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11 July - 05 August 2006

by Andrew Whitehouse

The Boy in Brazil

I'm just back from three and a half weeks birding in Rio de Janeiro state, southeast Brazil, from 11th July - 5th August. I had a rather wonderful time, clocking up 318 species and, with this being my first trip to the Neotropics, almost all were new for me. Over the next few weeks I'll post descriptions of day-to-day birding but I'll start with some bits about where I stayed etc.

Basic itinerary:

11/07/06 Flew with Air France from Aberdeen via Paris to Rio.
12/07/06 - 22/07/06 Arrived at Rio airport early morning and picked up by driver and taken to Serra dos Tucanos lodge near Cachoeiras de Macacu. Staying at Serra dos Tucanos with regular excursions elsewhere.
22/07/06 - 27/07/06 Staying at the lodge at Reserve Ecologicia Guapi Assu (REGUA), also near Cachoeiras de Macacu.
27/07/06 - 30/07/06 Travel by bus via Rio to Itatiaia National Park, staying at Hotel Donati.
30/07/06 - 31/07/06 Travel by bus via Rio to Angra dos Reis. Staying at Hotel Londres overnight with some birding in the morning.
31/07/06 - 03/08/06 Travel by boat to Ilha Grande, staying at Overnativa hostel.
03/08/06 - 05/08/06 Travel by boat and bus to Rio. Staying overnight at Botafogo Easy Hostel, then flight via Paris to Aberdeen, arriving back on 5th.

More detailed description of sites:

Serra dos Tucanos Lodge

Serra dos Tucanos is a birding lodge a few miles north of Cachoieras de Macacu on the road to Nova Friburgo. The lodge is set in some excellent forest through which there are a number of trails. The gardens of the lodge have a number of feeders which are very good for some seriously laid-back birding. The lodge is run by English birder Andy Foster and his wife Cristina and provides full board accommodation. Andy also runs excursions most days. During my stay I birded as follows:

12/07/06 Birding the lodge grounds.
13/07/06 Serra dos Orgaos National Park.
14/07/06 High altitude trail at Pico Caledonia near Nova Friburgo.
15/07/06 Bamboo trail near Theodoro in the morning. Birding the lodge grounds in the afternoon.
16/07/06 Birding the lodge grounds.
17/07/06 High altitude trail lower section near Nova Friburgo.
18/07/06 Coastal excursion to Praia Seca.
19/07/06 Morning excursion to Theodoro Trail. Afternoon, birding lodge grounds.
20/07/06 Three-toed Jacamar excursion to Sumidouro and Duas Barras.
21/07/06 Excursion to wetlands at REGUA in the morning. Afternoon, birding the lodge grounds.
22/07/06 Birding lodge grounds in the morning.

I thought Serra dos Tucanos was an excellent place to stay and Andy has a very good set up, with excellent excursions often into less well-known areas but also lots of possibilities for doing your own birding. Andy knows the area and the birds extremely well and is also able to put up with unending banter from guests with good humour. I managed around 265 species during my stay at the lodge, including some very difficult endemics. The accommodation is comfortable and they were able to provide me with some good vegetarian food.


Having visited REGUA towards the end of my stay at Serra dos Tucanos and having met a few of the staff, I realised that there were quite a few species to be seen there that I hadn't already encountered. The reserve has a substantial lodge, with panoramic views out over the wetlands and forests towards the Serra dos Orgaos mountain range. Full board at the lodge was $80 per night but if, like me, you stay for five days or more you get a 20% reduction. The price covers pretty much everything including transport to the trails. Your money also goes towards the conservation of the site.

The reserve is very extensive and they're developing a good system of trails. The wetland area is fairly small but the birding is very enjoyable, with a tower hide giving great views. This area is quite low down and there's some important low altitude forest with different species to those I'd seen at Serra dos Tucanos. Many of the trails go much higher up into the mountains, so a very wide range of species is possible.

During my stay I birded as follows:

22/07/06 Wetlands in the afternoon.
23/07/06 Sao Jose trail in the morning then wetlands in the afternoon.
24/07/06 Waterfall trail most of the day then light blue trail and wetlands late afternoon.
25/07/06 Very long walk taking in Waterfall trail, Elfin Forest trail and Lost trail.
26/07/06 Birding the light blue trail and wetlands
27/07/06 Birding the wetlands early morning

I'd have to say that my stay at REGUA was the highlight of the trip for me with excellent birding and very good company. The accommodation and food was of a very high standard. Remarkably, for most of the time I stayed at the lodge I was the only resident.

If and when I go back to southeast Brazil, I shall definitely pay another visit. They're doing excellent conservation work too.

Itatiaia National Park

I stayed at the Hotel Donati, which lies well within the national park and has excellent birding within the grounds. The accommodation is okay but, for the price you pay (around £50 a night for me) it needs a 'lick of paint'. The food, which is included in the price, was very good and, as with other places, voluminous. I was impressed that they seemed to cater for vegetarians - I even got vegeburgers one night! Both full days I had in the park, I birded the trails between the Hotel Donati and the other hotels (the Simon and the do Ype). I didn't do any really high altitude birding at Itatiaia.

I was ready to be slightly disappointed by Itatiaia, given it's huge reputation, but was actually rather impressed. The forest birding, whilst good, isn't actually any better than lots of other places you can go to but the birding in the hotel grounds is excellent, and that's where I saw most of the really good birds.

Angra dos Reis

I stayed here overnight, waiting for a boat to Ilha Grande. There's actually some good forest around the town but it seemed to be inaccessible. I saw a few interesting birds along the shore front in the morning though. The town itself is nothing special. If you arrive by bus, there's an information office about Ilha Grande at the station, which is about a mile from the city centre, although it was closed when I arrived late in the afternoon. There's a tourist office on the way into town, which was pretty unhelpful. Boats leave for Ilha Grande from the main pier in the centre of town. There's a big ferry that goes but a number of other boats take passengers on a regular basis. The info office at the bus station seemed to know about the latter and even sold me a ticket. The main tourist didn't want to tell me about them, it seemed.

Ilha Grande

I stayed at Overnativa hostel in the main village of Abraao.

The hostel's good value and can be booked online. There're heaps of other places to stay on the island though, so I reckon you should normally be able to turn up and find which one you like best.

Ilha Grande is, as the name indicates, a big island which is covered in forest. No cars are allowed and so all travel is either done on foot, by bike (a bit hilly though) or by boat. There are some good trails into the forest, which is really nice although, with it being an island, the species list is probably more restricted than elsewhere.

I enjoyed birding on Ilha Grande, partly because I didn't know too much about what I might see. I picked up a few good species there, although there's nothing you couldn't bump into on the mainland. It would be a good place to go if you wanted to combine birding with a beach holiday.

Rio de Janeiro

I stayed for my final night at Botafogo Easy Hostel:

The hostel is good, located in a central and relatively safe part of the city and can be booked online. On my final morning, I birded the famous botanical gardens in Rio, which are about 15 minutes away by bus. I paid four Reals to get into the gardens, which are very laid back (lots of old folks doing Tai Chi) and a safe place for relaxing birding.


It was very much a game of two halves for weather. The first two-and-a-half weeks was completely dry with hardly a cloud in the sky most of the time. There was some low cloud high in the mountains on the high altitude excursion at Serra dos Tucanos but that was about it. Temperatures were around the mid-20s during the day in the mountains, a bit warmer and sometimes hot lower down. Early mornings and evenings could be fairly cool (you could often see your breath first thing) and I'd recommend taking a fleece if you go in their winter. The folks at REGUA, who are also farmers, were complaining about the persistent dry weather and there were lots of brush fires.

From 29th July onwards the weather turned, with a cold front hanging over the mountains. There was cloud almost constantly with regular and sometimes heavy rain. Temperatures struggled into the low twenties even on the coast.

Despite the wet end to the trip, I reckon I was pretty lucky with the weather. If the rain had been in the first week, that would have been more frustrating and I'd have missed out on a lot of birds. Insects also weren't too much of a problem and, although I got the odd bite, were never a nuisance.

There's a lot to be said for visiting this area in their winter, with temperatures comfortable, the weather relatively dry and the insects not a big problem. Birds aren't singing as much as they would during the breeding season and this means they don't respond as well to playback, but there are lots of entertaining mixed flocks.


Getting around by bus between cities is fairly easy and cheap and the buses are very comfortable. Changing buses at Rio de Janeiro rodoviaria (bus station) is fairly straightforward, although you need to find the kiosk of the company that goes to where you want to go. Buses to Itatiaia are run by Cidade do Aco and buses along the coast to Angra and Parati are run by Costa Verde. The bus station seemed pretty safe to me, although it's in a bit of a rough looking neighbourhood. There's loads of security guards around and I think the only danger is likely to come from pickpockets.

I quite often got taxis e.g. from Serra dos Tucanos to REGUA (70 reals, about £17), Itatiaia village to Hotel Donati (25), Rio bus station to Botafogo (25) and Botafogo to the airport (31). On most of these journeys there are buses which would be cheaper but perhaps more hassle. Incidentally, contra some of the guide books, there seem to be public buses running from Itatiaia village to the hotels within the park so if you want to stay at the cheaper places in the village then you should be able to get high up into the park fairly cheaply and easily.

People and language

Away from tourist areas like Rio and Ilha Grande, not many people speak much English, although in practice this didn't create many problems for me because I was with people who spoke both English and Portuguese. I used the Lonely Planet Brazilian Portuguese phrase book, which is fairly good and helpful with pronunciation.

People are basically really friendly and helpful. You normally get greeted when meeting people out on trails, which isn't something you get in some parts of the world. I faced no security difficulties and never felt in danger from anyone. You'd still be wise to use common sense and keep valuables out of sight in city areas though. Nobody much seemed to be talking about football, after Brazil's world cup failure.


Brazil is pretty good value and the whole trip cost me less than £2000. I reckon I could have done it a bit cheaper if I'd stayed in less comfortable accommodation but an advantage of staying at lodges like REGUA or Serra dos Tucanos is that everything is included in your bill so you don't really need any cash. If you have a credit card or Visa debit card you should be able to use at least some ATMs but probably not all, even if they have Visa signs on them. The Banco do Brasil ATMs at the airport eventually worked for me and some of the ATMs in Rio rodoviaria worked. If you're near a reasonably sized town you should be able to get cash somewhere, although it may take time to sort out.

I didn't take that many bird pictures (was too busy looking at them!) but got a few nice ones, as well as some landscapes.


Serra dos Tucanos Lodge

Day One: 12th July

After arriving early in the morning at Rio airport, waiting ages to go through immigration and then trying and eventually succeeding in getting money from a cash machine I was on my way to Serra dos Tucanos. The two hour journey took me through the northern part of Rio - not the best bit, I think it's fair to say - and then north through mostly agricultural areas.

Arriving for the first time on a continent and then travelling to accommodation is always a somewhat fraught experience for a birder. Almost every bird is likely to be new and I had plenty of 'oh, that looked interesting - no idea what it was' moments. But I did manage to identify a few species, some of which were actually fairly familiar - the flocks of Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets and the ominous looking Black Vultures that seemed to be perched on every lamp-post. My first new bird was the slender looking Neotropical Cormorant, many of which were along the shore in Rio, and I was soon seeing flocks of Magnificent Frigatebirds drifting on the thermals above the harbour and small squadrons of Brown Boobies sailing past the long causway that runs across the inlet lying adjacent to the city. On the way north, Southern Lapwing was noticed in a field and I figured out that most of the hirundines I was seeing were the very smart Blue-and-white Swallows. Approaching Cachoeiras de Macacu I could see tall mountains in the distance and as soon I was through the town the road began to take me into some beautiful rainforest along a steep-sided valley. After a few kilometres I arrived at Serra dos Tucanos and was soon shown to my room by Cristina.

Something I had often imagined before my trip was that first experience of proper birding in South America - hopefully seeing lots of remarkable new birds almost instantly. So it proved, with me looking out onto the hummingbird and banana feeders in the garden of the lodge and seeing an ever changing selection of tanagers and hummers. At the hummingbird feeders, as they almost always were, were Sombre Hummingbirds - each one guarding a set of feeders with great vigilence. Trying to get past these sentries were the more colourful Violet-capped Woodnymphs - perhaps the most widespread hummer of the trip - and a few Bananaquits. The tanagers tucking into the bananas that are put out every morning included the luminous Green-headed and jet black Ruby-crowned Tanagers. Three species of euphonia - Violaceous, Orange-bellied and Chestnut-bellied - were also in attendance. Best of all were the stunningly coloured (and named) Blue-naped Chlorophonias. Periodically, the feeders would be invaded by parties of Plain Parakeets - much more impressive than their name suggests being a beautiful leaf green colour with a subtle blue tone on the flight feathers. On the lawn a pair of smart Masked Water Tyrants hopped about, looking rather like Wheatears despite being unrelated.

Soon I was off for a walk along some of the trails that stretch upwards from the garden and into the forest above. I hadn't got any further than the swimming pool next to the garden when I encountered my first mixed flock of the trip - hordes of birds streaming through the trees at all levels. Most were the multi-coloured Red-necked Tanagers but amongst them were a pair of the diminutive Yellow-lored Tody-flycatchers and a Streaked Xenops, scuttling through the branches like a strange nuthatch. Around the front of the lodge there was plenty of activity in the trees by the river and, although I struggled to identify a few birds, I managed to pick out a pair of the warbler-like Chestnut-vented Conebills and a Fawn-breasted Tanager - a bird I only saw on one other occasion on the whole trip. When I finally got to the trails, I was soon seeing more tanagers: an incredible male Brazilian Tanager was brightest of all but I was equally impressed by the pair of Red-crowned Ant-tanagers. These were accompanied by a lumbering White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, which looked rather like a gangling acrocephalus warbler. One group of birds I was really looking forward to encountering were woodcreepers and my first view was of the biggest in the area - a White-throated Woodcreeper. Further along the trail, I had point blank views of a characterful Rufous-browed Pepper-shrike. Of course, I was constantly hearing strange sounds, normally from birds I had little chance of seeing. Eventually I tracked down the birds making the peculiar 'synthesizer' style sounds - male Blue Manakins. These are stunning looking birds with bright blue and black plumage and a striking red crown. Further along, the trail became quieter and I decided to head back to the lodge for lunch.

