Our principle objective on this trip was to get to Murici in Alagoas to look for the endemics of that region. Jeremy Minns and myself would be doing the full trip while Edson Endrigo would be joining us for Murici, Jaqueira and Jeremoabo.
Wednesday, 10th March:
We left São Paulo at 6:00 a.m. towards Rio de Janeiro, crossed the bridge at Niteroi and carried on to Espírito Santo. Despite having to mend a flattish tyre at Campos dos Goitacazes, we arrived in reasonable time at our destination, Vargem Alta, just beyond Cachoeiro de Itapemirim.
The only hotel in the vicinity was the Monte Verde Resort & Golf which was very expensive but did seem to have some good forest in the grounds.
Thursday, 11th March:
Up at 5:30 to bird the hotel’s trail. This is through a very nice remnant of Atlantic Rainforest but is very steep going up and down. We kept an eye open for Cherry-throated Tanager Nemosia rourei since we were in the general vicinity but, although we saw a couple of mixed tanager flocks there was no sign of it. I managed to get some reasonable shots of Planalto Woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes platyrostris and, on the mammal front, some shots of Buffy-headed Marmoset Callithrix flaviceps, an endangered species restricted to remnants of Atlantic Forest in Espírito Santo between the Rios Doce and Paraíba. There is a nice view at the top of the hotel trail and a few waterfalls lower down.
After breakfast we went off to the nearby village and followed a track into some likely looking forest where we thought we might look for Cherry-throated Tanager the next morning.
Jeremy was suffering from a bad cold and planned to spend the afternoon in bed while I went back to the hotel trail. I took photos of Sombre Hummingbird Aphantochroa cirrochloris and a bird I could not identify immediately. This turned out to be Black-goggled Tanager Tricothraupis melanops but with a much darker mantle and back than is shown in Ridgely & Tudor. I was also thrown by the white patches on the wing but in flight this bird shows a white band on the primaries not normally visible on the closed wing so this bird was presumably in a stage of moult.
There was also a very obliging pair of Maroon-bellied Parakeet Pyrrhura frontalis perched just in front of our veranda. When I returned to the room there was no sign of Jeremy. He eventually reappeared and explained that he hadn’t been able to find his bins, retraced his steps of the morning and, very fortunately, found them at the side of the track.
Friday, 12th March:
Wake up at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of heavy rain so we decide not to go to the forest we had scouted the previous morning. When the rain eased, I left Jeremy nursing his cold and went back on the hotel trail where I photographed Rufous-breasted Leaftosser Sclerurus scansor.
After breakfast, we set off for Linhares where we arrive in time for lunch and in the afternoon we wander round the grounds looking mainly at the large flocks of Orange-winged Parrot Amazona amazonica and lots of other common birds. As the sun was setting we saw a pair of the endangered Red-browed Parrot Amazona rhodocorytha in the distance but the light was too poor for a photo.
Saturday, 13th March:
Up and out by 5:30 a.m. when we meet our guide, Edson. We spend most of the day in various parts of the reserve only returning for lunch and dinner.
I manage to get good photos of White-tailed Trogon Trogon viridis, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike Thamnophilus ambiguus, White-fronted Nunbird Monasa morpheus and Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer.
Sunday, 14th March:
We left at 4:45 a.m. in search of Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana which we found without too much trouble. When the sun was up we found the endangered Red-billed Curassow Crax blumenbachii. We spent most of the rest of the day at the marsh where there was lots to photo and recording opportunities. I managed a distant record shot of Long-winged Harrier Circus buffoni and a rather nice shot of a male Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis on our way back to base.
Monday, 15th March:
This morning we decided to go after Variable Screech-owl Otus atricapilla so we were up and out by 4:30 a.m. We eventually heard it but it took a lot of working through the undergrowth before we saw it. I thought that I had some excellent photos but committed the sin of being too close to the bird so all my shots were just marginally out of focus.
Before returning for breakfast I managed to get good shots of a female Blond-crested Woodpecker Celeus flavescens and in flight Orange-winged Parrot Amazona amazonica.
After breakfast we set off for Bahia and Camacã where we found what was probably the best of a poor choice of hotel in the Hotel Maracana. It wasn't great but it only cost us R$ 10 each for the night and we had a reasonable meal at the Churrascaria on the main road.
Tuesday, 16th March:
Up at 4:45 a.m. and up the road to the telecom tower on Serra Bonito. Our objective was Pink-legged Gravateiro Acrobatornis fonsecai but I'm afraid we did not see it. Neverthless we had an excellent morning with good shots of female Rufous Gnateater Conopophaga lineata, Lemon-chested Greenlet Hylophilus thoracicus as well as Weid's Marmoset Callithrix kuhlii.
