Brazil Mato Grosso Birding August, 2015

We joined the Field Guides Jaguar Spotting: Pantanal & Garden of the Amazon Tour in Cuiba, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso, about noon on August 26th.  After lunch we boarded the bus to drive about 75 miles north to Garden of the Amazon, near San Jao do Rio Claro.

The drive took much longer than expected.  The bus had some overheating problems and the road, especially in the agricultural area, which was most of the way, was badly pot-holed.  Nevertheless the drive was interesting particularly because of the agricultural practices observed along the way.  My farm background always comes to the fore when I travel in a foreign country, as I try to see what sort of farming is going on there.  The northern Mato Grosso is heavily cultivated with very large fields of crops including soybeans, cane, cotton and corn, as well as some other crops I could not identify.  There were no farmsteads.  The owners live away from their land.  As it was late winter in Brazil, many of the fields were in the stubble stage, but with evidence of recent ginning of the cotton, with many large round bales stacked on the edges of the fields.  The terrible road condition through this area was easily attributable to the heavy trucks loaded with ag products that used the only highway available, causing great damage and dust along the way.  Smoke rose on the horizon, as burning of the stubble remains a common practice.  Progress here was truly at a snail’s pace.


One of my target birds for this trip was the Greater Rhea.


The Greater Rhea is one of the two species belonging to the Rheidae family, similar to the Ostriches of Africa, which represented one of the three South American families that were missing from my life list and which I could reasonably expect to see on this trip. One of the others, the Crescentchest of the Melanopareidae Family I had already seen at the Nacional Forest near Brasilia.  I had no reason to worry, because these very large birds were common along the road and in the fields.  Our guides said that they are protected by the farmers because they consume many insects that are harmful to the crops.  So early on, I had ticked off two of my three primary targets, leaving for a future day to find only the Seriema as a representative of the Cariamidae family.

Garden of the Amazon is a small, family owned lodge built on the Rio Claro.  For those geographers who like to know such things, the Rio Claro, flows into the Rio Arinos, which flows into the Rio Juruena in the northerly state of Amazonia, where it merges into the Rio San Manuel and becomes the Rio Tapajos, which empties into the Amazon.  There are at least a dozen Rio Claros in the Amazon basin. This Rio Claro looked like a pretty big river to me.  Imagine the Amazon, with over 60 direct tributaries, many of which have a half dozen or more sub-tributaries.

Our days at Garden of the Amazon were quite evenly divided between river cruises and walking the trails around the Lodge.  An early morning extra outing for a few of us to attempt to see a Zigzag Heron resulted in hearing one, but it never came in view, to my chagrin.  Around the Lodge were Capybarras


and thousands of butterflies.


A highlight of one of our river cruises was this Anaconda, which was trying to absorb some heat from a sandbar.  How long is it?  Estimates varied between 12 and 15 feet, but as the trip wore on, it grew to 20 feet or more.   🙂


Birds, including new life birds, at this area were too numerous to list.  Barbara was busy with her camera, but many of the birds were spotted high in the trees looking into the sun.  Not ideal for photos.  Some of the photos are here:

Blue-necked Tanager


Blue & Yellow Macaw



Spotted Puffbird


Swallow Tanager


Red-bellied Macaw


White-winged Swallow


Black-bellied Antwren 


Turquoise Tanager


Masked Tityra


Paradise Tanager 


Umbrella Bird


Cocoi Heron


Pink-throated Becard   


Lineated Woodpecker  


Pied Puffbird 


Chestnut-eared Aracari 


Gould’s Toucanet


We spotted a marmoset peeking at us from behind a tree.


Looking into the sun at this monkey high in a tree made an interesting silhouette.











Brasilia: Friends and Birding 2015

Barbara and I were in Brasilia from August 20-26.  The primary purpose of our trip to Brasilia was to spend time with our Brazilian friends whom we first met almost 30 years ago when they hosted Barbara and one of our daughters as part of a Friendship Force exchange.  In the interim we have hosted one of their sons, one of their daughters, and a grandson here in West Des Moines.  The return visit was all that we could wish for.

We were picked up at the airport by their grandson, Pedro, and then treated to a fine breakfast at their home on the morning of our arrival.  Pedro drove us to check in at our hotel for an afternoon of rest after the long day and night of travel from Des Moines, through Atlanta to Brasilia.


The next day, and several additional days, Pedro (or, on his day off, his Uncle Bruno) drove us about Brasilia to show us some of the attractions of the city.  First stop was the Presidential Palace with its expansive grounds.  During the week we enjoyed visiting many of the highlights of Brasilia, including the Cathedral (breathtaking beauty, inside and out),


the Square of the 3 Powers,


and my favorite, Itamaraty Palace, where Angela Merkel and her German entourage had been feted the day before.


Over the next few days we visited Congresso Nationale, the beautiful J.K. Bridge over Lake Paranoa, the Sanctuario dom Bosco and several other striking examples of Brasilia architecture, much of it designed by Oscar Niemeyer.  The view from the tv tower gave a good overview.  They treated us to a boat tour of the city from the lake which gave us a whole new perspective.


The family held several gatherings for us at their homes in order that we could more fully enjoy their company and their cuisine, including a true southern Brazil barbecue.  We walked in the parks and enjoyed learning of the design and development of Brasilia as a unique, planned capital.  It is an amazing place.


I had arranged in advance to hire a local bird guide, Jonatas Rocha, who spent one day birding with us in the Parque Nacional De Brasilia, just a short drive north of the city, and with just me for a second day in the close-by National Forest.  Pedro provided transportation and acted as interpreter for our first day, and the second day I went with Jonatas in his one-passenger pickup, and we were able to enjoy a productive day of birding although he spoke no English and I no Portuguese.  Jonatas is a very good guide and I would recommend him to anyone considering a day or so of birding in the Brasilia area.  He was referred by Birding Pal.

Jonatas had emailed me lists of the birds found in the Parque and in the Forest before we left the States so that I could prepare better for our outings.  I made a list of those that were not likely to also be found later on our Fieldguides Tour in the Cuiaba area.  In the two days of Brasilia birding, I managed to add 37 birds to my life list.  The highlights among my new life birds were the rare, elusive and very local Brasilia Tapaculo, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Squirrel Cuckoo,


Collared Crescentchest, Southern Antpipit, Curl-crested Jay, the local warblers (White-striped, White-bellied, Flavescent), Rufous-winged and Variable Antshrikes, Black-capped Antwren, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Russet-mantled Foliage Gleaner, Pale-breasted Spinetail, a Greenish Schiffornis, several species of Eleanias and other Flycatchers, Pale-breasted and Eastern Slaty Thrushes, Black-goggled and Guira Tanagers,


Yellow-bellied Seedeaters, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Black-throated Saltator, Grassland Sparrow and Purple-throated Euphonias.

On the morning of August 26th we flew from Brasilia to Cuiaba to join the Fieldguides Tour of the southernmost part of Amazonia and the Pantanal in search of birds and Jaguars.