Sunday, November 18, 2018

Brazil days 4 & 5 - transit birding

Yesterday we left the Pantanal towards the second leg of our trip. We spent the day along the Transpantaneira road that connect Porto Jofre with Pocone. It was nice to experience some open habitats - vast wetlands and cerrado. We picked up a few birds (eBird checklist here) and mammals along the road:

Rhea - what an odd bird

Red-legged Seriema

Scarlet-headed Blackbird

Maguari Stork

Sunbittern - still didn't get the perfect shot

 Black-tailed Marmoset

A short boat trip out of Pixaim did not produce the much-wanted Agami Heron often seen there, but there were some other birds (eBird checklist here) and mammals to be seen.

Jabiru head detail

Howler Monkey - which version is better?

We arrived in Cuiaba in the afternoon, said goodbye to Fernando and finally connected with our lost luggage. Today we took an early morning flight back to Sao Paulo, and met up with Marco our guide. We got a good introduction to Atlantic Forest birding at Salesopolis. Despite the horrible midday hour and heat, we scored with the recently discovered and Critically Endangered Sao Paulo (AKA Marsh) Antwren. We saw a male and a female, and heard another male. These are top-quality birds.  Sadly my photos are not. They were not easy to photograph, and the light conditions were awful. 

 Sao Paulo Antwren - female

There were quite a few birds in the marsh and neighbouring forest - obviously most were new to us, so I photographed what I could, for documentation, despite the terrible quality:

Shear-tailed Gray Tyrant

Yellow-legged Thrush

Pale-bellied Thrush and Glittering-bellied Emerald

Fawn-breasted Tanager

 Double-collared Seedeater

Then it was a loooooong drive through crazy holiday traffic to our accommodation for the next few nights, in Ubatuba county. Good night.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Brazil Pantanal day 3 - fish fest

Another great day in the Pantanal, despite the increasing mosquito load. The morning boat trip with Pantanal Nature produced another Jaguar encounter, our fifth in total. We intercepted a huge male swimming across the river, just too late before it reached the shore and disappeared promptly into the forest:

Again we had breathtaking experiences with actively feeding Giant Otters. Amazing to see them fish together, fight over fish, scream, so close we could hear the fish bones crush between their teeth:

Hungry Anhingas

Disgusting Black Vulture

Again lots of good birds (eBird chcklist here). Back at Panthera ranch birds were very active before the rain.

What goes in

Needs to go out (Buff-necked ibis)

I'm a screamer!

After the rain had stopped in the afternoon we birded on foot and by car around the camp and along the Transpantaneira road. Nice to experience some open country birding.

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Barred Antshrike

We stayed out until darkness fell. On the way back we had a fantastic encounter with an Ocelot that crossed the road, and say many nightjars, mainly Common Pauraque.

eBird checklist here.  Many thanks to Fernando for a great afternoon.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Brazil Pantanal day 2

Another fantastic day here in the Pantanal with Panthera and Pantanal Nature. We went out on the boat in the morning and in the afternoon. We had a breathtaking Jaguar encounter with a wild, un-habituated male. We followed him from a distance for a while. He pounced on a Cayman but missed. Wow.

We also had a lovely time with a Giant Otter family group during torrential rain - we ended up as wet as the otters. Photos, even videos don't do them justice. The way the move in the water, their breaths, the contact calls - just brilliant. 

We had lots of birds today (eBird checklist here), but I still feel we are just skimming the surface. There was no shortage in quality and in colour today:

Hyacinth Macaws


Rufous-tailed Jacamar

So many images to edit, so little time...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Brazil Pantanal day 1

After a long and exhausting trip, including lost luggage (still!) and delayed flights we finally arrived last night at Porto Jofre in the Pantanal. We are kindly hosted by in their lovely accommodation. I couldn't wait for first light, and my first hour of birding in Latin America was indeed mind-blowing. All those new sounds and sights. We took two boat trips today, with Pantanal Nature. Our main target was successful - we had awesome encounters with three different Jaguars - incredible! On top of that we saw tons of cool birds (eBird checklist here) and other animals. Here is just a very quick taster - so much more to follow:


Giant Otter

Capped Heron
Orange-winged Parrot

Pale-legged Horonero

White-headed Marsh Tyrant

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Patch rosefinch

This morning I did my routine morning walk with Bamba (my dog) in my very local patch, wadi Ekron near my house. The autumn is coming to close here - at least for me, as tomorrow I'm going away for a couple of weeks. Weather was nice and there were birds around. While walking and birding I thought of the birds I found this autumn on patch, and of those that I really wanted to and did not, like Daurian Shrike, Siberian Stonechat and Common Rosefinch. I decided to give the rosefinch one last try and played music near a concentration of finches. No response. I walked on and birded without any dramas. While walking back, I heard that familiar call, and saw a finch flying towards me - Common Rosefinch! I was very keen to document it, but I did not carry my heavy camera system this morning. I shot off home, grabbed my camera and raced back to the spot. It took me a while to relocate the bird, but eventually it showed OK. Phew. Typically for this time of year it's in moult and not exactly attractive.

I seem to be having a good season for them - this is the third I have found. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

I love my new camera

A few days ago I said goodbye to my old Canon 7D mk1. My followers know how much I have been complaining about it in recent months - it certainly took me far too much time to scrap it and geא a new camera. I contemplated making a big move to mirrorless Olympus system, but at the moment I have no mental capacity for such big moves. So I went for a rather uninspiring upgrade, to Canon 7D mk2. Since I got it I have been out twice but pretty briefly, and without time for proper photo sessions to get to know all its new features. Yesterday I posted some photos from the southern Arava that I think are pretty good. I was very pleased with the focusing system and with the shutter release speed. Makes shooting birds in flight much more efficient - my favourite type of photography.

On Wednesday I had a meeting in Ma'agan Michael towards the construction of a new bird park there. Conveniently, we had the meeting on an observation tower, at eye level with lots of passing birds. It was my first trial of the camera, and I was unfamiliar with all the buttons yet. My boss was rightfully annoyed that rather than contributing scientific wisdom to the meeting I fired off photos at every passing bird, like a child with a new toy. Well actually that's exactly what I am... Luckily my boss knows me well enough to forgive me for these minor incidents (I hope...).
Here's the first batch:

Great White Pelicans

Asian Black-winged Kite

Pied Kingfisher

White-winged Tern - still in full summer plumage

During this work visit we drove around the proposed bird park, and actually saw tons of birds. eBird checklist here.