Rio in October

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33668 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Amazing how the mind relates to new images... Immediately when a new bird is spotted it is compared to what is in the brain's database. With the double-collared seedeater my first reaction was: Mannikin!



The Double-collared Seedeater Sporophila caerulescens is the most common seedeater in southern South America. It inhabits grasslands and agricultural areas, commonly near populated locations. Recently, it has expanded its distribution in response to the destruction of forested areas and the consequent spread of exotic grass species.

With the masked water-tyrant I had no immediate knee-jerk association, but after some time some similarities with the behaviour of pied wagtails became apparent, mostly in their hunting behaviour and their habitat preferences.



The masked water tyrant (Fluvicola nengeta) is common in marshes and open scrubby areas near water and is sometimes found in gardens. At the Rio de Janeiro botanical gardens they were quite accommodating, letting me get close-up for some reasonable shots, considering the wet weather and poor light. I shot everything with my Canon Speedlite 580EX II and a flash extender, the only way I could get anywhere close to acceptable results in the weather.



Looking rather bedraggled the snowy egret Egretta thula enjoyed the weather just about as little as I did. These birds eat fish, crustaceans, insects and small reptiles. They stalk prey in shallow water, often running or shuffling their feet, flushing prey into view, as well "dip-fishing" by flying with their feet just over the water. Snowy Egrets may also stand still and wait to ambush prey, or hunt for insects stirred up by domestic animals in open fields.

Looking at this specimen, you won't believe that at some sunny moment in time, the beautiful plumes of the Snowy Egret were in great demand by market hunters as decorations for women's hats. This reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels.

One guess what African bird I coupled with the snowy egret…

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33726 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
I quickly realised that my unprepared state (very little knowledge of the birds, no field guide, no handle on Portuguese, no protection against the rain... I was more worried about my camera getting wet than myself getting sick as the rain was rather warm...) was a major stumbling block in getting decent photographs AND correspondingly putting a dent into the number of birds I would be able to list. I got sight of thrushes, parrots, parakeets, my first hummingbird, a ruddy ground-dove, tanagers and euphonicas (all remaining in the unidentified folder) and many flashes of colour that I cannot even begin to guess at. At one time the eyecups of my binoculars needed drying and I discovered that I had nothing dry enough to use as a wipe! The downpour eventually forced me to seek shelter under the veranda of a tiny palm-thatched Amazonian hut built over a pond, part of an exhibit in the Jardim Botanico. To pass the time, I started going through the shots on my Canon 40D that I had taken up to that point, chucking the duds (of which there were many!). Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a dusky-legged guan (a large Swainson's spurfowl with some weird adaptations... :D ). I aimed the camera at it and started taking shots. The flash didn't bother the bird and it just kept on moving closer until I couldn't get the camera to focus, it was that close!



The dusky-legged guan Penelope obscura is a South-American arboreal turkey-like bird. The guans in the Rio de Janeiro botanical gardens have become comfortable with people. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist mountain forests. They eat fruit, flowers and buds taken from the ground or plucked from tree branches and acts as an important seed disperser.

The rain started abating again and the guan was replaced by a slaty-breasted wood-rail - not as confident as the guan, but still allowing a reasonable shot through the undergrowth.



The slaty-breasted wood-rail Aramides saracura has a reputation for being difficult to see, but those of the Jardim Botanico seem to be quite tame. But maybe the weather played a role in keeping them less reticent than would normally be the case. It is a bird of south-east Brazil and neighbouring parts of Paraguay and Argentina, found in forest and woods preferring marshy and boggy areas.

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33738 by Vocifer
Vocifer replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Thanks for the report Johan. Keep it up. It is very interesting and your style makes it a pleasure to follow.

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33743 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Thanks for voicing your appreciation, Vocifer. Brazil was amazing. If I can convey only a tiny hint of the pleasure I got from birding there, all my effort in compiling this trip report will be worthwhile. I only hope that there are more "readers" than just you out there... Sometimes I imagine a loud "CLUNK" echo down the interwebz as I chuck another contribution into the ether. :D

Any case... to continue: ...by this time, the precipitation had abated to a fine drizzle and I ventured out into the garden again. I soon encountered a toucan in one of the fruiting trees. Only one of the shots I took turned out to be acceptable (only just) and I later identified it as a challel-billed toucan.



The channel-billed toucan Ramphastos vitellinus is distributed throughout most of the Amazon Basin with a disjunct population in eastern Brazil. It is found in small groups in primary forest of various types, rarely seen in secondary growth. They like staying high in the trees often on bare limbs in treetops. With their large bill they can reach for fruits and berries at the end of small twigs, but when the opportunity arises, they will take insects and small reptiles, eggs and nestlings of other birds and frogs. Their sound can be heard from far away and is quite distinct.



