the mountains west of Ubatuba where we drove on 20kms of tracks through densely forested areas surrounding wide open pastures. These pastures had thousands of cattle but few birds. They were mostly seen in the forests with the highlights being a Firewood Gatherers nest and a Bare-throated Bellbird singing its heart out in the forest. Also seen were Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Gray-rumped Swift, Band-tailed Hornero, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Spix’s Spinetail, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Gray-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Velvety Black-Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, White-rumped Swallow, Masked Yellowthroat, Orange-headed, Ruby-crowned and Hooded Tanager and Chestnut-capped Blackbird.
We then drove on to Ubatuba, a small coastal town where we stayed two nights in the Palace Hotel.

Day 14. Nov 19th. Birding around Ubatuba
Green HoneycreeperUnfortunately the weather was very bad today with heavy rain. We did go to a location with birdfeeders but saw little. The rest of the day was spent in the hotel or walking along the front. Some birds were seen including Brown Booby, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Saw-billed Hermit, Sombre Hummingbird, Glittering-throated Emerald and Green Honey-creeper.


 Day 15. Nov 20th. Transfer to Rio
Today we drove back to Rio where the tour ended. We said fond farewells to Paulo and one of the group flew back home. However the rest stayed in Rio for a further three nights, and with an excellent guide we explored all the main sites, including Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mount, Copacabana and Ipanema and the beautiful Botanical Gardens, plus a great deal more.
During the tour we found 326 new species and would have had more had the weather been better over the last few days.
Nevertheless it was a terrific experience with the accommodation and food being of an unexpectedly high standard. Apart from Ubatuba where we were in a town the Lodges were located in stunning scenery in the countryside. The locals were very friendly, helpful and at no time did we feel for our safety.
All in all a memorable tour.