Shortly after leaving Porto Jofre our first stop along the Transpantaniera was to search for Grey-breasted Crake and excellent views were had. Subtropical Doradito, a day roosting Great Horned Owl and a Brazilian Guinea Pig were also seen on our journey to Piuval whilst a stop for drinks yielded some good opportunities to photograph Bare-faced Currasow and Azara’s Agouti.
Bare-faced Currasow, Female.
Approaching Piuval Lodge, Red-legegd Seriema and Greater Rhea were prominent residents of the grasslands along the entrance road. Convergent evolution has left these two species with respective body plans uncanny in their resemblance to the Secretary Bird and Ostrich of the African Savannah.
A brief scout around the woodland in the afternoon gave us excellent views of Great Rufous Woodcreeper, a superb bird we had seen previously during a productive stop at the old research station which also yielded Chestnut-bellied Guan, Golden-collared Macaw and Pale-crested Woodpecker. Added interest was provided by a very approachable group of Black Howler Monkeys. This species is very unusual among primates in that males, females and infants all have different coloured hair.
Black Howler Monkey, Female.
A spot-lighting expedition was organised for that night and with great anticipation we piled in to tiered seats on the back of a large truck. Much of the eye shine picked up was from nightjars but Crab-eating Foxes were fairly numerous and a Tapiti was also seen. As we headed back to the lodge I called out some eye shine off to our right, the animal disappearing behind a large tree just as the beam of light reached it. I carried on searching through binoculars. Though it seemed likely to be another fox, I was aware the drive was almost over and desperate to find something spectacular. Eduardo kept the beam on the base of the tree and after what seemed like an age the animal eventually reappeared. As it came in to view I was somewhat shocked to hear myself saying ‘it’s an Ocelot!’ Rather than approach, Eduardo had the truck drive along a parallel course and we watched the Ocelot foraging for several minutes. At one point it sprang up in to the air and dropped, very much in the manner of a domestic cat but appeared to have missed its quarry and slowly walked away from us. Last minute excitement was provided by some Crab-eating Racoons.
Next morning we successfully bagged our first target species, the localised White-fronted Woodpecker.
Black-bellied Antwren was slow to give itself up but showed well eventually and an added bonus came in the form of a Black-tailed Marmoset. Next we headed out to a ditch at the edge of the marsh where a Rufous-sided Crake had been calling the evening before. Eduardo picked his spots wisely and settled on a stretch of ditch where a dense shrub blocked the light and prevented other plants from growing. This left a comparatively open area of bank underneath and two crakes were successfully lured across it giving unobscured views, though brief and poorly lit. Whilst successfully tracking down a Least Bittern at the marsh edge Eduardo commented that it would be a perfect place for Yellow-breasted Crake. A speculative ‘trawl’ rapidly elicited a response and after a few minutes Eduardo picked the bird up. We lost it briefly as it moved towards us and then it popped up very close and we enjoyed superb views of a species which has a patchy distribution in Brazil and is, as virtually all small crakes, very difficult to see.
On the way back distractions came in the form of a Greater Rhea with chicks and a day roosting Great Potoo superbly found from the moving bus by Warren.
Greater Rhea, with chicks.
Having cleaned up on target species and added several unexpected species to the list we were free to spend a relaxed afternoon birding. In the searing heat no more surprises were forthcoming but there were some good opportunities for photography.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.