Although a little late, this post is the second of four from my June trip to Brazil with Richard Fairbank, Nick Preston and Paul Noakes.
During the afternoon of 29 May, we started the five-hour journey to Tabajara. All along the way were extensive cultivations and cattle ranches; once pristine rainforest, the horizon was now sparsely scattered in Brazil Nut Trees as these are apparently 'illegal' to cut down.
Noteworthy species were few and far between along the journey, but as we approached some untouched forest on our left (cultivations on our right), a Dark-winged Trumpeter was sat on the roadside! This incredible moment seemed to go in slow motion as the trumpeter wasn't sure what to do and just casually walked along the verge before eventually sneaking into the forest. Later on as we were approaching Tabajara, a Toco Toucan flew behind the vehicle.
With still an hour of daylight left when we arrived into the small village of Tabajara, we went down to the river to enjoy a decent haul of birds. Black-collared, White-banded and White-winged Swallows were abundant and a few Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns flew upriver. Several other good birds were seen with Sand-coloured Nighthawks, a Glittering-throated Emerald, a Drab Water Tyrant, a Grey-chested Greenlet, hundreds of Yellow-rumped Caciques and an Amazonian Tyrannulet. A Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman was even close the bank!
A great start to this area and we went to our very adequate 'hotel' on the outskirts of the village, and had dinner soon after at a lady's house, which even had Wi-Fi!
|Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman|
Saturday 30th May
As per the norm, we were up nice and early, this time with the song of a Tropical Screech Owl not too far away. After breakfast, we drove to an area of white sand forest only ten minutes outside Tabajara. Before entering decent forest, we birded the white sand area and saw our two key targets, these being Chico's Tyrannulet and Buff-cheeked Tody Tyrant. A Pale-bellied Mourner, Plain-crowned Eleania, a party of Plush-crested Jays and some Yellow-crowned Parrots also flew over.
The rest of the morning and first three hours of the afternoon were then spent in some excellent forest with new bird after new bird soon to make it into my notebook. It was of course quiet at times, but for the most part there was always something to have gotten over seeing. The obvious avian highlight for me were a pair of Collared Puffbirds – a bird I've been long wanting to see ever since Richard first told me about his first sighting where ever in South America that was. They did not disappoint one bit!
Other avian highlights throughout the forest were Spot-backed Antbird (another top favourite), Pavonine Quetzal, Black-girdled Barbets, an Amazonian Grosbeak, Saturnine Antshrikes, Rondonia Warbling Antbird, Rufous-faced Antbird and Chestnut-tailed Antbird. Antbirds were very much a theme of the holiday and the superb White-breasted Antbird proved to be a stunner today and much sought-after, although fist pumps were out of the question initially as Richard failed to see them, but a tense and patient wait finally put that right.
Canopy flocks were typically hard graft and thankfully didn't contain anything too serious which meant our time was devoted to the ground-dwelling species, although the likes of Flame-crested Tanagers, Sepia-capped Flycatchers, White-winged Shrike-tanagers, Buff-cheeked Greenlets and Chivi Vireos were a handful of the species noted.
This patch of forest, though, may well be most remembered for its incredible diversity of primates. Five species, including the remarkable Tapajos Saki Monkey were seen (this species being the wooly mammoth of the treetops), plus the cute Black-tailed Marmosets, Saddle-backed Tamarins, Black Spider Monkeys and Dusky Titi Monkeys, too. A number of dragonflies were also keeping me entertained during the quieter times of day.
We finally arrived back at the vehicle mid-afternoon with two search parties trying to find us as were meant to have had lunch at the 'restaurant', but with good birding and temperatures that we could cope with, there was no point in abandoning such decent habitat. The final paces of the walk were enlivened by the arrival of a huge thunderstorm with birds seen before the deluge included Black Caracaras, a Short-billed Honeycreeper, a Squirrel Cuckoo and Pale-rumped Swifts.
With a few hours left of the day, we tracked further west into a good expanse of forest, though still housing logging trails. A superb and huge Red-tailed Boa was in the dirt track and we managed some photos before it slithered off. At a small lake, many Brazilian Teal and a few Muscovy were present, and we walked into the forest and came across a canopy flock which held a Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Chestnut-winged Hookbill and many species we saw this morning. The highlight here though was when we exited the forest as a clan of Crab-eating Foxes trotted past, paused for a photo, and continued on their way... this really had been a day for mammals!
