Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

August 1, 2013: O Cristo Redentor

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Peggy and Robin with the view from the Cristo

Peggy’s one big wish for Rio was to go to the top of the mountain and see the Cristo Redentor. We also wanted to go to the top of Sugarloaf (Well, some of us did. I find the prospect of riding the cablecar terrifying in the extreme, but whatever), so we decided to start in the morning, go to the Cristo, then Sugarloaf. As it turns out, it’s a very long trip from Arpoador neighborhood to the Cristo — altogether it takes two city buses and two vans to get to the top, and by the time we’d stood in various lines, etc. we were pretty beat. So we had a beer at the feet of Jesus (there are two different cafes on the way up), and then climbed the steps to walk around the statue and join the crowds of people taking pictures of each other holding their arms out.

The view from up there is spectacular. In the panoramic shot above, you can see Copacabana beach (on Peggy’s side), then Ipanema beach (with Arpoador in between — that’s where our hotel is), then Leblon beach. The big lake is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where we saw Cocoi herons, common gallinules, neotropical cormorants, a Ringed Kingfisher, and the Southern and Yellow-headed Caracaras. The Jockey Club racetrack is visible to the right of the Lagoa, and the big green area to the right of that is the Jardim Botanico, where we also went the day before.

Today was not much of a birding day, but while drinking a beer near the top of the mountain, I saw a black bird in the trees. It turned out on closer inspection to have a pale blue bill, a slight crest, and white flashes in its wings when it flew; it was a Velvety Black-Tyrant, and my one lifer for the day.

We reversed the whole process getting home, though I was able to find a way to use only one city bus instead of two. After collapsing for a while, we wandered out and found a restaurant where we all had grilled salmon and salad for like $15 each — a great deal and more food than we could eat.

Back to Belo Horizonte tomorrow!

July 31, 2013: First (very) full day in Rio

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Yesterday was a travel day, and we were pretty wiped out by the time we got to Rio. So we went to a microbrewery pub and had beer and burgers, and then sat out on the patio behind our hotel and watched the stars and the ocean. We’re staying at the Arpoador Inn, which is a major coup on Robin’s part — very reasonably priced, and right on the beach; strictly speaking Arpoador beach, but it’s really part of Ipanema. Our room has a gorgeous ocean view, and the beach view isn’t bad either.
Tangara cyanocephala - Red-necked Tanager
Red-necked Tanager: photo by Arthur Grosset

This morning we resolved to do some birding, and we’d planned to meet at the hotel restaurant at 8. I woke up early, and decided to watch the sun rise from the Garota de Ipanema, i.e. the big rock just to the east of our hotel. I looked out the window and the first thing I saw was a life bird, the kelp gull. I then proceeded down to the beach and to the Garota, where I watched the sun come up and also saw a South American Tern.

After breakfast, we walked to the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a saltwater lagoon just inland from the beach. There were Magnificent Frigatebirds and common gallinules, a pied-billed grebe to make us think of home, and then we saw a raptor with white bands in its wings fly into a palm tree. We spent a good bit of time studying the bird. First problem was that there was another raptor in the same tree, which turned out to be a Southern Caracara. We argued a good bit about the first bird, and the appearance of another of the same species didn’t really help much. Finally, we tentatively settled on Yellow-Headed Caracara, though the colors in my book didn’t look right. That’s often the case, and later I checked on the web and we clearly had the right bird.

Our next goal was the Jardim Botanico do Rio Janeiro; Google Maps has it in the wrong place, which didn’t help, but we eventually got there. It’s a beautiful park, with lots of streams and little waterfalls. The orchidarium and the bromeliad house were both closed for renovation, and the hummingbird garden was out of season. Nevertheless, we found some very cool birds, including the Rusty-margined Guan and the Red-Necked Tanager. I’ve included a photo of the tanager (again, not mine — I didn’t bring fancy lenses). It should be called the holy shit tanager, I think, based on what I kept saying while looking at it.

