Poço Azul, Distrito Federal: March 9, 2012

These days I’m trying to explore a few more new birding sites in the region before I finally start working. The Distrito Federal is composed of Brasília, multiple high-density satellite cities, and a lot of open space that has either been protected or cleared for agriculture, mostly soybeans and corn. The region has a real dry and sunny American Midwest feel to it, and it’s definitely big sky country, with the horizon stretching impossibly far in the distance and the sunsets magnificently expansive. In the first few months of living here, I have quickly exhausted the federally protected areas, as there are relatively few and access is frustratingly limited. My search has now led me to explore small private reserves, called RPPN’s (Reserva Particular do Partrimônio Natural), as well as basic recreational areas that offer safe and easy access to swimming holes and waterfalls (there’s a weird waterfall culture here, which definitely deserves a separate post).

Poço Azul is located on the northern side of the Parque Nacional de Brasília in the 46,000 hectare Área de Protección Ambiental (APA) de Cafuringa. It’s a popular complex of waterfalls and natural swimming pools, protecting a fair amount of degraded Cerrado habitats, including campo limpo, or grassland. I’m still a little vague on the history of the region, but as the country’s capital city of Brasília was essentially created in the middle of nowhere, there was something of a land grab in the following decades as the city’s population outgrew its original boundaries. There’s since been a real tug of war between the national government and private landowners and colonizers to protect the remaining natural environment, leading to the creation of this APA. Access is via the DF-001 and a 5km clearly signed dirt road, and entry (R$8) is generously permitted from 7am to 6pm, although the recreational area is almost certainly prohibitively crowded on the weekends.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first arrived in the early afternoon, but I grew increasingly excited with the site’s potential as I slowly walked the 1km road down to the first waterfall on the right as you enter the entrance gate. The tall grassy fields were seeding and filled with birdsong, and I was quickly onto to a spectacular pair of Blue Finch, one of the Cerrado’s flagship birds. Seeing Stripe-Tailed Yellowfinch, Collared Crescentchest, and White-Eared Puffbird in quick succession upped the stakes even further. Reaching the waterfall, I took a quick head dip to beat the heat, and then walked the woodland along stream, getting good photographs of another charismatic White-Eared Puffbird. On the way out, I worked a nice mixed flock, including Wedge-Tailed Grassfinch, Black-Throated Saltator, and the uncommon and local Checkered Woodpecker. I also heard Small-Billed Tinamous, Red-Legged Seriema, and Rufous-Winged Antshrike, which substantially add to the site’s potential. An early morning visit could potentially yield Black-Masked Finch and Sharp-Tailed Grass Tyrant, so I’ll be back early next week.

Notable birds seen: White-Vented Violetear, Amethyst Woodstar, White-Eared Puffbird, Toco Toucan, Checkered Woodpecker, Pale-Breasted Spinetail, Collared Crescentchest, Gray Monjita, Black-Throated Saltator, Blue Finch, Grassland Sparrow, Wedge-Tailed Grassfinch, Stripe-Tailed Yellowfinch, Plumbeous Seedeater.

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