BRAZIL’S EASTERN & CENTRAL AMAZONIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 1 Our tour begins in the early afternoon at Carajás (Parauapebas) airport in the southeastern part of the state of Pará. From there we will drive to the nearby town of Parauapebas for a six nights stay at the comfortable Hotel Vale dos Carajás.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Days 2-6 We will definitely enjoy birding the amazing hills and valleys of Carajás National Forest. Holding the largest iron ore reserves on the planet, the Carajás National Forest is run by Vale, the major mining company in Brazil and one of the biggest in the world. The iron outcrops are located on the top of the hills, creating a peculiar stunted and dry habitat called ‘canga’, where some Cerrado specialists and other open country bird species share the same area. The tall forests of the plateaus, foothills and valleys of Carajás comprise a mega-diverse part of Amazonia where huge and imposing Brazil Nut Trees decorate the vast landscape.
We will have time to visit a series of different areas and habitats during our extended stay.
A prime site to visit is a fascinating area known as Aguas Claras, where tall terra firme with plenty of Brazil nut trees creates a beautiful and inviting forest. The road offers very good birding, but we will also want to reach the Aguas Claras stream by following a nice trail. Along this trail, we will be targeting the stunning, restricted-range Guianan Red Cotinga in the mid-levels of the forest, as well as other forest interior species. We will also be hoping for an active Harpy Eagle nest in this fine area, which gives us our best chance during the tour for this most-wanted species. We may well also find such Brazilian endemics and near-endemics as Cryptic Forest Falcon, Rufous-throated Sapphire (and with luck Dot-eared Coquette), Eastern Striolated Puffbird, the wonderful Hyacinth Macaw, Para Foliage-gleaner, Brigida’s Woodcreeper, Rufous-faced Antbird and Opal-crowned Manakin. This is a good area for the restricted-range and very patchily distributed Blackish Pewee and also the lovely Purple-breasted Cotinga. Our lunch will most likely be enjoyed by the Aguas Claras stream with a lovely opportunity for a freshwater bath to cool off! By staying until dark, we have a good chance for the restricted-range Silky-tailed Nightjar.
Another excellent area is the Lagoa da Mata trail, an easy and flat trail in tall terra firme forest in the hills. The near-endemic Brazilian Tinamou is regular here and with luck we will see one as well as hearing them. Among many other great birds in this area are the impressive, near-endemic Bare-faced Curassow and the beautiful Chestnut-belted Gnateater and the uncommon Wing-banded Antbird. The lake in the forest, which usually holds only a little water during our visits, has a nice boardwalk from where you can see some interesting species. We will also cover some second growth and forest-edge habitat, mainly in search of Wing-barred Seedeater and Marbled Wood Quail.
At a lower altitude, just beside the town of Parauapebas, we can follow a good track that passes through a lovely stretch of lowland terra firme forest and eventually reaches the bank of the Parauapebas River. This area is good for the endemic Snethlage’s Antpitta and the near-endemic Rusty-margined Guan and Snethlage’s Tody-Tyrant.
We will also want to spend time in the fantastic foothill area of Pojuca. We will drive about an hour and a quarter to reach this amazing forest which is rich in bamboo. Two main tracks offer excellent birding including a number of bamboo specialists, some endemics and near-endemics and some scarce or rare species. Major endemic and near-endemic targets include the endemic White-crested Guan, Rufous-capped Nunlet, the superb and only relatively recently rediscovered Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Pearly Parakeet, the strange Peruvian Recurvebill and Manu Antbird, as well as the restricted-range Chestnut-throated Spinetail and Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher. In addition, the near-endemic Dark-winged Trumpeters here are of the form dextralis, a potential split as Brown-winged Trumpeter (the nominate form, found at Amazonia National Park, has green wings). One visit to this marvellous area will barely be enough, so we are almost sure to return!
We will also explore some fascinating hilly forest that includes a known site for the splendid and loud White Bellbird. We should be able to enjoy extended views of this marvellous bird. In the same area, we will spend some time in the forest in search of targets such as the uncommon Waved Woodpecker and the tricky, near-endemic Rufous-necked Puffbird.
Outside the National Forest’s gate near Pojuca, we will cover some open roadside habitats such as marshes, second growth, palm groves and forest edge which should provide a bunch of nice birds that are hard or impossible inside the reserve, including the uncommon Rufous-sided Crake.
