Parque Ecológico Dom Bosco, Brasília: January 6, 2013

I haven’t visited Parque Ecólogico Dom Bosco nearly as much as I should have. It’s only twenty minutes away by car from my apartment in Brasilia, and it offers authentic Cerrado birding, albeit in a residential neighborhood. The reserve protects 131 hectares of campo sujo along the southern shore of Lago Paranoá and is crisscrossed by trails. The reserve also includes a temple complex and is a popular access point for swimmers and Brasília beachgoers. It’s free and opens much earlier than the national park, although I’ve heard from several sources that security can be an issue, although I have yet to detect a threat there.

Hoping to see a few birds on Sunday morning, I originally planned to visit the national park, which opens at 8am. Unfortunately, the line of cars waiting at the entrance gate stretched for over a kilometer along the highway, even twenty minutes before it opened. While most of the visitors were no doubt headed for the park’s expansive mineral pools, I imagined that the gallery forest trails would still be packed with visitors, making birding uncomfortable, if not impossible. Scrapping my plans to photograph a Southern Antpipit (there’s a reliable territory at the national park), I detoured to Lago Sul to explore Dom Bosco beyond my previous two short visits.

It didn’t take long for me to find some interesting birds. A White-Bellied Seedeater caught my attention as it called from the top of a tree. Granted, seedeaters are often unspectacular and can be confusing to identify (females are nearly impossible to distinguish), but amazingly this species was a lifer for me, who’s birded in Central Brazil regularly for over a year. While I was tracking down a pair of Rufous-Winged Antshrikes, a brilliant hummingbird feeding at several flowering bushes along the trail simply floored me. Over the next hour I patiently waited for the male Ruby Topaz to return to the same flowers, ready with my camera to capture the action. While the results aren’t perfect, the hummingbird was definitely the highlight of the excursion.

Happily, there was still plenty of activity to be found down the trail. A pair of Caatinga, or Spot-Backed, Puffbirds vocalized quietly and then responded aggressively to playback. I’ve heard this species several times before, but only seen one on one other occasion. A pair of White-Eared Puffbirds were also vocalizing throughout the morning but went unseen. Minutes later, I was working through a flock of passerines, when a pair of Hooded Tanagers joined the flock. The male is a terrific looking bird, which I’ve only seen a handful of times.  Considering it’s a manmade lake, there’s not much of interest to be found along the shoreline, so I returned to stake out the hummingbird again.

Notable birds seen: Roadside Hawk, White-Eyed Parakeet, Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Ruby Topaz, Glittering-Throated Emerald, Caatinga Puffbird, Campo Flicker, Sooty-Fronted Spinetail, Rufous-Fronted Thornbird, Rufous-Winged Antshrike, Yellow-Bellied Elaenia, Buff-Breasted Wren, Rufous-Browed Peppershrike, Guira Tanager, Hooded Tanager, Blue Dacnis, White-Bellied Seedeater, Red-Pileated Finch.

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