After about 3 hours in the Jardim, we were toast, and we still had to walk back. Thought I was gonna die. We had to stop and have a beer on the beach about a mile from our hotel. I counted up our birds for the day and realized I had 14 lifers total. This, of course, warranted a chicken dance.

July 29, 2013: The Bird Park and the Dam

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Itaipu
Itaipu Binacional. For scale, note the 5-story building just above the cooling water flow about 1/4 of the way in from the right side of the picture. Spillway water flow is on the left.

Today was a big day, as we planned two separate outings. Our hotel is conveniently located just next door to the Parque das Aves, a bird rescue center and aviary, and we had to check it out. It’s a good-sized place, with a concrete path leading past enclosures for various birds and through several large aviaries where you can get right next to the birds. They have a great collection of parrots and macaws, mostly recovered from illegal smugglers. There are some endangered species that are breeding in captivity here as well. We walked into the first aviary and a Red-Legged Seriema walked up and grabbed my map out of my hand. At about two feet tall, he was a little bit daunting, but I got it back. Turns out the nearest relatives of the Seriemas were the extinct Terror Birds, ten-foot-tall carnivores that were the largest predators in South America after the dinosaurs died out. I guess I was lucky. That guy looked mean, and when we were leaving he kept reaching up and trying to grab the door handle.

Another aviary had a huge assortment of macaws and parrots in it, who apparently express their dislike for mammals invaded their enclosure by buzzing your head – I had a Hyacinth Macaw pass so close I could feel the breeze. It was a little frustrating seeing all these cool birds that don’t count for your life list, being captive, but many of them we’d never have seen any other way. And while I’d seen two Toco Toucans the day before, in the Parque I was able to see one quite a bit closer. And a macaw closer than that.

Me and Macaw

After the bird park, we headed back to the hotel. Robin wanted to rest a bit, and we had about an hour and a half before leaving on our next outing. I, of course, went out with my binoculars. Instead of taking the nature trail behind the hotel, I followed the dirt road past the staff’s houses, and hit the jackpot – I found the hotel’s sewage lagoon. I wish I’d found it a couple of days ago, but even with just a half-hour to spend, I was able to see two new birds – hooded tanager and white-banded tanager, eating caterpillars in the same tree.

Made it back to the hotel and joined our little group, as our car had arrived to take us to Itaipu. At the city of Foz do Iguazu, a few miles west of our hotel, the river Paraná is dammed to form an enormous reservoir. The river is the border between Brazil and Paraguay, and the two countries made a treaty agreement in 1975 to build the Itaipu dam and power plant. It’s the largest water-power plant in the world; maximum capacity is 14,000 megawatts (that’s 14 gigawatts, enough to power 11.5 Delorean time machines). It provides 75% of Paraguay’s electric power (and almost all the rest is water power as well), and 17% of Brazil’s. We paid extra for the Special Nerd Tour and got to go inside the dam and see one of the 20 turbines in operation. It’s an incredible engineering project – it just dwarfed us. On the main floor just over the generators, workers rode bicycles or drove golf carts to get from one end to the other. Outside, we stood on top of the dam and saw the huge lake to the north, and the river to the south. The water was high, so they had some of the spillway gates open to drain the excess. The amount going out (with 5 of 14 gates open) was approximately the total flow of Iguazu falls. At peak flow, it can be 40 times that.

Of course, I was looking for birds when we were outside, and I realized that two nondescript brown birds walking around by the reception center were new to me. I took notes, and when I got back I looked them up and found that they were Rufous Horneros. These guys make mud nests up in trees that look like clay ovens; hence the name, as “horno” is Spanish for “oven.” There was a nest in a tree outside our hotel.

Exhausted, we got back to the hotel, had a light dinner and a couple of beers, and went to bed early. Our flight to Rio leaves the next morning at 6:55.

