The Best of Brazil – Pantanal, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest Jewels
The Best of Brazil – Pantanal, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest Jewels
This tour will surely rank as one of your neotropical wildlife trips of a lifetime! Our Best of Brazil itinerary will allow you to explore three highly fascinating ecosystems of this huge and highly diverse country: the Pantanal, the Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest. It is important to note that while we are in the Pantanal, we will spend a full morning and afternoon on a boat safari along the Cuiabá River concentrating on finding the world’s third-largest feline, the elusive and charismatic Jaguar!
Jaguar is one of the many mammal highlights of this fantastic tour (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
We will embark on our birding and mammal adventure by exploring the Pantanal, a vast, seasonally flooded wetland, renowned for its incredible concentrations of birds at the end of the dry season. We schedule this tour during this season, when the fish trapped in the shrinking pools of water attract hordes of herons, egrets, storks, and other wetland species. The star of these huge concentrations is the massive Jabiru, towering over a diverse collection of shorter South American waterbirds, such as Sunbittern, Plumbeous, Bare-faced, Green, and Buff-necked Ibises, Grey-cowled Wood Rail and Southern Screamer. There is normally a large diversity of raptors around too, with Savanna Hawk, Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk and Crane Hawk regularly encountered. Our river trips provide the opportunity to look for species such as Capped Heron, Sungrebe, the striking Agami Heron, Anhinga and a plethora of kingfishers including Green, Amazon, Ringed, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous. Other target species include Band-tailed Antbird and, with some luck, the seldom-seen Zigzag Heron. Boat trips along rivers also provide the best chances of seeing Endangered (IUCN) Giant (River) Otters; the largest otter in the world and one of the ‘Big Five’ of South American mammals. This is the best place on the planet for seeing Jaguar and during the dry season sightings are almost guaranteed. This humongous cat is probably the star of the entire show on this tour.
Hyacinth Macaws are often a crowd-favorite in the Pantanal (photo Anne Koke).
The Pantanal is simply paradise for parrot-lovers, with standout species including the iconic and threatened Hyacinth Macaw, the largest flying species of parrot in the world and one of Brazil’s great conservation success stories. Other parrot species likely to be seen in the Pantanal include the likes of Golden-collared Macaw, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Peach-fronted Parakeet, White-eyed Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Orange-winged Amazon, Turquoise-fronted Amazon and Scaly-headed Parrot.
The Pantanal is not only rich in water-associated avifauna; we will also bird its large grasslands, gallery river forests, marshes and plains for species such as Chotoy Spinetail, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, White-lored Spinetail, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Greater Thornbird, Masked Gnatcatcher, Flavescent Warbler, the incredible Helmeted Manakin, White Woodpecker, Pale-crested Woodpecker and Mato Grosso Antbird.
The Pantanal is perhaps South America’s greatest wildlife refuge and here we should get daily sightings of Capybara (the largest rodent in the world), primates such as Black-tailed Marmoset, Bearded Capuchin (sometimes treated as a full species here, ‘Azara’s Capuchin’) and Black-and-gold Howler Monkeys. With luck, we might encounter Marsh Deer, Crab-eating Raccoon, South American Coati, Yellow Armadillo, Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir and Giant Anteater.
Pousada Piuval offers some of the best chances for Giant Anteater in the Pantanal (Riccardo Boschetti).
Then we will move to explore the cerrado, a highly threatened mosaic of dry woodland, gallery forest, and grassland, home to its own unique set of special birds, including White-eared Puffbird, Collared Crescentchest, Chapada Flycatcher, Crested Black Tyrant, Coal-crested Finch, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-shouldered Macaw and White-rumped Tanager. We explore this fascinating biome via the scenic Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, a landscape studded with beautiful rock formations and adorned with cascading waterfalls.
The gallery forest in Chapada dos Guimarães can provide species such as Brown Jacamar, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Whooping Motmot, Pheasant Cuckoo and the secretive Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. The grasslands of Chapada dos Guimarães might provide the restricted Yellow-faced Parrot and, with a lot of luck, the secretive Maned Wolf.
Red-necked Tanager, one of the many brightly colored tanager species we should see on this tour (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
Finally, we will fly to São Paulo to explore the Atlantic Forest in south-eastern Brazil. Here, in this important endemic-rich and highly diverse ecosystem, we will spend time at two of its classic birding sites, Ubatuba, and Itatiaia. During our five days here we will enjoy a large diversity of endemic and beautiful birds such as Saffron Toucanet, Green-billed Toucan, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Surucua Trogon, Pin-tailed Manakin, Black Jacobin, Saw-billed Hermit, Frilled Coquette, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Bare-throated Bellbird, Green-headed Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Diademed Tanager, Large-tailed Antshrike, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Slaty Bristlefront, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Blue-winged Macaw, Slaty-breasted Wood Rail and Tawny-browed Owl.
This tour can be combined with various other of our Brazil birding tours which run one-after-the-other following this trip, including Southeast Brazil: Itatiaia, Ubatuba and Intervales (if you want to see a lot more of the Atlantic Forest birds as the current tour only gives a taster), Birding Tour Brazil: Serra da Canastra and Cipó endemics, Brazilian Merganser and Maned Wolf and Northeast Brazil: Araripe Manakin, Lear’s Macaw and other endemics. You can also combine this tour with our Brazil birdwatching trips to the Brazilian Amazon (we’ve replaced Cristalino Lodge with an equivalent), Iguazu Falls (not only one of the most famous scenic wonders of the world, but also a fabulous birding site) and various other parts of this vast country.
Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Cuiabá and transfer to the hotel
After your arrival at Cuiabá, you will be met by our staff and transferred to your comfortable hotel which must rank as the premier hotel in Cuiabá.
Overnight: Hotel Deville, Cuiabá
The massive Jabiru can be seen on exposed sandbanks throughout the Pantanal.
Day 2. Birding the Pantanal and transfer to Pousada Piuval
We will leave Cuiabá and drive towards Poconé and the Pantanal. During our drive, we will likely see species such as Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Southern Lapwing, Cattle Tyrant, Plumbeous Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Red-legged Seriema, Rufous Hornero, Wood Stork, Jabiru, and Toco Toucan. We will arrive at the Pousada Piuval Lodge, and with luck see our first pairs of Hyacinth Macaws flying over the Pantanal. Other birds here include White-eyed Parakeet, Sunbittern, Southern Screamer, Grey Monjita, Yellowish Pipit, Campo Flicker, Sayaca Tanager, Chalk-browed Mockingbird and Greater Rhea.
We will also encounter a large number of water-associated species such as Cocoi Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Large-billed Tern, Black-necked Stilt, and Limpkin. We will try for the difficult-to-see Yellow-breasted Crake and keep an eye out for Red-legged Seriema and Greater Rhea.
After dinner we will have an optional night drive, looking for animals that might include Crab-eating Fox and, with luck, Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir and perhaps even the elusive Giant Anteater, which is one of the toughest animals to see in the Pantanal.
Overnight: Pousada Piuval Lodge (in superior rooms, when available)
Another huge and brightly colored macaw, this time Blue-and-yellow Macaw (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
Day 3. Pousada Piuval and transfer to Mato Grosso Hotel
An early morning of birding around Pousada Piuval should hopefully allow us to see Pale-crested Woodpecker, White-fronted Woodpecker, Great Thornbird, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and more Hyacinth Macaws. We will then leave the lodge and drive along the fabulous Transpantaneira Road to reach our next port of call, Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel. En route, we will stop to look for Blue-crowned and Nanday Parakeets. We should arrive at our hotel at around lunchtime. After a midday break, we will embark on an exciting boat trip along the Pixaim oxbow lake. Here we have chances of seeing the remarkably beautiful Agami Heron, Black-collared Hawk, all five locally occurring kingfishers (Ringed, Amazon, Green, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous), Sungrebe, Anhinga, Jabiru, Blue-throated Piping Guan, and if we are lucky, the secretive Zigzag Heron; we will make a special effort to find this most-wanted species. We might also find our first Giant (River) Otter, and there is already a small chance for Jaguar, which has been seen on previous Birding Ecotours trips in this area. The main Jaguar venue is still upcoming though! Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir and Crab-eating Fox can often be seen at night around the lodge
Overnight: Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel
The attractive Agami Heron.
Day 4. Hotel Mato Grosso
Today we will start our day birding the fields and gallery forest around the hotel. We will look for many birds such as Chotoy Spinetail, Greater Thornbird, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Blue-black Grassquit, Unicolored Blackbird, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Picui Ground Dove, Scaled Dove, Picazuro Pigeon, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Savanna Hawk, Scaled Dove, Long-tailed Ground Dove, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Mato Grosso Antbird, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Undulated Tinamou, Helmeted Manakin, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Blue-crowned Trogon, Amazonian Motmot, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Yellow-billed Cardinal and Red-crested Cardinal.
Later in the evening we will try for Little Nightjar, which may be active around our lodge.
Overnight: Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel
Day 5. Transfer to Porto Jofre and Jaguar boat ride
We will have an early start today, leaving the Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel and driving along the Transpantaneira towards Porto Jofre, where we hope to see species such as Scarlet-headed Blackbird, White-banded Mockingbird, Maguari Stork, Southern Screamer, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Scaly-headed Parrot and with some luck, Golden-collared Macaw.
We will arrive at Porto Jofre for lunch, and in the afternoon, we will have our first Jaguar search along the Cuiabá River, which is one of the most reliable places in the world to see this animal. We will also look for Giant (River) Otters, which are often seen along the Cuiabá River. Birds we might encounter include Collared Plover, Pied Plover, Black Skimmer and Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns. On the way back to the lodge, Band-tailed Nighthawk may be seen flying above the river before dusk.
Overnight: Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre
Day 6. Jaguar search
We will have another excursion along the Cuiabá River this morning to hopefully acquire more Jaguar sightings, which sometimes are seen hunting prey such as Capybara and Yacare Caiman. We also hope to experience further encounters with Giant (River) Otters. We will have a full six hours on the river this morning as we hope to spend more time with these impressive cats.
After lunch and some downtime, we will head out for the afternoon’s birding excursion in the general area. We will explore the Campos de Jofre and Transpantaneira Road looking for White Woodpecker, Southern Caracara, the two elusive rallids, Spotted Rail and Grey-breasted Crake and, with luck, Least Bittern.
Overnight: Hotel Pantanal Norte, Porto Jofre
Sunsets in the Pantanal can be stunning (photo Riccardo Boschetti)!
