Thursday 20 September 2012

BRAZIL - More from the Pantanal

Each morning at Rio Claro, river water would be pumped onto the lawns, providing a much-needed source of drinking water for a variety of parakeets, and also appreciated by Shiny Cowbirds, Crested Oropendolas and Yellow-billed Cardinals. This is one of Clare's photos of the Blue-crowned Parakeets, which we only saw on our last Pantanal day. Nanday and Monk Parakeets more widely distributed.

Continuing the theme of needing a drink, the swimming pool at Porto Jofre was the unlikely setting for this scene. A Black Vulture seems to have three minders, in the form of Southern Caracaras. Well used to any kind of rotting food in its diet, the vulture is probably glad of a taste of cleansing chlorine! The American vultures are not related at all to the vultures of Europe, Asia and Africa. They nest on the ground, use the sense of smell to find food (instead of just sight), and are usually reckoned to have diverged from storks, not raptors. The two groups of vultures are a textbook example of convergent evolution. Caracaras are also scavengers, related to falcons. 

Here's another family restricted to South America: the seriemas. This is the Red-legged Seriema,   which can be found alone or in pairs, strutting round cattle pastures looking for grasshoppers and beetles. Much more often heard than seen, they emit a variety of yelping calls that can sound almost melodious at a distance. We came across a family group: two parents and a fully-grown youngster. Seriemas nest in bushes or small trees, usually approaching the nest by a series of jumps rather than flight. 

The largest of the South American storks is the Jabiru, seen here with a large fish on the Rio Claro boat-trip. It is similar in size (1.3m and up to 8 kg) to the African Marabou, but always smarter in appearance. At the moment the photo was taken, the fish is in mid-air between the mandibles, but seconds later it was swallowed whole. At one feeding frenzy along the main road, we saw about 300 Jabirus together, with impressive numbers of herons, egrets and a few..... 

.......Ringed Kingfishers. Unlike our diminutive kingfishers in the UK, the Ringed is pigeon-sized. In fact, only the Australian kookaburras and the African Giant Kingfisher are larger. This is a male - the female has the upper part of the breast grey. Many of the world's kingfishers feed on lizards and insects such as grasshoppers, and often live far from water; but the American kingfishers act as their name suggests.

My next post will cover our short visit to the Atlantic rain-forest, north of Rio de Janeiro.