Birding

Day 43: Hitting the Bird Ceiling

Even while spotting 100 species, just one was new for Noah’s Big Year.

February 12, 2015, Sao Paulo, Brazil — Smack! Did you hear it? That was me hitting my head today on the asymptote of a species accumulation curve. In other words: Leo and I saw 100 species of birds this morning, my last day in Brazil, but only one (a Great-billed Hermit) was new. I’d already seen all the rest at some point this year. Ouch!

It was still a pleasant morning before the heat kicked in (too hot to stand in the sun by 7:15 a.m., and too hot in the shade by 10:00 a.m.). Up before dawn, Leo and I hiked a trail through lowland Atlantic Forest, birding from flock to flock. We saw five different manakins and four birds in the cotinga family, including a pair each of Bare-throated Bellbirds and White-winged Cotingas, and even had a bonus look at another Golden-tailed Parrotlet. Once bird activity shut down mid-morning, we retreated to Leo’s house so I could get a cold shower and shave off a three-week beard before we had fish at Leo’s beachfront restaurant in Itacare.

In the past 19 days in Brazil I have covered a wide swath and encountered a dizzying 683 species of birds, but today it became clear, as they say, that it’s time to get out of Dodge. There just aren’t enough new birds left here to keep up the pace. For the purposes of this project, I’ve maxed out Brazil!

In the afternoon Leo dropped me at the nearby Ilheus airport with well wishes all around. He’s a sharp birder, organized, and excellent company (if you ever visit this area, look up Leonardo Patrial in Itacare), and, on a slower trip, I’d love to explore more of Leo’s favorite secret spots in the state of Bahia. Meanwhile, tonight I am at a hostel in Sao Paulo, continuing to Lima, Peru in the morning. This is a significant shift: I will spend the next two months in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, collectively the most bird-rich region on Earth. The Big Year rolls on.

New birds today: 1

Year list: 980

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