Friday 30 May 2014

Powai Lake, Mumbai, May 2014

Powai Lake was my outing of choice in Mumbai this week. 7kms from the airport, it was the easy option on a trip that has an inconvenient schedule. We didn't get out of the airport until nearly midday which is not a good time to brave the traffic to Borivali  and the heat of India in May is not conducive to long walks. All in all an early evening stroll along the promenade at Powai was the best prospect.

As usual, water birds featured strongly. The Ardea family was particularly well represented with egrets, herons and pond-herons easily seen.

Bronze-winged Jacanas, Purple Gallinules and White-breasted Waterhens picked through the floating weed that had piled up against the near bank.

The sky was filled with Black Kites and House Crows. A few Whiskered Terns were seen towards the west end of the lake.
For the first time in my experience, the peninsular park (Google Earth ref; 19 07 18.25N 72 54 06.58E) was open. It extends for about 100m into the lake and allows a better view and an improved light angle as the sun sets.

I have seen crocodiles in the lake before now and was concerned to see local chaps wading in the water, fishing.

List for Powai Lake;

Lesser Whistling Duck 4, Indian Spot-billed Duck 4, Little Cormorant 15, Grey Heron 1, Purple Heron 6, Great Egret 25, Intermediate Egret 4, Little Egret 30, Indian Pond-heron 8, Black-crowned Night-heron 5, Black Kite 25, White-breasted Waterhen 1, Purple Swamphen 6, Red-wattled Jacana 1, Bronze-winged Jacana 8, Whiskered Tern 8, White-throated Kingfisher 3, House Crow 250, Ashy Prinia 5, Oriental Magpie Robin 1, Common Myna 40, Asian Pied Starling 15, House Sparrow 5.

Visit the dedicated India page for more posts from Mumbai, including Sanjay Ghandi National Park.

Birding, Birdwatching, Mumbai, India.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 2014

It was very pleasing to catch up with the Blonde-crested Woodpecker again in Ibirapuera Park this morning. The park is perfect for an easy stroll when home time comes before lunch time and the common species are reliable and easy to find here.

Most of the birds below can be expected, but the Squirrel Cuckoo and the woodpecker might not show up on every list. The mixed forest at the southern section of the park may prove to be the most likely place to find the woodpecker whereas the lower lobe of the second lake, below the bridge, has been the most successful area for the cuckoo.

Ibirapuera Park is visibly policed with static as well as mobile patrols throughout the site. It is not well served by the metro system, the nearest station being Paraiso. From Paraiso Metro Station, it is 1.6kms southwest on Rua Estella. A taxi from Avenue Paulista costs around R15 (@R3.5 = £1).

For a more descriptive walk round of the park, visit one of the links below which give a better idea of the layout and more detail of the birds and the habitats.

 Bird list for Ibirapuera Park;

White-faced Whistling-Duck 45, Pied-billed Grebe 3, Neotropic Cormorant 80, Great Egret 5, Snowy Egret 15, Striated Heron 5, Black Vulture 25, Common Gallinule 20, Southern Lapwing 8, Picazuro Pigeon 5, Plain Parakeet 8, Squirrel Cuckoo 1, Blond-crested Woodpecker 1, Rufous Hornero 10, Masked Water-tyrant 1, Cattle Tyrant 1, Great Kiskadee 20, Rusty-margined Flycatcher 1, Rufous-browed Peppershrike 1, Blue-and-white Swallow 20, House Wren 1, Rufous-bellied Thrush 35, Creamy-bellied Thrush 2, Chalk-browed Mockingbird 1, Bananaquit 8, Ruby-crowned Tanager 3, Sayaca Tanager 15, Rufous-collared Sparrow 7.

For previous posts from Ibirapuera Park, follow the links below;

Birding, Birdwatching, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Parque Ecologico do Tiete, Sao Paulo, May2014

If you travel from the airport into Sao Paulo, you may well pass the Parque Ecologico do Tiete. From the road it appears to be an unremarkable wasteland from which oozes the stinking Rio Tiete, like a seeping wound. On a hot day, the river is apparent as soon as one steps from the train and the air carries its essence for the duration of a visit. On a cooler day such as this one during May, the river is no less rancid at close quarters, but does not force its unwelcome presence on passers-by. There are poor neighbourhoods close to the park and personal security does prey on my mind during a visit to PE Tiete. I would like to take a scope, but would feel a little indiscreet, carrying big optics and a tripod.

Having painted a less than perfect picture of the reserve, I must acknowledge its status as one of Sao Paulo’s prime bird-watching sites. The birding is easy and varied and the site is relatively secure with security presence on the gate and regular patrols. After 3 visits, I have not had, nor witnessed or heard tell of, any unpleasantness. Indeed, most of the Paulistas that crossed my path smiled and wished me a jolly “Bom dia”.
The first birds seen this morning were the Southern Caracaras in the children’s playground to the left of the gate. They have been noted in the playground during each of my previous visits. This time three adults were tending to an immature bird. Do Caracaras indulge in cooperative family behaviour?

I continued on to the picnic area on the lakeside which usually proves to be a hotspot for mammals as well as birds. The Coatis were there and a Capybara was seen on the far bank. The forest edge here is usually very productive, but there was not much to see today.

Rufous-bellied Thrushes were joined by Pale-breasted Thrushes and Masked Water-tyrants chased insects on the short grass. By the water’s edge I flushed an Amazon Kingfisher, but a Striated Heron stayed absolutely still, hoping that I had'nt seen it.

From here, I returned to the road and started an anticlockwise walk around the reserve. I make this mistake each time. In order not to walk back on myself, I continue on, forgetting that I am about to turn back into the sun. By returning to the gate and making a clockwise journey, I will have a better position in relation to the sun for more of the day.

