Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Highlights of 2008: Got Milk?

According to my sources, fluent in Portuguese, this sign says "Milk from the foot of the cow."

In Brazil, while driving along any main highway, you might chance upon a roadside restaurant and store called Vaca Preta, which translates from the Portuguese meaning Black Cow. What makes the Black Cow different from, say a Steak-N-Shake in the United States, or a Happy Eater in the United Kingdom is that the Black Cow has a cow (not always black) in a pen in front of it. For a small fee, you can have the farmer on duty squeeze you off a glass of milk while you wait.

He'll even flavor it for you, if straight, still-warm-from-being-inside-the-cow, milk is not your thing.

We were stopping at Vaca Preta for lunch on our last day of a birding trip throughout southeastern Brazil. The restaurant inside was famous for its sausage sandwiches (not beef burgers??) and our guide, Paulo Boute, had been extolling their virtue all morning long. So we decided to eat first and watch the cow-milking action later.

Inside was a fire pit, smoking and sizzling, where they cooked the sausages, onions, bread, and melted the cheese for the sandwiches. This was a good sign. My heart always sinks when I walk into a roadside eatery, ravenous from a day of birding, only to find frozen burritos, pre-made sandwiches, and a microwave. This place was cooking real stuff on an actual fire—caveman style.

The fire pit at Vaca Preta.

The lunch was great and the sausage sandwich especially yummy and bad for you (as yummy things usually are).
One of the famous sausage sandwiches. Yes, they were really good.

Then it was time for the Milkmaster 3000 to do his thing. We went outside and gathered around the cow pen. A strong-armed farmer gave us a smile and a tip of his cowboy hat. Paulo ordered for himself and was a bit surprised and disappointed when the other four of us, all Americans, did not place orders, too. Now I am always up for trying anything, but something told me that unpasteurized milk right from a Brazilian cow, now matter how creamy and wonderful, might not be a healthy choice. In fact I was pretty sure I remembered reading on the U.S. State Department website covering travel to Brazil, a paragraph that said:

No matter how much Paulo teases and cajoles you,
DO NOT DRINK unpasteurized milk from Vaca Preta.

So, alas, I did not sample this South American delicacy. However I DID manage to make a short video of the experience to share with you. Here is the cow in her pen. She seemed content and had a lot of food and water, plus a compassionate milk squeezer.

And here is the aforementioned milker and milkee, shooting the frothy white milk right into Paulo's cup. Enjoy!

I can vouch for the authenticity of this video because I was there. And I would also like to say that the commentary you hear in the background was not from Bill of the Birds, or any of my fellow Americans. I'm just sayin'....

Got Milk?

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Things You Find While Birding

My birding pal Terry Moore and I found these paper towels in a roadside store in Brazil last summer. We couldn't resist taking a photo and I tried to ask the store owner if they had the same brand, but in toilet paper. He did not really understand what I was saying (my Portuguese being on-existent) or why we were laughing ourselves silly over some stupid paper towels.

Birding in foreign lands is fabulous. But even better are some of the funny product names you encounter.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Unheavy Friday!

Hey, it's Unheavy Friday again!

Here are some images from Brazil to chill you out for the weekend:

Moon over old church, Ubatuba, Brazil.

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean south of Ubatuba.

A spiderweb that looked just like an old LP record, floating above the forest floor.

An orchid growing on the edge of the forest at Folha Seca.

Have a good weekend, amigos! Catch you on the other side!—BOTB

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Birding in Brazil: Free as a Bird!

The nests and a distant look at a pair of firewood gatherers.

Driving from Itatiaia National Park to Ubatuba during our Brazil birding adventure, our group made a stop at a small farm. Although the habitat was heavily agricultural, there were a lot of birds there. We saw several excellent new species, including the firewood gatherer, which builds its nest very carefully out of sticks it collects.

Among the more colorful of the new species spotted at this farm was the saffron finch. The male saffron finch is a bright yellow bird with a blush of orange on the top of the head. We first heard this male singing from a large flowering tree in the farm yard.

Wild saffron finch, male.

I heard the same song coming from nearer to the farm house and, peeking around the corner of the building, found an adult male saffron finch singing from a small cage. The caged bird seemed to be healthy, but I felt a bit sorry for it being confined, so near to its flock mates.

