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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Birding in the Pantanal

As any birder knows, keeping a list of birds identified is an essential part of every trip, yet some forget that this is only one measure of many that can be used to represent the success of a journey. In
Rufous Hornero nest
our eight days in the Pantanal and three more in the cerrado near Chapada, Brazil, I identified 125 species of birds. I consider that a real success given 1) this was not a "birding" trip but a wildlife tour and 2) I did not work hard to specifically pad the list. Many birds remained unidentified. Parrots and parakeets were maddeningly difficult for me as were the Columbids.
Birds identified included ones familiar from home (Osprey, Great Egret, House Sparrow, etc.) to those that I knew of from their rare appearances in the ABA area (Jabiru and Roadside Hawk) to those with incredibly exotic sounding names that remind you that home is very far away (Toco Toucan, Greater Rhea, Southern Screamer, Amazon Kingfisher, Helmeted Manakin).
In the Pantanal birds were literally everywhere. Photograph capybaras wading neck-deep into the water: Cattle Tyrant hops from one head to another. Stop the boat for a bathroom break under a shady tree: Great Antshrike and Masked Gnatcatcher bounce from limb to limb. Turn your head to the left to keep the bright sun out of your eyes: Maguari Stork flying parallel to the boat. Stop to look at black howler monkeys: Squirrel Cuckoo takes the spotlight.
And it is stories like these that are behind the numbers on the list that make a trip so memorable. Memories like rounding a bend on the Paraguay River and flushing 50 jet-black Neotropical Cormorants from the trees and an equal number of pure white Snowy Egrets from the sand bar only to watch them commingle into a flock of nuns stampeding through the air. Or standing stock still one evening in the town square as twenty Ladder-tailed Nightjars catch insects above the illuminated 230-year-old church that is the centerpiece of this small town. Or my last species, a Red-winged Tinamou, running across the road as we headed to the airport, and home...
But mine is a visual blog, so I present here my top ten photographed avian encounters of the trip:
10. Great Rhea: At five feet, this is the tallest bird in South America and one of my target species. After seeing Emu in Australia and both Ostrich species in Africa, I wanted to add their New World cousin to my life list.
Curious Rhea
9. Snail Kite: Common. Very common. As in, everywhere. Check out that beak!
Snail Kite, Pantanal
I guess you need a beak like that when the snails look like this:
8. Sunbittern: This is a good looking bird that becomes a real stunner when it flies.
Slightly out of focus, but it sure shows the amazing wing pattern Sunbitterns have.

7. Hyacinth Macaw: A signature species of this habitat, the Hyacinth Macaw is a bird that was on the brink of extinction and is now making a slow but steady comeback through some interesting conservation measures. The Pantanal is almost entirely privately owned so buy-in from the ranch owners is essential. to the survival of this ecosystem. Artificial nestboxes and redistribution of eggs to foster parents are two techniques that are being employed to increase the numbers of these raucous birds.

6. Chestnut-eared Aricari: What a fascinating mix of colors, both feather and beak.
5.Blue-and-yellow Macaw: We visited a pond specifically to watch for macaws to fly in. We saw three species of macaws here and I got some interesting artsy photos as the sun was setting...
4. Wattled Jacana: These are some really nice looking birds and I took lots of pictures of them. My favorite jacana shot is this one

3. Toco Toucan: This is the bird from the cereal boxes of my youth. Simply put, he looks like a crow carrying a banana.
Toco Toucan
Look closely at this second photo. I never could get a great look at this individual. Laura spotted him and alerted me to the deformed bill. How in the world is this bird functioning???
2. Large-billed Tern: A well named bird: that really IS a large bill :)

1. Jabiru: By far, the most fun bird to view and photograph in the Pantanal was the Jabiru, a stork that reaches 5 feet in height with an 8 foot wingspan. Their nests are large and located in unobstructed areas.

Long post! Thanks for hanging in there!!! :)

1 comment:

  1. beautiful. The Jabiru is such a strange looking bird!!!


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