I saw this heron earlier on, but this time the high-level run-off water had flushed it from the canal where it had been fishing. Except for the high Andes, it inhabits most of South America. The Cocoi Heron is found in South America and forms a superspecies with the Great Blue Heron of North America and the Grey Heron of Europe, Asia and Africa. Being part of a superspecies they are all very similar.

The Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi is the largest heron in Brazil. Its diet is similar to other herons, consisting of fish, frogs and aquatic insects, but it has also been seen eating small caiman.

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33744 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
By this time even my unflappable passion for birding faltered in the face of the rain and when my camera started to develop a refusal on one of its buttons, I decided to call the trip off and head back to my hotel. On the way out, I got a single shot at a veritable colour explosion. Like many of Brazil's birds the red-necked Tanager Saíra-militar looks like the work of a frenzied child playing with all the highlighter colours in his dad’s office collection. These tanagers are found along the east coast of Brazil from Ceará to Rio Grande do Sul and into northern Argentina in the Atlantic Rain Forest and in scrub on forest edges.



They feed at the top of fruiting trees, occasionally dropping down to pick berries off lower bushes.

Outside the garden, I hailed a small Fiat yellow cab and B$5-00 later I got dropped off at a dry Copacabana waterfront. The currency in Brazil is called the Real (plural: Reais). The name of the money was only adopted in 1994. At the time of my trip one B$ (Real) = about four South African R (Rand). Generally I found Brazil quite expensive and I will refer to some purchases in this trip report from time to time to illustrate my point.

I briefly went to my hotel room to put on dry clothes and to switch camera bodies, hoping that the dead button problem will fade away as the camera gets an opportunity to dry. Although the Copacabana beach was dry, it was windy and overcast, restricting bird photography to the feathered kind and not much of those either. As normal the eerie shapes of Magnificent Frigatebirds and black vultures dominated the sky.



The Magnificent Frigatebird was formerly known as ‘Man O’ War’, due to its habit of catching and shaking other birds in mid-air, until they finally drop their food, allowing the frigatebird an easy meal. The magnificent frigatebird is among the most graceful and agile of all birds. I first saw them out of my window at the Copacabana Palace hotel where hundreds of them would all glide together in the same direction without much obvious purpose. The unusually angular, rakish shape of these birds made the first sighting of them a weirdly eerie experience.

Fregata magnificens are the only seabirds where male and female have strikingly different looks. The males are characterized by a balloon like inflated scarlet throat pouch. They are black in colour with scapular feathers producing a purple iridescence under the sunlight. Though the females are also black in terms of colour, they have a white breast and lower neck sides, with a brown band on the wings and a blue eye ring.

The male magnificent frigatebird leaves its mate after breeding in search of another mate, while the female takes care of the young one. This difference in parental care allows the male to breed every year, while the female breeds only every second year.

The bird spends most of its life in flying over the ocean, due to its short legs and narrow wings, rarely lands on water, spending days and nights on the wing.

The diet of this bird mainly consists of fish, squid, turtles, crabs, jellyfish, the chicks of other birds, offal and crustaceans.

On the beach along the high tide debris line were countless Rock doves (feral pigeons). A single cattle tyrant Machetornis rixosus was also scrounging the tide line for dead insects.



Although it is actually classed with the flycatchers, its terrestrial behaviour was typical of the specie. It usually feeds on insects disturbed by grazing animals such as cattle or capybara and sometimes hitches a lift on the back of these animals to use as a base for hunting its insect prey.

Out over the ocean, I got a clear view of a brown booby quartering the waves. A widespread seabird of tropical waters, the Brown Booby Sula leucogaster ranges as far north as the Gulf of California. Like other boobies and gannets, it feeds with spectacular plunges into the sea, diving into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface and may catch leaping fish while skimming the surface. Although they are powerful and agile fliers, they are particularly clumsy in takeoffs and landings; they use strong winds and high perches to assist their takeoffs.

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33749 by dbolt
dbolt replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Fantastic Johan! Just love your narration and pics, can't wait for the next post. :D

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33981 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Hi, Tilandi. Honoured to have your first post at Simply Birding in response to my trip report. <!-- s8) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cool.gif" alt="8)" title="Cool" /><!-- s8) -->

Well, that was my first Brazilian birding day. The next few days I was tied up in best-practice sharing seminars and meetings geared towards the first ever Anglo American Applaude Awards, a bi-annual event during which the company recognises the work of individual and team champions of excellence in safety, sustainability, innovation and partnership. The company had nominated me in the innovation catagory for putting together the world’s first mobile flaring-off mechanism for methane vented from a mine. The finalists were announced only weeks before the event, not giving me much time to prepare for the "side-line" birding that was to become a much enjoyed fringe benifit.

Senior Anglo American managers from all over the world gathered at the gala dinner held at the Copacabana Palace Hotel during which our Group CEO, Cynthia Carroll, announced the winners of each catagory. I was up against a big money-spinner from Australia and was totally surprised by eventually catching the winner's trophy in the innovation catagory.

