SOUTHWEST BRAZIL SPECIALITIES BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 1 Our tour begins this evening at Cuiabá, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso, where we will spend the night.
(We will be pleased to assist with internal flight tickets in Brazil from your gateway city on request, even if you are arranging your international flights yourself).
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 2 Our tour begins this morning at Cuiabá, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso, from where we will head for Vila Bela da Santissima Trindade (yes the name takes as long to say as it takes to drive through town, well almost!). We will spend two nights in this little town situated close to the Bolivian border.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 3 The habitats in this remote part of Brazil are a mixture of Pantanal-like marshes and grasslands, agriculture and tracts of rather sub-Amazonian rainforest.
Today we will look for two very special near-endemics, the superb Double-collared Crescentchest and the attractive Black-and-tawny Seedeater. Fortunately, these two mega-specialities, seen on no other bird tour, are pretty easy to find.
Another very special bird that we have a fair chance of finding in the surrounding area is the fast-declining (owing to trapping) Great-billed Seed Finch. We should also encounter the superb Horned Sungem and Bolivian Slaty Antshrike.
Other species that we are likely to encounter in this bird-rich but rarely-visited part of Brazil include Greater Rhea, Undulated and Red-winged Tinamous, Horned Screamer, White-faced and Black-faced Whistling Ducks, Muscovy Duck, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Black-throated Mango, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, the zany Guira Cuckoo, Greater and Smooth-billed Anis, Picazuro and Pale-vented Pigeons, Ruddy Ground Dove, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Buff-necked and Bare-faced Ibises, Striated and Cocoi Herons, Western Cattle, Great and Snowy Egrets, the prehistoric-looking, swamp-dwelling Hoatzin, Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Swallow-tailed Kite, the handsome Long-winged Harrier, Snail Kite, Savanna, Grey-lined and Roadside Hawks, the cute Burrowing Owl, the huge Toco Toucan (the classic toucan of the Guinness adverts), Yellow-tufted, Little, Crimson-crested and Lineated Woodpeckers, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Yellow-chevroned, Peach-fronted and White-eyed Parakeets, Orange-winged Amazon, Red-bellied, Red-and-green and Red-shouldered Macaws and the glorious Blue-and-yellow Macaw.
Likely passerines include Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous Hornero, Greater Thornbird, Rusty-backed and Yellow-chinned Spinetails, Rusty-backed Antwren, Amazonian Antshrike, Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, Grey and White-rumped Monjitas, Cattle Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, White-throated and Tropical Kingbirds, Short-crested Flycatcher, Black-tailed Tityra, Purplish Jay, Grey-breasted Martin, Black-capped Donacobius, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Grassland Sparrow, White-browed, Chopi and Unicolored Blackbirds, Crested Oropendola, Greyish Saltator, Blue-black Grassquit, Silver-beaked Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Saffron Finch and Black-faced, Palm and Masked Tanagers.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 4 After some early morning birding near Vila Bela da Santissima Trindade if need be, we will travel northwards to the small town of Pimenteiras do Oeste for a two nights stay. (Alright, we have to confess that Pimenteiras do Oeste is just over the border in Rondônia state, but the habitats and avifauna here are different from the far-away parts of Rondônia we explore on our Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia tour!)
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 5 Pimenteiras do Oeste is situated on the north bank of the wide Rio Guaporé. The river forms the boundary between Brazil and Bolivia, but as the other shore is uninhabited apart from a couple of park rangers at a remote ranger station in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, we may make an impromptu landing in Bolivia during our river trip!
We will set off this morning by boat in search of our main quarry, the extremely range-restricted Rusty-necked Piculet, a species that occupies just a tiny range in southwest Brazil and adjacent northeast Bolivia! This species is not uncommon in the riverside forest, so we should not have much trouble finding one.
Other good birds include Red-throated Piping Guan, Razor-billed Curassow (uncommon), Crimson-bellied and Santarem Parakeets, Dusky-capped Woodcreeper, White-lored Spinetail, Rondonia Warbling Antbird, Snow-capped Manakin and Fawn-breasted Wren.
