This exciting two base birding holiday stays in two of the best bird lodges in the Atlantic Forest; the Eco-Lodge Itororó and REGUA Bird lodge, both within 3 hours drive of Rio de Janeiro. We spend five nights at each of these fabulous and very comfortable lodges both with great birding from the garden and perfect for a non-birding partner to relax.
Both lodges are located at different altitudes and therefore attract different species and are well placed for many of the speciality birds. Birding really does start on the doorstep with first class bird feeders in the grounds of both lodges and a bird rich wetland with hides, visible from the Lodge grounds at REGUA. The Itororo lodge is located within the 58,790ha Tres Picos State Park and is tucked away in its own private valley of 50 acres at an altitude of 1,150m. Surrounded by forest, the lodge sits in a quiet location and has its own trail network, providing great opportunities to see many species within a short distance from the lodge. In the 50 acre grounds of the lodge over 170 species have been recorded, of which 60+ are Atlantic forest endemics! REGUA Bird Lodge is beautifully situated on a small hill at the edge of the restored wetlands, overlooking the forested Serra dos Órgãos mountains ranging from 30M – 2,000M in altitude and is well known as a place to see many treasured bird species including three species in particular, usually very difficult to find elsewhere. The Shrike-like Cotinga, Russet-winged Spadebill and Giant Snipe, can all be found within walking distance of the lodge! During our stay at both of the lodges, we will make a number of day trips to search for all the specialities.
Transfer from Rio to Eco-Lodge Itororó
After meeting at the airport we shall travel by minibus for just under 3 hours to the the Eco-Lodge Itororó. On our route we are likely to see our first birds from the minibus window as we travel North-East along the edge of Guanabara Bay. Magnificent Frigatebirds and Black Vultures are numerous as they circle above the bay. Dependent on traffic, we may be able to stop briefly and scan the bay to find Neotropic Cormorant, Kelp Gull, Brown-hooded Gull and maybe a Little Blue Heron. We shall continue out of the city taking in the views of Sugar Loaf Mountain and before too long we shall soon be heading towards mountain peaks and beautiful forest and arrive at the fantastic lodge, our home for the next 5 nights. The rest of the day will be spent birding the grounds of the lodge, some of the species we hope to see include the following: Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Plain Parakeet, Scaly-headed Parrot, Saw-billed Hermit, Sombre Hummingbird, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Black Jacobin, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Surucua Trogon, Spot-billed Toucanet, Channel-billed Toucan, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Streaked Xenops, Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Thrush-Like Woodcreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Spot-Backed Antshrike, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Plain Antvireo, Star-throated Antwren, Ferruginous Antbird, Streak-capped Antwren, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Blue Manakin, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-lored Tody Flycatcher White-throated Spadebill, Gray-hooded Attila, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Rufous-headed, Flame-crested, Ruby-crowned, Brazilian, Golden-chevroned, Green-headed, Red necked and Burnished-buff Tanagers, Violaceous, Orange-bellied and Chestnut-bellied Euphonias, Buff-throated Saltator and Black-throated Grosbeak.
High Altitude Excursion full day
Pico da Caledonia is one of the highest peaks in the Serra dos Orgãos mountains reaching 2,219 m above sea level. On a clear day the views from the top are truly spectacular. The montane forest here is one of only two known sites (and by far the most accessible and reliable) where the extremely rare and elusive Grey-winged Cotinga may be found. This site is also known for its isolated population of Itatiaia Thistletail as well as other high altitude species. Dependent on the visibility, we plan to visit the higher section of this stunning trail first where we hope to catch up with key species such as Large-tailed Antshrike, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Bay-chested Warbling Finch, the stunning Diademed and Brassy-breasted Tanagers and the wonderful Plovercrest.
Later in the day we shall drop a little in altitude where we shall enjoy some excellent birding along another wide trail. There are many more specialities to be found at this altitude picking up some of the commoner species that we may not yet have connected with but focussing on three key species in particular, the shy and nervous Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin, Dusky-tailed Antbird and what to many may be a highlight of the trip the fantastically colourful and highly distinctive Swallow-tailed Cotinga. Of course there will be plenty more possibilities here with birds such as Black-and-Gold Cotinga with its strange call like a badly re-tuning radio(!), the highly distinctive Black-billed Scythebill, the tiny Rufous Gnateater and the shy White-rimmed Warbler. Other species we hope to find include: White-tailed Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Plumbeous Pigeon, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, White Woodpecker, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Red-eyed Thornbird, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Black-billed Scythebill, Giant Antshrike, Large-tailed Antshrike, Variable Antshrike Rufous-capped Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Dusky-tailed Antbird, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Mouse-colored Tapaculo, the rare and endemic Serra do Mar Tyrant Manakin, Olivaceous Elaenia, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Blue-billed Black-Tyrant, Velvety Black-Tyrant, Shear-tailed Gray-Tyrant, Yellow-legged Thrush, White-rimmed Warbler, Cinamon Tanager, Chestnut-headed Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Diademed Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Bay-chested Warbling Finch, Green-winged and Thick-billed Saltator.