In the peculiar ‘canga’ (savanna-like) habitat at the site called N2 we should see a new array of birds in this characteristic open bushy habitat, including such species as Small-billed Tinamou, Russet-crowned Crake, the stunning endemic Jandaya Parakeet, Sooty-fronted and Pale-breasted Spinetails, Plain-crested and Lesser Elaenias, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Brown-crested Flycatcher, the endemic White-naped Jay and the lovely but uncommon Black-faced Tanager.
In the nearby transitional forest, we will be searching for the tricky Pheasant Cuckoo, the endemic Ash-throated Casiornis and the stunning endemic White-tailed Cotinga, as well as the smart Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, the uncommon Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrant, Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Blue-backed Manakin and Golden-crowned and Flavescent Warblers. We will also be alert for Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet and Pale-bellied Mourner; both are interesting species that occasionally show up in this area. We will also cover some pretty good terra firme forest situated only a few hundred metres from the interesting ‘canga’ habitat of N2. Roadsides and short narrow trails in the forest will offer chances for a good variety of birds and we can expect some large canopy mixed flocks.
We will also visit a stakeout near the Carajás mine for the endemic Chestnut-headed Chachalaca.
Among the numerous additional species we may well encounter at Carajás are Least Grebe, Wood Stork, Cocoi Heron, King Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, White-tailed and White Hawks, Hoatzin, Scaled Pigeon, Blue Ground Dove, Blackish Nightjar, Pale-rumped Swift, White-necked Jacobin, Versicolored Emerald, Long-billed Starthroat, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Pied Puffbird, White-throated and Green-barred Woodpeckers, and Red-and-green Macaw.
Passerines include Cinnamon-throated, Strong-billed and Spix’s Woodcreepers, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Rufous-tailed, Rufous-rumped and Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaners, Plain Xenops, Ornate Stipplethroat, Pygmy Antwren, Great Antshrike, White-browed Antbird, Black-faced and Rufous-capped Antthrushes, Wing-barred Pipirites, Grey Elaenia, Guianan Tyrannulet, Slaty-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Amazonian Scrub, Cliff, Piratic, Streaked, Boat-billed and Ruddy-tailed Flycatchers, Long-tailed Tyrant, Lesser Kiskadee, Black-tailed and Masked Tityras, Chestnut-crowned and Black-capped Becards, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Dusky-capped Greenlet, Black-capped Donacobius, Coraya and Buff-breasted Wrens, Pale-breasted Thrush, Purple-throated, Violaceous, Rufous-bellied and White-vented Euphonias, Red-breasted Blackbird, Epaulet Oriole, Giant Cowbird, the lovely Rose-breasted Chat, Rothschild’s and Slate-colored Grosbeaks, Magpie, White-shouldered, White-lined, Spotted, Masked, Guira and Swallow Tanagers, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Greyish Saltator, Blue-black Grassquit, Yellow-bellied and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, and Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch.
We will also encounter some of the less common (or at least harder-to-see) birds of the area, which include the near-endemic White-bellied Tody-Tyrant as well as the more widespread Rufescent Tiger Heron, Snail and Slender-billed Kites, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Slaty-backed Forest Falcon, Limpkin, Scaled Dove, Pavonine Cuckoo, Tawny-bellied Screech Owl, Spectacled, Mottled and Black-banded Owls, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Ocellated Poorwill, Rufous Nightjar, Black-bellied Thorntail, Golden-green Woodpecker (of the form paraensis), Dusky-billed Parrotlet, Red-fan Parrot, Dusky Leaftosser, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Curve-billed Scythebill, Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner, Variegated Antpitta, Small-billed Elaenia, Cinnamon-crested Spadebill, Fiery-capped Manakin, Sharpbill, Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, Green-backed Becard, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Cocoa Thrush, Riverbank Warbler, Crested Oropendola, Red-rumped Cacique, Grassland Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Dacnis and Red-legged Honeycreeper.
In addition, there will be second chances for quite a number of the species mentioned for Belém and Amazonia National Park.
New mammals may include Red-handed Howler Monkey and Red-bellied Titi Monkey.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 7 This morning we will head for the Carajás airport and take a flight to Belém, the capital of Pará state situated at the mouth of the mighty Amazon, where we will stay for two nights.
