Birding

Day 35: Birding in the Amazon

Along with 59 new species, Noah spots some hairier wildlife.

Some kind of tarantula (venomous potential unknown). Photo: Noah Strycker

February 4, 2015, Somewhere on the northern Brazilian coast — I crashed last night with Alex Lees and his partner Nargila in their 11th-floor flat in Belem, in northeast Brazil. My plane landed past 11 p.m. and we were driving out before dawn, so I didn’t see much of the city (fine by me since it’s apparently one of the most dangerous cities in the world). The plan is to spent the next three days in this area, racking up as many birds as possible.

We made a good start today and ended up finding 151 species of birds between dawn and dusk, more than a third of which were new for my year! There aren’t any big reserves near Belem, and birders don’t visit this part of Brazil very often; we spent this morning in a state park and were on dirt tracks all afternoon, listening and watching in remnant patches of forest. The birds here are Amazonian—the mouth of the Amazon River is technically a ways up the coast, but about 20 percent of the Amazon’s outflow ends up near Belem along with a couple of other big rivers. It’s an interesting region to explore, and Alex, who is originally from the UK but has researched birds here for the past 10 years on a young talent grant, is an encyclopedia of ornithological knowledge. During the day we ran across some non-bird fauna, too: A troop of squirrel monkeys, a three-toed sloth, and a spider that was either a harmless tarantula or a put-you-in-the-hospital biter (the jury’s still out). 

Tonight we are at a hotel in some coastal town, which puts us in good position for a few seaside birds tomorrow. Fingers crossed for a Black Rail!

New birds today: 59

Year list: 827

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Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Nargila as Nigel.