Amazonian “Big Sit”, Brazil - September 2005

Published by Alex Lees (alexanderlees AT

Participants: Alex Lees


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Epaulet Oriole Icterus cayanensis
Epaulet Oriole Icterus cayanensis
White-bellied Parrots (Pionites leucogaster)
White-bellied Parrots (Pionites leucogaster)
White-necked Puffbird Notharchus macrorhynchus
White-necked Puffbird Notharchus macrorhynchus

“Tuuuooo…..tuuooo….too… too.. too.too.too” a Variegated Tinamou heralds the coming of an Amazonian dawn; twenty metres above the forest canopy I stand atop the 50 metre canopy platform of the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, Mato Grosso, Brazil, notebook in hand to try and assay the ornodiversity from just one point in this vast forest….I have been privileged to spend over 370 days in the field in and around the Alta Floresta as part of my PhD fieldwork investigating the collapse of avian assemblages in Southern Amazonia . Alta Floresta lies at the southern fringe of the ‘Amazonian Deforestation Arc`- to the south of the Teles Pires river lies a matrix of managed cattle pasture with variably sized forest patches, whilst to the north is still largely untouched primary forest. At the end of my 2005 field-season, I returned to the lodge from my base in town; ostensibly to try and fill a few remaining gaps in my `AF list` - currently standing at close to 530 species – testament to the incredible diversity that the region offers. I had decided that a “big sit” on the tower might be a worthwhile exercise, both in giving time to reflect on the year’s work and to nail one of my most wanted birds!

Arriving at the base of the tower at 0425 I lugged up my recording gear and Will Carter’s mega Leica scope to the top and only had ten minutes to wait for the first bird – the aforementioned tinamou to call at 0440. Having completed 1212 fifteen-minute point counts over the preceding two years, I was by now familiar with most vocalisations that the forest could throw at me, but I still got a thrill from every new dawn chorus. Birds came thick and fast for the following hour, the owls and nightjars made their presence felt for the last time and the cracids, tinamous and forest-falcons were all among the first to make their presence known. Woodcreepers are a dominant sound of the chorus but antbird activity was fairly subdued. The hour between five and six was most intense, after which things began to die down and I could concentrate on using my eyes more than my ears! Will joined me with a group between 0630 & 0830 and it was his immortal words of “check-out this blob” that made my day; what was a suggestive dot on the horizon to the naked eye was the fearsome symmetry of a young Crested Eagle through the scope! This bird had been seen by both Simon Mahood and Kevin Zimmer earlier in the year, and was the ultimate excuse for undertaking the “big sit” in the first instance! After that, nothing could quite compare, but great views of the regular tower Yellow-shouldered Grosbeaks and a flyby Crane Hawk were noteworthy. Migration too was in full swing - both neotropical and austral; I watched a migrating party of Fork-tailed Flycatchers heading purposely northeast and a lone Purple Martin moving south nearing the end of its migration. A lack of activity on the avian front (coupled with a plethora of activity from sweat bees and wasps) forced me off the tower for lunch, but a resumption of the watch from 1430 onwards produced an additional 11 species including a fly-through by a group of Blue-winged Macaws, a species right on the edge of its range along the Rio Cristalino. The last bird of the day a noisy Green Ibis at gone six, brought matters to a close, and a final total of 151 species. Even though this sounds impressive, I consider it perhaps as many as twenty species short of what might be achievable in June or October, when vocal activity is more intense. Despite my luck with “difficult species” such as Brown-banded Puffbird, no canopy or understorey flocks came close to the tower during my stint and the showing by parrots – particularly Amazons was rather poor on this day – Kawall’s Parrot is normally seen or heard on a daily basis here for instance. Could this be a precedent for a “battle of the towers” elsewhere in the Neotropics?

Dawn in Southern Amazonia

Species list

Taxa marked with an asterix were seen at some point during the day, all others heard only.

