Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
This report outlines a two week trip undertaken by Pete Aley, Alison Rowntree & Jake Aley, focusing on two main sites: REGUA, a rain forest lodge on the Atlantic coast 80km to the north-east of Rio de Janeiro; and Jaguar Ecological Reserve, a lodge in the Pantanal (south of Cuiaba, 100km or so, from the Bolivian border).
We flew between London to Rio de Janeiro on Air France and took internal TAM flights between Rio and Cuiaba for the Pantanal. One night was spent in Cuiaba (Diplomata Hotel) prior to visiting the Pantanal and two nights in Rio (O Veleiro B&B) before flying home. We would recommend all of the accommodation we used except Jaguar Ecological reserve – for more details see my reviews on Trip Advisor (“plymouthpete19”).
We made all the arrangements ourselves booking direct with the places we stayed. For Jaguar Ecological Reserve this included transport from Cuiaba, excursions and a guide for the four night stay. Our REGUA stay included airport transfers and during our six night stay we booked guides and an excursion from the lodge.
REGUA is an excellent example of eco-tourism with revenue from guests at the lodge contributing to the running of a fantastic rain forest project. Under the leadership of manager, Nicholas, 160,000 trees have been planted here over the past 10 years restoring former farmland to valuable rain forest. A superb wetland has also been created, very close to the lodge and there are plenty of trails easily accessible close by (all are comprehensively outlined on the lodge's website - www.regua.co.uk). During our stay we walked the steep Elfin trail (starts as the Green trail), the 4x4 track (downwards after being driven to the top), the Forest trail and the Brown trail. Wildlife also abounds in the lodge grounds where feeders maintain interest throughout the day.
This is a great place to see some tricky and endemic species – see REGUA’s website for details.
There are two bird guides employed at REGUA to guide visitors for a charge. Both are very helpful, and real experts with superb skills in finding and identifying birds, often imitating calls or using iPods. We were guided by Adilei around REGUA itself and Leo led an excursion for us further afield. We also did plenty of birding independently during our stay.
In the Pantanal we had a freelance wildlife guide, Junior (Facebook:Junior.firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 55 65 92520806) who worked extremely hard at all hours of the day and night to find us wildlife. Junior is a very skilled wildlife guide and a pretty good birder. He clearly knows the Cuiaba River and its Jaguars, very well. He proved very flexible, rearranging schedules in our favour to maximise our chances of seeing things. As well as speaking good English, Junior was friendly, helpful and good company throughout our trip, and is clearly very enthusiastic about wildlife.
The land vehicle he used was really good for wildlife viewing with comfortable seats, high up, facing the direction of travel - perhaps the best such arrangement we have experienced for this anywhere in the world.
We used Oxford’s “A Field guide to the Birds of Brazil” by Ber van Perlo and found it to be quite reliable and as portable as could be reasonably be expected when dealing with so many species.
Brazil is a huge country with a mind boggling number of endemics amongst its vast bird list. You can only see a fraction of this in a short trip, but a combination of the two areas we visited offered a good selection in very different habitats. The rain forest birding was typically challenging with many species difficult to see in the canopy. By contrast the Pantanal was largely easy birding with plenty of obvious species on display. We thoroughly enjoyed Brazil’s wildlife and saw a good selection of birds and mammals with Jaguar the undoubted highlight of the lot!
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REGUA: 8th – 13th June
We were met from Rio de Janeiro airport by REGUA’s friendly driver Alcenir, who showed us a variety of birds at road side stops during the two hour drive to REGUA including: Roadside Hawks (3), Limpkins (2), Least Grebe, Cocoi Heron, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Roseate Spoonbills (5), Ringed Kingfisher, Burrowing Owls (2), Striped Cuckoo, American Kestrels (2), Blue-and-white Swallows (2), Grey-breasted Martins (8), and Saffron Finches.
On arrival at REGUA, we began to get to grips with the commoner birds in the lodge grounds which has a number of feeders, including: Ruddy Ground Doves, Rufous-breasted Hermits, Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Violet-capped Woodnymphs, Glittering-throated Emeralds, White-barred Piculets, flocks of Maroon-bellied Parakeets, Masked Water-Tyrants, House Wrens, Pale-breasted Thrushes, Violaceous Euphonias, Blue Danis, Red-rumped Caciques, and Sayaca, Palm, Brazilian and Ruby-crowned Tanagers. Endearing Common Marmosets were also plentiful.
