A little more than a month since my last update, it’s certainly time for a new one. My apologies upfront – this is going to be a long one. Repeating a trip I’d made five years ago, most of that time was spent off on a another fabulous trip to the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil with Mark Pretti Nature Tours, and then all last week taken up going through the more than 2200 pictures that made it home with me this time. The total’s down to about 450 now that are now on my website at http://sandianet.com/matogrosso/index.htm, but thought I’d share some of them in this post. Along with Mark, our group included two friends from Albuquerque, Liz and Larry, my friend Terri from Illinois who’s gone on several other trips with me, and five others we met down there for the trip. Four of us met up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida a couple days early to catch our late night flight on Azul Airlines to Cuiaba via Sao Paolo’s Viracopos airport, and then had nearly two days in Cuiaba before meeting up with Mark and the rest of the group. Highlights of our time in Fort Lauderdale included watching a waterspout (thanks to Terri for the waterspout photo) develop out on the ocean for about half an hour before it finally dissapated,
doing a little birding around town the day of our flight when we met up with a Park Ranger and volunteer who took us to a turtle nesting site where they showed us a couple of baby leatherbacks on their way to the ocean,
and at an old cemetery that was overrun with huge iguanas, lots of White Ibis, and a Blue Jay nest with little ones about ready to fledge.
The first day in Cuiaba we made it over to the zoo at the Federal University of Mato Grosso; a fairly small zoo that specializes in Brazilian Pantanal species, some of which we’d be seeing in the wild over the course of the next two weeks. The following day we spent a few hours in the marvelous Parque Mae Bonifacia in the center of Cuiaba, where we saw several Silvery Marmosets in the trees and spotted a few good birds including both male and female Barred Antshrike.
After meeting the rest of the group that night, early the next morning it was off to the Transpantaneira Road to our first lodge, the Fazenda Santa Tereza deep in the Pantanal. After a couple of days there, we’d head back up the road to Pousada Piuval with a bit different habitats for the next couple of days. Then nearly a week into the trip, it was back to Cuiaba for a flight to Alta Floresta in the Amazon region and five full days at the marvelous Cristalino Lodge. Flying back to Cuiaba, we boarded a bus to head to the completely different environment of Chapada dos Guimaraes, staying at Pousada do Parque for the last couple of days of the trip.
The focus of the trip was primarily birding and we’d see more than 360 species of birds, thanks mostly to Mark’s skill but aided by a couple of our local guides and the sharp eyes of several others on the tour. I had my eye on some of the butterflies, too, and ended up with close to 100 species. What made the trip really special, however, was ending up with a total of 24 mammal species, a number of which I’d never seen before and apparently a record for Mark’s many trips down there. Among them was a Maned Wolf, Crab-eating Fox, an Ocelot, two kinds of anteater (Southern Tamandua and Great Anteater), Giant Otter, Brazilian Tapir, four species of monkey, and five of bats.
Transpantaneira Road was swarming with caiman
and all kinds of waterfowl such as herons, egrets, ibis, limpkins, sunbittern, five species of kingfisher, most of them in ridiculous numbers,
Jabiru, several hawks,
and plenty of other birds.
Bare-faced Currasows wandered the grounds of Fazenda Santa Tereza like chickens
along with several family groups of the rather sizable Capybara.
This also was where we’d see a Crab-eating Fox
and Marsh Deer on the edges of the property. At the lodge itself we’d see lots of different birds,
including the first of four species of Aracari
and five species of Jacamar,
got to spy on the little ones in a Jabiru nest from a short tower close to the nest,
and each day would head out on the Rio Pixaim to spot even more bird species, Caiman, Giant River Otters
and a few bats. On one outing, we hopped out of the boats to go look for the Great Potoo, posing nicely in its camouflage.
The second evening there we made the short hike to a blind to wait for an Ocelot who has been habituated to sometimes drop by for a free chicken dinner. Luck was with us that night as it indeed showed up after a short wait; it hadn’t shown up for anybody the night before.
Our home for the next couple of nights was at Pousada Piuval back along the Transpantaneira, where we’d take several hikes through its different habitats and spend some time along a huge lagoon seeing a different variety of bird
and other species. Heading back from an outing the first afternoon there, we were thrilled to spot a Southern Tamandua,
an anteater that doesn’t seem to mind people at close distance. The next day brought several even more interesting experiences. Commotion in a large tree caught our attention as two Brown Capuchin Monkeys snuck up on a large Southern Caracara nest to successfully snatch one of their eggs. While we watched, one grabbed an egg and proceeded to eat it from a perch just below the nest while the second monkey tried again. That brought in the other adult Caracara wildly thrashing its wings to run the critter off.