July 28, 2013: Iguazu falls

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Iguazu Falls

You can read all about Iguazu Falls in Wikipedia, but seeing it in person is absolutely stunning. Niagara has more water, but Iguazu is much wider. It just goes on and on. Our hotel is walking distance from the park entrance, and that’s what we did; once you get into the park, there’s a free bus that takes you to the falls trail. From there, you walk a total of about a mile on paved path with occasional steps, interrupted by about a thousand photo op sites, where you have to wait for the people in front of you to get through mugging for each other’s cameras so that you can do the same.

This is winter, and the dry season, so the flow of the falls is at its low end right now. All I can say is it’s hard to imagine it at its peak in that case. We passed on the opportunity to take a Zodiac boat trip up the river to the base of the falls. Temps were in the low 60s when we arrived, and it’s clear that you get totally soaked in one of those boats. We were content to walk up the trail; at its end it has an observation deck that comes right to the edge of the biggest fall, the Garganta do Diablo. We wore ponchos and still got pretty damp from the spray. There’s a nice restaurant at the top, where we had a buffet lunch before coming back.

At the restaurant, as at every stop along the way, tourists are assailed by coatimundis, who climb into the garbage cans and beg from the passers-by. Peggy and I watched one coati following a little girl, who must have looked to a coati like the kind of person who’ll drop food. She turned around and saw it and let out a shriek, but she was the only one scared. The coatis have seen it all.

While there wasn’t much birding to be done at the park, Peggy and Robin and I did get out by the pool this morning; the big find was a pair of toco toucans that flew into a big tree just as I walked outside.

Today’s list:

*Toco toucan 2
Red-Rumped cacique 10
Ruddy ground-dove
Plush-crested jay 5
Yellow-fronted woodpecker
Yellow-chevroned parrot 2
Great kiskadee 2
House wren
*Violaceous euphonia
*Green-headed Tanager 2
Sayaca tanager
Pale-breasted thrush
*Scaly-headed parrot 4

Park
*Eared dove
Black vulture 40
Turkey vulture
Neotropic cormorant

*As usual, lifers marked with the asterisk.

July 27, 2013: A birding day

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Melanerpes flavifrons
Yellow-fronted Woodpecker: Photo by Arthur Grosset

Hamner having been sick the day before, we decided in advance that today would be a rest day so Peggy could stick around in case he needed something. So I got up before dawn and went out to see what birding could be done on the grounds of our hotel. It has a pool, then a soccer field, then woods with trails that lead all the way back to the Rio Iguazu.

I’m not used to it being winter — the sun didn’t rise till after 7. In the meantime, all the birds woke up and starting twittering, squawking, chirping, and shrieking according to their individual tastes. At home, say, at Maintz Wildlife Reserve, I’d know what pretty much all the sounds were. Here, I know squat. It’s a bit disconcerting. I quickly realized there was no point being back in the woods until it got good and bright, so I wandered out front and watched in the better light out in the open. A group of parrots flew into a tree near me, and I was able to identify them as maroon-bellied parakeets, for instance. Eventually I did head back in the woods, and wound up seeing quite a few birds. My big triumph was following the sound of hammering on a tree to get a good view of a lineated woodpecker. If it were in Missouri, it would be a slightly peculiar-looking pileated woodpecker; a really big bird and very striking.

When I came back out and walked into the pool area behind the hotel, I felt a little foolish, because it was just alive with birds, including a very cool yellow-fronted woodpecker. If the lineated is a pileated that’s a little off, a yellow-fronted is a hairy woodpecker that somebody has taken a set of paints to.

Robin, Peggy, and I had breakfast. The hotel puts on a pretty good buffet for breakfast, with excellent coffee. Afterward, while Hamner was resting, we went back to the trail to see if we could see the river at the far end. We saw a number of birds walking in, but they didn’t want to take too much time, so we kept moving. It’s about a kilometer walk back there, and when we got to the little observation deck, there were black-capped capuchin monkeys frolicking in the trees by the riverside. The Rio Iguazu seems surprisingly placid there, apparently unaware that it’s about to fall off a bunch of cliffs.

