Brazil Travel Diary - p 3 of 5

5 Sept 2012
Another day exploring the Rio Cuiaba.   We snack on ham and cheese sandwiches, which must be the national dish of Brazil.   Every half hour or so, Joao hands out plastic cups of cold water, always welcome.
   The Black-crowned Night-heron is not common here, but was confiding enough for an early-morning photo. 

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   This male Green Kingfisher was even more tame than the female.  We circled his perch several times, hoping he would fly down and snatch a fish, but no luck for us or the kingfisher.


   Today we decided to return to the hotel for lunch and a nap before making a late afternoon run.  It was almost noon when we came across the rare Marsh Deer.
   In the Pantanal of all places, you'd expect deer to retreat to a cool shady spot except during dawn and dusk.  But we've seen several along the Transpantaneira, and now this one, out in mid-day.

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Sunbittern-w-bfly.jpg (316573 bytes) With the afternoon sun waning, we find a beach teeming with bird life - Southern Lapwings, a Turkey Vulture or two, Pied Lapwings, and best of all, the Sunbittern shown here.
   At first glance perhaps a type of heron, Sunbittern is in fact so unusual it has been given its own family, Eurypygidae.  It has no close relatives.
   This one was feeding on flies that landed on the sandy beach.  It also caught a butterfly, which it proceeded to dunk into the water before eating.  Was it drowning the butterfly, or softening it up?



With the sun now on the horizon, we enter a quiet cove where Silver-beaked Tanagers and Yellow-billed Cardinals, shown here, come down to bathe.  After another sweltering hot day, who can blame them?
   The Cardinals are common along the river's edge.  But they've also learned about bird feeders.  As we later saw, if lodges put out fruit or especially seed, they swarm to it by the dozens.


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Jaguar-at-rest.jpg (346512 bytes) And at last jaguar, the monarch of the Pantanal.  This one, calmly resting on the beach in full view, was actually our fourth sighting of the big cat.  
   The sun had set; the light was dim.  I used an ISO of 1000; even then the shutter speed was a slow 1/60". 
   It takes courage to photograph a jaguar.  The savage beast could without warning leap into the water, swim to a boat, and pull a hapless nature photographer and his $6000 digital camera into murky depths of the Cuiaba!
   Actually, no.  Toward humans the jaguar is mostly a big puddy tat, almost never attacking.  But everything else in his range is fair game, from tapirs to caimans to capybaras to large birds.


Seeing jaguars in the Pantanal is mostly luck.  But as in Africa, the guides have radios to alert others when a big cat is spotted.  Joao called and several other boats soon arrived to watch the jaguar.
   Some ecotourists were not so lucky.  Our jaguar took a long sip of river water; then, ambled into the bush.  Two more boats appeared, filled with ecotourists who eagerly scanning the beach for a jaguar they had missed by scarcely ten seconds.   It's all luck.


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