Brazil: Alta Floresta's Cristalino Jungle Lodge Jul 27—Aug 06, 2014

Posted by Andrew Whittaker

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Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker was born in England but considers himself to be Brazilian, having moved to this biodiverse country in 1987 to work for the Smithsonian Institution, banding...

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The Cristalino Jungle Lodge never fails to live up to and beyond our expectations, and this year came up trumps as usual with multiple memorable birding moments, wonderful sunsets, exciting birds, clouds of colorful butterflies, and many excellent primate sightings. All this was combined with fabulous home cooking—who could ever forget those “dangerous” deserts?

Blue-and-yellow Macaws

Blue-and-yellow Macaws— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

As dawn was breaking, a vast green canopy of Amazonian rainforest unfolded in front of us, stretching as far as the eye could see. We were on one of the two wonderfully constructed canopy towers, which rewarded us with countless highlights and unforgettable moments. We enjoyed great studies at eye level of Blue-and-yellow, Red-and-green, and Chestnut-fronted macaws, and parrots including the recently described Kawall’s and the cool-looking apricot-headed White-bellied, as well as a raucous group of the odd, plastic-headed-looking Curl-crested Aracari competing with another stunner— a flock of smaller Red-necked Aracaris. Passerine highlights here included multi-colored tanagers, close encounters with Tooth-billed Wrens, a rarely seen and odd-looking Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak, scope looks at male Spangled and Pompadour cotingas, and in-our-face looks at the near endemic Black-girdled Barbet, White-necked Puffbird, flappy-flying Bare-necked Fruitcrow, the tiny White-browed Purpletuft, and much more.

Bare-eyed Antbird

Bare-eyed Antbird— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Forest trails produced the highly sought after endemic Bare-eyed Antbird, which was found at the last minute, but showed well for all of us to see and was voted the top bird of the trip. Unfortunately the newly-described Cryptic Forest-Falcon came in singing frustratingly close, but remained hidden from view, as did the Alta Floresta Antpitta. However, we were blessed with stunning Snow-capped and Flame-crested manakin shows, close Blue-cheeked and Great jacamars, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, and we even had a confiding Amazonian Royal Flycatcher by its nest. The mammal show was wonderful with excellent studies of Brazilian Tapir along the river and several sightings of the endangered endemic White-whiskered Spider Monkeys and Black Spider Monkey in Alta Floresta. For me the most magical moment of the trip was finding that amazing fruiting tree along the Serra trail which was brimming with colorful tanagers and cotingas allowing great repeated scope looks.

Flame-crested Manakin

Flame-crested Manakin— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Relaxed afternoon boat trips on the calm, insect-free Cristalino River were as always a high point of the day—quietly drifting down the black waters which mirrored either the lush, tall tropical forest or the blue sky with often huge, towering, cotton-like cumulus clouds. Rewards were many with Razor-billed and Bare-faced curassows coming down to drink, an amazingly responsive Gould’s Toucanet, Red-throated Piping-Guan, Brown-banded Puffbird, endemic Glossy Antshrike, exquisite Capped Herons, several amazingly confiding Sunbitterns, and a lone adult Boat-billed Heron in the daytime!

The enchanting gardens produced Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, with much in flower despite the lack of rain in months. Here we were treated to a wonderful endemic Eastern Striolated Puffbird and amazing clouds of colorful butterflies that graced our beaches, bringing us every color in the rainbow!

All in all a wonderful group of birders enjoyed an unforgettable Amazonian experience. I cannot wait to return to this Amazonian paradise next year!