At the Rio Iguazu
Robin and Peggy at the observation deck.

Peggy and Robin headed back and let me dawdle and watch birds at my leisure, to rejoin them later. I’ve found in the past few days that there are so many unfamiliar birds (even though I’ve studied the likely ones) that I have to use the recording feature on my iPhone and just dictate notes about them and look them up later. I’ve been pretty fortunate in spotting the definitive features and noting them, although there are still some mystery birds remaining. Still, I had 15 lifers today, which is pretty good for never leaving the hotel.

The three of us spent the afternoon sitting out by the pool and playing sheepshead, and then we got Hamner and went to the hotel bar for a late snack. He’s feeling much better, so tomorrow we plan to go to the falls.

Today’s list:

Great kiskadee 3
Great egret
Red-rumped cacique 12
House wren 2
*Maroon-bellied parakeet 5
*Lineated woodpecker
Rufous-bellied thrush 2
*Yellow-fronted woodpecker
*Epaulet oriole
*Plush-crested jay 20
Pale-breasted thrush 5
Yellow-chevroned parakeet 4
*Black-tailed tityra 2
Black vulture
*Lesser woodcreeper 3
Rufous-collared sparrow 2
*Boat-billed flycatcher
*Gray-fronted dove 2
*Sirystes
*Olivaceous woodcreeper
*Fawn-breasted tanager
*Golden-crowned warbler 5
*Chestnut-eared aracari

July 26, 2013: We arrive at Foz do Iguazu

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Boyero Cacique
Red-rumped Cacique. Photo by NativeTree.

Our travel from BH to Foz do Iguazu was uneventful, except that Hamner is having stomach problems. We got to our hotel about 3:30 or so, and immediately went for a walk on the grounds. The hotel San Martin is just a short walk from the entrance to the Iguazu falls park, and right next door to the Parque das Aves. It has extensive grounds with a very nice stone-paved trail through the forest, so we were able to get right in there an do a little birding.

The hotel also has a very nice pool, though it’s a bit cold right now, being winter — they just had a cold snap last week with lows in the 30s, though it’s not supposed to get below 50 while we’re here. We were able to go out in short sleeves, in 70 degree temps with low humidity and bright late afternoon sun. I wasn’t able to bird much on this first walk. People will talk, and keep walking, and so on. I did stop and wait for some thrushes to get comfortable enough to come out, and they turned out to be rufous-bellied thrushes. Then I caught up with the group, but on the way back I stopped again to watch what turned out to be red-rumped caciques. I knew they were around because I’d seen their nests. In Portuguese the bird is called a guaxe; we saw some nests at Inhotim, big pendulous snarls of twigs. Claudia says that her mother always told her and her sister that their rooms looked like guaxe nests, and it was years before they actually saw one and understood the reference. Anyway, there were guaxe nests on a tree right in front of the hotel, and sure enough, they were all over the place in the late afternoon.

Hamner and Peggy went back to their room, and Robin and I walked down to the park entrance to use an ATM. On the way we saw a chalk-browed mockingbird. When we started back we walked by the Parque das Aves, where two Southern Lapwings were standing around in the parking lot, walking out into traffic, and generally behaving like idiots. Very pretty birds, though.

Unfortunately, Hamner is still sick. The hotel got a nurse to come and check him out — it’s just Montezuma’s Revenge (well, I don’t know whose revenge it is in Brazil, actually), but he has to watch it because of being diabetic. So we hung around the hotel in the evening and Peggy, Robin, and I had dinner together.

List for the day:

Yellow-chevroned parakeet
*Chalk-browed mockingbird 2
*Rufous-bellied thrush 2
*Red-rumped cacique 6
*Southern lapwing 2
Great kiskadee 6
*Saffron finch 30

*Lifers.