Day 7. Transfer to Pouso Alegre Lodge
We’ll leave Porto Jofre and drive back to the first section of the Transpantaneira Road to the Pouso Alegre Lodge. Here we hope to encounter different species such as Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Green-barred Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Black-bellied Antwren, Grey-crested Cachalote, Chaco Chachalaca, Chestnut-bellied Guan, and Bare-faced Curassow. This lodge is basic and small, but what it lacks in comfort is well compensated for by an incredible tract of woodland right on our doorstep. In this woodland, we have extra chances of finding wildlife including Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir, Crab-eating Fox and, with luck, Southern Tamandua (the small anteater!) or maybe even an Ocelot. We will look for Great Potoo, Common Potoo, Little Nightjar, Spot-tailed Nightjar and Parauque during our night drive around the lodge woodlands.
Overnight: Pouso Alegre Lodge
Day 8. Pouso Alegre and transfer to Chapada dos Guimarães
We will have a final day birding the woodlands of Pouso Alegre, where we will focus on any missing species, before leaving the Pantanal. After a week in this fabulous ecosystem, we will head back to Cuiabá and drive to the Chapada dos Guimarães. We hope to arrive before dusk to check our usual stakeouts for Blue-winged Macaw and Red-and-green Macaw.
Overnight Chapada dos Guimarães
We should find Rufous-tailed Jacamar in Vale da Benção.
Day 9. Birding the Agua Fria Road and Vale da Benção
We will have a pre-dawn start to explore the arid and dusty Agua Fria Road, which is one of the still-accessible spots outside the park with remnants of cerrado habitat. Here we hope to find species like the most-wanted Collared Crescentchest as well as Rufous-winged Antshrike, White-rumped Tanager, White-banded Tanager, Plumbeous Seedeater, White-eared Puffbird, Black-faced Tanager and Chapada and Suiriri Flycatchers. Once it has warmed up, we visit a forested area called Vale da Benção, where we have good chances to see species like Amazonian Motmot, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Brown Jacamar, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Golden-crowned Warbler, Red-shouldered Macaw and hopefully the seldom-seen Pheasant Cuckoo and Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. After a midday rest, we will have a long drive to look for the rare and localized Yellow-faced Parrot. We will have dinner in Chapada dos Guimarães town and then drive back to our accommodation.
Overnight: Chapada dos Guimarães
Maroon-bellied Parrot, yet another parrot species we will target on this tour.
Day 10. Birding Chapada dos Guimarães
We will have another early start to explore the Geladeira Road, where we will look for Spot-backed Puffbird, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Sayaca Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Burnished-buff Tanager, White-tailed Hawk, Barred Antshrike, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Greater Rhea, the charismatic Burrowing Owl, Chopi Blackbird, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Blue Dacnis, Small-billed Elaenia and Southern Scrub Flycatcher. After lunch, we will visit our stakeout for the endemic Crested Black Tyrant and the distinctive subspecies of Cliff Flycatcher that occurs here.
Overnight: Chapada dos Guimarães
Day 11. Chapada do Guimarães to Cuiabá and flight to São Paulo
We shall have a predawn start to take advantage of the early morning bird activity and look for any species we may still be missing in the Chapada do Guimarães. We will then transfer to the Cuiabá airport to connect with our domestic flight to São Paulo.
Overnight: Hampton by Hilton Guarulhos Airport, São Paulo
Day 12. Drive to Ubatuba and start of Atlantic Forest Birding
Today we will drive to Ubatuba in the heart of Brazil’s endemic-rich Atlantic Forest. We will have an incredible afternoon while looking for multiple species of hummingbirds, such as Black Jacobin, Saw-billed Hermit, Festive Coquette, Sombre Hummingbird, White-chinned Sapphire and Versicolored Emerald. The tanager feeders attract stunning birds such as Red-necked Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and Violaceous Euphonia.
We will hopefully see Blue Manakin along the trails at Ubatuba (photo Riccardo Boschetti).
Day 13. Birding Ubatuba
We will spend the morning and afternoon birding the splendid trails at Ubatuba, where we will look for Blond-crested Woodpecker, Bare-throated Bellbird, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Scaled Antbird, Ferruginous Antbird, Salvadori’s Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Diademed Tanager, Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, Long-billed Wren, Pin-tailed Manakin, Blue Manakin, Spot-breasted Antvireo and Channel-billed Toucan.
At night we will look for Tawny-browed Owl, Short-tailed Nighthawk and Common Potoo.
Day 14. Transfer to Itatiaia National Park
After breakfast, we will transfer to Itatiaia National Park. Our lodge is located in the lowlands of the park, where we have chances for the truly stunning Saffron Toucanet, Red-breasted Toucan, Green-crowned Plovercrest, Gilt-edged Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Olive-green Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager, Rufous-headed Tanager, Frilled Coquette, White-bibbed Antbird, Violet-capped Woodnymph, White-throated Hummingbird, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Pileated Parrot, Velvety Black Tyrant, and Scaled Woodcreeper. The Slaty-breasted Wood Rail is often seen in the parking area and the nearby flowers attracts the lovely Frilled Coquette.
Overnight: Hotel do Ypê, Itatiaia
We hope to find Saffron Toucanet at Itatiaia National Park.