Sumidouro and Three-toed Jacamar
Today is an exciting day, as we head off on an all day excursion through some very different habitat. We shall be birding in the remaining degraded remnant patches of Atlantic dry forest on the other side of the Serra dos Órgãos mountains, the stronghold of the endangered Three-toed Jacamar, a species at one time considered common, but now only found in a few locations and listed as Vulnerable by BirdLife International. We have an excellent chance of seeing this and many other species on this full day trip. It shall be a long day in the vehicle but well worth it for the number of new species that we hope to encounter. Most of the birding will be done at roadside stops. Aside from the true key target of the day, we shall see many many other species! These include: Whistling Heron, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Plumbeous Kite, Savanna Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Aplomado Falcon, Bat Falcon, Red-legged Seriema, Blue-winged Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Striped Cuckoo, Planalto Hermit, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amethyst Woodstar, White-eared Puffbird, Black-necked Aracari, White Woodpecker, Tail-banded Hornero, Red-eyed Thornbird, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Gray and White-rumped Monjita, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-rumped and Tawny-headed Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, Long-billed Wren, Curl-crested Jay, Magpie, Orange-headed, Hooded, Hepatic, Brazilian and Gilt-edged Tanagers and Hooded Siskin.
Full day Eco-Lodge Itororó
Today we shall spend a full day focusing on target species we are missing and enjoying the extensive trails of the lodge and the associated gardens.
Macae de Cima and Theodoro Trails
Today we shall explore two trails, the Macae de Cima trail and the Theodoro Trail. Both these trails are excellent for birding with a good mix of habitats and altitude range. The Theodoro trail is at around 1,100M and gradually descends. It used to be part of the old Cachoeiras to Nova Friburgo railway line and in places the asphal surface still remains. Birds here include: Brown Tinamou, Mantled Hawk, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Scale-throated Hermit, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Black-throated and Surucua Trogon, Spot-billed Toucanet, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, White-browed Foliage Gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage Gleaner, Black-capped Foliage Gleaner, White-eyed Foliage Gleaner, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, White-throated Woodcreeper, Lesser Woodcreeper, Scaled Woodcreeper, Variable Antshrike, Star-throated Antwren, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Brazilian Antthrush, Variegated Antpitta, Bare-throated Bellbird, Blue and Pin-tailed Manakin, Grey-hooded Attila, Greenish Schiffornis and Brassy-breasted Tanager.
The Macae de Cima trail is an area of montane forest reaching an altitude of around 1,400M On this excursion we make several stops at various altitudes, with some time spent at a private reserve at the top of the mountain, known for the work of the late renowned orchid expert David Miller. The forest here offers some of the easiest access to high altitude Atlantic Forest specialties, with most of the birding done from the dirt road. Targets today will be: Black-hooded Berryeater, Black-billed Scythebill, Brazilian Antthrush, White-throated Hummingbird and Scale-throated Hermit. Of course not forgetting the gorgeous Brazilian Ruby and Plovercrest, the tricky to see but fantastic Giant Antshrike, bright and distinctive Black-and-Gold Cotinga and one of the most diagnostic sounds of the Atlantic Forest, the Bare-throated Bellbird.
The Orchid Reserve also has hummingbird feeders that provide excellent photographic opportunities and include many key species: Black Hawk-Eagle, Barred Forest-Falcon, Scale-throated Hermit, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Amethyst Woodstar, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Bertonis, Ochre-rumped and Dusky-tailed Antbirds, Rufous Gnateater, Rufous-tailed (Brazilian) Antthrush, Rufous-capped and Pallid Spinetails, Red-eyed Thornbird, White-browed Foliage-gleaners, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Drab-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, Shear-tailed Grey-Tyrant, Sharpbill, Hooded Berryeater, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Greenish Schiffornis, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Chestnut-headed and Azure-shouldered Tanagers, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch, Green-winged Saltator and White-browed Warbler.