We will enjoy a little birding in the grounds of our hotel this afternoon. Normally there are large numbers of near-endemic White-winged Parakeets feeding in the palms. This fairly restricted-range species occurs mainly along the Amazon and Solimões Rivers. We should also see the endemic Buff-browed Chachalaca.
Widespread species include Black Vulture, Ruddy Ground Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Short-tailed and Neotropical Palm Swifts, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Rusty-margined, Short-crested and Sulphury Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, House Wren, Shiny Cowbird, Silver-beaked, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, and Bananaquit.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 8 We will spend our time in the Belém area birding at two different sites.
The forest of the Menino Jesus community in the municipality of Acará is about half an hour’s drive from our hotel. At Menino Jesus, a major target species is the handsome, restricted-range Black-chested Tyrant. Happily, we have excellent chances of seeing this beauty, which can also be found at Carajás.
The area offers some other great birds, including the lovely, near-endemic Red-necked Aracari (of the form bitorquatus), White-bellied Parrot, the endemic Dusky-capped Woodcreeper (the form layardi found here is sometimes split as Layard’s Woodcreeper), Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, the near-endemic Willis’s Antbird, Spot-winged Antshrike, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Pink-throated Becard, Green Oropendola and Olive Oropendola (of the form bifasciatus). Pale-throated Barbthroat, Fiery-tailed Awlbill and Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner are uncommon but possible here.
As we cover a stretch of floodable (varzea) forest we should expect to find such species as Cream-colored Woodpecker, Striped Woodcreeper and Band-tailed Manakin and possibly Silvered Antbird and Grey-headed Tanager.
We will also explore the Gunma Ecological Park in the neighbouring town of Santa Barbara do Pará. This nice tract of forest is also only half an hour’s drive from our hotel and offers our first chance for the uncommon endemic Opal-crowned Manakin and endemic East Amazonian Fire-eye.
The bird list from these two areas is long and we should expect to record plenty of species. Likely species include Little Tinamou, Western Cattle and Great Egrets, Turkey and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures, Double-toothed Kite, Savanna, Roadside and Grey-lined Hawks, Southern Lapwing, Pale-vented and Ruddy Pigeons, Guira and Squirrel Cuckoos, Burrowing Owl, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Reddish Hermit, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Black-throated Mango, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Black-eared Fairy, Black-tailed, Green-backed, Amazonian and Black-throated Trogons, Amazonian Motmot, White-fronted Nunbird, Lettered Aracari, White-throated Toucan, Lineated and Red-necked Woodpeckers, Red-throated and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Golden-winged Parakeet and Orange-winged Amazon.
Passerines include Plain-crowned Spinetail, Plain Xenops, Wedge-billed and Amazonian Barred Woodcreepers, Chestnut-backed and White-shouldered Antshrikes, White-flanked, Grey, Southern White-fringed and Rufous-winged Antwrens, Xingu Scale-backed and Grey Antbirds, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Yellow-headed, White-lored and Southern Beardless Tyrannulets, Helmeted Pygmy Tyrant, Slaty-headed and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatchers, Ochre-bellied, Dusky-chested and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Grey-crowned and Ochre-lored Flatbills, Screaming Piha, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, White-bearded Manakin, White-browed Purpletuft, the near-endemic Grey-chested Greenlet, White-winged Swallow, Grey-breasted Martin, Moustached Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, White-lored Euphonia, Pectoral Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Bay-headed, Turquoise and Flame-crested Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper and Buff-throated Saltator.
More uncommon species include Hook-billed Kite, Russet-crowned Crake, Little Cuckoo, Long-tailed Hermit, Racket-tailed Coquette, Blue-chinned Sapphire, McConnell’s Flycatcher, White-crowned Manakin and Golden-sided Euphonia.
Mammals are inconspicuous but may include Black-handed Tamarin.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 9 After some final birding around Belém, we will take a flight westwards to Itaituba, situated in Pará state on the west bank of the large and beautiful dark-water Tapajós River. (Note: Flights to Itaituba are limited, so sometimes we must fly to the town of Santarém instead and drive to Itaituba.)