Days 15 – 16. Itatiaia National Park
We will spend two days exploring the exciting Itatiaia National Park looking for birds such as Itatiaia Spinetail, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Pampas Finch, Diademed Tanager, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Large-tailed Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Bay-chested Warbling Finch, Thick-billed Saltator, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Rufous Gnateater, Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Black-billed Scythebill, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Scaled Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Planalto Tyrannulet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Eared Pygmy Tyrant, Blue Manakin, Black-tailed Myiobius, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Chivi Vireo, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Black-goggled Tanager, and Red-rumped Cacique. In the evening, we will try for Rusty-barred Owl.
Overnight: Hotel do Ypê, Itatiaia
Day 17. Transfer to São Paulo, departure
Depending on the time of your departure flight we might have time for some last birding before leaving the lodge. We will then transfer to São Paulo’s GRU Airport to connect with your international flight.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Brazil: Cerrado, Amazon and Pantanal Trip Report, September 2019
05-21 OCTOBER 2019
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Jaguar was a major target on this tour (photo John Trathen).
Our 2019 “The Best of Brazil: Pantanal, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest” tour allowed all participants to have encounters with a great selection of birds and by far the best experience with the finest wildlife in the Neotropics. The Pantanal, a name that conjures up vast and remote wetlands full of aquatic species and one of the last refuges of the Jaguar is an obligatory destination in South America for birdwatchers and nature lovers. During our visit to the Pantanal we were rewarded with views of some sought-after species like Hyacinth Macaw, Southern Screamer, Bare-faced Curassow, Chestnut-bellied Guan, Golden-collared Macaw, Red-legged Seriema, Greater Rhea, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, Zigzag Heron, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Helmeted Manakin, Great and Common Potoos, Roseate Spoonbill, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Mato Grosso Antbird, Campo Flicker, Red-crested Cardinal, and Chotoy Spinetail. In addition abundant aquatic species were found, including magnificent views of the imposing Jabiru all across the Pantanal. The Pantanal rewarded us with amazing views of four of the big five mammals of Brazil, including breathtaking sightings of four Jaguars along the Cuiaba River, Lowland Tapirs during night drives, a spectacular predawn sighting of Giant Anteater, and several encounters with Giant Otters.
The grasslands and deciduous and gallery forest habitats of the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park provided some spectacular views of species such as Blue-winged Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Pheasant Cuckoo, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Brown Jacamar, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Shrike-like Tanager, Cinnamon Tanager, White-eared Puffbird, Chapada Flycatcher, Large-billed Antwren, Channel-billed Toucan, and White-vented Violetear. Perhaps one of the greatest encounters of the trip was the seldom-seen Maned Wolf as two individuals were seen just after sunset, becoming one of the highlights for many of the participants.
The Atlantic Forest, characterized by high biodiversity and endemism, provided great sightings of bird species restricted to this unique ecosystem. On this trip we focused on two major classic regions in Southeast Brazil, Ubatuba and Itatiaia National Park. The selection of species we saw was outstanding, including colorful and gorgeous species and many range-restricted and secretive birds, including Gilt-edged Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Diademed Tanager, Olive-green Tanager, Slaty Bristlefront, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Long-billed Wren, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Rufous Gnateater, Blackish-cheeked Gnateater, Tufted Antshrike, Ferruginous Antbird, Tawny-browed Owl, Bare-throated Bellbird, Green-billed Toucan, Saffron Toucanet, Itatiaia Spinetail, Frilled Coquette, Saw-billed Hermit, Golden-winged Cacique, Red-and-white Crake, Firewood-gatherer, and the spectacular Black-and-gold Cotinga.
We had been worried about the recent fires that sadly have affected large portions of the Brazilian Amazon and the Cerrado, but fortunately we saw only a few burned patches of cerrado and pastures in Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, and neither our trip nor the major habitats we visited had been affected by fire.
Day 1, October 5th 2019. Arrival in Cuiabá, transfer to the hotel
Our group met in the city of Cuiabá, the capital of the Mato Grosso state of Brazil, where the group arrived on different flights and at different times. Those who arrived before midday enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Aeroporto Grill restaurant, where we had a pleasant introduction to the Brazilian cuisine. In town we saw our first Grey-breasted Martin, Cattle Tyrant, House Wren, and Rock Dove. Later in the evening we met the rest of the team and decided to go back to the nice restaurant to taste more of the delicious Brazilian food and the first of many rounds of caipirinhas (the Brazilian national cocktail). Not long before we ended our meal the sky opened, bringing long and heavy rain that lasted all night. What a great welcome!
Day 2, October 6th, 2019. Drive to Poconé and to the Pantanal
After an early breakfast we left Cuiabá and headed toward the Pantanal. Fortunately the rain had passed a few hours ago, producing an overcast morning with cool temperatures. It seemed as if the birds had been waiting for that rain, considering the lack of rain they had faced during the past weeks.
