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Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, Brazil: Marvelous Mato Grosso

August 01: Rich Hoyer on his recently completed tour, Brazil: Marvelous Mato Grosso

This year’s Marvelous Mato Grosso tour was amazing. Each of the four areas we visited provided indelible memories of fabulous birds, mammals, and other critters. On our first stop at the Chapada dos Guimarães we connected with most of the cerrado specialties such as Coal-crested Finch and Chapada Flycatcher and enjoyed the marvelous scenery and the best food of the tour at our wonderful lodge nestled in the middle of the national park. Among the favorite birds we saw there was the stunning Helmeted Manakin.

Helmeted Manakin

Cristalino Jungle Lodge was even more amazing, and we’ll probably never repeat this year’s unbelievable sightings of Crested and Harpy Eagles in the same week. The former we discovered perched in large trees close to a trail, being mobbed by toucans, aracaris, and woodpeckers, and we had it in the spotting scope right over our heads before it flew, landing on an open branch for an even better view. Three days later, the Harpy was found by two of the boatmen running an errand, and guide Diego sped 20 minutes upriver to fetch us; remarkably the bird stayed on its riverside perch for at least 45 minutes, and we got there just in time  (one minute!) to marvel at this monster of a raptor.

Crested Eagle

Harpy Eagle

Then came our time in the Pantanal, with so many birds and animals, and all so much easier to see than those in the Amazonian forests. The Jaguar experience was unbeatable and the best we’ve ever had – on three outings upriver from our hotel we spotted five different individuals, with excellent views of all, one even successfully catching a small caiman as we watched. With each animal’s spots like an individual fingerprint, we were amazed to discover that these were all different individuals than any of those seen on the previous seven tours we’ve taken here – now totaling 24 jaguars. The birding was fabulous too, with White-naped Xenopsaris, Hyacinth Macaw, and Great Rufous Woodcreeper among the favorites, but we were especially lucky to have one stunning Scarlet-headed Blackbird perch next to the Transpantaneira on our way back north.


Scarlet-headed Blackbird

We finished the tour with an extension to Foz do Iguaçu, then transferring to the Argentinean side for birding and visiting Iguazú Falls. The falls were as spectacular and beautiful as imagined, as we birded our way to three different viewpoints. A Blond-crested Woodpecker, Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher, Rufous-capped Motmot, and Black-fronted Piping-Guan were some of the highlights in the area, but we saw many other attractive, more common birds such as the stunning and unusual Magpie Tanager in the national park where they have become acclimated to people on the trails below.

Iguazú Falls

Magpie Tanager

In the end we saw or heard a mind-boggling 560 species, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Posted: August 01, 2017