July 25, 2013: Ouro Preto

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Robin has a coxinha

We had planned to spend a day at Ouro Preto, since it’s close to BH and is kind of a popular tourist attraction. It was an important gold mining town in colonial times, and was the site of the first attempt toward Brazilian independence from Portugal. The leader of the independence effort was a dentist, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as “Tiradentes” (tooth-puller). He was hanged and quartered for his efforts in 1792. But the town is very pretty, full of old churches and cobblestone streets, with lots of little artsy shops.

We told Claudia that we were planning to go, and she said I should talk to her in the morning about our travel plans. When I got on Facebook in the morning, she suggested that she could drive us. We were happy to accept, since we’d missed a chance to spend time with her the night before because of the crazy traffic, etc. So she came by our hotel and drove us to Ouro Preto.

We stopped at the Casa dos Contos, which is the old colonial mint, now a museum of coinage and local history. The work at the mint was done by slaves, and the slave quarters are part of the museum, along with shackles and various tools used by the slaves. It was interesting, and there was also an exhibit by two artists in the region who make sort of 3-D shadowbox icons out of toothpicks and various other media. It was really cool; I include here a pic of one that had a mermaid in it, for Cabell’s benefit.

Artwork in Ouro Preto

We spent a little time walking on a nice brick path along the river in the town, where of course I looked at birds. My list from Ouro Preto:

House sparrow
Black vulture
Bananaquit
Social flycatcher
Sayaca tanager
*Gray-headed tody-flycatcher
*Cliff flycatcher

Peggy got to see the bananaquit this time; she’d missed a couple earlier. She also saw the cliff flycatcher — in fact we all watched it hawking from a TV antenna, catching bugs and returning to its perch. I didn’t figure out what it was until later, but I took notes of what we observed so that I could make the ID from my book.

I was the only one who saw the gray-headed tody-flycatcher. The others walked ahead on the path talking, and I stopped because I saw a bird hopping about in a small tree. This was a pretty easy one, as the first thing I noticed was the bright yellow lores, which is a defining character for it.

We had a light lunch — see Robin above with her coxinhna and coke — and bought a few trinkets. Okay, and Robin bought a sodalite necklace that was a bit more than a trinket. Happy birthday, honey! All in all, a nice day, and on the way home we stopped at Claudia’s house and spent a little time with her, her husband Rodrigo, and their son Max. We all sampled cachaca, a traditional sugar cane liquor. Max gave us presents — mine was a little soapstone bird from Ouro Preto, because I’m crazy about birds.

By the time we got back to the hotel, the fireworks had slacked off to maybe one every fifteen minutes or so.

*Life birds for me marked with the asterisk.

July 24: Big excitement in BH

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Where to start? First of all, yesterday Hamner’s conference had an outing to Inhotim, which is an amazing combination of botanical garden, sculpture park, and art installations. My friend and former student Claudia, who lives in BH, had contacted us and suggested we go there together, and we’d already been planning to go with Hamner’s group. So we met at Inhotim.

It’s bizarre. One of the installations is a big sort of prison-looking structure with five rooms. Each one has a different light show, music, and furnishings. Like the one with old newspapers projected on the wall, with a floor made out of foot-thick foam rubber, where Yoko Ono screeches bizarrely in an endless loop. Or the one that’s full of hammocks and plays Jimi Hendrix.

Another installation has a bunch of huge girders stuck in concrete at random angles. We spent a good bit of time going around kicking the girders to hear the sounds they made.

There were some birds around as well, though I kept getting in trouble for wandering off to look at them. Or just stopping to look at them while the rest of the group abandoned me.

Great Kiskadee (aka Bem-te-vim, in Portuguese)
Sayaca Tanager
Rufous-collared sparrow
*White-Browed Warbler
*Yellow Tyrannulet
Bananaquit
Social Flycatcher
Great Egret
Masked Water-Tyrant
Black Vulture
House Wren
*Nacunda Nighthawk
Neotropic Cormorant
And yet another of these damn birds that really look like Orange-Backed Troupials, but those aren’t supposed to occur here. Fourth one I’ve seen.

