Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Minas Gerais, Brazil in November 2018

Three of the participants from my SE Brazil tour continued with me to Belo Horizonte to join Fabrice Schmitt’s tour of the state of Minas Gerais. This was my first time to this state, and even though I’ve birded the Cerrado biome of Brazil in several disparate areas, there are some birds with very restricted distributions that occur only in this area.

Our first destination was the Serra do Cipó northeast of Belo Horizonte.

One of my favorite sightings from here was Hyacinth Visorbearer, which we saw while looking for (but not seeing) the much less showy but rarer Cipo Canastero.

A specialty of these habitats it the Gray-backed Tachuri.
Gray-backed Tachuri

Cinereous Warbling-Finch was a lucky find and the only lifer for Fabrice on the tour (and of course for me).
Cinereous Warbling-Finch

I could botanize here for weeks. This Cambessedesia hilariana may be the most unusual melastome I’ve ever seen.
Cambessedesia hilariana

This monocot is a Vellozia, a South American counterpart to the South African Xerophyta, and the majority of species are found just in the state of Minas Gerais.

Another monocot is this Paepalanthus, in the family Eriocaulaceae. Other than the flowers, it looks a lot like a grass, and genetics show it is actually in the same order.

After Cipó, we traveled to Caraça Sanctuary, an old monastery in a magical setting. The habitat here is actually a transition from SE Atlantic Rainforest to Cerrado, the former dominating.

Cliff Flycatchers breed in the monastery buildings, close enough to cliffs for them.
Cliff Flycatcher

Swallow-tailed Manakin is a bird of the Atlantic Rainforests – the original “tanager,” as its local name, probably derived from the Tupi-Guarani, is tangará. My guess is that the first collectors in Brazil bunched these up with hundreds of specimens of other colorful birds (including what we now call tanagers) from the region and sent them back to Europe for official scientific description. The name suggested would have been attached to the first ones grabbed.
Swallow-tailed Manakin

Maned Wolf is the main reason that so many tourists come to Caraça. It was a very special experience to be so close to one of these normally very wary and hard-to-see mammals, but they have become accustomed to this feeding station only after many years.
Maned Wolf

We birded the trails at Caraça as much as we could, but a series of fronts brought a lot of rain, making it difficult.

The rain brought our a lot of fungi though, including this Clavulinopsis.

This Lafoensia, probably L. pacari, a member of the family Lythraceae.
Lafoensia pacari

Butterflies were hard to come by in this super wet period (supposedly one of the wettest Novembers ever in Minas Gerais), but when the sun came out the ones we found were quite special. This is the metalmark Panara soana.
Panara soana

This firetip skipper is the little known Sarbia catomelaena.
Sarbia catomelaena

On our way westward to the final tour destination several hours to the west, we stopped by a lake in the city of Belo Horizonte where we found Southern Pochard, a long expected lifer for me.
Southern Pochard

Here is our hotel for the last few days near Canastra National Park, Pousada Chão da Serra.

It continued to rain here, usually not very heavy, but rather constant and difficult to bird in. But it clearly had been raining harder, and the river where we usually find Brazilian Merganser was a raging torrent for its entire length.

Yet we did have some breaks in the weather and were able to see birds from the bus during the drives. Red-legged Seriema is one of the most photogenic birds I know.
Red-legged Seriema

These two nestling Burrowing Owls were right next to the road. I find it interesting how they prefer to rest on their entire foot rather than just on the toes, the way most birds perch.
Burrowing Owl

Rain makes for perfect knitting weather, so I was able to finish this Apple Pie Hat that I had started on the SE Brazil tour.

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