I’ve been getting out of the city regularly on the weekends and seeing some great birds of the Cerrado, including Red-Legged Seriema, Coal-Crested Finch, Chestnut-Capped Foliage-Gleaner, Horned Sungem, and Blue Finch. When David Mandell, a pelagic bird guide from Portland, Oregon, got in touch with me about going birding together, I knew I had a good excuse to visit Chapada dos Veadeiros again. This expansive and relatively pristine region is located about two and half hours to the north of Brasília, but the drive can be a bit of a strain, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. Having another birder with me would provide sufficient motivation though, and an extra pair of eyes scanning every treetop certainly wouldn’t hurt.
As I struggled both to wake up and navigate the potholes in road, David quickly proved his worth, pointing out a tree full of Yellow-Faced Parrots as the sunlight spilled over the horizon. I stopped shortly afterwards at a fallow field where we saw Greater Rhea and Buff-Necked Ibis but no Red-Legged Seriemas. Just before we arrived at Pousada dos Anoes, an excellent private reserve in the region, David mentioned that we had just passed a flycatcher with a long tail. Turning the car around and stopping in the highway, which was practically vacant at this early hour, I played a bit of tape and a pair of excited Streamer-Tailed Tyrants came right in, displaying magnificently in the tree just in front of us.
After paying our entrance fee at the pousada (R$15 per person), we started off on foot birding a campo limpo section of the reserve just past the main reservoir. A noisy band of Curl-Crested Jays welcomed us, and we quickly rounded up Wedge-Tailed Grassfinch, Peach-Fronted Parakeet, Campo Flicker, Rufous-Winged Antshrike, and Grassland Sparrow. Just as the road heads uphill, there’s a swath of tall grass that has been a consistent haunt of the Sharp-Tailed Tyrant, a diminutive but charismatic flycatcher of the Cerrado. We had nice looks as a few individuals responded well to playback. A big surprise for me was noting a female Cock-Tailed Tyrant here, its slightly dumpy and bigheaded appearance unmistakable (this photograph was actually taken at Serra da Canastra National Park).
Cresting the hill in the car, we nearly ran over a pair of Coal-Crested Finches, which obliged us by responding to David’s pitch perfect pishing routine, which attracted a bunch of Shrike-Like Tanagers as well. The male Coal-Crested Finch is simply a stunning bird, with its rich orangey wash and starkly contrasted facial pattern. A search of the woodland surrounding the gallery forest that forms the heart of the reserve yielded a few Horned Sungems, although we never really lined up an adult male in our binoculars. After finding a lovely male Swallow Tanager but not much else, we plunged into the broken gallery forest nearby, hoping to find some good midmorning bird activity.
A pair of Planalto Foliage-Gleaners foraging in the leaf litter greeted us, a behavior more typical of the Chestnut-Capped Foliage-Gleaner, but they were clearly members of the former species. Little Woodpecker, Helmeted Manakin, and Planalto Woodcreeper were other good finds here, although activity was a little subdued. I drove us over to the Caminho do Silêncio, a wide trail that passes through more undisturbed gallery forest hoping that we would find a few mixed flocks, but we were met with almost total silence. A single Euler’s Flycatcher and a few common thrushes for an hour’s worth of searching was simply not going to cut it. As is often the case with birding though, our persistence paid off shortly, as we stumbled onto an antswarm, which was drawing in species by the dozen, including Pale-Bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Rufous Gnateater, and Rufous-Capped Motmot, normally three very shy species.
Later in the afternoon, we faced a choice of whether to stick it out at the pousada until sunset or to try our luck further north, where I had mentioned the small possibility of finding Blue Finch and Giant Snipe at two different sites. A few kilometers north of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, on a dirt road that branches to the right towards a popular cachoeira, or waterfall, we found Aplomado Falcon, Cliff Flycatcher, and White-Eared Puffbird, but no Blue Finch. In the rocky grassland just off the highway, I did hear several Dwarf Tinamous calling back and forth to each other. This rare and little seen Brazilian endemic would have to wait for another day though, as we raced over to the Portal da Chapada at sunset to search for the Giant Snipe in the humid grasslands across the road to São Jorge. We opted to try and flush one, stomping around until dusk without success. I did hear an Ocellated Crake wailing away briefly, which was another first for me. Known as the ghost of the Cerrado, the crake was a welcome sign that I still have a lot of birding left to do in the region.
Notable birds seen: Greater Rhea, Rusty-Margined Guan, Brazilian Teal, Pied-Billed Grebe, Whistling Heron, Buff-Necked Ibis, Green Ibis, White-Tailed Kite, White-Tailed Kite, Aplomado Falcon, Peach-Fronted Parakeet, Yellow-Faced Parrot, White-Vented Violetear, Horned Sungem, Fork-Tailed Woodnymph, Rufous-Capped Motmot, White-Eared Puffbird, Toco Toucan, Little Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, White Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Crimson-Crested Woodpecker, Planalto Woodcreeper, Planalto Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous-Winged Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Black-Capped Antwren, Rufous Gnateater, Sharp-Tailed Grass Tyrant, Sepia-Capped Flycatcher, Euler’s Flycatcher, White-Rumped Monjita, Gray Monjita, Streamer-Tailed Tyrant, Cock-Tailed Tyrant, Brown-Crested Flycatcher, Cliff Flycatcher, Pale-Bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Helmeted Manakin, Curl-Crested Jay, White-Rumped Swallow, Tawny-Headed Swallow, White-Necked Thrush, Burnished-Buff Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Black-Goggled Tanager, Shrike-Like Tanager, Green-Winged Saltator, Coal-Crested Finch, Grassland Sparrow, Wedge-Tailed Grassfinch, Crested Oropendola.