Ubatuba, São Paulo: June 28-29, 2013

Following in the footsteps of many birders before me, I finally made a short trip to Ubatuba, a coastal resort town located midway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Nestled at the base of the magnificent Serra do Mar, the town makes a convenient base for birding several sites in the region, where many lowland humid forest endemic species can be found, including Spotted Bamboowren, Atlantic Royal Flycatcher, and Slaty-Bristefront. While Ubatuba is a regular stop on the birding circuit in Southeastern Brazil, this wouldn’t be a hardcore birding trip for me, as Aimee and I had decided to simply enjoy the beach and visit the nearby colonial town of Paraty. Still, I managed to slip away at dawn each day for a few hours in hopes of adding a few new Atlantic Forest species to my life list.

The logistics of the trip were straightforward. We arrived in Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo late on a Friday night, rented a car from Localiza, and arrived in Ubatuba at nearly 2am. Unfortunately, our hotel for the weekend, Hotel Solar das Aguas Cantantes, had given up on us by this hour, and we had to crash at a neighboring pousada for the night, Pousada Naan. Hotel Solar is frequently cited in trip reports as being a lovely and quiet place with excellent food, a recommendation that we wholeheartedly confirm. It’s also a short walk away from a beautiful arcing beach that connects to yet another more exclusive cove. The coastline along this stretch of the country, known as the Costa Verde, is truly spectacular, and a birding trip that doesn’t involve a bit of downtime here is misguided.

After a long lie in on Saturday morning, Aimee and I headed out together to Folha Seca, a small village located a few kilometers away (see Jeremy Minns’ site notes for directions). The highlight of this site is visiting the fruit and nectar feeders at the house of Jonas Abrams, who welcomes birders with an open gate and no fees. We drove right in and enjoyed the hummingbirds for fifteen minutes before he came out to join us, having a long conversation about birds and Brazil. In between ticking eleven hummingbird species, including the marvelous Festive Coquette, we watched tanagers mob bananas at the fruit feeder, including Green-Headed, Black-Goggled, Azure-Shouldered, and Brazilian Tanagers. Jonas gave me some tips about where to find some of the more desirable species along the road, including Slaty Bristlefront and Spotted Bamboowren, and I resolved to return early the following morning.

When I arrived, two Slaty Bristlefronts were singing from each side of the road, much like any tapaculo species before dawn. Although I never achieved very satisfying looks as they flitted around in the semidarkness deep within the undergrowth, I can definitely tick the species with my head held high. While I didn’t get a response from the Spotted Bamboowren at a few spots along the road that looked promising, I did pick up a few more good birds, including White-Throated and Black-Capped Foliage-Gleaners, Spot-Breasted Antvireo, and Scaled Antbird. A normally skittish male Red-Crowned Ant-Tanager paused boldly in front of me, puffing out his chest feathers to impress the drab looking females nearby. Unicolored Antwren, another Atlantic Forest endemic, was seemingly common in the flocks.

Before 9am, I decided to visit the site referred to as Corcovado, which is itself a striking rocky peak visible from Folha Seca (again, see Jeremy Minns’ site notes for directions). The target birds along the beginning of the trail up the mountain include Atlantic Royal Flycatcher, Fork-Tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, and Russet-Winged Spadebill. With much effort, I managed to get a response from a pair of pygmy-tyrants that proved nearly impossible to find in the understory as they’re very tiny and only call sporadically. I finally saw them dart away, as I shifted my attention from a Whiskered Flycatcher nearby. Was this pathetic sighting really tickable? As with the bristlefront earlier that morning, I was one hundred percent certain that I had interacted with the desired bird species, just not in the most desirable way imaginable. I have my doubts about this site being worth a full morning, as the clearing was quiet and the trails are overgrown.

It started raining the following morning on my way out to Fazenda Angelim, which is the most promising of the sites I visited in Ubatuba. There’s a fair amount of remaining lowland forest there as well as a shade-grown cacao plantation. I read several trip reports describing trails that head up into the forested hills, and records from Wiki Aves show that an impressive amount of Atlantic Forest endemics are regularly seen and photographed here. The clearing around the headquarters is apparently good for Buff-Bellied Puffbird and Buff-Throated Purpletuft, but I didn’t have much of a chance for these canopy birds considering the wet weather. Despite surprising an imposing Black Hawk Eagle perched in a tree right along the clearing, the find of the morning for me was a Spotted Bamboowren calling softly from the overgrown clearing along the entrance road. Considering the rain and poor light, I didn’t have a prayer of actually seeing the bird, but it was nice to know it was around.

Notable birds seen: Black Hawk-Eagle, Magnificent Frigatebird, Collared Plover, Plain Parakeet, Sombre Hummingbird, Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Black Jacobin, Festive Coquette, Violet-Capped Woodnymph, Saw-Billed Hermit, Reddish Hermit, Brazilian Ruby, Glittering-Throated Emerald, Versicolored Emerald, White-Chinned Sapphire, White-Barred Piculet, Plain-Winged Woodcreeper, Buff-Browed Foliage-Gleaner, Black-Capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-Throated Foliage-Gleaner, Unicolored Antwren, Spot-Breasted Antvireo, Unicolored Antwren, Ferruginous Antbird, Rufous-Winged Antwren, Scaled Antbird, Slaty Bristlefront, Whiskered Flycatcher, Fork-Tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, White-Throated Spadebill, Gray-Hooded Flycatcher, Yellow-Lored Tody-Flycatcher, Black-Capped Becard, Gray-Hooded Atilla, Tropical Parula, Green-Headed Tanager, Red-Necked Tanager, Ruby-Crowned Tanager, Rufous-Headed Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Violaceous Euphonia, Chestnut-Bellied Euphonia, White-Lined Tanager, Azure-Shouldered Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Black-Goggled Tanager, Red-Rumped Cacique, Red-Crowned Ant-Tanager, Double-Collared Seedeater.

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