Captive male saffron finch.

Why DOES the caged bird sing?

We did not see a lot of wild birds in cages in Brazil, which was good. I've stumbled upon caged birds in Latin American marketplaces before, and it never fails to depress me.

Brazil is not yet a nation of bird watchers, but I was surprised by the numbers of bird feeders we encountered—especially hummingbird feeders. While we did not encounter any Brazilian bird watchers while afield, we did run into an Australian couple who were birding Brazil for several months. Lucky dingoes.

Violet-capped woodnymph at the Hotel Ypé feeders.

I spent some time watching the action at the bird feeders and talking with a couple of Brazilian families at the Hotel Ypé in Itatiaia. The families loved watching the birds, but really didn't care what the species names of the birds were. It was enough that the birds were beautiful and easy to watch as they flew to and from the feeders, almost within arm's reach. In fact the Brazilians, young and old, got a big kick out of the fact that I knew the names of all the birds. They would point and say "Which one is that?"

I did fairly well at identifying the birds for them.

The patriarch of the larger family asked me, through his English-speaking son:
"How is it you know all of these birds when you are from so far away? Are you sure you're not part bird, my friend? Maybe you understand their secret language"

I just smiled.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Botany of Brazil

In the tropics, plants grow almost everywhere. This epiphyte is growing on an electric line.

My birding trip to Brazil yielded more than just birds. The vegetation in that part of South America is lush and dense forests, rich farmland, and lots of edge habitat with viney tangles, giant palm fronds, epiphytes and bromeliads, and every kind of fruit and flower you can imagine.

When the birding got slow in Brazil (which was not often) I enjoyed looking around for interesting plants to photograph. Here are a few of the images I kept, after weeding.
Cecropia frond against the afternoon sky.

The morning dew makes the grasses bow their heads.

The fronds of this vine-like fern were more than 10 feet long.

We ate papayas from this very tree at a restaurant on the Praia da Almada.

A vine's long tendrils reaching for something, anything.

My plan is to share one more brief post about Brazil and then move on to other subjects. If you're interested in reading the full account of my birding trip to Brazil, it will be in a future issue of Bird Watcher's Digest.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Brazil: End of Day 2

Overgrazed hillsides outside of Itatiaia National Park.

As we left the Black Needles mountain road, heading back to Itatiaia National Park and our hotel, we made a few stops for birds and one for an interesting food item. On the paved road we left the forest behind and moved into open, heavily agricultural country. Black vultures dotted the sky in all directions—the default soaring raptor in Brazil seems to be the black vulture.

Then it was time for a snack.

Roadside food stand.

A roadside stand across the road from our morning coffee stop was serving boiled nuts. Paulo encouraged us to try them. They were shaped like orange sections—tapered at both ends. The shell outside was deep maroon and the soft meat inside was bright white. You bit the end off and squeezed the meat out of the shell. They tasted pretty good.

Boiling the nuts we ate.

Paulo told us that this nut (and I'm sorry I cannot recall its name) was the food that saved the early settlers in this part of Brazil. The plentiful nuts provided enough sustenance to help the pioneers survive until they could plant crops.

A handful of the boiled nuts.

Farther along the highway home we spied a large group of guira cuckoos basking in the late afternoon sun. We stopped and got out. The birds moved away. I wondered aloud if people shot the cuckoos because they seemed more skittish than other birds. Perhaps the farmers do not like them. For such large birds they acted very shy and wary. I managed to snap a few photos of one that came closer after Paulo played a flocking call on his iPod.

Guira cuckoo.

The guira cuckoo is a wild looking bird—something like Phyllis Diller first thing in the morning, before make-up! Another bird making an appearance at this stop along the road was the rufous hornero. Now the rufous honero certainly IS rufous. Where the 'hornero' comes from is a curious thing. It sounds to me like the name of a producer of "adult" films. And I'm sure he's got a casting couch.

Rufous hornero.

Home to the hotel we went. Once there we had time for a beer on the veranda, then a run through the checklist, dinner, and right into bed. Long days behind and ahead made me pretty tired, so it was not hard to fall asleep. I needed the blazing fire again because the night was mighty chilly.

I went to bed smiling about the 37 lifers I'd seen that day. Only wished I gotten a few more photos...

