I have a vague childhood memory of being involved in a snipe hunt in the woods behind my house. I don’t remember much, except that a large paper bag was involved, and that no snipes were actually captured that night. For those not familiar, a snipe hunt is a prank played on a gullible person and involves trying to catch a nonexistent creature called a snipe.
On the Brazil trip last month, I joined several other people on a hunt for an actual snipe: a species of South American bird called the giant snipe. And we actually found one. But more on that in a moment; first, a look at some of the other birding we did that day, followed by a slide show of some of the highlights.
After our somewhat disappointing outing to Macaé de Cima the previous day, Thomas, the lodge manager at REGUA, suggested an excursion he thought we might find more productive: a drive through some of the farmland around REGUA, where the birds would be more numerous and more likely to be out in the open. So Steve and I, along with Tony from Scotland, climbed into the back of the Toyota 4×4 with REGUA’s awesome guide, Adelei, doing the driving, and off we went. And did we ever see birds. Here’s a list of all the ones I can remember from that morning, in roughly chronological order:
—Roadside hawk. See photo in the slideshow below.
—Bare-throated bellbird. We heard this one but didn’t see it; it’s named because its call sounds just like the ringing of a bell. If you don’t believe me, check out this YouTube video.
—A pair of streamer-tailed tyrants. I thought Adelei said it was a pair of males being territorial with each other, but from poking around online, I think it might have been a male and female in a courtship display. See the slideshow.
—Guira cuckoos. Only a distant look; I’d see closer ones when we got to the Pantanal later in the trip.
—Ash-throated crake. A secretive marsh bird that we heard and that Adelei tried to call in, without success.
—Three-toed sloth. Not a bird, I realize! And not very close, alas.
—Wing-banded hornero, sitting on its nest on the crossbar of an electric pole.
—South American snipe, a glimpse of three flying low across a cow pasture. Not to be confused with the giant snipe of which I’ll speak later….
—Yellow-browed tyrant. My notes say Steve got a photo. Evidently I did not.
—Saffron finch. Beautiful pure-yellow bird.
—Brazilian tanager, an Atlantic Forest endemic, meaning that it’s found in this region and nowhere else in the world.
—Ruby-crowned tanager, just glimpses.
—Bananaquit, a fairly common Central and South American bird that I always think should have a fancy pronunciation, like “banana-keet,” but no—it’s pronounced just like it looks: Banana Quit.
—Glittering-throated emerald, a type of hummingbird.
—Chestnut-backed antshrike, a beautiful bird that Adelei spent probably a half hour trying to draw out of hiding so Steve and I could photograph it.
—A glimpse of a yellow-lored tody-flycatcher. I have no actual memory of this, but it’s in my notes, so I guess it must have happened.
—Ferruginous pygmy owl. I’ve since learned that “ferruginous” means rusty-colored; it comes from the Latin word for iron, which is ferrum.
—Masked yellowthroat, a type of warbler, not too different-looking than the common yellowthroat we get in the U.S.
—Southern beardless tyrannulet, probably the best-named bird of the day, wouldn’t you agree?
—Fuscous flycatcher. “Fuscous” is just a fancy word for dark-colored.
That’s 30 different species of birds—almost all of them new to me—in about four hours’ time. Not too bad!
And then just around dusk, Adelei took us for one last excursion in the Toyota—to find the giant snipe. We went back to the same farmland we had visited that morning, parked the truck along the side of the road, and followed Adelei into a cow pasture. Adelei not only knows hundreds of birds, and not only can recognize them just by their call, he can also imitate many different bird calls. In this case, though, he used a portable Bluetooth speaker, and played the giant snipe’s call via his smartphone.
It took maybe 20 minutes of just standing around in the pasture waiting while Adelei worked his magic, but eventually a snipe flew in and landed in the grass. Adelei shined a flashlight on the bird, and we all took photos. Nothing we would ever submit to the Pulitzer committee—a flashlight isn’t the most pleasing light on a subject—but at least we could say we saw, and photographed, a giant snipe. (Actually, if you do a Google Images search on “giant snipe,” pretty much all of the photos look like the ones I got.)
Below is a slide show of some images from our morning excursion, the snipe, and elsewhere around REGUA. In the next post, we leave REGUA and head to our second Atlantic Forest lodge, Itororó, to start the Glenn Bartley trip.