Finally, the monkeys took the hint and leaped away. Trying to top that, it wasn’t but later that afternoon we’d spot our second anteater species, the Giant Anteater in the same area as the little guy the day before; this one was a lot quicker on its feet and a lot less comfortable around people, but most unusual to see. We’d see plenty of Brown Capuchin Monkeys and a couple of Silvery Marmosets during our stay there, and one day took a boat further up the lagoon to view a huge rookery for various herons and wood storks.
I’d forgotten from my previous trip that this spot was also home to a family of Black Howler Monkeys.
It also had a Ringed Kingfisher posing proudly with its latest snack.
After that incredible experience, it was time to head back to Cuiaba for the flight to Alta Floresta for one night at the Floresta Amazonica Hotel before meeting the boat to Cristalino Lodge in the Amazonian rainforest. Despite the short time we had in Alta Floresta, we’d still have time for a few interesting sightings including a couple of Red-and-green Macaws fooling around,
a group of four Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers lined up along a vertical tree with a Squirrel Cuckoo hanging out nearby,
and a comical number of Chestnut-eared Aracari’s entering a tree cavity one after another. We’d see our first Gray Cracker and Marysas Hairstreak butterflies here as well.
Cristalino Lodge was our home for the next five days and an excellent time exploring the rainforest and rivers of this amazing place. Since my last visit in 2011, they’d built a large new structure with a restaurant, bar, and meeting rooms, but it was otherwise much the same with a high quality of service and a very eco-friendly operation. The food at the restaurant was terrific with huge amounts of organic produce from their gardens, but I did miss their no longer spending 15 minutes preparing the national drink, capirinha. Mammal-wise, we’d add Brazilian Tapir and more Giant River Otters to our list, along with more Brown Capuchin Monkeys (and two new monkey species),
and a couple of new bat species.
The habitats were of course completely different from the Pantanal, and we’d add plenty of new birds to the list such as the Capped Heron,
and Red-headed Manakin.
On two afternoons just as it was turning dark in the woods we watched quietly as a variety of secretive birds came in for a last bath or drink at a bamboo structure maintained by the guides. Similar to the “Magic Pond” we visited on my earlier trip, this new structure is more dependable and less reliant on natural water levels of the pond. Really a little too dark for pictures (the birds would be spooked by a flash and of course none of us had a tripod), one of the highlights there was our second potoo species, Long-tailed Potoo, which showed up right at the end.
Cristalino was also quite good for butterflies, which we’d occasionally spot while out looking mostly for birds. I’m still trying to identify a number of them, but some of the more interesting ones included several Metalmarks, such as Caria castalia,
and Semomesia croesus.
Most of the Brushfoots we’d see just about everywhere were Eunica Purplewing (Eunica pusilla), but among the others we’d see even perched on the walls of our rooms included Baeotus japetus,
and Archeoprepona demophon.
Just as we were boarding the boat to head back to Alta Floresta at the end of our stay, a gorgeous hairstreak, Chalybs janias,
posed nicely for us occasionally showing off a brilliant blue when it flew.
After almost a week at Cristalino, we flew back to Cuiaba for the hour and a half drive to Posuada do Parque in the Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park. Once again, the habitats were completely different from other places we visited on the trip in this area of a high cliff escarpment in the middle of the arid cerrado savanna. A most unusual sighting there one morning was the rarely seen Maned Wolf that wandered into the yard to steal a coconut and then returned to make its way across the field.
A good place for owls, a short walk from the Pousada regularly turned up a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a pair of Burrowing Owls hanging out just across the road, and a pair of Tropical Screech-Owls who spent their time either hiding in the eaves of the roof or in a nearby tree.
In other trees nearby we had several Red-shouldered Macaws,
a Rufous Hornero busy building its adobe nest,
and had great looks at a couple of Brown Jacamars.
A sunset visit to the edge of the escarpment turned up a pair of Channel-billed Toucans loudly calling in the distance.
An afternoon walk one day a short drive away turned up a Swallow Tanager who couldn’t have gotten much closer.
Along the way, sap was running from one tree that drew in a remarkable variety of butterflies. That one tree had at least three species of Hamadryas (Cracker) butterflies,
two species of Catonephele (Catone),
and several others.
Long trip home, but a fabulous trip to three uniquely different areas of the State of Mato Grosso with a great group of friends. Hope you enjoyed looking at some of the pictures.