July 12-13, 2022 - Brazil/Argentina saga, third installment
We had two full days at Pousada do Parque, a wonderful spot in the midst of the habitat zone known as the Cerrado.
On the morning of the 12th, we started with a style of birding familiar to us from other Neo-tropical trips - roadside birding. Roads are particularly good spots for birding. You can trace things as they fly overhead, and the road itself provides both a
natural compass and a proscenium effect. Of course, this works best on roads that are not very busy - the more rural, the better. You know, like this --> ("PARE" = "STOP")
Of course, Rich knew where to find such roads - Estrada da Caixa d'Água and Vale da Bencão. While there were many visually interesting birds along these roads, the lasting memory I have is of the aural ecstasy. The male and female White-rumped Tanager duet in counterpoint with each other - a wondrous song indeed:
This song launched this trip into the stratosphere for me (and remember, it is only day 3!). This reached me as music, as creative cooperation, as a bird, as exuberance. Much later on in the trip, Rich and the Argentine co-leader both testified to how hearing a bird is more dynamic than seeing it. My philosophy-with-music approach affirms this thinking. The White-rumped Tanagers had brought it all to (remarkably resonant) life. Here's the star couple:
Then there are the Macaws. Both Peggy and I have been rather aloof from loving the Parrot/Parakeet family. But Macaws...well, they won over our reluctant hearts. This morning was our first good encounter with a pair, that came in quite visibly and posed nicely. This is a Red-and-green Macaw (Ara chloropeterus).
So many other wonders to detail, and the human joys in sharing these experiences. Here's a little gallery from the roadsides
Top row - Rusty-backed Antwren (Formicivora rufa); Peggy at the scope and Rich searching; Four-spotted Sailor butterfly (Dynamine postverta)
Middle row - a Velvet Ant (Mickelia); Eighty-eight Butterfly species (Diaethria sp.); the road
Bottom row - LIttle Woodpecker (Dryobates passerinus); two views of an extraordinary gall
Our afternoon on July 12th was spent close to the lodge, exploring a trail that went to a rock formation known as the "stacks." I loved this trail - it was narrow, had some uphill areas along rocks, and loads of lichen! I have yet to do the heavy-lifting on IDing my lichens from Brazil, but I could easily have spent the better part of three afternoons at this site, just tasting from the lichen diversity. The rock formations were also festooned with lichens and moss. This trail was captivating enough to tempt me to stay at Pousada do Parque again one day, if the opportunity were to arise.
A Lichen Gallery:
The birds along the trail included this spectacular pair of Brown Jacamars (Brachygalba lugubris). The stacks were visually arresting - irregular, individual, and picturesque.
This trail was also excellent for plants. Here Rich poses with a Bignonia :
Just because the sun set didn't mean the end of fun. Rich had located a Veined Tree Frog (rachycephalus typhonius) using a hollowed-out tree trunk, and then the owner of the
Pousada brought a Banded Cat-eye Snake (Leptodeira annulata) to dinner! And so ended July 12th.
July 13th began similarly, as we were off to do more road-birding. This time it was along a place called Refrigerator Road - Estrada da Geladeira! On the way there, in a town, we encountered three cute Burrowing Owls, and on the way back, our only look for the whole trip at the stunning White Woodpecker (Melanerpes candidus). Check out its yellow eye ring! The Swallow Tanager (Tersina viridis) is a beautiful bird; we had seen this species once before, in Ecuador, but it was fleeting. This time we got to savor it - and see an ecstatic female with it (the green bird to the left!).
Top row - Like all parents, Rich know that we kids in the back are up to no good; White Woodpecker; Swallow Tanager
Bottom row - Burrowing Owl; our Araratur bus; Red Postman butterfly (Heliconius erato)
As had been the case on the previous day, the spiritual highlight of the day came near the end - and in waves. This afternoon jaunt was just one great moment after another. As soon as we had turned onto the road outside the national park, we spotted a Pearl Kite (Gampsonyx swainsonii). As implied in the name, it sports a purity of color.
Then we headed to one of my favorite types of places - an arbitrary geographic oddity. In this case, the oddity in question was the (alleged) geographic center of the South American continent! I've always been mathematically dubious of such designations, but it is still kinda cool to know one is so tucked away from the coastlines of a continental mass. While we were at this place - Mirante da Chapada - we spotted our first King Vulture (too far to photograph), but there weren't many birds. Culturally, though, this was a most interesting spot, since we purchased a local drink and watched a variety of Brazilians and foreigners at a tourist spot.
Top Row: Peggy with a coconut; Frank with a coconut; David being a nut with his coconut
Bottom Row: Me drinking from a coconut; Explanatory text at Mirante; Text with tourists in background
The day's final destination was an open grasslands area, where we birded the access road to Caverna Aroe Jari. This was an area of charismatic megafauna - Collared Peccary, Greater Rhea, and Red-legged Seriama. The Rhea flock numbered over twenty. We got to see them dance, fight, graze, run, walk, and address the eternal question, "Why did the Rhea cross the road?" and the accompanying bad pun, "If the Rhea kept a journal of its activities, would that be a DiaryRhea?"
Top row: Grassland with Greater Rhea; Rhea; Red-legged Seriema
Bottom row: White-browed Meadowlark (Leistes superciliaris); Rhea; Meadowlark again
Smaller birds were frustrating (of course), but the song of the Yellowish Pipit - wow! Metallic and electric in its sonic envelope, it blew apart all my existing notions of Pipit vocalizations. There is a brief tape on the eBird list here - or you can check out this longer recording here, that, together with the moving spectrogram, really gives you a sense of how strange the long call is. Once again, the aural experience knocked my socks off as much as the visual.
As nightfall approached, we were riding out on the van, and I spotted something on the edge of the horizon. It sure looked like Nighthawks - and I was right! These were Least Nighthawks: a bird Rich had never before had on this tour, and an utterly unexpected one for me. The birds were too distant, in fading light, for pictures. Here's a picture of one roosting that someone uploaded to iNaturalist; you can see how disproportionately short the tail is, and how round and squat the bird is in general. Absolutely had my heart singing! And even as I was astounded by this sighting, we had a great clear look at a Striped Owl to end the evening (again, photography was defeated by the light conditions).
Top row: sunset; Rich working on the Nighthawk ID; I love grasslands at twilight
Bottom row: iPhone photos in low light through the front window of the bus of the Striped Owl; sunset again; another Striped Owl picture of dubious quality.
As the Cerrano portion of the trip was winding down, it is fair to say that this was a great start to the trip. The fire hose of knowledge and experience that this trip would be, was already evident, but not yet overwhelming. The need to use all the senses was evident. The constant preparation for something so new, so unexpected, would end up being soul-tiring but worth it. There were more sights and sounds in our future.