Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Pantanal 2018 - One last Jaguar search, and north up the Transpantaneira

Oct 27 (PM)

We spent our last evening on the river in search of more mammals. We ended up 3-for-3 on Jaguar searches...or more like 4-for-3, since we would see two cats this afternoon.

One, a thin young female, was cruising the water's edge for prey. Alas, no luck there for her. Later we would only briefly view a large male that stayed out of the open. Photos of the female below.

hey, life is good

Oct 28

After breakfast on the boat we said our good-byes to the crew and disembarked at Porto Jofre. A pair of HYACINTH MACAWS was feeding in the palms near the dock.

Hyacinth Macaw

We made our way back about two-thirds the length of the Transpantaneira to the Pousada Rio Claro, where we would stay for one night - our last night in Brazil.

your typical Transpantaneira bridge

Nanday Parakeets were the stars here.

Nanday Parakeets

In the afternoon we took a walk around the grounds followed by a boat trip up the Rio Claro. We ended our final full day with a bang when we came across a SOUTH AMERICAN TAPIR near some water hyacinth! What an absurd-looking animal.

South American Tapir

Our one and only GREEN-AND-RUFOUS KINGFISHER of the trip was spotted perched in the shadows of the river's edge; we enjoyed more SUNGREBE and SUNBITTERN sightings.

Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher

Marsh Deer

Wattled Jacana

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet

Chestnut-bellied Guan

Oct 29

With afternoon flights out of Cuiaba, there was not much time for birding on our final day. We did, however, squeeze in a productive pre-breakfast walk, highlighted by a male MATO GROSSO ANTBIRD, a regional endemic.

On that note, we said goodbye to the Pantanal...for the time being. Another successful Connecticut Audubon Society trip was in the books. I would highly recommend the Pantanal to anyone who loves wildlife. It is not just for birders...in fact, it's really the mammals here that steal the show.

 - Nick

Pantanal 2018 - To the Paraguay River and (almost) Bolivia

Oct 25

This morning we would continue towards the west and then turn north onto the Paraguay River. The scenery really began to change here. Accustomed to a very flat landscape, hills and mountains were now visible to the west.

Sergio spotted a LEAST BITTERN peeking up through the tops of marshy riverside vegetation. Raptors really took to the air mid-morning, and glancing upward paid off in the form of a dark morph adult WHITE-TAILED HAWK. Had never before seen a dark morph before!

Least Bittern

White-tailed Hawk (dark morph adult)

immature Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Bare-faced Curassow

Wattled Jacana on giant lily pad

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Hyacinth Macaws

Straight-billed Woodcreeper

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Later that afternoon we would set foot on land for the first time in a while, at the Acurizal Reserve on the west bank of the Paraguay River. Safe from jaguars here, we could actually walk around a bit. The forest here was a bit quiet, but we did manage fine views of a GUIRA TANAGER.

Oct 26

We returned to Acurizal in the morning for a walk and tractor ride around the grounds. The bird of the morning was certainly the BOLIVIAN SLATY-ANTSHRIKE that spent several minutes singing off-trail. We did manage a few brief views. This is about as far east as this species gets.

Bolivian Slaty-Antshrike
After our walk, we continued north up the Paraguay River to Lagoa Gaiva, which lies partly in Brazil and partly in Bolivia. We motored right up to the marker, where an Osprey was guarding the border.

This was as far northwest as we would get. It was time for us to turn around and head back in the direction of Porto Jofre. As we cruised back down the Paraguay we noted two migratory flocks of SNAIL KITES, one 155 birds and the other 110. These birds keep very tight kettles in migration, which was a first for me to witness.

migrating Snail Kites

Later that day we returned to the stellar oxbow with all the terns that we had seen a couple days prior. This time we had more light to enjoy the show.

Large-billed Tern

juv Large-billed Tern

Large-billed Tern

Large-billed Tern

Southern Screamer

Roseate Spoonbill

Oct 27 (AM)

This morning's wildlife cruise took us almost all the way back to Porto Jofre. A flyby BICOLORED HAWK was a nice surprise, as was a flock of 21 MISSISSIPPI KITES. The status of MIKI in the Pantanal has apparently only been clarified in recent years, as difficulty in separating from the resident Plumbeous Kites kept the MIKIs hidden in plain sight for a long time.

Mississippi Kites

The Negrinho tributary was again productive.

Amazon Kingfisher

Green Ibis

Cocoi Heron

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Black-and-Gold Howler Monkey

Hooded Capuchin

Amazon Kingfisher

Toco Toucan


We would return to the heart of Jaguar country for the afternoon...

 - NB

Pantanal 2018 - Life on the Cuiaba River

Oct 22 (PM)

We boarded our house boat, the Hotel Barco Jacare, around lunchtime.  For the next five or so days, we would be on the water. We would search the rivers and tributaries for wildlife via small motor boat. Our journey would take us westward down the Cuiaba River to the Paraguay River, north to the Bolivian border. We would then double back to Porto Jofre.

our excursion boats

After getting acquainted with our new surroundings, we hit the river in search of Jaguars. Cruising the rivers by boat was a refreshingly comfortable way to spend an afternoon. It didn't take long before we got word that another boat had located a female JAGUAR on a nearby riverbank. We would investigate.

We watched this spectacular animal spend some time prowling the banks in search of a meal. We would celebrate later, appropriately, with Caipirinhas on the mother ship.

Oct 23

This morning's boat excursion was met by yet another awesome mammal. A typically vocal and energetic group of GIANT OTTERS entertained us for several minutes as they mercilessly chowed down on fish. Some say cute, others say demonic. What say you?

YACARE CAIMAN basked on the banks, some quite large:

Proboscis Bats were discovered on their day roost:

Proboscis Bats

Oh, there were birds, too:

Green Kingfisher

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Pied Plover

Collared Plover

juv Large-billed Terns

Large-billed Tern

Large-billed Tern

Our PM boat trip was again focused on Jaguar. We were again successful, this time finding a young male that was even more active than last night's.

There was also plenty of jaguar food around, in the form of Capybaras. They are the world's largest rodent, the biggest of which weigh nearly 150lbs.

Yellow-billed Tern

Rufous Tiger-Heron

Black Vulture

Oct 24

Today we began our westward journey down the Cuiaba River, to a part of the Pantanal that is very lightly birded compared to the Transpantaneira and Porto Jofre region.

This morning we explored the Cuiaba and one of its tributaries, the Negrinho (sp?). My bird of the day was a LAUGHING FALCON, a species that had previously eluded me on multiple trips throughout its range. 

Among others, we particularly enjoyed an adult KING VULTURE circling over the river, GOLDEN-GREEN WOODPECKER, a singing CHIVI VIREO, and a pair of HOODED TANAGERS.

Yellow-billed Tern (adult)

Yellow-billed Tern (juv)

Ringed Kingfisher

Roadside Hawk

White-winged Swallow

White-winged Swallow

Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Southern Rough-winged Swallow

It was, of course, back to exploring the river in the afternoon. We got a bit of an earlier start thanks to overcast skies, which kept temperatures down. One particular narrow branch of the river was very productive and netted us our first SUNGREBE of the trip.


Blue-crowned Trogon

Black-capped Donacobius

Pied Plover

We spent sunset at an oxbow that was formerly part of the main channel of the river, but has shifted over time as flood waters build and recede annually. This particular spot was loaded with birds, especially terns by the dozen. As the light faded, we sat still and soaked up the scene in silence.

- NB