Saturday 5th March
The group arrived on their respective flights from the UK and Foz de Iguazu. Serginho was at the airport to collect everyone at 20.30, and by 21.15 they were on their way up to the Lodge leaving the heat of Rio behind. The journey up to the Lodge took just 2.5 hours and they arrived at 23.40. The climate at the Lodge is lovely and cool as we are situated at an altitude of 1200m, very different to the climate of Rio de Janeiro where the temperature was 32 degrees centigrade! After drinks everyone retired for a well earned rest!
Sunday 6th March
Today we had a later breakfast as everyone arrived late last night. By 08.00 breakfast was finished and we headed off on the Feeder Trail at the Lodge for a mornings birding. What a great morning it turned out to be! We had bird activity almost the whole morning, with many good views of lots of great birds, most of which were lifers for the group! Highlights included Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Ochre-rumped Antbird, Dusky-legged Guan (on the feeders as usual), Azure-shouldered Tanager, Blond-crested Woodpecker (on the feeders for the first time!), Scale-throated Hermit, Black Jacobin, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Surucua Trogon, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Scaled Woodcreeper, Rufous-backed Antvireo, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, White-rimmed Warbler and Green-winged Saltator. We returned to the Lodge for lunch and then set off again on the Orchid Trail for the afternoon.
The afternoon was much quieter but we still managed to pick up White-eyed Parakeet, Chicli Spinetail, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, White-barred Piculet, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Whiskered Myiobius, Golden-crowned Warbler and Magpie Tanager. Rain was threatening so by 17.15 we were back at the lodge, and by 17.30 the heavens opened, so all good timing! We had a fantastic first day birding the Lodge grounds and saw a total of 67 species, of which 27 were Atlantic forest endemics!
Dusky-tailed Antbird © Andy Foster.
Monday 7th March
Breakfast was at the usual time of 06.00 and by 06.30 we were departing for the 1.5 hour drive to Regua for a day around the wetlands and the lowland forest. We arrived at 08.00 and got our gear together for the day and headed off on the wetland trail. Our first notable birds were Black-legged Dacnis, Silvery-flanked Antwren and Unicolored Antwren, not a bad start! We soon picked up our first Capped Heron followed by Brazilian Tanager, Rufescent Tiger-Heron and a small flock of Greater Ani’s. Continuing on around the wetlands we added Ringed and Green Kingfishers, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-backed Antshrike and Chestnut-capped Blackbird.
We then took the Brown Trail and headed off into the forest, it was incredibly humid by this point but we pressed on and soon picked up Plain-winged Woodcreeper and Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Gray-hooded Flycatcher and a couple of rather high up in the canopy Eared-Pygmy Tyrants, we also saw several White-bearded Manakins, Yellow-backed and Flame-crested Tanagers. We continued on and started our climb up one of the hills at the back of the wetlands. The forest was very quiet now but we had a few targets at this point so started to use playback. After some effort we managed to get good views of Black-cheeked Gnateater and after a lot of effort we finally pulled in a nice male Scaled Antbird. By this time a storm was approaching fast, the sky above us had gone very black and the thunder was right overhead… it was time to make a move out of the forest before the winds ahead of the rain came! We arrived back at the minibus a little early but thankfully didn’t get caught by the rain!
We headed off back to the Lodge and arrived at 16.00. We took a short break then went for a walk into the forest, and although very quiet we did manage to pick up Olivaceous Elaenia and a couple of Gilt-edged Tanagers, a great way to end the day!
Gilt-edged Tanager © Andy Foster.
We met for dinner (a rather nice chicken stroganoff) at 18.30 and completed the daily checklist after dinner, all finally retiring for the evening at 21.00.
Tuesday 8th March
We awoke to a beautiful morning, although misty it was clear that the sun would eventually break through! Today was the day to do the High Altitude excursion to Pico da Caledonia. We left the Lodge at 06.30 and by 07.30 we had arrived at an altitude of 1700m, gathered all of our kit together and set off for a walk that would take us to the summit at 2230m. The first hour was fairly quiet but we got great views of Serra do Mar Tapaculo and a distant White-tailed Hawk.
We continued our walk up, the views of the distant mountains were spectacular, this together with pleasantly cool temperatures made for a great days birding! We started to pick up our first views of Plovercrest (and attempted on many occasions to get photos!), we also managed to pick up good views of Rufous-tailed Antbird, Thick-billed Saltator, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Blue-billed Black-Tyrant, Grey-hooded Attila, Bay-chested Warbling Finch, Brassy-breasted Tanagers and Diademed Tanagers.
