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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Brazil: Marvelous Mato Grosso

The Pantanal, Chapada dos Guimarães, and Cristalino Jungle Lodge

2018 Narrative

IN BRIEF: Mato Grosso from the top at Cristalino Jungle Lodge to the southern border in the Pantanal was nothing short of marvelous this year. We tallied a higher than usual 498 species (31 of those heard only), including 15 write-ins, some very rare and unexpected. The biggest surprise of the tour came on our third day when what appeared to be a white farm duck on a pond next to the highway north of Cuiabá turned out to be a Coscoroba Swan, an overshooting migrant thanks to the two days of cold south winds we had just experienced; it appears to be one of the northernmost records ever for the species, and local birders were able to twitch it the next day. Despite that foggy cold front in the Chapada dos Guimarães that made birding difficult, we still had some memorable sightings from there, including a pair of Barred Antshrikes in our lodge’s garden and a stunning fly-by of an Aplomado Falcon (a vision that would repeat itself at the end in the Pantanal). The tour’s favorite bird by far was a Zigzag Heron at Cristalino, found on a last-minute decision to check a pond just before lunch. We approached the pond quietly, at first noting no birds, then the heron hopped up from the opposite shore and perched on a low branch for extended views. It was the only bird there, but there’s no better example of where quality beats quantity. Additional highlights from Cristalino came from tower 2 where a Pompadour Cotinga showed off its colors; from the granite dome of the Serra where a female Fiery-tailed Awlbill performed for the whole group; from a deep forest pool where our only Snow-capped Manakin appeared for a quick bath; from the trails were we stumbled into a family group of the unpredictable Dark-winged Trumpeters, called in a pair of gorgeous Gould’s Toucanets, and spent time with an active army ant swam where we had fabulous views of Plain-throated Woodcreeper and Bare-eyed Antbird; and also from the many boat rides on the river, where Capped Heron was a particularly lovely bird seen on most outings. Then came our time in the Pantanal, where a new tour highlight seemed to come at least once every hour. A pair of gorgeous Pale-crested Woodpeckers intently worked on the dead branches in mango trees right by our rooms. Hyacinth Macaws mating, flying by in perfect light, and exploring a nesting cavity were hard to ignore. Greater Rheas were amazing to see and even more amazing to hear, a subsonic booming that echoed for miles. Almost as big were the many Jabiru, some fixing up their nests, some collecting huge beakfuls of nesting material, and some already feeding nestlings, and at one point we were watching over 40 of these giants feeding in the marshes below. Other highlights from the Pantanal included huge flocks of Nacunda Nighthawks and a last-minute Buff-breasted Wren where we had just discovered what appears to have been only the second Mato Grosso record of Hudson’s Black-Tyrant, but the real highlights from this last half of the tour were the mammals – not just the stately Marsh Deer buck with a huge rack next to the road, two incredible Giant Anteaters including a fearless one begging for food, the four South American Tapirs on one day, or the flocks of Greater Bulldog Bats flapping overhead at dusk – but of course the Jaguars. We saw a record number of six different cats, all of them extremely well, and often while on our own, with no other boats crowding around. The Iguazú Falls extension went really well with highlights being not just the amazing falls, but the flocks of close and vocalizing Great Dusky Swifts, a rare Glaucous-blue Grosbeak, nesting Creamy-bellied Gnatcatchers, a male Swallow-tailed Manakin, Black-fronted Piping-Guan, a cooperative Rufous Gnateater, a stunning male Chestnut-headed Tanager, and a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper that foraged at length out in the open, to mention just a few of the bird highlights.

IN DETAIL: We started the tour with a fine lunch in the lovely setting of our lodge in the middle of Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, as a Chopi Blackbird serenaded us from the nearby tables. Who knew that a blackbird could have such a lovely song? We then had a couple late afternoon hours in the very nice weather to get our first cerrado species, including Black-throated Saltator, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and Narrow-billed Woodcreeper. We then walked slowly up to the tower on the hill, drumming up a fine mob of birds, the highlight among which was a Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin that showed very well after calling from hidden perches for several minutes. A Flavescent Warbler was late into the mixed flock and showed for most of the group. Scaled Pigeon and Channel-billed Toucan were the prizes from the tower, the former perched amazingly close. On the way back down, a Pheasant Cuckoo sang a couple times just after sunset. A Tropical Screech-Owl that may have been just responding to our earlier attempt to drum up a mob of passerines became active enough before it was dark to fly in to a perfect perch. Then a pair of Common Pauraques also became active before dark as well, so maybe this was to be an early night for night birds who knew what was to come. Finally, a Little Nightjar (perhaps the same bird for a few years now?) sat on the room of the dining hall at dinner time.

