BRAZIL 2010: Serra das Araras

The picturesque property of Pousada Curripira lay several hours north of the Pantanal, in the region of Serra das Araras. We visited this location specifically to see the Harpy Eagle, and were not disappointed!

We arrived at midday, with time to enjoy a refreshing dip in the natural, stream-fed swimming pool and a stroll around the lovely gardens, finding two new species to add to our list – Magpie Tanager and Masked Tityra. White Woodpecker, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (above), Black-fronted Nunbird, Laughing Falcon, Bat Falcon were also seen well in the surrounding gardens. Peach-fronted Parakeets and Red-shouldered Macaws were making a huge racket in the mango trees.

After a filling lunch we engaged one of the local staff to drive us to the Harpy Eagle nest. We passed an assortment of farm animals and a few cattle ponds which held pairs of Brazilian Teal (above), Least Grebes and a large group of White-faced Whistling Ducks. With great anticipation we walked to the nest tree, only to find it empty. We searched the skies and forest canopy, with no sign of the Harpy. Other birds caught our attention, including Swallow-winged Puffbirds, Giant Cowbirds, two roosting Plumbeous Kites, Plumbeous Pigeon, Gray-rumped Swallow, Fork-tailed Palm-Swifts, and Long-billed Starthroat. We could hear many secretive forest birds calling around us in the waning daylight – Undulated, Little and Great Tinamou, Pavonine Cuckoo and Marbled Wood-Quail.

As darkness began descending, a giant raptor swooped silently over our heads – Harpy Eagle! The immature flew to a limb just beside it’s nest, and began calling. We stared at the majestic bird until the light ran out, and we could see no more.

At daybreak we were standing in the same field, admiring the amazing Harpy (above), now perched one tree away from the night before, calling frequently, hoping to entice a parent to come home and feed it. For nearly two hours we photographed and peered through the scope for close-up views. The young bird hunched his head down between his shoulders and lifted his head back during each begging cry. His nearly white head sported large crown feathers. As the light improved, scope views of its talons were massively impressive, larger than my hands, with 2-3 inch claws. It was hard to walk away, but finally we returned to the lodge for breakfast.

In addition to the spectacular Harpy Eagle sighting, we enjoyed a long walk down a leaf-littered forest road to add several new species to our list. Black-throated Antbird and Rondonia Warbling Antbird skulked low along the forest floor. Higher in the canopy we got good looks at White-throated Toucans, White-shouldered Tanager, Black-tailed Trogon, Crested Becard, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Squirrel Cuckoo and Buff-throated Woodcreeper. We saw two White-backed Fire-eyes.

As bird activity slowed, a nice array of butterflies danced along this track, even if they wouldn’t hold still for photos! Highlights included Deidamia Morpho, Clymena Eighty-Eight and what looked like a beautiful Bates’ Hairstreak (above), along with Red Peacock, Pleasure and Capucinus Sister, Bernia Daggerwing, and Phaleros Hairstreak.

As we drove out of the forest, Dusky-headed Parakeet flew over the road, and a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture drifted over a couple of times. Another wonderful region in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

all photos © adrian binns



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