Trip Report for Southeast Brazil 2010
Participants: Kim Garwood
Author: Kim Garwood
Southeast Brazil January/February 2010
2 weeks taking Portuguese classes in Rio de Janeiro
3 weeks photographing butterflies around Rio and Sao Paulo with friends
Sat Jan 9 overnight flight to Rio from Miami
Sun Jan 10 arrive 9am in Rio
Mon Jan 11 start 2 weeks of classes at BridgeBrazil
Sat Jan 23 6 friends fly down and we meet at the airport in Rio, head to Serra dos Tucanos for 3 nights
Jan 23/24/25 walk the trails at Serra dos Tucanos, www.serradostucanos.com, RS197.50/person/night including meals, RS230 airport transfer from Rio for up to 3
Tue Jan 26 Richard Raby, www.birdingbrazil.com picks us up for 2 weeks, we head to Marica for the night, stop and see golden lion tamarinds behind restaurant, great shrimp in sauce over rice for lunch. He’s charging us US$175/person/day, plus 4 dinners we pay for.
Wed Jan 27 find Parides ascanius in am, drive to Itatiaia to Hotel Donati for 3 nights
Jan 27/28/29 at Hotel Donati, explore trails at Itatiaia National Park, 950 meters
Sat Jan 30 drive to Ubatuba on the coast for 3 nights at Pousada Recanto das Palmeiras, www.recantopalmeiras.com.br stop at the pass through Serra do Bocaina about 600 meters at the microwave towers, not good, 2nd stop about 450 meters has lots of clearwings at white flowers
Sun Jan 31 visit 2 fazendas (private reserves) Angelim and Capricornis
Mon Feb 1 visit Folha Seca hummingbird feeders and walk roads
Tues Feb 2 drive to Intervales State Park for 4 nights, 850-900 meters, www.fflorestal.sp.gov.br (probably in Portuguese), reservations email firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 3/4/5 explore trails at Intervales
Sat Feb 6 drive to Serra da Bocaina for 2 nights, drop off Rick & Emily at Sao Paulo airport
Sun Feb 7 explore the roads around Estalagem da Bocaina, 1100 meters
Mon Feb 8 drive to Regua for 6 nights, contact Nicholas at email@example.com, or the Guapi Assu Birding Lodge, www.guapiassubirdinglodge.com, cost was $100/person/night including meals, airport transfer from Rio $150 up to 8 people
Sun Feb 14 fly Rio to Sao Paulo, then international departures around midnight
Jan 23/24/25 – Serra dos Tucanos picked us up at the Rio airport for $200 for 5 of us, about a 2.5 – 3 hour transfer north of the city. The lodge is about 400 meters and cool and wet, it feels quite a bit higher than only 400 meters. I had been there before and know how comfortable it is, a good place to start the trip and let everybody recover from the overnight flights.
Last time I was here in late November, and was curious to see how different the butterflies would be now, 2 months later in late January. Many of the species flying were ones I had not seen on the earlier trip, especially the morphos. We had the gorgeous white Morpho laertes, which posed very obligingly on the banana feeders so we all got our fill of photos. The blue morphos, which I think were M. helenor, only rarely came to the banana feeders at the lodge, but we found clumps of bananas in the forest from the old banana plantation and they were feeding there.
We had 2 full days to explore the trails. If I was to stay longer I would be interested in checking out some of the nearby trails, but you need a car or a taxi to get there and back. It’s only about 20-30 minutes from the lodge, but it would cost about 60 reais or so each way, which is about US$36, or 72 round trip, a bit expensive.
So I have not done any of the trails away from the lodge. But the trails around the lodge are nice. Our favorite was the close short trail to the stream, where each day we had a different swallowtail. I was surprised we didn’t have more species mudpuddling here. I got great shots of Eurytides dolicaon one day, and the 2nd day there was an enormous fresh thoas planted on the wet sand. One big difference was in November there were many clearwings, and now there were much less. Probably because the white flowering shrub they were coming to in November was past blooming now and had small fruits, so we didn’t find anything to lure the clearwings in.
