Brazil Pantanal Birding Piuval – September 3-4

We left Porto Jofre on September 3 and proceeded back north on the Pantaneira toward Pousada Piuval, where we would spend the night before returning to Cuiaba for our flights back home on the 4th.  Pousada Piuval is the most northerly lodge on the Pantaneira, located about 10 kilometers along the road and about 6 or 7 more by private road.  It is built on a 17,000 acre cattle ranch, and guests are given access by vehicle to the ranch for birding and viewing the many mammals to be found there.

The Pantaneira was as dusty and the bridges as worn out as when we drove south a few days before.  But the birds were as plentiful, and on the return trip we stopped along the way in search of more of the passerines than we had taken time for on the way down, because of the plenitude of the water birds that had been new to us on the way down.

bridge

We arrived at Piuval in time for an afternoon drive at the Ranch.  Among the birds seen this day, either along the road or at the Ranch, were these:

Sunbitterns

sunbittern

 

Long-tailed Ground Dove

long-tailed-ground-dove

 

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

ferruginous-pygmy-owl

 

Blue-crowned Trogon

blue-crowned-trogan

 

Peach-fronted Parakeets

peach-fronted-parakeet

 

Large-billed Antwren

large-billed-antwren

 

White-bellied Seedeater

white-bellied-seedeater

 

Rusty-collared Seedeater

rusty-collared-seedeater

 

Saffron-billed Sparrow

saffron-billed-sparrow

 

Amazonian Motmot

amazonion-motmot

 

At the ranch, a Brown Capuchin Monkey wandered across the open pasture, standing on its hind legs to look about for danger from time to time.

capuchin-monkey

 

A South American Coati also made its way around a pond.

south-american-coati

 

Field Guides is a good tour company.  The trip was well conceived and very well executed.  The two guides, Marcello and Pepe, were exceptional in all respects.  The part of Brazil that we saw, Brasilia and Mato Grosso in the west central part of Brazil, was diverse and fascinating.  The bird life and animal life is abundant. The vegetation is sparser and more conducive to finding wildlife than the denser jungle areas of the Amazon to the north.  The roads were not good, but that is the price one expects to pay to better experience the natural environment. Pests, such as mosquitoes, were few and far between, and malaria is not a concern in Mato Grosso.

I saw a total of 330 species of birds in Brazil, of which 160 were new life birds for me, putting my total species observed and identified world-wide to 2825.  Now, I suppose I will find the challenge of reaching 3,000 irresistable.  Chile is appealing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brazil Pantanal Birding and Jaguars – Porto Jofre – September 1-2, 2015

Much of our time at Porto Jofre was spent on a boat looking for Jaguars on the banks of the rivers.  Birding took a back seat, but there were still plenty of birds to see along the rivers.  Our boats were comfortable, the rivers calm and the weather a sunny 103 degrees.  The scenery in and along the rivers was, to use an over-used term, gorgeous.

Our first morning on the river turned up empty of Jaguars. We started the morning with nice looks at nesting

Large-billed Terns

large-billed-terns

 

At the end of the hot morning I was exhausted and for the only time on the trip, I skipped the afternoon activities, took a nap, and birded around the Lodge.  Of course, afternoon on the River produced the group’s first Jaguar sighting of the trip.

jaguar-large-male

 

As is the case in many areas where wild-life sightings are the objective, when a guide finds an animal he radios the other guides in the area, and they all converge.  This can be an unpleasant experience due to the jockeying for photographic advantage that goes on.

The next morning Marcello decided to abandon the main river and go in the opposite direction to a smaller tributary.  That decision was a very good one, because shortly after entering the tributary, two young Jaguars were spotted along the shore line.

jaguar-young

 

We were the only boat in range, so the time spent observing them inter-act with each other, (licking, playing) was lovely.  The entire group was relieved that I, who had missed the first Jaguar, now could add Jaguars to my life list of mammals.

Later in the day, back on the big river, we were fortunate to find a fourth Jaguar.  This one was spotted by our boatman as it cooled itself behind a fallen tree in the shaded waters of the river, but this one did not stick around long and did not provide much opportunity for pictures, although the sighting itself was very satisfying.

The search for Jaguars was primary while we were at Porto Jofre, but the birding was also excellent.  Among the interesting species that we were able to see and photograph driving down the Pantaneira and after our arrival at Porto Jofre are these:

Hyacinth Macaws

hyacinth-macaw-1

 

hyacinth-macaw-2

 

Campo Flicker

campo-flicker

 

Amazon Kingfisher

amazon-kingfisher

 

Egrets 

egrets

 

Maguari Stork

maguari-stork

 

Rufescent Tiger Heron

rufescent-tiger-heron

 

Capped Herons

capped-herons

 

Cocoi Heron

cocoi-heron_0

 

Yellow-rumped Caciques

yellow-rumped-cacique_0

 

Orange-backed Troupial

orange-backed-troupal

 

Green and Rufous Kingfisher 

green-and-rufous-kingfisher-1

 

Southern Screamer

southern-screamer

 

Nacunda Nighthawk   

nacundo-night-hawk

 

White-wedged Piculet     

white-wedged-peculet

 

Buff-necked Ibis  

buff-necked-ibis

 

There were many Jabiru Storks.  This one was busy fishing for his dinner.

jabiru-stork-2

 