From Itaituba the dirt road drive takes a little more than an hour to reach the vast and impressive Amazonia (or Tapajós) National Park, which is cut by the BR-230 (Transamazônica Highway). Our rustic-style lodge, where we will stay for five nights, is situated in a clearing right at the banks of the Tapajos’ and the border with the national park. Views of the river are quite amazing with exposed rocks and islands right in front. Perhaps we will arrive just in time for sunset.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Days 10-13 During our extended stay in the huge Amazonia (or Tapajós) National Park we will be looking for a fantastic array of birds.
The lodge’s garden always holds a variety of birds (mostly common species but eventually something more unexpected) as it is positioned by the riverbank and surrounded by forest fragments.
Here we should expect to record species such as Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Black-fronted Nunbird, Black Caracara, Red-bellied Macaw, Santarem Parakeet, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Southern Rough-winged, White-banded and Black-collared Swallows, Yellow-browed Sparrow and Chestnut-bellied Seedeater.
During our visits to the park, we will be covering at least five different trails (Tracoá, Piçarreira, Açaizal, Capelinha and Uruá), plus the roadsides and parts of the river (sandbanks and islands). Good terra firme forest is the most easily accessible and interesting major habitat in the park. We will also cover some floodable igapó forest next to the banks of the Tapajós, the river itself (including forested islands, sandbanks, rapids, etc) and a few marshes. We will arrange at least one boat trip targeting some riverine specialities, visiting some river islands next to our lodge and even visiting the east bank of Tapajos if conditions allow. We will also take an afternoon to visit a quite distant marsh which normally serves as a roosting site for the localized endemic Golden Parakeet.
Birding will be quite intense as we concentrate our efforts on the fascinating local specialities and many other great birds.
These include such endemics and near-endemics as White-crested Guan, Red-throated Piping-Guan, Dark-winged Trumpeter (of the nominate form viridis), Blue-necked Jacamar, the very restricted-range Brown-chested Barbet, the awesome Golden Parakeet, Crimson-bellied Parakeet, the strange Vulturine Parrot, Hoffmann’s Woodcreeper, Dusky-capped Woodcreeper (of the nominate form, known as Rondonia Woodcreeper), Glossy Antshrike, Rufous-faced Antbird, the amazing Black-bellied Gnateater and the beautiful White-tailed Cotinga. With both persistence and luck, we should also find a number of the following: the fantastic Crimson Topaz, Kawall’s Amazon, Pale-faced Bare-eye, Tapajos Hermit and Tapajos and Alta Floresta Antpittas.
Other good birds include White-browed Hawk, Sand-colored Nighthawk, Spotted and Collared Puffbirds, Elegant Woodcreeper, the nominate form of the Dusky-capped Woodcreeper (known as Rondonia Woodcreeper), Dot-winged, Ihering’s, Sclater’s and Ash-winged Antwrens, Saturnine and Blackish-grey Antshrikes, Band-tailed, Ferruginous-backed and Banded Antbirds, the localized Harlequin Antbird, the amazing Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Snow-capped Manakin, Zimmer’s (Sucunduri) Flatbill, Amazonian Inezia, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Cinereous Mourner, Cinereous Becard and Buff-cheeked Greenlet. More uncommon possibilities include Razor-billed Curassow, Fiery-tailed Awlbill, Zimmer’s Woodcreeper, Speckled Spinetail, Slender-billed Xenops and Flame-crested Manakin.
A boat trip will take us to the east bank of Tapajós. On this side of the river, we will be hoping to find some special targets that occur in the area between the Tapajós and Xingu Rivers such as Black-girdled Barbet and Bare-eyed Antbird. We can always hope to encounter the rare, enigmatic and threatened endemic Golden-crowned Manakin, but this is a very rare bird.
Besides these species, there are of course numerous additional species that we have chances to record during our stay!
The most likely candidates include Cinereous, Undulated and Variegated Tinamous, Speckled Chachalaca, Horned Screamer, Green Ibis, Snowy Egret, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, Plumbeous Kite, Great Black and Short-tailed Hawks, Wattled Jacana, Plumbeous Pigeon, White-tipped and Grey-fronted Doves, Common Ground Dove, Greater Ani, Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Common Potoo, Pauraque, Band-rumped Swift, Black-eared Fairy, Green, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers, Amazonian, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Green-tailed and Paradise Jacamars, White-necked Puffbird, Black-necked Aracari, Gould’s Toucanet, Channel-billed Toucan, Bar-breasted Toucanet, Yellow-tufted, Red-stained, Yellow-throated, Chestnut and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Laughing and Bat Falcons, Scarlet and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Blue-headed and Red-fan Parrots, Yellow-crowned and Southern Mealy Amazons, and White-eyed Parakeet.