Jan 26 – our bird guide Richard Raby picks us up about 7:30am and we’re off for 2 weeks with him. I had met him in Itatiaia on my previous trip, and he takes butterfly photos and seemed a good choice. He appears to be more of a general naturalist rather than a strict birder, which is fine with me. He knows a lot about the plants, and has reared many species of butterflies. He takes us to his home town of Marica for the night, in a simple little pousada near the sea. On our way there we stop at a roadside restaurant Richard knows about, and get permission from the owner to walk up the trail behind it into his forest, where golden lion tamarinds live. We find a troop twice, and the 2nd time a few of us get very satisfying looks as 7 of them cross the road up above us. Beautiful creatures, like orange puffballs moving through the trees, looking down at us and whistling. We then go to another patch of forest where there are several stream crossings.
By then it is getting later in the afternoon, but we find a few butterflies still flying, including a fresh Starry Night Cracker, Hamadryas laodamia, and a different looking Mapwing or Hypanartia, and what Richard recognizes as Hypanartia larvae.
The next morning our plan is to go to a colony of Parides ascanius that Richard knows of nearby. The cattleheart is very restricted in locations, though he says it flies all year. However it only flies for a few hours in the morning, and usually stops by 10 or so, so we’ve planned to be there shortly after 7 or 7:30am. We get some photos, but unfortunately they stay mostly high and aren’t very cooperative, so none of us get really spectacular shots, though they will be usable. It’s great fun to watch this lovely butterfly fly up and down the paths and over the tree tops.
Jan 27/28/29 – after watching the Parides for a couple of hours we drive to Itatiaia National Park, the first national park in Brazil. I have been here twice before and always stayed at the Hotel do Ype, the highest hotel, which is a great place to stay and has killer bird feeders, and delicious food. But this time I opted to try the Hotel Donati, which is 4 to 5 km lower on the winding road up the mountain, and it has more roadside areas with lots of flowers, therefore more butterflies.
We decided this was a good decision, and next time I will stay at the Donati again. One big advantage is you can walk easily to the road and wander around without using a car, so people can move independently and not all have to stay together. At the Ype you can only go down, which means you then have to come back up the steep road, and there aren’t near as many possibilities for butterflies. We did go up one rainy afternoon and watch the feeders at the Ype, which are fabulous for photography. The Ype hotel graciously allows visitors to spend some time at their feeders, then we went back down for the butterflies.
At the Donati we ended up spending much of our 2 full days on what we called the chain road, a cut through that has been blocked off by a chain on both ends. In November 2008, when I was last here, we drove through from the Ype to the Donati, and it was very good for both birds and butterflies, but now they have closed it off to vehicles, so it is even better for butterflies. Maybe a mile or a bit less through good forest, lots of puddles and flowers, when the sun comes out there was a particular stretch with a big opening below over the canopy and lots of butterflies, especially crescents, probably 4 or 5 species to sort out. It cuts off from the road up to the Donati about 800 meters below the hotel, heading off to the left to met up with the main road up the mountain and up to the Ype. This intersection is a good place to leave the car and explore in all 3 directions.
We had several different swallowtails landing on the road, plus the fabulous Brazilian bluewing, Myscelia orsis, both males and females which look very much like bluish catonepheles.
Sat Jan 30 – a long driving day over the Serra do Bocaina mountains and down to the coast where we turn right and head west for Ubatuba in Sao Paulo state. We stop twice coming over the low pass for butterflies. The first time just before a tunnel on a road up to microwave towers on the left which isn’t very productive, mostly tall grass, though we do find our first Ancyluris metalmark. Then a short way further down, after the pass, we pull off to the right and take a small trail which has lots of the white flowers the clearwings are after, and there are quite a few active tigerwings, so we take lots of photos there.