We woke up the next day to the arrival of a cold front – mist had condensed on the trees making a steady drip, and a persistent wind and fog, as well as accompanying low temperatures made the birding challenging, even if it made the weather more pleasant than the more typical searing sun and heat. It seems that the birds here actually like it hot, and while almost nothing sang (save for a Black-throated Saltator), we did find some of the short-scrub cerrado specialties such as Plumbeous Seedeater, Curl-crested Jay, Chapada Flycatcher, Rusty-backed Antwren, White-banded Tanager, and White-rumped Tanager. Red-crested Finches were still common in roadside flocks, and a single Grassland Sparrow showed very well, while a Crane Hawk in the mist was a lucky find. Back at the lodge we dredged up some birds around the buildings, including a pair of Barred Antshrikes and a ridiculously bold Masked Yellowthroat, but it was simply too unpleasant to spend the whole afternoon out in the weather. We finally salvaged what was left of the day down at the reservoir near the lodge, when the precipitation kept to a manageable mizzle, and we had quite excellent views of a Planalto Hermit taking shelter under a clump of grass as well as two Fiery-capped Manakins feeding in a fruiting Miconia tree, where some of the group had glimpsed a bright male Band-tailed Manakin.

We finally began to see the end of the cold front when the fog and mist abated not long before noon on our second day at Chapada dos Guimarães, but even before then logged some nice sightings, including Forest Elaenia, Sibilant Sirystes, Guira Tanager, and Burnished-buff Tanager. The wager that the Aroe Jari road would be below the fog level panned out, with the sky gradually clearing just in time to see three Greater Rheas and three Red-legged Seriemas in a field. But even before then we enjoyed a flock of hungry White-rumped Swallows low over a field (and some perching in the road), a Red-winged Tinamou sticking its head out of some grass, and a gorgeous Aplomado Falcon right where we also saw a close duetting pair of White-rumped Tanagers. We opted to forego a siesta to take advantage of the improving weather with a visit to the Véu de Noiva waterfall, where we found an elusive and gorgeous Blue Finch, as well as a King Vulture, White-collared Swifts perched behind the waterfall, and a fly-by of Red-and-green Macaws in front of the waterfall. We finished the day in the short, sandy cerrado scrub, hoping for some more targets, finding our third female Blue-tufted Starthroat of the day as well as a surprise Cinnamon Tanager (rather rare in the region), and a somewhat out-of-place pair of Planalto Slaty-Antshrikes. Owling in the evening wasn’t for nothing – a pair of Tropical Screech-Owls in the lodge’s yard and a family of Crab-eating Raccoons were the rewards on our chilly walk, as were amazing views of the starry sky, Mars, Venus, and Saturn.

Our fourth day dawned cool but clear, finally proving the passage of the cold front. As a travel day we shouldn’t have expected much, but the birds liked the improved weather and we saw many wonderful species this day. Near the small reservoir at Pousada do Parque we had views of a pair of spectacular pair of Crimson-crested Woodpeckers in the very same tree where a pair of tiny White-wedged Piculets had just been. On the way back to breakfast we were lucky to stumble into a pair of active Planalto Tyrannulets. On the way to the airport we made a quick check of the newly opened Salgadeira waterfalls (for the first time in a decade) to discover that a small group of about 30 Great Dusky Swifts were easily seen clinging to the rock wall next to the falls, just as they were in 1997. A sudden stop for the unexpected Brazilian Teal next to the highway outside of Cuiaba resulted in the discovery of a vagrant Coscoroba Swan, which we almost passed off as a domestic duck or goose. Who says that cold fronts are all bad for birding? The travel to Alta Floresta and Cristalino went without a hitch, though we had to make a few short stops for roadside birds, such as a group of gangly Guira Cuckoos and a pair of Scarlet Macaws that exited from an apparent nest cavity right by the road. It seemed like non-stop bird activity on the boat ride to the lodge, with Capped Heron, Band-tailed Antbird, and a very cooperative juvenile Agami Heron being the highlights.

