Driving up the Transpantaneira to the Jaguar Ecolodge we cross the first of over 100 bridges and see a nesting Southern Screamer
Vermilion Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar
wild passionfruit flowers and a Maguari Stork
Tonight we go spotlighting, however the cold front that arrived late this afternoon has forced the animals to take cover. There has been a heavy snow fall in Southern Brazil and the temperature drops to 15C which is quite a shock after the high 30sC that we enjoyed at Porto Jofre. The forecast is for a low of 11C the next day.
Next morning the macaw alarm clock sounds from the palm trees behind my room. After breakfast we do a short trail walk but there isn´t much around due to the weather except for a Roadside Hawk and a Blue Throated Guan. We see a clear jaguar footprint
and hear an undulated tinamou calling. At another site nearby Great Potoo,
scaly-headed parrot and lineated
and crimson headed woodpeckers are easily seen. Julinho drops us along the Transpantaneira and we walk back to the Lodge, spotting a Snouted Tree Frog on the way
A capped heron and plumbeous ibis are fishing in a waterhole at the lodge
Jaguar Ecolodge has simple rooms that look out into the surrounding area - cattle graze behind my room. The Transpantaneira is right outside the front gate, however the passing traffic is light and its great for walking. We leave for Rio Clara at 3 pm and bop along to the iPod finding some common ground in Springsteen, Creedence and Collins. Along the way we have good views of snail kite,
scarlet-headed blackbird and a pair of Savannah hawks. The Rio Clara game drive vehicle flags us down because they saw a female jaguar and 2 cubs crossing the road. Julinho shows us their wet paw prints at the roadside but sadly there is no sight of them.
Next day it is quite cool but we set out on a morning walk and see shiny cowbird, red brocket deer
scaled ground doves, moustached wren, lineated and pale-crested woodpeckers. Two howler monkeys huddle together in a treetop for warmth. Brown capuchin monkeys sheltering in the palms are drinking the milk from acuri nuts
Further on a seven-striped armadillo is busy digging deep in a burrow. The afternoon boat trip ended early due to cold, however we saw the usual suspects - cocoi heron, egret, ring-necked and green kingfishers, anhinga, cormorant and tiger heron. The cold front lasts 48 hours and then blue skies are back again.
It is warmer next morning and during the boat trip the blue sky breaks through and the cold front passes over us. Close to the lodge we see a nursing capybara and a ring-necked kingfisher with a fish that is being closely shadowed by a green kingfisher. Female and young howler monkeys are also out in the sun.
Nearby we see a Roadside Hawk, Toco Toucan
and feeding Capuchin monkeys
Its a truly beautiful morning on the river and the sun highlights the lush green water hyacinth growing at the river's edge.
Rio Clara is a very easy lodge - the rooms are comfortable and the food is excellent for quality and variety. The activities include boat trips, walks and horse rides. The lodge gardens are alive with birds that are attracted by the feeders and yellow-billed cardinals, shiny cowbirds, black-headed parakeets and saffron finches are easily seen.
We leave Rio Clara around 3 pm for Pousada Alegre and are lucky to see a tayra briefly at the roadside. A Savannah Hawk is keeps a close eye on the passing traffic and a 7 striped armadillo is catching the sun at his burrow
Near the Pousada Alegre gate we see red brocket deer, and a jabiru being harassed by a caiman. The jabiru was kicking out at something as though its feet were tangled up in weed, and after a few kicks we saw a caiman lunge out of the water at which point the jabiru re-located to a pool across the road.
Other sights included a large capybara family and a chestnut-eared aracari eating wild cotton flowers. Fabricio Dorelio is a local guide who has recently set up his own business and we join his group for a glimpse of a giant anteater.
The first morning at Pousada Alegre we walk for 2.5 hours, enjoying the ''corvak'' which is a pilot's term for clear sky. We see a capybara family of 16 individuals, a plumbeous ibis nest,
green ibis, 2 strikingly marked juvenile tiger herons, donacobius
and a goofy-looking caiman with a green head dress.