We found the Rufous Gnateater foraging under a bush when we were following a call which we did not recognise. We saw the bird concerned but not well enough to identify it before it flew off. While I was off photographing the marmosets, Jeremy managed to track down the mystery bird. He called me over to some tangled undergrowth and, with a lot of difficulty I eventually managed to get a shot of the bird but it remained a mystery. It was also behaving in a strange way by holding its wings over its back and showing two very large white patches on the shoulder as well as white spots on the wing-coverts. We eventually concluded that it was Plumbeous Antvireo Dysithamnus plumbeus although our notes from Ridgely & Tudor suggested that it was found only below 100 metres and we were at about 800 metres. (HBW gives its altitudinal range up to 900 metres but does not show the white patches on the shoulders)
After lunch we moved up the road a few kilometres to take a look at Serra de Lontras. We found it a bit disappointing with old cacao plantations amongst a few forest trees (what the Brazilians call "Cabruca") which went right up to the saddle of the hill and, we were told, down the other side. We thought we saw Bahia Tyrannulet Phylloscartes beckeri but it was distant and in poor light. Maybe we went at the wrong time of day because John van der Woude reports that he had a good day there just a few days earlier.
We stayed the night at the nearby Pousada Fazenda Liberdade for R$ 25 each and I had carne de sol to eat for the first time since about 1978. It was a curious set-up with beds built like platforms, a large mirror and a discrete hatch presumably for the delivery of food and drink without disturbing the occupants. We concluded that it might be a "motel" (sensu lato) but was not advertised as such. Jeremy and I took separate rooms!
Wednesday, 17th March:
A late breakfast at 7:00 a.m. then off to Itajuipe for a final and fruitless search for Acrobatornis. There was an excellent pousada there where we should have spent the night. As it was I got horribly bitten by ticks in a short period.
We continued north on the BR 101 and stopped at a small patch of forest 20 km south of the border with Sergipe. I managed to get some photos of Moustached Wren Thryothorus genibarbis which I have always found a difficult bird to photograph. We then saw a troop of monkeys, which I think were Brown Capuchins, at the same time as I noticed a Maned Three-toed Sloth Bradypus torquatus. I photographed them in the wrong order. I should have taken the monkeys before they disappeared and then gone back for the sloth which wasn't going anywhere very fast. However, it is not every day that you see an endangered species of mammal.
Then we heard the bird we were hoping to see, the critically endangered Fringe-backed Fire-eye Pyriglena atra. I managed to get some excellent photos of the male and one of the female.
We stayed at the Hotel Magnus in Estância overnight.
Thursday, 18th March:
We were up at 4:45 a.m. and off to a very nice patch of Atlantic forest with a bit of restinga thrown in for good measure. This lies on the road between Sta Luzia de Itanhi and the small fishing village of Crasto.
We saw White-eyed Foliage-gleaner Automulus leucophthalmus, a female Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike and a group of 4 male Fringe-backed Fire-eye near some ants. Closer to Crasto there was an egret roost which included both Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax and Yellow-crowned Night-heron Nyctanassa violacea.
We had to be at Maceió Airport at 3:30 p.m. to pick up Edson Endrigo who was joining us for the next leg of the trip. He had come from Juazeiro do Norte where he had managed to get some excellent shots of Araripe Manakin Antilophia bockermanni.
We arrived at Murici in the state of Alagoas with the knowledge that the recent heavy rains had made the usual road to the reserve impassable but we had been told that there was an alternative. So we stopped at the petrol station, asked the moto-taxi lads if anyone knew the alternative road and one offered to show us the way for R$ 12. So we made our way up to the gate of the reserve taking careful note of the turnings for the next morning.
Then we were off to the Hotel Quilombo Park in União de Palmares which is quite expensive but comfortable.
Friday, 19th March:
We had breakfast at 4:15 a.m. and then off to the reserve where we arrived just as the sun was rising. There were not many birds in the forest but we managed to get excellent photos of one of the endemics, the critically endangered Alagoas Antwren Myrmotherula snowi. Only the male was seen. We had distant views but no photographs of another of the endemics, Alagoas Tyrannulet Phylloscartes ceciliae. There was also a large White-bearded Manakin Manacus manacus lek consisting of over 20 males as well as some Red-headed Manakin Pipra rubrocapilla.
