Sunbird Brazil, Atlantic Forest: Sep 2015

DUSKY-TAILED ANTBIRD Drymophila malura. One of the species we hope to find in the rainforest around our lodge which is situated at 1000 m.Brazil was in the midst of an English style patch of weather when we arrived, neatly summed up as rain, rain and more rain!This did not deter us however and the unsettled weather produced more species of birds than any of my other previous Atlantic Rainforest tours. Our first day was spent at middle altitude dodging the showers across in the neighbouring valley. Highlights included Spot-billed Toucanet, Rufous-capped Antthrush and Black-cheeked Gnateater with Rufous-Breasted Leaftosser, Star-throated Antwren and Lesser Woodcreeper also showing well. We had our first views of Black-cheeked Gnateater, Sepia-capped Flycatcher and nice close-up views of a feeding tanager flock, containing both Green- headed and several stunning Red-necked, as well as Streaked Xenops, Chivi Vireo and Whiskered Myiobius.

The upper reaches of one of the trails produced Blue Manakin, Black-capped and White-eyed Foliage Gleaners in addition to Pin-tailed Manakin, Rufous-capped Motmot and Rufous-capped Antthrush. Several Channel-billed Toucans were feeding in a fruiting tree on the far side of the trail, which also contained a tanager flock consisting of Rufous-headed, Yellow-backed, Flame-crested and a couple of the rarer Olive-green.

The following day produced an amazing array of species including several that are normally difficult to see. A good example of this was the Southern Antpipit which showed well whilst we were watching a Serra Antwren. Only a few yards away a hugely impressive Crowned Solitary Eagle soared over our heads and a Black Hawk-eagle drifted along the ridge, followed moments later by a fast-moving Aplomado Falcon which was certainly on a mission. Moving along the valley spectacular birds came thick and fast, firstly Yellow-eared Woodpecker then Variable Antshrike, then a perched White-tailed Hawk and a couple of White-barred Piculets. Our regular stop at a small farm overlooking a marsh produced firstly Streamer-tailed Tyrants then Black-necked Aracari followed by Blue-winged Macaw, Blackish Rail and another Yellow-eared Woodpecker. At our traditional lunch stop, a calling Red- legged Seriema showed really well as did a confiding pair of Black-capped Donacobius, which were very entertaining indeed!

The open country birding was very good today with Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture showing well, and at one point flying over a perched Firewood-gatherer and Yellow-rumped Marshbird nearby. At our regular Burrowing Owl stake-out I was disappointed to see that they’d vacated the site. I need not have worried, however, as two birds quickly appeared on the opposite side of the road and gave good views with a bonus Sapphire-spangled Emerald in the trees above us. A little further along, the White-eared Puffbirds obliged; duetting on an exposed branch. Cliff Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Blackbird and Campo Flicker also gave very good views here. A Masked Water Tyrant gave walkaway views in the pouring rain and a Common Tody Flycatcher was also very obliging.

Further along the valley we bumped into more exciting new species in open country. First up was Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, followed quickly by Curl-crested Jay, Swallow Tanager, White Woodpecker and a single Sooty Tyrannulet, whilst a coffee stop produced Guira Cuckoo, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and a superb Swallow-tailed Hummingbird.

After a fairly heavy shower had passed we were back out into the field immediately and this paid dividends with lots of birds preening and drying themselves off. In a fairly short time we managed to see Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Euler’s Flycatcher, Chestnut-Vented Conebill, Yellow Tyrannulet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Creamy-bellied Thrush and Hooded Tanager all fairly easily, with up to four Three-toed Jacamars at the regular spot. This flourish towards the end of the day meant that our total for the day was a whopping 124!

BRAZIL PHOTOGRAPHIC – SE Atlantic Rainforest: Bird List...2

Our day at the wetlands saw us arriving just after first light. Our first bird, well not really a bird but still a great sighting, was courtesy of one of the groundsmen who kindly directed us immediately to an adult female Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth which had just crossed the road,and was now making its way (slowly) up a large Cecropia tree. The views and resulting images were wonderful, and as we watched her clambering up the trunk we also noted that she’d got a youngster clinging on underneath - certainly an unusual but serendipitous moment to start our day!

Working the various reserve trails we enjoyed photographing a huge selection of birds today including Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Brazilian Tanager, Guira Cuckoo, Gray-headed Kite, as well as some beautiful butterflies including Monarch and the alluring Blue Morpho, On the forested slopes, highlights included the fabulous White-bibbed Antbird, lekking White-bearded Manakin, Red-crowned Ant-tanager, Plain-winged Woodcreeper and White-eyed Foliage Gleaner.

Away from the marshy areas, American Purple and Common Gallinules were joined by Striated, Capped and Rufescent Tiger Herons on the lake margin, Boat-billed Flycatchers, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Brazilian Teal and Amazon Kingfisher showed well as dozens of huge Capybara basked in the morning sun.

The more open areas close to the ponds produced Blond-crested Woodpecker, White-headed Marsh and Masked Water-tyrants. Before the day became too hot we also enjoyed good views of Buff- throated Saltator, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet and Long-billed Wren. We then headed into the secondary growth, which produced both Silvery-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Grayish Mourner, and very unusually for this species, a Tufted Antshrike which we actually saw! They have to be one of the most secretive birds on the site, so to see one in the open was very welcome.

