Day 42: Backyard Birds

Noah didn’t have to go too far to find some amazing species.

February 11, 2015, Itacare, Brazil — Leo and I spent the day trekking through hot, wet, lowland Atlantic Rainforest near Itacare, scraping hard for new birds. We ended up seeing more than 130 species today (for the third day in a row), but only 10 were new for my big year. I’ve recorded most of the common Atlantic Forest birds now; in the past three days alone Leo and I have found more than 300 species in the state of Bahia—what an incredibly diverse place!

The bird of the day actually came during a siesta before lunch. Things were getting pretty quiet in the forest by 10 a.m., so Leo and I headed back to his house to relax for a bit. He lives with his family on a 1/10-hectare plot just outside of Itacare, surrounded by forest, and has a yard list surpassing 250 species of birds(!). We sat on his front veranda drinking cashew juice, and suddenly Leo started pointing into a tree about five yards away. “Golden-tailed Parrotlets!”

Sure enough, two tiny parrots were sitting unobtrusively inside the tree. The Golden-tailed Parrotlet is a rare-ish endemic bird of eastern Brazil, usually seen flying overhead, very hard to spot perched. As we watched, the pair hopped over to a termite nest and started scraping at it, perhaps getting ready to dig a nest hole. Leo was excited that the parrotlets might actually nest within sight of his bedroom window. As a bonus, a Pheasant Cuckoo (another very-hard-to-see bird) alighted about 10 feet away. Maybe we should have just stayed in Leo’s yard all day, instead of sweating in the forest!

For lunch and dinner, we dined like kings at two restaurants owned by Leo and his wife. We ate fish at their open-air restaurant on the beach, and shrimp risotto at their fancier restaurant downtown. At dinner, one of the restaurant staff showed us pictures on his cell phone of a jaguar that was killed last week near Itacare because it had eaten a man, then showed us an unprintable but fascinating photo of the half-eaten guy. Apparently the people who shot the cat were then arrested for killing one of the last known jaguars in the Atlantic Forest, which impressed me most of all. And the risotto was delicious.

New birds today: 10

Year list: 979

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