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Up High, a Diadem

Chuck Hagner, editor of Birder's World, and BOTB (pointing) near the top of Agulhas Negras.

The afternoon of Day 2 in Brazil:
We made our way to the top of the Picas das Agulhas Negras looking, for a bird known as a great pampa finch. We parked next to a military outpost, walked past the roadblock and down a rocky dirt road toward the peaks. The air was thin here above 8,000 feet and it was still cold, though we were warmed somewhat by the sun, which was approaching the mid-day position in the sky. Even so, frost lingered on the grass in shaded areas on the roadside.
Frost-covered grass.

The occasional breeze did little to carry or to conceal bird song—there was none. A few rufous-collared sparrows flitted across the road. No sight or sound of the pampa finch. Paulo suggested we head back to the military building to have our lunch. Maybe we'd have better luck on full stomachs.

As we walked back up the hill to the bus and building, I answered Nature's call and stepped off into the underbrush. As is almost always the case, I was not yet done when the shouts of the others reached my ears. Whizzing over, and much lighter on my feet, I raced to the group's location. There, teed up on a bare branch, was the great pampa finch, looking like the ill-bred spawn of a junco and a green towhee. At last a bird that wanted its pitcher took. Or is it tooken?

Great pampa finch.

I stayed on the bird for the next ten minutes of so while the others grabbed their lunches and found sunny spots on the lee side of the outpost building for eating. Cesar, our driver, grabbed my small camera to take a photo of our lunch party.
Lunching in the warm sun. Photo by Cesar.

While the others continued masticating (look it up) I took my big camera on a walk back up the road. The great pampa finch flew from under a jeep and landed in a patch of grass. Another bird followed. It was a diademed tanager! Both birds were eating the leaves of some tiny succulent plant growing there. It must have been a special food item because both birds stayed focused on eating, allowing me to approach (sliding on my behind across the rocky road) within four feet.

Diademed tanager.

The tanager's iridescent blue color, dark face, and the fact that it was often half-in and half-out of the bright sunlight made it quite a challenge to get a decent photo. But I managed to get a few.
A diadem is a crown. So you can see how this bird got its name.

Paulo shouted to me that it was time to head back down the mountain. The others were already on the bus, so I reluctantly left an incredibly stunning bird—one I'd only just added to my life list a few hours before—and we headed off in a cloud of dust.

White-tailed hawk.

On the way back down we ran into soaring white-tailed hawks. They were turning lazy circles over a massive valley that was wearing a layer of clouds. It might have been the first time I've watched a buteo soaring above me, yet we were both above the clouds.

Other things were rising into the sky, too. The full moon made a late afternoon appearance, making this barren habitat above the treeline look even more like a moonscape.

We made a few more stops on the way down adding a few more birds. Then we reached the highway. The smooth road (at last) warm sunlight coming in the windows, and the hum of the diesel engine were too much—I dozed off.

More about the adventures on the way home in my next post.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Moment of Zen

While birding along a forest trail in Brazil's Itatiaia National Park, I encountered this waterfall. I watched it for several minutes, mesmerized. That is, until a nearby lek of male blue manakins wing-snapped into action.

In the future, I hope to share more of these natural Moments of Zen with you.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plovercrest Quest

Above the clouds on the Picos das Agulhas Negras road.

Up we went, along a rough mountain road, bouncing over rocks and ruts, some of us regretting that extra cup of coffee and the effect it was having on our jostled bladders. But we were after birds in these mountains and we were willing to put up with some discomfort for the chance to see them.

Along shaded portions of the roadside, impatiens in various shades from pale pink to purple, grew wild, like a ground cover. I thought about how many hanging baskets I'd bought featuring these same flowers. Farther along the road we saw two workers weed-whacking the impatiens to keep the roadside clear.

At certain points in the road, the forest fell down the mountainside and we noticed clouds below us.

Paulo, Chuck, Pete, Terry at an overlook.

Among our quest birds was a Brazilian specialty known as the plovercrest. The plovercrest is a tiny hummingbird found in southeastern Brazil (and parts of Paraguay and Argentina) whose primary field mark is—you guessed it—a plover-like crest. In Brazil, this bird is known by the name beija flor de topete (tufted flower kisser).