Saturday, 20th March:
Up at the same time and back to the reserve. Unfortunately the clutch on the Land Rover is not behaving so Jeremy leaves Edson and me and goes back to find a mechanic. He manages to solve the problem and rejoins us after we have spent the morning photographing at the forest edge near the reserve entrance. The star bird is the endangered Seven-coloured Tanager Tangara fastuosa which was showing brilliantly in the sun. Other birds were Black-capped Antwren Herpsilochmus atricapillus, a male White-fringed Antwren Formicivora grisea which had lost its tail, Golden-spangled Piculet Picumnus exilis and back in the forest, Blue-backed Manakin Chiroxiphia pareola and a female or immature Grayish Mourner Rhytipterna simplex showing a significant amount of fulvous edging on the wing feathers. On the mammal front, we see another marmoset, White-tufted-ear Marmoset Callithrix jacchus.
Sunday, 21st March:
Up at 4:15 again and up to Murici reserve. Jeremy goes off to the forest while Edson and I work the edge. We see Long-tailed Woodnymph Thalurania watertonii, get good photos of Guira Tanager Hemithraupis guira, Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius and a female of the vulnerable Tawny Piculet Picumnus fulvescens.
And so at 10 a.m. we leave Murici with none of us having seen two of the endemics: Orange-bellied Antwren Terenura sicki or Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi.
We get to the supermarket in União de Palmares before it shuts and stock up with food and beer for the next leg of the trip. After lunch, a shower and paying the bill we cross the border into Pernambuco and make our way to the Frei Caneca Reserve at Jaqueira. We meet our guide, Ze Zito, and his wife and the accommodation looks excellent. It even had its own resident frog in a bromeliad on the verandah.
Monday, 22nd March:
Up at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of rain but this didn't last long. I went with Jeremy up the Cerro de Quengo while Edson worked lower down. In the dawn light we saw Black-throated Grosbeak Pitylus fuliginosus which must be close to the northern limit for this bird. In the forest I saw a furnarid up in the canopy but far too briefly to tell whether or not it was the elusive Alagoas Foliage-gleaner. Otherwise it was very quiet.
After lunch, Edson and I spent some time round the houses and took photos of common birds such as Masked Water-tyrant Fluvicola nengeta, Common Tody-flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum, White-lined Tanager Tachyphonus rufus, Epaulet Oriole Icterus cayanensis and Violaceous Euphonia Euphonia violacea.
Just as we were going to bed, the coordinator of the reserve, José Alves Siqueira arrived and we had a short chat.
Tuesday, 23rd March:
Up at 4:45 a.m. and we have a very useful chat with José Alves before setting off. Jeremy went back up the Cerro and recorded and saw well Alagoas Foliage-gleaner. It came down momentarily to a few metres off the ground - these things always happen when no photographer is present. I had stayed lower trying to get a photo of the endangered Scalloped Antbird Myrmeciza ruficauda which I did eventually as it crossed the track. Not a great photo because of twigs, etc., but I am very happy with it. By this time I had joined Edson and we photographed the endangered Golden-tailed Parrotlet Touit surdus. I had to use a very slow speed to avoid using flash and the photo shows red, blue and yellow colouring round the eyes that is rarely shown in illustrations (possibly the colours fade in skins).
We then managed to photograph Gray Elaenia Myiopagis caniceps a pair of which had come down from the canopy into an open area. The female was showing her yellow crown stripe. I also managed to get a shot of Orange-headed Tanager Thlypopsis sordida before we went to Ze Zito's garden where we saw Seven-coloured Tanager again, Burnished-buff Tanager Tangara cayana and curiously, because it is a bird of the cerrado rather than the forest, Rufous-winged Antshrike Thamnophilus torquatus.
After lunch, Edson went up the Cerro hoping to photograph Alagoas Foliage-gleaner while I stayed around the house. Besides Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis, Common Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons and Yellow Tyrannulet Campsiempis flaveola, I photographed two Formicivora Antwrens with territories within 50 metres of each other. There was a male and female White-fringed Antwren Formicivora grisea and a male Rusty-backed Antwren Formicivora rufa. The first would be more expected in a forest edge habitat while the second is more a bird of cerrado. This and the Rufous-winged Antshrike suggests that the forest on the hill tops was surrounded by some cerrado-type vegetation and when cultivation, especially of cane sugar, encroached some cerrado species climbed up to the edges of the forest remnants on the hilltops.
Up at 4:45 for breakfast and then into the forest. No sign of Alagoas Foliage-gleaner but we did see a couple of Orange-bellied Antwren Terenura sicki another of the endemics. It was very high up and difficult to photo but I hope my shots of the female are at least identifiable. The male was even more difficult to see.
Back to base to pack up and have lunch then said our goodbyes to Zé Zito and his wife, Nice before setting off for Jeremoaba travelling via Paulo Alfonso. We are staying at the Senhor de Bonfim Hotel at R$ 30 each per night.