At lunch I met some of the other guests staying, Pete from Nottingham and Scott from Arizona (and originally Yorkshire). They both kept me entertained for the next ten days. After lunch I was seeing more new birds around the feeders. Brazilian Ruby and Saw-billed Hermit both dropped into the hummer feeders and Palm, Sayaca, Burnished-buff and Golden-chevroned Tanagers were all visiting the bananas, as well as an impossibly colourful male Blue Dacnis. Around the edge of the garden I could see Rufous-bellied and Pale-breasted Thrushes, the ever-present Great Kiskadees were calling noisily from around the pond and a Chestnut-crowned Becard was flycatching from the bare branches of a tree. A few larger birds were also appearing. First, a Squirrel Cuckoo with its unfeasibly long tail arrived into the trees at the back of the garden and then a couple of Maroon-bellied Parakeets visited the bananas. Best of all was a furtive Saffron Toucanet, which looked shy but stayed hacking at the bananas for several minutes. I only saw these gorgeous yellow and red toucans a couple more times on the whole trip.

I was pretty tired from my overnight flight and reluctantly had a quick nap but still had an hour or so to wander the grounds again before night fell. The light was gloomy under the trees but I was able to pick out some excellent new birds many of which were endemic to the Atlantic forest - a Spot-breasted Antvireo, a skulking and almost tailless-looking Star-throated Antwren, the small Olivaceous Woodcreeper and a brilliantly-marked Ferruginous Antbird. A Masked Yellowthroat, just as smart and as skulking as their North American cousins, was near the edge of the garden, where Southern Rough-winged Swallows and a Tropical Kingbird were perched up on the wires. Eventually I was back at the lodge in time with a little while before dinner, when I could write my notes and look at the fireflies flowing at the back of the garden.

So that was my first day of birding in South America - all of it pretty much on my own. I struggled a bit to keep up with the action on occasions but had still managed over fifty species, most of them new. The pace didn't slacken the following day.

Day Two: 13/07/06

I was up early to go on my first excursion from the lodge to Serra dos Orgaos National Park, around an hour or so's drive away. Breakfast provided just the five new birds around the gardens. First was a large dark bird with a long yellowish tail that flew overhead - I eventually figured out it was a Crested Oropendola. A distant circling raptor caught the attention of Andy and was identified as a Southern (or Crested) Caracara. A Swallow-tailed Hummingbird whizzed through the feeders and over the roof. A flycatcher perched up on a dead tree in the forest was checked out in the scope and proved to be a Grey-hooded Attila. But the pick of the bunch, although still only giving brief views, was a splendid Blond-crested Woodpecker, sneaking down to the feeders just briefly. This is a fairly big woodpecker with its creamy blond head contrasting against a jet black body.

On the way to the park, we called in at some roadside fish ponds and I was able to see a few of the commoner water birds of the area, like Least Grebe and Wattled Jacana. In the distance an Amazon Kingfisher was attending to a nest hole in a sandy bank and much better views were had of a Southern Caracara as one loafed about on the edge of the ponds.

The first long stop was at a car park low down in the national park. I had already come to the realisation that forest birding can be quite slow in the tropics but the array of birds zipping around in the trees here was something else. I could scarcely keep up with the new and attractive birds appearing minute by minute. A glorious Flame-crested Tanager, the male black with a pale throat and tufted orange crown, settled on the ground for a few seconds and overhead stubby Ashy-tailed Swifts circled. In the trees flitted a Red-eyed Vireo, Buff-throated Saltator and a diminutive White-barred Piculet. The latter were certainly a favourite throughout the trip - brilliantly busy and sometimes noisy woodpeckers, hardly bigger than a Goldcrest. Other woodpeckers soon began to make an appearance. Yellow-eared and Yellow-throated Woodpeckers were both very neat and a Lesser Woodcreeper was also exploring the branches. Perhaps the best bird that was picked out here, although I didn't realise it then, was an Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner - my only definite sighting of this hard to identify species on the whole trip. More impressive at the time was a Pale-browed Treehunter, a big streaky foliage-gleaner that makes a living by trashing about in bromeliads and which gave great views as at sang in response to Andy's playback, its tail vigorously trembling with the effort. Even better was to come, as Andy first of all picked out a smart male Spot-billed Toucanet, with its green-skinned 'goat eyes', perched quietly in a tree. Just a few metres away was a wonderful Rufous-capped Motmot - the only motmot in the region. It sat around at leisure, drooping its long tail downwards, before disappearing away into the forest.

On our way to the high altitude car park we had time to draw breath for a coffee and admire the huge 'Finger of God' pinacle that towers above the main road through the park. The car park was well above 1000 metres in elevation and we were soon climbing higher as we followed a trail upwards through some glorious forest. Soon there were new sounds to hear - the resonant cooing of Plumbeous Pigeons and the explosive 'wolf-whistle' of Hooded Berryeater, an endemic Cotinga that was one of the target species for the day. Drifting persistently in the air were the eerie 'Star Trek communicator' calls of a closely related species, Black-and-gold Cotinga. Easiest on the ear were the pleasant cascading songs of White-rimmed Warblers, a few of which eventually revealed themselves.

The journey up the trail was initially fairly quiet, although a few Brassy-breasted Tanagers were moving through the canopy and a Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner was a good bird to get in a mixed flock. My list of woodpeckers with yellow in their name burgeoned further with good views of a couple of Yellow-browed Woodpeckers. Best was a languid male Black-throated Trogon that arrived almost immediately in response to playback and gave a glorious show as it sat aloof in the trees. My first ever trogon and every bit as impressive as I'd hoped. Other new birds were the lemon yellow Golden-crowned Warblers, a female Pin-tailed Manakin and a male Yellow-legged Thrush that dashed quickly through the canopy.

Things began to liven up when we found ourselves in forest dominated by bamboo and antbirds were to the fore. Antbirds of the genus Drymophila are a bit of a southeast Brazilian speciality. I'd already been impressed by Ferruginous Antbird but today I was able to see the very similar but much more localised Bertoni's Antbird and also Rufous-tailed and Ochre-rumped Antbirds. All are different combinations of orange, buff and black and white streaking and all were seen well and sometimes side-by-side. Together with them were Rufous-backed Antvireos and Variable Antshrikes. A bull-necked White-collared Foliage-gleaner was another bamboo specialist that appeared in the understory. At one stage I didn't know where to look as two fantastic new birds appeared almost simultaneously. First was a beautiful soft blue Diademed Tanager, its plumage topped by a white cap and red tuft. Then, nervously pacing over the ground was a Brazilian Antthrush, with intricate pearl-spotting on the underparts. Two species of tyrant were amongst the teeming hordes - a Grey-hooded Flycatcher and an Ochre-faced Tody-flycatcher. On the way back down a tiny Drab-breasted Bamboo-tyrant was moving swiftly through the lower branches in the same area.

Hooded Berryeater was proving tricky to see but eventually I managed good views of three different individuals. These are brightly coloured thrush-like cotingas, mostly yellow with a black hood and rufous wings. One bird was living up to its name by plucking berries from the low branches of a tree towards the top of the trail. These weren't the only elusive birds that we found, with some shuffling in the understory turning out to eminate from two Dusky-legged Guans. These huge turkey-like birds were surprisingly easy to miss but gave remarkable views once I was on to them.

Eventually we emerged out of the forest and into a more open area from where we could enjoy fantastic views out across the trees and down to the lowlands below. We decided to stop here for lunch in the hope of picking out a Black-and-gold Cotinga perched in the canopy. Well, we waited, played recordings, and waited some more. We could hear plenty, some not far away, but they always seemed to be on the wrong side of the trees. Whilst we waited a few other birds appeared. A tricky one for the inebriated birder to say (not that I was of course) was a Blue-billed Black Tyrant and nearby a subtly-plumaged Olivaceous Elaenia was flycatching. Very much a 'birder's bird' that one. Hummingbirds were also out in the sun but rarely stayed for long. A Scale-throated Hermit dashed by and a male Plovercrest bounded through the flowers, only briefly approaching close enough or staying still long enough for his Lapwing-like crest to be seen. As we headed back down, having given up for today at least on Black-and-gold Cotinga, a smart White-throated Hummingbird gave reasonable views.

We stopped for a break by a dried-up waterfall and soon there were birds moving through. Most were Furnariids, including a Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner and an excellent Sharp-billed Treehunter - very small and neatly streaked. As the sun drifted behind the mountains and the forest darkened, we were treated to perhaps the birds of the day on the long march back to the car park. A flurry of movement came at the side of the trail. Some birds had flown but three were left and proved to be beautiful Spot-winged Wood-quails. They sat almost motionless just a few metres away for several minutes before following their companions into the undergrowth.

Eventually we arrived back at the car park and started on the long drive back to the lodge. It had been a remarkable day in this fantastic national park. The birding had been hard but when I counted up the species I'd seen or heard over 90. Over 50 had been new for me - the most I've every seen on any day anywhere. I'm left to wonder if I'll ever improve on a day like this.

Day Three: 14th July

This was the day of the high altitude excursion to Pico Caledonia near Nova Friburgo. Andy warned us that it would be a day of quality rather than quantity because high up in the mountains there aren't huge numbers of species but it's where many of the rarest and hardest to see endemics are to be found. The reason that Pico Caledonia has started to develop a reputation for rare birds is more a reflection of its accessibility than its habitat, which is similar to many other high mountain areas in the region. On top of the mountain are a number of communications towers and hence a road leads steeply upwards almost to the top. In the few years that Andy has been visiting the site he's discovered two of the most enigmatic endemic birds in southeast Brazil: Grey-winged Cotinga and Itatiaia Thistletail. These were the two main targets for the day.

As we set off on the road northwards, it soon became apparent that the day wasn't going to be entirely cloud free. Swirls of mist began to cloak a few mountain tops and sometimes drifted downwards to the valleys. After driving through the suburbs of Nova Friburgo and up the steep cobbled road to the mountain, we stopped overlooking a broad forested valley. The cloud had dispersed to some extent but it was to reappear from time to time through the morning. We began by scanning over the wide sweep of forest below and soon I had seen, albeit not very well, yesterday's missed target: Black-and-gold Cotinga. I picked out one as it flew over the treetops and perched up nicely in a tree, the only problem being that the tree was the best part of a kilometre away and was almost impossible to point out to anyone else. The vivid yellow on the wings still shone even at that range. Naturally enough the bird had moved on by the time I got my scope set up but a few others were seen, either in flight or perched at even greater distance. Their plaintive whistling song was an almost constant companion as we walked up the hill.

Other birds could be seen near where we'd parked. The occasional flock of White-eyed Parakeets, with their distinctive yellow toned underwings, darted over and a chattering Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet was seen well. All the way up, the commonest bird seemed to be the lovely Diademed Tanagers, which I had much better opportunities to enjoy today. A little higher we encountered a lively mixed flock full of some nice high altitude passerines: Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Grey-hooded Flycatcher, Variable Antshrike and Rufous-backed Antvireo. The smartest members of the flock were the beautifully crisp looking Bay-chested Warbling-finches. These are immaculate grey, white and red birds that were seen on a few occasions during the day. Nearby I was chided for my enjoyment of another new bird: Rufous-collared Sparrow. Over the coming weeks I was to see a few more of these. Whilst I'd still claim that they're rather nice, I'd admit that they aren't quite as good as another roadside bird I saw in the same area. A quiet shuffling in the verge revealed, much to Andy's loud astonishment, a Large-tailed Antshrike. This is an almost crow sized, tar-black antbird with a hefty tail. Like other big antshrikes it's normally very difficult to see, but here it was hopping about just a few metres away.

Soon we began to hear the thin whistle of 'the big one' - Grey-winged Cotinga. This species was discovered just over 25 years ago and has a very restricted range in the Serra dos Orgaos area. It tends to be found higher up than it's near relative the Black-and-gold Cotinga and is very thinly spread. Andy reckoned that fewer than a hundred people have ever seen the bird (although I heard another estimate of around two hundred later in the trip!). Like other cotingas, it doesn't really do a lot except sing from exposed but often out of sight perches and we were hoping that one might be revealed by regular scanning of the tree tops.

Just as we stop above a small valley, Andy suddenly gets excited. "That's it: that's Grey-winged Cotinga!" He gestures towards a line of trees just a couple of hundred metres up the hill. Sure enough, a thrush-sized bird is perched up, nice as you like, on a bare branch. Andy quickly sets up his scope, looks into the lens and..."It's a female Black-and-gold." Hearts sink. Andy explains that he can't see any obvious grey in the wing. I soon have my scope set up and console myself with getting a much better view of a Black-and-gold Cotinga. The bird was sat, very happily, with its front on to us. After a few minutes Andy starts raising a few points. It's remarkably yellow underneath for the normally uniform olive-green female Black-and-gold. There's pretty obvious grey on the face too. What's more, it's slim and elegant, not like the much dumpier Black-and-gold. It was certainly hard to see any grey in the wing but then it was front on to us. Perhaps if it turns around? Or maybe starts calling. Andy plays the song of a Grey-winged Cotinga. Watching the bird, I see it visibily start paying attention, stretching its head forwards. But no sound. After ten minutes or so of almost no movement, the bird slips off rapidly into the trees, revealing nothing else of its identity. Interesting, but frustrating. Andy starts talking about being 80% sure it was a Grey-winged.

Higher up the hill, Andy starts scoping from a rather rickety looking hang-glider platform. The rest of us stand gingerly at the other end. Then Andy shouts that this time he's definitely got a Grey-winged Cotinga. We carefully, but rather rapidly, step out onto the platform. I find the bird in my scope - much more distant and looking rather non-descript greeny grey but its sideways on and definitely with grey in the wing. Soon the bird flits out of sight. Andy's absolutely happy with this bird being a Grey-winged Cotinga, although I'll be honest and say the views of this bird were much less inspiring, if more definite, than the first bird.

