Sunday, 31 May 2015

South Brazil - Days 8 - 9

Day 8

This morning after breakfast we drove a short distance inland to an area of scattered trees and
Rufous-winged Antwren
bushes in a small village. Here we soon located the recently split Scaled Chachalaca. There were a couple of Vermilion Flycatchers also present after which we drove to a fabulous area of wetland marshes. Here we saw a couple more Chachalacas, Three-striped Flycatchers, Flame-colored Tanagers, Rufous-headed Tanager, Blue Dacnis and Red-necked Tanagers. Some Whistling Herons looked great perched on a tree top in the morning light, while in the scrub we watched Yellow-chinned Spinetails, then a male Fawn-breasted Tanager. A pair of Robust Woodpeckers showed well perched on the side of a palm tree and a Roadside Hawk posed nicely. Moving on to another area of scrub we soon found Restinga Tyrannulets, a very showy Rufous-winged Antwren, Long-billed
Black-backed Tanager - male
Black-backed Tanager - female
Gnatwren, Golden-crowned Warbler and then a pair of Black-backed Tanagers, although most people only saw the female. As we returned a pair of Rufous-thighed Hawks were spotted perched in a tree and gave fabulous views. The rest of the day involved a long drive into Santa Catarina State and our fabulous mountain lodge. A Long-tufted Screech-Owl called and showed to a few outside the restaurant in the early evening.       

Day 9
After breakfast we started a walk from just outside our rooms at the Pousada. On a flowering bush were Plovercrest and White-throated Hummingbird. In the nearby forest we found Striolated Tit-Spinetail, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Grey-throated Warbling-Finch and a White-spotted Woodpecker. A noisy flock of Vinaceous-breasted Amazons flew over as we were distracted by the call od a Planalto
Black-and-white Monjita & Saffron-cowled Blackbird
Tapaculo. We got reasonably good views of this mouse-like bird shortly followed by a small mixed flock that contained Greenish Tyrannulet, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch, and Scalloped Woodcreeper. Moving up to a more open grassy area we soon found a lovely pair of Black-and-white Monjitas, plus much better views of Vinaceous-breasted Amazons and a fabulous flock of about 12 Saffron-cowled Blackbirds. Back in the forest we watch both Tit-Spinetail species along with Olive Spinetail. We then tried another Planalto Tapaculo and this time we were treated to fantastic views sat on a branch out in the open. We then came across another flock which this time held Sharp-billed
Treehunter, and eventually a Mottled Piculet which showed well. Back at the lodge we took five minutes out, before setting off on a walk to a nearby marsh. A flock of Red-spectacled Parrots flew behind the trees, and Roadside Hawk posed nicely on a post. Down by the marsh we had superb
Lesser Grass Finch
views of several Lesser Grass Finches, and a couple of Long-tailed Reed-Finches. A Yellow-rumped Marshbird was seen as well as a close pair of Greater Pampa Finches and some Firewood Gatherers. Finally in another area of marsh we found two Freckle-breasted Thornbirds. It was time for lunch so we headed back to the lodge where we were soon distracted by several species on the feeders including, Diademed Tanagers and Chestnut-backed Tanagers. A super morning!
Diademed Tanager

After lunch we drove a short distance to an area of low scrubby hills. The first bird we saw was a Long-tailed Cinclodes and then In the forest we spent a few hours trying to get good looks at a Speckle-breasted Antpitta and eventually most of the group got to see this little skulker. A Rufous-tailed Antthrush then showed and we heard Mouse-coloured Tapaculo. From here we drove back to the marsh near our lodge. As it neared dusk we heard several Giant Snipes calling from the wet grasses and after a whuile we got super views of one bird flying past. Two Red-winged Tinamous
Sickle-winged Nightjar - male
were flushed as we searched for the snipe, and then a Sickle-winged Nightjar was heard. We got excellent flight views of a male but what followed next was just outstanding. The male flew towards us and then landed on a rocky hill. We slowly approached until we were about 5ft from this incredibly rare bird. The bird remained still until we had seen every single feather on it, the most fantastic views ever imaginable after which we left it alone and returned to the minibus. As a finale to this superb day we thought we would try for Rusty-barred Owl near the cabins. Sure enough we were treated to outstanding views of the owl perched in a tree. Wow! What a day.