Paulo first located the birds by hearing a singing male. This species forms loose leks where males gather to sing and flash their gorgets, hoping to attract a female. After hearing two or three males from the edge of the forest along the road, Paulo got us out of the bus and began scanning for the birds. He soon found the tiny singer and we all took turns standing in the exact place where you could see it through a hole in the thick vegetation. This was how the first bird looked (to my camera):
My very first plovercrest.

I was determined to try to get a photo of this bird, which I'd never heard of before I began prepping for this birding trip to Brazil. So I stepped softly into the shadows and began stalking another singing male. I could hear their chattery squeaks sounding so close, yet the tiny green birds were unbelievably hard to spot.

Spot of sun on a male plovercrest.

I found a single male and got a single frame of him before he split. I plunged deeper into the woods, heading in the direction of more calling plovercrests. For all I knew they might just be forest furies luring me to my death. This did not stop me. In a few years, some campesino would hack down a vine with his machete and reveal some bleached bones, thick dark glasses frames, a pair of Keen sandals, and a really nice pair of Leica 10x binoculars.

I heard human shouting.

Stretching plovercrest.

From back out on the road, Paulo was shouting my name, saying he had a plovercrest that was just dying to have its photograph taken. I stumbled out into sunlight.

Terry Moore waved me over to the spotting scope. There he was. Out in indirect sunlight, stretching, singing, yawning, pooping, then singing some more.

I soaked him in with my eyes, then stepped a few feet closer to take a dozen quick digital frames before he buzzed away.

Our plovercrest quest was a big success. I looked at my watch. It was 8:45 am. We had a LOT of birding yet to go.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Brazil Day 2: Morning

Mountain view along Picos das Agulhas Negras road.

Our second day in Brazil was the first one where getting off an airplane was not a part of the morning ritual (nor was having flown all night from the USA). We'd spent the previous night at the Hotel Ypé in Itatiaia National Park, our home for the next four days.

And the night had been surprisingly chilly. This was why we had small fireplaces set with logs and kindling in our rooms. It took me most of an hour, two sections of The New York Times and half of my copy of Paste Magazine before the damp logs caught and the fire hissed into action.

It would be hard to top Day 1. I'd scored 37 life birds and taken what would be some of my best bird images of the entire trip.

I was up five minutes before my alarm for the start of Day 2. I dressed quickly and stepped out onto my veranda for a check of the ambient temperature: chilly and damp, but no wind. I was wearing every warm bit of clothing I'd brought. So much for the balmy tropics! The stars were twinkling high above, but in odd configurations from this southern hemisphere perspective. From the edge of the forest the tawny-browed owl was quavering his call—perhaps saying goodnight to his friends and foes.

As would be the case for most mornings on the trip, I was the first one to reach the breakfast area. And each morning at the Hotel Ypé the small Brazilian man who was up to serve the breakfast tried to make conversation with me. Despite my complete lack of Portuguese and his complete lack of English, we did OK—sometimes using Spanish as a common medium. We talked about the cold air, the rain in the night, the bird feeders, the wondrous array of fruits and breads laid out for our consumption. There is something refreshing about being in a part of the world where you cannot speak the local language. It resets one's brain I think.
BOTB waiting for Breakfast of the Birders.

Paulo and the rest of our group soon strolled into the breakfast area and we began loading up on strong coffee, eggs, and fruit. The small bananas and papaya halves were much sweeter than those we can get in the U.S. Knowing we'd be out for an entire day, we ate big, grabbed our bag lunches, and headed out into the still dark morning for the bus.
How do you say "carbs" in Portuguese?

Dusky-headed guans were now calling up the sun and our first glimpse of a gray-necked wood-rail occurred before we'd gone 50 yards. I felt a tinge of regret at not spending the morning photographing and watching the birds at the hotel's feeders, but Paulo assured me that we'd have time for that before we left Itatiaia.

Our destination today was to be the high mountains along Agulhas Negras (Black Needles) Road, so named for the long, vertical, black spires of stone on the tallest peaks. We'd be up at 8,000 feet at the highest point, and along the way, we'd be looking for some of the rarer endemics of southeastern Brazil.

Along the main highway, we stopped to scan a flock of curl-crested jays—a large blue, white, and black jay, with an Elvis Presley "D-A" curl on its head. We got good looks but were not close enough for photos.