*I’m taking Leon’s advice and starring the ones that are life birds for me.

I think the best part of the whole place was an installation in a huge aircraft-hangar sort of building with about 50 speakers arranged all over and a bunch of chairs. A spoken word and musical piece plays, with each individual voice or instrument in its own speaker. It was eerily haunting and moving. Worthwhile.

So we were supposed to meet Claudia and her husband and son to go to a bar and musical show in the evening, but our bus got mired in traffic. The BH Galo soccer team was playing the Olimpia team from Paraguay, and it was the final game for some championship cup. The entire city lost its mind, apparently. We had to give up on getting back downtown early in the evening, and instead we stayed with Hamner at his hotel for a while.

His hotel is how the other half lives — very posh. Peggy, Robin, and I are sharing one room in the Best Western, and it looks like a mini-barracks with three little beds. Anyway, we went to a mall across the highway and had beer and munchies — I had manioc fries, mostly. Then around 10 we got a taxi back to our hotel. The game was starting then, so the streets were deserted. Around 11 there was a hell of a lot of yelling and fireworks outside, and Peggy went downstairs to find a TV with soccer. Apparently the doormen set her up in the exercise room with a big TV, where she watched the game. It was a nail-biter, and the local team won in penalty kicks.

Robin and I, meanwhile, tried to sleep. About 12:30 the game ended and we awoke to a cacophony of fireworks, yelling, honking, and general insanity outside. I turned on a light and read until about 3 AM, when I was tired enough to fall asleep finally. When I awoke at 7, there were still occasional explosions going on outside.

July 23, 2013: A little walking in Belo Horizonte

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

So yesterday around 5 we decided to venture out and look for something to eat. And drink. We wandered around a bit in the central city, and wound up at a tiny bar with plastic tables out on the sidewalk on a very busy street, Rua Sao Paulo. Peggy took some pics of us sitting there with buses booming by right over our shoulders. We had olives, cheese, and beer, which I believe represents all of the food groups. Then we wandered around some more; for some reason no matter where you walk in BH it’s always uphill. Eventually we got back to our hotel, and stopped at a cafe across the street for dessert. Peggy and Robin had crepes; I had beer. Again, all food groups covered. This place was kind of the polar opposite of the first cafe — upscale and very quiet and tastefully decorated.

Then, to make it a fully wild and crazy night, we went up to the hotel room and taught ourselves to play Sheepshead. This is apparently the official card game of Milwaukee. Do not ask.

This morning we had planned to go to the Parque Municipal Americo Renne Giannetti, and we did get over there for little while, but Robin wasn’t feeling well (too much crepe?), so we took her back to the hotel. Peggy and I proceeded back to the park where we birded for a couple of hours. Here’s my list:

Neotropic Cormorant
Black Vulture
Rock Pigeon
Squirrel Cuckoo
Swallow-tailed Hummingbird
Yellow-chevroned Parakeet
Masked Water-Tyrant
Cattle Tyrant
Great Kiskadee
Social Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Pale-breasted Thrush
Sayaca Tanager
Blue Dacnis
Rufous-headed Tanager
Bananaquit
House Sparrow
And a mystery bird I can’t figure out. Looked kind of like a yellow oriole, but oranger and the range is wrong anyway. I’ve looked at every pic in my Brazil bird book (van Perlo) and I can’t see any likely matches. Oh well.

We finally got good looks at the parakeets, which I’m sure were the same as the ones that were so annoyingly elusive at the Parque da Liberdade yesterday; they’re yellow-chevroned parakeets. I didn’t bring the good camera (big lenses are too heavy to carry around), so any bird pics I post are coming from other people’s Flickr accounts. Like this one:

 periquito-de-encontro-amarelo na Paineira-rosa / Barriguda / Yellow-chevroned Parakeet in Cotton-silk tree (Ceiba speciosa
Photo by Flávio Cruvinel Brandão. Yellow-chevroned Parakeet.