Rusty-barred Owl
Chestnut-backed Tanager

Long-tailed Cinclodes

Firewood Gatherer

Long-tailed Reed Finch

Planalto Tapaculo

White-spotted Woodpecker

Vinaceous-breasted Amazon
As I said above a pretty damn good day!


Friday, 29 May 2015

South Brazil - Day 7

Day 7
After breakfast we set off and made an early morning ferry crossing to Santa Catarina State where after a short journey we stopped to check an area of white sand forest. One of the first birds we found was the rare, endangered and localised Kaempfer’s Tody-Tyrant, shortly followed by super views of several Restinga Tyrannulets. A few commoner tanagers included a female Black-backed Tanager,
Restinga Tyrannulet

Brazilian Tanager and a perched Short-tailed Hawk. Moving on along the main track we spotted a couple of Riverbank Warblers, Squamate Antbird, Green-backed Trogon, and Spot-backed Antshrike. We then had a couple of Azure Jays perching in the canopy. Moving on to another area that included a small reedy marsh we soon found both male and female of the endangered and very localsed Parana Antwren. After fabulous views of this special bird we found a Long-billed Wren working its way through the reed bed. Moving to the coast we had lunch, and a short rest before heading out to a new area. Here we walked a track that produced Cinnamon-vented Piha, Blue-naped Chlorophonias, Violaceous Euphonias and after a bit of searching Diego spotted a distant Buff-bellied Puffbird. Eventually it came closer for good scope views. We made our way back seeing perched Saw-billed Hermit and Versicolored Emerald as well as 3 Three-striped Flycatchers
Parana Antwren - male
Parana Antwren - female

Thursday, 28 May 2015

South Brazil - Day 6

Thankfully we awoke today to no rain. So after breakfast we returned to the area we visited yesterday and after a short while we found and got varying views in flight, perched and feeding on

Canebrake Groundcreeper
the ground of our target bird the localised Canebrake Groundcreeper. In the same area we also found Chestnut-backed Tanager, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Olive Spinetail, and a superb male Plovercrest feeding on some red flowers. Moving on our next stop produced a flock that consisted
Red-necked Tanager

of Olive-green, Sayaca, Black-goggled and some stunning Red-necked Tanagers. We then had lunch before driving to the coast and setting off on our boat ride across the bay towards some mangroves and then a tiny island. Along the way we saw Kelp Gulls, lots of Brown Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Royal and Cabot’s Terns, and then a possible Brown Skua (to be confirmed). Along the edge of the mangroves we saw Grey-necked Wood Rail, Scarlet Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Cocoi Heron and both Great and Snowy Egrets. A Great Black Hawk was seen as well as Ringed and Amazon Kingfisher. We then spotted several Guiana Dolphins and got to see about 5 small groups
Guiana Dolphin

during the trip. Eventually we arrived at a small forested island with steep rocky edges. From our boat we waited until the first of 500 Red-tailed Parrots came in to roost. They sat in tree tops fanning their

tails and giving a wonderful performance. This was a real spectacle and although slightly too far for good photos we enjoyed fabulous views. As the sun slowly set we headed back making a brief stop at another tiny island that was aglow with hundreds of incredibly bright Scarlet Ibis. As other flew in and landed in the trees we all just watch in complete awe. What a great day!
Scarlet Ibis