Our morning coffee stop.

A few miles farther along we stopped for a bathroom and coffee break at a roadside rest with an adjacent bar/restaurant/convenience store. The tiny cups of coffee offered by the old man operating the store were just what was needed to fight the morning chill and clear the travel fog from our brains. Standing in the dark shop, drinking the coffee, my eyes settled on a package of toilet paper in the counter display case. It was SNOB brand toilet paper. The shopkeeper obliged when we asked Paulo to ask him to bring it out so we could photograph it. But I'm not sure he understood why we thought it was so funny—or worth photographing.

Back outside we scored a few more birds, including good looks at rufous-collared sparrow, which defines the word ubiquitous. Diademed tanager was our next new and exciting bird, but we'd see them even better later in the day.
Rufous-collared sparrow.

A mile or so later we left the paved highway behind and turned right, onto a long, straight road that sloped ever upward. The forest towered on both sides, often closing in like a roof overhead. This was the road to Picos das Agulhas Negras: Black Needles Peaks. Cesar, our driver, let us out into the still-cool air and we began seeing and hearing birds. Swallow-tailed tanager, a white-barred piculet, several birds with "ant" as part of their name called out but were not seen. As the sun heated up the earth and air, the birds were becoming more active. We re-boarded the bus.

It would not be long before we were driving above the clouds.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Tawny-browed Owl

At the very end of our first day in Itatiaia National Park in Brazil, we added a new species for the trip as we stepped out of the bus upon returning to our hotel.

We heard it calling in the trees in the hotel garden. It was easy to spot this bird. It was a large owl, called a tawny-browed owl. To my North American ears and eyes the tawny-browed owl looked like a barred owl had been stuffed into the skin of a juvenile saw-whet owl, but the bird sounded like a hoarse eastern screech-owl.

We spent about ten minutes watching the owl. I snapped a few images and took this short video, too.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thrilled about the Frilled Coquette

Female blue dacnis. I think she's more beautiful than her mate.

Itatiaia National Park in Brazil's Atlantic Forest is located in the southeastern part of the country. When the park was created in the late 1930s, it was thought that people should live inside of it, too. So there are a few private homes inside the park as well as a number of modest hotels and eco-lodges. We were spending a hour or so in the yard of one of these inside-the-park houses, owned by a bird lover named Norma.

Waiting in Norma's yard, our guide Paulo Boute told us about some of the park's history and gave us a bit more information about our quest bird, a Brazilian endemic: the frilled coquette.

Though the frilled coquette is not typically a feeder visitor, it regularly appeared at Norma's feeders. Our guess was that the thick cover nearby to her feeder set-up made the coquette feel safer here.
Bananaquits were regulars at Norma's feeders.

The definition of the word "coquette" is: A woman who makes teasing sexual or romantic overtures; a flirt.

This species had been sought by other bird watchers and photographers, right here in this very place. In some cases days had gone past with no sightings. Was this bird going to live up to its name and tease us by not appearing?

We had a few close calls. Five pairs of binocs would shoot up to five pairs of eyes when any small hummer flew into view. Each time we were disappointed. Then, like a microscopic apparition, the coquette was there, perching on a tiny vine near Norma's porch roof.
Frilled coquette male at the feeder.

Note the male's tiny red bill.

We all got great looks—and what a stunner! It was a glorious male and as he scanned the activity around the feeders and flowers, he inadvertently showed off his crest, bright throat, and his spectacular namesake neck feathers.
Flashing his frills.

I began snapping photos, but the bird was so tiny and the light was failing so quickly that I had a hard time finding the bird when it perched in a shaded spot. My companions helped me out by calling to me when the saw the bird teed up in a good spot. So I should share the credit for these images with Paulo, Chuck, Terry, Pete, Cesar, and Norma for their patience and spotting skills.

I'm fairly certain this is the smallest bird I've ever seen, at less than 3 inches long. The male frilled coquette has a tiny, straight, reddish bill and striking tones of white, green, and rufous. After visiting the feeders several times, our bird settled down for a rest. This was when I took most of my photographs, twiddling between camera settings trying to get sharp images. I think I got a few keepers.
The coquette could raise and lower its crest depending on the situation and its mood.

