The Blue-eyed Ground-Dove (Columbina cyanopis) is one of the rarest birds in the world and has been missing for 75 years until a population was rediscovered in 2015 in Minas Gerais. In 2016, SAVE Brasil initiated the project for the conservation of the Blue-eyed Ground-Dove, focusing on expeditions to search for new populations, which until now have not been found, articulation with the local government for the creation of a conservation unit, land and start negotiations for the purchase of a property within the area of occurrence of the species. Sponsored by Rainforest Trust, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Fundacao Grupo Boticario de Protecao a Natureza and Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. This tour is going to visit this private reserve and collaborate with the conservation of this species, once a donation per participant will be paid.
This tour is going to visit the newly focuses on a unique region of central Brazil that is little-known to birders, but which harbor a number of special birds with very limited distributions. Apart from the rare Blue-eyed ground-Dove, this tour concentrates on the dry (deciduous) forests of northern Minas Gerais. The deciduous forests of South America have received little attention from biologists or birders compared to the more glamorous rainforests of the Amazon basin, but they have a higher degree of endemism, and are considered to be more at risk. The northern portion of the state of Minas Gerais still contains large expanses of dry forest, and here we will seek out some of the most localized and rarest of Brazilian birds. Amid a landscape dominated by swollen-trunked bombax trees and bizarre rock formations that include cavernous grottos and towering spires, we will search for such specialties as White-bellied Nothura, White-browed Guan, Caatinga Antwren, Golden-capped and Caatinga parakeets, Plain-tailed (Bahia) Nighthawk, Caatinga Puffbird, Moustached and Wagler Woodcreepers, Great Xenops, Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, Black-bellied Antwren, White-browed Antpitta, Reisers Tyrannulet, Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, Sao Francisco (Caatinga) Black-Tyrant, White-naped Jay, Ultramarine Grosbeak, and the beautiful and recently described Sao Francisco Sparrow. Tall Caatinga habitats near Januaria hold Caatinga Cacholote, Campo Troupial, Red-cowled Cardinal, Caatinga Wagtail-tyrant, and White-bellied Nothura. Our time in this region will not be restricted to rarities; indeed, these dry forests are incredibly birdy, and the lack of foliage should make birds easy to see.
OUR TOURS: We run 09 days/08 nights private birding tours, limited to your party! Under request.
Northern Minas Gerais: Blue-eyed Ground-Dove & Dry Forest Endemics, 09 Days / 08 Nights Itinerary
Most of flights to Montes Claros (airport code MOC) arrive late afternoon, therefore we highly suggest to overnight and rest for the next birdy week.
Days 01 and 02, Lapa Grande State Park at Montes Claros
We will start our exploration of the dry forests of Minas Gerais at the Lapa Grande State Park in Montes Claros. For two full days we will search for an array of endemics and highly localized species such as Dry-Forest Sabrewing (Campylopterus calcirupicola). Also of prime interest is the engaging Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, a sprightly and colorful little flycatcher that was virtually unknown until recent years. Described in 1926, it went unseen until 1977, and then disappeared again until a small population was located near Pirapora in 1993. It remains a critically endangered species with a tiny range. The dry forest here is also home to the seldom-seen Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner, a large, ground-dwelling furnariid that is restricted in range to interior southern Brazil and northern Paraguay. Sao Francisco (caatinga) Black-Tyrant and Reiser tyrannulet are other two specialties from the region that we will focus on. In our searches for these special birds, we will encounter a number of other species, among them Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl; Caatinga Parakeet; Blue-winged Parrotlet; Guira Cuckoo; Swallow-tailed Hummingbird; Rusty-breasted Nunlet; Spotted Piculet; Green-barred Woodpecker; Pale-legged Hornero; Sooty-fronted, Ochre-cheeked and Chotoy spinetails; Rufous-fronted Thornbird; Olivaceous Woodcreeper; Narrow-billed Woodcreeper; Great Antshrike; Caatinga Barred Antshrike; Planalto Slaty-Antshrike; Black-capped Antwren; Planalto Tyrannulet; Fuscous Flycatcher; Buff-breasted Wren; Gray-eyed Greenlet; White-bellied Warbler; Hooded Tanager; Red-cowled Cardinal; Green-winged Saltator; Campo Oriole; and many more. (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will drive 170km (approximately two hours) to the town of Botumirim, our base for the next few days. Botumirim lies at 1525 m.a.s.l. at the Serra do Espinhasso and holds several species from the cerrado and caatinga. (L, D)
Days 04 and 05, Rolinha-do-Planalto Private Reserve.
We will meet SAVE-Brasil staff and visit their new, critically important reserve created just a few years ago by the collaborative effort of SAVE-Brasil and Rainforest Trust to protect the Blue-eyed Ground-dove and numerous other rare and localized birds and plants inhabiting the ancient, rocky uplands of eastern Minas Gerais. Our main target will be the Blue-eyed Ground-dove confine to small patches of white sandy soil cerrado also frequented by Horned sungem and Silvery-cheeked antshrike. But we will also visit high rocky habitat looking for a trio of endemics of the Espinhasso mountains: Pale-throated Sierra-Finch, Hyacinth Visorbearer and the Cipo Canastero, in order of difficulty to be seen. Patches of dry forest hold a population of Narrow-billed antwren, another highly restricted species of northeastern Brazil.
