quarta-feira, dezembro 21, 2011

Birding Innuendo in Brasil - I

I recently had the opportunity to visit south-eastern Brazil. Although the main goal of my trip was not birding, even during the normal activities of visiting friends and family and touring the normal tourist attractions, there were plenty of chances to get in touch with the unbelievably rich Brazilian avifauna. 
I decided to make a small innuendo to the usual topics of my blog, and write up what you could call a small guide, or report, on birding in Brazil when you are not birding. These posts will be in English, in order to reach a wider audience.

So, to start. Things to do before you travel to Brazil. 
1) I have found that Brazil is not really as dangerous and full of crime as the media sometimes makes it sound. Yes they do have a high crime rate, and violent crime is a serious social issue, but crime is mostly limited to the larger cities, and even there it is mostly circumspect to the "problematic" neighbourhoods. Having said this, it might be a good idea to leave your best binoculars at home and bring along a cheaper pair. Of course you loose optical quality and this will limit your ability to identify birds but, as I said in the beginning, I am not writing about a birding trip to Brazil, but of how you can turn a regular trip into a satisfying birding opportunity. The same logic applies to cameras and/or camcorders.

2) Of course you will need a bird guide to help you sieve through the over 1.800 bird specie that have  beenreported in Brazil. I searched the web for good guides and most people seem to agree that the best are:

"Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica" by Martin de la Peña and co-authors
"Birds of South America" (2 volumes) by Robert S. Ridgely
"A Field Guide to the Birds of Brazil" by Ber van Perlo.

I decided to buy the third one, and found it quite satisfactory. The books is surprisingly compact, considering the number of species it covers, and has very good illustrations and species accounts. Of course, when covering such a wide range of species, the information has to be limited, and it would sometimes be nice to have more information. Also, although generally good, some illustrations were not absolutely accurate and these cause me some difficulties on identifying a couple of species. Still, overall I can recommend A Field guide to the Birds of Brazil as an excellent companion for you trip.

3) As I mention before, we are talking about a country that holds one of the most diverse avifaunas in the world. There have been reported over 1.800 species, belonging to 95 families. These represent nearly 20% of all bird species and 50% of all avian families. This means that, unless you are already very familiar with the birds of South America, when you start trying to identify birds in Brazil you wont even know on each part of the guide to look. The book I recommend as a very useful feature, in the beginning of the book the author summarises the main families and groups, with an illustration of a representative member of each group. This may help guide you to the section of the book where you might find the bird you found in the field. Even so, I recommend that you take the time to study your field guide and try to get a notion of the main families and groups, as well as checking in advance which species are more likely to be found in the part of the country you will visit. During my trip I only visited 3 states in south-eastern Brazil: São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, but even so, just during the austral summer there were nearly 700 potential species.

4) Beside studying your birds, you should also study the places you will visit. Any travel guide can give a wealth of information on many different places in Brazil, and may give some pointers on places where you may go for a quick bird-watching break, without changing your initial travel plans. For instance, and if you are in Rio de Janeiro it may be a good idea to visit the magnificent local Botanical Garden. There are many such guides, I used the DK guide to Brazil, but am sure that many others will serve the same purpose.

On the next chapter, I will start to describe my experience of birding in Brazil when not birding. In two weeks I identified 90 species, of which 80 where new to my life list!

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