Among the passerines: Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain-brown, Long-tailed, Olivaceous, Long-billed, Straight-billed, Elegant and Buff-throated Woodcreepers, Natterer’s Slaty Antshrike, Cinereous, Amazonian, Plain-winged and Fasciated Antshrikes, White-eyed Stipplethroat, Amazonian Streaked and Plain-throated Antwrens, Blackish, Black-faced and Spix’s Warbling Antbirds, Amazonian Antpitta, Forest Elaenia, Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, White-crested Spadebill, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, Dusky-chested, Variegated and Three-striped Flycatchers, Greyish Mourner, Ci9nnamon Attila, Spangled Cotinga, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Red-headed Manakin, Brown-winged Schiffornis, Crested Becard, Chivi Vireo, Buff-cheeked and Tawny-crowned Greenlets, Brown-chested Martin, Thrush-like Wren, Red-capped Cardinal, Red-billed Pied, Fulvous-crested, Paradise and Opal-rumped Tanagers, Black-faced Dacnis and Green Honeycreeper.
More uncommon species include Grey and White-throated Tinamous, Capped Heron, Muscovy Duck, Harpy and Crested Eagles, Grey-breasted Crake, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, Purple Gallinule, Pied Plover, Black Skimmer, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Tropical Screech Owl, Crested Owl, Great-billed and Streak-throated Hermits, Pavonine Quetzal, Blue-crowned Trogon, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Bromzy and Great Jacamars, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Scaly-breasted Woodpecker, Collared and Barred Forest Falcons, Ruddy Spinetail, White-chinned and Spot-throated Woodcreepers, Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrant, Whiskered Myiobius, White-thighed Swallow and Red-crowned Ant Tanager.
As always in Amazonia, mammals are inconspicuous but may well include White-fronted and Guianan Brown Capuchins and also the strange-looking Red-nosed Bearded Saki.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 14 After spending much of the day birding at Amazonia National Park, we will return to Itaituba for an overnight stay.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 15 Today we will drive northwards to the city of Santarém, situated at the junction of the Tapajós River with the mighty Amazon. From here we will cross the river by ferry and make our way to the town of Monte Alegre for a two nights stay.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 16 We will be concentrating our efforts on the North (or Left) Bank of the Amazon on finding the beautiful, endemic and only relatively recently-described Sulphur-breasted Parakeet. This is surely one of the most beautiful psittacids in the entire country, and that is saying a lot!
We are also sure to encounter some species of wider distribution that have the Amazon as the southern limit of their distribution.
Brazil’s Eastern & Central Amazonia: Day 17 Today we will return to Santarém where our tour ends this afternoon at the airport.
Manaus: Day 1 Afternoon flight from Santarem to the city of Manaus for an overnight stay.
Manaus: Day 2 Our major target early this morning will be the localized endemic Diademed Amazon,. a species restricted to the central Amazon in the broader region around Manaus. Other birds will be seen but all will be seen elsewhere during the extension.
From Manaus, we head northwards to the small town of Presidente Figueiredo for an overnight stay.
Along the way, we shall stop to look for Point-tailed Palmcreeper, plus an array of other Mauritia palm specialists, such as Red-bellied Macaw, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Sulphury Flycatcher and Moriche Oriole. On arrival, we will walk the broad entrance road where if we are very lucky, we will see a pair of the rare Dusky Purpletuft or a family group of the spectacular Red-billed Pied Tanager. We should be able to find the magnificent Crimson Topaz amongst a number of other hummingbird species feeding at a favoured tree in the lodge grounds.
Manaus: Day 3 After an early morning visit to a nearby rocky campina, we will transfer to another lodge in the Presidente Figueiredo region for a three nights stay. During the afternoon we will begin our exploration of the area.
