Day 1. Arrival in Brasilia
Our Central Brazil birding tour starts in Brasilia after a flight from Sao Paulo (or from Rio de Janeiro). Brasilia is the capital of Brazil, and is well worth a city tour. Night in Brasilia
Day 2. Transfer to Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park
We leave early this morning, and travel to Chapada dos Veadeiros NP, around 3 hours’ drive from Brasilia. Chapada dos Veadeiros NP is cerrado habitat with expansive areas of rocky hills and escarpments, grassy plains, and deciduous and dry riverine forest, a very different habitat than at Carajas. The park is famous for its steep cliffs, high waterfalls, and big skies, and its 650 square kilometers encompass many different varieties of cerrado habitat.
A casual walk along trails will yield our first cerrado species, perhaps including Undulated Tinamou, Henna-capped Foliage-Gleaner, Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Helmeted Manakin, and Planalto Hermit, and we may encounter a mixed flock containing several interesting species such as Orange-headed Tanager, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Green-winged Saltator. Around our lodge we might find Chestnut-eared Aracari, Purple-throated Euphonia, and Yellow-chevroned and Peach-fronted Parakeets, especially if there are fruiting trees nearby. Night near the national park.
Days 3 and 4. Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park
We spend these two days exploring the many different habitats in and around this fabulous park. The list of potential goodies is long and varied, from Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Yellow-faced Parrot and Black-fronted Nunbird to Toco Toucan, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Plain Antvireo, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Ochre-lored Flatbill, Southern Antpipit, Bran-colored Flycatcher, White-rumped Monjita, Black-tailed Tityra, White-bellied and Flavescent Warblers, Blue Dacnis, Swallow Tanager, Black-throated Saltator, and Crested Oropendola. We will pay particular attention to cerrado specialties such as Shrike-like Tanager, Coal-crested Finch, Black-masked Finch and Sharp-tailed Grass-Tyrant, and with luck we could find Blue Finch and Horned Sunbeam, a stunning hummingbird and a species for which the park is famous. Other hummingbirds include Turquoise-fronted Amazon, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, White-vented Violetear, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, and Amethyst Woodstar. Deciduous forests support Saffron-billed Sparrow, Hooded Tanager and Black-capped Antwren, and we will look for the endemic Chapada Suiriri, distinguishable from the more common Campo Suiriri mostly by its call and display.
Other cerrado habitat is home to Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Black-capped Antshrike, Highland Elaenia, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Gray Monjita, Curl-crested Jay, White-rumped and Green-winged Tanagers and Plumbeous Seedeater. Finally, open grasslands support Red-legged Seriema, Greater Rhea, Spotted Nothura, Buff-necked Ibis, Campo Flicker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Grassland Sparrow, and Wedge-tailed Grassfinch.
The region is known for being one of the last strongholds of the critically endangered Brazilian Merganser, and we will visit one of the complexes of waterfalls, such as Cataratas do Rio dos Couros, to look for this enigmatic bird. Nights near the national park.
Day 5. Transfer to Carajas
This morning we drive back to Brasilia and take an in-country flight to our next destination, Carajás, We will spend most of our time in the Carajás National Forest, located in the Southeast portion of the state of Pará, in southern Amazonia and a conservation area of 411 thousand hectares. It lies within the Floresta Nacional de Carajás, between the Xingú and Tocantins rivers in the Serra dos Carajás which rises abruptly out of the lowlands. Carajás is hilly and there are several escarpments where one has fine views over the canopy. The Vale do Rio Doce Company holds a mining concession in the area. There are four large mines for iron, manganese, copper and gold. The iron ore deposits are the largest in the world and so pure (66%) that your compass will not work near them. Due largely to the mining project, there are hundreds of miles of lightly traveled good roads inside pristine forest which allow easy access to good birding sites.
Carajás is a superb birding destination, harboring some very special and little known birds. Once past the iron mine one enters a huge tract of terra firme forest. We will stay at a comfortable hotel located in the small company town (known as the Núcleo Urbano, or Urban Center) which was set up in the middle of the large forest reserve to support the mining operations. The better birding sites are a distance away from the hotel, so all our breakfasts will be very early, and we will have, as necessary, breakfasts and lunches in the field.
The habitats that we intend to visit in the National Forest include extensive old-growth forest in hilly terrain, riparian forest, small patches of marshy Moriche (Buriti) Palm forest, and Canga, brushy terrain found on those of the hill tops that have an iron content in the soil that is too high to permit forest growth. We will also bird several patches of forest within the confines of Carajás City itself. The city prohibits its citizens from owning cats or dogs, thereby decreasing predation on birds, and the birds are accustomed to people, so species like Marbled Wood-Quail, White-browed Guan, and Bare-faced Curassow are relatively easy to find. Night in Parauapebas.
Days 6 to 9. Carajas
Our days here will be varied, for the Carajás region harbors numerous habitats. We will visit lowland várzea forest along the Rio Parauapebas, sandy-soil ridge-top forest, savanna-like canga brushlands, and lowland terra firme forest. Our final tally of species will be very impressive. We will look for the spectacular Black-chested Tyrant, an exquisite flycatcher, the very smart Black-bellied Gnateater, Blackish Pewee – a scarce species anywhere, Hyacinth Macaw – perhaps the most spectacular of a spectacular group, Peruvian Recurvebill, and Harpy Eagle – a superb raptor. The list seems endless - White-crested and Rusty-margined Guans, Pearly Parakeet, White-tailed Cotinga, Opal-crowned and Fiery-capped Manakins, and an impressive array of woodcreepers and scythebills, antbirds plus Wing-banded, foliage-gleaners and palmcreepers, flycatchers, tanagers – including Red-billed Pied-Tanager, parrots including Vulturine and Red-fan, nightjars including Scissor-tailed, and hummingbirds including the curious Fiery-tailed Awlbill. The goodies should keep on coming - Rufous-capped Nunlet, Blue-cheeked Jacamar, Gould’s Toucanet, Red-necked Aracari, Sharpbill, and Guianan Gnatcatcher. Cotingids could include White Bellbird, White-browed Purpletuft, and White–tailed, Spangled and Purple-breasted Cotingas, and scarce raptors may include Cryptic Forest-Falcon and Gray-bellied Goshawk.
We will be on the lookout for Strong-billed Woodcreeper (considered by some ornithologists as a separate species, Carajás Woodcreeper), Brazilian Tinamou, Razor-billed Curassow, Common Piping-Guan, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Pavonine Cuckoo, Silky-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-necked and Collared Puffbirds, Pará Foliage-gleaner, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, and Black-and-white and Snethlage's Tody-Tyrants. Mammals can be equally exciting, and we will keep our eyes open for Jaguars, and several species of primates including the Red-handed Howler Monkey, still present in the large forest reserve.
Day 10. Transfer to Brasilia
We may have time to track down species we may have missed up to now, before boarding our plane and flying to Brasilia, arriving early evening. Night in Brasilia.
Day 11. Departure
Our Central Brazil birding tour ends today as we catch flights home after an amazing adventure to two seldom visited and very rich areas of this incredible country.