The marsh areas along the river were quite busy, but the species count was fairly low. White-cheeked Pintail, Brazilian Teal, Limpkin and Wattled Jacana appeared in good numbers, but the birds which are usually easy to find were less common. Rufous Hornero and Bananaquit for example eluded me until after midday.

Yellow-chinned Spinetails called with a descending rattle through the day all along the path and a Spix’s Spinetail sat up for my best look at this species. I was particularly pleased to hear it call and see the full cap and the dark mark on its neck to help confirm this identification which has always felt a bit stringy up ‘til now.

I followed a Capybara track down to the river and found a Solitary Sandpiper there. As usual there were plenty of Common Gallinules, but not much else apart from a few Greater Kiskadees flying over.
A few flycatchers were sent to tease me. 

One I am taking as a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet and another satisfied the criteria for Bran-colored Flycatcher. A third shall, forevermore, remain nameless.

The last stretch back to the gate brought an identification challenge that shouldn’t have taxed me so. A warbler-like bird flicked through the trees and I was able to get a record shot for reference. It did not appear in my field guide however and I felt aggrieved to have missed a warbler when I was supposed to be in New York this week soaking up the passing migration. After much flicking through books on my return, I found it to be the female Chestnut-vented Conebill. I should have considered this, having just seen the male on the other side of the path and remarking on his warbler-like look and behaviour.

The final section also brought Orange-headed Tanager, Sapphire-spangled Emerald and plenty of Bananaquits in the banks of Hibiscus.

Bird list for Parque Ecologico do Tiete; 56

White-faced Whistling Duck 4, Brazilian Teal 30, White-cheeked Pintail 30, Pied-billed Grebe 8, Neotropic Cormorant 30, Anhinga 2, Cocoi Heron1, Great Egret 6, Snowy Egret 14, Striated Heron 2, Black-crowned Night-Heron 2, Black Vulture 150, Sharp-shinned Hawk 1, Roadside Hawk 1, Southern Caracara 8, Common Gallinule 60, Limpkin 7, Southern Lapwing 20, Wattled Jacana 8, Solitary Sandpiper 1, Picazuro Pigeon 1, Ruddy Ground-dove 22, Blue-winged Parrotlet 1, Plain Parakeet 2, Squirrel Cuckoo 1, Guira Cuckoo 6, Smooth-billed Ani 15, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird 5, Sapphire-spangled Emerald 1, Amazon Kingfisher 4, Campo Flicker 3, Rufous Hornero 3, Spix’s Spinetail 2, Yellow-chinned Spinetail 12, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet 1, Bran-colored Flycatcher 1, Vermillion Flycatcher 2, Masked Water-tyrant 15, White-headed Marsh Tyrant 1, Great Kiskadee 6, Social Flycatcher 2, Blue-and-white Swallow 150, Pale-breasted Thrush 4, Rufous-breasted Thrush 8, Masked Yellowthroat 1, White-browed Warbler 1, Bananaquit 15, Orange-headed Tanager 3, Chestnut-vented Conebill 2, Sayaca Tanager 8, Palm Tanager 3, Fawn-breasted Tanager 3, Red-crested Cardinal 5, Rufous-collared Sparrow 5, House Sparrow 12, Common Waxbill 8.

Please be aware of the poverty that exists close to this site. Violent robbery is not uncommon in Sao Paulo and it would be wise to make personal security a prime consideration when visiting Parque Ecologico Do Tiete and at any time on public transport. A taxi would be safer, but there is no taxi rank close to the parque. A pick up for return must be arranged in advance.
It is possible to get back to the city by train from Eng Goulart station nearby. This is for information only in case of emergency only or taxi failing to show.

From the security gate at the parque, pass through the tunnel under the main road and turn right. Turn left after 400m. After 100m pass through the tunnel under the tracks. Turn left and the station, Eng Goulart, is 300m. There is not a taxi rank here. The line runs into the city and terminates at Bras Metro Station.

For previous posts from PE Tiete, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated Central and South America Page for more posts from Sao Paulo, including; Jardim Botanico, Cantereira and Ibirapuera Park.
Birding, Birdwatching, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Thursday 22 May 2014

Parque Estudial Cantereira - Nuleo Pedra Grande, Sao Paulo, May 2014.

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. 

Friday 16 May 2014

Brazil 2014. Birds and football

With just a month to go until Copa do Mundo, Brazil 2014, I was surprised not to see more of a football frenzy in Sao Paulo. The opening game is due to be held here on 12th June with the host nation taking on the Croatians. Our own Premiership race was concluded today and so in the lull between the end of the English season and the start of the World Cup I took myself off to look at some Brazilian birds. There is a Brazilian Tanager which wears a red and black strip, but perhaps, just for the summer, this Brassy-breasted Tanager in its Gold, Green and blue colours should be adopted as the representative bird of Brazil?

Cantareira is a protected forest to the north of the city. It was a slow start, but built gradually to a high point with a Surucua Trogon and a handful of lifers.

Parque Ecologico do Tiete is an area of lakes and marsh flooded by overflow from the revolting Tiete River. Again, a slow start built towards a strong finish with a final tally of 60 birds and some very inquisitive Coatis.

Ibirapuera Park was as reliable as ever with a good crop of common species and a great look at a Blonde-crested Woodpecker.

There should be 3 posts from this visit and I will link to them once I get them published. In the meantime, if you need information straight away, follow the links in the text above. 

You could also visit the dedicated Central and South America page which will holds all the previous posts from other sites around Sao Paulo and Brazil.