Then it’s on to Ubatuba, where we stay at the very comfortable Pousada Recanto das Palmeiras. This is a tourist beach town, so there are many hotels and pousadas to choose from, but we all like our place very much. It’s comfortable, very secure, and has tasty breakfast, plus lots of lights and electrical outlets. Most of the older hotels in the parks have few lights and almost no outlets.
The next day when we come back the windows are all wide open on our rooms, where they open out to a secure walkway in the back, which takes us a bit aback, as we left all our valuable stuff in the rooms, but apparently the hotel airs out the rooms like this and there isn’t any problem. It’s very humid, but the air conditioners are great and they have ceiling fans as well, so it’s quite comfortable. You can walk to the beach if you want, or lots of restaurants, but this place is very quiet, and we are here through the weekend. I would stay here again, and they even have wifi in the lobby. My only internet on this trip. I was concerned about the rain, because Ubatuba is known for being very rainy, and we have been hearing on the news about all the rains and flooding in Sao Paulo, but we have 2 beautiful sunny hot days, no rain at all. Brazilians call it Uba-chuva, and chuva means rain, so that is a subtle hint about the frequent rains here, but we have perfect weather, if a bit hot and sweaty.
Sun Jan 31 – visit Reserva Angelim in the morning and Reserva Capricornis in the afternoon. Both are off the same turnoff from the main highway east of Ubatuba, the roundabout east of the big covered sport area. Angelim is the first right after the main turnoff, while the 2nd reserve is straight in further. Angelim was the much better place. This is where the bird tours go to find purpletufts.
You walk in up a dirt track big enough to drive a van with nice forest on both sides. You come to a clearing where the caretaker lives. There are a number of trees in the clearing where people look for the purpletuft, but you can continue a long way up into the forest. There are a couple of routes or trails into the woods where you cross some streams. I spent most of my time past the clearing but before it got into dark woods. It was about 10 am when butterflies became more active. We didn’t get good numbers, in fact it seemed quite slow around Ubatuba both days. It was much better up at Itatiaia. I was told late Jan/early Feb is the best time for the highlands, but apparently not so good for the lowlands. Brazil may be the sort of place where you can’t time it so it’s good everywhere.
In the next 2 days we went to several patches of forest that looked quite good but overall saw few butterflies. But of course we got some good ones, just not much in the way of numbers. On my next trip I would bring a sack lunch, maybe some rolls and cheese snitched from the hotel breakfast, and plan to spend the day in the field. In the afternoon we went to visit Carlos Rizzo at Capricornis, where there aren’t any signs at all so you have to know where you’re going. Carlos also works as a bird guide and speaks some English. His website is www.ubatubabirds.com.br and he takes lots of bird photos. I think he is the caretaker of this property, which is up the canyon and is basically an overgrown cacao plantation with a river down one side. We were surprised not to find more stuff there, even the river bed didn’t have anything. I suspect a different time of the year both of these reserves could be good places, but not now.
This has been the wettest January in a decade or more, so that could be impacting things. Richard thinks December would be better here in the lowlands. I’ll just have to come back at another time of the year and see.
Mon Feb 1 – went to Folha Seca, on the way to Corcovado, west of Ubatuba. Jonas has set up private hummingbird feeders at his house in the woods, and you can walk a mile or so up the road in the woods past his house. It looks very nice habitat, but again not many butterflies. We actually had better luck, at least Rick and Emily did, working the road back from Jonas’s house to the right, the way we drove in.
There were many shampoo ginger flowers lining the road that were blooming, and most of the butterflies they saw were coming to those. They got good shots of our first Eurybia and several other metalmarks, plus there were several Saliana skippers and 4 or 5 different hairstreaks. The only other butterflies I saw were some tigerwings coming to the white flowers, and they seemed to only like certain patches. I had at least 3 species of tigerwings and Lycoria halia.
We ate a late lunch at Restaurant Tropical, also west of town about 10 or 15 km, a little west of the road to Folha Seca. This is where they have fruit feeders for tanagers, and we had a few red-necked tanagers come in, plus lots of hummers. We were so full some of us just had ice cream for dinner that night at 7pm, we went to a sorveteria where you dish up your own ice cream and then weigh it, you pay by the weight. A great way to serve ice cream.