The high-altitude trail is always interesting and in many ways it is one of my favourite parts of the tour. Leaving the lodge the sky was blue without a cloud in sight. However, arriving at the foot of the mountain, the skies leadened and we were almost immediately shrouded in fog! You know it’s foggy when you have to convince the group that Diademed Tanagers really are bright blue - in the murk, they just looked dark! Working our way up the steep mountain side we picked up some very good species indeed including White-rimmed Warbler, Planalto Woodcreeper, Pallid Spinetail, our second Large-tailed Antshrike of the tour, Rufous-tailed and Bertoni’s Antbirds and Serra-do-mar Tyrant- manakin.

Reaching the middle altitude, the unmistakeable metallic chiming ‘seeeeeeeeeeee’ of Black and Gold Cotingas echoed around the valley and soon we were looking at a male, which flew as soon as we got the ‘scope on him! We did, however, get to see another later including having ‘scope views of a female. Leaving the Black-and-golds behind us we climbed further and were very soon in the habitat of another very sought-after bird, the Grey-winged Cotinga which, after giving us the run- around for around an hour, flew into a nearby tree and stayed there long enough for us to see this hugely range-restricted endemic properly. Soon the low-cloud lifted as quickly as it had descended and once again we could make out the vivid blue plumage of Diademed Tanager, with Mottle- cheeked Tyrannulet and Velvety-black Tyrant joining the feeding flocks of Brassy-breasted Tanagers in the trees.

Heading higher still, we reached the radar station at the base of the summit, nearly there I thought! Ah well, yes, nearly...only a steep climb of 622 steps to go then. But, we did it, and once at the top, the endemic Itatiaia Thistletail showed briefly but well in thick pampas-type grass. Going down was much easier than going up and we soon found ourselves on the trail near the cotinga spot once again. Having looked for the Grey-winged for another ten minutes and also seeing Olivaecous Elaenia, Cinnamon Tanager and Plovercrest, we started our descent proper. Other good birds seen on the way down included several Golden-crowned Warblers, another handful of Diademed

BRAZIL PHOTOGRAPHIC – SE Atlantic Rainforest: Bird List...3

Tanagers, Planalto Tyrannulet, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, lots more Brassy-breasted Tanagers and several Brazilian Rubies.

Once at the bottom we headed across the lower slopes of the valley to a large ranch-style garden with rows of coniferous trees. Scanning every branch intently we just could not find the bird we had come here for - the Swallow-tailed Cotinga. Then, a few moments later, Andy glimpsed one in flight over the ridge and it was heading towards the trees we’d been monitoring. Then, with relief felt by all, it perched, and finally in the ‘scope was a beautiful male Swallow-tailed Cotinga - fantastic! A little while afterwards a calling Seriema strutted in to investigate us and showed very well, thereby giving us amazing photographic opportunities to enjoy this magnificent, but often camera-shy bird at close quarters, and thus ended another incredible bird-filled day.

The grounds of our lodge have a network of well-worn trails and our time spent walking these produced very good views of Large-tailed Antshrike (albeit a bit soggy), Bertoni’s Antbird, White- shouldered Fire-eye, White-breasted Tapaculo, several Magpie Tanagers, the superb and aptly named Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, a very obliging and very vocal Black-billed Scythebill, a calling Brazilian Antthrush which refused to show itself, Surucua Trogon, a brief Sharpbill, Shear-tailed Grey-tyrant, Hooded Siskin, Spot-billed Toucanet, calling Giant Antshrike and Lineated Woodpecker.

Night-walks produced excellent views of one or two Tropical Sceech Owls, calling Black-capped (or Variable) Screech Owl and unbelievable views of Long-trained Nightjar, three of which swirled above us in the fading light like nocturnal Swallow-tailed Kites! A quite stunning and most entertaining bird, and,of course, a very popular bird, so very much like all of the other species with long tail streamers; Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Streamer-tailed Tyrant and Fork-tailed Flycatcher; the long-tail just seems to reinforce the overall charisma, appeal, and wow-factor.

The feeders and bird-tables held Black-goggled, Burnished-buff, Sayaca, Golden-chevroned and Azure-shouldered Tanagers, as well as Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Blue Dacnis and Blue-naped Chlorophonia. On the hummingbird feeders, a single black and white Black Jacobin danced in mid-air whilst the dazzling but bad-tempered Brazilian Ruby protected its feeding area by chasing off the wonderful Violet-capped Woodnymph and the occasional Scale-throated Hermit as soon as they landed. Several beautiful White-throated Hummingbird are also often seen near the lodge, but as they get booted off by the territorial male Ruby, we often found them feeding on small white flowers away from the feeders or perched on spreading ferns.

So it was soon time to leave but what an amazing time we’d had! In 51?2 days in the field we’d seen over 260 species, of which over 70 were endemic to the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. The dazzling colours and striking plumages of many rainforest species always excites and this year was no exception. The bird of the trip was the spectacular but slightly camera-shy Swallow-tailed Cotinga with the spectacular Long-trained Nightjar a worthy runner up.

I’m already looking forward to returning next year where we hope to watch and photograph even more spectacular birds in wonderful locations. Added to this is the warmth and great hospitality offered by Andy and his team, who help make this tour perfect for fantastic birding and fantastic photography!” – Stuart Elsom 

Sample from Sunbird Brazil, Atlantic Forest: Sep 2015