The cold front had just barely reached this far north, but only to drop the temperatures enough to make it extremely pleasant for our first morning on Tower 1. The direct sun and tropical heat are often intense enough to drive one down to the understory by 8:00 or 9:00 at the latest, but we had non-stop activity and before it knew it, it was well after 10:00 before we descended to the lower levels. Some of the highlights were a pair of Kawall’s Parrots that actually landed for scope views,  gaudy Red-necked Aracaris that came and went a couple of times, a rare Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak, White-browed Purpletufts in the Zanthoxylum tree next to the tower (the purple tuft visible only to a camera’s quick shutter), and a stolid Brown-banded Puffbird perched at a great distance. On the lodge grounds the often confiding pair of Bare-faced Curassows were rather secretive back in the woods, and this would be the only time we saw them. We spent the afternoon downriver to the Teles Pires and Ilha Ariosto and satellite islands, where a Green Ibis in good light was a memorable sighting, and the islets gave up their Amazonian Tyrannulet, Spotted Tody-Tyrants, and Ladder-tailed Nightjars with very little effort.

The morning atop Serra 1 was just amazing. We hadn’t even quite made it to the top when a super rare female Fiery-tailed Awlbill was spotted feeding on some purple pea flowers in vines up in the leafless trees, and we all had great views. Among the many other hummingbirds we saw there were two gorgeous Black-throated Mangos. A distant but super blue Spangled Cotinga was seen from the overlook, and an Eastern Striolated-Puffbird was a lucky flush from next to the trail. An unfamiliar vocalization led us to a very agitated Layard’s Woodcreeper in a leafless tree, and judging from the very quick response to an imitation whistle, it was fair to assume that the Amazonian Pygmy-Owl that flew in had been in a nest cavity and the object of the woodcreeper’s ire. From the river we had sightings of Sunbittern and Bronzy Jacamar. It was unsurprisingly very quiet on the Manakin trail in the late afternoon, but a quietly foraging Chestnut Woodpecker (feeding on fruits) was a lucky spot in the canopy overhead, while further down the trail some got views of a territorial but flighty Flame-crowned Manakin and others got brief but good views of a male Black Manakin that may be the same male that first appeared as an immature two years earlier. A final attempt at a bathing pool wasn’t the best with so much standing water still in the forest understory, but it still provided us with our only sighting of a stunning Snow-capped Manakin and our best views of Saturnine Antshrike.

The morning at Tower 2 was so very different, and the highlight there was undoubtedly the Pompadour Cotinga that perched for scope views. Tanager and dacnis flocks came and went, with gorgeous Short-billed Honeycreepers a stand-out, while Green Oropendolas made a good showing, having been first seen at Cristalino only two years earlier. Not so showy but still an amazing performance was the seldom seen super-canopy display of a Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin. The walk back to the lodge was largely uneventful though a confiding Plain-throated Antwren was good to see so well. We spent more time on the river this afternoon, seeing a Cream-colored Woodpecker, a pair of Spix’s Guans, and a female or immature male Pink-throated Becard that confounded us for a while. White-winged Swallows were seen every day along the river, but they deservedly made the day’s list of highlights for the sheer beauty and charm. We made it as far upriver as Limão where a perched Long-billed Starthroat and a sudden appearance of a pair of Blue-winged Macaws (barely known from here until only about five years ago) were top sightings.

On our fourth and last full day at Cristalino we were in no hurry to leave the lodge grounds, and we finally got views of a pair of Cinnamon Attilas from the boardwalk, as well as glimpses of the pair of Long-billed Woodcreepers that made daily rounds only at dawn. The boat ride up river provided more great views of Capped Heron and Rufescent Tiger-Heron, while our very first birds upon disembarking at the Castanheiras Trail were hits – gaudy Red-necked Aracari and even gaudier Gould’s Toucanets. The trail was rather quiet for most of the time, and we were able to enjoy time in presence of the oldest and largest known organism on the property, the 800-1000+ year old Bertholletia excelsa tree, also known as Brazil Nut. We came across two active Eciton burchellii army ant swarms in very close proximity, and with some effort Bare-eyed Antbirds were seen by all, and then they became very easy to see. White-chinned and Plain-brown Woodcreepers were present and easily seen, but the Black-spotted Bare-eyes were only glimpsed by a few. We could have headed right back to the lodge after our walk, but instead a last-second decision to check out the Magic Pond at the odd late-morning hour (during the dry season it’s best the last two hours of daylight) resulted in just one bird – a most astonishing and highly lusted-after Zigzag Heron. We still had time to stop along the river as we motored back to the lodge for lunch, and we had the most incredible witnessing of the display flight of a Flame-crowned Manakin – complete with the whoosh-pop sound at the bottom of the dive similar to that of an Anna’s Hummingbird, a display not yet described for the species, though it has been documented for at least one other member of the genus. We had a quieter afternoon, with some birds along the trail, finishing with the unexpected Dark-winged Trumpeter family that has become so accustomed to people that we could approach within just a few meters.