Crypturellus variegatus Variegated Tinamou 0440
Crypturellus obsoletus Brown Tinamou 0442
Glaucidium hardyi Amazonian Pygmy-owl 0443
Rhytipterna simplex Grayish Mourner 0445
Micrastur ruficollis Barred Forest-falcon 0446
Pipile cujubi Red-throated Piping-guan 0448*
Otus usta Southern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl 0448
Mitu mitu Razor-billed Curassow 0449
Penelope jacquacu Spix's Guan 0450*
Ciccaba virgata Mottled Owl 0450
Micrastur mirandoleii Slaty-backed Forest-falcon 0451
Lophostrix cristata Crested Owl 0452
Tinamus major Great Tinamou 0454
Nyctiphrynus ocellatus Ocellated Poorwill 0455
Lurocalis semitorquatus Short-tailed Nighthawk 0458*
Momotus momota Blue-crowned Motmot 0501
Pulsatrix perspicillata Spectacled Owl 0502
Caprimulgus nigrescens Blackish Nightjar 0502
Micrastur mintoni Cryptic Forest-falcon 0510
Psarocolius bifasciatus Amazonian Oropendola 0511*
Dendrocolaptes (certhia) concolor Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper 0513
Lipaugus vociferans Screaming Piha 0514*
Turdus lawrencii Lawrence's Thrush 0514
Myiarchus tuberculifer Dusky-capped Flycatcher 0515*
Hylopezus macularius Spotted Antpitta 0515
Daptrius americanus Red-throated Caracara 0516*
Malacoptila rufa Rufous-necked Puffbird 0516
Electron platyrhynchum Broad-billed Motmot 0516
Xiphorhynchus obsoletus Striped Woodcreeper 0517
Dendrexetastes rufigula Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper 0517
Pitylus grossus Slate-colored Grosbeak 0517
Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus Strong-billed Woodcreeper 0518
Ornithion inerme White-lored Tyrannulet 0519*
Attila spadiceus Bright-rumped Attila 0519
Grallaria varia Variegated Antpitta 0519
Deconychura longicauda Long-tailed Woodcreeper 0519
Myiopagis gaimardii Forest Elaenia 0520
Hylophilus hypoxanthus Dusky-capped Greenlet 0520
Ara macao Scarlet Macaw 0521*
Tolmomyias assimilis Zimmer's Flatbill 0524
Chiroxiphia pareola Blue-backed Manakin 0524
Thamnophilus schistaceus Plain-winged Antshrike 0525
Cyanocompsa cyanoides Blue-black Grosbeak 0526
Ramphastos tucanus Red-billed Toucan 0526*
Colonia colonus Long-tailed Tyrant 0528*
Glyphorynchus spirurus Wedge-billed Woodcreeper 0528
Melanerpes cruentatus Yellow-tufted Woodpecker 0528*
Lepidocolaptes albolineatus Lineated Woodcreeper 0529*
Thryothorus genibarbis Moustached Wren 0530
Psarocolius decumanus Crested Oropendola 0530*
Cercomacra cinerascens Gray Antbird 0531
Deroptyus accipitrinus Red-fan Parrot 0533*
Pionus menstruus Blue-headed Parrot 0534*
Ramphocaenus melanurus Long-billed Gnatwren 0534
Legatus leucophaius Piratic Flycatcher 0534
Euphonia rufiventris Rufous-bellied Euphonia 0534*
Piprites chloris Wing-barred Piprites 0534
Ramphastos vitellinus Channel-billed Toucan 0535*
Tinamus tao Gray Tinamou 0535
Drymophila (devillei) subochracea Xingu (Striated) Antbird 0537
Sclerurus rufigularis Short-billed Leaftosser 0538
Chelidoptera tenebrosa Swallow-wing 0538*
Notharchus macrorhynchus White-necked Puffbird 0538*
Lophotriccus galeatus Helmeted Pygmy-tyrant 0539
Trogon viridis White-tailed Trogon 0540*
Thamnomanes saturninus Saturnine Antshrike 0541
Brotogeris chrysopterus Golden-winged Parakeet 0543*
Columba plumbea Plumbeous Pigeon 0546*
Odontorchilus cinereus Tooth-billed Wren 0549*
Gymnoderus foetidus Bare-necked Fruitcrow 0553*
Vireolanius leucotis Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo 0554*
Tersina viridis Swallow Tanager 0555*
Pygiptila stellaris Spot-winged Antshrike 0555
Trogon melanurus Black-tailed Trogon 0557
Icterus cayanensis Epaulet Oriole 0602*
Thraupis palmarum Palm Tanager 0604*
