"Thanks again for another superb trip that more than met our expectations."...... Mr and Mrs J, Redditch, October 2009
''thank you for giving us such a great two weeks, truly memorable and one of the best
trips we have done.''...... Mrs M, Marlow, October 2011
"Just to say how pleased we are to have found Bird Holidays. Thank you for a super trip."...... Mr and Mrs J, S Yorks, Nov 2013
Some of the rarest and most unusual-looking creatures on the planet are found in the forests, mountains and grasslands of south-east Brazil. Due to historical isolation, many species have evolved here and can be found nowhere else on earth. From tiny endemic hummingbirds, such as the Hyacinth Visorbearer to spectacular King Vultures, there is fantastic diversity in the birdlife. Mammals are a particular draw on this itinerary; we will visit arguably the best place in the world to see Maned Wolf.
The diverse and unusual bird family of cotingas includes many outrageous-looking species. All are highly sought-after and many are rare and difficult to find. On this itinerary we can hope for six or seven species, including the beautiful Swallow-tailed Cotinga, the evocative Black-and-Gold Cotinga, the incessantly noisy Bare-throated Bellbird and Grey-winged Cotinga, one of the rarest birds on the planet. Our local guide hit the headlines when he rediscovered the Kinglet Caliptura; his find constituted the only fully authenticated twentieth century sighting of this tiny cotinga. Although we will visit the site, there have not yet been any further sightings….
Having arrived at Sao Paulo, we will fly up to Belo Horizonte and start our tour with three nights enjoying the rugged beauty of Serra do Cipo. This is the only place in the world where the recently discovered Cipo Cinclodes and Cipo Canastero can be found. Pristine cerrado habitat is home to such delights as Horned Sungem, White Woodpecker and Cinnamon Tanager. From here we will move to Caraca, to stay three nights in a remote monastery in the hills east of Belo Horizonte. The monastery is famous for its Maned Wolves, and we will also see many birds of the Atlantic forest. Our next destination is Teresopolis, from where we will have two days birding in the dramatic Serra dos Orgaos NP. This is our guide’s local patch and no one knows the area more intimately. Finally, we will continue on to Itororo Lodge, under the expert guidance of Andy Foster, formerly of the famous Tucanos Lodge. Andy recently moved his operations to the new place, situated in the heart of some of the best preserved Atlantic forest. We will take day trips into the surrounding hills, whilst the gardens have feeders and flowering trees that attract a multitude of birds, ensuring that there will never be a dull moment. There never is in south-east Brazil….
SERRA DO CIPO NATIONAL PARK
Serra do Cipo is a wild and beautiful place. The habitat is natural campo (grassland), with numerous rocky outcrops, whilst in the lower section of the park there is cerrado and gallery forest, both adding to the diversity of bird, animal and plant life. We will look for several special birds amongst the rocky outcrops. Hyacinth Visorbearer, Grey-backed Tachuri, Pale-throated Serra Finch, Plumbeous Warbling-finch and Cipo Canastero are the specialities; the latter was discovered as recently as 1985. This is rugged terrain, resembling parts of the Peak District or Yorkshire Dales, and bird diversity is not high.
When we move to the lower section of the park we will find birds in abundance. Cerrado is one of Brazil’s most threatened habitats, but here large tracts have been preserved. In this savannah-like landscape birdwatching is a real pleasure. Species such as Toco Toucan, Horned Sungem, White-eared Puffbird, Chequered Woodpecker, White Woodpecker, Firewood-gatherer, Cinereous Warbling Finch and White-rumped Tanager vie for our attention. The cerrado is interrupted by patches of gallery forest which line the numerous rivers. Helmeted Manakin, Stripe-breasted Starthroat, Hooded Tanager, Pileated Finch and Flavescent Warbler are amongst the species in this habitat, whilst grassy areas are home to Campo Flicker, Yellow-rumped Marshbird, Streamer-tailed Tyrant and Capped Seedeater. Occasionally at this time of year an afternoon shower provokes a mass emergence of winged adult termites. This spectacular event provides a bounty for almost every bird, lizard, bat and other creature imaginable, that crams as much protein into its belly, crop and mouth as it can.
As recently as 2012, yet another new species was discovered here, the Cipo Cinclodes. We were thrilled to see them on our last visit. In fact, they are rather easy to find, making it all the more inexplicable how they remained undetected for so long. We will have three days birding here before we drive south-east to Caraca, our base for the next three nights.
