Monday, 15 June 2015

Connecticut Warbler Quest !

So we just spent a long weekend in Minnesota on a "Sunrise Birding Tour" with our prime goal to see the ever elusive Connecticut Warbler on its breeding grounds. Our short trip went spectacularly well and indeed we did get to see two different individual Connecticut Warblers singing their hearts out at the superb Sax-Zim bog. On migration this bird is extremely elusive and difficult to see and their are many birders who still need this species for their US list. What a different story it is to look for them in their breeding habitat. These birds stop becoming elusive and sing from 20 to 40ft up in Tamarack trees and even sing from open bare branches. They were still not easy to photograph as they were up high and often with the bright sky as a backdrop.

This area of Minnesota was a fabulous place and we visited several very different habitats. The bogs and marshes and surrounding grassland and scrub produced superb views of Sharp-tailed Grouse, Le Conte's Sparrow, Black-billed Cuckoos, displaying Bobolinks and showy Sedge Wrens.
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Le Conte's Sparrow
Apart from Connecticut Warbler we were also treated to 16 other species of warbler including fine views of Blackburnian, Golden-winged, Cape May, Mourning, Canada and Chestnut-sided to mention a few.
Sedge Wren
An added excursion to an area of Boreal Forest was a delight as we connected with Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee and some amazing dragonflies including Spiny Baskettail and a Twin-spotted Snaketail.

Black-backed Woodpecker - female
Twin-spotted Spiketail
We saw some fresh Moose tracks, Wolf scat and a couple of big Snapping Turtles including one that had just laid its eggs. Other highlights during this wonderful break were both Common Merganser and Trumpeter Swan with chicks, Common Loon on its nest, 3 American Bitterns flying together, a perched Bald Eagle, Black-billed Cuckoos chasing each other, Yellow-bellied. Least and Alder Flycatchers, a family of Black-billed Magpies and Gray Jays. One evening we went for a long drive and added Common Nighthawk, Woodcock and several Eastern Whip-poor-wills.
A great trip with a great guide, Chris, and some fabulous moments with a fun group.
One word of warning - only ever order a half rack of ribs and not a full rack !!!! Phew!!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

South Brazil - Last Days

Day 13
This morning after an early breakfast we met up with a local guide who took us to a secret pond where we enjoyed fabulous views of up to 20 Ringed Teal. While we were here we witnessed masses
Ringed Teal - males
Ringed Teal - female
of birds including maybe hundreds of thousands of ibis and ducks flying out of the distant marshes and lagoon. The distant skies were simply filled with endless flocks of birds, a truly awesome sight. It then began to rain and as we were not all prepared for this, most of us got soaking wet. We quickly returned to the hotel just 5 minutes away and changed into dry clothes before continuing on to our next birding destination called the Black Skimmer track. Here amongst the flooded grasslands we were pleased that Eduardo got a life bird in the form of 7 Tawny-throated Dotterels. We also had Rufous-chested Dotterels, Grey-hooded Gulls, countless Bare-faced and White-faced Ibis, Egrets, Southern Screamers, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns. Several Correndera Pipits showed well,
White Monjita - male
as did White Monjitas, Austral Nigritos, about 70 Coscoroba Swans, White-faced Whistling Ducks, some Black Skimmers and Chilean Flamingos. Barry was on form and found two Wilson’s Phalaropes and a Red Shoveler, and then nearby in the short flooded grasses we eventually got good views of a Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail. The areas of shallow open water held hundreds of Red-gartered Coots, 4 Spot-flanked Gallinules, Black-necked Stilts and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A Collared Plover was seen on the track before we drove to the beach where a roost of Snowy-crowned Terns were joined by Cabot’s Tern, Royal Tern and both Grey-hooded and Brown-
Cabot's and Snowy-crowned Terns
Double-banded Plover
hooded Gulls. Moving along the beach we found many more terns and gulls, plus Semi-palmated Plovers, lots of Double-banded Plovers, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Hudsonian Godwits, lots of Black Skimmers and out at sea we had several Brown Skuas and 3 Arctic Skuas. Some cetaceans swimming slowly just off the surf have yet to be identified. Leaving the beach (just!)
Unidentified dolphin? species 12ft - 15ft long
we continued on to another area of open flooded grasslands and marshes. Long-winged Harriers flew alongside the minibus and then beside one of the marshes we witnessed hundreds of thousands of Chestnut-capped Blackbirds coming in to roost. Also here were Correndera Pipits and a superb close look at Short-billed Pipit. Many-colored Rush Tyrants and Wren-like Rushbirds were seen, plus Rusty-collared Seedeaters. We eventually left this wonderful place at sunset and returned to our hotel for a fabulous final dinner.
Short-billed Pipit
Day 14
This morning after breakfast we had an hour to go to the nearby marshes for the last time. A Rufous-capped Antshrike was heard and then showed very well, while nearby Spix’s and Yellow-chinned
Rufous-capped Antshrike
Spinetails. A couple of Tropical Parulas showed well and then in the more open areas we saw 3 Giant Wood Rails, Spectacled Tyrants, Plumbeous Rails, Rufous-sided Crake, and Blue-and-yellow Tanager ending what was superb trip.
Spectacled Tyrant
Many thanks to Eduardo for his fantastic guiding which produced many sought after and very difficult species, filling in many gaps on peoples Neotropic life lists.

