Serro do Cantareira can be seen to the north of Sao Paulo during the journey into town from the airport. The ridge of forested hills has been protected and designated as a State Reserve. My issue today was that it is only open to the public on weekends and public holidays, so this morning, Sunday, was my only opportunity to visit and I had to get changed and go straight from the flight. It was already 10.00 by the time I reached the entrance gate and the forest was disappointingly quiet.
A main road leads from the gate to the two main focus points of the park; Pedra Grande and Lago das Carpas. To walk to Carp Lake and back, taking in the view from The Big Stone is about 9kms through wonderful forest scenery, but as the park’s opening times are restrictive, the roads can sometimes be quite busy. The public are allowed into the forest on foot and the only motorised traffic is from the park administration.
I was struggling to find birds and the only one that I had seen well so far did not appear in my field guide. Even after returning home and consulting heavier, less portable tomes, it still remains a mystery despite half a dozen good sightings during the day.
As is so often the case while forest birding, long periods of nothing are dotted with sudden moments of frenzied activity. It was nearing midday when a party of foliage-gleaners and woodcreepers sent me into an identification tizzy; so many browns and buffs, chestnut, russet and rust. There were a couple of familiar faces, but more to the point, an astonishing 4 red-letter birds came from this first wave of the day. White-collared Foilage-gleaner and Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner stood out with easily recogniseable features and a White-barred Piculet and a couple of Spot-backed Antvireo broke up the monopoly of browns. Photographs were impossible in the circumstances. The forest was gloomy, the birds were moving quickly and I was trying to pick out salient features to identify them while juggling the field guide. Trying to use the camera would have been a thankless task. Note to self; a working familiarity with spinetails, woodcreepers, xenops, foliage-gleaners etc., would be useful before stepping into the forest.
Close to the first turn-off for Pedra Grande a flock of Brassy-breasted Tanagers were seen high in a tree. A couple stopped to enjoy them with me and as we chatted, a Surucua Trogon flew in above us. It was horribly silhouetted high in the tree, but was restless and kept moving around until it found a large grub and sat still for long enough to get the camera on him.
Strangely, the forest began to give up its birds during the early afternoon. Shorter days in the southern hemisphere bring cooler temperatures and perhaps the insects are slow to move in these conditions. In just a shirt, I had felt slightly cold in the forest’s shade during this May day and perhaps the birds felt the same sluggish chill and took a while to get going.
A few parties were feeding now that the sun had passed its height and a large Spot-backed Antshrike featured in one group along the road.
I turned left onto the Pedra Grande loop and found that this is the route less travelled. Most people pass this turn and go on to the next junction before joining the loop. Then, having taken their view of the city, return the same way. This leaves the bottom part of the loop with much less traffic. The birding here was more productive and I put this down to less disturbance. Golden-crowned Warbler, Rufous-crowned Geenlet, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and Masked Yellow-throat were seen along here in small parties as well as more Brassy-breasted Tanagers and the ubiquitous Black Vulture which is a constant presence in the skies above.
I stopped for a while on the Big Stone lookout (Google Earth ref; 23 26 11.13S 46 38 7.18W) and warmed myself in the sun. A Squirrel Cuckoo flashed past as I flicked through my field guide, trying to get to grips with some of the brown birds that I had seen along the way. The view back over Sao Paulo is very impressive and Pedra Grande also offers a good opportunity to scan the canopy of the lower slopes, but nothing was moving in the treetops as I watched.
I had tried to get a shot of the astonishingly coloured Brassy-breasted Tanager earlier and had nearly succeeded, but the light was so poor that this was the best attempt. Taken just beyond the viewpoint where a bit of light filters through, I still had to bump the ISO up to 1250 and open the aperture as far as it would go to get it at 1/10th sec. handheld.
I did not make it to Lago do Carpas. By the time I had completed the loop around the stone, I would not have had sufficient time to get there and back by 17.00 when the gates are closed, so I took my time to mosey back down the hill noting Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, more Olivaceous Woodcreepers and some Spot-winged Wood-Quail. I was stopped by a sustained, harsh “ch-ch-ch” alarm which I stopped to investigate. It proved to be my sixth life bird of the day in the form of a pair of Star-throated Antwrens.
Close to the entrance are some trails leading from the main road into the forest. If you wish to maximise your time in the forest without being late for closing time at the gate, these trails make for a useful diversion at the end of the day. The park illustration shown below is not to scale, but is a better representation than given on Google Earth which has incorrectly shown the route of the main road.
Figueros Trail is quite long and may take an hour or so. Bugio is only a few hundred meters and loops back onto the road. Bica starts and finishes immediately inside the gate. To time your departure to the second, it is also possible to waste a few final minutes checking the forest edge at the small clearing inside the gate. On my first visit to Cantareira, I found 12 species here whilst waiting for my guide to show up.
Bird list for Cantareira;
Spot-winged Wood-Quail 4, Black Vulture 8, Squirrel Cuckoo 1, Surucua Trogon 1, White-barred Piculet 1, Rufous-capped Spinetail 1, Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner 1, White-collared Foliage-gleaner 1, Olivaceous Woodcreeper 6, Planalto Woodcreeper 1, Lesser Woodcreeper 1, Spot-backed Antshrike 2, Spot-breasted Antvireo 2, Star-throated Antwren 2, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow 1, Rufous-crowned Greenlet 3, Rufous-bellied Thrush 3, Masked Yellow-throat 2, Golden-crowned Warbler 4, Bananaquit 1, Green-headed Tanager 3, Brassy-breasted Tanager 25, Blue-Dacnis 2, Red-crowned Ant-tanager 2, Violaceous Euphonia 1, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia 1.
Cantareira Nucleo Pedra Grande can be found in the hills to the north of Sao Paulo. Actually it is a mountain by virtue of reacing 1010m at the big stone.
Public visitors are usually only allowed entry from 08.00 until 17.00 at weekends and private vehicles are not allowed. The entry fee of 9 Reas is paid at the gate.
To walk to Lago das Carpas and complete the return by way of Pedra Grande on the mostly paved road is a distance of 9.5kms.
It may be possible to gain special entry to the park outside of the normal public hours with a park employee/guide. Previously I have been able to visit the park at 06.00 on a weekday, but Diego, my guide on this occasion, has moved on to a different section. He has sent me a link to his friend and colleague who may be able guide you at a time more conducive to birding.
Contact Daniel at;
Mobile phone; 011985962043
Take the Metro to Tucuruvi. Take a taxi from here and show the following address to the driver to make sure that you are going to the right place;
Rua do Horto, 1799 – Tremembe – Parque Estudial da Cantareira – Nucleo Perda Grande.
From the small open area in front of Alberto Lofgren Park, keep right and continue to the top of Rua do Horto where you will see the park gates at Google Earth ref; 23 27 17.41S 46 38 8.27W.
On return, it may not be possible to find a cab, so make your way back down the hill to the small open area in front of Alberto Lofgren Park. Here you will find a stop for bus number 2470 which returns to its terminal at Metro Station - Parada Inglesa for 3 Reas.
If your only time in Sao Paulo does not coincide with a weekend, Alberto Lofgren Park, (Google Earth ref; 23 27 31.90S 46 38 2.52W ) is adjacent to Cantareira and a small area of forest and forest edge is accessible through the large wrought iron gates in the small square at the bottom of the hill.