Whilst perched precipitously on the platform we were able to enjoy much more thrilling views of a terrific Black Hawk-eagle - all bulging wings and long tail - as it soard over the mountanside, calling constantly. Nearby were a few very fine endemic tyrants: Velvety-black Tyrant and the dove grey Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant. Even better was another high altitude specialist that had thus far eluded us, a delightful pair of Serra do Mar Tyrannulets. Like many other small tyrants, these were actually much smarter in real life than any fieldguide illustrations seem to show. I was impressed by the regular loud bill snaps they were giving as they moved furtively through the scrub.

Soon we had moved above the treeline and into an area of low scrub and tussocky grass. This is where our other target, Itatiaia Thistletail, could be found. We passed through the security below the towers, watching a Rufous-thighed Hawk soar overhead as we waited, and headed up the 600 or more steps to the top of the mountain. It was strange to pass into an area that seemed almost entirely birdless and, despite regular playing of their calls, there was no sign of any thistletails. We stopped to have lunch at the top of the mountain, enjoying the appropriately Scottish climatic conditions on Pico Caledonia. No birds were about aside from the odd soaring Black Vulture and a pair of Rufous-collared Sparrows. Eventually we began our way down the steps. Towards the bottom a brown, long-tailed bird - rather like a big Whitethroat - shot past and into a bush. Eventually it reappeared and, after what must have been a couple of hours of fruitless searching, here finally was an Itatiaia Thistletail. A good bird, and hard to see, but remarkably plain looking with just a white supercillium standing out from the brown plumage as it appeared intermittenly in the thick cover.

It seemed like we had cleaned up on the big stuff but it had been hard work. There were still a few more good birds to be had on the way down. Rather smarter looking than the thistletail was the closely related Pallid Spinetail - much brighter than its name suggests. A White-tailed Hawk drifted and hovered over a forested ridge and Plovercrests gave fleeting views as they dashed from flower to flower.

We arrived back at the car and, with a few hours of the now warm afternoon left, decided to make some stops on the drive back down the mountain. First stop was at a rather ordinary looking area of roadside scrub. Andy started playing a recording of our target bird and soon we were treated to decent views of a smart Dusky-tailed Antbird - grey and white but beautifully marked. Further down was a flowering tree full of tanagers and hummingbirds. The most exquisite of the tanagers were a vividly colour pair of Hepatic Tanagers - the male crimson red and the female yellow. White-throated and Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds gave good views in the tree and it was here that I finally got prolonged and close views of a male Plovercrest. There are many incredibly beautiful hummers in the world but this one must be up there with the best of them. The elegant crest I expected but the brilliant purple 'Cadbury's Dairy Milk' throat, caught by the afternoon sun to reveal impossible richness of colour, was extraordinary. Finally, Andy stopped by an open area of fields and said "I think I can see a new bird for Andrew". Quite a fine new bird it was too, a bizarre, strutting Red-legged Seriema. These birds are almost like bustards and have remarkable elongated bristles at the base of the bill. A befitting end to a day that had certainly lived up to providing the promised quality.

A few days later I asked Andy what his opinion now was of the first cotinga that we'd seen and he said he was now completely happy that it was a Grey-winged Cotinga. Having looked at the illustrations in HBW I have to agree - despite the grey wings not being obvious it was absolutely fine for one and very different to the plump, olive-green female Black-and-gold. Andy was now encouraging all of us to join his exlcusive 'Grey-winged Cotinga' club, with very 'reasonable' annual subscription rates. I've yet to sign up but still feel I'm a bit privileged to have seen one.

To see the lengths that others have gone to try and see this bird, read this:

Day Four: 15th July

Today the excursion was only for half a day, to the 'bamboo trail', which climbs through thick bamboo forest near the village of Theodoro about twenty minutes drive from the lodge. We set off early as usual, at around seven am. The weather was clear and remarkably chilly first thing, with breath condensing into misty plumes. As with some of the other excursions, the journey took us along the winding main road to Nova Friburgo, which passes through one of the few areas of southeast Brazil that's still predominantly forested. Incongruous amongst the rainforest are the large billboards at the roadside that seem, almost exclusively, to advertise lingerie. Possibly this was because the road continues on to Muny, a small suburb of Friburgo that, for reasons that remain unclear, appears to be the lingerie capital of Brazil. I didn't buy anything there.

The start of the bamboo trail is in an area of houses and a new birds were seen around the gardens. A Rufous Hornero, a plain brown bird almost like a Nightingale that builds distinctive 'oven' nests, was seen scurrying about. An elegant passerine flycatching from a fence post turned out, somewhat to my surprise, to be a female Black-goggled Tanager. A group of Crested Oropendolas drifted low overhead, giving much better views than I'd previously had of the smart crow-like birds.

The trail then entered an area of forest along a stream and here I was able to see some more members of the incredibly diverse tyrant flycatcher family. There were the tiny White-throated Spadebills - almost looking like baby birds with their short tails and large mouths. More conventional were a Sepia-capped Flycatcher and a Yellow-olive Flycatcher - two species that turned out to be relatively common in the forest in this region.

The aim of the excursion was to see birds that are specialists of bamboo forests. For anyone who hasn't been to the area, bamboo grows very big in Brazil in tall and dense stands with individual trees reaching several centimetres in diameter. Not surprisingly, many of the bamboo specialists are tricky to see in this thick cover. In fact, for the first couple of kilometres it seemed as if we weren't going to see anything. Sometimes the forests can be incredibly quiet and this was just such an occasion. The only sounds were the occasional noisy flock of parrots passing, unseen, over the canopy. Our main pastime was to try to see the elusive Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. It had become something of a running joke that Andy would play his recording at a suitable spot and would garner... absolutely no response. This was certainly what happened today.

Eventually birds began to appear. One or two were bamboo specialists I'd already encountered such as Drab-breasted Bamboo-tyrant and White-collared Foliage-gleaner. Other Furnariids were also moving through in busy flocks - Sharp-billed Treehunter and White-browed Foliage-gleaner amongst them. A Pale-browed Treehunter was making lots of noise as it demolished a bromeliad and a Whiskered Flycatcher was seen moving quickly about in the canopy. A trogon slipped quietly into a tree above and proved to be a female Surucua Trogon, quite compact and greyish looking. Brazilian Antthrush was seen very nicely as it scampered through the thick stems of bamboo and a Green-winged Saltator, a big finch with a long white supercillium, appeared in some streamside trees. Perhaps the most notable species, which proved, very tricky to get good views of, was a Greenish Schiffornis. This bird looks rather like a female Manakin and has a loud, simple whistled song. It's hard to see as it perches quietly on branches but eventually one came in overhead and gave some fine views.

As we moved further along, a large bird could be heard moving about in some dense bromeliads. Andy got excited when he caught sight of the bird: it was a Giant Antshrike. True to this species' reputation, it was a challenge to entice into the open. Eventually I had a tantalising view of this big, barred, magpie-like bird as it perched briefly in the open. Another slightly frustrating experience of a much sought after bird and I hoped I'd manage a better view later on.

Perhaps the species that we most wanted to see was a strange species of tapaculo called a Slaty Bristlefront. As we went along the path we heard this bird's loud and distinctive song a few times but it was always coming from very far into the forest. As we returned one was singing from closer to the trail and we decided to have a shot at getting it to come out. Andy played the recording. The bird responded. Was it getting closer? Maybe. Keep trying. And so on. It always seemed to be just out of sight at the bottom of the small ridge we were looking down. Eventually we realised it wasn't going to play ball and we carried on disappointed.

A few more birds were picked up as we continued back to the van: Rufous Gnateater and Rufous-capped Spinetail were seen fairly briefly and a Plain Antvireo - a common bird in the forest as it turned out - was seen well.

After lunch back at the lodge, I had another chance to explore the nearby trails. In the garden a smart new addition to the list was one of the finest hummers in Brazil: a Black Jacobin. This is quite a big hummer with its black plumage set off by a mostly white tail and flanks. Also in the garden I got better views of Masked Yellowthroat and Buff-throated Saltator.

I soon managed to find a very busy mixed flock, which gave me some new species as well as better looks at birds I'd seen before. A couple of warbler-like Streak-capped Antwrens were moving busily through the canopy and a tiny Eared Pygmy-tyrant was flycatching. Spot-breasted Antvireos were calling loudly and a Ferruginous Antbird looked brilliant with the sun on it.

Following a tip off from Andy, I retrieved my MP3 player and speakers from my bag and had my first go at using playback. The bird I was hoping for was Black-cheeked Gnateater and, very rapidly, I could hear a few birds responding. Eventually I had some fine views of a male - an absolutely brilliant bird with rufous crown and black mask. The females proved trickier and for a while I thought I was seeing Rufous Gnateaters. Later on, Andy corrected me, telling me it was too low for that species and that, contra the pictures in his own fieldguide, female Black-cheeked look very like Rufous.

An impressive bird to get a view of was a Scaly-headed Parrot. I'd previously seen a few of these big, stocky parrots flying overhead but was pleased to find one perched up in a tree. These are quite dark birds with a distinctive red vent. Otherwise birding in the forests was a bit frustrating with lots of interesting noises but nobody to tell me what they were. One species that was being more cooperative was the normally hard to see Star-throated Antwren, which, like the gnateaters, responded very well to playback, suddenly coming out from the undergrowth to have a look at what was going on. The final bird of the day was a Rufous-thighed Hawk, perching silently on a low branch before slipping menacingly off through the forest.

Day Five: 16th July

Today was a quiet day with no excursions and so I was able to fully explore the trails at the lodge. First thing in the morning I headed up the Extension Trail that wanders up the hill for a kilometre or two. Something that surprised me in Brazil was how quiet early mornings in the forest could be. I suspect this is mostly a feature of the winter months when birds aren't singing much and it's not normally until the sun gets above the hilltops and through the trees that feeding flocks really start getting busy. At Serra dos Tucanos, which is in a steep-sided valley, this takes a few hours. I did, however, get one very good new bird on my early morning wander. A rustling in the leaves at the side of the trail was followed by a dark brown bird flitting upwards before coming down again. It was a Tawny-throated Leaftosser and I enjoyed some great views as it rumaged amongst the leaf letter, almost like a strangely-shaped Blackbird. At the top of the trail I saw a large brown woodcreeper, which I later figured out was a Plain-winged (or Thrush-like) Woodcreeper - a good endemic.

After breakfast I set off again and soon heard a bird singing from the riverbed that I recognised: a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. After my previous experiences, I wasn't optimistic about being able to catch sight of it. It was singing from somewhere along a short riverside trail and I'd just set off along the trail when a plump, short-tailed bird shot past me and into cover. From the size and shape it was clearly the streamcreeper but, try as I might to entice it back out of cover by playing a recording, it stayed silent and elusive.

I then followed the Extension Trail again and this time things were livelier with some good mixed flocks of tanagers, mostly consisting of Brassy-breasted, Red-necked and Black-goggled Tanagers. Amongst them were a pair of Yellow-backed Tanagers, although I was suffering a bit from 'tanager neck' by the time I picked these out in the high canopy. A Black-tailed Flycatcher, very similar to the Whiskered Flycatcher I'd seen yesterday, was in the same area. On the way down I stopped at a viewpoint to overlook the valley and was able to pick out some Grey-rumped Swifts as they drifted over the forest on the other side. In the trees nearby I was initially confused by a small yellow and blue passerine until I saw the white wing-bars and realised it was a Tropical Parula. Back at the lodge a pair of noisy Social Flycatchers, rather like budget-sized Kiskadees, were in the garden.

In the afternoon I was back on the trails and, following a tip-off, I spent some time looking across the valley to a very large tree that towered above the others. Eventually I caught sight of the big and brightly-coloured bird I was looking for - a Channel-billed Toucan. Soon another appeared and, with the scope, it was possible to get reasonable views as they moved through the trees. Other good birds around the garden were a couple of Flame-crested Tanagers in a mixed flock and a Grey-hooded Attila that perched up obligingly in a dead tree.

A day for 'consolidation' and for picking up a few missing species but it was clear that I'd now seen a lot of the commoner forest birds of the area. New species were going to take a little more work and travel from now on.

Day Six: 17th July

Today I was back with the excursions and we were off again to the high altitude area near Nova Friburgo, but this time we stayed lower down. Before setting off I enjoyed great views of a Blond-crested Woodpecker in the garden of the lodge, giving its loud, ringing call.

The trail took us through a mixture of open country and wooded river valleys giving the feel of parkland. The first good bird was a smart Rufous-capped Antshrike, which unlike some of its relatives, was very cooperative and confiding in response to Andy's playback. In the same area a Spix's Spinetail eventually gave reasonable views, although I never saw this species really well anywhere on the trip.

This was the first time I'd had the opportunity to bird in more open agricultural habitats and so I was soon picking up some new species. Campo Flickers were smart and noisy, Chalk-browed Mockingbirds very conspicuous and Cliff Flycatchers were perched up on dead trees or hawking after insects almost like swallows. A deep green Glittering-bellied Emerald was perched up on the fence wires and Saffron Finches were flitting about in the grass.

Soon we reached an area where we could overlook the gardens of one of the rather plush mountain retreats that are in this area. Amidst the immaculate lawns and vintage cars there was an impressive array of tyrants. Shear-tailed Grey-tyrants, Planalto Tyrannulets, Blue-billed Black Tyrants and Velvety Black Tyrants all gave fine showings. Brief views were had of a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet. Perhaps the smartest birds here were the soft buff-and-grey-coloured Cinnamon Tanagers - rather like Bullfinches and fairly common at this altitude. Another species that was reminiscent of something more familiar were the Hooded Siskins, sounding a lot like their European relative and looking equally smart when one was eventually seen perched.