Additional new birds that we are likely to come across include Southern Screamer, Brazilian Teal, Pauraque, White-collared and Chapman’s Swifts, Great-billed Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Little and Squirrel Cuckoos, Scaled and Ruddy Pigeons, Plain-breasted Ground Dove (uncommon), Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Capped Heron, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Great Black Hawk, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Green-backed Trogon, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers, Brown, Bronzy and Rufous-tailed Jacamars, Spotted and Swallow-winged Puffbirds, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Bar-breasted Piculet, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-headed Caracara, Yellow-crowned Amazon and Chestnut-fronted Macaw.
Passerines include Wedge-billed, Elegant and Buff-throated Woodcreepers, Amazonian Streaked and White-flanked Antwrens, Spot-winged and Barred Antshrikes, Black-throated, Blackish and Silvered Antbirds, White-lored Tyrannulet, Snethlage’s and Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrants, Zimmer’s Flatbill, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Cinnamon Attila, Black Manakin, Ashy-headed Greenlet, White-winged and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Moustached Wren, Thick-billed and Purple-throated Euphonias, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Shiny Cowbird, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Red-capped Cardinal, Yellow-backed, Blue-grey and Turquoise Tanagers, and Plumbeous Seedeater.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 6 Today we will have a long travel day as we head eastwards into more characteristic Amazonian rainforest habitats mixed with agricultural areas. Our destination is the remote Jardim da Amazônia lodge, where we will spend the next two nights. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 7 Pousada Jardim da Amazônia sits in the heart of a large private reserve consisting of Amazonian rainforest cut by a large river and includes several oxbow lakes. Although situated at the southern edge of the vast Amazonian basin, it is rich in birdlife.
The star attraction here is the rare, unusual-looking and quite probably endangered Cone-billed Tanager. A small population is to be found in swampy woodland in the reserve and we shall of course be giving this species our priority. It can take a bit of finding, but we have a very high chance of success.
Another enjoyable attraction of the area is the lek of Amazonian Umbrellabirds which takes place almost every afternoon in a tall forest tree beside the river. Birders have even been known to drink beer while enjoying the spectacle without making any effort from a boat. Shocking!
Nightbirding is worthwhile at this location and in particular, this is a good locality for getting views of the often secretive Ocellated Poorwill. Other nightbirds we should see include Tawny-bellied Screech Owl and Blackish Nightjar (the latter at a daytime roost), while the beautiful Long-tailed Potoo is a real possibility.
We will have our first chance for the secretive but wonderful little Zigzag Heron during our stay.
Among the many other species that we are likely to record during our visit are Grey, Cinereous, Little and Brazilian Tinamous (as almost always with tinamous, they are much more likely to be heard than seen), Spix’s Guan, Short-tailed Swift, Neotropical Palm Swift, Reddish Hermit, Grey-fronted Dove, Slaty-breasted Wood Rail, Green Ibis, King Vulture, Double-toothed Kite, Black-tailed and Amazonian Trogons, Green Kingfisher, Amazonian Motmot, Blue-necked Jacamar, Rufous-capped Nunlet, White-fronted Nunbird, Black-girdled Barbet, Red-necked Aracari, Gould’s Toucanet, Channel-billed Toucan, Red-stained, Ringed and Red-necked Woodpeckers, Laughing Falcon, Blue-headed and Orange-cheeked Parrots, and Southern Mealy Amazon.
Among the likely passerines are Uniform Woodcreeper, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Dot-winged, Sclater’s, Southern White-fringed and Rufous-winged Antwrens, Cinereous, White-shouldered and Plain-winged Antshrikes, Southern Chestnut-tailed, Grey, Band-tailed, Spot-backed, Dot-backed and Rufous-faced Antbirds, Yellow-crowned and Mouse-colored Tyrannulets, Forest Elaenia, Ochre-bellied, Sulphury and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, Screaming Piha, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Pompadour Cotinga, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Flame-crested and Red-headed Manakins, Brown-winged Schiffornis, White-browed Purpletuft, Pink-throated Becard, Chivi Vireo, Grey-chested Greenlet, the handsome White-banded Swallow, Thrush-like and Buff-breasted Wrens, Chattering Gnatwren, Rufous-bellied Euphonia, Red-rumped Cacique, Southern Yellowthroat, Green, Purple and Short-billed Honeycreepers, Swallow, Magpie, Flame-crested, Blue-necked, Paradise and Bay-headed Tanagers, Yellow-bellied and Black-faced Dacnises, Buff-throated Saltator and Bananaquit.
