Poço Azul, Distrito Federal: March 29, 2013

While access to Brasília National Park is limited, both in terms of time and space, there are several more permissive sites to bird on the outskirts of the park, including Poço Azul, a popular swimming hole located just a few kilometers to the north.  I birded here a few times last year and made some nice observations, including Horned Sungem, Blue Finch, and Checkered Woodpecker.  Because it’s relatively close to home, and more or less accessible at any hour, I headed out there before dawn on Good Friday, hoping to add a few more Cerrado specialties to my site list. 

The reserve's principal attraction is campo limpo, but it also protects some campo sujo and even a little cerradão along the hillsides, where the trees haven’t been previously cleared.  Two dirt roads run down to a clear stream that pools in several spots large enough for swimming.  At dawn the place is generally deserted, and you can bird the roads in peace, perhaps long enough to lure a Small-Billed Tinamou or Lesser Nothura out in the open.  The view across the ravine isn’t pristine, as most of the landscape is dominated by agricultural fields, but Red-Legged Seriemas call from both sides all morning, and I’ve even seen King Vulture soaring here once before.  The bird activity typically comes to an early end around 9am once the swimmers and mountain bikers start to arrive.

The highlight of the morning was certainly a prolonged encounter with a brazen Collared Crescentchest, a vocal but wary bird that generally stays deep in grassy cover.  Two other vulnerable Cerrado species also made an appearance: the miniscule Sharp-Tailed Grass Tyrant and the social Shrike-Like Tanager.  Both species are typically only found in much more expansive protected areas, and I imagine they only occur here because of the site’s proximity to the national park.  Lesser Nothura was also heard calling throughout the morning, yet another tinamou that I won’t lay my eyes on unless I make a concerted effort, perhaps during our upcoming trip to Emas National Park.

Notable birds seen: Small-Billed Tinamou, Burrowing Owl, White-Tailed Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Yellow-Headed Caracara, Yellow-Faced Parrot, Yellow-Chevroned Parakeet, White-Vented Violetear, Campo Flicker, Pale-Breasted Spinetail, Collared Crescentchest, Sharp-Tailed Grass Tyrant, Crested Black Tyrant, Southern House Wren, Tawny-Headed Swallow, Shrike-Like Tanager, Black-Throated Saltator, Plumbeous Seedeater, Grassland Sparrow, Wedge-Tailed Grassfinch, Stripe-Tailed Yellowfinch.

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