Vast watery landscapes, birds birds birds, and really close encounters with the largest and cuddliest monster rodents you can imagine as well as the jacaré, Brazil’s alligators!
Brazil (Sam Lowry’s First Dream) – Michael Kamen / Kate Bush
Two weeks ago Ed and I flew into Corumba, near Bolivia in Brazil’s southwestern state of Mato Grosso du Sul, the main southern access point to the vast Pantanal region. The Pantanal might be best described, to Americans at least, as Brazil’s version of the Everglades. An immense system of rivers and wetlands, with water levels that rise and inundate the land in the rainy season and fall again in the dry season, releasing some ground from a watery blanket. The Pantanal waters are separate from those that form the Amazonian system.
August is in the dry season, so it was possible for Ed and I to drive the Estrada Parque hundreds of kilometers west and south of Corumba in a regular car (that would get really dusty in the process). During the rainy season only 4 wheel drives would make in through the then muddy and water logged trail.
North of Corumba the Pantanal, even in the dry season is completely inundated with water (the photo above is looking north, the photo is from the start of the Estrada Parque road). We explored that section by boat, a completely different experience, which I will share in the next blog post.
The dirt road gives way to many bridges, which allow the waters to flow freely in and out.
Even in the dry season, most of the view on either side of the Estrada Parque road is water covered terrain.
To the left, the golden trumpet, Brazil’s National Tree.
The eagles look so distinguished and calm on their high perches overlooking the landscape.
Regal eagles indeed.
We saw so many parrots whizzing by, sometimes in groups of 4 or 6, but capturing them on camera proved nigh impossible. Even when they stopped in trees, they had a way of blending in and moving out of sight behind branches. Still, I have a few shots to prove the encounters happened. I was less fortunate with the toucans, who would fly past us suddenly and beautifully and too quick for the camera. On this day I would shoot no images of toucans. On another day, however, well… stay tuned…
Although August is a winter month in Brazil, it still reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Corumba. So I’ll take this opportunity to include the famous Summer Samba as a musical interlude:
So Nice (Summer Samba) – Bebel Gilberto
Take a close look below, do you see it…?
The jacaré caiman, proud member of the alligator family!
So many more jacaré, up close and jaws agape, plus much more “below the break”, as they say…
Above, a yellow-billed cardinal.
Above, the mud nest built most likely by a red ovenbird, AKA rufous hornero. We saw them flying about, but didn’t learn they were the master builders of these impressive clay hovels until we looked it up. Wikipedia supplied this close-up of the red ovenbird.
Caracara falcons, like those above, appear pretty comfortable scavenging for food near human settlements, like Porto das Mangas, where you catch a ferry across the Paraguay river.
Let’s continue highlighting the musical stylings of Bebel Gilberto. This track was prominently featured in a Julia Roberts movie featuring a lot of eating, praying and loving…
Samba Da Bençao – Bebel Gilberto
Below a family of capybara, hurrying by us to take cover in thicker bush and water near the road. I didn’t realize yet at this point how much closer we would get to many more capybara, the largest rodents on earth. Monster hamsters, but with sweeter dispositions.
A gavião (hawk), we believe.
And then, just as we thought we’d already had one pretty amazing close encounter with jacaré, there are more amazing closer encounters…
Crane, not sure which kind, specifically…
The anhinga, also called snake birds, or water turkeys. They will swim in the waters with their bodies immersed and only their heads sticking out. Then they will sit in the sun stretching out their wings to dry.
An anhinga taken off for flight over the water.
An anhinga drying his feathers.
A capybara family nonchalantly hanging out by the side of the road.
This one liked rubbing his snout against branches.
One more helping of the sultry Bebel:
Tanto Tempo – Bebel Gilberto
According to Wikipedia, the roseate spoonbill below, is a “gregarious” wading bird of the ibis and spoonbill family.
A caracara, looking regal like an eagle. But I’ve seen your kind scavenge for trash. Just kidding, I think these birds look beautiful and majestic too… when they’re not acting like pigeons…
Like I said, each new encounter with jacaré…
…was more spectacular…
…than the one before…
Um.. hi there… may we pass…?
“OK, I’ll let you go this time…”
From afar we thought we were looking at a capybara snout sticking out of the water. Then when we got a closer look at the zoom shot we took we realized what we thought was a muzzle and nostril were a bird’s head and eye…
“Hm, a discarded fish head on the road….” – “Hey, lemme at it!”