The trail continued on through some scrubby river valleys and for a while we were hearing more than we saw. White-shouldered Fire-eye, Red-eyed Thornbird and Mouse-coloured Tapaculo all sang from time to time but were resistant to the charms of our recordings. One of the species we were particularly hoping to see was Swallow-tailed Cotinga but our searches of the treetops were coming to naught. However, there were compensations. One bird that did respond to playback was a Thick-billed Saltator - a scarce high altitude endemic - and we were very fortunate to pick out a Tiny Hawk, perched up in a tree for several minutes. Also seen along the trail were some of the good birds we'd seen higher up a few days earlier like Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Plovercrest and White-throated Hummingbird. Overhead a group of swifts emerged and at least some of these could be identified as Biscutate Swifts - a big black species with a partial white collar and square-ended tail. Some good raptors also appeared with Black Hawk Eagle again giving fine views and a dark looking White-tailed Hawk also drifting over. A new bird, although one I would see lots more of, was a Yellow-headed Caracara.

We returned back along the trail, still without having seen Swallow-tailed Cotinga. Staking a claim for bird of the day was an incredibly marked Green-barred Woodpecker seen brilliantly in a trailside tree - a cryptic mixture of yellow, green and red with intricate spotting and barring. I was also impressed with the 'aptly named' Boat-billed Flycatcher - a kiskadee with a bill you wouldn't mess with.

On the journey back to the lodge we took a detour along a dusty track that runs south of the main road and through some good forest. We made quite a few stops, not always seeing much but eventually managed some very fine views of White-shouldered Fire-eye - a species that had eluded us earlier. This is quite a large black antbird, with a long tail and the red eye and white markings on the wings that give it its name. We also managed to get some good perched views (albeit still distant) of a Black-and-gold Cotinga as it sang serenely.

So a day with some more very good birds, although a few frustrations along the way. The next day was at the seaside.

Day Seven: 18th July

Today I got away from the forests with a trip to the seaside. One of the excursions run from Serra dos Tucanos goes to the salt pans and restinga at Praia Seca to the east of Rio. The main aim is to see the very rare Restinga Antwren but there's potential for a variety of other species.

Quite a big party headed south in the minibus and the weather was just right for the seaside, clear and sunny. It was a long drive but after a couple of hours we arrived by a large lagoon. There weren't actually many birds on the lake itself but more was happening in the fields adjacent. Most impressive were a pair of Aplomado Falcons perched up in a dead tree. Parties of Brown-chested Martins and White-rumped Swallows darted over the long grass and a punky looking Guira Cuckoo sat up in the distance.

We then moved onto some muddy salt pans nearby. It was good to be watching a few waders after all the elusive forest species. Small numbers of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs were paddling about and, at the back of the pans, plenty of White-cheeked Pintails were resting. Overhead the occasional Roseate Spoonbill would drift. As well as the usual egrets, a dark Little Blue Heron was about and a huge Ringed Kingfisher looked about the size of a heron as it flew into the pans. There were some good passerines too: a Yellow-bellied Elaenia and a White-browed Blackbird, looking good with its bright crimson breast. A couple of Yellowish Pipits were seen furtively moving through the grass - looking and sounding much more familiar to a Scottish birder than many of the other other Brazilian passerines. In some distant trees a couple of White Woodpeckers, striking looking open-country woodies, were scoped.

We continued on until we arrived at a beach front car park next to an area of restinga. Restinga is the name given to the scrubby woodland - strangely reminiscent of parts of the East Anglian coast - that's found right next to the sea and, because of its position, it has come under great threat in recent decades as more and more people build beach front properties. Large signs in Portuguese warned anyone of the consequences of damaging the protected remnant that we were about to explore, although one wonders how long this protection will last. Andy suggested to us that Restinga Antwren was a particularly good bird to see because it's very likely to be extinct within a few decades.

Before entering into the restinga, we had a quick seawatch. Offshore there were plenty of Brown Boobies in various plumages moving, along with Magnificent Frigatebirds and a few confusing yellow-billed terns. These were the much talked about Cayenne Terns, similar to Sandwich Terns but with bright yellow bills and slightly paler looking wings. A Cattle Tyrant, a terrestrial kingbird, was hopping about the car park despite the absence of large bovine ruminants. More surprising, but less new, was a Barn Swallow flying purposefully along the shore.

Initially it proved hard to see very much in the restinga, apart from the many lizards that rustled over dry ground. A few Creamy-bellied Thrushes were tucking into berries and a group of White-collared Swifts screamed overhead. In some trees were a small group of Plain-breasted Ground Doves. A Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, very like a Turkey Vulture, drifted low over the marshes, behaviour that's supposed to be a good distinguishing feature of this species. We had a few goes at playing recordings of Restinga Antwren and eventually one responded but didn't show itself clearly, as we peered into the murk of its dense scrubby habitat.

We decided to spend some more time looking through the waders on the saltpans and here there was quite a good selection, including the ubiquitous Ruddy Turnstones. Is there any coastal area on Earth where you don't commonly get this species? If there is, I've not been there. More novel were the dinky Collared Plovers, scattered amongst the migrant Semipalmated Plovers from North America. A few Least Terns were sailing over the lakes.

We decided to have one last tilt at the antwren and Andy began playing a recording on the corner of some scrub near the saltpans. Happily, we were soon rewared and a male Restinga Antwren moved into a relatively open area of canopy. Here it remained for a couple of minutes giving fantastic views at just a few metres range. This wasn't just a rare bird, it was a real beauty too - jet black with a long tail, white spotted wing coverts and undertail and a brilliant red eye. In the same bush I managed to get some good if brief views of another scarce endemic, a Sooretama Slaty Antshrike - a greyish male similar to the more common Variable Antshrike. Finally, on our walk back to the van, we got some great views of another restinga speciality: a Hangnest Tody-tyrant. The books tend to say this bird is quite non-descript but I was impressed at how bright green it was, almost like some of the lovelier Phylloscopus warblers.

After a big lunch at a local cafe, we headed sleepily back to the lodge. A very fine day, although it looked as if we might miss out until quite late on. The next day, I'd be back in the forest.

Day Eight: 19th July

I didn't have great expectations of today but it turned out to be rather memorable. The excursion was a half day walk along the Theodoro Trail, so more forest birding and I'd already seen a lot of the easier forest birds. I was intent on trying to see a few of the more elusive species I'd missed so far and so I gave Andy orders to find me a Sharpbill. I was pretty keen to get my money's worth! The Theodoro Trail runs along an old railway line through some great mid-altitude forest. It turned out to be as good a forest trail as I walked in all of southeast Brazil, although as with all of these trails how much you see can vary enormously from day to day.

It was clear and chilly again first thing in the morning but eventually warmed up. We parked the minibus by some houses at the start of the trail and were soon seeing interesting birds nearby: Pallid Spinetail, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Green-winged Saltator. The forest was still in shade early in the morning but a few flocks of birds were already moving through with the numerous Brassy-breasted Tanagers to the fore.

As often happened, Andy stopped near a small creek to see if he could bring in a streamcreeper. Unlike every other occasion he tried it, this time it actually worked. Soon a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper was scurrying in along the ground before sitting up on a low branch and singing its head off for several minutes, just a few metres away. This was certainly a view to make up for all the other times we'd tried and failed to see this brilliant little bird. I was quite struck by how the song of the streamcreeper sounds rather similar in quality to the calls and songs of birds like Dippers and Grey Wagtails that live in the same noisy habitat in Europe. This one was certainly giving it some, its throat trembling with the effort of singing.

Some good flocks of tanagers and furnariids were on the move and amongst them I saw my first Black-capped Foliage-gleaner - meaning that I'd seen all of the species of foliage-gleaner ordinarily found in the area. Attending these roving flocks were various tyrants like Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet and Eared Pygmy-tyrant. A Grey-fronted Dove perched furtively in a tree before disappearing back into the forest as we approached more closely. Even more enigmatic was the sonorous single note song of a Solitary Tinamou, which inevitably remained out of sight.

When looking through one of the flocks, I wasn't surprised to see a woodcreeper perch up on a nearby trunk. Both Andy and myself were more surprised when we had a closer look. "Scythebill!" cried Andy. And indeed it was: a Black-billed Scythebill. Before I came away this endemic was one of the birds that I was most keen to see and I have to say it didn't disappoint. It looks like a fairly ordinary large woodcreeper, being mostly plain brown in plumage. But then there's the bill. I'm not sure why but there's something about the steeply curved bill on this species that really takes the breath away. You can see all the pictures you like but nothing quite prepares you for how incredibly shaped it is. This one briefly vanished before reappearing and giving very fine views as it explored the tree trunks alongside the trail. One of the birds of the trip.

Bigger birds were on the move through the forest as well. There were lots of noisy Maroon-bellied Parakeets, often hard to catch sight of but easy to hear. Particularly impressive were the brilliantly coloured Saffron Toucanets, of which we encountered a couple of parties. When the light catches them, the yellow in the plumage of these birds is illuminated to glorious effect. Andy told us that during the breeding season they predate heavily on the eggs and young of other species, rather like Magpies. A new bird that I was very pleased to see was Azure-shouldered Tanager. This species is blue in colour and rather similar to the commoner Sayaca Tanager. The plumage, and particularly the wings, are very bright though and the bill and lores blackish, giving them a distinctive look about the face. I enjoyed decent views of three at various points along the trail.

Eventually we came to a more open area overlooking a valley. A deep chasm had been created by a landslide and, as the path curved around the slope, it came towards a line of tall trees at the edge of the forest. This is where the Sharpbill might be, said Andy. A quick play of the tape and... almost immediately a Sharpbill called back from the trees. The song is very distinctive, a thin descending note sounding like a bomb falling, only without the loud explosion at the end. Like its near relatives the cotingas, Sharpbills spend a lot of time sitting about in trees twiddling their thumbs (or whatever birds do that's equivalent). Andy and I peered into the leaves for a few minutes until Andy suddenly reckoned he could see it. He tried to get me on to it but soon changed tactics and set up his scope. I looked through and there it was: a Sharpbill. I think this was the only way I would have seen the bird, even if it did mean I had to look through Andy's knackered old scope. I am at a loss to understand how he had found this bird because it was partly hidden and entirely motionless. He'd certainly earnt his fee for the day anyway. It was, of course, a brilliant bird - very green above and rather like a Wryneck in its shape and cryptic markings. I missed another that Andy saw briefly on the way back and two more at various other times on the trip - this is a hard bird to see and I was glad for this opportunity to get a sight of one.

There was plenty of activity on the way back to the minibus. Rather poor views were had of a male Black-throated Trogon but a few Scale-throated Hermits gave their best showing of the trip so far. I was delighted to see a pair of White-shouldered Fire-eyes, which were very obliging as they moved through the low branches. I also enjoyed better views than I'd previously had of White-rimmed Warbler and Rufous-capped Spinetail.

During the afternoon I was back on the trails at the lodge. Soon I managed good views of a bird that I knew others had seen but which had eluded me: a Black-throated Grosbeak. Despite its name, this is a saltator and is entirely black, not just on the throat. The plumage is set off by a beautiful pink bill. Nearby were a fine pair of Red-crowned Ant-tanagers.

I spent a while at the top of the extension trail a few hundred metres above the lodge. Here I was able to confirm Plain-winged Woodcreeper, as one gave good views in exactly the same tree where I thought I'd seen one a few days earlier. A flock of Brassy-breasted Tanagers were moving through the canopy and amongst them I picked out a Plain Xenops, zipping about the branches. On the walk back down to the lodge I was finally able to get a definitive sighting of a Scaled Woodcreeper, rounding off a rather good day for that family of birds.

The next day was the big road trip, and an epic adventure it turned out to be.

Day Nine: 20th July

Today was the big road trip, with the aim of reaching a site where we hoped to see the rare endemic Three-toed Jacamar. In getting there, we’d be passing through extensive areas of open country and forest and I hoped to pick up a wide range of species that I hadn’t already encountered. We set off early and travelled north through Nova Friburgo before heading onwards to the small town of Duas Barras. After leaving Friburgo we started making regular stops. My notes aren’t quite up to being precise about exactly what was seen at each stop but I’ll try to be as accurate as I can be.

First stop was overlooking a small valley with fields and grassy hillsides. A dark phase White-tailed Hawk was initially confusing but gave fine views as it perched and a family of Yellow-headed Caracaras were occupying another tree. In the marshy fields, a Yellow-chinned Spinetail – a smart rufous bird with clean white underparts – was creeping about. A Bran-coloured Flycatcher, small and neatly streaked, was flitting about in some low branches. Another streaky brown bird on a fence was a female Blue-black Grassquit.

A very good stop was near a large area of dead trees. Sitting in the tops was a pair of brilliant Bat Falcons – really compact, neat looking falcons with blue, red and white plumage. Overhead, a stocky, long-tailed Bicoloured Hawk drifted over. Another stop was in a scrubby, forested area and here I had a fine view of dinky looking Blue-winged Parrotlet – a tiny sparrow-sized species. A marshy spot gave distant views of a spectacular looking Streamer-tailed Tyrant, as well as Common Waxbills, White-browed Blackbird and, rather briefly, Chestnut-capped Blackbird. One area gave panoramic views over the hills and, just before getting back into the bus, Andy picked out something special. Soaring over a distant hill was a huge, broad-winged raptor – a Crowned Eagle. These magnificent birds – relatives of Harpy Eagles – are apparently becoming more common and have a distinctive silhouette with bulging secondaries and a very short tail.

Good though that was, it wasn’t the most unexpected sighting of the day. At a fairly innocuous looking patch of roadside scrub, Andy had heard and briefly seen something unusual. “Oh my God, it’s a Serra Antwren!” He rushed back to the bus to get his recorder out. He explained that this was a bird that was somewhat out of range and that even he had never seen one before. We peered into the scrub and eventually an extremely smart looking antwren appeared and gave good views. At first it looked very dark, almost black, like the Restinga Antwren we’d seen a few days earlier. Andy explained that, until recently, Serra Antwren had been regarded as the same species as Restinga Antwren and it also shared that bird’s long tail with white spots on the underside. On closer inspection the upperparts and crown were a deep chocolate brown rather than black and there was a broken white supercillium. This was a really good-looking bird and quite a bonus for the day, not least for Andy. However, the story didn’t stop there. The following day Andy told me that he’d checked the books and decided that it wasn’t a Serra Antwren after all but a similar White-fringed Antwren. This is a more widespread species but one still a little out of range and also a species Andy hadn’t seen before. Andy thought the bird we’d seen hadn’t had the right tone to the upperparts and the white was too extensive. I checked up on both species in Ridgely & Tudor and… I must admit got more confused. The picture of White-fringed Antwren in there didn’t really look like the bird I’d seen – it seemed to have too much white and much too strong a supercillium. Reading up further, it struck me that antwrens are pretty complicated and variations are poorly known. I’ll be honest and say that, even though Andy was happy with the ID as a White-fringed Antwren, I wasn’t and didn’t feel able to put this impressive bird down as either species.

