February 10, 2015, Itacare, Brazil — The countryside of eastern Brazil is grounded in earth tones: The roads are rust and dust; the towns are pastel; and the people are coffee and cacao (a visible sign of this region’s slaving history). On top grows a wild proliferation of greens: Dark slate, military khaki, and neon lime, swirling together in an infinite expression of living color.

Leo and I spent the morning in mid-elevation Atlantic Forest, on a trail which the plants seemed bent on reclaiming. We pushed through wet thorns, leaves, fronds, and vine tangles as the track climbed to the top of a low mountain. It was satisfying to sweep up many of the birds I missed during my last couple of days around Sao Paulo a couple weeks ago, including four Buff-throated Purpletufts—the bird I spent hours searching for near Ubatuba on Jan 28! 

We saw several super-endemic bird species today that were discovered/described relatively recently: The Bahia Tapaculo (described in 1989), Bahia Tyrannulet (1995), and Bahia Spinetail (1995). Best was a pair of Pink-legged Gravateiros, an odd and unique little bird which, when it was discovered near here in 1996, was assigned to its own genus—still, I think, the last brand-new bird genus added anywhere in the world.

A distant Pink-legged Gravateiro, representing a unique bird genus which wasn't discovered by ornithologists until 1996. Photo: Noah Strycker

My year list is creeping toward the 1,000-species mark! It looks like I’ll probably hit four digits on Valentine’s Day, on my first afternoon in Peru. Meanwhile, in the next two days, before I leave Brazil and this entire half of South America behind, Leo and I will try to pull out a few more good birds in the state of Bahia. I am staying tonight at his house in Itacare where I’ve gotten to know Leo’s three-year-old daughter (currently obsessed with pink dresses and princesses).

New birds today: 17

Year list: 969

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