We had now arrived at the start of the 620 steps and our quest to find the Itatiaia Thistletail! This bird can do one of two things, show easily, or be a complete nightmare to find! Today it had decided to be the latter! We started our walk up the steps using playback every so often and part way up Neil spotted the Thistletail, so we continued to use playback and this would usually bring the bird in for close views for the whole group… but not today! We continued on up and finally reached the top of the steps, all rather tired and still no Thistletail! We headed on up to the viewpoint where we would have lunch and try again for this rather elusive bird! I continually played it, and then by chance one popped up by the side of myself, Peter and Charly! Terry had stayed a little further back so Peter rushed back and got him, and thankfully Terry also had good views of this elusive little bird!
Magpie Tanager © Andy Foster.
All quite happy with ourselves we finished lunch and started our way back down the mountain. On the way down we picked up a couple of Velvety-black Tyrants and a Rufous-capped Antshrike. We met up again with Neil and Martin who had headed down earlier having already seen the Thistletail. Thankfully they too had good views (and photographs) of the Tyrants.
We continued our walk down trying for Grey-winged Cotinga on the way, we had a couple of responses to playback but it wouldn’t come any closer. We did however manage to see a female black and Gold Cotinga followed by a sub-adult male. At this point Grey-winged Cotinga called very close by, so I used playback, it responded well, but unfortunately never did show itself. We managed to find a male Black and Gold Cotinga further down, this was followed shortly after by a Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin and Rufous-crowned Greenlets.
We arrived back exhausted (!) at the minibus just after 16.00, took a short 5 minute drive to another spot where we got great views of 3 Red-legged Seriemas and some Hooded Siskins. We departed the area at 16.30 and were back at the lodge by 17.15.
The daily checklist was at 18.00 followed by dinner at 18.30.
Wednesday 9th March
Today was another cloudy morning but as we set off on our 40 minute drive to the Cedae Trail the weather improved and the sun came out! This great trail is located at 600m in altitude and has a completely different set of birds than our higher altitude trails. Upon starting the trail we had a small flock of Green-headed Tanagers which was a nice start! We then had a quiet period for the next 30 minutes until we came upon a fruiting tree hanging over the track. The first bird we noticed was a nice male Spot-billed Toucanet, this was followed by Red-necked Tanagers, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Yellow-legged Thrush and 4 Chestnut-bellied Euphonias. We also picked up Streak-capped Antwren shortly afterwards. We continued on down the track and used playback to pull out Rufous-capped Antthrush, 2 Star-throated Antwrens and we had several Plain Parakeets overhead. It was now 11.00 so we turned around and started heading on back up the track, the first birds we saw were amazing…. a flock of 20+ Golden-tailed Parrotlets! Luckily they landed nearby and we managed to get scope views, a very difficult thing to do with this elusive Parrotlet! Shortly afterwards we picked up several Olive-green Tanagers and a female Giant Antshrike.
Plovercrest © Andy Foster.
Upon arriving back at the minibus we drove for 20 minutes back up the mountain to an altitude of 1080m to spend the afternoon on the Theodoro Trail. We quickly had lunch in the minibus and set off. This trail slowly goes down downhill and is surfaced with tarmac, which makes for quite an easy walk! Again we had a quiet start until we came across a single White-browed Foliage Gleaner….. which was the start of a great mixed flock! After good looks at the Foliage Gleaner we had Planalto Woodcreeper, White-throated Woodcreeper then I thought it was worth playing Black-billed Scythebill to see if they too were in the flock, almost straight away we had a response and 2 Scythebills came in, giving a good opportunity for photos and great views! We continued on down the trail and it was very quiet apart from a male Uniform Finch and 3 Lesser Woodcreepers, so we turned around and started heading back to the minibus and came across the same flock and also added both Yellow-browed and Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Black-throated Grosbeak, Ochre-breasted Foliage Gleaner that Peter spotted feeding in a nearby tangle and also a couple of Sharpbills that were hanging out in their usual spot. It was now 16.00 and everything was quiet bird wise so we headed straight back to the minibus and arrived back at the Lodge at 17.15. Rainer and Bettina had once again seen the Blond-crested Woodpecker on the Lodge feeders, this is now turning into a daily occurrence. What a great days birding!
After a quick shower we all met up again at 18.00 for the daily checklist, followed by a great dinner of chicken, ochra, rice, chuchu and salad.