What a fantastic morning along the road to Poconé and through the Pantanal! We had great views of species such as Buff-necked Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Whistling Heron, Striated Heron, Brazilian Teal, and Black-bellied Whistling Duck. The excitement increased with our first views of Toco Toucan, Golden-collared Macaw, Red-shouldered Macaw, Sayaca Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Picazuro Pigeon, Campo Flicker, Southern Crested Caracara, Saffron Finch, Greyish Baywing, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Rufous Hornero, and Chalk-browed Mockingbird. After the joy of this first road stop we found our first Red-legged Seriema and Greater Rhea en route. After this great introduction to the birds of the Pantanal we drove to Pousada Piuval, on the way seeing more exciting species including Ringed, Green, and Amazon Kingfishers, Wood Stork, Cocoi Heron, Little Blue Heron, Plumbeous Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Grey-necked Wood Rail, and Chaco Chachalaca. We also saw our first Capybara group near the entrance to Pousada Piuval and found the first gathering of Yacaré caimans. We went straight to the lodge restaurant for a delicious buffet lunch, and after checking into the rooms and dropping our luggage we met outside the rooms to explore the surroundings of Pousada Piuval.
The afternoon was alive with birds around the lodge, including new ones for the day like White-rumped and White-winged Swallows, Brown-chested Martin, Grey-breasted Martin, Grey Monjita, Great Kiskadee, Crested Oropendola, White-eyed Parakeet, Black-backed Water Tyrant, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Jabiru, and Roseate Spoonbill. We headed to the Bento Gomes River, where we were lucky enough to find a pair of Hyacinth Macaws roosting on their nest. It was amazing, almost magical, to see the largest parrot in the world and one of the most representative species of the Pantanal so well. In this area we also saw Large-billed Tern, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Chopi Blackbird, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, and our first Sunbittern, as well as a group of Azaras’s Capuchins. With spectacular views of the sunset we interrupted the birding for dinner, after which we had a night drive in search of nocturnal wildlife. We spotted several nightjars along the jeep track, including Pauraque and Little Nightjar, and luckily also had a close-up encounter with two Lowland Tapirs. What an amazing first day in the Pantanal!
Day 3, October 7th 2019. Pousada Piuval and transfer to Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel
We decided to have a predawn start to drive the lodge’s main road, looking for our first non-bird target of the day. And not long after sunrise there it was, the spectacular Giant Anteater, exploring the anthills not far away from us. It was just perfect!
After this incredible sighting we explored some woodlands near the lodge, where we saw our first Bare-faced Curassow. In addition we found the endemic Chestnut-bellied Guan, Chaco Chachalaca, the beautiful and shy Pale-crested Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Little Woodpecker, Great Antshrike, and Fork-tailed Flycatcher (of which we probably had a hundred records during the whole tour). During the remainder of the morning we added more species such as Short-crested Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Fawn-breasted Wren, Thrush-like Wren, more Toco Toucans, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Masked Gnatcatcher, Black-collared Hawk, Gilded Sapphire, Glittering-throated Emerald, Limpkin, and our first group of South American Coatis.
After lunch we transferred to the Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel and spent the afternoon exploring the Pixaim River in search of more species. We managed to find Blue-throated Piping Guan, Anhinga, Cocoi Heron, Neotropic Cormorant, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Ringed, Green, and Amazon Kingfishers, Solitary Cacique, Band-tailed Antbird, Sungrebe, Black-collared Hawk, and Rufescent Tiger Heron. We also had our first encounter with a family of Giant Otters, which was an amazing moment for the entire group but especially for Mark and Maria, who were hoping very much to see this animal, which sadly they had missed on our Southern Peru tour in 2016. We had good views of the otters. Then we looked for our target of the day, the crepuscular and shy Zigzag Heron. We tried hard to find the bird, but on this afternoon it was heard only. We did not give up, though, and we made an alternative plan for the next day. While having dinner we had two visitors at the lodge, namely another Lowland Tapir and a Crab-eating Raccoon.
Day 4, October 8th 2019. Pantanal Mato Grosso Hotel grounds
We had another predawn start for a twilight boat ride along the Pixaim River to try again for the Zigzag Heron. We sailed directly to the spot where we had heard it on the previous evening. Luckily this time, after some patience, we had incredible success not with one but with a pair of Zigzag Herons not far from us. We also saw several Band-tailed Nighthawks flying by and a Boat-billed Heron. What an amazing start!
We came back to the lodge, and after a tasty breakfast we got ready to hit the wonderfully birdy surroundings of the hotel. We started with the gallery forest, where we saw our first Mato Grosso Antbird, Rusty-backed Spinetail, White-lored Spinetail, Barred Antshrike, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Helmeted Manakin, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Black-fronted Nunbird, White-tipped Dove, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Fawn-breasted Wren, and Band-tailed Antbird. After the gallery forest we moved to the open habitat along the airstrip, where we added Picui Ground Dove, Long-tailed Ground Dove, Red-crested Cardinal, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Purplish Jay, Shiny Cowbird, Giant Cowbird, Guira Cuckoo, Greyish Saltator, Greater Thornbird, White-bellied Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Masked Gnatcatcher, Orange-backed Troupial, Red-throated Piping Guan, and Blue-throated Piping Guan to our list. We also had great views of Chotoy Spinetail, Campo Flicker, Unicolored Blackbird, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Striped Cuckoo, White-eyed Parakeet, Monk Parakeet, Orange-winged Amazon, and Buff-bellied Hermit. It also was a good day for mammals, with new species including a family of Marsh Deer and Yellow Armadillo. In the evening we tried for Spot-tailed Nightjar, which was heard only.
