This blog about Pantanal is the third part of my trip to Brazil (Itatiaia and Chapada d G Jardim Amazonia are the other two).
So, welcome to the biggest weatland in the world, famous for all its birds but also as the best place to see Jaguars among other wildlife. As you enter the Pantanal the road turns in to a dirt road. During the northern summer and fall the region is dried out which gives high concentrations of animals. During the other half of the year the area is much flooded and many places hard or impossible to reach by car. It was a great feeling to reach this place after the long drive from Jardim da Amazonia. First stop was Piuval Lodge and included in the price was a Jeep-tour which gave us the first looks of this fantastic place.
A good bird during this car trip was the Red-shouldered Macaw. Macaws are great bird and always nice to see, this one not so common. A bird we thought should be a little bit hard to see was the Sunbittern but we saw quite a few of this special bird.
A true symbol of the Pantanal is the huge Jabiru. Though quite common around, still an amazing view everytime you see it. Here on in flight towards the nest and two just resting.
Piuval is a good place for mammals as well and we saw this cute S.A. Coati and the funny 7-banded Armadillo.
On this tour we also saw our first Great Potoo. What a remarkable bird!!
At nest we also saw this Great Horned Owl and close by the special Guira Cuckoo.
At the lodge itself birding is good and we saw many nice species. Here the quite common Cattle Tyrant, Giant Cowbird (on feral cow!) and the brilliant Yellow-billed Cardinal.
Just a short walk out from the lodge I also found this striking Black-collared Hawk.
Happy after our day at Piuval we now drove towards our next lodge a little bit further south, Pouso Alegre. Piuval is an upscale lodge with pool and other nice facilities. On the (quite long) way in from the Tranpantaneira we saw the hardest of the herons, the Capped heron as well as this pecular male Bare-faced Currasow.
Pouso Alegre is a more rustic and basic place know to be very good for spotting Great Ant-eaters. Birding and other wildlife are excellent too. We had heard that a Great Ant-eater comes inmost evenings to look for food around the lodge which it did our night as well. However, we were lucky to see one out on one of the trails which gave a more natural experince.
This walk also gave us the Undulated Tinamou, a bird much easier heard than seen as well as this handsome Red-throated Piping Guan.
Many lizards were around and one favorite was this robust Black & White Tegu. The lodge has a feeding area which attracts many different species but still surprised to find this elegant Plumbeous Ibis on the roof next to it.
Befor we left this nice place we had a stop at a trail together with the owner. Among some other goodies we found this awesome Helmeted Manakin.
Our next stop was SouthWild. Owned by the person who helped us with the planning and booking and also the company which "rented" the car to us. Situated next to the Rio Sararé in Pixaim area this place is great. An upscale place with a small pool, great feeding areas, complimentary boat trip on the river and a photo hide for Ocelot. We stayed here one night on our way south and two more at the end of our trip. There are extensive trails but I guess you need to have good nerves as referred to on this sign just a couple of hundred meters outside the lodge.
Meanwhile we payed a visit further south, the lodge had a Jaguar crossing its property. When we arrived we saw this cute Marsh Deer which hardly scared us. On our first we didn't see any signs of Ocelots but finally in the evening this beautiful animal showed up. First a little bit shy but soon more active looking for food.
The river tour here is excellent for herons and other water birds. The river Piquiri further south is a much bigger one with sand banks and other vegetation. This river in tiny and gives you the opportunity to come up close bothto birds and reptiles. The Yacaré (Caiman) is very common and we probably saw almost a 1000 of them in total all over Pantanal. Not as powerful as the crocodile species, it is still a beauty to watch.
Herons were so plentiful so you could almost imagine beeing in a restricted zoo area. The "white ones" were the most common but we easily saw Black-capped Night Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Rufescent Tiger Heron and the hard and elusive Agami Heron (why hide when you are the most stunning one of them all??).
Other water birds like this Grey-necked Wood-rail and and the very sought after and difficult Sungrebe kept our smiles going on for hours.
In Brazil there are 5 different kingfishers. We saw them all and here you can see the most common one, the enormous Ringed Kingfisher and the most hard one, the Green and rufous Kingfisher. Also here Nick's favorite bird?? the Black-capped Donacobius!
At the feeding place of the lodge you can easily spend some time resting while you enjoy top class birds. What about this stunner, the Orange-backed Trupial and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet together with the most iconic bird of South America, the Toco Tucan. Quite happy I got a pic when it's on its way to swallow a "fruit" it had thrown up in the air.