Our final morning at Cristalino was spent at the Secret Garden where highlights included a Bare-necked Fruitcrow making its nest out of the fungus now officially known as Brunneocorticium corynecarpon and a pair of Masked Tanagers visiting a nest in the hollowed out top of a dead trunk. We managed to bring in quite a confusing mob of hummingbirds, but one perched for a good, long view proving to be one of the first records of Blue-chinned Sapphire for Cristalino, though it is only just barely south of the mapped range for the species. Returning to Alta Floresta for our flight, we paused for a White-necked Puffbird perched visible from the river and our only Pearl Kite for the tour on the outskirts of town. We tried to not make any stops on our drive from Cuiabá to the Pantanal, other than the fuel stop where we had our first enchanting Toco Toucans. But dusk befalling the Transpantaneira is bewitching, and we got out for a Scissor-tailed Nightjar, where we then had (and glimpsed) Spot-tailed Nightjars and saw the daily departure of many Black-crowned Night-Herons from their roost and Nacunda Nighthawks flying over the road and around the van.

On our one full day at Pouso Alegre we birded the entrance road, the boardwalk, and a couple dry forest trails, tallying over 130 species in a small area, a testament to the exuberance of life here. Jabirus and Hyacinth Macaws were standout favorites from the day, though it was hard to choose. An amazingly cooperative pair of Moustached Wrens, a glowing Flavescent Warbler, a very rufous Rufous Casiornis, a male Band-tailed Manakin, and a very confiding male Mato Grosso Antbird that first revealed its presence only through its insect-like call were some of the highlights from the morning walk. Along the road we had great views of Rufous Cacholote as well as a pair of the missable Long-tailed Ground-Doves. In the afternoon, a Collared Forest-Falcon made a long flight between groups of trees, perching briefly for a minute before moving on and being harassed by noisy Purplish Jays. While we were just standing by the back pond, seeing nothing in particular but waiting as if we were expecting something to happen, something did. Two small caiman on the opposite bank made a sudden sprint for the water. Then after a moment of silence, a large male Tapir walked out of the woods behind where the caiman had been and came to the water for a drink. As Rich attempted to maneuver his gear to get photos, his camera clanged against his water bottle, and the animal looked up, sussed that something might be amiss, and slowly sauntered back into the woods. We then returned to the boardwalk to try for the elusive rails, hoping to confirm the presence of possible Paint-billed Crakes, but that idea was cut short by a collapse of the wood right out from under us, despite reassurances that it had been repaired earlier that day. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, so after dinner as planned we took a night drive where we spotted many Common Pauraques, a few Crab-eating Foxes, and three more South American Tapirs.

By our second morning we had seen most of the birds that the northern Pantanal had to offer – but not all. The rather scarce Pale-crested Woodpecker put on a last-minute appearance in the form of an intently-foraging pair in the mango trees just outside our rooms, and they remained there for at least an hour. A Red-billed Scythebill was also new for the list along the entry drive, as was a pair of hooting Great Horned Owls, one sitting invisibly deep on a nest that had been originally fashioned by Monk Parakeets but in addition to the owl was home to a Turquoise-fronted Parrot with its head sticking out of the nest below. But the most memorable sighting this morning was a noisy pair of Hyacinth Macaws that flew in to a close tree and noisily began inspecting a large tree cavity halfway up the trunk. A Black Vulture had apparently already claimed that cavity and aggressively chased them off, despite their weapon-like bills. They tried to come back, but the vulture kept at it and even followed them to and chased them out of all of the nearby trees until they finally gave up. Meanwhile, a Turquoise-fronted Parrot sat motionless and anonymously only a couple feet from the cavity and watched it all. We then had to make the long drive to the southern end of the Transpantaneira, with a couple short stops for White-rumped Monjita and a Scarlet-headed Blackbird before lunch, but we made more serious stops in the Campos do Jofre when we were within a reasonable distance of our lodge and the afternoon heat had subsided some. Southern Screamers were spotted from the van, but more concerted searching finally yielded the stately Maguari Storks. A seemingly obvious White-headed Marsh-Tyrant right near the road was overlooked by most of the group, while an American Pygmy Kingfisher was an excellent find, and a Subtropical Doradito came in only after some coaxing. A random stop for a large flock of wintering martins of both species resulted in a pair of the lovely Chotoy Spinetail, and farther down a White-banded Mockingbird, rare this far north, flew across the road.