Scarlet-headed Blackbird (photo John Trathen)
Day 5, October 9th 2019. Drive along the Transpantaneira to Porto Jofre
After an early breakfast we left the Pantanal Hotel Mato Grosso and drove along the Transpantaneira toward Porto Jofre. On the way we saw many species, such as lots of Jabirus, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Cocoi Heron, Black-collared Hawk, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Chaco Chachalaca, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, and Rusty-collared Seedeater. We also had splendid views of White Woodpecker on the way. Near Porto Jofre we found Great Horned Owl roosting at daytime at its usual place and enjoyed good views of Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Ashy-headed Greenlet, and Straight-billed Woodcreeper.
Once we had arrived at the Hotel Pantanal Norte – Porto Jofre we had enough time to check into the rooms, drop the luggage, and enjoy another tasty lunch before we started our first Jaguar boat safari along the Cuiabá River, where we had nice views of Collared Plover, Black Skimmer, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and Large-billed, Yellow-billed, and Common Terns.
The main target for the afternoon was finding the Jaguar, the largest felid in the Americas and the third-largest in the world after Tiger and Lion. One has to be extremely lucky to spot one in the Central American rainforest or in the Manu and Tambopata National Reserves in Peru, but the Pantanal offers great chances not only for sightings but also for photography and to observe the behavior of this magnificent creature. We took our boat along the Cuiabá River, and after we had turned into one of its tributaries, the Three Brothers River, suddenly our boat driver increased the speed and took us straight to a Jaguar that had been found by another boat. These sightings are very exciting, even if you have had them several times; it always feels like you are finally achieving that (perhaps long-awaited) Neotropical dream. Our most impressive encounter was with a beautiful individual chasing along the riverbank and trying to hunt possibly a caiman or an anaconda hiding under the aquatic vegetation. Watching this hunting behavior was very special for all participants.
Jaguar along the Cuiabá River
Jaguar along the Cuiabá River
After having greatly enjoyed the Jaguar we found another family of Giant Otters. This sighting was amazing, as we saw the whole family crossing the river and a large female with its offspring in her mouth, everything accompanied by the otters’ noisy contact calls. The best present for Mark’s birthday!
Giant Otters (photo John Trathen)
We headed back to Porto Jofre, enjoying the sunset and more Band-tailed Nighthawks rising in the sky above the Cuiabá River.
A spectacular view in the Pantanal
Day 6, October 10th 2019. Cuiabá River and the vicinity of Porto Jofre
We had another Jaguar excursion on schedule for the morning. It is better to maximize the chances in case we would unluckily have missed the Jaguar on the previous day or the sighting would not have been good enough for the group. Therefore with the pressure out of the way we started our boat trip along the Cuiabá River and actually encountered other Jaguars; however, the sighting and the boat traffic around it did not beat our first encounter. We also managed to find more Giant Otters and Black-and-gold Howler Monkeys as well as more of the typical common river birds than we had ever seen.
After arrival back at the lodge we spent some time watching some waders near the lodge, including Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Solitary Sandpiper.
The afternoon was hot, and we drove along the Transpantaneira from the Hotel Pantanal Norte – Porto Jofre, but we only added more of the species we had already seen, although a few of us managed to get a glimpse of the secretive Grey-breasted Crake.
Day 7, October 11th 2019. Porto Jofre to Pouso Alegre Lodge
After breakfast we left the Hotel Pantanal Norte – Porto Jofre and drove back along the Transpantaneira, making a stop at an abandoned research facility where we had always been lucky with a number of interesting species. Not long after we parked we had great views of Scaly-headed Parrot, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Squirrel Cuckoo, Bat Falcon, Striped Cuckoo, White-winged Becard, Hyacinth Macaw, Crested Oropendola, and Grey-headed Tanager. We then headed to Pousada Rio Claro, where we had lunch and nice views of Nanday Parakeet at the lodge feeders. Continuing toward our accommodation we saw Southern Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Chestnut-bellied Guan, Chaco Chachalaca, Greyish Baywing, Yellow-billed Cardinal, and Lineated Woodpecker. Sadly only a few of us got a glimpse of Crane Hawk. However, Savanna Hawk and Roadside Hawk were seen well several times during our stay in the Pantanal.
The afternoon proved to be quiet and hot at Pouso Alegre Lodge, so we stayed around the lodge and saw Purplish Jay, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Sunbittern, Grey-necked Wood Rail, and others. After dinner we made a night drive around the great deciduous woodlands of Pouso Alegre and managed to see Crab-eating Fox, Tapeti (Brazilian Rabbit), and another Lowland Tapir. The night birding was quiet, but we added Boat-billed Heron and a few Pauraques.
Day 8, October 12th 2019. Pouso Alegre to Chapada dos Guimarães
We spent the morning birding the woodlands of Pouso Alegre, where we found Grey-crested Cacholote, Thrush-like Wren, Southern Yellowthroat, Chopi Blackbird, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Hyacinth Macaw, and Monk Parakeet, but unfortunately we could not find Great Rufous Woodcreeper. Here the group also enjoyed views of Black-tailed Marmoset and Azaras’s Capuchin. After lunch we packed all our gear and continued our tour, leaving the Pantanal behind but with the promise of further adventures during the rest of the trip – what an incredible place! We arrived at the Chapada dos Guimarães late in the afternoon and were ready for a checklist session and a good dinner.