Tues Feb 2 – another long driving day to get through Sao Paulo and southwest to Intervales State Park, about 4-5 hours south of Sao Paulo. We are back up at elevation, about 900 meters, so we’re in much more pleasant temperatures, and hopefully better butterflies. At least we had thought we would be at cooler temperatures, but the first afternoon when we arrive it’s boiling, much hotter than they’re used to here. They have several large old big houses scattered around the park where people stay, and our group gets Pica-Pau (which means woodpecker). I’ve stayed in this one before, and it’s my favorite, plus it has the only swimming pool.
We get the 4 rooms on the 2nd story of a large old wooden building with little balconies off the rooms, beautiful views over the hills. The down side is the heat gets trapped on the 2nd floor and we all swelter in our stuffy little rooms under the eaves. We can’t open the French doors to our balconies due to biting insects, and there aren’t any fans or screens, so we just whine and sweat. It’s not as bad the next day, or maybe we’re more used to it.
The 2 previous times I’ve been to Intervales it was cool, not hot, so I think this is quite unusual for here. But we have some good butterflies. We get several special owls or Brassolidae, and lots of gorgeous small bamboo Morpho aega are flying. This is the species they use to make the plates with the wings, a brilliant metallic sight sparkling in the bamboo on the trails. Often you watch 3 or 4 chasing each other. Of course they don’t stop for photos, but maybe one of us will get lucky.
We spend the next 3 days rambling around, sometimes in the van, sometimes on foot. Before when I’ve been here we did the dirt roads, but this time I spend 1 day hiking on a narrow forest trail that takes off right from the pool area, where you park the cars by Pica-Pau. It looks like it goes up the hill through open pasture and grass, so it doesn’t look very promising to start, but Hank and Richard did it late in the afternoon one day and came back with some good stuff, 2 new owls, so I try it the next morning right after breakfast.
After climbing a bit you join up with a main trail they’ve mowed called Mirante da Anta, turn left at the top of the hill and in a few hundred feet you get into forest. The further you go the better it gets. I think on the map it says this trail goes for 6 km, so you can go as long as you want. There are lots of grass skippers, many of whom don’t pose for photos, but I chase and get a bunch of shots of a fabulous ruby-eye, dark veins with 2 big white bands. He jumps my flash at first, which I meant to turn off, but I luck out and find a 2nd individual who is more obliging. He’s in a very dark part of the trail, and likes to hide in the dark plants next to a wet mossy wall, so he prefers it dark, but after I mess with him a while without the flash he seems to get comfortable with my sticking my camera up next to him, and when I go for the flash he tolerates it.
Many of the dark skippers who live in the dark forest won’t let you flash them, but sometimes you get lucky, or with patience they get used to it. There are white flowers for clearwings, Parides flying overhead, and tons of the Morpho aega. I finally get one sitting on the wet trail, get some shots, then catch it and shoot it in the hand. Dan also gets a female, one of the orange ones. Apparently the females come in blue or orange. I had not even seen a female, so that’s a major score.
1 day we drive up one of the tracks, get out of the van when we see butterflies flying, and walk up the road. We get good shots of Lychnuchus celsus, a beautiful dark grass skipper with big bright orange patches on the forewings, plus a green thorax, smashing. We keep kicking up things as we walk, never large numbers but a steady stream of different species.
One of everybody’s favorite is the fresh Mimoides lysithous we find drinking at an area the local guide takes us to where there is water crossing the road. Louise, the local ranger, is a bird guide and is very knowledgeable with the birds, but knows zip about the butterflies. But when we ask him if there is a place with water on the road, he takes us right to a good spot. This Mimoides is black with a bright white stripe and red on the hindwing, very delicate and graceful. This pattern seems to be a common one here in southeast Brazil, the female hectorides swallowtail is very similar as are several others. It’s interesting to compare this location to Itatiaia, as they’re roughly the same elevation. This is much scrubbier, more 2nd growth, but there is darker forest in on the trails. I think Itatiaia is wetter and cooler, at least this time. There is more open woods here, therefore more sunny places. Both places are well worth spending quite a bit of time at.