Uncommon or hard-to-see species include Barred Forest Falcon, Rufous-tailed Xenops, Fasciated Antshrike and Dotted Tanager. Antswarms are getting harder to find as the Amazon dries out, probably owing to massive deforestation, but if we find one we will be hoping for such treats as Black-spotted Bare-eye, Western Fire-eye and Xingu Scale-backed Antbird.
Mammals are not conspicuous but we may well encounter Bearded Capuchin, the strange Proboscis Bat (roosting on the bark of a riverside tree) and quite possibly Brazilian (or Lowland) Tapir.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 8 After a final morning of birding followed by lunch at Jardim da Amazônia, we will return to Cuiabá for an overnight stay.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 9 This morning we take a flight to the remote town of Alta Floresta, situated in the far north of the state of Mato Grosso, on the border with the state of Pará.
From Alta Floresta, we will travel through pastures and isolated patches of forest to the comfortable Rio Azul Jungle Lodge for a three nights stay. Rio Azul is situated just over the state line in southernmost Pará. Later this afternoon we will start birding in this remote paradise.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Days 10-11 The Alta Floresta region is situated near the geographical centre of Brazil, at the southern edge of the Amazonian rainforest, between two large rivers (the Rios Tapajós and Xingu) which have, over time, acted as barriers to the dispersal of many bird species.
The comfortable Rio Azul Jungle Lodge at Serra do Cachimbo is surrounded by protected areas that are part of Brazil’s ‘Southern Amazon Protected Corridor’.The rivers in this area are mainly blackwater rivers, a natural phenomenon whereby tannins leaching out from the forest vegetation through the sandy soil give a dark colour to the water.
A prime purpose in coming to Rio Azul is to see the extraordinary and much sought-after Bald Parrot. Alta Floresta holds a huge variety of Amazonian birds, but most are widespread. It is the fact that Bald Parrot can reliably be observed here that really stands out!
In the early morning and late afternoon, squabbling and screeching flocks of macaws, parrots and parakeets exhibit a riot of colours as they fly between their roosts and distant feeding trees. Scarlet, Red-and-green and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Santarem and Golden-winged Parakeets, Dusky-billed Parrotlet, White-bellied and Blue-headed Parrots and the spectacular Red-fan Parrot are all regularly encountered here, but the main prizes of the psittacid family are the strange endemic Bald Parrot (the major draw at Rio Azul) and the recently-described Kawall’s (or White-faced) Amazon. Kawall’s Amazon is a restricted-range species that resembles the closely related Southern Mealy Amazon but can be identified by the patch of bare whitish skin at the base of the bill and the grey eyering.
Mixed-species flocks, led by exquisite White-winged Shrike-Tanagers, career through the canopy and may hold such species as the hard-to-see-well Tooth-billed Wren, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, the lovely Red-billed Pied-Tanager, Turquoise, Paradise, Bay-headed, Opal-rumped and Green-and-gold Tanagers, Golden-bellied Euphonia, Black-faced and Yellow-bellied Dacnises, Green and Purple Honeycreepers and the widespread, but rarely-encountered Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. Exposed snags provide lookouts for Paradise Jacamar, yelping White-throated Toucans and the glowing Spangled Cotinga.
There are usually flowering or fruiting trees to be found, giving us the opportunity to get acquainted with a whole realm of nectar-loving and frugivorous species including Black-necked and Curl-crested Aracaris, Slate-coloured and Blue-black Grosbeaks, and Olive Oropendola.
As the thermals start rising, Double-toothed Kites and Black Hawk-Eagles may cruise lazily overhead, whilst Pale-rumped and Grey-rumped Swifts sweep past. The diminutive Amazonian Pygmy Owl may put in an appearance and the secretive Black-bellied Cuckoo likes to creep about in emergent trees.
We will spend a lot of our time quietly creeping along trails in the tall terra firme forest of Alta Floresta. Understorey flocks can usually be detected by listening for the loud calls of Cinereous Antshrikes and may hold a dizzying mixture of species including Striped Woodcreeper, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain Xenops, Fasciated, Plain-winged and Amazonian Antshrikes, Pygmy, Sclater’s, White-eyed, Plain-throated, Long-winged and Grey Antwrens, and Wing-barred Piprites.