We now started our drive towards Porto Jofre and our place Jofre Velho. The road became more and more rough in some places and some of the 120!!! wooden bridges you passon the way south did not look completely safe. Her one which was ok and an other which was quite scary to pass.
On the way we stopped at several places and had good moments like this Crane Hawk (the only one we saw) chased by White-rumped Swallows. Our Duster became more and more dusty!! The rather common Roadside Hawk (here a juvenile) looked rather suspiciously at us and our car!
We finally arrived to Jofre Velho (not well signed) and saw the beutiful ground teeming with birds. Jofre Velho used to be a research station and the rooms are in different status. Still a very pleasant (and much much cheaper) than the other options here. The family took very good care of us and the food was simple but still very tasty and well prepared. Even if we had seen the amazing Hyacint Macaw (the worlds biggest parrot) decently before, we here had smashing views and performances of this absolute marvelous bird.
As a nerd shorebird enthusiast I had big hope in seeing the Pied Plover and the Collared Plover. The Wattled Jacana had been seen previously but great looks were given here. I feel priveleged to have seen these star birds so well.
Two boat trips were included in every nights stay (morning/ afternoon) as even the most avid birder's main choise is the chance of seeing a Jaguar. In Pantanal and especially at the Rio Sao Laurenco/ Rio Piquiri the chances are (very) high to lay your eyes on one. I felt pretty sure we would see one but the question was more how well we would see it. Many times when people see them they just lay down in the shadow which makes the sight quite bad. THis is in some way similar to jeep safaris in East Africa when dussins of jeeps (here fast boats) hurries in on or an other direction in hope to give their customers the best. Our boat was a smaller and not as fast as many of the others which actually proved to be a winning concept. Alone on this part of the river (the others were gone further away) we had our first individual after only 20 minutes. It made some slow walks on the river bank and showed pretty well.
Before we went back we had some nice views of a Capybara family. Obviously they rest at these banks as they need to be cautious to the Jaguars which have the Capybaras and the Yacarés and their main food. These cute Proboscis Bats were resting in a tree we passed. Not beeing the most wanted bird it was nice to have good views of the only pipit in the region, the Yellowish Pipit.
Along the river there also some terns (3 species) which are easy to spot from the boat. Here the elegant and specialized Black Skimmer with its scissor like bill and the local Great-billed Tern.
On short walks around the lodge we also had more beauties like this Thick-billed Euphonia, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and the plain but handsome Southern Berdless Tyrannulet.
Next morning was just beautiful and we had good feelings when we entered the boat again. Our guide knew his boat was slower than the others but was calm and polite, knewing what he was doing. Here he is with (from left) Nick (thinking of celebrating with a evening beer?), Jim and Per.
Seeing all the boats we wondered what was happening. It showed up to be a family of Giant Otters. We saw several different groups of these entertaining and special species. They just loved to play with each others.
The other boats took of and again we were alone! Traveling softly I saw something lying on a stretch of beach. Realizing soon what it was I screamed (Yellow) Anaconda! We approached it slowly and had great views of this fantastic creature. After some time the fast boats started to arrive and to my disappointment these people went up on the beach and of course scared it away down to the water. Such rude and bad behaviour both of the boat men and the tourists. This also meant that many people never got the chance to see it.
Well, saving the best till the end of this blog. We had 20 minutes totaly by our own with this male Jaguar (again because the fast boats had chased away again). It came out just in front of our boat and swam just 8-10 meters from the boat. Taking some shorter distances at the edge before going into the water again. We also saw make some attempt to catch a Yacaré. What an absolute wonderful animal it is. So majestic and powerful and yet also proud, relaxed and curious. I've been privileged to see and experince many animals over the world and this really takes a very vey high position.
WE had a safe trip back and some unforgetable memories as well. We saw 415 species of bird of which 337 were new ones for me and also many other excellent animals. What a great trip and place!!
Continuing from the Atlantic coast (see that blog) we arrived to the million city of Cuiaba. As fast as possible we were on our way in the rental car towards the small town with the same name as the national park, Chapada dos Guimaraes. This is an arid country with stunning cliffs and superb birds. To make this trip possible financially we had not booked a guide through a company so we were only related to our own skill, pre-resarch on e-bird and other trip reports but also the help of a local guide at the Jardim da Amazonia.The lodge booking/ local guide and boatmen in Pantanal was made by Southwild Pantanal to a very good and competitive price.
