Friday 27 May 2022

AMAZONIAN BRAZIL 2022: Amazonia National Park 21-27 May

Introduction. Visiting Southwest Amazonia was suggested to me by Nick Preston in 2019. I was keen, particularly with a few days in Amazonia National Park to start with. We soon recruited Paul Noakes and Matt Eade (both excellent travelling companions) and Nick contacted Brad Davis (Agami Nature Tours) who agreed to arrange a trip for us in June 2020. Then Covid happened and the trip was postponed, first to June 2021 then May/June 2022 by which time it helped that the fully vaccinated were allowed to visit Brazil (and return to the UK) without having to take 72-hour Covid tests. Matt, being the only one of us still working, wasn't able to make the Amazonia National Park section of the trip, which was a great shame, but would meet us in Porto Velho. A very quick turnaround by Clearer Images had the lens I'd broken in Costa Rica back a couple of days before departure so I was all set for photography, if nowhere near the standard Paul had set in Costa Rica. Unsurprisingly Paul did just as well in Brazil and I'm very grateful to be able to include a selection below. They are easy to spot being larger images and accredited to Paul.

Saturday 21 May. With a definite feeling of 'here we go again', I caught a midday bus from the bottom of our road into Brighton. Then from there a National Express coach to Heathrow. Nick had arrived a few minutes before me and Paul soon after. It hardly seemed a week since we'd said goodbye, albeit in Terminal 2 rather than 3. Check-in was chaotic as only one of the self-service machines printing baggage labels worked and the few LATAM staff there being of very limited help. Not a departure we would want to arrive short of time for. Bags dropped and checked in, we were told that although our bags were checked through to Manaus we had to collect them in Sao Paulo and take them to a bag drop (presumably for customs reasons). The flight was a little bumpy at times, exacerbated by being in the third row from the back, but the plane, a Boeing 777, was more comfortable than the recent Avianca Boeing 787 and I slept after a fashion.

Sunday 22 May. It was fairly chaotic at Sao Paulo too with little help finding the bag drop for our Manaus flight although we were too early when we did. Despite these delays it was still a 4 hour wait to boarding and nearly 5 to departure. Flight to Manaus was the worst I can remember, being in the back row. Nick generously offered to switch his window seat but as we approached we discovered the last row didn’t have any windows. Seats didn’t recline and despite being a 4 hour flight there were no refreshments (a Covid restriction that hadn't been changed). The flight was on time and our luggage arrived, mine one of the first off the belt. Brad was waiting for us and took us to nearby hotel (Tryp by Windham) where we arrived about 16:00 but birding opportunities were limited to unidentified parrots, Black and Turkey Vultures and a Tropical Kingbird from the window. Over an evening meal Brad set out our plans for the next few days. It all sounded very encouraging.

Monday 23 May. We had breakfast at 06:00, left the hotel at 06:45 for short drive back to airport. Our flight in a MAP Linhas Aéreas ATL72 left on time, at 08:20, first to Parintins (8 Southern Lapwings on the runway) then Itaituba, just over the Amazonas border in the state of Para. We were met at the airport by local Amazonia National Park guide Gilberto, driver and pickup truck. Our luggage was secured in the back under a tarpaulin and we all piled into the truck, driver and Brad in the front and us with Gilberto in the back. We left the airport just before 11:00 (10:00 local time), stopped at a ‘pay by weight’ restaurant for a decent lunch, though mint in pineapple juice didn’t improve it. We arrived at Posada Portal, pleasantly situated just outside the park on the west bank of Rio Tapajos, sooner than expected as the dirt road was in much better condition than anticipated. We dropped our bags in basic rooms, one each with bed and fan (shared toilets/showers nearby), and drove into the park. First stop on the way to the headquarters was the ‘cotinga tree’ and there much to our delight a male White-tailed Cotinga flew in after a couple of minutes of playback. One of my main targets seen almost before we’d arrived! Also enticed into the tree was a Brown-chested Barbet, new for me and nicer than it sounds. We continued into the park, Gilberto presented our credentials at the Urua Base and we spent 14:25-19:25 on the Twin Trees trail which was fairly quiet with birds seen including Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Dot-winged Antwren, Natterer's Slaty Antshrike and Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin.

leaving Manaus
male White-tailed Cotinga in Amazonia National Park
                             

what a stunning bird!


