A day with the REGUA team in Macaé de Cima

White-bearded Antshrike <em>Biatas nigropectus</em>, Macaé de Cima (&copy; Nicholas Locke)
White-bearded Antshrike Biatas nigropectus, Macaé de Cima (© Nicholas Locke)

Adilei, Eduardo “Tiriba” and I, took Keith and Hein, visiting REGUA and anxious to see a few high elevation species to strike them off their list, on an excursion to Macaé de Cima. Those who have been with us to David and Bel’s sanctuary will be accustomed to the hummers that visit the feeders in their garden. The Brazilian Ruby, White-throated Hummingbird, Amthyst Woodstar and Scale-throated Hermit were in full motion at the feeders, as these wintery mornings indicate few flowers are around.

Bel was most kind and hospitable, and soon found us pointing our binoculars to the mountain ridge to look for the Swallow-tailed Cotinga feeding on a fruit tree. Without the telescope there was no alternative but to walk up and try to see it closer up and we found one of David’s old orchid trails and set off. Within a few minutes we came across three ultra rare Buffy-tufted-ear Marmoset Calithirix aurita feeding foraging, jumping form tree to tree startling a pair of Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulets. The marmosets brown sheen to their fur and dark facial patterns distinguish them from the more common White-tufted-ear Marmoset Calithris jachus. Soon we cut off the trail, scaring off a Black-and-gold Cotinga to see their Swallow-tailed cousins feeding together with Shear-tailed Grey Tyrants on the fruit tree.

Adilei called his famous owl imitation and within seconds we were joined by a pair of angry Diademed Tanagers furious with the mysterious owl’s presence. Walking back to the trail a pair of Rufous-tailed Antthrushes were seen on the path scouring for food. We walked down to thank and say goodbye to Bel to leave the calling Hooded Berryeaters, Bare-throated Bellbirds and White-rimmed Warblers to find Adilei had just accidentally scared off a Slaty Bristlefront which we were not able to see even though it was calling not six feet from us in the cover of the undergrowth.

Suddenly a Mouse-coloured Tapaculo set up its continuous calling but although we hadn’t seen this extraordinary bird we decided it was time to search for the White-bearded Antshrike. We couldn’t find one at first, disturbing Maroon-bellied Parakeets and then a Surucua Trogon, so we took the car down the road and continued playing the tape walking rather absent mindedly as we had not eaten lunch. Suddenly Eduardo got a response and after a short search in the tangled undergrowth around us the bird shot out to dive bomb and dart into undergrowth the other side of the road. A male White-bearded Antshrike with its soft call is not a very small bird so after a while we had superb views and were able to take some poor images to register this rare sighting. Aside this bird, the Rufous-crowned Greenlet and an Eared Pygmy-Tyrant showed up to our delight.

Before a freshly made sandwich and a welcoming beer, we still stopped to find many Red-eyed Thornbirds bouncing in the undergrowth, all very excited that someone had taped them and drawing their attention. After lunch we still wanted to see the bristlefront but alas we only found a Yellow-throated Woodpecker and soaring high in the afternoon air, a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle.

The drive back saw us stop for some red flowering Erythrina speciosa trees and a large flock of tanagers were busy passing through feeding up their last of the day. Green-headed, Rufous-headed, Red-necked and Ruby-crowned Tanagers, Chestnut-crowned Becards together with Chestnut-vented Conebills all chirping loudly and pushing past each other and we had fun calling out their names in pure appreciation. Luckily a Sombre Hummingbird settled on some flowers, a good glimpse at this dark green and grey lustre with its little white ear patch. A Black-throated Grosbeak called but wouldn’t show so we left for REGUA, thoroughly happy with another great day of birding.