Our first stop was at the famous waterfall, Veu de Noiva. The first bird to be spotted was this handsome White-eared Puffbird. At the viewing point we had and absolute awesome sight with this group of Red and Green Macaws and a few of the common Black Vulture.
There are a few fancy lodges around but you can easily stay in a cheaper place in town, like the Hotel Turismo. Here we had some nice views in the evening while having a well deserved beer at the veranda. Pale-breasted Thrush and Red-bellied Thrush having an evening bath.
One of the best place to bird in this area is along the very dirty and dry MT-020 also called Agua Fria Road. Hardly an awesome nature experince with dust flying around when cars come in high speed. However, birding is great and you will put in new bird for every new km you proceed. Some highlights were this Burrowing Owl and Red-pileated Finch. We also saw this Cinnamon Tanager which is not supposed to be here according to the field guide. Last, the quite common Chalk-browed Mockingbird.
Not only arid country, we visited some more grenish places like Vale da Bencao where we had Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-rumped Cacique. Hardly a good photo but The Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper is not a very easy bird to see and probably the reason why I get so excited about these ground dwelling, skulking juvels. We managed to spot this bird at the bottom of a dark creek.
We were recommended to visit Mirante Morro dos Ventos for nice vistas and good food, which we followed. Here we had som nice and close perched birds as these Crested Black Tyrant and Cliff Flycatcher.
After 2 and a half day we had to continue on our trip. After spending time in more dry and open areas we were now looking forward to experience the Amazonas.
Welcome to "Garden of Eden"
Saved by a true nature lover, named Almor, Jardim da Amazonia is truly an Amazonian Garden paradise in the middle of logged and farming country. Along this part of a sub-river to the Amazonian complex you will find so many rainforest specialties and still not travel too far north and to a much cheaper cost.
Except for all the wildlife the lodge is unique with all its fish ponds and natural swimming pool. The big fish (over 2 meters) is a Arapayma and the others are Catfish.
On our way in towards the reserve we found this Burrowing Owl. By the look of it, I'm not sure it wanted us around.
In the first evening Almor took us to some lakes just on the outskirt of the property. This paradise has been made by himself to protect the Blue and Yellow Macaws (among other Macaws and Parrots) which use the lake and the cut palms as roosting places each night. Exceptional experince to see all these birds fly in in the evening light "screaming" and calling for each other.
Next to this lake we also had two gorgeous flycatchers, The Vermilion FC and the White-headed Marsh-Tyrant.
The first morning Almor and (South Wild) had helped us to arrange with a local guide. He´s been taken care of by Almor since he was a child and is now educating himself as a professional guide. Already a good birder and of all necessary help to find most of our birds. On your bucket list there's always been to make a boat trip in the Amazonas. Even if Jardim is not in the deepest part of the jungle, the boat trip was still amazing. In first day light we took off in good speed. Our first goal was to look for the rarest of our birds on the trip, the Cone-billed Tanager. This place is maybe the only reliable place in Brazil to see this bird. In a small oxbow lake we found 2 of them together with a beautiful American Pygmy Kingfisher.
At resort area there was a family of Capybaras present every day. Not shy and very proud and integrity looking animals which became a favorite during the trip. Lots of butterflies as well seeking for minerals. This 2 cm Bullet-ant is on of the most fearful animals in this region, known to be the giving the strongest of pains "the pain of a bullet". Not poisonous but with a sting that makes the local people be very careful where they know they can be.
The reserve is of course mostly forestred but there are some open spaces as well, especially where all the different fishponds are. Here we had good and easy observations of Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Straited Heron, Smooth-billed Ani and Southern Lapwing.
There are several trails to walk as well with thick forest/ bush and therefor quite difficult for photos but at the edges of forest (as always) you will find some good stuff. Here a Black-fronted Nunbird, Spotted Puffbird, Blackish Nightjar and a Blue-headed Parrot at nest.
Some of the more memorable birds from this gorgeous place are the Brown Jacamar and the Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant. The first with its, compared to the body, huge bill and the latter because it's the worlds smallest passerine.