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

South Brazil - Intervales

Day 1
Everyone arrived on time in Sao Paulo early in the morning and once we were aboard our comfortable Mercedes minibus we set of to Intervales State park. We arrived at noon and while we waited for our lunch to be set up we enjoyed watching some fruit filled bird tables. There were lots of tanagers including Olive-green, Green-headed, Azure-shouldered, Golden-chevroned, Ruby, and a male Burnished Brass. A Sharpbill was a nice find and we took time separating several Planalto Tyrannulets from a Grey-headed Tyrannulet. Golden-winged Caciques were plentiful, Red-rumped Cacique, Rufous-bellied Thrush, a gorgeous Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Blue Dacnis and a Bananaquit. After lunch we drove a short distance and before walking a short trail we enjoyed fairly good close views of an Orange-breasted Thornbird, and a Chestnut-crested Becard. On a trail we came across Greenish Schiffornis, a nice Hooded Berryeater, Scale-throated Hermit, Streaked
Hooded Berryeater
Xenops, then a pair of Chestnut-bellied Euphonias and a rather skulky Spot-backed Antshrike. A Rufouis-capped Antthrush showed well as it crossed the track in front of us and a few antbirds included Dusky-tailed, Bertoni’s and Ochre-rumped. After the trail we drove back to a spot that Eduardo said we would try for Red-and-white Crake. Unknown to us these birds were coming to the edge of the marsh for corn put out by the rangers. We had stunning close views of three superb crakes. To finish our first afternoon of birding a couple of roosting Tropical Screech-owls made a nice finale.
Red-and-white Crakes
Red-and-white Crake
Day 2

Today after breakfast we headed to the entrance gate of the park and in perfect time to see a Red-ruffed Fruitcrow feeding in a fruiting tree. Also here were Southern Yellowthroat, a Tropical Parula,
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow
Surucua Trogon, Variable Antshrike, Black-goggled Tanagers and in a grassy area a showy Slaty-breasted Rail. We then got great looks at Pallid Spinetail, shortly followed by a Sharpbill, Ochre-collared Piculet, and a pair of G=reen-throated Euphonias. Moving to another area we soon located a pair of Araucaria Tit-Spinetails in a Monkey Puzzle tree. We moved on a little and had a small flock of Pileated Parrots fly over, while close in the shrubbery a pair of Eared Pygmy-Tyrants showed well.
Eared Pygmy-Tyrant
A little more concentration was required for a White-breasted Tapaculo that eventually gave superb views right in front of us as we quietly stood under cover. After the success of this we drove to another area and walked the track within the forest. Here we soon found a small group of birds including Oustalet’s Tyrannulet, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, a calling Large-headed Flatbill and Ochre-breasted Foliage-Gleaner. We then had a superb Bay-ringed Tyrannulet, followed by a secretive Squamate Antbird, Long-tailed Tyrant and a Ferruginous Antbird. A Green-barred Woodpecker worked on a hole, a Hooded Berryeater posed nicely and several Magpie Tanagers were spotted. A
Surucua Trogon
little further on we got great looks at a close Cinnamon-vented Piha. We then had trouble trying to get a good look at a very mobile Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, although Rufous-capped Spinetail showed much better, as did Yellow-browed Woodpecker, and Brown Tanager. After a brief Sepia-capped Flycatcher and a speedy flyby from a Barred forest-Falcon that we had just heard calling, we got super views of a male White-bearded Antshrike. Just after this a male Tufted Antshrike gave itself up and then as we were leaving in the minibus a Solitary Tinamou ran across the track. We returned to the park restaurant for lunch and spent a little time watching the feeders which held all the species we had seen yesterday plus better looks at Ruby Tanagers, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Dusky-legged Guans and even the Sharpbill put in a brief appearance. After lunch we went to a new area and a Robust Woodpecker was seen by all. A Planalto Woodcreeper was spotted as well as a pair of Pin-tailed Manakins and a Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin. We then attempted to see Slaty Bristlefront but even though we heard it calling close by it just never showed itself. A Lesser Woodcreeper showed briefly and the we got good looks at a Hangnest Tody-Tyrant. Moving on we went to a spot where a few worms were put out on a tree stump and after being frustrated by a Rufous-bellied Thrush that kept coming in to eat the worms suddenly our target bird a superb Variegated Antpitta hoped in and
Variegated Antpitta