Transfer to REGUA Bird Lodge
After some pre-breakfast birding around the lodge gardens, we shall then take the short transfer of less than an hour to REGUA bird lodge. Once checked into the lodge we shall enjoy a leisurely lunch and relax on the veranda taking in the wonderful Serra dos Órgãos mountain views whilst enjoying hummingbirds such as Violet-capped Woodnymph and Glittering-throated Emerald at the feeders. We shall then take an afternoon walk around the wetland which is a short stroll from the lodge itself. This recently created wetland habitat of 12 hectares is increasing in biodiversity year by year and is already home to many Broad-snouted Caiman and Capybara as well as more elusive animals like the Crab-eating Fox, Ocelot and even Puma! Of course it is also home to numerous birds with over 180 different species having been recorded just around the wetland, and it is not unusual to find over 100 of these in just a short visit. Some of the commoner species around the wetland that we expect to see include: Wing-banded Horneros, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Black-capped Donacobius, White-faced Whisting-Duck, Limpkin, Yellowish Pipit, Red-rumped Cacique, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher, Sooty and Yellow Tyrannulets. Other key species we shall be looking for include Least Grebe, Capped, Cocoi, Rufescent Tiger and Striated Herons, Masked Duck and Lemon-chested Greenlet.
The wetland is also a good place to keep an eye out for raptors with good chances of Grey-headed Kite, Crane Hawk, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Laughing and Aplomado Falcons. We shall try and catch a glimpse of some of the skulking crakes and rails that frequent the wetland and with patience Rufous-sided and Ash-throated Crakes and Blackish Rail can all be seen. Colourful kingfishers are plentiful with Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers regularly seen and if it is colour that you are after, then look no further than the numerous tanagers that we shall hope to see in this area with the truly stunning male Brazilian Tanager as well as Hooded, Flame-crested, Ruby-crowned, Palm, Yellow-backed and Swallow Tanagers all being likely. Purple-throated, Violaceous and Orange-bellied Euphonias will also add to this impressive spectacle of colour! A number of woodpeckers can be found around the wetland too with possibly the most highly prized and impressive species being the aptly named Blond-crested Woodpecker, although both White Woodpecker and Campo Flicker are to be expected too. The number of species continues as we will search for the impressive Channel-billed Toucan that often call from the tree tops in the early evening sunshine and we may also be treated to White-bearded Manakin at one of the nearby leks. Hummingbirds are also a speciality with Rufous-breasted and Reddish Hermits, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird and White-chinned Sapphire all literally buzzing around the area! We may also see: Rufous-capped Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Chestnut-backed and Sooretama Slaty Antshrikes, White-flanked and Unicoloured Antwrens, White-winged Becard, Moustached and Long-billed Wrens and various Seedeaters. In reality, the list of possibilities is endless and it is sure to be a great first day to this exciting lodge.
We shall return to the lodge to enjoy and savour the tropical air and sample the local speciality tipple of lime caipirinhas before enjoying a delicious dinner prepared by the wonderful kitchen staff at the lodge. You may even see the nectar feeding Leaf-nosed bats coming to the hummingbird feeders at dusk and maybe even one of the regular Tawny-browed Owls in the garden!
Full day on the Waterfall Trail
After a hearty breakfast at the lodge, we shall head out for a full day walking on the Waterfall trail, an easy/moderate trail of around 170-1,300M in elevation. This is an excellent trail aprroximately 4.8Km with many avian distractions! The birding possibilities are truly fantastic along this trail and it is not unusual to have an impressive tally within the first few hundred metres! Some of the specialities that we hope to find on this trail are White-necked Hawk, Saw-billed Hermit, the motionless and often difficult to find Buff-bellied Puffbird and Cresent-chested Puffbirds, Scaled Antbird, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Star-throated Antwren,Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, the wonderful Pin-tailed Manakin, Turquoise Tanager and the stunning Black-cheeked Gnateater.
On reaching the waterfall we shall take time to enjoy our picnic lunch and take in the scenery. Our local guide, Adilei, is a truly amazing guide with many skills. He is superb at imitating many bird calls. In particular his Spot-billed Toucanet with its strange croaking call or even a stunning Rufous-capped Antthrush with its diagnostic whistle, can often be lured in to view. We shall keep a close eye out the Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper that is often found feeding at the edges of the waterfall itself and spend some time to look for the very shy and ground-dwelling Slaty Bristlefront. However, perhaps one of the key birds of the day, if we are lucky, will be one of the most wanted of all South American birds, the Shrike-like Cotinga. We shall be on high alert as we listen out for its mournful whistle and appreciate its alternative name of Elegant Mourner.
