Brasília National Park, Distrito Federal: March 2, 2012

The rainy season has abated temporarily in Brasília, and the weather has grown extremely dry, the degree of aridity that makes your eyes and nose burn and creates an interminable thirst. The natural landscape is still relatively green though, and the wild grasses must nearly be at their peak height this time of year. Considering that I’ve yet to see many of the campo limpo bird specialists in Central Brazil, such as Sharp-Tailed Grass Tyrant, Cock-Tailed Tyrant, and Black-Masked Finch, I returned to Brasília National Park on Friday to search for some open grassy fields within the park boundaries. While the park protects 30,000 hectares of different Cerrado habitat, the only accessible parts offer campo sujo, or bushy grassland, and gallery forest. Clearly, I’ll have to find some other birding sites in the Distrito Federal or visit more remote national parks, like Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas, if I’m going to fully flesh out my bird list.

We set the clocks back an hour last weekend, and now it’s even more frustrating not being able to enter the national park before 8am when it opens. I wasn’t out in the field until more than two hours after dawn, but my timing was perfect for encountering a family group of Bare-Faced Curassows along the Trilha da Capibara. After a long and unproductive trek through campo sujo along the Trilha Cristal d’Agua, I arrived at another patch of gallery forest, where I finally became aware of the Greenish Schiffornis, whose loud whistling call I had previously confused with that of the more common Helmeted Manakin. Having just written a book review of Cotingas and Manakins, I was aware of how much of a taxonomical problem these aberrant Schiffornis have been. Still, as I watched it skulk territorially in the undergrowth, heavy-set like a cotinga but sounding like a manakin, I was as confused as ever. The Schiffornis are currently grouped with the Iodopleura (purpletufts), Tityra, Pachyramphus (becards), Laniocera (mourners), Xenopsarsis, and Laniisoma in the new diverse Tityridae family.

Notable birds seen: Aplomado Falcon, Glittering-Throated Emerald, Little Woodpecker, Crimson-Crested Woodpecker, Narrow-Billed Woodcreeper, Pale-Breasted Spinetail, Rufous-Winged Antshrike, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Pearly-Vented Tody-Tyrant, Sepia-Capped Flycatcher, Yellow-Olive Flatbill, Pale-Bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Greenish Schiffornis, Helmeted Manakin, Curl-Crested Jay, Masked Gnatcatcher, Flavescent Warbler, White-Bellied Warbler, Southern Yellowthroat, Guira Tanager, Hooded Tanager, Burnished-Buff Tanager, Black-Goggled Tanager, Green-Winged Saltator.

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