White-tailed Cotinga in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)
out of focus Brown-breasted Barbet in Amazonia National Park
in focus Brown-breasted Barbet in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius xanthocles simulatus)

Tuesday 24 May. Breakfast at 05:45, we left Posada Portal at 06:20 to drive into Amazonia National Park to the start of the Picarreira trail, Gilberto being lookout in the back of the pickup where he had a deckchair. We birded along the trail from 06:50-13:00 during which time we saw a pair of Rufous-necked Puffbirds, a superb Alta Floresta Antpitta, Blue-cheeked Jacamar and a male Snowy-crowned Manakin. We returned to Posada Portal for lunch, scoping 30+ Sand-coloured Nighthawks roosting in a tree on a very small river island and White-winged, White-banded and Black-collared Swallows over the river. We left at 14:45 to drive to the Tracoa Base trail (15:00-16:00) then Urua Base (16:40-19:00), returning in the dark. It had been a really excellent day with 15 new birds for me. Highlights were many including Fiery-tailed Awlbill, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Pied Puffbird, Red-necked Aracari, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Ornate Stipplethroat, Saturine, Amazonian, Glossy and Fasciated Antshrikes, Ferruginous-backed and Black-faced Antbirds, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, White-browed Purpletuft, Trilling Gnatwren and Rose-breasted Chat. Dinner, much as lunch, was a basic buffet which was fine. Having a shower I was shocked to find loads of small bites on my legs and midriff. Chiggers which until then hadn't started itching. When they did shortly after I really knew it. I also found a tick which I dosed with iodine and later managed to remove.

Rufous-necked Puffbird in Amazonia National Park. My image doesn't really show what a stunning species it is. No such issues with Paul's below:


Rufous-necked Puffbird in Amazonia National Park. What a stunner (photos: Paul Noakes)
Alta Floresta Antpiita in Amazonia National Park




Alta Floresta Antpitta (photo: Paul Noakes). Time for a new camera? If only I was confident of being able to carry it, let alone come close to Paul's skill as a photographer!
Buff-throated Woodcreeper in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Hoffmann's Woodcreeper in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
White-browed Purpletuft in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Red-necked Aracari in Amazonia National Park


Red-necked Aracari in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)

Yellow-throated Woodpecker in Amazonia National Park
Yellow-throated Woodpecker in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Amazonian Pygmy-Owl in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Amazonian Trogon in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Rufous-tailed Foliage-Gleaner in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)

Blue-necked Jacamar in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Plain-throated Antwren in Amazonia National Park
                          

Snethlage's Tody-Tyrant in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Snow-capped Manakin in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Greyish Mourner in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Golden-winged Parakeet in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Ornate Stipplethroat in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Long-billed Woodcreeper in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)

this bird is nuts, probably designed by a committee
male Green-backed Trogon in Amazonia National Park

Green-backed Trogon in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)

Wednesday 25 May. Breakfast at 05:00, we left at 05:30 driving to the start of the Capelinha trail, well into the park, where we arrived at 06:20. We spent 10 hours on the trail, seemingly covering much of its 24km length but in reality probably no more than a quarter of it. The first major bird we tried for, my main target Black-bellied Gnateater was frustrating for me I only had brief back on views, and those thanks to Paul, while the others did much better. It was zipping about quite distantly too quickly for me too spot in poor or contrasting light. This was to be a recurring theme for me, as it had been at times in Costa Rica. One of the downsides of advancing years. Next a machete hunt for a calling Tapajos Antpitta which sat tight in a very dense thicket before slipping out of the back unseen when we were almost on top of it. It started calling again in an even thicker patch where the same thing happened. Another male Black-bellied Gnatcatcher was more obliging, at least after the first few appearances when I was always unsighted or too late onto. This made it all the better when I did see it very well although I still struggled with the camera. For me it was an early contender for bird of the trip. A female sat out in full view as we were leaving (but my camera was safely in my bag then, for fear of another accident). We also saw a superb Rusty-belted Tapaculo but the rest of the walk was pretty unmemorable and a bit of a slog. We returned via the end of the Two Trees trail which was very quiet. The second half of the day was saved by Paul spotting a female Harpy Eagle sat in a roadside tree as we were returning. It had a well dead Sloth and seemed unconcerned by our attention as we watched it to dusk. Brad had given us all T-shirts for the trip, we were expecting an Agami Heron to feature but it was Harpy Eagle instead. Paul hadn’t seen Harpy Eagle and understandably couldn't see himself wearing a t-shirt of one so it was fitting that the situation proved short lived. Other notable birds seen were  Great Jacamar, Red and Green Macaw, Curve-billed Scythebill, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Cinereous and White-shouldered Antshrikes and Red-crowned Ant-Tanager.

dawn in Amazonia National Park
Chestnut-winged Hookbill in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)
male Black-bellied Gnateater in Amazonia National Park


male Black-bellied Gnateater in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)

female Black-bellied Gnateater in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Capelinha Trail

Rusty-belted Tapaculo in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
forest giant
Red-footed Tortoise

White Hawk in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Red-billed Scythebill in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Harpy Eagle with prey in Amazonia National Park







Harpy Eagle in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)
Harpy Eagle at dusk