Piculus chrysochloros Golden-green Woodpecker 0604
Cathartes melambrotos Greater Yellow-headed Vulture 0606*
Pteroglossus beauharnaesii Curl-crested Aracari 0608*
Phaethornis superciliosus Long-tailed Hermit 0610*
Pyrrhura picta Painted Parakeet 0615*
Neochelidon tibialis White-thighed Swallow 0616*
Campylorhynchus turdinus Thrush-like Wren 0616
Pteroglossus bitorquatus Red-necked Aracari 0617*
Myiopagis caniceps Gray Elaenia 0618*
Platyrhinchus platyrhynchos White-crested Spadebill 0621
Aratinga leucophtalmus White-eyed Parakeet 0624*
Myrmotherula brachyura Pygmy Antwren 0624
Capito dayi Black-girdled Barbet 0631*
Cotinga cayana Spangled Cotinga 0633*
Formicarius analis Black-faced Antthrush 0637
Pipra rubrocapilla Red-headed Manakin 0637
Ara severa Chestnut-fronted Macaw 0640*
Euphonia chrysopasta White-lored Euphonia 0641*
Tityra semifasciata Masked Tityra 0643*
Chaetura viridipennis Amazonian Swift 0645*
Tyrannulus elatus Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet 0647
Forpus sclateri Dusky-billed Parrotlet 0649*
Microcerculus marginatus Southern Nightingale Wren 0700
Pteroglossus castanotis Chestnut-eared Aracari 0704*
Pionites leucogaster White-bellied Parrot 0708*
Morphnus guianensis CRESTED EAGLE 0710*
Todirostrum chrysocrotaphum Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher 0720*
Ictinea plumbea Plumbeous Kite 0722*
Ara chloroptera Red-and-green Macaw 0725*
Pteroglossus inscriptus Lettered Aracari 0727*
Amazona ochrocephala Yellow-crowned Parrot 0735*
Parkerthraustes humeralis Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak 0745*
Monasa morphoeus White-fronted Nunbird 0750*
Cacicus cela Yellow-rumped Cacique 0800*
Empidonomus varius Variegated Flycatcher 0802*
Chaetura cinereiventris Gray-rumped Swift 0804*
Piaya melanogaster Black-bellied Cuckoo 0815
Pachyrhamphus marginatus Black-capped Becard 0817
Panyptila cayennensis Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift 0820*
Ara ararauna Blue-and-Yellow Macaw 0835*
Jacamerops aurea Great Jacamar 0837
Chaetura brachyura Short-tailed Swift 0837*
Elanoides forficatus Swallow-tailed Kite 0845*
Notharchus ordii Brown-banded Puffbird 0845
Geranospiza caerulescens Crane Hawk 0846*
Touit huetii Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet 0847*
Galbula dea Paradise Jacamar 0900*
Schiffornis turdinus Thrush-like Schiffornis 0904
Progne chalybea Gray-breasted Martin 0916*
Monasa nigrifrons Black-fronted Nunbird 0920*
Myrmoborus myotherinus Black-faced Antbird 0924
Tyrannus savana Fork-tailed Flycatcher 0926*
Trogon collaris Collared Trogon 0931
Dryocopus lineatus Lineated Woodpecker 0935
Coragyps atratus Black Vulture 0955*
Sarcoramphus papa King Vulture 1015*
Daptrius ater Black Caracara 1017*
Falco rufigularis Bat Falcon 1017*
Celeus torquatus Ringed Woodpecker 1045*
Myrmotherula sclateri Sclater's Antwren 1047
Hylocharis cyanus White-chinned Sapphire 1049*
Herpetotheres cachinnans Laughing Falcon 1055*
Buteogallus urubitinga Great Black Hawk 1135*
Herpsilochmus rufimarginatus Rufous-winged Antwren 1137
Crypturellus strigulosus Brazilian Tinamou 1455
Turdus fumigatus Cocoa Thrush 1550
Veniliornis affinis Red-stained Woodpecker 1630*
Progne subis Purple Martin 1645*
Thamnomanes caesius Cinereous Antshrike 1730
Tangara chilensis Paradise Tanager 1732*
Propyrrhura maracana Blue-winged Macaw 1735*
Xiphorhynchus guttatus Buff-throated Woodcreeper 1745
Odontophorus gujanensis Marbled Wood-quail 1756
Dendrocincla fuliginosa Plain-brown Woodcreeper 1756
Mesembrinibis cayennensis Green Ibis 1820

Alexander Lees, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, UEA, Norwich, UK