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NORTHWEST BRAZIL

Friday 23rd August - Saturday 14th September 2013

Eustace Barnes

Guianan Cocks-of-the-Rock (painting by Eustace Barnes)

Guianan Cocks-of-the-Rock (painting by Eustace Barnes)

Late August and it must be time for another Amazonian adventure in Brazil; a trip that continually gets better and provides its fortunate participants with an ever more stunning array of the avian treasures found within the exuberant embrace of that great forest that is the Amazon. The Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lek got things off to a fine start with our magical visit to the court of the vermillion clowns. Watching these extraordinary birds posing and prancing about must be one of the most exciting experiences for world birders anywhere. I suppose we should also make mention of the lovely Sun Parakeets, the jewel-like Fiery Topaz, three stunning Black-necked Red-cotingas, three recently described species, an extraordinary array of Antbirds including a pair of the near mythically enigmatic Yapacana Antbird, a magnificent Pavonine Quetzal and you have all the ingredients for a life-time of memories to chew over at your leisure.

The Amazon basin is a vast bio-region comprised of a mosaic of different vegetations largely produced by soil type and drainage patterns allowing, in no small measure, for an unparalleled diversity of birds. Fieldwork across the region is, even today, revealing ever more complex patterns of diversity and, perhaps not surprisingly, a good many new species. As the study of microhabitats proceeds apace and our understanding of speciation processes advances accordingly, it is clear that the biodiversity of the Amazon has been greatly under estimated and many new species remain to be discovered. The Amazonian rainforests are always a spectacular if highly challenging habitat for birders and our experiences provided no exceptions as we crossed back and forth across three major biogeographic boundaries; the Rios Negro, Branco and Solimoes. Our brief visit south of the Solimoes was spent working the Purus-Madeira interfluvium where a good many new species have recently been described. As such we were in search of a substantial number of species. We found all the white-sand forest (campinas) and flooded forest (varzea and igapó) endemics and specialities. The terra firme forests are always tough but we did manage to see most of the Guianan Shield endemics and all of the campina specialists. In total we recorded 547 species from the Amazonian river islands to the campinas, campinarana woodlands, Igapo and terra firma forests and the open savannas and wetlands of Roraima. In that incredible total we recorded 27 Raptors, 28 Parrots, 25 Hummingbirds, 11 Toucans and Barbets, 16 species of Woodpeckers, 14 species of Woodcreepers, 61 Antbirds and 22 Cotingas and Manakins. We enjoyed great views of some of he most difficult species to see in the Amazon and some of the rarest in the open country of Roraima including the Sun Parakeet. In addition we recorded 23 species of mammals including Giant Anteater, Brazilian Porcupine and both Chestnut-bellied and White-chested Titi monkey. It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting regions in the Amazon and to which I could happily return time and again.

Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock - the real thing! (Eduardo Patrial)

Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock - the real thing! (Eduardo Patrial)