Birding trip Bahia (East Brazil) 13-26 March 2004

John van der Woude - www.jvanderw.nl

See also
photos (of birding sites) and species list of this trip.


Summary

This was a two-week private independent birding trip to the state of Bahia in Eastern Brazil. The region has an interesting combination of habitats.
There is a continuation of the SE Brazil wet forests (a highly important endemic region) but also several important drier habitats, like the dry forest at Boa Nova (Slender Antbird etc.), and the caatinga bushes (Great Xenops etc.). Also cerrado and campo are present, the latter with e.g. the superb Hooded Visorbearer (hummer) on top of the magnificent Pai Inacio table mountain in the Chapada Diamantina. See also Jeremy Minn's notes about this area (www.arthurgrosset.com). Also, Sargeant & Wall's 1994 trip report/site guide for Bahia is still worthwhile.

This was our second visit to Brazil, after SE Brazil in 2001 (see report at home page). We think Brazil is a rather ideal birding country. The people are very friendly and helpful, their food is great (generally), the prices are low, the infrastructure is rather good, and there is a lot to be discovered birdwise, in this huge country. For example, we happened to see now by chance the Pink-legged Graveteiro, a furnarid species that was only discovered less than 10 years ago (Acrobatornis fonsecai). It is not just a variant of another species, but a whole new genus, with a remarkable behavior (clambering head down on branches). Imagine that we would have done this trip say 12 years ago, then ....  well that sort of dreams you can have on a trip to Brazil.

We visited, by rental car from Salvador, the Chapada Diamantina mountain range first. This has a lot of different habitats: humid forest on the East slope (Bahia Spinetail), dry forest and bushes on the West slope (where we had Great Xenops and Caatinga Antwren), and several other open habitats. Then we went on to the famous Boa Nova site a bit closer to the coast. Here, several endemic bird areas come together. In the dry forest we had Slender Antbird and Narrow-billed Antwren very easily, and our other two target antbirds (Rio de Janeiro and Ochre-rumped Antbird) in the wet forest part of this site. Next was a humid site called Serra das Lontras, a bit closer to the coast again. It mainly consisted of beautiful old shaded cacao plantations below a true Atlantic forest at the top. We had several interesting species close to the forest, like that Acrobatornis, Golden-capped Parakeet, and an enormous group of Yellow-green Grosbeak (about 35). Our last stop was at the coast near Una, where we visited the new Ecoparque, with nesting Green-backed Becard and four manakin species.

This was meant to be a relatively easy-going trip and we ended up with just over 200 species, including 20 antbirds (half of which were lifers). We had 31 lifers in total, nearly all being specialties for the region. With an extra week we could have added a visit to the important sites of Alagoas
(Seven-colored tanager etc.) but that may well be another trip. As the region is a growing beach holiday destination, there are more and more interesting offers for a short trip.

Itinerary

Sat. 13 March. Arrival at Salvador airport (SSA) at 21.30 h but through customs only at 23.00 h because of strike. Still in time for Avis car, type Fiat Uno 1600 cc (pre-booked). Again (like in 2001) a car without hydro-steering but after some driving this proved to be no problem. The 1600 cc engine was more essential (for quick overtaking of lorries).
Difficult drive (see detailed map) to nearby very luxury hotel Sofitel, pre-booked on internet for only Euro 60 or so.

Sun. 14. After a short walk in the big garden and a very good breakfast buffet, on to Lencois in the Chapada Diamantina, a 7-8 hours drive (with short stops for rest and rain). Welcomed at Pousada da Geleia by Z Carlos and Lia, we chose room 6 (best view over garden, and private balcony).
Evening meal in old town (as Lia only cooks by pre-order) in good restaurant (recommended by Lia) immediately left after bridge into town, right behind the market hall. Seated above the river, in the open.

Mon. 15. Early morning walk on hill behind lodge, but habitat too much disturbed. After Lia’s famous breakfast onto nearby Remanso road at 9 a.m. for birding walk. Late lunch at lodge (good sandwich and juice made by Lia). Then at 16.00 h birding along dirt road up to Pai Inacio parking place.

Tue. 16. Morning at Palmeiras/Rio Preto for dry shrubs (caatinga) still mostly along river itself (with box breakfast from Lia). Afternoon on Pai Inacio.

Wed. 17. First some birding along side tracks from main road BR242 near Lencois junction. Then on to Andarai along BA142, and a bit further (Igatu road).

Thu. 18. Long morning at Rio Preto area, now higher up in caatinga.

Fri. 19. After immense night rains we asked for an extra night. Breakfast at lodge again. Then walk on Remanso road again. Afternoon on balcony, but 16.30 on side track near junction at BR242, and when returning a short stop on the Remanso road at dusk.

Sat. 20. After long breakfast departed for Boa Nova via BR242 and BR116, 8 hours in total (480 km; many trucks on BR116). Found the very basic pousada Solar nd the warden, who also made a simple dinner for us.