Thursday, 25th March:
Up at 4:45 and across the road to the padaria for an excellent breakfast. By chance, we meet Sr. Octavio who owns the land where Lear's Macaw roosts. He is very helpful and obviously takes a great pride in the preservation of this critically endangered species. He tells us that because the river is swollen, it will be impossible for us to get to the roost site but asks us to get in touch with him later.
We set off for a very nice patch of caatinga on the road to Canudos. The main bird to see was the vulnerable Pectoral Antwren Herpsilochmus pectoralis and we had great views of both the male and the female. Other birds were Greenish Elaenia Myiopagis viridicata, Stripe-backed Antbird Myrmorchilus strigilatus and Yellow-breasted Flycatcher Tolmomyias flaviventris.
By now it's time to look for the macaws and we head along the road to Fazenda Toureiro. There we meet the manager José Hilton, who is extremely proud of the birds who come to feed on the licuri palms on his fazenda. He tells us that the population is recovering and says the numbers have risen to over 700 compared to the less than 150 reported in "Threatened Birds of the World" We see a pair and then a group of 7 birds but they are roosting in the larger trees rather than feeding on the palms so it is difficult to get a decent photo. We leave a small donation to help with the cost of feeding the birds.
After lunch we meet up with Sr Octavio whose mateiro, Zé de Dida takes us to two of his fazendas both of which are in mostly virgin caatinga. We resolve to return the next day.
Friday, 26th March:
Up at 4:15 to pick up Zé de Dida and off to one of the fazendas. We see a fair number of caatinga specialists but I don't manage to photograph any very well.
Back to the hotel where we pack up before having breakfast at the paderia. Then we drive Edson to Salvador airport from where he flies back to São Paulo while Jeremy and I continue on to the Chapada Diamantina. We arrive at the Casa de Geléia in Lençóis at about 8:00 p.m. The last hour or so on the road was very rough as the road is now full of pot-holes so it was good to see the welcoming faces of Lia and José Carlos.
Saturday, 27th March:
We have a late start and decide to go down the trail beside the river. Coming to one of the tributaries we asked a man who had just walked across how deep it was. He said it came just above his knees so on we went thus committing one of the most basic errors when we did not check ourselves. In we went but we were too deep and steep to reverse back out when we decided we could not go on. Eventually we managed to get a lorry to pull us out and, after a few splutters, the Land Rover burst into life with water pouring out of almost every orifice - a great tribute to the Land Rover.
We abort this trip and, after lunch go up the Pai Inacio where the Pale-throated Serra-Finch Embernagra longicauda was singing away at the top of its voice. Then I got some great shots of Hooded Visorbearer Augastes lumachella. One problem with photographing hummers is that the full and glorious iridescence of the gorget only shows when he is directly looking at the camera so the bill looks like a dot. Other good shots were of Stripe-tailed Yellow-Finch Sicalis citrina, Velvety Black-tyrant Knipolegus nigerrimus and Cinnamon Tanager Schistochlamys ruficapillus.
Sunday, 28th March:
Up at 4:15 for breakfast and then off to Palmeiras and the Rio Preto.
It was relatively quiet but I managed to get distant shots of Scarlet-throated Tanager Compsothraupis loricata, which doesn't act much like a tanager at all, some poor shots of San Francisco Sparrow Arremon franciscanus, and some good shots of Spotted Piculet Picumnus pygmaeus, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike Sakesphorus cristatus and Grey-eyed Greenlet Hylophilus amaurocephalus. Jeremy was on hand to help give a scale to my shot of a tarantula spider which was crossing the track.
On our way back to Lençóis we stopped off at some dry montane scrub Campos rupestres close to the Pai Inacio where we found an immature of the sub-species of Rusty-backed Antwren Formicivora rufa. It looks browner on the back and has a different voice (found on the CD, "Songs of the Antbirds" by Phyllis Isler and Bret Whitney, Disc 2. 23, example 2) Other birds seen in the same habitat were White-bellied Seedeater Sporophila leucoptera and Ultramarine Grosbeak Passerina brissoni.
After lunch we went off to the Marimbus or swamps near Lençóis to set up a boat trip for the next morning. I manage to get a good shot of Caatinga Cachalote Pseudoseisura cristata.
Monday, 29th March:
Unfortunately, I was taken ill overnight and we had to go to the hospital in Seabra very early in the morning. Both Jeremy and José Carlos came with me and I was well attended by the hospital staff.
So no trip to the Marimbus and we decided to cut short our trip in the north-east, head back to São Paulo for a few days and then fit in a short trip to Intervales near São Paulo.