Luiz (the owner) has caught a small water snake
which one of the researchers later releases near to where it was found. After lunch I wander around with the camera and spend some time with the monk parakeets
bare-faced curassow and a pair of Chestnut-eared Aracaris gorging at a guava tree
Later in the day we drive to the main gate to walk the circular trail and on the way we see 2 young capybara
a howler monkey family, savannah and brocket deer and a feral pig and piglet. Walking the trail we see lots of mosquitos, some howler monkeys, coati and pale-crested woodpecker. Returning to the lodge we are fortunate to have a close view of a pair of crab-eating foxes
Fabricio's driver is racing along behind us and he takes us to see a giant anteater happily searching for ants at dusk. Later we do a night drive in Fabricio's vehicle and see lots of glowing caiman eyes, crab-eating fox and a rabbit.
Pousada Alegre is 7 km from the Transpantaneira which gives the lodge a secluded atmosphere. The access road is a wildlife rich area where deer, capybara and caiman are daily sightings and giant anteater and black collared anteaters (Southern tamandua) are frequently seen. Hyacinth macaws, toco toucans and chestnut-eared aracari were easily seen in the gardens where they are attracted by the acuri palms and fruit trees. Agoutis patrol the grounds and hummingbirds are sometimes seen next to the shady verandah where I spent a few pleasant hours with a beer or two.
The next day is another perfect day in paradise and we depart early from Pousada Alegre to drive to Pousada Piuval. The sky is the bluest of blues, the vegetation amazingly green and the yellow trumpet trees provide a contrast to both
A jabiru catches the morning sun on a high nest
and a capped heron stares into a roadside pool. Further along the Transpantaneira we stop at a roadside floodplain to get a closer look at a large 'pile' of black caiman
Roseate spoonbills are flying overhead and their pink feathers contrast with the blue sky. An Oasis overland truck on the way north stops beside us - we saw them excitedly watching a capybara family. There are at least 3 Australians aboard and I stop for a chat.
Soon, we arrive at Pousada Piuval and stop off to do a trail walk where we see baby caiman
leafcutter ants carrying yellow trumpet flowers
brown capuchin monkeys drinking milk from acuri nuts
and a great sighting of a Black-collared anteater basking in the sun
A brightly coloured female blue-crowned trogon tops off an amazing morning's game viewing
At the lodge its good to see Rosario and Ana again (we met them in 2010) and we have lunch at an outside table enjoying views over the pousada
where a vermilion flycatcher flits between fence posts
Late in the afternoon we drive to a tower to watch the sunset over a large rookery of egrets and wood storks. We pass a nest of bees
a marmoset and male and female howler monkeys. The female has a baby that clings precariously as she hangs upside down to feed.
The tower does not have the diversity of birds that we saw in 2010. There are monk parakeets in a palm tree and wood storks, jabiru, egrets, and ibis on the wetlands. Cattle move down to the water's edge at sunset
We spotlight on the return to the lodge and see brocket deer, crab-eating foxes and nacuna night hawks.
The next morning tips off a very busy day - up at 5.30 for an early walk at Piuval and then a short drive to Pocone where Lilito is waiting with the plane to fly us to the Hotel Baiazinha on the Paraguay River.
Piuval is very scenic in the early morning light when it is deliciously cool and there is even dew on the grass. The first blush of an apricot dawn reveals birds roosting high in trees
and mares quietly grazing
Puma tracks are evident on the sandy track, but the animal is long gone. A squirrel cuckoo catches the first rays of the morning sun
and capuchin and howler monkeys are also waking. Returning to the Fazenda we startle a large flock of egrets
and watch a green kingfisher gazing attentively into a waterhole. A whistling heron wades in the quiet of the early morning before shaking its wet feathers
After breakfast we leave for Pocone, stopping for a Savannah Hawk who enjoys Satchmo with us
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.