I think it would take you a long time to explore all the trails here. You could probably easily spend a week or 2, especially if you have a vehicle. Some of the tracks go 20-30 km! I’ll be back. One unexpected bonus is we have crab-eating foxes coming around our house several evenings right at dusk. Once we have at least 3 of them. I’ve never seen them before, but they seem to be looking for food.
2 other close tracks we enjoy walking are Hank’s track, to the right below our house about a mile or so, and Dan’s loop that goes to the left past the nursery, or viveiro, to the research station. I had walked this loop last time I was here. There are 2 roads that head west from the main road, signed for Seco de Paseido, or something close to that. It’s a one way loop for vehicles, and there are several roads that take off from the station area. This is where the nightjar sits in the road at night.
This is a nice couple of km loop for walking, except they have whacked the bushes along the road on the first part of the loop. So we walk the return part, the road that takes off closer to our Pica-pau residence that goes in past the nursery, and the undergrowth is much better for butterflies. Dan and Rick and Emily get some good stuff along this part. Hank’s track to the right has tons of Morphos, I’ve never seen so many, plus I find a new Vettius and a different Hypanartia or Mapwing.
Every track seems worth exploring, it’s just a matter of time as to how many you can go down. There are very few cars, even on the main tracks maybe only 3 or 4 a morning, and the tracks are weedy and often damp with dappled sunny spots or more full sun, so it’s a great environment for butterflies. The main problem is getting distracted by all the birds, this is a very birdy place.
One place in the forest, for example, I’m working on a satyr and look up to find a pair of saffron toucanets squawking at me.
Our 3rd day we take the van and drive in a ways, then get dropped off at a gate and walk from there. Again, different butterflies even though it looks similar habitat. Lots of white flowers, so lots of clearwings, we find several new ones for us.
You could probably spend a week here without any trouble.
My only suggestion is to bring a fan, if you’re coming in the hot months. It cools off nicely outside, to about 70 or so, but the buildings don’t breathe very well and you can’t leave the doors open due to the gnats and mosquitoes. The bugs may be worse now due to the heavy rains they’ve had, I did not have any trouble with biting insects on my previous trips.
Directions to Intervales – west of Sao Paulo on SP280 to SP127 towards Itapetininga, then on to Capao Bonito, small road to Riberiao Grande, then 25 km dirt road to the park. Takes about 5 hours from Sao Paulo, including about an hour to get through SP from the international airport on the east side of town.
Sat Feb 6 – We head out for the drive to the Sao Paulo airport (4-5 hours away) to drop off Rick and Emily with some concern about our van, which has been stalling frequently since getting a load of bad gas at Capao Bonito, where we had filled up at a truck stop on the outskirts of town as we arrived.
We may have clogged injectors, so plan B is to have it checked in town and worse case put Rick and Emily in a taxi to the airport. They have plenty of time, as the international flights all seem to leave about 11 pm or 12 in the middle of the night. However, the van seems to improve as we limp along the 25 km of rutted dirt road, and by the time we make it to Capao Bonito it’s running ok, so we continue. We make it through SP, leave them at the airport, and continue on east back to the turnoff to Itatiaia, then the van starts stalling again.
As we turn off the main highway to the right and head to Bananao, it gets worse. We continue the final 35 km up steep, progressively worsening rocky road, and finally make it to Estalagem de Bocaina, a simple hotel of about 7 or 8 rooms mostly for hikers, jeep clubs, and used by Brazilian special forces for training. It’s clean and very friendly and they’re thrilled to have butterfliers for the first time. The owner has even found a dead swallowtail and saved it for us in an envelope.