During our stay around the wetland we found: White-faced Whistling- (20+) and Muscovy (12+) Ducks, Brazilian Teal, a female of the rare Masked Duck, Neotropical Cormorants (2), Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cocoi Heron, Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets (hundreds of Egrets roost at the wetland), Striated Heron, handsome Capped Herons (6+), Rufous-sided Crakes (3), Blackish Rail, Purple Gallinules (6+), Wattled Jacanas, Ringed, Green and Amazon Kingfishers, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Chestnut-backed Antshrike (4), White-flanked Antwren (c6), Yellow-chinned Spinetails (3+), Tropical Pewees (3), White-headed Marsh Tyrants (5), White-bearded Manakins (quite common), Black-capped Donacobiuses (c10), Yellow-billed (2) and White-bellied Seedeaters, Red-crowned Ant-tanagers, and Shiny Cowbirds (c15). Also plenty of Capybaras and a few Caimans.
Other sightings at REGUA included: Rusty-margined Guan (several sightings on a bird table at the lodge at dusk), a Dusky-legged Guan, Crane Hawk (4), Roadside Hawks, Picazuro Pigeons, Squirrel (c4) and Guira (12+) Cuckoos, Greater (12+) and plenty of Smooth-billed Anis, Tropical Screech-Owl (2 roosting in a tree bear the staff accommodation), White-collared Swifts, Reddish and Pianalto Hermits, Surucua (4x4 track) and Black-throated (Elfin trail) Trogons, Rufous-capped Motmot (Brown trail), Spot-billed Toucanet (Elfin trail), Channel-billed Toucan, White-browed Woodpecker (Elfin trail), Southern and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Laughing Falcons (2), Blue-winged Parrotlet (2), Spot-backed Antshrike (Elfin trail), Variable Antshrike (3), Star-throated Antwren (Elfin trail), Unicoloured Antwren (3), Scaled Antbirds (Elfin trail and 4x4 track), Black-cheeked Gnateater (Forest and Elfin trails), Rufous-capped Antrhrush (Elfin trail), Olivaceous Woodcreeper (Elfin trail), Lesser (2) and Scaled (2) Woodcreepers, Streaked Xenops (4), Wing-barred (6) and Rufous Horneros (2), Pale-browed Treehunter (Elfin trail), Ocre-breasted Foliage-gleaner (Elfin trail), Black-capped Foliage-gleaner (4x4 track), Rufous-capped Spinetail (Elfin trail), Southern Beardless-Tyrannulets (4+), Grey-hooded Flycatchers (2), Sepia-capped Flycatcher (4x4 track), Grey-capped Tyrannulet (Elfin trail), Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant (Elfin trail), Grey-headed Tody-Flycatcher (5, mainly Forest trail), Yellow-olive Flycatcher (6), White-throated Spadebill (2, Elfin trail and 4x4 track), Russet-winged Spadebill (Elfin trail), Cliff Flycatcher (Elfin trail), Yellow-billed Tyrants (4), Long-tailed Tyrant (Elfin trail), Grey-hooded Attila (Forest trail), Short-crested Flycatchers (2), Great Kiskadees (common), Social Flycatchers (quite common), Tropical Kingbirds (quite common), Pin-tailed Manakin (Elfin trail), Blue-backed Manakins (3, Elfin / Green trail), rare Shrike-like Cotingas (2, Elfin / Green trail), White-winged (5), Chestnut-crowned and Black-capped (4) Becards, Red-eyed Vireo, Rufous-browed Peppershrikes (2, Elfin trail and 4x4 track), Southern Rough-winged Swallows (quite common), Long-billed Wren (2, Forest trail), Rufous-bellied Thrushes (4), Creamy-bellied Thrush (Forest trail), White-necked Thrush (Elfin trail), Chalk-browed Mockingbirds, Tropical Parula (Elfin trail), Golden-crowned Warbler (Elfin trail), Brown Tanager (Elfin trail), Hooded Tanager (Forest trail), Olive-green Tanagers (2, Forest trail and near lodge), Black-goggled Tanagers (several spots including 12 on 4x4 track), Flame-crested Tanagers (3, Forest and Brown trails), Silver-beaked Tanagers (2, Elfin trail), Fawn-breasted Tanagers (3, Forest trail), Burnished-buff Tanagers (6, several spots including the lodge), Red-necked Tanagers (2, Elfin trail), Yellow-backed Tanagers (6, Forest and Elfin trails), Chestnut-vented Conebills (Forest trail), Pileated Finch (Brown trail), Bannaquit (5), Sooty Grassquit (8, 4x4 track), Buff-throated Saltator(Forest trail), Black-throated Grosbeak (Elfin trail), Purple-throated Euphonias (3, Elfin trail and 4x4 track), and Orange-bellied Euphonias (2, Forest trail). Also three Buff-throated Three-toed Sloths (one on a night drive and 2, Forest trail), a Howler Monkey (Elfin trail) and a South-eastern Common Opossum (lodge).
