Our group left Itatiaia National Park on Sunday, retracing our route to where our journey began just three days earlier – the Rio de Janeiro Airport. We flew from Rio to Brazilia, changed planes and then flew into Cuiaba where we picked up a rental car and started driving to Pousada Currupira d’Araras. It was a long travel day, with very little birding. The only stop we made was to get gas, and I saw five new species in that time period!
The title of the trip I am on is “Brazil – Of Harpy Eagles and Jaguars,” and our target bird in Currupira was the harpy eagle. Our tour guide discovered an active harpy eagle’s nest in this area about 12 years ago, and has been monitoring the nest since that time. This was our one and only shot to see this species on the whole trip. If we didn’t see it while we were at Currupira, we would not see it anywhere else the remainder of the trip.
The habitat, terrain and weather here was night and day from Itatiaia. We went from a mountainous rainforest to a hot desert, with temperatures soaring well over 100 degrees – much more to my liking!
Not only did the temperature heat up, but so did the birding activity. When we arrived in Currupira on Sunday, I already had 138 species on my trip list since arriving in Brazil on Thursday. Our first day of birding in Currupira resulted in 63 new species for the day, but no harpy eagle.
The next morning we worked very hard to find the pair of eagles. We scoured the trees, looking for this enormous species – it is a full meter long (39 inches)! This is a bird so big it would be hard to miss if it were in the area. Ironically, in our searching, we discovered probably one of the smallest birds in the world, the short-tailed pygmy tyrant. It is listed as being 2.4 inches long, which is smaller than any bird I know of. We teased our guide, “How is it possible that you could find the smallest bird in the forest, and yet you cannot find the largest bird in the forest?”
Unfortunately, we never did find the eagles. But our brief time in Currupira, and our birding en route to our new destination, netted a fantastic number of new birds. After birding one day in the Pantanal, we added an additional 52 species to our trip list, bringing our total species count to 291 species in six days, which is more species than I saw on my entire 25-day trip to Africa in 2009! Needless to say, I am loving this experience.
In addition to all of the birds we are seeing, we have started spotting a lot more mammals in this region, including coati, collared peccary, tapir, capybara, agouti, capuchin monkey, several species of deer, and more caiman then you can imagine. The abundance of animals coexisting in small pools of water is profound.
Birding in the Pantanal area is a little easier in the sense that the forest is not so dense. There are huge rivers in this area, and we have taken several boat trips looking for birds as well as mammals. The amenities have been great and the food has been fantastic. Really, the only challenge has been enduring the dirt roads!
At one point we traveled the Transpantaniera Road for 120 kilometers, crossing 121 lane bridges made out of wood. Last week my teeth were chattering because I was so cold. This week my teeth are rattling in my head because of the rutted roads. I couldn’t be happier, though, as seeing new birds throughout the day brings me great joy.