Everywhere, being a difficult bird to see, Jardim is a reliable spot to see the almost mythical Amazonian Umbrellabird. Again we took off on the river, this time in the afternoon. We headed towards a spot where it sometimes is seen. We fastened the boat to a branch and waited. And waited and waited. The guide blew in a bottle as the sound is just the same as the one you get from a empty bottle. Finally, when it was close to dark, 3 birds appeared in to the big tree on the other side of the river. Even at quite a big distance and in bad light, this was a great event. Here you can also see two very happy twitchers after seeing it.
We also picked up some good woodpeckers, here the handsome Yellow-tufted Woodpecker and also the Ringed Woodpecker.
One of the most funny and spectacular species I saw, was this Monk Sake Monkey in a family of four. Very curiously looking one with its fur a big eyes.
We spent 3 fantastic days here and I really must recommend this oasis of green vegation and great wildlife. From here we drove the long way down to tha Pantanal, the biggest wetland area in the world. Renowned to be the absolute best spot to see Jaguar and the world largest parrot, The Hyacint Macaw. See this blog.
This 3,5 day trip to Itatiaia NP was a part of a longer trip in Brazil (other parts described in other blogs). Itatiaia is Brazils oldest NP and an excellent place to find fantastic birds. In these days we saw 193 species including 18 different Tanagers. We also birded the wetlands just outside the park itself. Our guide Hudson was great! His English needs some improvements but he surely knows his birds. Here the four Gringos (me Örebro, Per Askengren Örebro, Nick Armstrong England, Exeter and Jim Royer USA, California, Los Osos) from a selfie of him.
Hotel Ype where we stay is a very cosy place and highly recommended. The feeders are famous for attracting Tanagers, Hummers, and many others. One of my sought after species was the Frilled Coquette which we only saw briefly once the first hour.
When it comes to Tanagers, this place is just amazing. During the three full days we spent here we saw no less than ... Tanagers. Quite common at the feeders at were these two stunners, Green-headed Tanager and Black-goggled Tanager.
If you are interested in photography, you can easily spend a half day here and just let the birds come to you. Also quite frequent was the Blue Dacnis, here both a male and a female.
The second day we took the winding Agulhas Negras road towards the top of the mountain at 2400 meters. On the way we stoped for Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and a group of Red-rumped Warbling-Finch.
Halfway we had a short stop for some shoping and the everywhere excellent Brazilian coffee.The long drive gave us stunning views, crispy air and the endemic Itatiaia Spinetail.
One of the starbirds up on these higher levels is the gorgeous Green-crowned Plovercrest. You would probably not find it by yourself but Hudson knew where to stop.
Hotel Ype also has its privileges during evenings and nights. During the last hour of light usually a few Gray-necked Wood-rails emerge from the thickets to feed and stroll at the lawns. Hotel Ype also is a good spot for the Tawny-browed Owl which we had excellent views of in the flashlight. Next to the restaurant I found this great and beautiful Moth Bugmaniac.
Obviously, hummers are a highlight and some of them frequently come in to the feeders. Here a Violet-capped Woodnymph, White-throated Hummingbird and a male and a female Brazilian Ruby constantly obseved by the Black Capuchin.
We also explored areas just outside the park as there are plenty of good birding in some of the more open areas around the town and nearby wetlands. We stopped randomly? just in the middle of the small town and I experienced some of the most memorable minutes of the trip. In a tree (which we later called the "crazy tree") we saw Tropical Parula, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Purple-throated Euphonia, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Hooded Tanager and many more.
Further down close to the wetlands we had these two beautiful hummers, Glittering-throated Emerald and Glittering-bellied Emerald. As a finish of this fantstic day we experienced super high class birding with the funny performance of a group of Streamer-tailed Tyrants. Something I wish all birders sometimes will be able to see.
Our great birding continued with so many great birds and memories. My number one bird was this Such's Ant-thrush which we waited for about 30 minutes before it arrived. It was at a stake-out and the bird surely knew that Hudson had put out some worms. Unforgettable to hear it coming closer by just walking on the jungle floor!
The last day our great birding continued with so many good birds. What about male and female Surucua Trogon!
If you go here you can also see the "ruins" of the abandoned hotel Simon, which used to be afamous luxury hotel before it was bancrupt. Still it now possible to stroll around and see some good birds like this Variable Antshrike, Sirystes and White-crested Tyrannulet.
Now we went back to the airport at Sao Paolo for the flight to Cuiaba and more birding at Chapada dos Guimaraes, Jardim da Amazonia and the Pantanal (se these blogs)!!