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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