On the night excursions we had terrific views of the rare Giant Snipe, and picked up a magnificent Tawny-browed Owl, Common Pauraque (6+) and a few Burrowing Owls.
We also took a day’s excursion to Sumidouro, an area of dry Atlantic rain forest about three hours drive from REGUA. Sightings en route included: Dusky-legged Guans (4), Turkey Vultures, spectacular Toco Toucans (2), American Kestrels (3), White-eyed Parakeets (12), and Streamer-tailed Tyrants(2).
At Sumidouro we enjoyed great views of the vulnerable endemic Three-toed Jacamar (8). This site and the nearby area also produced: Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Surucua Trogon (3), White-eared Puffbird, a flock of magnificent Black-necked Aracaris (6), White, Green-barred and Yellow-eared Woodpeckers, Scaly-headed Parrot, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Serra Antwren, Rufous-fronted Thornbirds (12+), Firewood-gatherers (2), Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Hangnest Tody-tyrant, Long-tailed and Cattle (3) Tyrants, Brown-crested Flycatchers (2), Boat-billed Flycatcher, Grey-eyed Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Golden-crowned Warbler, Blue-black Grassquit (2), Double-collared Seedeater (2), Pileated Finch (c10), Sooty Grassquit, Chopi Blackbirds (2), Crested Oropendolas (3), and Purple-throated Euphonia.
PANTANAL: 15th - 19th June
We flew from Rio into Cuiaba airport where a few Nacunda Nightjars were performing in the airport lights, against the backdrop of World Cup preparations, and checked into the nearby Diplomata for a night. Early the following morning we were picked up by our guide, Junior, and headed south for the Pantanal. The area is a huge wetland transected by the Transpantaneira Highway – a 145 km dirt road with over 120 wooden bridges between Pocone and the Cuiaba River at Porto Jofre. The area gradually dries out during the dry season (May to October) pushing the birds and other animals towards the last remaining water right next to the road! We were there at the start of the dry season and already there was plenty of wildlife to see beside the road.
