Preparing for Brazil was undertaken over a six month period. Once I knew for sure I was going I searched around for the usually thinks that a birder and naturalist would need. Books, identification tools for my iPhone and also blogs and thoughts from other birding travellers. This is a short review to add others.
Preparing for Brazil – ID GUIDES
For a few months I wasn’t sure how long I would be in Brazil. I knew at all costs I had to visit the Pantanal. Once the decision was made by work and other commitments I zoned in on the Birds of Brazil – The Pantanal and Cerrado of Central Brazil. This is a great book because, as a nature conservationist, the book gives a thorough description of the various biomes and also the threats these are under.
A word of caution though. I found some of the illustrations a little frustrating. The colours are generally too pastel and don’t marry to the real birds. However in the age of internet (the wifi everywhere I stayed was just grand) it was easy to search for images of various birds to confirm ID. This was particularly necessary for the flycatchers, which are a real challenge to identify.
The other guide I bought and downloaded was the Birds of Brazil app. The only problem here was this contains all the birds of the country. So take Tinamous and Antshrikes for instance. I was in the field and search these species. There are a lot to go through and most aren’t found in either the Pantanal or the Cerrado.
The other great thing about the app is that the vast majority of the species have songs, calls and pretty good photos. However I word of advice –
- I would go through the app and check out the ones that are found in the area you are going and then make them favourites. This will aid search through the guide.
- Doing this would have really helped as I found most of the passerines really responsive to calls and songs played on my iPhone. However I was just guessing half the time what call to play. So if you want to see a Barred Antshrike having it as a favourite in the guide will help a lot.
Whilst on the subject of using the iPhone (without any form of amplification) I found pishing really helpful. Small birds would suddenly come out of the silence of the forest and appear before my eye. Do it often and that Banded Hermit manakin might just put in a show. Happened for me several times.
Preparing for Brazil – Where to go?
Before I had honed into where I would go once I was free from work was much easier than I thought. Firstly I must highlight the great birding brazil blogspot by Derek Kverno. I spent hours reading through this and when my plans were more ambitious than they became I identified a load of places I would love and will visit if I return. Both Pantanal and Chapada dos Guimaraes were covered in detail. Not only did the blogs make me feel very excited about what I might see, they also gave me a lot of confidence that I could do my trip with guides and in a small standard cheap rental car. Most of what I had read about the Pantanal especially suggest that this may not be possible. The Transpantaneira Highway seemed form a far a bit daunting to drive. Especially as I was due a month after the rainy season. It was pretty taxing as a road but is achievable in a small Golf GO.
Another really important piece of info gleaned from Derek was the Neotropical Bird Clubs article on the Birds of the Pantanal along the Transpantaneira. This was promptly loaded onto my computer and my iPhone and was an invaluable resource. I should also add that it DOES recommend staying at various pousadas along the length. I had a bit of trouble finding reservation sites for some of the pousadas so went for one at the Northern End (see below).
Preparing for Brazil – Accommodation and Car hire
As I was in Goiâna, Central Brazil for 5 days before setting off on my ‘real’ birding adventures, I had time to do some booking etc whilst in Brazil. However I had research hotels, pousadas and car hire before I left. I did find booking in advance a number of the pousadas along the Transpantaneira in advance. As many have to close in the rainy season I can understand this. However I should have trusted my luck and booked the first couple of nights at the northern end and then booked as I went along. I stayed the whole time at Pousada Piuval (which was great) but meant I had to tackle the Highway everyday. All the other pousadas were open and available at least as far as the River Pixiam. I never ventured beyond here because the road looked a bit too treacherous. I suspect it was fine, but I was, to be honest, FED up with driving along that highway!!!!
My car hire was pre-booked whilst I was in Goiâna. I had a small Golf Go which was adequate for everywhere I drove in both Pantanal and Guiamaraes. However it did get very dirty and I was charged for a clean on return. But more on the travails of the car and the accommodation as the posts start to flow.