Monday (Day 6)
With 2½ days of the trip to go, we sat down the previous evening to decide on what plans would give us the most enjoyment birding wise. Cirilo seems to count the Bamboo Trail as one of his favourite sites, but we decided against this. The factors dissuading us from following his favoured spot were that it is a very enclosed and dark trail, which wouldn’t suit our preference for photography. In addition, it would seem that a lot of the birds potentially on offer could be seen at the national park. So it was that today we would spend some time at Portao Azul, and then call in at the mountainous location that is Macae de Cima. The usual hour long lodge garden foray offered as its new treat today a massive tight flock of White-collared Swifts overhead, following the predicted showing of the Blond–crested Woodpecker before 6.30 at the fruit feeders. We checked the stream again for the Streamcreeper and Puffbird, but to no avail.
Considering that this site basically consists of a dirt track, of which no more than a mile is covered, a lot of time can be spent here and an excellent variety of birds seen. In fact, we spent the first 2 hours or so just walking what must have been no more than 200 metres, with birds more or less constantly in view. As soon as we clambered out of the car, we were in amongst birds new to us, the very first being small hummingbirds. A female Frilled Coquette danced around in the flowers next to the track, showing off her banded rump, pumping tail, and slightly rufous throat. She was quickly followed by a Reddish Hermit on the same group of flowers. Neither bird had the good manners to rest on a nearby branch. There then followed a series of birds which were no more than a few metres in front of us, but provided a challenge to merely see them well, since they kept well into the vegetation, and were constantly on the move – Orange-eyed Thornbird, Blue-billed Black Tyrant, Rufous-capped & Pallid Spinetail, and Variable Antshrike were good examples of these. Thankfully, Yellow Tyrannulet, White-throated Hummingbird, and female Glittering-bellied Emerald were more generous with their performances. We continued our very slow but deliberate progress along the track, and were rewarded with brief views of Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, and even briefer views of the notoriously skulking Dusky-tailed Antbird, of which there was a brace. A couple of Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners reappeared constantly within the low bushes to our right, and an Olivaceous Woodcreeper flew over them. Looking high, we picked out a female Surucua Trogon resting directly under some high palm fronds, and a little further on, a pair of Saffron Toucanets were at a similar height. When we scanned the tops of the trees in the distance, we could easily make out a Cliff Flycatcher Long-tailed Tyrant sharing the upper storey of the same tree. This track is reputed to be one of the best spots for Half-collared Sparrow, and this proved to be the case this morning, with a skulking twosome of separate birds eventually being seen half well.
The track now opened out into a small cultivated farm to the rear, and a small private plantation to one side. After picking out Green-winged Saltator in the opposite trees, we entered the beginning of the plantation and dug up a bit of a Tanager fest! The more common Golden-chevroned & Sayaca Tanagers were quickly joined by a trio of Magpie Tanagers, followed by Black-goggled & Burnished-buff lower down and closer. At the tree canopy over the track, which was by now much lower in our vision, we could make out a small bird wave, which included in its ranks Gilt-edged & Rufous-headed Tanagers. Not to be outdone, the conifers over the entrance sported an active (and endemic) Grey-capped Tyrannulet, as well as Yellow-legged Thrush. From the edge of the plantation, our second Surucua Trogon of the morning (and the trip – this time a male) was rested for a short time opposite and a stunning Green-backed Becard hunted down the oranges within. We made our way a little further along the track to eat our lunch beside a decent sized pond, which bizarrely had no birds on it whatsoever.
Sustenance completed, and we once again made our way along the track, which by now was in the form of a low avenue. A female White-bearded Manakin preceded a much more showy male. In an opening with spaced out larger trees, a Yellow-browed Woodpecker pecked away at the bark. We tried to lure out Drab-breasted Bamboo Tyrant unsuccessfully at the turning point, but did see White-browed Foliage-gleaner instead. On the return, a Long-tailed Tyrant was again in the company of a Cliff Flycatcher, with a pair of Hooded Siskins just before reaching the van.