Set amid forest-covered mountains to the east of Belo Horizonte, the monastery at Caraca is a great base from which to birdwatch. The places we will visit are all within a stone’s throw of the monastery. We can expect a large diversity of Atlantic forest species, the highlight of which may well be Swallow-tailed Cotinga. In addition there is Dusky-legged Guan, Blackish Rail, Biscutate Swift, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Suracua Trogon, Robust Woodpecker, Pale-browed Treehunter, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Ochre-faced Tody-flycatcher, Grey-eyed Greenlet, Magpie Tanager, Gilt-edged Tanager and Brassy-breasted Tanager.
Maned Wolves occur in the surrounding forest, and one or two individuals appear at night at the entrance to the monastery, attracted to kitchen scraps put out by the monks. Like over-sized urban foxes, these magnificent creatures are seen almost every night, allowing a rare glimpse into their otherwise secretive world.
SERRA DOS ORGAOS NATIONAL PARK
On day eight we will reluctantly leave Caraca, and make the only long drive of the trip, down to the pretty hill town of Teresopolis. From here we will visit the outstanding Serra dos Orgaos, with its multitude of tanagers, hummingbirds and other species. This is Ricardo’s home ground and it is a privilege to spend time with him in the forest here. There is not a single squeak, squawk, tick or trill that he does not recognise, and after two days we will no doubt have a long list of exciting species. It is impossible to list them all, but highlights may include Mantled Hawk, Azure-shouldered Tanager, White-bibbed Antbird, Grey-hooded Attila, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Rough-legged Tyrannulet and Greenish Schiffornis. One valley resounds to the calls of Bare-throated Bellbird, an incredible all-white cotinga.
We will then move on to spend our final five nights at Itororo Lodge. This is ‘the new Tucanos Lodge’, used by guide Andy Foster as a base to explore the mountain forests of Tres Picos. Both Black-and-Gold and Grey-winged Cotinga can be found; look at a distribution map of the latter and you’ll need a magnifying glass to see its tiny world range. The curious Sharpbill is traditionally placed with the cotingas, but more recently it has been classified in a family of its own. Hooded Berryeater may also be found, adding to our tally of cotingas.
The list of other species here is long. Special mention should be made of Ash-throated Crake, Saw-billed Hermit, Plovercrest, Three-toed Jacamar, Spot-billed Toucanet, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Giant Antshrike, Serra Antwren, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Hangnest Tody-tyrant, Yellow-backed Tanager, Flame-crested Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Half-collared Sparrow, White-browed Blackbird and Long-billed Wren. Mammals are occasionally seen including Tufted-ear Marmoset, Brown Howler Monkey, Coati and perhaps Maned Three-toed Sloth.
After fourteen wonderful days in Brazil, we will drive the short distance back to Rio airport, allowing plenty of time for our late evening flight home.
CLIMATE AND PACE
We can expect warm or hot weather throughout. Rain is likely at some time during the trip, but normally comes in short sharp showers. On most days breakfast will be at 7am so that we can get into the field quite early. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field with short/medium length walks on the flat. A little uphill walking is necessary, but this will be at a sensible pace. The walk to look for Cipo Canastero is on rough, rocky ground, short, but a bit steep in places. On hot days there will be a longer break in the middle of the day, with birding in the mornings and late afternoons.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided with three nights at the Fazenda Monolos Pousada, Cipo, three nights at Caraca Monastery, two nights at the Alpina Hotel, Teresopolis, and five nights at Itororo Lodge. The hotels are of a good standard with en suite bathrooms. The monastery has rooms that are rather plain, but nevertheless clean, spacious and en suite.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 3rd, ending with lunch on 16th), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, and internal flights and international flights.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from London Heathrow to Belo Horizonte (via Sao Paulo), returning direct from Rio de Janeiro, using the scheduled services of British Airways. Outbound flight departs mid-evening, return flight arrives back midday. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are avaiable on this tour. See booking form for details.
The localised Hyacinth Visorbearer is regularly found at Cipo National Park.
The Three-toed Jacamar is another species with a highly restricted world range.
Slaty-breasted Wood-rails are regular in the garden at Itororo Lodge.
The Atlantic Forest is full of colourful tanagers. The Red-necked Tanager is a stunner.
Red-legged Seriema is reliable in the grasslands at Cipo.
All the cotingas are nice, but the Swallow-tailed really takes some beating.
Maned Wolf at Caraca. They have been visiting every night for nearly 30 years!
The beautiful Swallow Tanager is common on this itinerary.
click here to see the photographs in our SE Brazil Album
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