Manaus: Days 4-5 From this remote base, deep in tall terra firme forests, we shall walk the extensive trail network and work the main entrance road, introducing us to the very special and rich avifauna of central Amazonia. As dawn breaks the forest becomes alive with an impressive concert of avian sounds. An early start might reward us with the piercing whistles of a shy Pavonine Cuckoo, along with the calls of up to four species of forest falcons, including Barred, Collared, Lined, and Slaty-backed. However, we shall be very lucky to see all of these, as they live perch, well hidden in the sub-canopy, eyeing us with suspicion. Walking along the main access road we shall surely encounter a great variety of forest birds, including many specialities of the Guianan Shield.
Among the species we might encounter are the imposing Spix’s Guan, the smaller Marail Guan, Black-tailed, Amazonian White-tailed and Amazonian Violaceous Trogons, Blue-crowned Motmot, Paradise Jacamar, White-necked and Pied Puffbirds, Black Nunbird, Black-spotted Barbet, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, Channel-billed and Red-billed Toucans, Yellow-tufted, Golden-collared, Yellow-throated and Waved Woodpeckers, Spot-throated, Olivaceous and Wedge-billed Woodcreepers, Rufous-tailed Xenops, Fasciated, Black-throated and Mouse-coloured Antshrikes, Guianan Warbling, Black-headed and Black-throated Antbirds, Brown-bellied Antwren, White-throated, Golden-headed, White-crowned and White-fronted Manakins, Grey-crowned and McConnell’s Flycatchers, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant and Spotted Tody-Flycatchers, Double-banded Pygmy-Tyrant, Bright-rumped Attila, Greyish Mourner, Eastern Sirystes and Green Oropendola.
Not far from a research base, we should be able to watch the exotic Capuchinbird displaying at a well-known lek and hear its weird booming calls in the early hours of the morning. Also, in the forests around our accommodations, the rare Guianan Red Cotinga is seen with some regularity and although we shall be lucky to see this shy denizen of the forest every effort shall be expended to do so. The grounds are also very rich in hummingbirds and we may well see species such as White-necked Jacobin, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Versicoloured Emerald, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Black-eared Fairy and even the beautiful Crimson Topaz.
Once we explore the forest understorey, by means of a network of trails, we will start discovering the magic of the permanent mixed-species flocks of insectivorous birds that frequent this habitat and get to know the eleven core species, including the two flock leaders: Cinereous and Dusky-throated Antshrikes. Both of these species perch upright in the understorey, at times giving fake alarm calls, ready to sally out and gobble up any insects dropped by panicked flock members. The rest of the core flock members often include Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, two species of foliage-gleaners (Olive-backed and Rufous-rumped), four species of antwrens (Rufous-bellied, White-flanked, Grey and Long-winged), Tawny-crowned Greenlet and the handsome Fulvous Shrike-Tanager. Often attending such flocks is the rare Curve-billed Scythebill which we shall be keeping a special eye out for. Away from the flocks, we might encounter other interesting species, such as Ferruginous-backed Antbird, Black-faced and Rufous-capped Antthrushes, and Tiny Tyrant-Manakin. As we walk the trails through the dark realm of the forest understorey we shall look for several species of woodcreepers and antbirds, a possible understorey flock and, if we are lucky enough, that much-needed ant-swarm, professionally followed by White-plumed and Rufous-throated Antbirds and if we are lucky the huge Red-billed Woodcreeper. Another much-wanted species that occasionally accompanies ant swarms or along the trails is the shy and increasingly uncommon Grey-winged Trumpeter, which we also hope to see during our stay. If we are in luck a flurry of nervous hummingbirds will alert us to the presence of a tiny Amazonian Pygmy-Owl; a diurnal bird hunter that excites much activity.
While at this magical site, we will devote much time searching for night birds; the widespread Pauraque and Blackish Nightjars are easy to see but we will also be listening out for the magnificent Crested Owl or a Spectacled Owl in the hope of luring them in. However, it is the very rare and poorly-known White-winged Potoo that we will be focusing our attention on at this site. These birds are seen here with some regularity and so we hope, with a bit of luck, to find this enigmatic species. Even rarer is Rufous Potoo, which we would have to be extremely fortunate to find.
