"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 places in the world to see Giant Anteater and 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 seven or eight species, including the beautiful Swallow-tailed 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 Ribeirao Preto and start our tour at Canastra; our four night stay here should yield sightings of Giant Anteater and a multitude of grassland birds. There is even a chance of one of the world’s rarest ducks, the Brazilian Merganser. From here we will drive east and have two nights enjoying the rugged beauty of Serra do Cipo. This is the only place in the world where the recently discovered Cipo Canastero can be found. From Cipo we will move to Caraca, to stay two 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. Finally, we will drive towards Rio, breaking our journey with a night in Juiz de Fora. We will have a day birding in Serra dos Orgaos NP, before continuing on to Serra dos Tucanos, a British-owned eco-lodge. Situated in the heart of some of the best preserved Atlantic forest, the lodge is a lovely place to spend the last four nights. 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….
Having arrived in Ribeirao Preto we will drive to Canastra, our base for the first four nights. Our hotel here looks across to a dramatic escarpment, and we will spend the next few days exploring both the lower section, with its forests and rivers, and upper section of open grassland. This is a particularly beautiful area and the birding is very rewarding. On the higher section we can expect displaying Cock-tailed Tyrant as well as Greater Rhea, Spotted Nothura, White-vented Violet-ear, Brasilia Tapaculo, Black-masked Finch, and the rare and local Ochre-breasted Pipit. At the dramatic Casca d’Anta waterfall, we can watch Sooty, Biscutate and Great Dusky Swifts.
In the lower section there are masses of birds; Whistling Heron, King Vulture, Grey-necked Wood-rail, Red-legged Seriema, Golden-capped Parakeet, Toco Toucan, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Helmeted Manakin, Crested Black-tyrant, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Cinnamon Tanager and Plush-crested Jay. We will spend some time searching for Brazilian Merganser. This fascinating species occurs on clear streams and rivers and nests in holes in the escarpment. It numbers perhaps just 200 pairs in the world and Canastra is the best place to look for it.
Various mammals are possible at Canastra. Most are elusive, such as Giant Armadillo, Maned Wolf, Ocelot and Mountain Lion. One, however, is reliably seen: the wonderful Giant Anteater can be found raiding termite nests that are dotted across the open grassy plains.
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 a rugged terrain, resembling somewhat the upland parts of the Peak District or Yorkshire Dales, and bird diversity is not high. When we move to the lower section of the park, however, we will find birds in abundance such as Horned Sungem, White-eared Puffbird, White Woodpecker, Firewood-gatherer, Hooded Tanager, Pileated Finch, Yellow-rumped Marshbird and Capped Seedeater. We will have two full days birding here before we drive south-east to Caraca, our base for the next two 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 stones-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, 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 TUCANOS
On day ten we will reluctantly leave Caraca, and head towards Rio, breaking our journey with a night in Juiz de Fora. From here we will visit the outstanding Serra dos Orgaos, with its multitude of tanagers, hummingbirds and other species, before moving on to spend our final four nights at Serra dos Tucanos Lodge. Set up, owned and managed by enterprising British birder, Andy Foster, this lodge is perfectly situated to explore the mountain forests of Tres Picos. One valley resounds to the calls of Bare-throated Bellbird, an incredible all-white cotinga. 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, Sombre Hummingbird, 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 reluctantly drive the short distance back to Rio airport, allowing plenty of time for our evening flight home.
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. 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 four nights at the Pousada Horizonte, Canastra, two nights at the Cipo Veraneio Hotel, two nights at Caraca Monastery, one night at the Victory Hotel, Juiz de Fora, and four nights at Serra dos Tucanos Lodge. The hotels are of a good standard with en suite bathrooms. The monastery has rooms that are rather plain, but nevertheless clean and spacious. Packed lunches will be taken when necessary.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 20th, ending with lunch on 2nd), soft drinks, local transport by coach, all flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from London Heathrow to Ribeirao Preto (via Sao Paulo), returning from Rio de Janeiro, using the scheduled services of TAM. Outbound flight departs mid-evening, return flight arrives back mid-afternoon. 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 Tucanos Lodge!
The Atlantic Forest is full of colourful tanagers. This Red-necked Tanager was in the garden at Tucanos Lodge.
Red-legged Seriema is reliable in the grasslands at Canastra.
We will look for the critically endangered Brazilian Merganser at Canastra.
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!
click here to see the photographs in our SE Brazil Album
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