Birds seen from the highway included: Greater Rheas (c10); Brown Tinamou (1 in north); noisey Southern Screamers (quite common); Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (c35); Muscovy Duck (3); very noisey Chaco Chachalacas (common); similar Chestnut-bellied Guans (4); Blue-throated Piping-Guans (3); Bare-faced Curassows (2); Maguari (common), huge Jabiru (common) and Wood (12) Storks; Neotropical Cormorants and Anhingas (both plentiful); Rufescent Tiger- (12), Cocoi (quite common), Little Blue (2), Striated (very common), Whistling (3), Capped (2), Black-crowned Night (quite common) and Boat (2) Herons; Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets (all frequently seen); Green (1), Bare-faced (9) Plumberous (4), and Buff-necked (very common) Ibises; Roseate Spoonbills (2); Black (everywhere) and Lesser Yellow-headed (7) Vultures; Black-collared (7), Crane (1), Savanna (12+), Great Black (3) and Roadside (8) Hawks; attractive Snail Kites (common in north); Grey-necked Wood-Rails (5); lots of Limpkins, Southern Lapwings and Wattled Jacanas; Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns (much smaller numbers than from the boat); Picazuro Pigeons (quite common); Scaled, Grey-fronted and Picul Ground- Doves; Squirrel (5) and Guira Cuckoos (plentiful); Greater (3) and many Smooth-billed Anis; Great Horned Owls (2 in an isolated patches of trees between the lodge and Porto Jofre); plenty of Ringed, and Amazon, and a few Green Kingfishers; Rufous-tailed Jacamars (3); attractive Chestnut-eared Aracaris (14) and spectacular Toco Toucans (12); Little (2) and Pale-crested (1 in north) Woodpeckers and Campo Flickers (3); Southern (lots) and single Yellow-headed Caracaras; Monk (common), Peach-fronted (5) and Yellow-chevroned (6) Parakeets, Scaly-headed Parrots (13) and huge noisey Hyacinth Macaws (10+ some days); striking Narrow-billed Woodcreepers (3); Rufous Horneros (common); White-lored Spinetails (4); a Common Tody-Flycatcher and a dozen colourful Vermilion Flycatchers; Black-backed Water- (5), White-headed Marsh (2) and Cattle (plentiful) Tyrants; Greater Kiskadees (many) and a Tropical Kingbird; a few Purplish Jays; parties of Southern Rough-winged and White-winged Swallows and of Grey-breasted Martins; Thrush-like Wren (5); a few Black-capped Donacobiuses; plenty of brightly-coloured Yellow-billed Cardinals; Silver-beaked (3), Sayaca (quite common) and Palm (4) Tanagers; Safron Finches (common); Lined Seedeaters (c10); Bananaquits (2); Greyish Saltator (2); Unicoloured (18) and handsome Scarlet-headed (5) Blackbirds and plenty of Bay-winged Cowbirds; colour-flashing Orange-backed Troupals (7) and Yellow-rumped Caciques (15) and Crested Orpendolas (5). Other wildlife sightings from the highway were: countless Capybaras; c30 feral Buffaloes; single Pampas and Brown-backed Deer; and plenty of Caimans.
Around our lodge, deep in the Pantanal, we saw a selection of species seen elsewhere in the Pantanal as well as a few additions. Sightings including: a variety of Herons and Doves; morning huddles of endearing Guira Cuckoos; a Pianalto Hermit and Glittering-throated Emerald; Chestnut-eared Aracaris and Toco Toucans; Hyacinth Macaws; Turquoise-fronted Parrots (2); single Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Chotoy Spinetail, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet and Lesser Elaenia; Vermilion, Short-crested and Social Flycatchers; Black-tailed Tityra; a Creamy-bellied Thrush; Chopi Blackbirds (6+); and 18 Nacunda Nighthawks at a nearby farm. A pair of Giant River Otters showed several times from the bridge just south of the lodge.
Night drives starting from the lodge, produced a beautiful Ocelot, 2 Crab-eating Foxes, a glimpse of a Margay, Spot-tailed Nightjars (up to c6 per night), Common Paraques (double figures some nights), a stunning Scissor-tailed Nightjar, and 2 Great Potoos.
Highlight of the our whole trip was two Jaguars seen on boat trips from Porto Jofre. Sightings were scarce during our stay so we were lucky to see a young male sleeping and then wandering down to the river bank, on our first boat ride; and then an older male walking along beside a narrower river tributary on the second trip. Both were stunning creatures and a wildlife experience we will all never forget. Also from the river trips, we saw: Pied Lapwings (singles on each trip); Collared Plover (1); Black Skimmers (c30), Yellow-billed (30+) and Large-billed Terns (50+), all gathering on the sand banks; Black-fronted Nunbird (3); and a dozen Howler Monkeys.
RIO DE JANEIRO 19th – 21st June
Whilst sight-seeing in Rio, we came across a few birds including plenty of Magnificent Frigatebirds and 4 Brown Boobies over the sea (4), and at the Biological Gardens - Snowy Egret, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Channel-billed Toucans (2), Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Grey-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Masked Water-Tyrants (4), Social Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Thrushes (8), and Flame-crested Tanager. Finally we found Palm Tanagers (8) around our B&B.