Tiny, restless Fiery-capped and Band-tailed Manakins play hide-and-seek in the middle levels, where we will also hope to encounter the gorgeous Flame-crowned (or Flame-crested) Manakin. Isolated, almost-impenetrable bamboo thickets hold a very interesting range of species including the localized Chestnut-throated Spinetail, Manu and Striated Antbirds, and Dusky-tailed and Large-headed Flatbills.
We will also keep an eye and an ear open for army ant swarms with their attendant species. The superb Bare-eyed Antbird with its pale glaucous-green orbital ring and funny crest is a very-localized professional ant-follower, as is the unreal-looking Black-spotted Bare-eye. Other species we should encounter at the amazing phenomenon of an army ant swarm include Plain-brown and White-chinned Woodcreepers, Xingu Scale-backed Antbird, Tapajos Fire-eye and Red-crowned Ant Tanager.
Trails that penetrate the varzea, the seasonally flooded forest near the river, allow us access to a quite different assortment of birds. Here we will diligently search for the rather saurian-like Long-billed Woodcreeper and the dazzling Glossy Antshrike.
In the ‘alborada’, the local term for the mysterious twilight preceding dawn, one should listen for the barking calls of the Cryptic Forest Falcon, a relatively recently described species, and we will definitely try to lure this exciting bird into view.
We will surely explore a granite outcrop covered in scrubby and thorny woodland, terrestrial bromeliads and many vines. This is the territory of the very patchily-distributed Brown-banded Puffbird and also Dusky-capped Greenlet.
During a boat trip along the river, we also have another good chance of coming across the much sought-after Zigzag Heron.
Among the many other new species that we may well encounter during our time at Rio Azul are Great, White-throated and Variegated Tinamous, White-tailed Hawk, Tapajos Hermit, the stunning Crimson Topaz (there is a good chance here), Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Amethyst Woodstar, Eastern Striolated and Pied Puffbirds, Scaly-breasted Woodpecker and Black Caracara.
Among the passerines are Spix’s Woodcreeper, White-eyed Stipplethroat, Pygmy Antwren, Saturnine Antshrike, Spot-winged and Fasciated Antshrikes, Yellow-browed, White-browed and Spix’s Warbling Antbirds, White-bellied Tody-Tyrant (generally an uncommon speciality, but easier to see here than in most places), Helmeted Pygmy Tyrant, Grey-crowned and Ochre-lored Flatbills, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Spangled Cotinga, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, White-crowned Manakin, Masked Tityra, Plush-crested Jay, Southern Nightingale-Wren, White-lored Euphonia, Red-breasted Blackbird, Olive Oropendola, and Green-and-gold and Opal-rumped Tanagers.
In addition, we are sure to encounter a considerable number of the more uncommon species during our stay at Rio Azul. These include Pied-billed Grebe, Black Hawk-Eagle, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Rufous-breasted and White-bearded Hermits, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Black-eared Fairy, the superb Pavonine Quetzal, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Great Jacamar, Collared Puffbird, Yellow-throated and Ringed Woodpeckers, Red-throated Caracara, Red-fan Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Dusky-billed Parrotlet, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Rufous-rumped Foliage-gleaner, Plain Xenops, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Xingu Scale-backed Antbird, Rufous-capped, Striated and Black-faced Antthrushes, the superb Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Wing-barred Pipirites, Slender-footed Tyrannulet, Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Ochre-bellied, Variegated, Dusky-chested and Ruddy-tailed Flycatchers, Greyish and Pale-bellied Mourners, Cinnamon and Bright-rumped Attilas, Varzea Schiffornis, Black-capped Becard, Hauxwell’s Thrush and the amazing Lawrence’s Thrush with its unique imitations.
We will also be able to study the different species of monkeys that live in the Alta Floresta region. Family groups of Red-bellied Titi Monkeys, Guianan Brown Capuchins, Spix’s Red-handed Howlers and White-cheeked Spider Monkeys often forage in the trees, and we may also see Silvery Marmoset. Most other mammals are inconspicuous, but sightings of Spotted Paca and the awesome Giant Otter are quite frequent.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 12 After some early morning birding at Rio Azul we will first head back towards Alta Floresta and then take a boat ride to the famous Cristalino Lodge for a three nights stay. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Days 13-14 The 630-hectare (1556-acre) privately owned Rio Cristalino Forest Reserve surrounding the comfortable Cristalino Lodge is well protected and is bordered on three sides by 2500 square kilometres (965 square miles) of almost completely undisturbed rainforest. No indigenous people live here, there is no disturbance from outside settlers and no hunting takes place. The lodge itself is built in a clearing on the banks of the river.
