Pantanal Nature Part 1

A road less traveled

Melly’s Blog:

If you’ve been following this blog then you know that my daughter Coral and I recently returned from a trip to Brazil where we went in search of wild capybaras. I’m happy to tell you that we found them! And much more. Brazil is a fascinating place with amazing wildlife and wonderful people. We could not have had a better trip. A lot of that is due to our guide, Ailton Lara, of Pantanal Nature who made sure we saw plenty of capybaras but also did not skimp on the other wildlife.  I can’t cover the whole adventure in a single blog post so here is the first part. It’s not all capybaras but I hope you will enjoy it anyway.

Let me start off by saying that the Pantanal is NOT the Amazon. The Pantanal is located in south western Brazil and crosses the border into Bolivia and Paraguay. It is a vast seasonal wetland. The land is nearly completely flat, varying only from 260 to 460 feet above sea level over an area of around 60,000 square miles. In the dry season, which is when we were there, the land is dry and dusty with a few large rivers. In the wet season nearly all the land is flooded with occasional low lying, treed islands.

From the north, the Pantanal is accessed via a single road, the Transpantaneira, 89 miles of dirt roads and rickety wooden bridges until it ends at Porto Jofre on the Cuiabá River. The photo at the top of this post shows one of the bridges and a long, straight stretch of “highway.”

Ailton Lara of Pantanal Nature driving the Transpantaneira Highway

We spent 5 days and 4 nights in the Pantanal. This blog post covers the first day (which was short since we arrived in Cuiabá in the afternoon) and into the start of the 2nd day.

Capybaras!

This was one of the first groups of capybaras we encountered. It is a female and two juveniles. The funny thing is that the two babies are of greatly different sizes. The one following the female is about half the size of the one in the lead. This could be because the female is not the mother of both juveniles. Capybara mothers will care for any babies in their band, not just their own offspring. Or it could be that the little one is a runt and has failed to grow for some reason. The birds are great egrets with a Jabiru stork.

Sunset in the Pantanal

I’m not sure what type of birds these are, possibly wood or Jabiru storks.

Jabiru stork with setting sun

The sunset was beautiful but I hated to see our first day end with us just barely inside the boundaries of the Pantanal.

An ibis silhouetted against sunset waters

The long drive in the dark was not uneventful. We got to see two crab eating foxes and a crab eating raccoon. My photos of them are not worth sharing but the experience was wonderful nevertheless. Ailton was able to call to them so they came out on the road where we could view them clearly.

Morning at Jaguar Reserve Lodge

This is where we stayed for the first two nights. It was bitterly cold those two nights and the rooms were unheated. We had plenty of blankets so it wasn’t too bad sleeping but we still had to face a frigid, overcast day for which we were sadly unprepared.

Hyacinth macaw

This is one of the birds whose calls woke us up in the morning. There was a whole flock of hyacinth macaws right outside our window. These are the largest parrots in the world.

Flock of macaws

The only other macaws we saw on the trip were blue-and-yellow macaws and I didn’t get any photos of them.

Bird eating a spider

I don’t know what kind of bird this is but it is eating a spider.

Acting cute

I still don’t know what kind of bird it is but it is just too cute. Also, note the flowers. As we were their during the height of the dry season, we did not see many flowers.

Female green kingfisher

I have traveled quite a bit but I have never been to a place where it was so easy to see kingfishers. I love these birds and the Pantanal has several species.

A pair of southern screamers

These are large, turkey sized birds. The male has a dark head.

Southern screamers in flight

It appears that the female is screaming.

I've got a fish!

This is an Amazon kingfisher with a fish in its beak.

Black crowned night heron

Are you getting tired of the birds? We’ll get back to capybaras pretty soon.

Juvenile rufescent tiger heron

I love these birds. They are not as pretty as adults though.

Capybara with two ???

If you’ve been paying attention to this post, then you know that those are two black crowned night herons. But who cares? Look how cute that capy is peeking out from behind those vines. This is an adult male, as you can see by the prominent morillo on his nose.

Capy with flowers

This is a female capybara from the same band as the male in the photo above. Notice how red they are. They are a much darker, redder color than Garibaldi Rous. Of course, this one also looks like she is wet.

That’s it for the first installment of my Pantanal Nature tour. Let me know if this is too many birds and I’ll try to cut back in the next post.

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