Bright and early on the morning of Halloween I boarded a flight from Victoria on its way to the south-eastern part of Brazil. My targets were the many beautiful birds that reside in the Atlantic rainforest.
Because most of the time I have spent in South America has been in the Andes this trip opened up a whole world of exciting new possibilities for bird photography. I was definitely excited to get down there and see what I could accomplish.
Arriving in Sao Paulo early the next day I immediately picked up my rental car and drove south to Intervales State Park. What an incredible place to spend the first 5 days of the trip!
Arriving in the park right at dusk there was no time for day-time shooting. After dinner though, I decided to try my luck at a bit of owling. What an amazing surprise to find a stunning (and very cooperative) Stygian Owl on the very first night. Not a bad way to start the trip at all!
Over the next 4 days I wandered all over Intervales looking for some of the key birds that live there and trying to nail down a few good species. To my surprise there were actually a few tanagers hanging around the lodge that took very quickly to a rudimentary fruit feeder setup as well. I even managed to get some good shots of a Yellow-fronted Woodpecker at my setup.
After a great first few days of the trip I moved back north through Sao Paulo and on to the coastal town of Ubatuba. I split my time between two sites here. Both sites were excellent for hummingbirds and I tried to take full advantage with a mix of multi-flash and standard techniques. My favourite bird was definitely the tiny Festive Coquette that eventually perched for a few nice images.
Another surprise in the Ubatuba region was finding a few sites to set up some fruit feeders for tanagers. Neither location was ideal (to say the least). With a bit of finesse though both setups yielded some really nice images.
From Ubatuba I continued further north to Itatiaia National Park. This involved a few days in the lower part of the park and then a full day at the top. Both sites were excellent and produced some great birds such as the Saffron Toucanet, Frilled Coquette, Plovercrest and Diademed Tanager. Night time missions turned up Tawny-browed and Rusty-barred Owls.
Continuing on up the coast past Rio De Janeiro I visited another fantastic lodge that had some real gems hanging around in the garden and nearby trails. Highlights included the Black-cheeked Gnateater, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Spot-billed Toucanet and Giant Antshrike. Great birds and an exceptional few days of photography.
My next stop was just a few kilometers down the road. Despite the close proximity the drop in elevation made for a very different ecosystem and set of shooting conditions. This area was hot and sunny. Definitely not ideal weather for bird photography. I tried to make the best of it though and did manage to pick off a few good birds around a local wetland. I also picked up Striped Owl on one of the nights. 3 days seemed like a long time though with this sunny weather and by the end of my stay I was definitely ready to move on.
In order to get in to some new ecosystems I had to make a serious drive the next day to a site some 700km away. I had only a day and a half at this site and only one main target here which was the Hyacinth Visorbearer. On my first morning up in the appropriate habitat I found a cooperative Blue Finch and was doing a setup for him when a Visorbearer landed right where my lens was pointed and started calling. What luck!
After a successful mission to this site I moved on to what would be the final site of the trip – Canastra National Park. This area is famous as the best site to see the critically endangered Brazilian Merganser (of which perhaps only 100-200 individuals exist). I didn’t have super high hopes of seeing or photographing this bird though. Instead I just wanted to focus on some of the different birds that live up on this grassland plateau.
Immediately upon reaching the closest town to Canastra I knew I was in trouble. I was informed that the road to the upper part of the park was in TERRIBLE condition. To make matters worse it was pouring rain and the forecast looked dreadful. I basically spent the next two days surfing the net from my hotel room.
Finally on my last day at this site the rain stopped and I was able to hire a massive 4×4 vehicle to take me up to the park. It was a beautiful place to spend a day and I managed to get some images of a few of the cool species that live up there like the Cock-tailed Tyrant and Sharp-tailed Tyrant. I even found and photographed a pair of Brazilian Megansers!! I was definitely happy to end the trip taking images and NOT surfing the internet!
The month came and went in a flash. I really enjoyed travelling around Brazil and found the country and people very beautiful. I’m already looking forward to my next visit and will almost certainly be setting up a photo workshop for this destination in the years to come.