After stopping for a rest in Duas Barras we headed off along a dusty track towards Sumidouro. Our first stop along this road was by another marshy field and here we were treated to brilliant views of three Streamer-tailed Tryrants perching along the fences. These are big grey tyrants with almost impossibly long tails. In the vegetation a few Black-capped Donacobius were showing wonderfully well. These are large, characterful members of the wren family with smart black caps and long tails. A dusty bit of bamboo forest further on harboured lots of Uniform Finches, a good endemic species with a thin buzzing twittery call.

An area of open country was being frequented by some good flocks of hirundines including a delightful Tawny-headed Swallow, a compact brown hirundine with a bright orangey head. Other stops yielded a good view of a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, a Burrowing Owl and several Biscutate Swifts. Around a farmyard a neat looking Tail-banded Hornero was unperturbed by a fire burning nearby. Another stop yielded two excellent new birds sitting right next to each other. First was a White-rumped Monjita - a smart pale tyrant with a white head and rump. Next to it was a Firewood Gatherer, a streaky Furnariid with a bright rufous crown, which builds huge stick nests. Eventually lots of scanning of the hillsides turned up two Red-legged Seriemas, strutting nonchalantly through the grass.

We stopped for lunch in a spot Andy thought would be productive, and he wasn't wrong. Almost immediately, we were able to get great views of one of the birds Andy was hoping for - a Gilt-edged Tanager. In fact there were lots of these glorious yellow, black, green and blue jewels moving through the roadside trees. Amongst them was a single Orange-headed Tanager, a neat grey bird with a round peach coloured head. A flock of Double-collared Seedeaters were flitting about in the low vegetation; most were obscure looking females and immatures but there were some easier to recognise males too. A Long-tailed Tyrant, an impossibly smart black bird with a white head and slender tail projections, was flycatching in the canopy. Other flycatchers were in amongst the tanagers, including a vivid green Hangnest Tody-tyrant and a tiny Yellow-lored Tody-flycatcher.

Soon we were moving onwards through Sumidouro and into Jacamar country. For such a rare bird - only known from two sites - Three-toed Jacamar habitat is remarkably unremarkable: a bit of straggly dry scrub that barely merits the word 'forest'. I was worried that they might be hard to see, having heard that on the previous visit it had taken an hour. But... Andy stopped the bus at the first likely spot, lifted his bins and there was a Three-toed Jacamar at the top of the tree. Soon another was picked out nearby and both sat about, occasionally shooting out to catch an insect. These were my first Jacamars and of very probably the rarest species. I was quite struck by their incredible long spear-shaped bills and long tails on what's otherwise quite a small bird. They sit still, swinging their head robotically from side to side like a Dalek. This is actually a plain species, mostly grey in colour, but very characterful.

We'd been watching the Jacamars for several minutes when one of the other folks on the trip asked Andy to identify a bird she'd seen perched on another nearby tree. This turned out to be a brilliant White-eared Puffbird - a really chunky bird with a big, hook-tipped pink bill and narrow barred tail. It just sat motionless as we admired it. More frustrating were the Curl-crested Jays that were calling but staying out of sight in a distant patch of forest.

We carried on further to see if we could locate more Jacamars but were unsuccessful. Andy stopped at one point to 'show us a nice bird', which was actually a Barn Owl, roosting under a bank by the road. It looked quite dark brown on the back compared to British birds. We also had some great views of a couple of Tufted-ear Marmosets, small monkeys with long bushy tails and tiny faces, that were nervously crossing the road as we watched.

On our return, the Jacamars and Puffbird had gone from the site where we'd seen them earlier, but we managed some other good birds there. A Common Tody Flycatcher flitted in the trees and reasonable views were had of a Sapphire-spangled Emerald, a nice green hummer with blue throat and white belly. On the road back to Sumidouro, Andy screeched to a halt and reversed back, saying he'd seen something worth stopping for. His sharp eyes had picked out two beautiful Blue-winged Macaws sitting atop a distant tree. These aren't huge Macaws but have the distinctive white faces and brilliant green plumage with a red spot on the forehead. In the same tree I got good views of a Crested Oropendola, showing its chestnut underparts as it waved its long tail about.

We carried on the long road back through Friburgo to the lodge having seen over ninety species. Quite an epic day with some unforgettable birds, even if I can't remember where they all were.

Day Ten: 21st July

Today was my final full day at Serra dos Tucanos and we were off on an excursion to the place where I was planning to stay next: Reserve Ecologica de Guapi Assu or REGUA, as it's known. The excursion was just for the morning and we would only have time to explore the wetlands and some of the lowland forest. The reserve itself is enormous and extends high up into the Serra dos Orgaos mountain range.

Because the habitats were different to those I'd visited so far, I expected to see a few new species. On the way to the reserve we stopped off at a small roadside pool and were soon seeing good birds through the low shroud of mist. White-headed Marsh Tyrants, a bird that proved to be common at REGUA, were flitting after insects from the small island. These are quite strange looking birds, with white heads and variably dark bodies. As well as perching on open branches like many tyrants, they swoop low over the water like slow-motion swallows. Appropriately enough there were plenty of real swallows humming low over the ground and water, including a few White-rumped Swallows. A couple of Chestnut-capped Blackbirds were seen nicely as they perched high in a tree and two Burrowing Owls were crouched low down on the ground.

The day was already warming as we set off along the trails that go through the area of pools and marshland that form the REGUA wetlands. This habitat has only been created in the last few years and their appearance reminded me of gravel pits in England. Such thoughts were soon dispelled when we noticed that the grey brown lump in the water at the first pool was the head of a Broad-snouted Caiman. Incredibly, the various waterbirds, including Moorhens and Least Grebes, were swimming about the motionless head with casual impunity. Other species on the open water included Brazilian Teal, the drakes with coral pink bills, and Wattled Jacanas with their brilliant bronzy wings flashing as they flew. A few American Purple Gallinules, showing their neat tricoloured bill pattern, were lurking about in the edges. I was particularly taken with the creamy coloured Capped Herons, whose elegant head plumes tumble down from a smart black cap.

The surrounding paths and vegetation abounded with Yellow-chinned Spinetails and Tail-banded Horneros. Rather brief views were had of a couple of Yellow-browed Tyrants, looking a bit like short-tailed Yellow Wagtails. Performing much better was a Sooty Tyrannulet, quite a big and dark tyrannulet that frequents marshy areas. We also enjoyed great views of three species of kingfisher, a big green Amazon Kingfisher together with its 'mini-me' version, the Green Kingfisher and a huge Ringed Kingfisher, almost as big as a heron as it perched commandingly above the lake. The scrub and grass were busy with birds too, with lots of Saffron Finches, Double-collared Seedeaters and Blue-black Grassquits diving about. A Giant Cowbird, large and long-tailed flew overhead and a furtive Red-rumped Cacique showed its pale eye and bill through the leaves. Most impressive was a Striped Cuckoo, hunched up in a bank of scrub as it sang.

From the wetlands we went into the forest, where we hoped to encounter a few of the local specialities. One bird that turned out to be very easy to see was Chestnut-backed Antshrike. These are characterful densely barred birds - gratifyingly easy to see compared to most antshrikes. A Long-billed Wren was singing its resounding song from low down in scrub and eventually showed fairly well, the long straight bill that provides its name being very clear. The Moustached Wrens that were also heard were much less obliging and couldn't even be glimpsed. The trees harboured a good selection of tyrants. Fuscous Flycatchers and Short-crested Flycatcher tested identification skills but a Grey-hooded Attila was much more distinctive with its hefty bill. A few mixed flocks were scrutinised carefully and eventually we were able to see both White-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens side-by-side, adding to the growing list of antbirds for the trip. A few White-bearded Manakins were seen briefly in the low vegetation but only an olive-grey female was seen properly.

In the forest I was surprised by a large brown bird that had flopped upwards from the ground. Andy assured me it had been a Rufescent Tiger Heron and happily I was able to enjoy much better views from the tower hide that overlooks the wetlands when one of these incredibly smart waterbirds perched up beautifully in a dead tree for several minutes. As we approached the tower, we surprised a small flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks, which lived up to their name as they flew across to the other side of the lake. A couple of Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures drifted over the nearby hillside. Soon we were returning to the car park but I'd been impressed with my morning at REGUA and was looking forward to returning.

In the afternoon I explored the trails at the lodge once more. The garden feeders were lively as usual and I had great views of a male Green Honeycreeper, a bottle green tanager with a long down-curved bill, as it came to the feeders. Up on the extension trail I met Scott, one of the other guests, who had lured in a pair of Scaled Antbirds with his tape. I managed brief views of one of these incredibly spotty 'humbugs on legs' before it disappeared down the hill. I also had great views of a tiny Streaked Xenops, feeding busily in the low branches as dusk began to fall.

Day Eleven: 22nd July

It was my last morning at Serra dos Tucanos, so time for one more wander up the hill along the extension trail. There was a fair amount happening, especially near the lodge, and I enjoyed decent views of Eared Pygmy Tyrant and Plain Xenops, along with a sandy coloured female Black-throated Trogon. Happily I was able to rustle up some good views of a pair of Scaled Antbirds at exactly the spot where I’d glimpsed one yesterday.

The walk back down provided tantalising views of a very good bird. Birding in the forests, you soon become sensitised to any sight or sound of movement on the ground and, from the corner of my eye, something caught my attention in the leaf litter. I turned, very slightly, went to lift my bins and it was off – a woodcock sized grey brown bird, with short rounded wings. Quickly it swept in front of me and into the forest and out of sight. It had been a Brown Tinamou and I guess this was a typical view.

Before lunch I was able to enjoy the hordes of parrots, tanagers and hummingbirds at the feeders one last time. Today, a pair of Green Honeycreepers were visiting, the female lacking the male’s black face but still a beautiful leaf colour. A bird that had eluded me up till this point was Rusty-margined Flycatcher, a small kiskadee rather similar to the Social Flycatchers that could often be seen in the garden. As a parting gift, one was showing nicely as it dashed about the edge of the lawn and the small pond nearby.

After lunch I said goodbye to Andy and all the others, and was on my way by taxi back to REGUA. The journey went smoothly and I was soon setting myself up in my very comfortable room at the lodge. Much to my surprise I had the place to myself and remained the only guest for most of my stay.

The lodge is situated on a small hill overlooking the wetlands and towards the mountains beyond. The feeders in the garden weren’t quite as busy as those at Serra dos Tucanos but brought in some different species. Almost immediately, I had great views of a Yellow-backed Tanager, a bird I’d only seen poorly before. A White Woodpecker also showed nicely in the small garden trees.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I went for a walk around the wetlands. At the bottom of the hill below the lodge I saw a couple of small birds in a tree by the side of the track. They were a pair of Hooded Tanagers, a small grey, black and white species. They were soon on their way but I expected I would see more. As things turned out, these were the only Hooded Tanagers of the trip and when I mentioned my sighting to Lee, an English birder who’d been volunteering at REGUA for several months, he told me he’d never seen any there. As with a lot of foreign birding, you don’t always know a good sighting when you see one.

The track prior to the wetlands leads through some dry scrub, which was full of Saffron Finches. Amongst them were a few warbler-like Chestnut-vented Conebills and I had much better views than yesterday of a Yellow-browed Tyrant – certainly one of the best-looking tyrants I saw. Overhead, I was both surprised and impressed to see groups of Blue-winged Macaws. Some even came down in the tall stands of bamboo across the wetlands. The bird list I had for the reserve didn’t mention macaws being found there.

A bird that had proved difficult to see the previous day was Masked Duck, a small and unobtrusive relative of Ruddy Duck. Today I was able to find four, three stripy brown females and a smart drake with red body, black face and blue bill. They sat, almost motionless and half submerged, in amongst the floating vegetation on the lake. Another ‘notable’ duck was a proper Muscovy, which seemed to be in residence. Well at least it was more ‘proper’ than the ones on your local duck pond anyway.

As dusk fell, I sat up in the tower and watched squadrons of Cattle Egrets as they came in from all directions and roosted out on one of the islands, almost smothering it in a white blanket. I wandered back in to the lodge in the gathering gloom but there was just enough light to pick out a finch singing in a patch of scrub. It was mostly grey but with a bright orange crest – a Pileated Finch and the only one I was to see.

In the evening I had a great meal at the lodge, in the company of some of the volunteers. Lots of Caipirhinhas and cans of Guarana – a ‘stimulating’ soft drink you can get in Brazil that I took rather a shine too.

Day Twelve: 23nd July

I was up early in the morning to embark on a wander along the Sao Jose Trail, which runs up into the mountains beyond the wetlands. I was joined on this by Adilei, one of the rangers at REGUA. I hadn't asked for this but Adilei just came along anyway, which was a good thing because I'd heard that he was very adept at whistling birds in. A slight problem was that Adilei didn't really speak much English and my Portuguese, well, needs work. A solution, at least as far as birds were concerned, was that we could communicate through the much maligned Souza's 'All the birds of Brazil'. I had the English copy and Adilei had the Portuguese version. Lots of pointing and page flicking ensued whenever anything notable was seen but doing this we could both make our IDs understood. So Souza has its uses (actually it was also very helpful for dealing with any ants I found in my room too, so well worth taking along).