duly obliged with fantastic views and photo opportunities. Very happy with this we left and walked another short track seeing Green-winged Saltator, distant views of a Rufous-crowned Motmot, a nice White-browed Foliage-Gleaner, and a Black-throated Grosbeak. It was heading towards dusk so our final spot of the day was along the dirt road where shortly after dark we were treated to good views of Long-tufted Screech-Owl and a sky full of stars and planets. A great day we then had a fitting dinner at the park restaurant before heading back to our lodge seeing a Crab-eating Fox along the way.
Long-tufted Screech-Owl
Day 3
Today we took a short walk close to the restaurant after hearing a Pavonine Cuckoo. Unfortunately it was on the other side of the lake somewhere. We did see a pair of Sooty Tyrannulets, Red-necked Tanager, Southern-beardless Tyrannulet and Violaceous Euphonia. We then drove a short distance and a walked a forest trail. A male Blue Manakin was seen, then a Rufous-breasted Leaftosser played cat and mouse with us, a Sao Paulo Tyrannulet was seen, then some Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaners, followed by a pair of Star-throated Antwrens, an Ochre-collared Piculet, and poor views of Gray-bellied Spinetail. Eduardo then heard one of our target birds and after some anxious moments we eventually got scope views of a pair of perched Blue-bellied Parrots, one of Brazils rarest parrots and a difficult species to connect with. Happy with this we moved on seeing Gray-hooded Attila, and then after a rather long walk in the forest we got to a spot where we were rewarded with superb views of the difficult Russet-winged Spadebill. As we came back we saw a pair of Black-cheeked Gnateaters,
Russet-winged Spadebill
and several small flocks produced Scalloped Woodcreeper, Black-goggled Tanagers, a Pale-browed Treehunter and White-spotted Woodpecker. An army ant swarm was surrounded by White-shouldered Fire-Eyes, and a lone Plain-winged Woodcreeper. Our final morning stop was a real highlight as we enjoyed point black range views of a Slaty Bristlefront which came out of the forest into the open and walked right in front of us. Stunning! After our lunch and a short break we took a look around our lodge which found us Planalto Tyrannulet, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-crowned Greenlet and Variable Antshrike. We then set off to walk another forest trail. This proved to be surprisingly quiet compared to the success of this morning. We did however find several Diademed Tanagers, Cliff Flycatcher, White-spotted and Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers. The view over the endless forest of Intervales was great from the top. After dinner the rain had stopped so we drove a short distance and after a flyby and some bushwacking we found a Black-capped Screech-Owl perched above our heads.
Black-capped Screech-Owl
Day 4
This morning it was rather wet and our vehicle got stuck on the slippery Carmo Road. We walked a while finding White-browed Foliage-gleaner, then a small flock with White-collared Foliage-Gleaner and Magpie Tanagers. Then a group of Saffron Toucanets fed in a fruiting tree, along with Green-chinned Euphonia and a scoped Brown Tanager. Another flock included Ochre-rumped Antbird, while some flowering shrubs attracted a Dusky-throated Hermit. Streak-capped Antwrens flitted
Dusky-throated Hermit
Crescent-chested Puffbird
around the canopy along with Large-headed Flatbill, and then a very smart Crescent-chested Puffbird posed nicely for us. Nearby Planalto Woodcreeper was joined by a flock of Brassy-breasted Tanagers and a White-throated Spadebill showed in the bamboo. Next up was Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, followed by views for some of the group of a Cryptic Antthrush. A Rufous Gnateater showed better. while Black-tufted Cappuchins were watched feeding in a palm tree. At lunch a Red-breasted Toucan was spotted as was several Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers, and then after a short break we headed out
Yellow-fronted Woodpecker
for some roadside birding. A Greenish Tyrannulet was soon followed by a nice Half-collared Sparrow. In an open grassy area we found Brown-and-yellow Marshbirds, White-rumped Monjita, Buff-necked Ibis, Whistling Heron, Smooth-billed Anis, Hooded Siskin, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Double-collared Seedeater and a Burrowing Owl. Moving on we made a quick stop for Spot-winged Woodquails which were flying across the road, but no matter how hard we tried they just would not show. Further on a Large-tailed Antshrike called and was seen poorly in the thick cover, ending another great day.

