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!!