Thursday 10th March
The plan today was to visit the Macae de Cima area, but we awoke surrounded by thick cloud so it was possible that we would change plans and visit Sumidouro instead for the Three-toed Jacamar etc. After breakfast the cloud had started to lift a little and as we headed off down the road in the minibus the sun came out and it was clear that we would be able to bird Macae de Cima! Macae de Cima is a half or full day excursion on a dirt road that runs through good habitat and great stands of Bamboo up to an altitude of 1450m. By 07.00 we were at our first stop, unfortunately the birds hadn’t woken up by this point apart from a Grey-hooded Flycatcher! We moved on up the road and within half an hour we hit an amazing mixed flock! Birds were everywhere and we saw species such as Chestnut-headed Tanager, Pin-tailed Manakin, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Crested Becard, Blue Manakin, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Surucua Trogon, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Chestnut-crowned Becard, White-barred Piculet, Buff-fronted Foliage Gleaner, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Squirrel Cuckoo, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Variable Antshrike, Green-backed Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, White-winged Becard, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Black-goggled Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager and Brassy-breasted Tanager! This flock kept us busy for almost an hour!
Red-legged Seriema © Andy Foster.
Just as well we had all of this excitement as the rest of the day was extremely quiet! We did manage to see Double-collared Seedeater, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Rufous-headed Tanager, Long-tailed Tyrant, Olivaceous Elaenia but that unfortunately was about it, so although we had a great start, the rest of the day was quiet. We headed off back to the Lodge and arrived at 15.00, had a break for 1.5 hours then went on a short walk on one of the trails located close to the Lodge. Unfortunately there were few birds around, we had one Drab-breasted Bamboo Tyrant calling close by but it refused to come in to playback. The only bird of note was a Rufous Gnateater that showed well.
We returned to the Lodge at 18.00, completed the daily checklist, had dinner and then went out to look for some owls. This time of year is usually very quiet for owls, and tonight was no exception. We had a couple of Tropical Screech Owls responding to playback but they refused to come in, and a Common Potoo responded once, so unfortunately we returned to the Lodge without having seen any owls!
We sat on the veranda having a few beers and then retired at 21.30.
Friday 11th March
Today was our last full day out from the Lodge and the day in search of the Three-toed Jacamar amongst many other species! After an hours drive through Nova Friburgo and out into the open countryside we arrived at our first stop. The day started off really well and we had great views of displaying Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Black-capped Donacobius, Band-tailed Hornero, Blue-winged Macaw, Blackish Rail, Common Thornbird, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail, White-bellied Seedeater, White Woodpecker and Smooth-billed Ani. We continued on to our next stop where we walked into a small forest fragment, as soon as we entered we had 2 Crescent-chested Puffbirds and then used playback for Serra Antwren, a few minutes later we had good views of this rare and localised endemic.
We drove onto the next stop, a lovely view point just before the little town of Duas Barras where we had much closer views of several White Woodpeckers, Grassland Sparrow, Firewood Gatherer, Grassland Yellow-Finch, 2 Crested Black Tyrants and the first of several White-tailed Hawks. We dropped down the hill and joined the dirt road that leads all the way from Duas Barras through to Murinelli. We had several stops along the track and saw Planalto Hermit, Aplomado Falcon, Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher, Curl-crested Jay, Crested Oropendola, Shiny Cowbird, Chopi Blackbird, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, White-eared Puffbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and Chestnut-capped Blackbird. The clouds were building up and rain was threatening, so we travelled the last section of the road faster than usual to make sure that we got to the Jacamar site in time. Thankfully we arrived at the Jacamar site and it was still dry, although we could hear distant thunder. Within minutes we had located a Three-toed Jacamar and then four others shortly afterwards. Some of the group struggled (!) for a while to get the right angle on the birds to get good photos, but eventually great photos were taken and everyone was happy!
Itatiaia Thistletail © Andy Foster.
With distant thunder still rumbling we set off back towards the town of Sumidouro for a quick ice cream stop (!) and then back towards Nova Friburgo where we stopped at the Portao Azul Trail for a couple of hours as we were running well ahead of time. We managed to pick up a couple of good species here, firstly we got the usual slightly obscured views of Tufted Antshrike followed by distant but good views of Half-collared Sparrow followed by Cinnamon Tanager and then a Variable Antshrike.
We returned to the Lodge at 17.15 having had a great days birding and 100 species! We met up at 18.30 for dinner that was followed by the usual daily checklist and a few beers to round the evening off.