Our first day on the Cuiabá River and its tributaries was all about Jaguars, and what an incredible day we had with them. We managed to identify Hunter, who we saw less than 45 minutes after setting out from the hotel, followed by Amber and Geoff (including their disappearance into the undergrowth followed by a bone-chilling postcoital yowl that none of us expected), followed by a hunting Patricia who had a rather large caiman for a while, but had it only the by leg while caught up in deep, plant-choked water, so she ended up giving it up), and then in the afternoon a jaguar not catalogued or named by researchers was a surprise on the Rio Negrinho well downstream from the hotel. We also had a great time watching a family of Giant Otters preening each other on an open log, after they had earlier been discouraged by the clot of boats trying to get views of Hunter, and a family group of Black-and-gold Howlers with a couple very young animals lounged in the trees in the late afternoon. Despite all the mammalian excitement, we managed to score some nice birds as well. Jabiru and a Rufescent Tiger-Heron nest with chicks were remembered among the water birds, Black-collared Hawks stood out among the raptors, and a Green Kingfisher was very cooperative. We finally got looks at Pale-legged Hornero, had to practically shoo away the normally shy Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Rusty-backed Spinetail, and enjoyed the boisterous duet dances of Black-capped Donacobius. Variable Oriole finally made it off everyone’s bvd-list on the afternoon outing, where one of the more magical sightings came during the boat ride back at dusk, with Band-tailed Nighthawks and Greater Bulldog Bat flying past and over by the dozens.

With no rush to get on the river on our second morning, we birded the habitats right near the hotel first thing, staring with the charming Cattle Tyrants and Southern Screamer by the rooms. Fawn-breasted Wrens were much easier than usual in their dense vine tangles, and a White-wedged Piculet gave us quite a show. A Dull-capped Attila was a struggle to see well only to be later upstaged by a pair that apparently wanted to be seen. On the later morning boat ride we found a cluster of boats watching a swimming jaguar that turned out to be new for us, Marley. We re-spotted Geoff lounging in the undergrowth not far from where he had been the day before, then birded up the Curixo Negro, at the mouth of which was a pair of Black Skimmers and nearer the end a perched up male White-browed Meadowlark. On the way back, Marley had roamed a full mile from where we had seen him a couple hours earlier but mostly stayed hidden in the grass. In the afternoon we birded the Campos do Jofre, struggling with uncooperative rails but settling on great views of the distinctive erythromelas Least Bittern. Scarlet-headed Blackbirds flew by in full color while Cinereous-breasted Spinetail and Bran-colored Flycatcher were more circumspect, though still seen well. The sound of the marsh as night fell was wonderful, with Ash-throated Crakes and Limpkins competing for the sound space as Spot-tailed Nightjars began their evening warm-up.

The travel day back north added just a very few new species, but some very good ones. A White-bellied Tyrannulet vocalizing and in direct comparison to Plain Tyrannulet was in a mob we stirred up by a bridge. An unexpected surprise was a Spotted Rail flushed from the road by the van, which we coaxed back to cross the road a few minutes later for brief but good views. We managed to get White-throated Goldentail to come in to one mob, a Streaked Xenops in another, and a random stop resulted in a pair of unexpected Blue-crowned Parakeets. Scarlet-headed Blackbird once again appeared on a stunning close perch, perfect for incinerating some pixels. The passage of a weak cold front overnight meant that bird activity remained high even after lunch, and we had our best views of Ashy-headed Greenlet, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and Masked Gnatcatcher in various mixed flocks as we worked our way north. A Giant Anteater was a lucky find in a field next to the road before we passed the Transpantaneira gate (where a pair of Chestnut-bellied Guans were hanging out), and we added one more bird in the form of a pair of Campo Flickers on the entrance to Pousada Piuval. We took a night drive, and with the growing moon providing foraging light, pauraques and potoos were out in force, including our first Common Potoos.

