My wife, Lotus S. Miller, chose the tour agency Alligatour- Pantanál Specialists for a guide since Lotus had met Bráulio, one of its founders, at the Brazilian Ornithology Congress here in February 1997. He is Peruvian originally, but transplanted himself to the Pantanál. He is getting his MS degree in Wildlife Conservation there. He speaks English very well, and of course, Spanish and Portuguese. The Alligatour e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
He has an excellent handout for his clients on all aspects of the Pantanál. The Brazilian portion covers 139,000 square kilometers. The Chapada de Guimarães , a mesa north of the Pantanál basin, includes a small city, a "rock city", enticing and dramatic waterfalls, and a simple marker of the geodesic center of South America. The city of Cuiabá nearby has a less accurate geodesic center celebrated with a pylon. The basin of the Pantanál is pre-Cretaceous, but was a domed shield which was orogenized to a syncline with a north/south gradient of 2 cm/km.
We met our son, Alan, and his fiancé, Amanda, in the hotel, Veneza Palacio in Cuiabá, Thursday morning, 19 June 97, early to start our Alligatour of five days in a van driven by Bráulio. We traveled nearly straight south on the Transpantaneira State Park road which starts after the town of Poconé. A listing of events and species is just too much for this article. So I'll start with those things less related (to birds) and progress.
Bráulio had listed 27 plants of interest in the Pantanál. I added one that I found after I returned to BH and checked in a book on the Pantanál. This is an elm relative, Taleira, Celtus pubescens. The piuvel or Tabebuia heptaphylla, one of the species of ipê rosa, was in a colorful pink-purple grand blooming state at this time. Two other prominent and striking blooming trees were the yellow blossomed Cambará, Vochysia divergens, and the strange flat-brush-like Pombeiro vermelho, Combretum lanceolatum.
It was strange to see big cactus plants, Cereus peruvianus, in an area flooded 6 or so months of the year. The partial explanation is that they are on Islands of slightly higher land that is more covered with trees.
We saw a small armored catfish being eaten by a cormorant. We ate pacú, a tasty fish, at our first lunch stop at a fazenda catering occasionally to tourists. At our hotel Fazenda Beira Rio on the Pixaim River we had a perereca frog, Hyla fuscouaria, in our bathroom. On the boat trips we saw many bull toads, Bufo paracnemis.
A 7 foot anaconda (sucuri) obligingly crossed the road for Bráulio to delay long enough for us to take pictures. We saw 2 big Tegú lizards (3 feet long), and several smaller green lizards. Iguana sunned in trees and bush tops along the river edges. The Paraguayan spectacled cayman, Caiman crocodilus yacare, or Jacaré was very frequent and evident. They only get about 7 feet long.
A marsh deer, Blastocerus dichotomus, which is endangered, was only 150 yards off the road, and grazed in good view of our binocs. We saw 4 species of bats with good viewing at dusk. This included the greater bulldog = Fisher bat, Noctilio leporinus. A La Plata otter was a road kill, but we saw about 6 (a family?) of Giant otters, Pteronura brasilinensis, (is threatened?) on the river trip. Five or 6 black-howler monkeys, Alouatta caraya, were seen. A small ocelot crossed the road rapidly, and another night a big one was seen just off the road. We did see fresh jaguar tracks by the river, as well as that of the anta = tapir.
Any world birder must turn up (the sooner the better) at the Pantanál. Bráulio had a measured bird call tape with which he could quickly find a species difficult to see and call it in to good viewing range. In 4 days we actually saw 145 species of birds. On the 5th day north into the mesa Chapada dos Guimarães, I recorded 11 new species, but Lotus's list of about 15 added after my 11 species didn't get on the list.
The endangered hyacinthine Macaw, Andorhynchus hyacinthinus, the biggest parrot in the world, turns out to like farm houses, and it nests in ipê tree hollows nearby. We saw about 15 of these rare birds (see painting below by Jenevra Searight). Seven other Psittadae species were seen, plus lots of Monk parakeet nests.
Snail eating kites were frequent. The male is gray and the immature and female brownish. We saw a great black hawk grasping a snake. A crane hawk was feeding on termites! A rare sighting was the black phase of the Long-winged Harrier. Lots of Heron and ibis species were evident. The Biomphalaria snails get to 3 inches in shell size. Not only the snail eating kites, but the Limpkins were feeding on them. Along the river the black male Anhinga anhinga and white necked female were frequent, as were 3 species of kingfisher.
Four species of guans were seen plus a beautiful pair of Curassow. Eight species of doves were seen. Nine species of Icterids...and on and on.....The Pantanál ...UAU!....which translated to English sounds just like WOW!
.........Wilmer J. Miller