Jardim Botânico, Brasília: December 17, 2011

I returned to the Jardim Botanico again on Saturday morning, looking to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the birds of the cerrado. Although I had planned to focus on birding the campo sujo of the reserve, general activity in this area was low, perhaps due to poor weather. Only the hummingbirds didn’t appear bothered by the drizzle, and a dazzling male Fork-Tailed Woodnymph at a flowering shrub certainly brightened my morning. Continuing past the shrubby grasslands I had originally planned to bird, I encountered a pair of Scaled Doves cruising along a dirt road and stepped aside to let them pass. Then I saw a patch of gallery forest up ahead and decided to try my luck there instead.

Just before reaching the narrow strip of forest running along a stream, I found a small mixed flock, mostly tyrant flycatchers but also including a Narrow-Billed Woodcreeper, a common dry forest and savanna species that I had yet to see. Like most birders in the neotropics, I continue to struggle with identifying flycatchers, particularly the confusing array of elaenias found in the cerrado. Despite studying frequently and consulting multiple references in the field, I’m not making much progress as every gray-colored bird seems to have a faint eye ring, slightly raised crest, and pinkish lower mandible. It’s easy to get discouraged, I guess, when bird activity is low and the few birds you do encounter are indistinguishable.

Moving on, I found an overgrown trail passing through the gallery forest and trolled for Sharp-Tailed Streamcreeper, Brasilia Tapaculo, and Rufous Gnateater without success. There was a large mixed flock at some fruiting trees on the other side of the trail though that offered a nice diversity of birds, including Planalto Foliage Gleaner, Helmeted Manakin, Green-Winged Saltator, Variable Antshrike, and Gray-Hooded Flycatcher. That was quite a haul compared to the rest of my morning, and after the flock dispersed I decided to call it a day. Returning through campo sujo on my way out of the reserve, I met a noisy band of Curl-Crested Jays fighting through the wind from tree to tree. It was reassuring to see that I wasn't the only one struggling a bit this morning.

Notable birds seen: Scaled Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-Vented Violetear, Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Fork-Tailed Woodnymph, White-Eared Puffbird, Narrow-Billed Woodcreeper, Pale-Breasted Spinetail, Planalto Foliage-Gleaner, Variable Antshrike, Campo Suiriri, Gray-Hooded Flycatcher, Yellow-Olive Flatbill, Helmeted Manakin, Curl-Crested Jay, Masked Gnatcatcher, Rufous-Browed Peppershrike, White-Bellied Warbler, Flavescent Warbler, Burnished-Buff Tanager, Gray-Headed Tanager, White-Lined Tanager, Shrike-Like Tanager, Green-Winged Saltator, Plumbeous Seedeater, Gray Pileated Finch.

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