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Post Info TOPIC: Brazil, Rio de Janeiro state


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Brazil, Rio de Janeiro state


Having never been to South America, I was a little daunted to tackle a whole new avifauna among the diverse priorities of a family holiday (taking advantage of Stockport's 2-week spring half term) and only English and GCSE French with which to bluff our way through a Portuguese-speaking country. However, it was great (including the weather!) and I can strongly recommend it. The following things really helped:

a) There is great birding to be had within easy reach of Rio de Janeiro, which in turn is easily reached from Manchester via Amsterdam. The Atlantic rainforest is an amazing place and identifying new species to me, with little direct external assistance, rapidly accelerated and was still going fine well beyond 100.

b) The recent bird guide specifically to this bit of Brazil made the identification manageable ("Birds of Brazil: The Atlantic Forest of Southeast Brazil, Including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro" here). Yes, it has its draw-backs as you'll see in the reviews (e.g. here ), but against all my birding instincts I found I did have to take the field guide into the field and this book made that practical (with 'only' 863 species illustrated).

c) Without detailing all we did (briefly Ilha Grande, Rio, hills NE of Rio), I will put in a strong and unsolicited plug for REGUA, the NGO/reserve where we stayed, ~2 hours NE of Rio ( http://regua.org ). They have a very plush lodge where the big birding tours go, but we stayed in their volunteer accommodation (cool and spacious apartment for a family of 4) which not only put us in a wonderful position beside the wetland, but gave us a great insight into their impressive work - sharing meals, one day with the tapir re-introduction team (bringing back these iconic animals is a slow process, they've been working at it for 5 years, but no tapirs on site yet) another with an eco-tourism research student. One ran the risk of becoming exhibit 1 for coach-loads of visiting school children appearing during breakfast (all keen on practicing their English and wanting to photograph themselves with the foreign children), but interspersed with scanning the passing flocks of tanagers and euphonias over coffee and home-grown bananas, it got days off to quite a start. The place is run by an energetic and charismatic couple, Nicholas and Raquel, who were extremely friendly and welcoming (one evening we mentioned to Nick how we'd not yet encountered a sloth, the next morning one of the reserve workers had found two within a couple of hundred metres of the breakfast table). I was concerned whether a 7 and 10-year old were going to find enough to do for 4 days on reserve well away from the excitements of the city, but there was plenty of non-bird-orientated activity available and they loved it - be that walks to the three stunning river bathing pools (one at the base of a spectacular water-fall), after-dark forays finding caimans and opossums by eye-shine, or exploring the impressive insect-life. Jorge, the level-headed research director was particularly helpful, running a moth light and taking us to a nearby forest fragment to look at butterflies. While under-stated and introduced as a lepidopterist, he was very knowledgeable all-around, for instance mentioning a particular corner where he'd "occasionally seen a female blue manakin" which, when we rounded it, was soon resounding to the bizarre frog-like calls of a two male blue manakins in full lek mode, strutting their stuff in front of a female in probably the most spectacular bird display I've ever seen (very much like this but more prolonged, visible and audible). They do have a resident bird guide (who on first meeting, not only showed us some impressive recent bird photos, but pointed out a roosting pair of tropical screech owls in a tree about 3ft from the path to our accommodation). I believe his services may be hired, though we didn't avail ourselves of them. We did though avail ourselves of lifts to the hillier end of the reserve, 6km away where Nick and Raquel live (there's also a house there for self-catering researchers) from where paths into the older and higher forest lead, meaning that I could be watching a rufous-capped antthrush (amazingly full of character, hopping around the forest floor like a miniature wind-up chicken) while the children were splashing in an idyllic pool a few metres away.

Highly recommended!

 



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