Sun. 21. Morning in dry forest near Boa Nova, then on to wet forest further West. With box breakfast (in Brazil always enough for lunch too). After dinner paid for two nights + dinner twice + box breakfast twice the total of BR 120 (= Euro 32).

Mon. 22. Wet forest again, and then on to Itatingui at the base of the Serra das Lontras, c. 5 hours drive via Ipiau, Ubaitaba and Itabuna. Asked in village how road up to serra (Fazenda de Katira) would be: impossible with our car. Took pousada 1 km N of village.

Tue. 23. Long walk up the Serra das Lontras, Fazenda de Katira, through old shaded cacao plantations. And back. Car parked in village (Itatingui).

Wed. 24. Short pre-breakfast walk around lodge, and paid about the same as in Boa Nova. Drive of c. 3 hrs. along Sta. Luzia to the coastal Cana Brava resort between Una and Ilheus. Afternoon rest at resort. Phoned Ecoparque for excursion: closed tomorrow.

Thu. 25. After breakfast to parking place (along coastal road) for visit to Ecoparque, with the intention to walk towards the Ecoparque and/or the biological reserve. While parking the car, a van with workers for the reserve entered this track, and we got a lift to the Ecoparque, where we did the obvious trail. Late afternoon at resort, for a taste of their cocktails.

Fri. 26. Quiet breakfast and then departed for Salvador. Went to the Sofitel again for a long drink at the swimming pool, then a very good meal at the restaurant down at the small lake, before heading to the airport. Departure after midnight.

Our drivig times (including short stops, but no real biding) were as follows:

Salvador - Lencois = 7-8 hour with short stops (rest & rain)
Lencois - Mucuje = 3 hours, short stops
Lencois - Boa Nova - 8 hours, 480km (via BR242 & BR116), trucks and traffic on BR116
Boa Nova - Itatingui = 5 hours
Itatingui - Una = 3hrs?

The trip could also have been done in reverse order. E.g. like this (for a two week trip):
- Una (ecoparque + surroundings): 2 full days.
- Serra das Lontras (or only Camaca; see Minns’ notes on the graveteiro - the road to the radio tower seems not so bad after all, according to another birder): 1,5 day.
- Boa Nova: 1,5 day (two mornings; if you only need the dry forest species, then one morning can be sufficient).
- Chapada Diamantina (from Lencois): 3 or 4 days, or any longer as you wish in this pleasant area. A stay at Mucuje (3 hrs from Lencois) may be an interesting extra (see Minns’notes).

Moreover:
- Near Salvador, a visit to the bay (San Francisco do Conde) should be interesting (not been there).
- With a few more days, a visit to Jeremoabo/Canudos (400 km N of Salvador along the BR110) might produce the Lear’s Macaw, and more caatinga. See Minns’ notes, and search trip reports (via www.eurobirding.com) for latest results.
- With a lot more time, a visit to Alagoas can be combined with Bahia. Or visit the more Southern reserves (Monte Pascoal and Porto Seguro).

Accommodation

Hotel Sofitel Salvador, Salvador de Bahia, c. 4 km from international airport SSA (see map).
Reservation and info at
www.accor.com (internet pre-booking: very interesting rate).
Very good hotel and restaurant.

Casa da Geleia, Lencois (Chapada Diamantina), run by Z Carlos and Lia.
E-mail casadageleia@hotmail.com, phone (75) 334 11 51.
Z Carlos is a local lawyer and speaks English. Lia speaks some Spanish.
Lovely pousada with nice garden.

Pousada/Hotel Solar, Boa Nova. Very basic but even used by a luxurious bird tour company, as there seems to be no other choice. Basic restaurant.
Owner Aquiles can be phoned at (73) 433 24 57 or 433 21 05.
Located just beyond the town square. At town square was another pousada, maybe this is better?

Pousada Fazenda Libertade 1 km N of Itatingui (Serra das Lontras). Reasonable, clean, with nice location. Rather basic restaurant.
Phone (73) 673 50 09.
At Camaca (c. 20 km South) is another pousada, called Fazenda Rainha do Sul,
e-mail anjo@stc.com.br, phone (73) 692-2101. See e.g.
www.cpunet.com.br/anjo/. Friends of us went there later and found it a nice place. Friendly staff and clean rooms, with simple but good meals.

Cana Brava resort, 24 km. South of Ilheus along coastal road towards Una and Canavieiras. Good place, but maybe it is better to arrange your accomodation via the Ecoparque (
http://www.ecoparque.org.br) in order to be sure that you get box lunches from your hotel, or have a choice at different accomodation rates.
For the Cana Brava, phone (73) 269-8000, info at
www.resortcanabrava.com.br
We just walked in and got a very good price for a luxury chalet.

