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Chegamos no Brasil, ou/or, We Arrived in Brazil!

July 9-11, 2022

All trips begin with movement, with travel itself. Packing, reassuring the cats, taking care of

last minute details, then off to the airport. Peggy prefers Delta Airlines to all the others, so our itinerary on the outbound was predictable: SFO-ATL-GRU, then switching to the code-shared LATAM for the flight to Cuiabá (CGB).

While I cannot say that our flights were uneventful - a flight attendant knocked over an entire service cart, and, though we were six rows from this disaster, my favorite canvas bag got coffee stains as a result (all better now) - they were uneventful in the most important sense: we arrived safety without incident.

Me and Peggy at the start of the adventure!

Lyssa knows what it means when we have suitcases packed, and wake up at o'dark-thirty. She is not amused.

Ipo, as always, remains the more philosophically-inclined of our two cats.

Pro-tip: When cat-sitting, send pictures of the cats to the travelers.

Our plane from Atlanta to São Paulo (the airport known as GRU - and it had a good sense of humor about this, what with a new GRU film coming out)

I am addicted to the Flight Tracker on these long flights. I made sure to capture this moment in honor of John Cage.

When we arrived at GRU, we had a long enough lay-over to sit by a window and assemble our first Brazilian bird list! Here's the eBird list, with all species photographed (through dirty windows).

But even more importantly, Peggy had located the Starbucks, and decided to go local, trying something called "Pão de Queijo" or Cheese Balls.

These quickly morphed from a local curiosity to an obsession. Just today (August 9) Peggy made the first batch here at home, and they were delicious. They are like tiny warm biscuits, filled with melted cheese that has a slightly chewy consistency. Turns out this food started in Afro-Brazilian families who were held in slavery. Brazil was the last nation in the hemisphere to outlaw enslavement, and, through the Portuguese colonization of Angola, was also the location of the most extensive and long-lived slave trade.

But back to our GRU time. There were ads that informed me that my ability to read Portuguese was real! Diversity is no Illusion! The transfer to the domestic flight was made difficult, though, by my inability to understand announcements in

Portuguese, our mutual exhaustion, and a last-minute unannounced gate change, coupled with confusion about the time zone. We made the flight, and found ourselves sitting next to David and Anne, the couple from Scotland who were part of our tour. We landed in Cuiabá, capital of the state of Mato Grosso, and checked into our hotel, the Slim!

Dinner that night was at the all-you-can-eat Churrascaria, Aeroporto Grill. This would prove to be my favorite restaurant of the trip. We ate here whenever we were in Cuiabá. Particularly delightful was the dessert cart, with Brigadeiro - fudge balls with sprinkles on them. Heavenly. A bit too heavenly. I gain weight just thinking about them.

It was great to see Rich Hoyer again, at the lobby of the Slim - we'd not seen him since 2015. We also met Frank Murphy, another participant on our trip, and sensed at once that we would be simpatico, such that we could bird some together the next morning (July 11). And so we did! We got a taxi ride (my elementary Portuguese holding us in good stead) to a restaurant located along the Cuiabá River. The birding here was spectacular and fun, as was the scenery. The habitats were varied, and I always love being near a "water feature" because of the variety of species and taxa one can find ("Variedade não é Ilusão"). The river was unexpectedly wide, and the restaurant unexpectedly...well...we missed the Hawai'ian-themed event! The birds pictured below are the spectacular Golden-green Woodpecker (this would be our best sighting of this species across the entire trip) and the Smooth-billed Ani.

Once all participants had arrived, we headed for lunch at the Aeroporto Grill (more Brigadeiros!), and then launched into the first big birding adventure. We were off to Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães!

Rich relayed the rules of the road for birding as a group. We were not the fastest learners on all of these rules. I fear we tried his patience. But somehow it all worked out with everyone still smiling at the end of every day.

At Chapada dos Guimarães, we stayed at Pousada do Parque - The Inn of the Park, basically. It was a lovely place - if you had told me the whole tour would be based from there, I would have accepted that gladly at the time (not knowing all the fantastical places in our future). We took a walk to the small observatory tower here, and gained some more life birds.

Sunset July 11 Rich and Jean from the Tower Lichens engage me...

The food at Pousada do Parque was excellent. Turns out the chef had been a producer for Top Chef Brasil, and the food reflected this. But this was not the best thing about dinner. The best thing about dinner was Rich's knowledge of who was on the roof:

a Little Nightjar (Setopagis parvula). My favorite bird family is the Caprimulgidae - Nighthawks and Nightjars. And this Little Nightjar was not only a cute little nightjar, but it was close to us - what birders call "confiding."

This encounter with the Little Nightjar set the tone for the magic of this trip. It would not be the only Caprimulgidae we encountered; not even my favorite of those we saw. But the fact that it was, unbeknownst to us, right over our heads as we ate dinner, keeps the encounter enchanting to me.

With every blog post about this trip, starting now, I will include a statistical summary and a link to the iNaturalist list for the day. The "Life Birds" category includes the life birds seen that day, then a slash for cumulative life birds on the trip, and then, in parentheses, the life list for, well, my life! And I tried to get a picture of the moon each day, so you can follow its cycles.



Life Birds

Year Birds

S. America

Brazil Birds

July 9

0/0 (1733)




July 10

3/3 (1736)




July 11

29/32 (1765)





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