We skirted around the edge of the wetlands, where Adilei was soon pulling in a pair of exquisite Long-billed Wrens to give terrific close views. His eyes were just as alert, as he picked out the first non-feeder-visiting Blond-crested Woodpecker I’d seen. Adilei had a particular liking for the insistent call of Grey-hooded Attila, one of which seemed equally impressed with his willingness to communicate:

The forest on the way up the hill was a bit quiet but we regularly heard White-beared Manakins. These often stayed hidden but eventually I managed to get some good views of the smart male birds, giving the curious snapping noise that they use in display:

At one point I heard a song I recognised, a Scaled Antbird. I briefly managed a view of one in some distant scrub but Adilei seemed to be more interested in another bird that was calling slightly closer to us. He began calling it in but at first I couldn’t see anything. Eventually, a bird came into view, hopping along the ground – a terrific White-bibbed Antbird. This was a female but the male soon appeared very close by as it was drawn in by Adilei’s incredible imitation. Another wonderful endemic antbird.

As we began heading back down the hill, Adilei pointed out a distantly calling Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and I was pleased to get good views of an Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, a good endemic that had previously eluded me. They’re quite striking birds with broad white tertial edges as well as the distinctive eye ring. The forest on the descent was really lively, as good as any I visited, with lots of mixed flocks of tanagers on the move and some impressive birds amongst them. Yellow-throated Woodpecker and Rufous-capped Motmot both gave decent views and finally managed to see another Fawn-breasted Tanager – my first since early on day one. I was pleased to see some more Becards, a group of birds I’d struggled with up to this point. There were a pair of the hefty Crested Becards and a lemon chested Green-backed Becard. A few White-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens were in the flocks lower down where a strange looking and rather large flycatcher came in above our heads. Adilei gestured towards the picture of Greyish Mourner in his copy of Souza and, sure enough, that’s what it was – rather plain grey with a slight rusty tinge and a broad bill with pale pinkish base. Quite an engaging bird.

Hunting is prohibited on the reserve but apparently people sometimes poach. In the forest we nervously passed a bloke who was heading out with a shotgun in hand, although he didn’t seem to have ‘obtained’ anything. Apparently this guy was known and he was asked a few days later what he’d been doing hunting in the forest. He said he wasn’t hunting but likes to go for walks in the forest with his gun to protect himself from wild animals. He also claimed to be Lord Lucan. Actually I just made that last bit up.

After leaving the forest, we headed around to the tower overlooking the wetlands and were able to enjoy very good views of a pair of Aplomado Falcons, first of all perched in a large tree and then hawking over the marshes. A couple of Caimans were out on the main pool, a rather big one at close range. I was glad I was up the tower, unless Caimans have a hitherto unrecognised ability to climb ladders. On the way back to the lodge a couple of small flycatchers were zipping around the scrub. They were very busy and bright yellow – the latter feature a big clue to them being Yellow Tyrannulets.

After a splendid lunch I had a fairly easy afternoon, chatting in the garden with Nicholas and Racquel who founded the reserve and going for another wander around the wetlands. I finally managed to see a Common Thornbird in the scrub, having seen their huge stick nests all over the place. Another flock of Blue-winged Macaws squawked overhead. As I reached the track leading to the tower a large brown bird was spooked from the marsh. Initially I assumed it was a Rufescent Tiger Heron but as it turned and flew into the distance it showed a long outstretched neck. It was a Limpkin, my first, and it disappeared off down the valley and into the late afternoon sun.

Day Thirteen: 24th July

An early start and Adilei and I were off to do the Waterfall Trail, a scenic trail leading up into the mountains through some wonderful forest. To get there we required a lift for a few miles to the start of the trail. As we trundled along one of the farm roads, it soon became apparent that various stops had been scheduled into the journey. First up was by a few roadside trees and the driver had 'casually' noticed some birds perched up in the branches. These were, gloriously, a couple of Rufous-tailed Jacamars, larger and gaudier cousins of the Three-toed Jacamars I’d seen a few days earlier. These are much more widespread birds but share the same watchful, robotic movements and long spiky bills. Next stop was at a barn, where I wasn’t totally surprised to be shown a sleeping Barn Owl up high in the eves. We also managed a few Burrowing Owls sitting out in the fields too.

We were dropped by a small cottage on the edge of the forest. In the distance a huge swirling flock of several hundred swifts were circling – probably a mixture of White-collared and Biscutate Swifts. Almost immediately a striking black and white raptor flew at tree top level into the forest. It had rather short and rounded wings and a long tail – no less a bird than a Collared Forest Falcon and a tricky species to see. The cottage garden contained several hummingbird feeders, which were festooned with hummers including my first Glittering-throated Emerald.

The forest was fairly quiet initially but Adilei showed me the enclosure where the Red-billed Curasows are being kept until being released as part of a reintroduction programme. These really are extraordinary looking birds, big and black with long tails and strange curly projections on top of the head. After some more walking up through some wonderful forest, we eventually started to get to grips with a few birds outside of cages. Up in the treetops, a roving flock of Olive-green Tanagers moved through. These are rather plain as tanagers go, but quite noisy.

Having only seen the subdued female previously, I was particularly pleased to finally get views of a male Pin-tailed Manakin, at least after Adilei had patiently tried to get me onto it, not easy when you don’t share a language. He was less successful at getting me to see precisely which leaf, amongst several possible, a Sharpbill was sitting by. I craned my neck to enjoy a good view of a White-necked Thrush, a compact thrush with pinky-buff underparts and a thin white gorget. Adilei was on form with his whistling and managed to bring out one of the birds I was most keen to see. After a few minutes of patient waiting a Rufous-capped Antthrush trotted calmly across the path just a few metres in front of us. This is a particularly smart antthrush, mostly black but with the starkly contrasting reddish crown from which it gets its name.

We stopped for lunch by the waterfall, a lovely spot even if the waterfall had been badly depleted by the current drought. I spent most of lunch looking at the startling array of butterflies that seem to gather in any sunny spot in the forest. As we started back down the hill we soon encountered a busy flock containing a regularly encountered triumvirate of species: Black-capped and White-eyed Foliage-gleaners and Red-crowned Ant-tanagers. But accompanying them this time was another bird I’d been trying to see for a number of days, a brilliant looking Spot-backed Ant-shrike. This is a really fine bird, a great mass of black and white spots, and I was able to enjoy some great views as it moved through the lower branches. The bird I was really hoping for was sadly less cooperative. At the appointed spot, Adilei let out a penetrating wolf-whistle, which was soon returned. Great, I thought. Then nothing. The call was that of a Shrike-like Cotinga and it didn’t want to play ball today.

We were met at the bottom of the trail and made our way back to the lodge, enjoying fine views of a pair of Cliff Flycatchers on the return journey. As we went past the reserve office, Lee (an English volunteer at REGUA) raced out to tell us about a Tufted Antshrike he’d been watching earlier that day. He offered to take us the short distance to where the bird had been and the three of us marched, rather swiftly, along a track and into a fairly young area of forest near to the lodge. Adilei was soon whistling up the call and the bird was responding beautifully. Except for the fact it was sitting in the middle of an incredibly dense patch of scrub.

Sometimes there was a movement and, eventually, a view through the branches of a large and dark bird, with a pointed crest. Not great, and frustrating given how close by it was, but a view. Some consolation came from a pair of quite exquisite Moustached Wrens, which were regularly showing in the low scrub by the trail. These aren’t brightly coloured but are just about as neat as any bird can get.

Finally, Lee and myself headed off to the wetlands for dusk and watched a pair of Aplomado Falcons in the trees and a few Blue-winged Macaws heading into roost.

Day Fourteen: 25th July

Something I forgot to mention from Day Twelve was that at dusk I saw a couple of Capybara on the wetlands, munching through the wet grass like small cows.

Anyway, in an unusual move, here's some more.

Today was rather epic, at least in terms of scenery and effort: five of us were walking up the Waterfall Trail and continuing on up the mountain to the elfin forest at the top. Deep breath. After being dropped off at the cottage, where once again a Glittering-throated Emerald was at the feeders, we headed up the trail at brisker pace than yesterday. Not for the first time on the trip, a Slaty Bristlefront was heard calling from a long way inside some very thick bamboo cover. Another source of noise proved easier to locate, as a couple of Blond-crested Woodpeckers gave good views but, once again, there was no sign of Shrike-like Cotinga in the regular spot.

We stormed on upwards, seeing some good flocks of tanagers including, rather briefly, my first Rufous-headed Tanager amongst the Yellow-backed and Olive-green Tanagers. A couple of Azure-shouldered Tanagers and Yellow-eared and Yellow-throated Woodpeckers were also in the forest. A sharp clanging came from a Bare-throated Bellbird but would it be possible to see it? I’d heard a few previously but the sound was always coming from too far into the forest. This time was different; a Bellbird was perched right out on an open branch across a clearing, loudly tonking away. Because we were looking into the light, the views weren’t perfect but it was brilliant to see such a legendary bird living up to its name.

On we continued, beyond the Waterfall Trail and up the steep Red Trail, through ever wilder forest. Birds were hard to see, but the shrill cries of parrots and the buzzing chirps of Uniform Finches kept us company. A Channel-billed Toucan sailed briefly into the tree tops and a Sharpbill was heard calling and was seen briefly by Lee. I was unable to get onto it in time, as was becoming a habit. The occasional fallen tree produced clearings that held some interesting birds. A sooty black flycatcher puzzled all of us for a while and it wasn’t until we got back to the lodge later that we finally resolved that it had been a Tropical Pewee. It was much darker than the illustrations in any of the guides but apparently the subspecies found in southeast Brazil is almost entirely dark. At another clearing, quite a few birds were moving through, including some obliging Ferruginous Antbirds – the first I’d seen since Serra dos Tucanos.

The path got steeper and steeper and we sometimes had to clamber under fallen branches to make our way through. Eventually we found ourselves on the flat top of the mountain in forest that looked totally different to that through which we’d passed. The trees were small, the canopy open and sturdy bromeliads carpeted the ground. The only birds at the top were a pair of very visible and curious Greyish Mourners, which followed us about as we admired the views out across the valley to the Serra dos Orgaos beyond and then down to the deforested lowlands stretching towards the coast.

Scrambling down the hill, we all struggled to keep up with Adilei, who stopped to point out a calling White-bibbed Antbird. We rested at the junction of the Lost Trail (so named because a couple visitors had once got lost there and spent the night out in the forest!) and were able to catch sight of a large woodcreeper off through the trees. The pale bill and rather plain head markings identified this as a Buff-throated Woodcreeper – the only one of the trip. As we rested, we heard movement in the leaf litter. Getting closer. Craning our necks over the small ridge, eventually the source became visible: a Tawny-throated Leaftosser, picking and rustling about in its Blackbird-like fashion. After continuing on to the bottom of the Lost Trail we got picked up at the 4x4 Trail and were driven back across the fields to the lodge.

In the last hour or so of light, I wandered over to the wetlands and found Nicholas running back to the office to pick up his scope because he wanted to have a better look at the parrots coming into roost in one of the dense stands of bamboo. When I arrived there was just one Blue-winged Macaw still showing, together with another large parrot, which we weren’t sure about at first but later we figured it out was an Orange-winged Parrot. By the time Nicholas came back, a scope and tripod trailing from the back of his bike, the parrots had gone into roost and out of sight.

The birding hadn’t finished with nightfall. After dinner, the others started to make their way down the hill from the lodge but we soon realised that owls were about, and they were making as strange a sound as I’ve ever heard from a bird. A Tawny-browed Owl was in the trees by the lodge garden, giving a call almost like Rolf Harris on his wobble-board. But much stranger:

We got hold of the flashlight, which had been on charge but was still very low on juice. Lee panned it around the trees and I just had time for a quick view of an owl before the charge went and so in turn did the light.

Below are two shots of the elfin forest and three views from the top of the mountain.

Day Fifteen: 26th July

Today was my last full day at REGUA and I decided to have a fairly easy time birding and taking pictures around the lodge.

In the morning, I set off on the trail back to where I had seen Tufted Antshrike a few days previously. I could hear the bird again but it was calling from across the valley – probably out of range even if I was using playback to bring it in. In the same area I was once again able to get great views of Moustached Wrens, the pair again very active in the low scrub at the side of the path.

The forest around the lodge was a bit quiet at times but I was delighted to get great views of a brilliant Rufous-tailed Jacamar as it perched like a sentry under the canopy. I’d not used a great deal of tape playback on this trip but I wanted to get better views than I’d had of Sooretama Slaty-antshrike so I stopped in what I thought might be a good spot (although I’m still not sure why) and got out the player and the speakers. Within a few seconds I had a pair of these scarce endemics hopping about within a few metres, giving good enough views to see the features distinguishing both male and female from the commoner Variable Antshrike. Very fine birds.

The wetlands had the usual assortment of herons, ducks and kingfishers but the highlight soon appeared in the large dead tree near the tower. This was a medium-sized, dark grey raptor with a rather long curved hook to the bill and bright red legs. After noticing the white uppertail I figured out that I was looking at a Snail Kite. It gave a great show, drifting lazily over the wetland before disappearing. Although these are common in some places, this was quite a good sighting for REGUA.

After lunch, on what was another very warm and sunny day, I decided on a gentle wander around the wetlands trying to get some bird pictures. I just had my ED50 and digital camera with me, but conditions were pretty good and I was able to get some nice shots of Tropical Kingbird, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, American Purple Gallinule and a very cooperative female Masked Duck. I also got a few shots of a Great Kiskadee with a very large tadpole it had caught. I had a quick look around the forested hill overlooking the main lake, and got a surprise when a Pauraque shot from the side of the path and whizzed out of sight. Not a great view but my first Nightjar of the trip.

As dusk closed in on the wetlands, I again disturbed the Limpkin from the marshy vegetation near the tower and then I watched some large groups of blackbirds coming into roost. Most were Chestnut-capped Blackbirds but there were also plenty of glossy looking Shiny Cowbirds. A group of buff, grey and pink White-tipped Doves came into a small stand of trees and I had some good views of three Common Thornbirds, hanging around their huge stick nests.

In the evening, there was a party at the volunteers’ residence. Andy and Cristina from Serra dos Tucanos had come over and it was good to catch up with them and sample some excellent home made cakes. Outside, the Tawny-browed Owls were on good form and two of us headed back up to the lodge, this time with a fully charged light, to try and get some views. Soon we could see one bird really well, looking big in the trees by the garden as it sent out its unnerving shimmering call.

