Thursday 5 October 2017

Brazil - Atlantic Rainforest

I am recently back from Brazil, where I spent nine days guiding the Ornitholidays group. We stayed at Regua, a nature reserve not far from Rio de Janeiro, a former cattle ranch now beautifully restored as tropical forest. It's an inspiring place where hundreds of thousands of native trees have been planted, and local schools are given guided tours. Only 7% remains of the original Atlantic Forest - which contains a great number of endemic species (not only birds of course). 

 As a contrast to the ongoing afforestation at Regua, one of our days out was to Carmo, in much drier country to the north beyond Teresopolis. My photo shows how much of the original forest looks now: bare hillsides with deep erosion gullies and only scrubby remnants of dry forest. Yet still great wildlife clings on here!

 One example from Carmo is this pair of Streamer-tailed Tyrants, seen here in noisy display. We enjoyed many other restricted-range species here, such as Three-toed Jacamar and Serra Antwren. 

Here is the group in the best section of dry forest at Carmo, waiting for a White-collared Foliage-gleaner to appear. In the foreground is Adilei, a top-notch bird-guide who recognizes every squeak and whistle and can imitate most of them. 

 Back to Regua: the forests are full of tanagers, antbirds, manakins, with smaller numbers of toucans, motmots and trogons. This Green-headed Tanager is just one example, seen from one of the many excellent tracks and trails on the reserve. Though brightly coloured, it retains excellent camouflage in the canopy. 

 On another day out, we watched this Scale-throated Hermit as it hovered on the mountain slopes of Macae de Cima. Hermits can generally be recognized by their long curved bills and face pattern. Many species lack the iridescence typical of most hummingbirds. 

Rough grassland and open, dry forest (cerrado) is the habitat of the Red-legged Seriema: a pair of them (with silent, fully grown youngster) treated us to an ear-splitting  territorial display: definitely a decibel prize-winner. Seriemas are a family on their own: most closely related to cranes, but bearing a superficial resemblance to the Secretary-bird of Africa. Both are long-legged ground dwellers that nest in trees.

Burrowing Owls are common on the farmland around Regua. A close relative of our Little Owls, they have a huge range from British Columbia to Southern Argentina and Chile, excluding the whole Amazon basin.

 The lodge at Regua is a wonderfully informal place to stay, more like a large family home than a hotel. It's the kind of place you don't need to lock doors, and where I can leave telescope and tripod out on the verandah day and night. Many thanks to Nicholas, Raquel and Tom Locke and their staff for a great stay.

 Though not normally a city-dweller, I enjoyed spending my last 24 hours in Brazil in the magnificent city of Rio. Here the long sweep of Copacabana Beach can be seen from my viewpoint on Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf). My thanks to bird-photographers Mike Creighton (tyrant, hermit and seriema) and Richard Swinbank (tanager and owl).