We saw this Jabiru Stork family high in the tree.

jabiru-stork-1

 

No photographic record of our time on the Pantaneira would be complete without a picture of the ever present Cayman.

cayman

 

The final installment of my blog of Brazil will cover the drive from Porto Jofre back to the north end of the Pantaneira, where we spent the night at Piuval Lodge and explored the surrounding ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brazil’s Mato Grosso: The Pantanal via the Transpantaneira Road August 30-31, 2015

On August 30, 2015 we left Garden of the Amazon and drove south toward the Pantanal.  Midway, we stopped in Cuiaba to pick up one of our guides, Pepe, who a couple of days earlier had accompanied a guest back to Cuiaba from Garden of the Amazon due to a medical emergency.  The guest was OK, much to our relief, and he re-joined the tour at Cuiaba.  Lesson to be learned:  it might be wise to tour with groups who provide 2 guides.

Eighty percent of the Pantanal is located in west central Brazil with smaller areas in eastern Bolivia and eastern Paraguay.  The Pantanal contains about 70,000 square miles and it is the world’s largest freshwater wetland, 10 to 20 (depending on the source) times the size of the Everglades.  Every year it is flooded to several feet in depth from the rains (40-60 inches from November to March) and by runoff from the tributaries of the Paraguay River.  The Pantanal starts about 60 miles south of Cuiaba near Pocone.  The northern third of the Pantanal (approximately 80 miles) is traversed by the Transpantaneira Road.  This is a dirt road with 122 wooden bridges, most of which are in poor repair.  The road ends on a river bank, at the little village of Porto Jofre.  There is no bridge across the river.  The southern two thirds of the Pantanal is almost roadless, except for a short stretch at the south end.  Ninety-eight percent of the Pantanal is in private ownership, mostly cattle ranching.

Along the Pantaneira, in ranch-land a little far out for pictures, we spotted two Red-legged Seriemas.

seriemas

This was the third of the three new bird families on my wish list for this trip.  We stopped for an evening of birding and good food at Curicaca Lodge (“Pousada Curicaca”) which is about 15 miles down the Pantaneira and about 3 kilometers off the road, accessed by a narrow dirt lane.  It is located in one of the few cattle-free areas of the Pantanal.  We birded around the Lodge that evening and the next morning.

Among the birds we saw at Curicaca were:

Blue-throated Piping Guan

blue-throated-piping-guan

 

Bare-faced Currasows

bare-faced-currasow

 

Gray- necked Woodrail

grey-necked-woodrail

 

Tropical Screech Owl

tropical-screech-owl

 

Great Potoo

great-pootoo

 

Pale-crested Woodpecker

pale-crested-woodpecker

 

Cream-colored Woodpecker

cream-colored-woodpecker

 

Laughing Falcon

laughing-falcon

 

Bat Falcon

bat-falcon

 

Orange-winged Parrot

orange-winged-parrots

 

Yellow-collared Macaw

yellow-collared-macaws

 

Fork-tailed Woodnymph

fork-tailed-woodnymph

 

Purple-throated Euphonia

euphonia

 

Plumbious Ibis

plumbious-ibis

 

 

We saw a lot of birds the next morning as we walked along the private road.  Around 9:00 a.m. we boarded our bus and started south on the Pantaneira to Porto Jofre, about 60 miles away.  The road was very dusty. Many of the wooden bridges were not safe and must be bypassed by driving through the seasonally dry ditches at the sides of the bridges.  But the birds; Oh the birds!!!  I have never seen so many birds over such large landscapes.  At this, the end of the dry season, they are collecting at the nearly dried-out ponds and ditches along the road to take advantage of the fish and other aquatic creatures that are suffocating in the dwindling and hot pools.  Even the Cayman appear to be suffering the ill effects, as we saw a couple of dead and decomposing corpses protruding from the water.

The history of the Pantaneira Road is very interesting.  Prior to World War II the area was lightly populated and very poor.  During World War II, the local ranchers sold beef to supply the needs of the soldiers in Europe and Africa.  They did very well financially, and lobbied for a road.  The government proceeded to build the road, in part.  The south terminus of the road is at the Rio Sao Lourenco River at Porto Jofre, and there is no land connection crossing the river, or for many miles on south.  The only connection from the south is by river.  After the war, the demand for exported beef dwindled, and the influence of the ranchers dwindled accordingly, probably explaining why the road was not finished.

The Pantanal is still a source of beef (see local cowboys, or “Vaqueiros” along the road; the Spanish demonym, “Gaucho” is used in Argentina and in the very southern part of Brazil, but I think where we were, “Vaqueiro” would be the proper usage).

cowboys

 

I learned that the cattle are primarily Zebu, or Indian Brahman, and almost all the cattle in the Pantanal are of the white to silvery gray variety, with the long, drooping ears, excess neck skin and back hump typical of their progenitors.  Heat and drought resistance is a valuable trait for survival in the Pantanal. During the rainy season, the cattle retreat to the closest available forested knolls or ridges that are barely above the water line.

cattle

 

We proceeded slowly south on the Pantaneira, stopping often to observe the rich bird life, and at about 6:30 we arrived at our lodge for the next 3 nights, the Hotel Porto Jofre. Tomorrow the emphasis on finding birds was to end, our days on the river would begin, and the principal focus of our outings would be Jaguars.