Mammals found in these forests include Golden-handed Tamarin, Guianan Red Howler Monkey, Black Spider Monkey and Guianan Saki Monkey. The entrance road also regularly plays host to Jaguar and Ocelot which, with a great deal of luck we may be fortunate enough to see while birding this excellent transect through the forest.
We will also visit two campinarana woodlands (or white-sand forests) north of Manaus. In this odd-looking habitat, the vegetation consists of short stunted trees festooned with bromeliads and orchids with floor carpeted in lichen and terrestrial bromeliads. Our main target is the little-known Pelzeln’s Tody-Tyrant, recently rediscovered after being lost since the middle of the 19th century!
We will also search for the Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin with its bizarre churring calls and in addition, we may well find Spotted Puffbird, Guianan Slaty Antshrike and Thrush-like Schiffornis. We shall also check out any flowering trees in the hope of finding the diminutive and seldom-seen Racket-tailed Coquette. At our second site we will look for the rest of the specialities; Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Bronzy Jacamar, White-fringed Antwren, Rufous-crowned Elaenia, the yet-to-be-split ‘Campina Flycatcher’, Black Manakin, Red-shouldered Tanager and the rare White-naped Seedeater. Two other specialities can be seen here; Pale-bellied Mourner and Plumbeous Euphonia, but we will consider ourselves lucky if we find them here. Other birds in this unique habitat include Scaled Pigeon, Orange-winged Amazon, Eastern Long-billed Hermit, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Black-billed Thrush, Blue-backed Tanager and White-lored Euphonia. Venturing along a nearby forest trail we may well find Sapphire-rumped Parrotlet, Black-throated Trogon, Yellow-billed Jacamar, Ringed and Red-necked Woodpeckers, Short-billed Leaftosser, Grey and Scale-backed Antbirds, Coraya Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Red-eyed Vireo, and Yellow-green, and Blue-black Grosbeaks.
Manaus: Day 6 After a final morning in the area we will return to Presidente Figueiredo for an overnight stay.
In the afternoon we will visit another area of tall terra firme forest where we may find that the superb Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock has begun to display at a lek. These birds do not start to display until September and the beginning of the wet season. We shall not overlook those species that have adapted to open man-made grasslands and scrub which usually include Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Band-rumped Swift, Glittering-throated Emerald, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Piratic Flycatcher, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Silver-beaked, Palm and Blue-grey Tanagers, Variable Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit, Lesser Seed-Finch and Shiny Cowbird.
Manaus: Day 7 Today we will have a very early start as we head for the famous ZFII (INPA) tower nestled in its pristine forest reserve. (Note that, on rare occasions, the Brazilian protection agency, IBAMA, can close access to the tower to all but research workers.) All being well, we will arrive in time to be on top of the tower to hear the forest waking up around us. As we slowly climb up this splendid 42-metre tower, a whole new world will emerge. Experiencing a rich dawn chorus from high in the canopy is a rare privilege, and as the sky lightens mighty roars will send tingles down our spines as Guianan Red Howler Monkeys start calling away from nearby treetops.
Prime place here goes to a rather unprepossessing speciality that we observe on no other Birdquest tour, the little Olive-green Tyrannulet. It is fairly straightforward to find, leaving us plenty of time to concentrate on a feast of other birds.
Among the interesting birds that might pose for fine views are a number of toucans, including Guianan Toucanet, and a great variety of parrots, which will surely put on a special show. We have good chances of seeing Red-and-green Macaw, as well as Golden-winged Parakeet, Caica, Blue-headed, Dusky and Red-fan Parrots, and Mealy Amazon. As the sun rises and starts to catch the highest emergent trees, we will look for the superb Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas as they show off their brilliant plumage while perched atop dead branches. We shall also scan the endless greenery in the hope of finding the poorly-known and seldom-seen Crimson Fruitcrow. Canopy mixed-species flocks present a highlight in themselves and regularly make their rounds by the tower. Most of their nuclear attendants, which include Lineated Woodcreeper, Spot-backed, Pygmy and Ashy-winged Antwrens, Wing-barred Piprites, Forest and Grey Elaenias, Zimmer’s (split from Yellow-margined) and Yellow-throated Flycatchers, Slender-footed and White-lored Tyrannulets, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Buff-cheeked Greenlet and Guianan Gnatcatcher, may well be seen up close from the tower. Solitary specialities that we will look for in the forest canopy include Plumbeous Pigeon, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Glossy-backed Becard and the very pretty Painted Tody-Flycatcher. The presence of some fruiting trees next to the tower should allow us to make detailed observations of a number of colourful tanagers, such as Yellow-backed, Paradise, Spotted, Opal-rumped, Flame-crested, Fulvous-crested and perhaps the uncommon Red-billed Pied and Dotted Tanagers. Green, Short-billed, Purple, and Red-legged Honeycreepers, together with Black-faced and Blue Dacnises, and White-vented and Golden-sided Euphonias, may also show up.
