Northern Minas Gerais: Blue-eyed Ground-Dove & Dry Forest Endemics

Northern Minas Gerais: Blue-Eyed Ground-Dove & Dry Forest Endemics

Blue-eyed Ground-Dove 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 e 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’ll seek out some of the most localized and rarest of Brazil’s 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, Bahia Nighthawk, Caatinga Puffbird, Moustached and Wagler Woodcreepers, Great Xenops, Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, Black-bellied Antwren, White-browed Antpitta, Reiser’s Tyrannulet, Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, Caatinga Black-Tyrant, White-naped Jay, Long-billed Wren, Forbes Blackbird, Ultramarine Grosbeak, and the beautiful and recently described São 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.

Blue-eyed Ground-Dove Reserve Day 01, Montes Claros to Botumirim (170km)

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 Espinhaco and holds several species from the cerrado and caatinga. (L, D)

Day 02, Rolinha-do-Planalto Private Reserve.

We will meet SAVE-Brasil staff and visit their new, critically important reserve created just a few months 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.

Day 03, 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, Chestnut-capped Foliage-gleaner, Moustached Woodcreeper, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, Caatinga Antwren, Sao Francisco Black-Tyrant, Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, Reiser's Tyrannulet (both tyrannulets very poorly known birds), Scarlet-throated Tanager, Sao Francisco Sparrow, and, if there are adequate flowers in bloom, possibly the newly described "Dry-forest Sabrewing" (Campylopterus calcirupicola).

Days 04 and 05, Cavernas do Peruacu National Park

Dawn will find us amid the towering spires, bizarre grottos, and other rock formations that characterize the little-known Cavernas do Peruaçu 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 Brazil’s most 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. Moustached Woodcreeper As we work our way through the taller forest, we’re constantly sorting through mixed-species flocks of insectivores, in search of a couple of rare and localized flycatchers: Reiser’s Tyrannulet and the Caatinga Black-Tyrant. These flocks may host a number of other special birds, among them, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Spot-backed Puffbird, Spotted Piculet, Little Woodpecker, Gray-headed Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, Red-billed Scythebill, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, 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 São 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 Brazil’s caatinga. This is home to still more localized birds, including such prizes as Great Xenops, 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 06, Januaria to Pirapora (335km).

We will have a final morning to enjoy the wonderful birding around Cavernas do Peruaçu. Such time may be needed to search for the elusive Reiser 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 Pirapora, making opportunistic stops for birds as time allows. (B,L,D)

Days 07 and 08, Pirapora Area

Spotted Piculet We continue our exploration of the dry forests of Minas Gerais in the Pirapora area. Many of the birds will by now be familiar to us from our time farther north, but there will be several specialties that we will be encountering for the first time. 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. Our most recent tours to the region were successful in locating several of these flycatchers, and we’re confident of being able to relocate them for our tour. 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. In our searches for these two 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; Sootyfronted, Ochre-cheeked, and Chotoy spinetails; Rufous-fronted Thornbird; Olivaceous Woodcreeper; Narrow-billed Woodcreeper; Great Antshrike; 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. As the sun sets, we will position ourselves along a nearby river, where we should be able to see the recently described Bahia Nighthawk foraging low over the water at dusk. (B,L,D)

Day 09, Pirapora to Montes Claros (170km)

Our last morning in this amazing region will find us checking nearby marshes for the rare Forbes Blackbird, and surrounding open country is often good for finding White-bellied Nothura. 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 (there is an approximately $9 tax at each Brazilian airport and the roughly $36 departure tax), visa fees, 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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