Day 9, October 13th 2019. Chapada dos Guimarães
An early start allowed us to explore some of the dusty tracks adjacent to the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park. This area is particularly good and relatively accessible for some Cerrado special birds that are not found in the Pantanal and are more range-restricted. We started our day with incredible views of Cinnamon Tanager, Chapada Flycatcher, White-banded Tanager, White-rumped Tanager, and White-eared Puffbird.
Later we moved to the forested area called Vale da Benção and were lucky to find great species, such as the elusive Pheasant Cuckoo, which flew twice above our heads, providing great views. Other birds included Channel-billed Toucan, Red-shouldered Macaw, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Southern Antpipit, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Plain Antvireo, Golden-crowned Warbler, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Brown Jacamar, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and the elusive Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper.
In the afternoon we drove to the Bridal Veil stakeout, where we had an impressive view of the Bridal Veil waterfall and found a few birds species, namely Cliff Flycatcher, Red-and-green Macaw, Swallow Tanager, Blue-and-white Swallow, and White-eyed Parakeet.
Red-shouldered Macaw (photo Mark Jones)
We decided to leave the park and went to a known stakeout point for Blue-winged Macaw, where breathtaking views of the cliffs and landscape of the Chapada dos Guimarães are incredible, and just before sunset and after a short, mild shower we achieved fantastic views of our target, the beautiful Blue-winged Macaw. It could not have been better! We then returned to the hotel for another checklist session, a round of caipirinhas, and of course dinner.
Day 10, October 14th 2019. Agua Fria Road, Chapada dos Guimarães
Today we had another early start to further explore the threatened Cerrado habitat. We arrived at the Agua Fria Road and soon heard the calls of Red-winged Tinamou and Tataupa Tinamou, but both where somewhat distant. We saw some great birds of the Cerrado again, such as Cinnamon Tanager, White-banded Tanager, White-rumped Tanager, Black-faced Tanager, Curl-crested Jay, Suiriri Flycatcher, Barred Antshrike, Plain-crested Elaenia, Burrowing Owl, Purple-throated Euphonia, and Rusty-backed Antwren. We had great views of the male antwren, but unfortunately the female was chased off before we could watch it though the scope. Our main target here was the shy Collared Crescentchest, which had been quite reliable in this area. But the crescentchest was denied us, and this was the first time on multiple tours to the area that we failed to see this species. The heat was brutal, and so we decided to go back to the hotel. Our plan for the afternoon was to explore some Cerrado habitat near the entrance of the Stone City in the national park. We had some short rain but still enjoyed good views of Peach-fronted Parakeet, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, White-vented Violetear, and White-eared Puffbird.
White-eared Puffbird (photo Mark Jones)
We went to the vehicle and started our drive back to town. We were enjoying the beautiful sunset when suddenly I shouted “Maned Wolf”, and there it was next to the road, walking into the grasslands to the left of our vehicle. Fortunately the entire group managed to see it, albeit some better than others. We could not stop our joy and amazement when I spotted a second individual on the right side of the road, which started first to walk and then to run across the grasslands, and we could see the whole run; it was just fantastic. Another great moment in Brazil that would not be forgotten!
Maned Wolf (photo Ricardo Botticelli)
Day 11, October 15th 2019. Geladeira Road and transfer back to Cuiabá
Our last morning in the Chapada dos Guimarães took us to the Geladeira Road to explore the last patches of thorny cerrado. New birds of the morning were Red Pileated Finch, Grey Pileated Finch, Purple-throated Euphonia, Guira Tanager, Southern Scrub Flycatcher, Lesser and Yellow-bellied Elaenias, Sayaca Tanager, Burnished-buff Tanager, Plain-crested Elaenia, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Plumbeous Kite, Tropical Parula, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, White-lined Tanager, Pale-breasted Thrush, and Black-throated Saltator. It was sad to watch a few patches of cerrado all burned up, but even more upsetting was finding a couple of matchboxes at one side of the road. We decided to make one more stop at the stakeout of the geodesic center of South America, which is located in the national park. We walked near the edge of a cliff, from where we had a great view. There was an unexpected King Vulture and several White-collared Swifts, and before we left we saw the obligatory Crested Black Tyrant.
After 11 days birding in the Pantanal and the Cerrado we closed this incredible chapter and were excited and keen to start a new one, the Atlantic Forest leg. We drove back to Cuiabá and unilaterally the group decided to go back to the Aeroporto Grill restaurant for a lovely dinner and two more rounds of Caipirinhas.
Day 12, October 16th 2019. Flight to São Paulo and drive to Ubatuba
We had a ludicrously early predawn start to get a 5.00 a.m. flight to São Paulo. You could feel the excitement and joy of anticipation in the air, but it was sad to say goodbye to some participants and good friends who did not join us for the Atlantic Forest part of the tour. We arrived in São Paulo and were met by our local crew, which got us ready for the long drive to Ubatuba. We felt that the drive was probably longer than it actually was, but it was long indeed. However, considering our early sleep deprivation, who could blame us?
At our lunch stop we found the first new bird, Chestnut-capped Blackbird, together with a few Saffron Finches of different ages. Continuing our transfer we drove along the shoreline, where we had glimpses of Brown Booby and Kelp Gull. We then visited a hummingbird garden in the afternoon, where we had our first frenzy encounter with feathered jewels like Black Jacobin, Saw-billed Hermit, Sombre Hummingbird, Western Emerald, Black-throated Mango, Violet-capped Woodnymph, and Festive Coquette. We arrived at our lodge in Ubatuba, ready to check in and go for dinner, checklist, and wine.
