by Dalcio Dacol
Last August (8/99) I had to go, unexpectedly, to Sao Paulo, Brazil. I did manage to do a bit of birding with my friend Paulo Martuscelli. Altogether I saw 138 different species in five short outings and about 30 hours of birding.
The most interesting birding happened on an overnight trip to Carlos Botelho State Park located on the Serra do Paranapiacaba roughly between the towns of Sao Miguel Arcanjo and Sete Barras (SW from the capital city of Sao Paulo) and just to the north of Fazenda Intervales. I had birded here about 7 years ago, also in the beginning of September but this year was very different weatherwise. While in 1992 it had been a typical winter in southern Brazil (ie, the driest part of the year but still pretty humid by any standards) this year an extended drought had hit this part of the country. Till the rains came in mid-September the city of Sao Paulo had been rainless for 74 days and the upper part of Carlos Botelho had been rainless for 105 days!
Paulo and I reached Carlos Botelho late afternoon on Sept. 7. It was hot, dry, with a very warm and dry wind blowing from the northwest. On the agricultural areas west of the park there was lots of burning going on and the park personel were active in fighting fires in order to prevent any fires in the park itself. It was quite a contrast to when I was there in early Sept of 1992. Then the temperature was in the 60s, there was heavy drizzle and lots of insects and birds. This time both insects and birds were in low supply. Specially small forest flycatchers and antbirds.
A late afternoon/early evening walk along a jeep track produced a small flock of Brassy-breasted Tanagers, a Red-breasted Toucan, a Dusky-legged Guan and the best birds of this trip: a pair of the rare Long-trained Nightjars (Macropsalis creaga). The nightjars flushed from the jeep track and circled around us a couple of times at very close range. The long white tail feathers of the male were clearly visible. This was quite a treat and they were my only life-birds for this trip.
Next morning we drove further along the same jeep track and then birded on foot for a few hours. Lots of Hooded Berryeaters were singing in the forest along the track but none showed itself to us. Solitary Tinamous, Trogons, Toucans and Antpittas were some of the other birds vocalizing quite often from the surrounding forest. There were very few mixed flocks and they were small, both in species variety and number of individuals. We saw 4 Black-fronted Piping-Guans: two singles and one pair that showed very well. On the way back to the car we came upon a troop of Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus apella) feeding very close to the road, at least 8 individuals. They were feeding on bromelias on the higher branches of very tall trees. Besides searching the bromelias for food items the monkeys were also feeding on their embrionic leaves, they would pull out the center of the bromelias and eat the white core of undeveloped leaves.
In the city of Sao Paulo itself ( a very large, and heavily built up, metropolitan area) Plain Parakeets (Brotogeris tirica) were ubiquitous. I saw them everywhere I went in the city. They were feeding mostly on kapok seeds. They would gnaw through the hard peel and pulp of the fruits to get at the seeds and they also would work hard to dislodge the peel-pulp sections on the ripe kapok pods. Lots of kapok trees in city parks and almost everyone of them equipped with its own parakeet flock.
A note on Parque Estadual Carlos Botelho: although the park has comfortable lodgings they are reserved for "pesquisadores" which means that in practice it is not possible for visitors to stay there. However there is a small "pousada" right in front of the main entrance. It has two small chales and a small restaurant. I dont have the phone number but the personel at the park know it. The park's phone number is 015-973-9278 and, obviously, one should speak Portuguese to be able to get any useful information from this number.