One of the main attractions at the Rio Cristalino Forest Reserve is the two well-built, 50m-high (160ft) aluminium towers that offer extraordinary views over the surrounding forest, which stretches away to the far horizon. One of the towers stands next to a magnificent forest giant and the roomy platforms allow intimate looks at different levels in the surrounding forest canopy. The towers are superb spots to bird from during early mornings, late afternoons and just after showers when many species come to dry out and enjoy the sunshine on top of the canopy.
Another fantastic feature of Cristalino is its bird-drinking pools. These attract a wide variety of Amazonian birds, some of which are sure to be new while for other species we will get far better and more intimate views than at Rio Azul.
Low guttural humming sounds emanating from the forest floor betray the presence of Dark-winged Trumpeters. These large and social birds roam the jungle in small groups and they are surely one of the most-wanted prizes of the Rio Cristalino area.
There is a real chance for Harpy Eagle at Cristalino, depending on whether or not there is an accessible active nest that one can visit. Seeing an adult at a nest is always unlikely as they may only visit once a day or even less frequently; watching a well-grown or recently-fledged juvenile is the norm.
A short boat ride away, a fairly steep trail at Cristalino will take us to the top of a granite outcrop covered in scrubby and thorny woodland, terrestrial bromeliads and many vines. This is the territory of the very patchily-distributed Brown-banded Puffbird, the localized Natterer’s Slaty Antshrike, Black-throated Antbird, Dusky-capped Greenlet and Masked Tanager, whilst Blackish Nightjars roost on the bare rocky areas.
Alta Floresta Antpitta is another speciality of Cristalino, although it sometimes requires persistence.
Likely further additions at Cristalino include Hook-billed Kite, the superb White-browed Hawk, Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Rusty-capped Nunlet, Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Curve-billed Scythebill (of the form cardosoi, sometimes split as Tapajos Scythebill), Bamboo Foliage-gleaner, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Striated and Bare-eyed Antbirds, Alta Floresta Antpitta, Drab Water Tyrant, Dusky-headed Flatbill, Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Tooth-billed Wren, Red-billed Pied Tanager and the beautiful Rose-breasted Chat.
Less frequent species at Cristalino include Marbled Wood Quail, Least Grebe, Agami Heron, the rare Crested Eagle, Tiny Hawk, Plumbeous Pigeon, Crested Owl, Chestnut Woodpecker, Spot-throated and Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaner, Ornate Stipplethroat, Thrush-like Antpitta, Amazonian Inezia, White-crested Spadebill, Large-headed Flatbill, Blue-backed Manakin, Tawny-crowned Greenlet and Rothschild’s, Yellow-shouldered and Slate-colored Grosbeaks.
Southwest Brazil Specialities: Day 15 After some final birding at Cristalino we will reluctantly return to Alta Floresta airport, where this extraordinary tour ends around midday.
(If you find it easier, we will be pleased to arrange your internal flight from Alta Floresta to your departure city from Brazil on request, even if you are arranging your own international tickets.)
SOUTHERN PANTANAL & EMAS EXTENSION
Southern Pantanal & Emas: Day 1 The extension begins this evening at Campo Grande the capital of Mato Grosso do Sul state where we will spend the night.
(We will be pleased to assist with internal flight tickets in Brazil from your gateway city on request, even if you are arranging your international flights yourself).
Southern Pantanal & Emas: Day 2 This morning we head westwards (in the same direction as Brazil’s distant borders with Paraguay and Bolivia). After about three hours we will come to the comfortable eco-lodge known as Pousada Aguape, where we will stay for three nights. This afternoon we will commence our exploration of the large estate on which the lodge is situated.
Southern Pantanal & Emas: Days 3-4 The wonderful Pousada Aguape is situated in the midst of an extensive tract of savanna, forest and wetlands in the far less-often-visited Southern Pantanal. The family who owns the ranch and the lodge have lived here for over 150 years.
