Northern Minas Gerais: Dry Forest Endemics

Northern Minas Gerais: Dry Forest Endemics

This tour 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. 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, the newly described Bahia Nighthawk, Spot-backed Puffbird, Moustached and Wagler’s 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’s 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 07 days/06 nights birding tours, every month of the year limited to just 06 participants! Under request.

Northern Minas Gerais: Dry Forest Endemics, 07 Days / 06 Nights Itinerary

Day 01 Arrival and reception at Montes Claros Airport. Transfer to Januaria. This morning, we will be transferred to Belo Horizonte Pampulha Airport in time for the 8:30 a.m. departure of TAM/Total Linhas Aereas Flight 5580 which is scheduled to arrive in Montes Claros at 9:30 a.m. (subject to change). Upon arrival, we will drive approximately two hours to the town of Januaria, our base for the next few days. (L,D)

São Francisco Sparrow Days 02 and 03 Cavernas do Peruaçu 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—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 04 Cavernas do Peruaçu; Drive to Pirapora. 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’s 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)

Spotted PiculetDays 05 and 06 Pirapora Area. 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 tour to the region in 2004 was 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. We will also check nearby marshes for the rare Forbe’s Blackbird, and surrounding open country is often good for finding White-bellied Nothura. 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 07 This morning we will be transferred back to Montes Claros in time to for the 6:45 a.m. departure of TAM/Total Linhas Aereas Flight 5580, scheduled to arrive Belo Horizonte Pampulha at 7:45 a.m., which will be the first flight of a 3-flight connection (also via São Paulo) scheduled to arrive in Brasilia at 1:00 p.m. (subject to change). (B)

INCLUDED: The tour fee includes all lodging, meals chosen from the regular menu from lunch on Day 01 to breakfast on Day 07, 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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