Our last stop was a little further along by a bridge where a Hauxwell's Thrush and a superb Short-tailed Nighthawk was flying around. During the 30-minute drive back to the hotel I hung out of the window and enjoyed the various spot-lighting going on from inside the car, providing me with decent views of many Pauraque and fewer Blackish Nightjars.
|Buff-cheeked Tody Flycatcher|
|Tapajos Saki Monkey|
|Dusky Titi Monkey|
Sunday 31st May
Up nice and early... again... as we were today to head upriver to a remote area of forest close to the Marmelo Stream, where during the day we birded the west and east bank, both being in my eyes very productive, especially the afternoon session.
On the boat journey upriver, there were plenty of Sand-coloured Nighthawks, Pied Lapwings, Large Billed Terns and a few Black Skimmers and when we turned off onto the stream section where the waters were more tranquil and canopy at times stretched across the entirety, the thermal imagers came into action and this time revealed the presence of two Razor-billed Currasows on the bank before they walked off. A few Green Ibis caused minor panic and some stunning Capped Herons also showed well.
We arrived at the start of the trail and hiked into the forest from here. Almost from the off, one of our main targets landed in the trees above us, these being the large and recently discovered Kawall's Parrot, with at least six birds present. We continued through the forest along a narrow trail and ticked off the following in quick succession: Manicore Warbling Antbird, Pearly Antshrike, Mouse-coloured Antshrike, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher and the awesome White-crested Spadebill. There were two species of antwren here which were sought-after and we scored both with much neck-wrenching efforts, the Sclater's Antwren and Aripuana Antwren, the former an attractive species with all yellow underparts. The main highlight for me upon returning was a superb Rufous-capped Ant-thrush
We had lunch back at the boats where lots of sttractive butterflies were enjoying the sweat-infested clothing about the place. During the afternoon session on the opposite side of the stream, we had a very productive session without even walking too far. Perhaps coming across three mid to high-canopy flocks, we were always looking up and trying hard to keep stock of what we saw, but notable birds amongst the throng were Tooth-billed Wren, Curve-billed Scythebill, Black-eared Fairy, Amazonian Trogon, Bar-breasted Piculet, Red-stained Woodpecker, White-chinned Woodcreeper, Pink-throated Becard and Brown-winged Schiffornis... so it was a busy couple of hours for us!
Our short walk had sadly come to an end so we picked up our ant-infested bags and marched back towards the boat, admiring only a Cream-coloured Woodpecker along the way - a species I was delighted to claw back having missed it in Guyana.
Back at the boat, we got lucky with a Zimmer's Tody Tyrant coming into the tape, although it wasn't the most inspiring bird out there.
It had been a great day which ended with a cruise up and down the stream and back down to Tabajara. A delightful Sungrebe remained distant and a Grey-cowled Wood Rail performed briefly on the bank. A family of Capybara on the return, as well as many terns, skimmers and parrots set for a delightful final hour of daylight.
|Manicore Warbling Antbird|
Monday 1st June
Our final morning in the Tabajara region, which was a shame as it had been a highly productive region for a sort of rare birds, as well as the spectacular diversity of mammals. For our final morning, we headed back to the same patch of forest we had visited on Saturday.
Upon arrival, we this time headed straight for the forest, stopping along the way for a Little Nightjar roosting in the sand. An Undulated Tinamou was singing in the early morning gloom, and unlike others, not too far from the path, so we staked it out. I laid on the floor, whilst others set about using the helpful thermal cameras, but all were to no avail. Brad ventured into the forest from an angle to tempt it our way, and with the bird still vocal, a few of us obtained some respectable views of this cryptic master... an excellent start to the day!
We wasted no time in heading through the forest until we had heard some antbirds, hopefully attending an ant swarm. This duly happened, but much surprise to Brad, he thought he had heard a Pale-faced Bare-eye (a mega antbird species restricted to SW Amazon and rarely recorded). I got the first glimpses and half-heartedly confirmed Brad's suspicions, but it wasn't until we headed into some dense forest and played the tape that the views improved massively, and after a tense wait, all had glimpsed or had prolonged views of this, what others had described as, a 'trip bird'. We then proceeded to watch these antbirds, as well as White-breasted, Scale-backed and White-throated Antbirds feeding upon an ant swarm, which was impressive. A few woodcreepers were also snacking on the tree-climbing ants.
Time had whizzed past and it was time to depart Tabajara, via lunch and a shower, back to Porto Velho where we stayed the night. The 5-hour journey was quiet for birding but was a quiet reminder to the destruction of the lands here.