Day 06, Botumirim to Januaria (350km)
Today we wend our way westward into the vast valley of the Rio Sao Francisco, the most important river (biogeographically and socio-economically) in eastern Brazil. Expect to tally a bunch of rarely seen endemic species, the likes of Plain-tailed (Bahia) Nighthawk, Golden-capped Parakeet, Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner, Moustached Woodcreeper, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, Caatinga Antwren, Sao Francisco (caatinga) Black-Tyrant, Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, Reisers Tyrannulet (both tyrannulets very poorly known birds), Scarlet-throated Tanager, Sao Francisco Sparrow. The Sao Francisco river also holds great numbers of ducks including Comb duck, Brazilian teal, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, White-faced Whistiling-duck as well as Giant Woodrail. As the sun sets, we will position ourselves along a nearby river, where we should be able to see the highly localixe Plain-tailed (Bahia) Nighthawk foraging low over the water at dusk.
Dawn will find us amid the towering spires, bizarre grottos, and other rock formations that characterize the little-known Cavernas do Peruassu NP. Known more for its caves and ancient petroglyphs, this park (which encompasses 568 sq km) is also a wonderful birding spot. The impressive geological features of the park provide an otherworldly counterpart to the large expanse of deciduous forest that is home to many of Brazils localized bird species. One of our primary target birds is the impressive Moustached Woodcreeper, a large woodcreeper with an outsized bill and a distinctive song that is often one of the first voices heard among the predawn chorus. As light penetrates the canyon floor, the calls of elusive White-browed Guans and raucous White-naped Jays mix with the screeching of flocks of Caatinga and Golden-capped parakeets, whose lively blend of greens, yellows, and oranges brings splashes of color to the nearly leafless forest. The varied and surprisingly musical songs and calls of Chopi Blackbirds echo down from above, while the explosive songs of Long-billed Wrens issue up from below.
As we work our way through the taller forest, we are constantly sorting through mixed-species flocks of insectivores, in search of a couple of rare and localized flycatchers: Reisers Tyrannulet and the Sao Francisco (Caatinga) Black-Tyrant. These flocks may host a number of other special birds, among them, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Spot-backed (Caatinga) Puffbird, Spotted Piculet, Little Woodpecker, Gray-headed Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, Red-billed Scythebill, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Waglers (Scaled) Woodcreeper, Planalto Slaty-Antshrike, Black-capped Antwren, Black-bellied Antwren, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Sirystes, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Tropical Parula, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Purple-throated Euphonia, Epaulet Oriole, and others. At ground-level, we will sort through the numerous Pale-legged Horneros, Gray Pileated-Finches and Ultramarine Grosbeaks for the beautiful and only recently described Sao Francisco Sparrow. A rustling in the dry leaf litter could signal the scratching of the sparrow, the movements of a Flavescent Warbler, or even an elusive Tataupa Tinamou. Farther on, the taller dry forest yields abruptly to a more xeric vegetation typical of the interior of northeastern Brazils caatinga. This is home to still more localized birds, including such prizes as Great Xenops, Ash-throated Casiornis, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, and White-browed Antpitta. There will be more than enough birds to keep us busy during our time here, and viewing conditions during the dry season (when most of the trees are leafless) should be ideal for locating birds amid the low, dense vegetation. In tall caatinga habitat outside town, we will look for Caatinga Cacholote, Campo Troupial, Red-cowled Cardinal, Caatinga Wagtail-tyrant, and White-bellied Nothura. Damper areas could hold the Giant Wood-Rail. (B,L,D)
Day 09, Januaria to Montes Claros (170km).
We will have a final morning to enjoy the wonderful birding around Cavernas do Peruassu. Such time may be needed to search for the elusive Reisers Tyrannulet, or may simply provide an additional morning to enjoy repeat views of the many special birds of the region. Afterwards, we will begin the drive south to Montes Claros, making opportunistic stops for birds as time allows. After lunch we will be transferred to Montes Claros airport after incredible nine days of birding. (B,L)
INCLUDED: The tour fee includes all lodging for eight nights, meals chosen from the regular menu from lunch on Day 01 to lunch on Day 09, all ground transportation, entrance fees, the services of a full time Pantanal Bird Club naturalist guide. Rates are based upon group tariffs.
NOT INCLUDED: Items not included are airfare to and from Brazil and the flights within the country. The tour price does not include any airport taxes, visa fees if necessary, optional tips to bus drivers and cooks, laundry and other personal expenses, items not on the menu of included meals, beverages including mineral water, room service, gratuities for beverages, optional gratuities for hotel housekeepers and the customary end-of-the-tour gratuity for the naturalist guide.
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