We shall then return along the trail searching for other species and the possibilities are endless! Surucua and Black-throated Trogons, Rufous-capped Motmot, Channel-billed Toucan, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-eared, Yellow-throated and Blond-crested Woodpeckers, Spot-backed Antshrike, Spot-breasted and Plain Antvireos, Star-throated, White-flanked, Unicoloured and Streak-capped Antwrens, White-shouldered Fire-eye, White-bibbed Antbird, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Slaty Bristlefront, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Rufous-breasted Leaftosser, Plain-winged, White-throated, Planalto and Lesser Woodcreepers, Ochre-breasted, Black-capped, Buff-fronted and White-eyed Foliage-gleaners, Pale-browed Treehunter, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Southern Antpipit, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, White-throated Spadebill, Grey-hooded Attila, Sharpbill, Plain and Streaked Xenops, Ochre-bellied, Grey-hooded and Sepia-capped Flycatchers.
Casa Anibal Trail and surrounding trails
After breakfast we shall set out straight from the lodge to explore another trail at a leisurely pace. This time we visit the Casa Anibal Trail, an easy/Moderate trail of around 2.8Km 60-350M elevation. This starts at the Small Wetland and leads steadily upwards through well established secondary forest to a derelict house (Casa Anibal) at an altitude of 352 m. Key birds we hope to find are: Turquoise Tanager, White-bibbed Antbird, Black Hawk-Eagle, Yellowish Pipit and maybe the biggest prize of all, Eastern Striped Manakin. This beautiful bird sometimes holds a territory on this trail, though has become unpredicatble in recent years. It is a Brazilian and Atlantic Forest endemic recently split from Western Striped Mannakin (Machaeropterus striolatus.)
Other birds include: Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Buff-bellied and Crescent-chested Puffbirds, Channel-billed Toucan, Spot-billed Toucanet, Plain and Streaked Xenops, Ochre-bellied, Grey-hooded and Sepia-capped Flycatchers, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Rough-legged and Planalto Tyrannulets, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Euler’s Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-eared, Yellow-throated and Blond-crested Woodpeckers, Spot-backed Antshrike, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Spot-breasted and Plain Antvireos, Star-throated, White-flanked, Unicoloured, Rufous-winged and Streak-capped Antwrens, Surucua and Black-throated Trogons, Rufous-capped Motmot, Scaled and White-bibbed Antbirds, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Plain-winged, Olivaceous, White-throated and Lesser Woodcreepers, Black-capped, Buff-fronted and White-eyed Foliage-gleaners.
At the end of this trail, we will have lunch before returning to the Lodge by Land Rover. The rest of the afternoon shall be spent relaxing or, for those that wish, a tour of the nursery to learn about the tree planting programme of REGUA. The vast majority of the trees planted have been grown here from local seeds collected in REGUA’s forests by staff and volunteers. The nursery has gradually expanded and can now provide about 20,000 seedlings a year of about 50 species!
In the early evening, for those that wish to, we can take a short walk from the lodge down to the wetland in search of some nocturnal species. REGUA has gained an excellent reputation for its night birding possibilities and rightly so as there are some quality species to be found. Our primary targets will be Giant Snipe, the amazing Scissor-tailed Nightjar and the beautiful Striped and Tawny-browed Owls and possibly Black-banded Owl too! Other possibilities include Tropical Screech-Owl, Barn Owl, Parauque and Common Potoo.
Dependent on the fitness of the group, we shall either venture onto the more adventurous red trail for some higher altitude species; or take an excursion to some of the more recently acquired forest that REGUA are managing for wildlife.
This is a flexible day allowing us to try for any species that are still eluding us, or you can simply decide to just spend a day relaxing in the lodge gardens and maybe take a dip in the pool!
Final Full day at REGUA
This morning there is no need for an early start so after breakfast we will simply enjoy our last views of some of the great birds that we have seen during the week. We will have plenty of time to either have a relaxing day birding around the wetland trails or head to a new area. With a late evening flight we have the whole day to spend birding before a late afternoon departure for our transfer back at Rio de Janeiro airport.