To Brazil for the Birds!

Brazil

“So how big is Brazil?”, someone asked me.  I had also wondered when I decided to venture there.  Having been to several Central and South American countries and I knew it was bigger than any of them but I didn’t know how much.  I wondered if it was as big as Texas.  Big surprise!   It’s a little bigger than the ENTIRE CONTIGUOUS 48 STATES COMBINED.  Over 900 miles of coast; almost 210 million people; 8th largest economy in the world; and it’s hard to find anyone who speaks English!  But my interests lay elsewhere than the human altered areas (and there is a lot).  My interest was in the birds of the Amazon and Atlantic forests and the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world.  Birds, birds, birds!  And a lot of other things too.  So, I signed on with a group of bird watchers on a tour run by Jim and Cindy Beckman (Cheepers Birding) and traveled for 36 hours via United Airlines to Sao Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere (and 12th in the world) where we began our tour.

As I ended up with good images of over 110 species (and a lot of bad ones of many more as I shot almost 10,000 frames , I’ll have to do this blog in 2 parts to let you have time to rest your eyes.  Thus, it will begin with the Atlantic and Amazon forests and then on to the Pantanal.

Atlantic and Amazon Forests

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Initially we traveled on freeways equivalent to those in the USA; then onto local roads where the government has significantly reduced urban and sub-urban traffic deaths by requiring speed bumps between 100 and 400 meters apart (you just never know until you see the sign).  The max here is 40 km (25 mph) and you basically come to a stop over the bumps.  Therefore, it’s very slow going.

Speed Bump 1

Of course, no trip is complete without a few misfortunes and we had one or two.

Tire Repair 2

Tire Repair

Blown Tire

 We began at the Ype Lodge in Itatiaia National Park where there were a large variety of forest birds and mammals.  The lodge maintains several fruit and nectar feeders that attract a variety of birds.

Hotel Ype

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Some of the species I was able to photograph at the lodge and vicinity included:

Green-headed TanagerGreen-headed Tanager 3

Brazilian Tanager

Brazilian Tanager 1

Red-necked Tanager

Red-necked Tanager 3

Olive-green Tanager

Olive-green Tanager 1

Magpie Tanager

Magpie Tanager 1

Golden-chevroned TanagerGolden-chevroned Tanager 3

Maroon-bellied Parakeet

Maroon-bellied Parakeet 7

Saffron Finch

Saffron Finch 2

Chestnut-bellied Euphonia

Chestnut-bellied Euphonia 3

Blue Dacnis

Blue Dacnis 1

Red-breasted Toucan                                                                     

Red-beasted Toucan 4 copy

Brazilian Ruby

Brazilian Ruby 1

Gray-necked Woodrail

Gray-necked Woodrail 2

Red-rumped Cacique                                                                     

Red-rumped Cicque 2

Golden-winged Cacique

Golden-winged Cacique 3

Chestnut-collared Sparrow

Chestnut-collared Sparrow 1

Tufted Capuchins

Tufted Capuchin 7

Tufted Capuchin 2

After 3 days we traveled to the coastal city of Ubatuba that reminded me of the Southern California beach cities where I grew up; lots of surf board and dive shops and many bars, restaurants and tourist lodges along a beautiful beach.  (But it was weird as THE SUN ROSE OUT OF THE OCEAN!!!!)

Ubatuba, Brazil

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Following our time in these  coastal areas  we returned to Sao Paulo and boarded a plane for Cuiaba, capital city of the state of Mato Grosso and considered the geographical center of South America.  From there we headed north to the edge of the Amazon rain forest.

Our first lodge was the adjacent to Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park.  But the weather turned rainy and cold so we had limited success there.  We did go to Veu de Noiva waterfall, the face on which red and green macaws roost but none came close enough for images.

Veu de Noiva Waterfall

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But, there were a few cooperative birds around,  such as:

Orange-winged Parrot                                                           

Red-shouldered Macaw 6

Peach-faced Parakeet

Peach-faced Parakeet 2             

Ruddy Ground Dove

Ruddy Ground Dove 1

Blue and Yellow Macaw                                               

Yellow and Blue Macaws 4

White Woodpecker

White Woodpecker 2

Rufous-bellied Thrush

Rufous-bellied Thrush 2

On to Gardens of the Amazon, a lodge on the Rio Claro River.  I spent my time on the lodge grounds while the birders went up the river in a boat.

Gardens of the Amazon

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Birds I found included:

Rusty-margined Flycatcher

Rusty-margined Flycatcher 1

Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher 1

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck 1

And then it was on to what had drawn me to Brazil,  the Pantenal!  That’ll be chapter 2 in a few more weeks.

Quality of Life and America’s Flawed Value System

“Quality of life is subjective and multidimensional, encompassing positive and negative features of life. It’s a dynamic condition that responds to life events.” (Forbes Magazine). Yet we as Americans have been conditioned by our capitalistic principles that quality of life is primarily defined by economic factors, factors that affect our pocketbooks personally for the present.  In our current mind-set, if we can only afford one automobile, quality of life sucks; if we can afford two, it’s a bit better; two, plus a boat is good and add an RV and a 3,500 square foot home in the suburbs and it’s great.  Then if we can retire at age 50 and ride around in our RV on cheap gas, go on cruises, and buy everything on credit…well, that’s how it should be.

While both political factions in our country follow this philosophy, the conservative bent basically (or at least, currently) ignores the existence of any other contributing factors while those of the liberal bent just whine.  That is until disaster strikes; a hurricane, flood, epidemic, cancer, etc., then the big RV doesn’t matter that much and the question is “why wasn’t this prevented?”  But, until that time we cast our votes primarily based on a single issue, “Does it mean more money in my pocket for the immediate future?”  Effects of a degraded infrastructure, health and safety concerns, increases in pollution levels are afterthoughts…things to deal with when we have all the bells and whistles commerce advertises we must have to be happy in the steady stream of commercials on our 72 inch television screens.

I wonder about my current quality of life.  Sitting here in my dark living room with the air conditioner on full throttle because the temperature is 105 outside and has been that way for over a month (one day the thermometer hit 115) does not please me.  Will I again be able to sit out on my deck and enjoy my evening glass of wine as I did much of the summer 15 years ago when I moved here?  When…in November?  Does my future now fear the summer months rather than looking forward to them?  Do I fear driving across the highway bridges or have to wonder if the dam above my home will collapse and wash it away?  How about the effects on my aging lungs from breathing the smoke from wildfires regularly blocking out the view of the valley?  Do I really have the same quality of life I enjoyed as a child?  I certainly have more “stuff” but in actuality maybe there’s more than dollars to quality of life, at least for some of us.