Finally darkness forced us to take our leave from Norma and her coquette. We walked down the road in the dusk, exclaiming about the birds we'd seen and telling horrible jokes (I may have started this unfortunate activity, I cannot remember). Ah! What a day it had been!
Rear view of the frilled coquette. The dorsal band is a good field mark for this species and the festive coquette.

Doesn't it look like this bird's head is on fire?

Little did we know, we had one more new bird yet to encounter...

I am a male but I can behave coquettishly, too!

Close-up of the head of the male frilled coquette. What a frill it was to see him!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Brazil Day 1: Morning

On the road to Itatiaia National Park.

I left the Atlanta airport late on the night of Wednesday, July 8 on an overnight flight to São Paulo, Brazil. No I was not fleeing the country, I was heading way down south and east to sample the bird life of South America's largest country at the invite of Leica Sport Optics. Terry Moore, Leica's vice president for sport optics (and super avid birder) was our host for the trip. Also along for the adventure were two other well-known birder/friends, Chuck Hagner, editor of Birder's World magazine, and Pete Dunne, author, birding raconteur, and director of Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey.

We got on the Boeing 777, stowed our bags, and tried in our own ways to get some sleep on the 9 hour flight. I slept for exactly 13 minutes. These were the final 13 minutes before we touched down in Brazil, with my head and neck in the upright and locked position. During the flight I worked, glanced through the Brazil field guide, watched some horrible movies (none—thank the gods—starring my airplane movie nemesis, Matthew McConaughey), and enjoyed various amounts of snoring and drool from my fellow passengers (my own trip companions excluded).

Stepping off the airplane (and hoping the feeling would soon return to my lower extremities) the cool air of winter in the southern hemisphere greeted us. I wondered at that moment if I'd brought enough warm gear. It turned out I'd brought JUST enough.

There to meet us for our week of bird watching in Brazil was our guide (and one of Brazil's most accomplished field birders) Paolo Boute of Boute Expeditions. Into the Renault combi-van we went and in moments we were roaring through the crowded streets of São Paulo, headed toward the mountains of Itatiaia National Park (pronounced Eat-ta-CHY-ah). Along the way we made a stop at the house of a friend of Paulo's.

The house was shades of blue, green and yellow. The green walls enclosing the courtyard perfectly complemented the green bedsheets hung out to dry. Our hosts made us espresso coffee that was just the ticket for sleepyhead birders. It had the consistency of pancake batter. I was thereafter hooked on it and spent much of my time in Brazil trying to score just one more tiny cup of the beneficial brew.
Courtyard on the outskirts of São Paulo.

This is when the birds started appearing.

The sun was up and warming the trees along the roadway. My first Brazil bird (that was NOT a house sparrow, rock pigeon, or black vulture) was a blue-winged parrotlet. This was followed immediately by a strange hummingbird and a strange tanager. We would be seeing 17 additional hummingbird species and 21 additional tanager species in the ensuing 7 days, but these were our first ones and therefore, special.
Blue-winged parrotlets.

The first hummingbird was a swallow-tailed hummingbird and the tanager was a hooded tanager. Then some waxbills, and a white-barred piculet, and an unidentified hummer, and the ever-present great kiskadees. Oh, it was ON, bro!
Hooded tanager.

Birding in the São Paulo 'burbs.

We drove to the town of Itatiaia and stopped a few times along the way to scope birds. I was in a fog, but still managed looks at social flycatcher, Brazilian teal, and yellow-headed caracara.
As we left the main highway and headed up a narrow mountain road, we left the noise and unpleasantness of civilization behind us. Ahead were forests and shadowy trails where we'd meet many new birds in the next four days.

Halfway up the mountains to our hotel in Itatiaia NP. From left: Paulo Boute, Terry Moore, Pete Dunne, BOTB. Photo by Chuck Hagner.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Blue Dacnis

Male blue dachnis displaying to a nearby female in Itatiaia National Park.

I have a confession to make. I've been in Brazil since July 9. I got home early on Wednesday morning after an all-night plane ride.

Brazil was incredible. I saw more than 225 species—most of which were life birds. There are many images and tales to share. Right now I am in re-entry mode. As soon as things settle down a bit, we'll head way down south for some Brazilian birds (and I DID see about a brazillion birds down there!).

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