Sunbird Brazil, Mato Grosso: Sep 2015

TOCO TOUCAN Ramphastos toco. The largest member of the toucan family.

“After completing two fairly short internal flights, we arrived in a sunny and warm Cuiaba late afternoon, leaving behind a very damp Rio de Janeiro replete with its Brown Boobies, Black Vultures and Magnificent Frigatebirds, which were seemingly everywhere!

Our first taste of Mato Grosso birding was in the form of a night walk where we spent a few hours birding the reserve and nearby fields at Serra das Araras. The ponds contained a selection of amphibians including huge Cane Toads and several beautifully marked frogs, whilst nearby Least Grebes appeared briefly in the torch-beam before diving out of sight.

Heading along the reserve track produced our first surprise of the night. A superb Brazilian Tapir moving through the dry vegetation around us, and giving great views. What a start!

Nearby at a small copse we heard four species of owl including Black-banded, Ferruginous Pygmy and Spectacled, with the fourth. Tawny-bellied Screech, the only one to show itself. In the distance the loud ringing calls of Laughing Falcons rang out and we headed for our beds, full of anticipation regarding what surprises awaited us the next day.

The following morning the reserve itself was heaving with birds. The Laughing Falcons we’d heard the previous evening were perched out in full view and we had great views of Greater Rhea feeding in the long grass early on. This was followed shortly afterwards by a noisy close-range fly past by the impressive Red and Green Macaws, several elegant Plumbeous Kites and the first of several Black-tailed Trogons. Two White-eared Puffbirds perched sentinel-like and a soaring Grey-headed Kite showed well. Toco Toucans are always great to see and we were entertained by a pair which gave us great close-up views whilst a group of three confiding Brown Jacamars were also superb, fly-catching from low branches. A Moustached Wren appeared close-by in low vegetation whilst higher up in the canopy its cousin, the Thrush-like Wren, was as vocal as always. Nearby, a good selection of woodpeckers were seen included Green-barred, Yellow-fronted, nesting Little and the beautiful White.

New birds came thick and fast here with Blue-crowned Trogon noted as well as the highly entertaining Chestnut-eared and Lettered Aracaris which, like most Toucans, don’t appear that well designed for flying - carrying such a huge bill must weigh them down and surely have an effect on their aerodynamics. Onto our next sighting when in quick succession a Buff-throated Woodcreeper flew-in and perched whilst the ultra-vocal Great Antshrike eventually showed itself in a thick tangle. White-throated Kingbird and both Black-crowned and Masked Tityras also allowed a close approach as did a superbly confiding male Barred Antshrike; pumping his tail enthusiastically as he gave his chuckling, almost kookaburra-like call.

Checking out the wetlands produced a whole host of great birds including Cocoi, Capped, Striated and Rufescent Tiger Herons, Green and Bare-necked Ibis, a family of Least Grebes, Green and Amazon Kingfishers, Southern Screamer, White-rumped and Solitary Sandpipers, and lots of White- faced Whistling Ducks. A little further on an Armadillo (probably Nine-banded) dashed across the track and was only seen by a lucky few, whilst we watched Buff-necked Ibis and Whistling Heron feeding in the stubble.

Back on the forest edge, raptors started to become active as the day warmed. Firstly a beautiful Gray Hawk, then a Gray-headed Kite alongside several Roadside Hawks, up-to seven Swallow- tailed Kites and two King Vultures joined the numerous Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, all of which were dwarfed by the huge Jabiru which soared high above us on beautifully snow-white wings. A little further on, stunning views of two Turquoise Tanagers feeding low in a palm tree, and a surprise in the form of a Bare-necked Umbrellabird flying past. Another Barred Antshrike showed well and a pair of Burrowing Owls stared sternly, watching us, as we watched them. Heading from the woodland towards the lodge we enjoyed great views of two more White Woodpeckers, duetting Rufous Hornero and numerous Red-shouldered Macaws. The open areas held Magpie Tanager, Guira Cuckoo and American Kestrel, whilst a small pool held Black-backed Water Tyrant, Wattled Jacana and a single Scaled Dove.

Working our way along to ‘The Gateway to the Pantanal’ - the famous Transpantaneira Road, we clocked up more exciting species. Both Green and Buff-necked Ibis showed well on roadside wetlands as well as the first of many Limpkins, Rufescent Tiger Herons and a couple of Jabiru. A Blue and Yellow Macaw by the roadside was a brief but welcome addition to the checklist. Just a shame it was beside a busy road with nowhere safe to turn (or park).  

Sample from Sunbird Brazil, Mato Grosso: Sep 2015