Saturday 12th March
This morning we were to spend the morning on the Blue Trail that runs from the back of the Lodge through nice primary forest and some good stands of Bamboo. The morning started off well with the now daily visit from the male Blond-crested Woodpecker to the feeders on the decking area! Martin and Neil were leaving this morning at 11.00 so we said our goodbyes, we had all had a really great week together! Charly decided to stay behind at the Lodge to do some photography at the feeders.
So, just myself, Peter and Terry headed off up the steps to the start of the trail. We immediately had a Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner calling, but although we tried hard, it refused to respond to playback. We moved on and there was quite a bit of bird activity as the sun came up over the distant mountain. We heard a Large-tailed Antshrike calling some way away, but started playback in the hope it would come in. Whilst we were waiting we had good views of a close Yellow-browed Woodpecker and a couple of Half-collared Sparrows. We had just about given up on the Antshrike when all of a sudden it was right in front of us…. and unfortunately too close to focus the camera on! We had fantastic views as this is usually a tricky bird to see well! We carried on and had a Black-throated Trogon and Grey-hooded Attila and then tried for a Grey-bellied Spinetail that refused to show itself, so we tried for a closer Brazilian Antthrush, that after some persuasion did show itself, but only walking away from us! The Spinetail then began to call again and also showed itself in the end, after a lot of effort! We also had good views of a Drab-breasted Bamboo Tyrant in the same area. We heard a Rough-legged Tyrannulet calling, although it responded to playback it refused to come any closer, this was the same story with two different Bertonis Antbirds! We did however get great views of the difficult to see Buffy-fronted Seedeater that was feeding together with Uniform finches in the bamboo. During the morning we also picked up views of Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Planalto Woodcreeper, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Zone-tailed Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Plumbeous Pigeon, Blue Manakin, Whiskered Myiobius and White-rimmed Warbler.
We arrived back at the Lodge just before midday and had a well earned coffee and biscuits before lunch at 13.00.
After lunch we met up again at 14.45 to go for a walk on the Feeder Trail. Unfortunately there was a big storm brewing in the distance and bands of heavy rain kept sweeping through, delaying our departure on 3 occasions! Finally it became dry enough to start the trail but unfortunately with the colder and wet weather there was very little bird activity and we only picked up a few common species returning to the lodge for 17.15 before heavy rain set in!
Dinner was 18.30 followed by the checklist.
Sunday 13th March
Thankfully we awoke to a dry morning following torrential rain overnight. We had just over 3 hours today to try to get a few more species so we set off at 06.30 to the Feeder Trail to try for a few targets. First up we tried White-breasted Tapaculo, but with no response we continued along the trail and tried for Bertonis Antbird, which as usual responded from a distance but refused to come in! We then went to the end of the trail, there was a Tufted Antshrike calling but that too refused to come out, so we headed on back down the trail and tried for Suchs Antthrush. We got a distant response, used playback on and off for 10 minutes and just as we had given up hope, Terry spotted the Antthrush just a few metres away, amazingly good views were had by us all, a great bird! Very happy with ourselves we continued on towards the Orchid Garden to try for Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, we got lucky once again and shortly after arriving at the stream we had two Streamcreepers take off from under the bank right in front of us, almost hitting Peter and Terry! We then went on to try for Spotted Bamboowren and Bertonis Antbird once again. We got lucky with Bertonis Antbird and having tried so hard all week we managed to get 2 close enough to see, but no response from either the Bambowren or White-bearded Antshrike.
Time was passing fast so we started to head back to the Lodge and ran into a nice mixed flock that included Chestnut-headed Tanager, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Variable Antshrike, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and Golden-crowned Warbler. We stopped at the White-breasted Tapaculo spot again and tried one last time, with no response we gave up, just as we were walking away the Tapaculo responded! We used playback again and thankfully it passed through a small gap in the vegetation a couple of times so another endemic was added to the list! On the path back to the Lodge we passed Charly at “his fruiting tree” waiting for Gilt-edged Tanagers and a little further down came across a nice male Pin-tailed Manakin.
We arrived back at the Lodge at 10.00 and the rest of the day until departure at 16.00 was free for packing etc.
We had a great weeks birding spent with good company, lots of laughs and some great birds! The weather was kind to us and we saw a combined group total of 238 species, of which 86 were Atlantic forest endemics with a further 13 species that were heard only.
The group were asked to nominate their top 3 birds. A total of 8 species were voted for, the results were as follows:
1st place – Scaled Antbird
2nd place – Black-billed Scythebill
3rd place – shared by 4 different species as follows: Itatiaia Thistletail, Chestnut-headed Tanager, Plovercrest, Red-legged Seriema
4th place – Streamer-tailed Tyrant
5th place – White Woodpecker