One last full morning on the main tour took us through birdy woods and marshes, netting about 130 species before lunch. While admiring the distinctive White-backed subspecies of Black-necked Stilt we flushed a few Nacunda Nighthawks, and with some effort we managed to spot a couple on the ground before they flew. Our driver and guide Osvaldo knew of a territory of Black-bellied Antwren, and they appeared almost immediately after we arrived in their distinctive, densely viney habitat. A bonus at the same location was the rarely seen Cinnamon-throated Hermit, and two males were performing on their lek after we finally nailed the ID on a single bird. A Great Potoo on a day roost was pointed out by Osvaldo, and we made pauses in the viney woodland for Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Peach-fronted Parakeet, and a pair of Planalto Slaty-Antshrikes. We saw a surprising number of birds from the observation tower, including a very cheeky Masked Gnatcatcher, a pair of really stunning Orange-backed Troupials, and of course a mind-blowing assortment and number of marsh birds from the favorite Roseate Spoonbill to dozens of Jabirus and countless egrets. A female Hudson’s Black-Tyrant provided a bit of an ID challenge, given its absence in the regional field guide, but it’s probably just an overlooked species in the region, possibly not occurring every winter. A Buff-breasted Wren was a bonus there before we packed up and drove on to Cuiabá.

EXTENSION: Travel to Iguazú for the extension was uneventful (and even made easy by the use of the same aircraft for our second flight), and passing through the two borders into Argentina was a cinch. After a lunch that put all of our Pantanal meals to shame, we started birding on the hotel grounds, where a mixed flock had a stunning and amazingly obliging Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, acting more like a nuthatch than a furnariid. We also pulled in an Olivaceous Woodcreeper of the syviellus subspecies looking and sounding very little like the two “subspecies” we had on the main tour. Then we took in the spectacle of the hummingbirds at the Jardin de Picaflores, sifting through the haze of Versicolored Emeralds to find six other species, including the impressive Black Jacobin. The fruit provided food for attractive non-hummers such as Violaceous Euphonias and a stunning Green-headed Tanager.

A morning of birding on the 101 road was extremely productive with many mixed flocks and cooperative birds everywhere. Rare Creamy-bellied Gnatcatchers didn’t seem so rare or hard to see, and it was interesting to see them attending a nest in the middle of winter. A stunning male Swallow-tailed Manakin sat right out in the open, Yellow-fronted Woodpeckers were quite evident, and both Green-backed and Chestnut-crowned Becards were in the same flock. The crowds of humans at Iguazú Falls were a shock compared to what we had been experiencing, but they weren’t nearly as bad as was reported from just a week earlier, and we still saw some great birds. A Glaucous-blue Grosbeak was an unexpected surprise and a lifer for all but Julian. The viewing of the Garganta del Diablo would have been impressive without any birds at all, but we had the most impressive showing of hundreds of Great Dusky Swifts imaginable, with birds diving in the falls, arising out of the mist, and vocalizing low overhead for a very rare audio recording.

Our last day of birding to Urugua-í Provincial Park was extremely productive. Though the Black-fronted Piping-Guans weren’t present at the bridge right when we arrived, patience paid off when one flew in and sat calmly in a tree for photographs through the rising morning mist. But we didn’t need to just stand around and wait, as there was plenty to watch, with Riverbank Warblers and an incredibly accommodating Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper that called and foraged out in the open under the bridge for several minutes. Nearby, a ridiculously bold Chestnut-headed Tanager behaved very unlike the one from yesterday, coming right to the edge of the road for fantastic views. We finally entered the trail which eventually gave up some of its gems, such as both Gray-bellied and Rufous-capped Spinetails (the latter really showing of its colors), a cooperative Rufous Gnateater that sat for great views, a pair of canopy-restricted Greenish Tyrannulets, and a more easily seen pair of Southern Bristle-Tyrants. We finished the tour’s birding in the late afternoon with a stroll down to an old and dying palm swamp. A family group of White Woodpeckers and a pair of Long-tailed Tyrants were new for the tour list here, but the rails were the prize. We heard a couple pairs of the expected Blackish Rail, but hearing a single Plumbeous Rail was a surprise; unfortunately neither came up to the speaker though one or the other was seen briefly in flight, possibly when one chased the other. But a bonus was seeing a lovely little Rufous-sided Crake at the last second, when we had all but given up, as they were calling way too far away. But suddenly one made a brief noise nearby and some soft tongue clicking brought it out of a hole in the grass almost immediately – a superb finale to a great tour.                                   -Rich Hoyer

Created: 05 August 2018