Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pantanal Day 11 - Barranco Alto and Home

The last two days had been pretty mild temperature wise, but today the high clouds were nowhere to be seen so our two day respite from the heat was over.

This morning our activity consisted of a walk and a boat ride.  Both were great because not only did we get to stretch our legs some more, but trips in the river were so relaxing.  Both provided ample wildlife viewing opportunities.

Male Scaled Dove displaying for the ladies...
Scaled Dove Attracting The Ladies

Streaked Flycatcher:
Streaked Flycatcher

Sayaca Tanager:
Sayaca Tanager

As we were walking along the trail, Karen said that she saw movement in a dead tree.  Stefan whipped out his binoculars and soon we heard "Guys, we have a Screech Owl".  And, so we did. At first, only an ear was popping out but soon the whole head came out:

Tropical Screech Owl

We spent a bit of time with the Tropical Screech Owl who we dubbed "Screechy" for some unknown reason.  Since we knew that we would pass it again on our way back, and the light would probably be better, we moved on. 

White-faced Whistling Ducks:
 White-faced Whistling Ducks

Roseate Spoonbill Flyover:
Roseate Spoonbill in Flight

Reflecting on a one-armed Caiman:
Reflecting Caiman

Caiman Quartet.  While their mouths were open, I heard no barbershop tunes out of this quartet:
Caiman Quartet

When we went past the dead tree on our way back, the light was better and "Screechy" was out in the open:
Tropical Screech Owl

For the boat ride portion of our activity we went up a different portion of the river to a path that led into the jungle.  There was lots going on along that path.

Plush-crested Jay:
 Plush-crested Jay

Squirrel Cuckoo:
Squirrel Cuckoo

The path took us to a lake that had a few water fowl around but that was about it.  On the way back to the boat we had some great White-lipped Peccary encounters.  But, instead of taking pictures I took video which I have shared at the end of this post.  It was great to record the teeth snapping sound they make since it's so loud.

Our afternoon activity was a game drive.  It would be our last change to see a Giant Anteater.  This time we took the big Toyota truck and Claudia, another of the great Barranco Alto guides, drove.  This allowed Stefan to sit out in back with us and concentrate on spotting.  Boy, he is a good spotter.

At one point, he had Claudia back up because he thought he saw something.  Sure enough, it was a Great Potoo.  I don't know how he saw this between the leaves as we drove past.  I could barely get a clear picture of it when we were stopped:

Great Potoo

We also drove past a Red-legged Seriema that was calling to its mate.  That's also in the below video.

We rode through dense jungle and then would appear into beautiful open fields some of which had lakes.  This was perfect Giant Anteater habitat but it was not to be again.  At one point, we rounded a curve and Stefan exclaimed "Guys, a Tapir".  Sure enough, another daytime Tapir.  This one held just about perfectly still as Claudia cut the engine and we enjoyed the view:
Brazilian Tapir

We watched the Tapir for maybe 15 minutes and all the while it really didn't move.  Maybe it thought it's huge butt and weird elongated nose were perfect camouflage.  It wasn't.  After we had our fill, Claudia started the truck and the Tapir immediately shot into the brush.  What a nice sighting.  And once again, both Stefan and Claudia were as excited about the experience as we were.  That was great to see.

We also spotted a few Collared Peccaries in a field which was the first and only time we saw them this trip.

Not soon after, the dense jungle opened up into yet another field.  In the middle was a lake with tall reeds that were bathed in the last light of the sun and topped with white birds. It was a Cattle Egret night roost and this would be the location for our last sundowner.  Claudia and Stefan timed it perfectly as we enjoyed a drink with the setting sun:

Snowy Egret Roost at Sunset

The above picture shows about a 10th of the Egrets that were there.  There were also Ducks, Moorhens, Purple Gallinule, an out of place Great Egret, and Ibis.  At one point, a huge Jabiru glided silently over our heads and landed with a small elegant plop in the water.  We even had another Tapir come out of the woods and walk into the reeds by the lake.  It was a perfect way to end our last full day.

But, the day wasn't actually over yet.  We still had a trip back in the dark spotlighting as we went.  With Stefan in the back, he not only controlled the spotlight but he also took care of the gates.  We had no responsibilities what so ever and that was great.  Plus, we saw how a pro spotlights.

On the way back we saw lots of White-lipped Peccaries, 3 more Crab-eating Foxes, a Common Potoo, and lots of Nighjars.

Since we were leaving tomorrow we skipped a night hike in favor of packing.

The next morning, I ventured out early to get a few pictures that I wanted.  There were some beautiful cloud formations that brought lots of character to the sky:

Barranco Alto Grounds

The Cowboys were hard at work at 6:30AM already:
Horse Wrangling

Here's the picture I wanted to get.  It was a bit of a farther walk than I remembered but I couldn't leave without getting a shot of the fantastic sign that Lydia hand painted complete with Jaguar print and a Giant Anteater:
Barranco Alto

Since we weren't leaving until around Noon, we had time for a quick morning boat ride.  This ride, like the ones before it, was fabulous.

