The principal reason birders visit Cipó is to see the Cipo Canastero. It is fair to say the discovery of this species in 1985 was something of a sensation, residing as it does on rocky outcrops in south-central Minais Gerais state thousands of miles from any other Canastero species, which are generally found in the Andes. During my tenure as Conservation Officer of the Neotropical Bird Club I administered the small grants scheme operated by the club and we made an award for surveys of Cipo Canastero which is now known from a small number of localities. This is just as well as the species suffers from parasitism by Shiny Cowbird and degradation of its habitat where it prefers the most heavily vegetated gullies and slopes.
Type locality of Cipo Canastero.
It was interesting to visit the type locality after all these years and see the bird, which gave us the run around before performing nicely. Unfortunately at ranges close enough for photography it refused to pause long enough for a shot. Two really smart hummingbirds, Hyacinth Visorbearer and Horned Sungem occur here and both were seen on our first morning whilst Blue Finch was encountered for the second time on the tour.
Another good bird seen that morning was Pale-throated Pampa Finch, a Near Threatened species endemic to Chapada grasslands in eastern Brazil. Again we were made to work hard in the breezy conditions but secured excellent views of an individual lacking the feature for which it is scientifically named, the long tail.
Pale-throated Pampa Finch.
We spent the afternoon in a successful quest for Long-tailed Cinclodes, another furnarid species with a disjunct distribution that includes a population in the Cipó region.
Our second day around Cipó started with a visit to a gallery forest where we had great views of the localised Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner before we moved on to more open terrain again. A roadside stop to look for Checkered Woodpecker paid off handsomely with an extended encounter at close range.
Even better was a male Horned Sungem which had taken up residence around some flowering plants and was thus much easier to observe than the widely scattered birds we had seen previously at higher altitudes.
Horned Sungem, Male.
Before lunch we tried a road through some dry forest where the highlights of a superb session were two Caatinga species, Caatinga Puffbird and Silvery-cheeked Antshrike. Again you would have to travel a long way from Cipó before you reached another site where you could see either of these birds.
It was then time to move on to Chapada dos Guimarães and we arrived in rather gloomy conditions which rapidly worsened and remained atrocious for the entire length of our stay.
The photograph below is pretty much the only one I have from Chapada and shows our leader Eduardo Patrial whose tenacity and skill ensured we still saw some superb birds.
These included Pheasant Cuckoo, Brown Jacamar, White-eared Puffbird, Red-shouldered Macaw, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Firey-capped and Band-tailed Manakins, and Rufous-sided Pygmy Tyrant.
Band-tailed Manakin by Warren Hardman.
Our next stop was to be the Pantanal. Anticipation was mounting as were concerns about the weather.