We had a tremendous evening with Lia and José Carlos who had been very kind during our stay at the Casa de Geléia.
Tuesday, 30th March:
Jeremy went off up the Serra while I stayed back at the house taking photos of the many hummers in the garden.
We set off south to Brumado and then to Guanambi where we spent the night at the Leopoldo Hotel which was good and reasonably cheap at R$ 30 each.
Wednesday, 31st March:
This was going to be a long day’s drive but it took even longer than we expected because, while the road from Guanambi to Montes Claros was reasonable, from Montes Claros to Sete Lagoas was absolutely atrocious.
We thought we would find a hotel on the far side of Belo Horizonte but could find nothing at all. We eventually stopped at a petrol station in Itaguara. The room was pretty bad but at least it was a place to sleep.
Thursday, 1st April to Saturday, 3rd April was spent in São Paulo.
Sunday, 4th April:
We left São Paulo at 12 noon and arrived at Intervales at 3:30 p.m.
We left our kit at the Pica Pau Lodge and started exploring the surroundings. There is some scrubby habitat close by and we quickly found Giant Antshrike Batara cinerea and Large-tailed Antshrike Mackenziaena leachii as well as other good birds such as Brassy-breasted Tanager Tangara desmaresti and White-throated Hummingbird Leucochloris albicollis.
Monday, 5th April:
We were out by 5:30 a.m. to meet our guide, Luiz. He has a good knowledge of the birds of Intervales and has a superb pair of eyes (at least compared to mine). We decided to road along the track known as the road to Carmo.
I had a great morning starting off with Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana and the vulnerable Black-fronted Piping-guan Pipile jacutinga which seemed relatively unperturbed by us. These were followed by Saffron Toucanet Baillonius bailloni, Black-billed Scythebill Campylorhamphus falcularius, White-bearded Antshrike Biatas nigropectus, Squamate Antbird Myrmeciza squamosa, a superb Bare-throated Bellbird Procnias nudicollis, the recently split Buff-bellied Puffbird Notharcus swainsoni and several Scale-throated Hermit Phaethornis eurynome. Close to the river we saw what we originally thought was an Olive Spinetail Cranioleuca obsoleta bathing in a puddle on a trail. We later came to the conclusion that it was a juvenile Pallid Spinetail C. pallida and it was later confirmed that both species are found at Intervales.
The morning ended with some great shots of a Blue Manakin Chiroxiphia caudata who, very obligingly, was sitting on a branch at the forest edge and finally a few shots of the vulnerable Cinnamon-vented Piha Lipaugus lanioides.
The afternoon was a bit quiet by comparison but a fruiting tree near our lodge came up with Green-chinned Euphonia Euphonia chalybea, Golden-winged Cacique Cacicus chrysopterus and Azure-shouldered Tanager Thraupis cyanoptera.
Tuesday, 6th April:
Up and out by 5:20 to see a Least Pygmy-owl Glaucidium minutissimum. I must say that I do prefer to do my owling in the early morning. That way it doesn't eat into beer-drinking time.
Then we were off along the Barra Grande Road. It was quieter than yesterday but I managed to get some reasonable shots of Brown-breasted Bamboo-tyrant Hemitriccus obsoletus and Planalto Woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes platyrostris before coming across a Royal Flycatcher Onychorhynchus coronatus. We could just make out its crest which was laid back along the crown but unfortunately the light was low and my flash spooked it after the second shot.
After lunch and a siesta it started to pour with rain. It cleared up in time for a few hours before dinner and we saw the Phacellodomus erythrophthalmus ferrugineigula sub-species of Red-eyed Thornbird as well as our local Large-tailed Antshrike who unfortunately had lost most of his tail.
Wednesday, 7th April:
Up at 5:20 a.m. again in time to search for our daily owl. This time it was Rusty-barred Owl Strix hylophila.
Then off down the road to Carmo again. Our friendly Black-fronted Piping-guan was still feeding off the same Cecropias and we also found a Rusty-breasted Nunlet Nonnula rubecula (or rather, Luiz found it and I photographed it). Other birds were Crescent-chested Puffbird Malacoptila striata, Rufous-capped Antshrike Thamnophilus ruficapillus and Spix’s Spinetail Synallaxis spixi.
We packed up at about 11:00 a.m. and were back in São Paulo by 3:00 p.m. and in plenty of time to meet up with my wife and set off for the beach.
All in all a great trip despite my illness at Lençóis.
A full species list is available as an Excel worksheet here.
Please note that
5 = definitely seen
4 = definitely heard
3 = possibly seen
2 = possibly heard.