Rio Grande do Sul is a different world of strange araucaria forests, high plateau grasslands and small marshes, scenically spectacular canyons and enormous lakes and wetlands hosting a spectacular number of birds, resident and migratory, most of them common to southern South America but very localized and rare in Brazil. The birds are equally unique, with such specialties as Plumbeous Rail, Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail, Vinaceous-breasted Parrot, Rusty-barred Owl, Long-tufted Screech-Owl, Mottled Piculet, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Long-tailed Cinclodes, Straight-billed Reedhaunter, Black-and-white Monjita, Azure Jay, Chestnut-backed Tanager, Saffron-cowled Blackbird, Chilean Flamingo, Black-necked & Coscoroba Swans, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Spectacled Tyrant, Curve-billed Reedhaunter, Correndera Pipit, Crested & Warbling Doraditos, Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, Great Grebe, representing just a few of the many highlights that await us in Rio Grande do Sul.
A variety of habitats encompassing some spectacular scenery, a pleasant, largely temperate climate, good food and accommodations throughout, and one of the world’s most unique and endangered avifaunas combine to make southern Brazil an unforgettable birding experience.
Days 02 and 03: Aparados da Serra National Park and the São Francisco de Paula Area. We will have two full days to explore this interesting region, which will yield a number of species not seen elsewhere on this tour. On one day we’ll leave early to drive north through high plateau grasslands to the Aparados da Serra National Park. These are beautiful rolling grasslands, dotted with small marshes that harbor Yellow-billed Pintail, Plumbeous Rail, Straight-billed Reedhaunter, Spix's Spinetail, Saffron-cowled Blackbird, Yellow-rumped Marshbird, Lesser Grass-Finch, Long-tailed Reed-Finch, and others. The grasslands themselves may yield such species as Spotted Nothura, Red-legged Seriema, Whistling Heron, Maguari Stork, Buff-necked Ibis, Firewood-gatherer, Gray Monjita, Black-and-white Monjita, Hellmayr’s Pipit, and Great Pampa-Finch. We will also look for the very localized Long-tailed Cinclodes (a bird described new to science in 1969!) This open grassland contains islands of araucaria forest. Araucarias are a group of ancient conifers restricted to the southern hemisphere, another example being the Norfolk Island Pine. One of the largest remaining stands of araucarias is preserved in the Aparados da Serra National Park. Birdlife is limited here, but includes some rare and/or local species such as Vinaceous-breasted Parrot, Mottled Piculet, Striolated and Araucaria tit-spinetails, Azure Jay, and Red-rumped Warbling-Finch. We would be remiss not to mention spectacular Itaimbezinho Canyon, one of the true scenic wonders of Brazil. At various times of the day impressive squadrons of big Biscutate and Sooty swifts wheel in and out of the deep-cut gorge, lending avian counterpoint to the geologic marvel.
Should weather conditions allow (meaning no fog to obscure the view), we will make visiting this spectacular canyon a priority.
We’ll pay special attention to the hotel feeders, which regularly produce eye-level views of the stunning Chestnut-backed Tanager. A visit to nearby bamboo-dominated forest on the rim of the escarpment may also yield such prizes as Vinaceous-breasted Parrot, Giant and Large-tailed Antshrikes, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Brown-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, and Chestnut-headed Tanager.
Day 06: Taim Ecological Station A full day visit to one of the most impressive wetlands in southern Brazil, Taim Ecological Station harbors an impressive number of birds, Southern Screamers could be seen in flocks with over hundreds individuals at once. Maguari Stork, Great Grebe, White-faced Íbis, Crested & Warbling Doraditos, Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, Chimango Caracará, Speckled Teal, Giant Wood-Rail and many others. By mid-afternoon we will head to Porto Alegre to catch up our flight to Curitiba
Days 10, 11 and 12: Paraná/Santa Catarina Lowlands. We’ll have three full days to bird the rich coastal lowlands on the border of these two Brazilian states. Much of our time will be spent exploring restinga woodland, a unique, stunted forest that grows on the sandy soils near the coast. Our biggest targets here include four of Brazil’s most localized endemics: the Unicolored Antwren, the recently rediscovered (and still very poorly known) Kaempfer’s Tody-Tyrant, the Restinga Tyrannulet, and the spectacular Black-backed Tanager. The presence of these four specialties would be reason enough to spend time here, but these woodlands are home to many more species of only slightly wider distribution, including many endemics. Among the many birds that we will be searching for are Yellow-legged Tinamou; Speckled Chachalaca; Plain Parakeet; Saw-billed Hermit; Violet-capped Woodnymph; Spot-billed Toucanet; Blond-crested, White-spotted, and Robust woodpeckers; Lesser and Plain-winged woodcreepers; Black-capped and White-eyed foliage-gleaners; Pale-browed Treehunter; Rufous-winged Antwren; Squamate Antbird; Rufous-tailed and Gray-hooded attilas; Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant; Fuscous, Sulphur-rumped, and Gray-hooded flycatchers; Azure Jay; Fawn-breasted, Red-necked, Black-goggled, Rufousheaded, and Azure-shouldered tanagers; and Violaceous and Chestnut-bellied euphonias.
Regardless, we will leave time for the recently discovered Marsh Antwren. Described in 1998, this antbird is currently placed in the monotypic genus Stymphalornis, although it does seem to have many affinities to the genus Formicivora. Unique among antbirds is its preference for cattail marshes. If nearby rice fields are flooded, we could also be treated to good numbers of shorebirds, as well as for other treats such as Blackish Rail, Spix’s Spinetail, Long-billed Wren, and the dazzling Brazilian Tanager. Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown Boobies, and Kelp Gulls can often be seen flying along the beaches near our hotel.
Afternoon on Day 12, we will drive to Curitiba. This afternoon we’ll probably visit the marshes and more open habitats closer to Curitiba. Here we will search for the recently described Wetland Tapaculo, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Lesser Grass-Finch, Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch, Great Pampa-Finch, Glaucous-blue Grosbeak, and others. If conditions are favorable, we’ll plan a nighttime excursion to look for nightjars, with the rare Sickle-winged Nightjar as a particular objective.
INCLUDED: Tour start in Porto Alegre and ends in Curitiba, 11 overnights, all meals from lunch at day 01 to lunch at day 12, entrance park fees, outings as described, ground transportation, local English speaking ornithologist guide.
NOT INCLUDED: Air tickets to Curitiba and Porto Alegre, any kind of beverages including mineral water, medical costs or hospitalization, insurance, personal expenses as laundry, phone calls, etc.
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