Now we’re back at the hotel resting. We plan to go to the Inhotim park and botanical garden tomorrow. Robin and Peggy are napping; Robin said she felt better.

Our first full day in Brazil

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

At the Poder Judiciario
Our first day in Brazil and already in trouble.

So yesterday was quite the ordeal. Our plane from St. Louis to Atlanta was two hours late. When we got to Atlanta we had to run from our gate to the train to the gate for our connecting flight; thought Robin was going to die. We just made it, and our plane got us to Rio on time at 9:50 the next morning. However, we then had to get our checked bags, go through passport control and customs, and then figure out how to get to the connecting flight. The Galeao airport is not good about signage, etc., and it took some time to do that — and we had to re-check our checked bags. We slogged through crowds of Catholic Youth (big world conference going on) and all the way across the airport.

When we got to the counter they told us our plane had closed its doors. We then went to the GOL airline counter to see about a different flight; after a long conversation (thank God Robin speaks Portuguese), he said he couldn’t do anything, and sent us to the Delta counter. On the other end of the airport. And when we got there, we found out it didn’t open till 7 PM. Finally someone at the information booth told Robin do go to the Poder Judiciario counter. We did, and the officer there got us a flight out of the other airport (Santos Dumont), and free cab vouchers to get us there. So we got into two cabs and trucked over to Santos Dumont and managed to get on that flight, which finally got us to Belo Horizonte about 4 PM. Even with the time difference, that’s 26 hours of travel, and I had about 4 hours sleep on the flight to Rio.

This morning I slept till 8 o’clock, a rarity for me, but we were so exhausted last night that it’s no surprise. Our hotel in Belo Horizonte puts on a nice breakfast, so we managed to get down to the coffee shop before they close at 9 and do that. Then we went to the front desk and I asked the guy for a map. I used the word “planta” from my Portuguese dictionary, figuring it would parallel Spanish “plano”, which you use for city maps rather than “mapa” for larger scale ones. But he didn’t know what I meant, and Robin suggested “mapa”, which is the same in both languages. That worked, and he started explaining where we were and where we might like to check out — in Spanish, I guess because my fumbling around in Portuguese sounded like a Spanish accent. Which worked, but then he figured out we spoke English, and basically we had a trilingual conversation for a bit.

Naturally, I wanted to see birds, so we went first to the big Parque Municipal, very close to our hotel, only to find it’s closed on Mondays. So we went the other way, to the Praca da Liberdade, which is a nice, though much smaller, park. Nevertheless, a green spot like that in the midst of the city concentrates the birds, and we quickly saw a tropical kingbird, which I promptly misidentified as a cattle tyrant, a bunch of ruddy ground-doves, lots of blue-and-white swallows, and a social flycatcher. Then we heard a big commotion across the street at the Palacio da Liberdade that was clearly parrots. So we crossed the road (with some delay, because before we got to the crossing we saw a masked water-tyrant and two gray monjitas) and approached a big tree with lots of parrot noise coming from it. A few parrots flew out and zoomed away too quickly to see anything. Still lots of noise in the tree. Several more swept out directly toward the sun and couldn’t be identified. Still some noise. Finally about a dozen burst out of the tree, again silhouetted in the sky, and disappeared into the city. Didn’t have a good look at any of them. Maybe next time. Still, that was four lifers for me (the monjita, the water-tyrant, a swallow-tailed hummingbird, and some chopi blackbirds), so I can hardly complain. I think we’ll try to hit the Parque Municipal tomorrow, which promises some better birding. And Hamner may get us in on a trip his conference is sponsoring on Wednesday to the Botanical Gardens.

Série com a Maria-branca (Xolmis cinerea) - Series with the Grey or Gray Monjita - 01-05-2011 - IMG_1311
Gray Monjita