A few pictures taken in the afternoon:

Day Sixteen: 27th July

I was woken on my final morning at REGUA by some noisy parrots in the garden. These proved to be a pair of Orange-winged Parrots, giving some fine views as they squawked in the trees.

I only had time for a short walk around the wetlands and the forest but managed one new bird: a Reddish Hermit, small and rusty looking, that dashed past me. Otherwise I enjoyed some final views of a few good REGUA species, including Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture and White-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens.

Soon I was back at the lodge, saying my goodbyes and getting in the car with Nicholas on my way to catch a bus into Rio from Cachoieras de Macacu. We had a bite to eat and Nicholas was able to book me a few nights at my next destination: the Hotel Donati in Itatiaia National Park.

Eventually the bus arrived and I had a fairly uneventful journey into Rio. The bus station was very busy but seemed a fairly safe place, with lots of intimidating looking security guards around. There are huge numbers of different companies serving all parts of the country but I managed to find the right ticket office for buses to Itatiaia

I took the bus as far as Resende, just a few miles from Itatiaia town. After a bit of help, I got onto a small minibus going to Itatiaia. The town was a bit bigger than I thought (I was expecting a village!) and I wasn’t sure where to get off. Eventually, the folks driving the bus figured out I probably wanted to find a taxi, so dropped me off near to a taxi rank in the centre of town. I asked the driver to take me to the Hotel Donati and, as darkness fell, we were soon on our way up the hill to the park entrance. The fare was pretty reasonable (only about five pounds) and I was able to get settled into my cabin at the hotel and enjoy one of many excellent buffet meals. Itatiaia proved to be a very fine place for birding.

Day Seventeen: 28th July

The grounds at the Hotel Donati consist of a fairly open area of lawns and gardens, with some tall trees. The hotel is surrounded by varied forest, including some quite dense stands of bamboo. The birds that were most immediately apparent were the strutting Dusky-legged Guans that strode confidently about the lawns and even perched up in the trees. They’re shy in most parts of their range but several decades of protection in Itatiaia have emboldened them considerably. I soon noticed the rather hefty looking Magpie Tanagers flitting about the gardens – a species that had eluded me elsewhere but proved to be easy to see around the hotels in the park. A flock of diminutive, soft-green Blue-winged Parrotlets were enjoying use of the lawn before the human residents took over. In the tall trees next to me chalet, I was pleased to see a noisy Suruca Trogon.

I took a wander along the tall avenue of trees lining the hotel driveway and soon noticed two large birds fly into the canopy. Through the early morning gloom, I was astonished to see that these were a pair of Robust Woodpeckers – one of the birds I was keenest to see in Brazil and one of the closest relatives of the now extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker. During the morning I was able to get some wonderful views of these magnificent crimson-headed birds, with their jet black bodies and creamy backs, in the grounds of the hotel. The big woodpecker action wasn’t complete either, as an almost equally fine Lineated Woodpecker was climbing up a tree near to the entrance. This species is only slightly smaller than the Robust, with neatly barred underparts. And just to round things off, I noticed a White-spotted Woodpecker clambering about in a small tree. Although undeniably a less spectacular species, it was a good one to get – a medium-sized woody, with barred mossy-green and white plumage.

There was plenty of other activity around the grounds. Several large moths had been attracted to the lights around the entrance, some looking rather like Oak Eggars, and these drew the attention of a voracious Grey-hooded Attila, which set about demolishing them with abandon. Better still was a delicate green barred passerine sat at the top of a tree – a female Swallow Tanager.

In a bid to work off the substantial hotel breakfast, I set off through the bamboo forest and towards the Hotel Simon. The bamboo was lively with some excellent mixed flocks moving about. I could scarcely have been more delighted when a big woodcreeper turned out to be my second jaw-droppingly wonderful Black-billed Scythebill of the trip. The bill of these birds is a thing to behold. There were plenty of White-collared Foliage-gleaners and a good few White-shouldered Fire-eyes, which were much easier to see here than they’d been elsewhere. Further on, I enjoyed my best views yet of Black-throated Grosbeak, a hefty tar black finch with a salmon pink bill. Some Diademed Tanagers – perhaps my favourite tanagers of the trip – were in a more open area of forest.

The grounds of the Hotel Simon seemed less obviously birdy than the Donati, but I knew that the feeders here had a reputation for excellence. Initially I was disappointed to see very few birds were coming in, and so I took a wander around the small garden at the rear of the hotel. Bossing the place were two vivid yellow and very showy Saffron Toucanets. A few hummers were coming into one of the flowering shrubs and it was here that I saw one of my favourite birds of the trip: a glorious Black-eared Fairy. This isn’t an especially gaudy hummingbird but it has the most startling contrast between deepest green upperparts and gleaming white underparts and outer tail feather. This is all set off by the dark purple ear coverts from whence its name is derived. The word exquisite fits no bird better and this one put on a wonderful show, flitting from flower to flower and perching up in the branches.

Around the front, I discovered the hotel staff filling up the feeders with bananas and sugar solution. This had a predictably transformative effect and soon the tanagers were piling into the fruit, mostly Golden-chevroned Tanagers but also the occasional Burnished Buff. Several species of hummer were fizzing about the newly replenished feeders: Black Jacobin, Brazilian Ruby, Violet-capped Woodnymph and a rather dowdy Versicoloured Emerald. I got invited up onto the balcony by one of the staff and got to take some pictures as the birds fed just a few metres in front.

I embarked on a circuitous walk back to the Hotel Donati, along some of the forest roads. Early on, I took a wrong turn into someone’s garden and, much to my delight, found two Slaty-breasted Woodrails, strutting away from me. This was a bird I’d heard many times, seen the back end of, and probably glimpsed in the dark, but here were a pair happily wandering about in the open in the middle of the day – big, grey and rufous rails, with long yellow bills. A gleaming Gilt-edged Tanager, all on its own, was a surprise at the roadside. One of the most impressive birds of the day was a splendid Red-breasted Toucan sat at the top of a tree. This prompted my first, and so far only, foray into digibinning – with fairly successful results.

Earlier in the day, I’d glimpsed a large crow-like bird drifting through the trees near the hotel and discussions with some visiting birders I met began to lead me to certain conclusions about what bird this had been. As I approached the same area on my return to the hotel, I managed a much better view of the bird in question, albeit through a maze of trees. It was a fantastic Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, a bird that really does look like a crow but with a vivid red throat. These are shy birds but I saw at least three moving darkly about the forests near the hotel entrance.

After a late lunch I took a wander along a trail going through some very thick bamboo forest. Birds were hard to see here but I managed a real surprise in the shape of a White-bellied Warbler. This species is very similar to the much commoner Golden-crowned Warbler but is white rather than yellow below. It’s also much less common. Walking back along a forest road, I had some decent views of another Rufous-capped Motmot. Further on, I had an interesting but slightly frustrating encounter. The light had turned very gloomy in the bamboo forest when I saw a small bird running along the trail ahead of me. I realised it was one of the Chamaeza Antthrushes, but which one? These are all rather similar looking and the three possible species are best distinguished by voice and altitude. I hoped I could get some closer views of it but it kept running on ahead of me as it methodically wandered along the path. I had the odd experience of scampering after a bird for a good few hundred yards. I got a bit closer but the light was too gloomy to pick out much detail and eventually it flitted off the path and out of sight. I suspected, on altitude, that it was the rare endemic Such’s Antthrush but I’d have to wait till tomorrow to see if I could find it again.

Day Eighteen: 29th July

In an unusual move, I thought I’d try to finish off this trip report. And hey, it’s a celebration of the first anniversary of the trip after all. Better late than never.

In the morning, I had a wander around the grounds of the Hotel Donati in somewhat cooler and cloudier conditions than I’d grown accustomed to. Again, I had good views of Robust Woodpecker – including one just thirty metres from my hotel room – Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Swallow Tanager. The highlight was a quick but close view of a gorgeous Frilled Coquette, a tiny hummer with a brilliant tuft of orange on its head.

I headed off on the trail through the bamboo forest and reached the point where I’d seen the Antthrush the previous afternoon. I thought I’d start up my player with a few recordings to see what kind of response I got. A blast of Such’s Antthrush soon got an emphatic response with a bird singing fairly close by but never coming into view. When I tried other species, I met with mute silence. So it certainly seems as if the Antthrush I’d seen the day before would have been Such’s, at least on circumstance (which is apparently a pretty good guide in southeast Brazil).

I spent much of the rest of the morning walking along a rather narrow trail that ran northwards through some dense forest, mostly of bamboo. Birds were generally a bit thin on the ground but I enjoyed good views of a Green-barred Woodpecker and also saw a Yellow Tyrannulet.

In the afternoon, I headed over to the Hotel Simon, hoping for more hummers. Things were rather quiet at the feeders so I wandered along the trail towards the Hotel do Ype. Immediately I encountered a good feeding flock and in amongst the other birds was a small pinkish coloured passerine with a distinct black cap. This was, rather unexpectedly, a Black-capped Piprites – a scarce high-altitude endemic and a bird I didn’t really expect to see this low down. I had good views of a Surucua Trogon as I walked along the trail and eventually found myself at the distinctive A-frame chalets of the Hotel do Ype. The feeders here were quite busy and, most notably, attracted two very smart Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers. That meant I’d seen four species of woodpecker in hotel grounds in Itatiaia that I never saw anywhere else.

On the way back, I encountered the unusual phenomenon of rain – the first of the trip. I also managed to almost knock myself out on a low bamboo trunk but survived for another substantial dinner I’m pleased to say.

Day Nineteen: 30th July

My last morning in Itatiaia was decidedly wet and cool and so I didn’t do much birding around the grounds before breakfast. I did manage to see Lineated Woodpecker again and also enjoyed excellent views of a pair of Slaty-breasted Wood-rails from my hotel window. I got a taxi down to the bus station, which had an Aplomado Falcon sitting on top of it. I then caught the bus into Rio and then transferred to a bus going to Angra dos Reis on the coast. It was tipping it down when I arrived and there wasn’t much prospect of birding. I checked into a fairly rudimentary hotel. The following day I would be heading for Isla Grande – a large forested island off the coast.

Day Twenty: 31st July

The following morning was showery and I had time to look around for birds in Angra before the boat left. There’s some interesting looking forest in the hills around the town but it seemed to be impossible to access. A walk along the road in one direction produced the best views of a Rufous-headed Tanager of the trip, in a tree along the shore. The other direction around the bay produced a range of wetland birds including Cocoi Heron (very like a Grey Heron) and a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. Offshore a few South American Terns were fishing and along the beach there was a good gathering of Brown-chested Martins and the rather sturdy looking Gray-breasted Martins. A Common Tody Flycatcher was in an area of scrub.

I caught the boat to Isla Grande in the afternoon and had time for a short walk around the main village on the island. I didn’t see too many birds in the quiet forest aside from a Brazilian Tanager and a Black-cheeked Gnateater. At dusk I heard a loud call like a demented cuckoo clock coming from the garden of the hostel where I was staying. I was going to have to wait till the following morning to find out what was making the noise.

Day Twenty-one: 1st August

The demented cuckoo clocks were going off in the garden again in the morning and a bit of quiet stalking around revealed the culprits: a pair of Gray-necked Wood-rails creeping through the vegetation. The early morning wander didn’t produce too much else, aside from what appeared to be a Swainson’s Flycatcher, showing a clear pale base to the lower mandible.

After breakfast, I set off from the village heading for the trail up to the top of the largest mountain on the island: Pico do Papagaio. This took me through a range of different forest types but most of the bird activity was lower down. I got reasonable views of a couple of Red-ruffed Fruitcrows and saw a range of other interesting forest species including Squirrel Cuckoo, Plain Parakeet, White-barred Piculet, Lesser Woodcreeper, Scaled Woodcreeper, Plain Antvireo, Unicoloured Antwren, Blue Manakin, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Long-billed Wren and Red-necked Tanager. I also saw a few Tufted-ear Marmoset’s peering at me through the trees. Another group of larger brown monkeys were seen grappling through the canopy. I thought these were Brown Howler Monkeys, a view that was reinforced later on when I heard an almost deafeningly loud burst of howling coming from deep in the forest.

Unfortunately, although the rain kept off, the cloud came down during my ascent and the top of the mountain was shrouded in mist, with only a couple of Rufous-collared Sparrows to be seen. On the way down I had the interesting experience of being lost in the forest. When I say ‘interesting’ I mean slightly scary. The trail was relatively clear most of the way down but I crossed over a dry stream and was unable to re-find the path. After a couple of false starts of only fifty metres or so, I even managed to lose track of where I had crossed over from. There was no trace of the path anywhere and I didn’t really no which direction to head in. Stories of abundant poisonous snakes and booby traps remaining from the island’s previous incarnation as a penal colony began to enter my thoughts. Luckily I had a compass and followed roughly what I thought was the direction back towards the village. After following the top of a steep bank for several minutes I happily found myself back on the track, my panic subsiding. It’s remarkable how disorienting a forest is when you don’t have a trail to follow.

Day Twenty-two: 2nd August

My last full day on Ilha Grande was characterised by rain. And more rain. Lots of rain falling pretty much all day, much as it has done over much of Britain this summer. Early in the morning, it wasn’t too heavy and I saw both Sombre Hummingbird and Glittering-throated Emerald around the village. Then I headed off for a speculative walk to the eastern end of the island, through some good forest and past what would have been lovely beaches in better weather. Very few birds were seen and it became increasingly difficult to see anything through my soaked glasses and bins. In one area of lower trees I managed to connect with a very good species though: a lovely pair of Rufous-winged Antwrens, completing a successful trip for Antbirds.

Eventually I took shelter in a weather-beaten café by a beach, where a few others were also seeking refuge. As I looked offshore into the bay I was surprised to see what appeared to be a bird swimming on the water. I was even more surprised when I lifted my bins to discover that it was a penguin! In fact it was a Magellanic Penguin and, I later discovered, part of a significant influx of these birds to Rio de Janeiro state.

I managed to catch a lift back to the village on a boat, where I was able to spend the rest of the day attempting to dry off.