Thursday 26 May. Breakfast at 05:00 then before leaving at 06:15 Brad taped in a calling Ladder-tailed Nightjar which gave great views on the riverbank. The Harpy Eagle was in the same tree and we took loads more photos as the light improved. It was a very impressive bird and at times when it stared at me I felt it was thinking 'when I finish this sloth you can be next'. While watching it Brad found a perched Fiery-tailed Awlbill and we had good scope views. Views were much better than yesterday’s but again it was a female. We returned to the Picarreira trail which we birded for 2 hours from 07:40 seeing a pair of Harlequin Antbirds, me only glimpsing the female, another top target (Nick's #1) successfully seen. The rest of the morning was spent on trails around Urua Base which we left at 13:15. Returning to the Posada for lunch we noted that the Harpy Eagle had moved on. We were out again at 15:30, it was too hot for there to be much bird activity during the middle of the day. Back to the Picarreira trail for another 2 hour session from 14:00 although towards the end the light made birding in the forest difficult, particularly for me. We stopped at Tracoa Base on the way back to try for Zigzag Heron and Ocellated Poorwill without success. We also failed to see properly a Spectacled Owl that came in but flew before we could spotlight it, Gilberto’s exuberance getting the better of him as he took my torch and chased off after it, language preventing him knowing that Nick could see where it landed before it flushed again. Me trying to look through my bins without flicking the rainguard aside didn’t help my cause either. Other good birds seen included White-browed Guan, Amazonian Motmot, Bronzy and Paradise Jacamars, Golden Parakeet, White-eyed Stipplethroat, Ihering's AntwrenBanded Antbird (amazing), Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Flame-crested Manakin and Red-billed Pied Tanager.

dawn over the Rio Tapajos
Harpy Eagle still in its tree
                             





Harpy Eagle in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)




female Fiery-tailed Awlbill in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
White-browed Guan in Amazonia National Park


Harlequin Antbird in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)
Cinnamon Atilla in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Golden Parakeets in Amazonia National Park




Golden Parakeet in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)
Red-billed Pied Tanager in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Red-stained Woodpecker in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Banded Antbird in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
White-eyed Stipplethroat in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)

Flame-crowned Manakin in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)

Dusky-capped Woodcreeper in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes). Noticeable how bill colour appears to change with a slight change of angle 
Ihering's Antwren in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Black-collared Swallow in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)

Friday 27 May. Breakfast at 05:00, we left at 05:30 and drove to the Acazar trail. We arrived in the dark at 06:00 and walked in 0.5 km or so to be in the forest for dawn. A Cryptic Forest-Falcon called several times and eventually gave decent views as the light improved. We heard another Tapajos Antpitta, this one in a slightly less dense patch but again I failed to see it although the others did, Paul’s thermal camera helping him to more than very brief views. With a flight to Manaus to catch we left the trail at 09:30 and Posada Portal at 10:30. We had time for lunch in Itaituba before our flight, direct to Manaus this time. We arrived in Manaus at 14:15, a bit earlier than initially scheduled so Brad had arranged an extended (past closing time) afternoon visit to the Amazon Museum's Observation Tower. A minibus was waiting at the airport to take us to the Ibis Hotel, just 5 minutes drive away. We dumped our stuff and 15 minutes later were back in the minibus crossing to the northeast side of the city and the Amazon Museum. Once there we skirted various school parties and other visitors and headed to the Observation Tower where we spent a very pleasant two hours seeing Great Potoo, King Vulture, Guianan Puffbird, Green Aracari, Guianan Toucanet, Red & Green Macaw and Spot-backed Antbird (most from above)! Brad told us Matt had arrived in Porto Velho as scheduled and we looked forward to seeing him in the morning. Back at the Ibis Hotel we prepared for a very early flight.



Cryptic Forest-Falcon in Amazonia National Park (photos: Paul Noakes)
White-browed Hawk in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
Gould's Toucanet in Amazonia National Park (photo: Paul Noakes)
leaving Itaituba in the MAP Linhas Aéreas ATL72
Great Potoo on the way to the Observation Tower
a different Great Potoo from the Observation Tower

Spot-backed Antwren from the Observation Tower (photos: Paul Noakes)
Green Aracari from the Observation Tower
                           



Green Aracari from the Observation Tower (photos: Paul Noakes)
Guianan Puffbird  from the Observation Tower


Guianan Toucanet from the Observation Tower
Guianan Toucanet from the Observation Tower (photo: Paul Noakes)
White-throated Toucan from the Observation Tower
White-throated Toucan from the Observation Tower (photo: Paul Noakes)
Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper from the Observation Tower (photo: Paul Noakes)

Guianan Woodcreeper from the Observation Tower (photo: Paul Noakes)
Manaus from the Observation Tower
Brad and Paul carefully scanning from the Observation Tower, my panorama skills not working too well
a storm ahead