The food is wonderful, and they serve huge amounts, guess they’re used to serving young hungry hikers. Richard had originally used the more upscale hotel in the area, but on a previous trip they dropped his reservation, even though he had paid in advance, so he prefers this simpler, very welcoming place.
There are 2 rooms for the 2 couples that include bathrooms, but I get a room where the toilet is shared down the hall. They have male and female toilets, so basically the toilet is all mine, as the only other guests are a jeep club of a bunch of guys.
The 2nd night, Sunday, we have the place to ourselves. We walk the roads, as Louise our driver has taken the van back home to Marica, about 3 hours away, where he takes it to the mechanic and will return for us Monday morning with another vehicle. So we have to walk a mile or so through the open valley roads to get to forest, but we find some goodies along the water by the side of the dirt road. We find at least 4 and maybe 5 fabulous big firetips, 2 yellow and black striped ones, a gorgeous rainbow red, yellow and blue striped one that is truly spectacular, Mimoniades veriscolor, and another mostly black with some yellow, plus the typical Pyrrhopyge black with white trim and a red head. And they’re fairly obliging and pose for photos! Dan and Kay and Richard find a communal group of the yellow and black striped firetips, Saripa damippe, roosting in the grass early in the morning, when they go birding, and get photos of them crawling up out of the wet grass. Interesting, I didn’t know they roosted together like that.
I walk to the left of the hotel, the take the road to the right and go up the hill into forest. There are more white morphos than I have ever seen, sometimes 8 or 10 in sight chasing each other. They are sitting on the road, so I get photos of several individuals. We may have 2 species here, I will have to check the books when I get home. Or it may be the 2 sexes, but there are a few with different markings. There is a fabulous huge dark canopy flying morpho sailing along overhead with some light blue/greenish color on the dorsal, but these don’t come down for photos, unfortunately. Lots of action with species perching up in the canopy and chasing each other.
I do get photos of several new grass skippers, so there’s lots of keep us busy. And there are lots of good birds, swallow-tailed cotingas coming to a fruiting tree and lots of other goodies. I would suggest staying for 3 nights instead of just 2 as we are doing, as you could spend a day in each direction from the lodge. You drive over a pass of about 1300 meters, and the road up higher could be excellent to work as well. We didn’t have the time on our way in, due to the car problems, and it would be better to do it in the morning, but we choose to spend our 2nd morning in the roads around the lodge and get lunch here, instead of leaving after breakfast and eating in one of the roadside cafes.
We’ve eaten in Frango Assado cafes on the long drives, where we get mostly chicken fried on a stick or various puff pastries that are fairly heavy. Another chain that looks interesting is Graal, but Richard says it’s too expensive, however I may try it on a future trip. With a car I would spend a day here up at the higher elevation on the pass, I’ll bet you find some different butterflies with a couple of hundred more meters of elevation. They have not had any rain here in over a week, so it is quite dry, which is unusual. Everywhere seems to be having unusual weather on this trip, and it’s hotter here than normal.
Mon Feb 8 – we spend the morning on the roads around the lodge, some going one way and some of us going the other. This morning I head up the road to the right, and we find more groups of the Sarbia firetips crawling up out of the wet grass and basking together in groups of 4 and 5, a truly remarkable sight.
Then after lunch we pack up for our 4 hour drive to Regua, where we say good bye to Richard. We have some driver problems, as he was supposed to be back at 8am, then Richard told him he could come at 10am, and now we’re waiting and it’s 12:30pm. But finally he shows up, with a new van and another driver, and we finally get underway.
We don’t like the new driver, as he drives too fast and doesn’t seem to pay any attention to Richard, who repeatedly tells him to slow down. So we’re all very glad to make it to Regua in one piece and say goodbye to the 2 drivers. Richard is furious with them as well, and won’t be using them again. Too bad, but you only expect a few things from a driver, and driving safely and being on time are the 2 most critical.