 Black-tufted Cappuchin
We are now moving on and I will update when there is internet access.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Dragon chasers!

Today me and Tom met up with Greg Hanisek and set off for a day of searching for one Connecticuts rarest dragonfly's the Ringed Boghaunter. We arrived at our site in Windham County at midday and no sooner than we had stepped out of the car we saw the first of about 6 Ringed Boghaunters. Our target species showed well perched on a dirt track and also low on the trunks of several trees. This early dragonfly we thought would be our only species of the day but we soon spotted several Boreal Bluets, and then a Harlequin Darner perched on a dead tree.
Ringed Boghaunter (Williamsonia lintneri)

Ringed Boghaunter (Williamsonia lintneri)
Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata)

Moving on to the other side of the lake we were in an area of more open water with grassy edges and mixed forest. We soon found many teneral Hudsonian Whiteface and a few females, several Dot-tailed Whiteface, plenty of White Corporals and some Chalk-faced Corporals.
White Corporal (Ladona exusta)
Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)
We also saw a Painted Skimmer fly past, plus Green Darner,and our finale to our dragonflies for today a superb Stream Cruiser. We also noted several Northern Water Snakes, and butterflies including Pine Elfin, Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spring Azure, Juvenal's Duskywing, Clouded Sulphur and Pearl Crescent.
Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa)
A great day seeing some top class dragonflies including the rare and localised Ringed Boghaunter.
Thanks Greg.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Snake Day !! ssssssss !!

So today myself, Gina and Tom met up with our friend Chuck and set off on a day of looking for some of Connecticut's snakes! Not everyone's cup of tea. The day started off foggy and slightly chilly but by the time we got to our first site it had started to warm up. Thankfully not too hot which meant our chances of finding basking snakes before it got too hot were good. By about 4pm we were done having seen about 14 individual snakes of 6 species.
Our real target species and a difficult one to find was the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake and indeed we found one basking on a wooded slope. This fearsome looking snake although venomous is a real softy and once you got over its act of inflating its neck like a cobra, hissing and fake strikes it soon got used to us and was easily handled. It was also amazing to see it pretend to be dead rolling over onto its back, opening its mouth and hanging its tongue out. Quite an act.
The videos are fabulous - click on the U-Tube links to watch this snake in action.
A Northern Black Racer lived up to its name and swiftly moved through a tangle and in no time at all climbed to about 20ft in a tree.
This was taken when he was high in the tree. Watch the video below to see how quick he moves.
A little further on a couple of Eastern Ratsnakes were found under a rock.
We kept searching and a very fast Ribbon Snake never hung around long enough for us to catch or get a photo, although it did try and go up Gina's jeans!
So we moved on to a Timber Rattlesnake spot but being midday we could not find any.
So we checked an area for Northern Water Snakes and soon found a rusty brown individual. The unusual colouration was actually caused by the snake hibernation in a metal pipe where it obtained the rusty colour. We proved this by seeing that when handled the rust colour came off onto our skin.
Our final stop of the day had us hike into a forest where we eventually came to an area of rocky cliffs where a Copperhead den would hopefully give us our last species for the day.
A quick look around and Chuck spotted one of the beautiful yet very poisonous snakes watching us from a ledge. We then spotted another two on the same ledge. A fabulous end to a great day of SNAKING!

Below is an American Toad which is food to many of the snake species

Below is a rarer Fowler's Toad. These are a good indicators for Hog-nosed Snake as this snake prefers to eat Fowler's Toads. Similar in looks to the American Toad if you turn the Fowler's over it has a clean white belly whereas the American has blotches and dark marks

Lastly a nicely patterned Pickerel Frog