Monday, December 31, 2018

Birds of Pantanal 12/2018

Times flies and I did not want to end 2018 not uploading a December blog. One wonders as to the variety of birds in the tropics and no so many in the North American continent, yet there are birds in both places that fit similar niches.  The Black Collared Hawk is common in Pantanal and one hears their screech frequently; it not kin to the Bald Eagle but both feed on fish mostly. It is more closely related to the ospreys that are not present in the summer but arrive when it becomes winter in North America. 

Anhingas are also found in the Pantanal and mainly dive to catch fish; once caught, they surface and throw them in the air to align them head first into the mouth.  They are also known as the snake birds.

The Capped Heron is the most beautiful small heron is abundant as well as the Coi Heron that is bigger and greatly resembles our Great Blue Heron.

Hyacinth Macaws are the most interesting of the birds seen; they are usually in families and are very noisy.  It appears that they like to tease photographers; once you see them and raise the camera they immediately fly away.  Although they have suffered from the illegal bird traffic their numbers are quite numerous here.

The Gray Crested Cacholote appears to derive its name from its chocolate color but don’t think this is accurate.  In its behavior it resembles our Carolina Wren; always busy moving in the underbrush a talking to others and usually move in pairs.  The Grayish Saltator is common and not shy and it is mostly a seedeater.  The Rufous Hornero is quite an architect building its nest out of large mud nests that looks as an oven, hence, the name.

The Scaled Dove is a small and feed mostly on the ground while the Oropendola mostly stays on the trees and weaves a hanging nest.  The Black Fronted Nunbird moves in the forest in groups of 4-5 individuals and tends to perch watching for flying insects to catch.  The Yellow Billed Cardinal is common and tends to forage mostly for seeds in groups. The last image below is the Palm Tanager.

This Green Rufous kingfisher is common in the Pantanal and quite easy to approach. The Guira Cuckoo is quite different from the one in the USA but similar to the ones in Africa.  Not surprisingly since at one time the South American and African continents were together before they drifted apart. But the Squirrel Cuckoo resembles more our Black-Billed Cuckoo sharing a bright red eye.  The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is common and resembles the Austral Pygmy Owl that I have seen in Chile’s Tierra del Fuego.

The Black-Crowned Heron I have seen mostly all over the American continents; below is an immature one. Next is the largest stork in the world known as the Jabiru is the most interesting bird and not too shy nesting in large trees and walks with a majestic stride.

The Rufescent Tiger Heron is very colorful and hunts wading along the shoreline along with the Limpkin who nests in trees near the water.  During my previous trip, I observed a jaguar shaking a tree and knocking the young birds out of the tree providing for an easy meal.  The Plumbeous Ibis is also common but feeds moving the beak underwater back and forth.

 The Toco Toucan is an emblematic and most unusual looking bird mostly seen in pairs with its large colorful bill and at times easily approachable. And the ultimate scavenger, the caraca who wonders if these papayas are meat too.  Until next year that will bring more interesting trips.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Pantanal, Brazil 2018

Pantanal is the largest tropical wetland in the world encompassing parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and mostly Brazil. I consider it as a flooded Serengeti due to the diversity of wildlife. I visited there first in 2011 and as everywhere in the world it has gotten more crowded since then; all want a photo of a jaguar. It is an easy adventure since one is in a boat 100% of the time. 

 Jaguars are my favorite of the large cats, not the biggest, but have the most powerful jaws and their stare really surpasses that of the leopards, tigers and pumas - kind of hypnotizing.  They are easy to see since they tend to walk at the edge of the rivers looking for prey.  One can follow their routines as the one below that decided to take a siesta and slept for about 2 hours, woke and went looking for lunch but failed in his first attempt.

Our jaguar found a family of capybaras resting on a small island and went for the chase.  Fortunately they lived to experience another chase; the cat took a look at me and decided that I did not look tasty.  Capybaras are the largest rodents and semiaquatic and I call them the hippos of South America because of their similar behavior.  Interestingly they eat their own feces to obtain bacteria that help in the digestion of the cellulose in the grass they eat.

The giant river otters live in families and very playful and always communicating with penetrating squeaks.  Very efficient fish catchers since they work in groups.  After meals they go to the shore to sleep but they are very alert and when a jaguar approaches the alarms is sounded and all go to the river and watches the frustrated cat.

Caymans are the most abundant and are everywhere; they are a regular staple of the jaguars and in their turn they prey on whatever they can get including their smaller siblings.  They are hunted and the meat has the taste and consistency of chicken, so don’t hesitate to try it.

The waterways are surrounded by thick vegetation with all kinds of fruits and flowering trees.  Below is what I recognize as an anon; these fruits have various name throughout the Latin American countries.  It has a very tasty white meat from which milk shakes and ice cream are made.  Next is a young strangulating fig tree that eventually will kill the host and grow into huge trees.  It happened that when I was there all plants were flowering and a few samples are below…there is a scent of perfume in the air.

The orchid flower with the pod resembles those I saw in Madagascar from which vanilla is extracted; but this is a different species.  Ironically Vanilla was first cultivated in Mexico but the largest commercial supply comes from Madagascar.  It the second most expensive spice after saffron and causes dermatitis when one comes in contact with the sap.

Pantanal has been overrun by ecotourism that when overdone becomes detrimental and is getting extreme here. When a jaguar is found, the tour company boats arrive within minutes and overwhelm the area without respect for those already there.  The struggle begins among the boats to get the preferred spot to photograph the cats. I observed this time just plain tourists not interested in photographing; when I was there before all were photographers and only small boat with a capacity for 2-3 persons were used; 15-20 are the rule with some of the boats with a lower and higher platforms with swivel chairs like those using in fishing boats…pretty soon they will be air-conditioned too.

The by-product of tourism below is a trash pile in one of the lodges.  But there the locals also made a living by fishing.  The fish are numerous, colorful and great tasting; to me they are better than ocean fish. And by the end of the day, a great sunset is in store.