Like the entire Pantanal region, a vast area of wetlands that hug Brazil’s southwestern borders, the area around Pousada Aguape is very rich in birdlife, but there is one simple reason why we are starting the tour here, and that is our quest for the pretty Blaze-winged Parakeet, a near-endemic species with a very restricted range that is not seen on any other bird tour! Fortunately for us, this attractive bird is not difficult to find at Aguape and is often very approachable, so we should soon be adding it to our tally.
There are many other more or less restricted-range birds at Aguape. We should encounter Chaco Chachalaca, the impressive Bare-faced Curassow (often even wandering around the lodge grounds and fearless!), Buff-bellied Hermit, Gilded Sapphire, Long-tailed Ground Dove, White-wedged Piculet, White-fronted Woodpecker, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Nanday (or Black-hooded) Parakeet, Turquoise-fronted Amazon, the extraordinary Hyacinth Macaw, the beautiful Golden-collared Macaw, Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner (Aguape is one of the best places for this localized species), Greater Thornbird, the near-endemic White-lored Spinetail, Chotoy Spinetail, Grey-crested Cacholote, Large-billed Antwren, Mato Grosso Antbird, Plain Inezia, the delicate White-rumped Monjita, Purplish and Plush-crested Jays, Unicolored Blackbird, Greyish Baywing, Black-throated Saltator, Rusty-collared Seedeater and Yellow-billed Cardinal.
A very special feature of Pousada Aguape is the macaw feeders at the lodge. We are sure to enjoy absolutely stunning close-up views of flocks of huge Hyacinth Macaws feeding on palm nuts, and also have equally close encounters with beautiful Blue-and-Yellow Macaws. Plenty of other birds and even armadillos and raccoons visit the lodge feeders.
Mammals are well represented at Aguape and we have a good chance of seeing Nine-banded and Yellow Armadillos, Giant Anteater, Black-and-gold Howler Monkey, Tapeti (or Brazilian Cottontail), Capybara (the world’s largest rodent), Crab-eating Fox, Crab-eating Raccoon and Grey Brocket Deer. There is also a fair chance of seeing Jaguar and Ocelot, although the former is not as easy here as in the northern Pantanal.
Aguape is not just about its avian specialities and mammals of course, and it has a very rich avifauna overall with more than 300 species recorded from the property!
Among the species that we can expect at Aguape are Greater Rhea, Undulated and Red-winged Tinamous, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Southern Screamer, Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Muscovy Duck, Brazilian Teal, Common Potoo, Pauraque, Sick’s Swift, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Greater and Smooth-billed Anis, Guira, Striped and Squirrel Cuckoos, Picazuro and Pale-vented Pigeons, Scaled, Eared and White-tipped Doves, Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Southern Lapwing, Pied Plover, Wattled Jacana, Solitary Sandpiper (usually absent in the Austral winter), the huge and impressive Jabiru, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Plumbeous, Buff-necked, Green and Bare-faced Ibises, Roseate Spoonbill, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Striated, Cocoi and Whistling Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Western Osprey (usually absent in the Austral swinter), Black-collared, Savanna and Roadside Hawks, Snail Kite, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Amazon, Green, Ringed, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan (the classic Guinness toucan!), White, Green-barred, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Campo Flicker, the stately and noisy Red-legged Seriema, Southern Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Monk, Yellow-chevroned, Peach-fronted, Nanday, Blue-crowned and White-eyed Parakeets, Scaly-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Amazon and Red-and-green and Red-shouldered Macaws.
Among the passerines that we should find during our visit are Red-billed Scythebill, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Pale-legged and Rufous Horneros, Rusty-backed and Yellow-chinned Spinetails, Rusty-backed and Large-billed Antwrens, Barred and Great Antshrikes, Forest and Yellow-bellied Elaenias, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, the amazing Streamer-tailed Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Cattle Tyrant, Rusty-margined, Boat-billed, Short-crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Black-crowned Tityra, White-winged Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, White-winged and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Brown-chested Martin, Black-capped Donacobius, Thrush-like, Buff-breasted and House Wrens, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Rufous-bellied and Pale-breasted Thrushes, Grassland Sparrow, Crested Oropendola, Solitary and Red-rumped Caciques, Orange-backed Troupial, Giant and Shiny Cowbirds, White-browed and Chopi Blackbirds, Golden-crowned Warbler, Greyish Saltator, Blue-backed Grassquit, Lined and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Saffron Finch, Red-crested Cardinal and Sayaca and Silver-beaked Tanagers.