Rufescent Tiger Heron:
Rufescent Tiger Heron

We even ran into a family of 3 Neotropical River Otters:
Neo Tropical River Otters

Notice their round tail which is much different from the flat Giant Otter tail:
Neo Tropical River Otter

The Kingfishers were out in force today as well.

Amazon Kingfisher:
Amazon Kingfisher

Green Kingfisher:
Green Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher (Good to see that this one hadn't forgotten what I taught it):
Ringed Kingfisher

We even saw our last close up White-lipped Peccary of the trip:
White-lipped Peccary

 Here's a look at how beautiful the Rio Negro is:
Rio Negro Bank

The Rio Negro

Luckily, the beauty of the Rio Negro wasn't spoiled by this rather indecent Cocoi Heron.

The "Flasher":

The Rufous-tailed Jacamar was out again and so was its mate:
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Pair

Blue and White Swallow:
Blue and White Swallow

Female Bare-faced Curassow:
Female Bare-faced Curassow

Tegu Pair:
Tegu Pair

Black Skimmers:
Black Skimmers

Skimmers in Flight

Notice how the bill is off-set to make "skimming" more effective:
Black Skimmer

Large-billed Tern:
Large-billed Tern

One of our new favorite birds from the trip was the Gray-necked Rail.  We love how it strutted along with its little tail sticking straight up.  On this last boat trip, we encountered one sunning its wings:

Gray-necked Rail Sunning

Gray-necked Rail

We also spotted a group of 5 Giant Otters but they were moving the other direction so we didn't get close looks.

Fittingly, we saw one last group of White-lipped Peccaries.  This time they were swimming across the river:

And with that, not only had our boat trip ended, but our stay in Brazil had ended too.  Two weeks is a long time to be away from home but neither of us was in a hurry to get back.  This Pantanal trip was incredible and we would have been perfectly fine with spending more time at Barranco Alto.

At Noon, our plane landed.  We were all packed up and ready to go.  As a great gesture, the other guests that we had grown to know well over the past few days came out to say goodbye.  Stefan walked with us to the plane as others took our bags. More great Barranco Alto service.

We said our goodbyes to Claudia, Margot and Stefan.  They, along with Lucas and Marina treated us so well.   Stefan turned out to be a complete joy to be with.  Not only was he a great spotter that knew the flora and fauna well but he was just a great guy and we thoroughly enjoyed our time hanging out with him.  He even went out of his way to make us sandwiches to take with us on the plane since we were leaving before lunch.

We just can't say enough about the great time we had at Barranco Alto.  They really make you feel like family there which is why leaving was so hard.  It is a special place.  But, in the back of my mind I already had a return trip planned.  After all, I still needed quality time with a Giant Anteater.

Unfortunately, the hour flight from Barranco Alto to Campo Grande wasn't very pleasant.  It was very bumpy and even made me a bit nauseated which is rare.  Unfortunately, Karen fared much worse in the back seat since it was super hot back there.  Luckily a few rounds of drive heaves made her feel somewhat better which was good because we still had 3 more flights after this one.

Those remaining flights weren't great either.  It took 27 hours door to door to get back home and along the way we have some rude flight attendants (thanks American Airlines), a passenger coughing all night near us, and the usual travel inconveniences. 

But looking back, two days of rough travel did not dampen what was surely the best vacation we have ever had.  The Pantanal is an amazing destination for wildlife lovers like ourselves.

During our trip, we did take some video that I have edited together.  While photography and enjoying the moments remain my top priority, video is great for seeing animal behavior and hearing the wonderful sounds of the Pantanal:

Here's some proof on the high diversity in the Pantanal.  We have never had a trip where we photographed so many birds and mammals before.

- More than 150 Bird Species seen in total
- 100 lifers photographed which is too many to list

22 Mammal Species (Lifers in Bold
- Marsh Deer
- Pampas Deer
- Red Brocket
- Gray Brocket
- Capybara
- Brown Capuchin
- Crab-eating Fox
- Crab-eating Racoon
- Azare's Agouti
- Giant Anteater (all too brief unfortunately)
- Brazilian Tapir
- Black-tailed Marmoset
- South American Coati
- Brazilian Rabbit
- Jaguar
- Vampire Bat
- Greater Fishing Bat
- White-lipped Peccary
- Collared Peccary
- Giant Otter
- Neotropical River Otter
- Tayra

 14 Herp Species (Lifers in Bold)
- Black and White Tegu 
- Golden Tegu
- Yellow Anaconda Cane
- Toad Red-footed Tortoise
- Giant Ameiva
- Amazon Lava Lizard
- Guarani Spiny Lizard
- Chaco Frog/Cei's White-lipped Frog
- Warty Snouted Tree-Frog
- Lesser Snouted Tree-Frog
- Chaco Tree Frog
- Yacare Caiman
- Sleep Snake
- Green Iguana

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