February 3, 2014, Belem, Brazil — This morning, Giuliano, Bianca and I joined another local birder, Fabiano Oliveira. Oliveira had access to a gated part of Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park, so at dawn, four of us were out there ready to go. Giuliano managed to heat up a thermos of coffee on the back bumper before sunrise. A Burrowing Owl watched us in silhouette.
We spent the first couple hours of the day on a dirt road in a good patch of Cerrado habitat, looking for a few specialties on my last morning in central Brazil. I added just five new birds, but they were good ones: Blue-winged Macaw, White-vented Violetear, Collared Crescentchest, Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant, and a pair of perky Chapada Flycatchers—a species that wasn’t described until 2001, with a specimen collected on this very road. The track ended at a massive, vertiginous overlook of sandstone cliffs, formed when the Andes uplifted, in an area known as the “stone city.” We enjoyed the view there for a while, and Bianca spotted a pair of Red-and-green Macaws nesting in a sandstone cave.
Central Brazil has been even better than I expected. I’ve seen more species here than anywhere else so far this year, and the variety of wide-open landscapes took me by surprise. I also had exceptionally good company for the past four days. Giuliano and Bianca are the salt of the Earth—sharp birders, organized, relaxed, and friendly. Bianca returns to Amazonas next month to begin a Ph.D project with Black Skimmers, but Giuliano lives in Cuiaba, and if you ever visit the Pantanal area, you’d do well to drop him a note (birdingpantanal.com).
After a warm curbside farewell, I boarded the plane to Belem (in northeast Brazil) this afternoon, found my seat, and opened the new February issue of TAM airlines’ glossy magazine. There, on page 80, was a picture of…Giuliano! Small world, but it was still funny to crack a national magazine to find an article about the guy I’d just left an hour before. It’s great to see a wonderful birder getting due props.
New birds today: 5
Year list: 768