I would also like to thank everyone else on this trip for spotting birds and making it a great fun and very successful tour to an area of Brazil that still as yet visited by very few birders!
Steve & Gina

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

South Brazil - Days 11 & 12

Day 11
This morning we set off after an early breakfast for Aparadas da Serra National Park. Along the way we saw two Spotted Nothuras and then once in the park we walked a short distance to an area of expansive grasslands and marsh. Here saw Long-tailed Cinclodes, Black-and-white Monjita, Pampa Finches, and Savanna Hawk. We then heard our target bird the almost impossible Marsh Tapaculo and try as we might we just could not see it. We did however get fabulous views of two
Straight-billed Reedhaunter
Straight-billed Reedhaunters. We decided to try another area of marsh and once again we heard the elusive Marsh Tapaculo but apart from myself no one even got a glimpse. More Long-billed Reedhaunters were seen and then we walked on further to view the huge and impressive canyon. It was rather quiet bird wise but we did not a Short-tailed Hawk, a pair of Aplomado Falcons, Firewood Gatherers and on the way back several Long-tailed Reed Finches, two Crested Black-Tyrants and some Azure Jays. We then went for lunch after which we drove to San Francisco de Paula National Forest. A short walk into the forest and we found a flock that contained four rare Black-capped
The very rare Black-capped Piprites
Piprites which gave fantastic looks. With them were Straight-billed Treehunter and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners. A Mottled Piculet also showed well and at last we all got reasonable views of Grey-bellied Spinetail. Moving on a little we heard a Speckle-breasted Antpitta – one of Brazil’s most
The most difficult of Brazil's antpittas - Speckle-breasted Antpitta
Speckle-breasted Antpitta

difficult antpittas and within a few minutes we were all enjoying superb close views of the rare bird calling and feeding right in front of us. Even further along the track we saw both Planalto and Scalloped Woodcreepers, Variable Antshrike and then the incredible Giant Antshrike, which amazingly could disappear into cover despite its huge size. Finally on our way back we got to see two White-throated Woodcreepers ending an afternoon of excellent birds.
Day 12
This morning we had breakfast and then drove towards the coast. Our first stop found a Spotted Nothura, White Monjitas, White-rumped Swallows, Yellow-chinned Spinetails and a nice Swallow-tailed Hummingbird. Further searching of the reed edges found several South American Snipe including a few performing their display flight. There was a close Yellow-browed Tyrant, Sooty
Warbling Doradito
Tyrannulet, and then great looks at Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, and then a fabulous Warbling Doradito. Brown-and-yellow Marshbirds were also seen along with Limpkin, Guira Cuckoos and some Southern Screamers. We then had lunch and continued on to our hotel near the National Park Lagoa de Peixe. This wonderful wetland was reminiscent of the Pantanal with a long straight track passing through marshes and pools with lots of birds to see. Three Giant Rails
Spectacled Tyrant
started our afternoon off, soon followed by Variable Oriole, lots of Spectacled Tyrants, Brown-and-yellow Marshbirds, Plumbeous Rails and a few Rufous-sided Crakes. A Curve-billed Reedhaunter showed well, Long-winged Harriers flew back and forth, and there was a few small flocks of Brazilian Teal. White Monjitas were common, Chestnut-capped Blackbirds, Southern Screamers, Great Black Hawk, seven Yellow-billed Terns, a pair of Red-crested Cardinals, White-browed Blackbirds, two Tawny-headed Swallows perched on a fence and four Spot-flanked Gallinules. A couple of Plumbeous Ibis were found, and we got a flock of 11 Rosy-billed Pochard fly over. The Long-winged Harriers were all heading for a roost site and we must have seen well over 30. Back near the minibus we had a pair of Great Horned Owls that showed well.

Rufous-sided Crake