Southern Pantanal & Emas: Days 5 Today we return to Campo Grande and then northwards to the vicinity of Emas National Park, on the border with Goiás state, where we will spend three nights. Late this afternoon we will commence our exploration of Emas.
Southern Pantanal & Emas: Days 6-7 Emas National Park protects a huge swathe of ‘cerrado’ habitat on the border between the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Goiás. Covering 1320 square kilometres (about 510 square miles), the park protects dry cerrado woodland, savanna and grasslands, as well as areas of gallery forest and swamps. The park is part of the vast Pantanal Biosphere Reserve. Much of the attractive landscape at Emas is grassland dotted with giant termite mounds and scattered trees.
Emas has many good birds, including many cerrado specialities, but our major targets here will include three key near-endemics; Yellow-faced Parrot (easy to see at Emas but truly difficult in most of its range), Campo Miner (a species that prefers burnt areas of savanna) and Planalto Foliage-gleaner (which is probably easier to find at Emas than anywhere else in its range). With luck, we will come across the uncommon and secretive Lesser Nothura.
At dusk, we will be wanting to see the lovely, restricted-range White-winged Nightjar and Emas is definitely the most reliable place in Brazil for finding this attractive and much-sought-after species.
Other special restricted-range birds regularly seen here include the near-endemic Collared Crescentchest (a beautiful tapaculo), Sharp-tailed Grass Tyrant, Bearded Tachuri, the awesome Cock-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, the near-endemic Coal-crested Finch and Black-masked Finch.
The very rare endemic and thinly-distributed Cone-billed Tanager does occur in Emas, but the tiny population is scattered across a huge park and the birds are very hard to find (unlike at Jardim da Amazônia on our Pantanal & Mato Grosso tour). Indeed, one could spend a week searching for this endangered tanager and yet still miss it! We will check out known sites for the species, but we need to devote most of our time to those Emas specialities that are easier to find.
Species of restricted distribution (or not much more than that) that we may well come across include Spotted Nothura, Ocellated Crake (only likely to be heard), Planalto Hermit, White-vented Violetear, White-eared Puffbird, Helmeted Manakin, Rufous-sided Pygmy Tyrant, Chapada Suiriri, Rufous Casiornis, Scarlet Flycatcher, Tawny-headed Swallow, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Curl-crested Jay, White-striped Warbler, White-banded and White-rumped Tanagers and Lesser Grass Finch.
Emas is also a superb park for mammals. Best of all, it is one of the very best places to see the rare, long-limbed Maned Wolf! There are many sightings here each year and during our stay, we have a high chance of an encounter with this very special creature.
Pampas Deer are common at Emas as are Giant Anteaters (with their numbers now recovered from a disastrous fire in 2010), while other species we should encounter include Hoary and Crab-eating Foxes and White-lipped Peccary. We will go out spotlighting at night in the hope of encountering a Brazilian Tapir, a Puma or even a Pampas Cat! The rarely-seen Giant Armadillo also occurs at Emas, so we can always live in hope!
Among the more widespread bird species that we may well encounter at Emas are Greater Rhea, Pearl and Plumbeous Kites, Long-winged Harrier, Crane, Short-tailed and White-tailed Hawks, Laughing and Bat Falcons, Blue-headed Parrot, Western Barn Owl, Burrowing and Short-eared Owls, Common Potoo, Least and Nacunda Nighthawks, Grey-rumped Swift, Neotropical Palm Swift, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Plain-crested and Highland Elaenias, Common Tody-Flycatcher, White-throated Kingbird, Grass Wren, Purple-throated and Thick-billed Euphonias, Flavescent Warbler, Grey-headed, Palm, Burnished-buff and Swallow Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Plumbeous, Capped and Double-collared Seedeaters, and Wedge-tailed Grass Finch.
Southern Pantanal & Emas: Day 8 This morning we must leave wonderful Emas behind us and travel to Cuiabá in the state of Mato Grosso where we join up with those arriving for the main tour in the early evening. We will make a few stops along the way, but basically, this is a travel day.