Maps

For details about how to get from Salvador airport to hotel Sofitel and to the North: see hand-drawn map in pdf.
Below are 4 maps with birding site details.


The best sites were Palmeiras (esp. GPS120: nearly all caatinga species of the list were here), Pai Inacio (Hooded Visorbearer just below the top plateau), and the Remanso road (moist forest, and no trafic). Other sites: Northern road to Igatu, and forest tracks just W of Lencois junction.



Sl Ab = Slender Antbird plus sev. other dry forest specialties. RdJ ab = Rio de Janeiro Antbird (pair) along road at GPS134. Ochre-r Ab = Ochre-rumped Antbird in darkest part of forest, near lefthand bypass in track. OLR = Old Logging Road (Sargeant & Wall), the only place to enter the wet forest.



From Itatingui to the Faz. Katira is a long walk through beautiful but rather quiet shaded cacao forest/plantation. Habitat around fazenda and up (like at GPS139) very good. Had Pink-legged Graveteiro at GPS139, by chance.



For Ecoparque see details at http://www.ecoparque.org.br.
Admission to biological reserve is uncertain (contact Ibama).


GPS Waypoints (in WGS 84)

GPS102 S1257'01,95" W03821'08,36" Entrance of premises of hotel Sofitel Salvador
GPS103 S1256'40,92" W03820'29,18" En route to/from Sofitel
GPS104 S1256'34,14" W03820'16,16" En route from Sofitel
GPS105 S1256'19,41" W03820'23,71" En route from Sofitel
GPS106 S1256'21,72" W03820'31,11" En route to/from Sofitel
GPS107 S1255'17,07" W03821'00,02" Turn off from highway to Sofitel
GPS108 S1254'21,72" W03820'44,35" Turn off from highway to airport
GPS109 S1254'13,63" W03820'34,83" En route from airport to Feira de Santana
GPS110 S1254'29,66" W03820'55,94" En route from airport to Feira de Santana
GPS111 S1250'20,38" W03821'45,19" En route from airport to Feira de Santana
GPS112 S1249'23,27" W03823'32,68" En route from airport to Feira de Santana
GPS113 S1249'12,83" W03824'25,53" En route from airport to Feira de Santana
GPS114 S1242'40,70" W03827'24,44" Turn off for Sao Francisco do Conde
GPS115 S1216'15,96" W03856'10,02" Entering the highway around Feira de Santana
GPS116 S1217'17,82" W03900'36,35" C. 300 m on highway to Rio de Janeiro/Lencois
GPS117 S1234'27,43" W03931'35,35" C. 300 m on highway BR242 to Lencois
GPS118 S1231'34,69" W03936'58,24" Grassland stop along highway BR242 to Lencois
GPS119 S1227'57,20" W04056'14,17" Good marsh along highway BR242 to Lencois
GPS120 S1233'37,24" W04135'00,50" Great Xenops track Rio Preto Palmeiras
GPS121 S1232'37,12" W04134'30,97" En route to GPS120
GPS122 S1231'49,50" W04134'12,37" En route to GPS120
GPS123 S1231'27,43" W04134'30,95" En route to GPS120
GPS124 S1231'07,69" W04134'37,63" En route to GPS120
GPS125 S1230'57,46" W04134'35,35" En route to GPS120
GPS126 S1230'55,37" W04134'28,27" Church square with restaurant&shops Palmeiras
GPS127 S1424'41,88" W04008'16,66" Boa Nova start of track to wet forest
GPS128 S1425'10,40" W04007'34,07" Boa Nova gate to wet forest
GPS129 S1425'15,00" W04007'26,08" Possibly at split for Old Logging Road
GPS130 S1422'32,58" W04011'28,11" Our gate for the dry forest (walk up to right with angle)
GPS131 S1422'10,76" W04011'46,11" Bridge east of Boa Nova
GPS132 S1422'04,99" W04012'25,62" Enter village here for hotel Solar
GPS133 S1421'54,17" W04012'30,41" Hotel Solar (basic)
GPS134 S1424'49,06" W04008'03,08" Rio de Janeiro Antbird spot along track to wet forest
GPS135 S1426'09,01" W03954'29,31" Probably the turn off from Dario Meira to Ipiau
GPS136 S1511'53,29" W03926'25,35" C. 200 m on the track from Itatingui to Faz. Katira
GPS137 S1512'39,45" W03925'46,56" About halfway to Fazenda Katira
GPS138 S1512'11,23" W03924'30,74" Fazenda Katira house
GPS139 S1511'58,87" W03924'07,20" Along trail above Faz. Katira; P-l Grav shortly right here
GPS140 S1510'30,13" W03903'16,91" Where Ecoparque trail crosses the dirt road
GPS141 S1510'45,97" W03902'10,55" Along dirt road to Ecoparque de Una; Striped Manakin
GPS142 S1511'28,11" W03902'03,81" Along dirt road to Ecoparque; possibly at split in dirt roads