In sunny weather, a variety of raptors can be expected to start riding the thermals as temperatures rise. We shall scan the skies for soaring Greater Yellow-headed and King Vultures, Double-toothed Kite, White Hawk and Ornate Hawk-Eagle (and even a Crested or Harpy Eagle if we are really in luck), whilst both Chapman’s and Short-tailed Swifts may sail close by catching insects.
Additionally, far away in the understorey, we may hear the calls of both Spotted and Variegated Antpittas (although these secretive birds are very hard to see). The characteristic calls of Screaming Pihas constantly fill the air, and at some point during the course of the tour we should be able to admire the drably-cloaked male of this ubiquitous Amazonian species emitting its strident calls from a perch in its lek, but the unrivalled ‘songmaster’ amongst the forest birds must surely be the awkward-looking Musician Wren. Local legend has it that all other birds stop to listen when this master songster sings!
Afterwards, we will travel eastwards to the small town of Itacoatiara on the north bank of the Amazon for an overnight stay.
The major speciality we will be seeking in this little-visited area is the localized endemic Varzea Piculet, a riverine specialist restricted to a small section of the central Amazon and a species that is only rarely recorded at the traditional Manaus birding tour sites. It is much easier to find around Itacoatiara. We will also have another opportunity for Klages’s and Cherrie’s Antwrens and other varzea specialists.
Manaus: Day 8 After some final birding in the Itacoatiara area, we will return to Iquitos where our tour ends this afternoon at the airport.
MARCHANTARIA ISLAND OPTION
If you have not yet visited the famous Iquitos area in Peru and are interested in seeing some Amazon ‘river island specialists’ you can opt to stay on a coup[le of nights at Manaus to do so.
We will set off very early from Manaus by boat and after crossing the ‘the wedding of the waters’, the meeting of Solimões and Negro where these two mighty rivers come together to form the Amazon proper, we shall reach our destination; Marchantaria island. This river island is several miles long and we will explore each habitat type, ranging from early successional floating vegetation and sandbars at the lower end through taller Cecropia woodland to mature forest at the upper end. Overhead, Tui Parakeets and Short-tailed Parrots reveal their identity with their raucous calls, and in dense vine tangles we will look for the rare Scaled Spinetail, found here at its westernmost site. An interesting set of spinetails is scattered through the various habitats and, as well as Scaled, there are Dark-breasted, White-bellied, Yellow-chinned and Red-and-white Spinetails. The loud and explosive duets of the Lesser Hornero fill the air around seasonal agricultural fields as we search for the striking Black-and-white Antbird, the rather unobtrusive island race of the Fuscous Flycatcher, the dainty River Tyrannulet, Brownish Elaenia, Pearly-breasted Conebill, and Orange-headed and Hooded Tanagers in the Cecropia dominated patches. Nearby willow stands hold Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Riverside Tyrant and Dark-billed Cuckoo, as well as gaudy Oriole Blackbirds with their harsh calls. In the taller sections of forest on the island, we shall look for Castelnau’s Antshrike, Leaden Antwren, and Cinnamon Attila.
Other species we may well encounter are Capped, Cocoi and Striated Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Anhinga, Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Savanna, Black-collared and Roadside Hawks, Rufous-sided and Grey-breasted Crakes, Azure and Purple Gallinules, Wattled Jacana, Collared and Pied Plovers, Yellow-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Grey-fronted Dove, White-eyed Parakeet, Green-throated and Black-throated Mangos, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, Little and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Lesser Kiskadee, Bicoloured Conebill, Lined and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, the stunning Orange-backed Troupial, and gaudy Yellow-hooded and Red-breasted Blackbirds.