Day 13, October 17th 2019. Banana Bamboo Ecolodge
After an early breakfast we spent the day birding around the grounds of our lodge and its surroundings, finding a great set of range-restricted Atlantic Forest birds including Brazilian Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Long-billed Wren, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Unicolored Antwren, Riverbank Warbler, Plain Parakeet, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Plain-winged Woodcreeper, Ferruginous Antbird, and Rufous-capped Antthrush. In addition we saw Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, Scaly-headed Parrot, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Rufous-winged Antwren, Ruby-crowned Tanager, and Chestnut-bellied Euphonia among many other spectacular birds.
In the evening we had a wonderful encounter with an impressive Tawny-browed Owl having its dinner as it flew up to a tree from the boardwalk. Thanks to Anne’s photo we noted that its tasty prey was a decent-sized frog.
Day 14, October 18th 2019. Birding Ubatuba and transfer to Itatiaia National Park
We had another predawn start, and before our breakfast was ready we had some time to watch the stars. I have not seen such a perfect, clean sky full of stars for quite some time! Suddenly we heard the call of Short-tailed Nighthawk, and then Dennis proofed his talent to imitate birds and managed to call the bird right above our heads. We also had a glimpse of a male Scissor-tailed Nightjar and Common Potoo.
After breakfast we left the lodge and climbed up the road above Ubatuba in search of more Atlantic Forest species. We started finding some interesting birds such as Fawn-breasted Tanager, Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, White-rimmed Warbler, Golden-winged Cacique, Slaty-breasted Wood Rail, and a female Pin-tailed Manakin. Later we were treated with fantastic views of a pair of Diademed Tanagers and scope views of Bare-throated Bellbird. We also tried for the secretive Red-and-white Crake and enjoying unreal views of this secretive species.
We continued birding the road until we reached some open habitat, which was good for Band-tailed Hornero, Sooty Tyrannulet, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Firewood-gatherer, Rufous-headed Tanager, Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Grey-hooded Flycatcher, and Planalto Tyrannulet.
After we arrived at Itatiaia National Park we immediately drove to the Hotel do Ypê, which was to be our base for the next three nights. We had lunch and afterwards a short break before birding around the lodge veranda and feeders, waiting for the star of the place, the gorgeous Frilled Coquette. Near the parking lot we had views of Slaty-breasted Wood Rail and Masked Water Tyrant. The feeders attracted Green-headed Tanager, the stunning Gilt-edged Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Scale-throated Hermit, Black Jacobin, and finally the impressive Frilled Coquette.
Day 15, October 19th 2019. Itatiaia National Park (lower parts)
We spent the morning birding the surroundings areas of our hotel in the lower parts of Itatiaia National Park, hoping for Swallow-tailed Cotinga, but without success. But the morning produced Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, Green-billed Toucan, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Scaled Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Grey-capped Tyrannulet, Planalto Tyrannulet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Eared Pygmy Tyrant, Blue Manakin, Black-tailed Myiobius, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Chivi Vireo, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Black-goggled Tanager, Red-rumped Cacique, and many others. In the afternoon we photographed birds from the veranda, including Frilled Coquette, Blue-winged Macaw, Saffron Toucanet, Long-tailed Tyrant, Sick’s Swift, White-collared Swift, and a few Biscutate Swifts.
Day 16, October 20th 2019. Itatiaia National Park (upper parts)
Today we drove to the upper parts of Itatiaia National Park with great scenery of pastures surrounded by cliffs and boulders. Near a section of Pico das Agulhas Negras, Brazil’s fifth-highest mountain, we scored with our targets, the endemic Itatiaia Spinetail, Greenish Tyrannulet, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Pampa Finch, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, White-tailed Hawk, and the impressive Black-and-gold Cotinga.
In the afternoon we explored areas around our lodge, where we found some great species like Slaty Bristlefront, Rufous Gnateater, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Tufted Antshrike, Fork-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, and Serra do Mar Tyrannulet among many others.
Day 17, October 21st 2019. Hotel do Ypê and transfer to São Paulo
After our last breakfast together and packing all our gear we had time to do a little birding around the lodge, finding another Slaty Bristlefront, Rufous Gnateater, Rufous-capped Motmot, the endemic White-collared Foliage-gleaner, and an unexpected Long-tailed Potoo roosting at daytime.
After 17 days of great birding in this fascinating country we then headed back to the São Paulo airport, where we said goodbye to an amazing group of people after another successful Birding Ecotours Brazil tour.
The group in the Pantanal
Please see the downloadable PDF above for the full species lists. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
‘The trip met all our expectations, and more! We saw and experienced the Cerrado, the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal with its amazing variety and volumes of wildlife. The highlights included Hyacinth Macaws, Jaguars, Giant River Otters, Maned Wolf, Brazilian Tapir, Anaconda and all the birds for which Eduardo made special efforts to find. We had an excellent session of forest birding on the canopy towers where we could really appreciate the advantage of our private tour, which we think was good value for the additional cost. It was a pleasure to travel with Eduardo again who showed his expertise even in the presence of other local guides. In summary we came back very satisfied customers of Birding Ecotours and we thank you for the opportunity to experience the Best of Brazil tour.’
Jacques and Elzine