Just returned from eight days of birding (and mammaling?) in the Pantanal and Chapada regions of Mato Grosso, both adjacent to the city of Cuiabá. This is very close to the geometric center of the South American continent. Apparently there are some markers or monuments that capture this fact, but, as is often the case, we don’t bother seeking out such sites, because birds.
It was a bit involved getting there: Minneapolis to Dallas, then overnight (10 hours) Dallas to Sao Paulo, then a long (full day) wait in the airport, and then backtracking two hours to Cuiabá, which we flew over on the flight from Dallas. While we were at the Saó Paulo airport we wandered around outside for a bit, pushing our luggage on a cart, staring up into the scarce trees at Saffron Finches and House Wrens, of all things, while the locals looked at us as if we were from Mars.
Our guide Johnny picked us up Saturday morning and we then drove south to the Pantanal. Our first destination was the Aymara Lodge. This friendly and comfy hotel lies just inside the northern boundary of the Pantanal wetland and was good for various woodcreepers, among other birds.
I was also happy to see my first wild Coati there. My maternal grandfather actually had one of these as a pet in the late 4o’s (and she was named Suzy). Seems like a terrible idea.
October in the Pantanal is hot; we experienced upwards of 40 C / 100 F. Unsurprisingly, not much wildlife is to be seen during midday, but at daybreak a host of otherwise invisible birds suddenly appear, such as this currasow:
Rainy season still being a few weeks away, the little bit of water that remains was very popular with birds and mammals alike. No surprise why this is the busy season, as the wildlife is fairly concentrated and easy to find.
No shortage of Greater Rheas here. We were treated to several, including a huge male tending his brood.
After two nights in the northern Pantanal, we went south to Porto Jofre, where the road ends at at the Cuiabá River. Only about 120 km, but it was a good four hours of dirt road and sketchy bridges. We stayed at the Hotel Pantanal Norte.
Dozens of boats cruise this stretch of river, principally looking for big cats, but there is plenty of bird-life also.
But even a couple of hardcore birders like us had to be awed by the felines patrolling the river.
Also being cat-owners, we are quite familiar with facial expressions like this one:
Here is a nice prospective dinner for a hungry jaguar:
Other denizens of the river include plenty of the bizarre Sunbitterns:
… and the even stranger Great Potoo:
Because of the extreme heat, the schedules here start nice and early, with breakfast at 5AM. I love hotels that keep birder’s hours.
After two full days on the river, we headed back north to the edge of the Pantanal, for a day at Pousada Piuval. Looking at the eBird lists while here I noticed that we just missed, by one day, a guide that I had hired for half a day many years ago in Miami. Odd.
Finally we spent our last two nightsat Pousada do Parque in the Chapada dos Guimaraes, a national park north of Cuiabá which sits on the plateaus.
Shortly before we headed back to Cuiabá for our final night in Mato Grosso, I got an unexpected email from Mark Smiles, our guide from the UAE. In another strange coincidence, he was just leaving Cuiabá on his way up to the national park that we were just departing. We probably passed each other on the freeway. How strange is that?
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