In between all the hustle and bustle I got in a boat trip on Guanabara Bay, an oceanic bay "discovered" 1 January 1502 by Portuguese explorer Gaspar de Lemos, who named it Rio de Janeiro (January River), because they thought it was a large river coming out to sea. It is the setting of a shocking, although not the biggest oil spill in Brazil's history, when, in 2000 1.3 million liters of fuel oil leaked from a pipeline into the bay's mangrove swamps, turning it into a desert that endures even today, 10 years after the event. From a birding perspective this tragedy is huge for many species that would feed from these swamps or breed there would have been affected.

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7 years 3 weeks ago #33984 by Vocifer
Vocifer replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Congratulations Johan! Knowing you makes it easy to understand why you won.
Eugene

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7 years 2 weeks ago #34335 by dbolt
dbolt replied the topic: Re: Rio in October

Johan van Rensburg wrote: I was up against a big money-spinner from Australia and was totally surprised by eventually catching the winner's trophy in the innovation catagory.

Congratulations Johan <!-- s:yes: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/yes.gif" alt=":yes:" title="Yes" /><!-- s:yes: --> <!-- s:yes: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/yes.gif" alt=":yes:" title="Yes" /><!-- s:yes: --> Well done to you <!-- s:yes: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/yes.gif" alt=":yes:" title="Yes" /><!-- s:yes: --> <!-- s:yes: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/yes.gif" alt=":yes:" title="Yes" /><!-- s:yes: -->
:rolleyes: :rolleyes: When are we getting more of your Rio experience <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

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7 years 2 weeks ago #34412 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: Rio in October
Eugene! :D I had no idea "Vocifer" was you! Fish eagle fan, hey! <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

Tilandi, I have placed an order for a Brazilian fieldguide and its tardy arrival is holding up my trip report a little. I need it to help with the ID of some terns and gulls I saw during my Guanabara Bay trip. After an enquiry today to the publisher regarding delivery, I thought it best to continue, skipping the few birds seen during that boat trip. Looks like I will have to wait another two weeks! Can't have you in suspense for that long... heheheheee... may just loose my two-person audience!

I initially intended to hire a car and self-drive Brazil. I even did the bit to obtain an international drivers licence! However, the Rio traffic quickly made me whimp out and I accepted Andy Foster's offer to be fetched from the Copacabana Palace Hotel by his shuttle service (R2000 for 300 kms trip to Serra dos Tucanos and back to Rio de Janeiro airport seemed like a bargain if I didn't have to negotiate the crazy Brazilian traffic - they drive on the WRONG side of the road there!!! <!-- s:shock: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_eek.gif" alt=":shock:" title="Shocked" /><!-- s:shock: --> :D )

The Serra dos Tucanos lodge is situated in 20 hectares of Atlantic rain forest and is bounded on two sides by fast flowing forest streams at an altitude of approximately 400 m. The road starts winding through the foothills leading up to Tres Picos State Park shortly after leaving the town of Cachoieras de Macacu and roughly 5 km from town a sudden exit on the left of the road, secured by a heavy iron gate and a sign Cão Bravo marked our arrival at the lodge.



The lodge is small and the service and attention very personal. We immediately felt at home and I quickly got into birding mode as the garden teems with life. A number of bird feeding tables stocked with bananas and apples together with a string of hummingbird feeders made up the most amazing bird-feeding station I've ever seen. Every table had birds on them - tanagers, bananaquits, euphonias and a Barbie-look-alike woodpecker... The hummingbirds didn't mind me getting close-up and I spent the afternoon shooting hummingbirds. A basic photo hide at a set of fruit-feeders allows one to get shots of rare and colourful endemics. Between the hummingbird feeders, the hide and the various trails through the forest, I easily killed the next two days with making well over 1000 bird images.

Before dinner every evening I spent time with the lodge's well-stocked library books and owner Andy Foster, trying to ID most of what I saw during the day.



Above is a brilliant gem of a hummingbird, the violet-capped woodnymph Thalurania glaucopis It is a tropical bird common in the eastern central region of South America. It is found in forest and on forest edges as well as in gardens and parks. It is often found at feeders with other hummingbird species coexisting without competitive behaviour. It is tiny (easily the size of a man's pinky) and sits in deep shadows, only occasionally venturing out to feed. Try as I may, I just could not get a shot of this bird in flight.

The opposite goes for the Black Jacobin Florisuga fusca, a common hummingbird found in the Atlantic forest of eastern Brazil, Uruguay, eastern Paraguay and far north-eastern Argentina. They are fairly large as far as hummingbirds go and are very active, chasing each other and other hummingbirds around the garden. It is a sight te behold two Jacobins bill-fighting in mid-air - a miniture version of two well-schooled fencers... WITH WINGS!

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