quinta-feira, janeiro 05, 2012

Birding Innuendo in Brazil - V

In the last chapter we looked for birds in and around the quaint colonial towns of Minas Gerais. Now we will head to one of the largest and most famous cities in the world: Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro
We arrived in Rio at the Santos Dumont airport, and were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day waiting for us. The Sugar Loaf mountain immediately caught our attention, surrounded by the blue waters of Guanabara bay. After leaving our luggage at the hostel, in Copacabana, we only had a few hours of sunlight, so we decided to visit the nearby Botanical Garden.
The gardens are quite beautiful, with luxuriant tropical vegetation, a stretch of the original Atlantic rainforest that covered this area before the city existed, plants for the various parts of Brazil, a collection of orchids and an impressive road bordered by two rows of huge palm tree. It is also an excellent place to go bird-watching while in Rio! As we entered the garden I noticed yet another flock of ground-doves and this time managed to spot the tinny plain-breasted ground-dove Columbina minuta, identified by its grey back with bluish spots, cinnamon wings and white edges on the tail. White-throated kingbirds Tyrannus albogularis were singing in the canopies and on the ground foraged pale-breasted thrushes Turdus leucomelas and rusty-margined guans Penelope superciliaris. On the part of the garden dedicated to aquatic vegetation I spotted several blackish rails Pardirallus nigricans. These are very similar to the larger plumbeous rail Pardirallus sanguinolentus so make sure the bill is completely yellow and that there is a small white patch on the bird's chin.
As we were leaving the Botanical Garden, two channel-billed toucans Ramphastos vitellinus flew over us. Unlike the birds in northern Brazil, the south-eastern subspecies R. v. ariel has a very distinctive orange and red throat and chest, making this bird easy to identify.

Channel-billed toucan Ramphastos vitellinus (photo from www.luis.impa.br)
After leaving the Botanical Garden, we walked to the nearby Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, a large lagoon within the city, around which the cariocas (Portuguese adjective used to refer to the native inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro) love to walk, run and enjoy the sunny weather. The lagoon was full of common moorhens Gallinula chloropus and various egrets and herons. I spotted several great white egrets Egretta alba, black-crowned night herons Nycticorax nycticorax and cocoi herons Ardea cocoi.
On the next day we spent some time at the wonderful Copacabana beach, and between two dives in the ocean there was plenty of time to see the many magnificent frigatebirds and the occasional brown booby that were flying by. In the afternoon we went to the Sugar loaf mountain, which is accessed by two cable cars. On the way there I noticed small flocks of shiny cowbirds Molothrus bonariensis on the trees bordering the crowded avenues. At the Sugar Loaf itself, you get an amazing view over the city and you also get a permanent flock of vultures and frigatebirds over and around you. Be sure to look carefully at these flock as between the black and turkey vultures I managed to spot a juvenile white-tailed hawk Buteo albicaudatus. The mountain top is well forested and you may be lucky enough to find there a couple of Brazilian tanagers Ramphocelus bresilius, an amazing red bird which is endemic to the south-eastern coast of Brazil!

Brazilian tanager Ramphocelus bresilius (photo from www.bellbirdramblings.blogspot.com)
After three wonderful days in Rio we took a bus to the coastal town of Paraty, about 200 km to the south. Paraty was one of the end points of the old Estrada Real, so tons and tons of diamonds and gold passed through it on their way to Europe. Despite this, Paraty is today a quiet place with most people making their leaving from fishing and/or tourism. The town looks beautiful with its cobbled streets, old churches and white houses with colourful windows. Walking on the streets you will pass by nice, quite restaurants, colourful caffes with live music, shops and artist studios. By the sea front you can rent one of the colourful fishing ships to take a day trip to the many islands and white sandy beaches around Paraty. You can also keep an eye out for birds and find a long-billed wren Thryothorus longirostris.
On the second day in Paraty we walked to the nearby Jabaquara beach, a quiet beach bordered by luscious forests and mangroves. On the way there a swallow-tailed kite Elanoides forficatus flew over us, an amazing bird with its black, white and grey plumage and impressive tail-streamers. There were also many common waxbills Estrilda astrild on the way there. While on the beach we walked to its far end, where the sand gives way to a mudflat ending in a mangrove. On the mangroves I spotted two amazing roseate spoonbills Platalea ajaja and a young little blue heron Egretta caerulea with a mottled plumage between the pure white juvenile plumage and the completely blue plumage of the adults. Jabaquara beach had a final prize for me, my first ever black skimmer Rynchops niger!

Roseate spoonbill Platalea ajaja (photo from www.proprof.com)
Our Brazilian trip was nearly finished, but we still had our friends wedding to attend to, the real reason behind our trip. On the next chapter we will go back to Campinas and still manage to tick a few more bird species while attending social events.

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