Day Twenty-three: 3rd August

I had time for a quick wander in the morning before catching the ferry. The weather was a little bit better but still cloudy and I managed a few interesting species in the forest that I hadn’t seen much of previously, including Plain-winged Woodcreeper, Scaled Antbird and Grayish Mourner.

I caught the ferry back over to Angra and then set off on the bus to Rio. I was staying in Botafogo at a comfortable hostel and enjoyed the spectacular views down the street: Sugarloaf at one end and Christ the Redeemer at the other.

Day Twenty-four: 4th August

I had a morning free in Rio and the weather was now reasonably good, if not as warm as it had been earlier in the trip. I decided to head to the botanical gardens for a last look at some Neotropical species. This is a very pleasant area to spend a couple of hours and there’s a good range of birds to be seen. I had reasonable views of a Slaty-breasted Wood-rail lolloping through the herbaceous borders. Other species seen were White-barred Piculet, Yellow-lored Tody Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Warbler, Violaceous Euphonia and Rufous-headed, Flame-crested and Green-headed Tanagers. A good sighting was of a Tropical Parula, a very lovely species I’d only seen once previously.

I headed back to the hostel on the bus and then caught a taxi to the airport, finding myself back in Aberdeen some time the following afternoon.

Here's a trip list. Heard only species are in italics. I think the final total was 320 plus 6 species heard.

SOLITARY TINAMOU (Tinamus solitarius)
BROWN TINAMOU (Crypturellus obsoletus)
MAGELLANIC PENGUIN (Spheniscus magellanicus)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
CAPPED HERON (Pilherodius pileatus)
COCOI HERON (Ardea cocoi)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
SNOWY EGRET (E. thula)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
STRIATED HERON (Butorides striatus)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma lineatum)
ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)
WHITE-FACED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna viduata)
MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata)
BRAZILIAN TEAL (Amazonetta braziliensis)
MASKED DUCK (Nomonyx dominica)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
SNAIL KITE (Rostrhamus sociabilis)
TINY HAWK (Accipiter superciliosus)
RUFOUS-THIGHED HAWK (A. erythromenius)
SAVANNA HAWK (Heterospizias meridionalis)
CROWNED EAGLE (Harpyhaliaetus coronatus)
ROADSIDE HAWK (Buteo magnirostris)
WHITE-TAILED HAWK (B. albicaudatus)
BLACK-HAWK EAGLE (Spizastur tyrannus)
SOUTHERN CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)
YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Milvago chimachima)
COLLARED FOREST-FALCON (Micrastur semitorquatus)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
APLOMADO FALCON (F. femoralis)
BAT FALCON (F. rufigularis)
DUSKY-LEGGED GUAN (Penelope obscura)
SPOT-WINGED WOOD-QUAIL (Odontophorus capueira)
LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)
SLATY-BREASTED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides saracura)
COMMON MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus)
RED-LEGGED SERIEMA (Cariama cristata)
WATTLED JACANA (Jacana jacana)
SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
KELP GULL (Larus dominicanus)
SANDWICH TERN (Sterna sandvicensis)
SOUTH AMERICAN TERN (Sterna hirundinacea)
LEAST TERN (S. antillarum)
PICAZURO PIGEON (Patagionas picazuro)
RUDDY GROUND-DOVE (C. talpacoti)
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)
GRAY-FRONTED DOVE (L. rufaxilla)
BLUE-WINGED MACAW (Primolius maracana)
WHITE-EYED PARAKEET (Aratinga leucophthalmus)
MAROON-BELLIED PARAKEET (Pyrrhura frontalis)
BLUE-WINGED PARROTLET (Forpus xanthopterygius)
ORANGE-WINGED PARROT (Amazona amazonica)
PLAIN PARAKEET (Brotogeris tirica)
SCALY-HEADED PARROT (Pionus maximiliani)
SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
GUIRA CUCKOO (Guira guira)
STRIPED CUCKOO (Tapera naevia)
BARN OWL (Tyto alba)
TAWNY-BROWED OWL (Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana)
FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium brasilianum)
BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)
PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Stretoprocne zonaris)
BISCUTATE SWIFT (S. biscutata)
GREY-RUMPED SWIFT (Chaetura cinereiventris)
SAW-BILLED HERMIT (Ramphodon naevius)
SCALE-THROATED HERMIT (Phaethornis eurynome)
SOMBRE HUMMINGBIRD (Aphantochroa cirrhochloris)
BLACK JACOBIN (Melanotrochilus fuscus)
PLOVERCREST (Stephanoxis lalandi)
FRILLED COQUETTE (Lophornis magnificus)
GLITTERING-BELLIED EMERALD (Chlorostilbon aureoventris)
VIOLET-CAPPED WOODNYMPH (Thalurania glaucopis)
WHITE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Leucochloris albicollis)
VERSICOLORED EMERALD (Agyrtria versicolor)
BRAZILIAN RUBY (Clytolaema rubricauda)
BLACK-EARED FAIRY (Heliothryx aurita)
SURUCUA TROGON (T. surrucura)
RINGED KINGFISHER (Ceryle torquata)
AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona)
RUFOUS-CAPPED MOTMOT (Baryphthengus ruficapillus)
THREE-TOED JACAMAR (Jacamaralcyon tridactyla)
RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda)
WHITE-EARED PUFFBIRD (Nystalus chacuru)
SAFFRON TOUCANET (Baillonius bailloni)
SPOT-BILLED TOUCANET (Selenidera maculirostris)
CHANNEL-BILLED TOUCAN (Rhamphastos vitellinus)
WHITE-BARRED PICULET (Picumnus cirratus)
WHITE WOODPECKER (Melanerpes candidus)
YELLOW-EARED WOODPECKER (Veniliornis maculifrons)
GREEN-BARRED WOODPECKER (Colaptes melanochloros)
CAMPO FLICKER (C. campestris)
LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)
ROBUST WOODPECKER (Campephilus robustus)
TAIL-BANDED HORNERO (Furnarius figulus)
CHICLI SPINETAIL (Synallaxis spixi)
PALLID SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca pallida)
YELLOW-CHINNED SPINETAIL (Certhiaxis cinnamomea)
ITATIAIA THISTLETAIL (Oreophylax moreirae)
COMMON THORNBIRD (Phacellodomus rufifrons)
RED-EYED THORNBIRD (P. erythrophthalmus)
FIREWOOD GATHERER (Anumbius annumbi)
PLAIN XENOPS (Xenops minutus)
SHARP-BILLED TREEHUNTER (Heliobletus contaminatus)
WHITE-BROWED FOLIAGE GLEANER (Anabacerthia amaurotis)
BUFF-BROWED FOLIAGE GLEANER (Syndactyla rufosupercileatus)
PALE-BROWED TREEHUNTER (Cichlocolaptes leucophrus)
WHITE-COLLARED FOLIAGE GLEANER (Anabezenops leucophthalmus)
WHITE-EYED FOLIAGE-GLEANER (Automolus leucophthalmus)
PLAIN-WINGED WOODCREEPER (Dendrocincla fuliginosa)
OLIVACEOUS WOODCREEPER (Sittasomus griseicapillus)
WHITE-THROATED WOODCREEPER (Xiphocolaptes albicollis)
LESSER WOODCREEPER (Xiphorhynchus fuscus)
SCALED WOODCREEPER (Lepidocolaptes squamatus)
BLACK-BILLED SCYTHEBILL (Campylorhamphus falcularius)
SPOT-BACKED ANTSHRIKE (Hypoedaleus guttatus)
GIANT ANTSHRIKE (Batara cinerea)
TUFTED ANTSHRIKE (Mackenziaena severa)
LARGE-TAILED ANTSHRIKE (Mackenziaene leachii)
CHESTNUT-BACKED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus palliates)
VARIABLE ANTSHRIKE (T. caerulescens)
SPOT-BREASTED ANTVIREO (Dysithamnus stictothorax)
PLAIN ANTVIREO (D. mentalis)
STAR-THROATED ANTWREN (Myrmotherula gularis)
RUFOUS-WINGED ANTWREN (Herpsilochmus rufimarginatus)
RESTINGA ANTWREN (Formicivora littoralis)
FERRUGINOUS ANTBIRD (Drymophila ferruginea)
BERTONI’S ANTBIRD (D. rubricollis)
SCALED ANTBIRD (D. squamata)
STREAK-CAPPED ANTWREN (Terenura maculata)
WHITE-SHOULDERED FIRE-EYE (Pyriglena leucoptera)
WHITE-BIBBED ANTBIRD (Myrmciza loricata)
BRAZILIAN ANTTHRUSH (Chamaeza ruficauda)
SUCH’S ANTTHRUSH (C. meruloides)
RUFOUS GNATEATER (Conopophaga lineate)
MOUSE-COLORED TAPACULO (Scytalopus speluncae)
SHRIKE-LIKE COTINGA (Laniisoma elegans)

HOODED BERRYEATER (Carpornis cucullatus)
RED-RUFFED FRUITCROW (Pyroderus scutatus)
BARE-THROATED BELLBIRD (Procniasnudicollis)
BLUE MANAKIN (Chiroxiphia caudata)
PIN-TAILED MANAKIN (Ilicuramilitaris)
BLACK-CAPPED PIPRITES (Piprites pileatus)
YELLOW TYRANNULET (Capsiempis flaveola)
YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)
SOOTY TYRANNULET (Serpophaga nigiricans)
GRAY-HOODED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes rufiventris)
SEPIA-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Leptopogon amaurocephalus)
SERRA DO MAR TYRANNULET (Phylloscartes difficilis)
PLANALTO TYRANNULET (Phyllomyias fasciatus)
EARED PYGMY TYRANT (Myiomis auricularis)
HANGNEST TODY-TYRANT (H. nidipendulus)
OCHRE-FACED TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum plumbeiceps)
YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias sulphurescens)
WHITE-THROATED SPADEBILL (Platyrinchus mystaceus)
BRAN-COLORED FLYCATCHER (Myiophobus fasciatus)
WHISKERED FLYCATCHER (Myiobius barbatus)
CLIFF FLYCATCHER (Hirundinea ferruginea)
FUSCOUS FLYCATCHER (Cnemotriccus fuscatus)
TROPCIAL PEWEE (Contopus cinereus)
BLUE-BILLED BLACK-TYRANT (Knipolegus cyanirostris)
MASKED WATER-TYRANT (Fluvicola nengeta)
WHITE-HEADED MARSH TYRANT (Arundinicola leucocephala)
STREAMER-TAILED TYRANT (Gubernetes yetapa)
YELLOW-BROWED TYRANT (Satrapa icterophrys)
LONG-TAILED TYRANT (Colonia colonus)
CATTLE TYRANT (Machetornis rixosus)
SHEAR-TAILED GRAY-TYRANT (Muscipipra vetula)
GRAYISH MOURNER (Rhytipterna simplex)
SWAINSON’S FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus swainsoni)
GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)
BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarhyncus pitangua)
RUSTY-MARGINED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes cayanensis)
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)
GREENISH SCHIFFORNIS (Schiffornis virescens)
CHESTNUT-CROWNED BECARD (Pachyramphus castaneus)
SHARPBILL (Oxyruncus cristatus)
WHITE-RUMPED SWALLOW (Tachycineta leucorrhoa)
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)
TAWNY-HEADED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx fucata)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
YELLOWISH PIPIT (Anthus lutescens)
BLACK-CAPPED DONACOBIUS (Donacobius atricapillus)
MOUSTACHED WREN (Thryothorus genibarbis)
LONG-BILLED WREN (T. longirostris)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH (Platycichla flavipes)
RUFOUS-BELLIED THRUSH (Turdus rufiventris)
CREAMY-BELLIED THRUSH (T. amaurochalinus)
COMMON WAXBILL (Estrilda astrild)
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceous)
RUFOUS-CROWNED GREENLET (Hylophilus poecilotis)
RUFOUS-BROWED PEPPER SHRIKE (Cyclarhis gujanensis)
TROPICAL PARULA (Parula pitiayumi)
MASKED YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis aequinoctialis)
GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER (Basileuterus culicivorus)
WHITE-RIMMED WARBLER (B. leucoblepharus)
BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)
CHESTNUT-VENTED CONEBILL (Conirostrum speciosum)
CINNAMON TANAGER (Schistochlamys ruficapillus)
MAGPIE TANAGER (Cissopis leveriana)
ORANGE-HEADED TANAGER (Thlypopsis ruficeps)
RUFOUS-HEADED TANAGER (Hemithraupis ruficapilla)
HOODED TANAGER (Nemosia pileata)
OLIVE GREEN TANAGER (Orthogonys chloricterus)
FLAME-CRESTED TANAGER (Tachyphonus cristatus)
BLACK-GOGGLED TANAGER (Trichothraupis melanops)
HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)
BRAZILIAN TANAGER (Ramphocelus bresilius)
SAYACA TANAGER (Thraupis sayaca)
PALM TANAGER (T. palmarum)
DIADEMED TANAGER (Stephanophorus diadematus)
FAWN-BREASTED TANAGER (Pipraeidea melanonota)
VIOLACEOUS EUPHONIA (Euphonia violacea)
BLUE-NAPED CHLOROPHONIA (Chlorophonia cyanea)
GREEN-HEADED TANAGER (Tangara seledon)
RED-NECKED TANAGER (T. cyanocephala)
GILT-EDGED TANAGER (T. cyanoventris)
BLUE DACNIS (Dacnis cayana)
GREEN HONEYCREEPER (Chlorophanes spiza)
SWALLOW TANAGER (Tersina viridis)
PILEATED FINCH (Coryphospingus pileatus)
BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina)
UNIFORM FINCH (Haplospiza unicolor)
SAFFRON FINCH (Sicalis flaveola)
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis)
CHESTNUT-CAPPED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius ruficapillus)
WHITE-BROWED BLACKBIRD (Sturnella superciliaris)
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
GIANT COWBIRD (M. oryzivora)
RED-RUMPED CACIQUE (Cacicus haemorrhous)
CRESTED OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius decumanus)
HOODED SISKIN (Carduelis magellanica)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)

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