I did enjoy Richard as a guide, his suggestion to include Serra do Bocaina was very good, and I will be using him again for future butterfly trips. He’s quite into butterflies, and knows quite a bit about them, and takes photos of them as well. I will probably do it in a smaller group, maybe 3 or 4 max, so we can just use Richard’s car and eliminate the potential driver problem.
So we’re at Regua, where the meals are killer and the rooms are very comfortable, in a small lodge on top of a small hill with a pool, hummingbird feeders, and pretty views of the mountains in back of us, and air conditioning! Good thing, as we’re in the lowlands, about 55 meters, and it’s seriously hot and sticky.
The next morning we explore around the lagoons Nicholas has built and work our way into the forest. They have lots of trails here, and we spend a few days exploring, plus the owners, Nicholas and Raquel, provide a range rover and driver to take you to several more distant trails.
This land has been in Nicholas’ family for several generations, and they’re involved in all sorts of conservation/education projects, so it’s quite interesting to hear what they’re working on. Plus my friend Jorge Bizarro has come to talk with Nicholas about a job, and to also spend some time guiding us around. He knows a tremendous amount about hostplants and caterpillars, and is very gracious and always willing to share his knowledge. It’s nice to have someone along who is very familiar with many of the southeastern Brazil species.
Tues Feb 9 – after exploring forest trails around the lodge, Nicholas drives us up to some new land they recently purchases from an old man called Vortemer, or something close to that. You turn to the right out of the entrance to Regua and drive 30-45 minutes, as the road gets steeper and rockier.
We hike up a couple of hundred meters in elevation to about 400 meters, to a beautiful setting up against the steep hills of the mountains, in a nice overgrown garden with lots of citrus. We collect limes for our nightly caparinhas, which Nicholas provides for free, a very nice touch. We start back down a different trail, and Dan and Kay find a citrus tree oozing sap that has attracted some Opsiphanes owl butterflies and an amazing beetle. Then we come to a dark ravine with a small creek that is full of Ithomniine or clearwings, including some I don’t know. Especially a yellow and black Napeogenes. We also get good shots of Pierella nereis, with the stunning orange on the dorsal hindwing.
Wed Feb 10 – we hike up to the waterfall, after being driven in 6 km past Nicholas’ house. Their trails mostly have meter markers every 50 meters, and on this one we get dropped off about 1000 meters, then hike to 2500 meters where the trail splits into red to the left and blue to the right. We take the right fork, which is the correct one for the waterfall, and the easier way to go. It’s a tall, dark forest and a narrow trail, so we don’t see many butterflies, but it’s a very pretty hike. When we get to the waterfall it’s spectacular, and you can go swimming.
We eat lunch and sit on the rocks and watch several species of morphos sailing through the chasm and into the spray of the falls, a magical place, well worth the hike.
Thur Feb 11 – more exploring on the trails near the lodge on foot. We figure out you can take a loop trail over to the vista intersection, a couple of kms away, through nice forest with lots of butterflies. Then in the afternoon we go to the Black Trail, again by range rover, which Nicholas suggests as a good trail with afternoon sun. Probably the most exciting is a fabulous metalmark or riodinid that gets away, half cream and half dark, split horizontally. Plus lots of small hairstreaks or lycaenids.
Fri Feb 12 - In the morning we’re driven to yet another trail, the 4×4 trail, which takes almost an hour to slowly scramble up the rough road, then we walk further into the forest. This turns out to be our favorite for butterflies, as we get some goodies here, especially very obliging Arcas imperialis, the stunning sparkly green hairstreak with long curly tails. Dan and Hank also score big time with great shots of the mystery riodinid we saw yesterday, and this time they nail him, so I’ll be able to id it once I get home. We have several other new riodinds, brilliant blue/purple Menanders and a small black and orange Pterographium, maybe P. sagaris satnius.
In the afternoon Dan, Kay and I go back to the lime tree trail, and we manage to get some decent shots of the yellow Napeogenes, but much fewer butterflies than a couple of days earlier.
Sat Feb 13 – Our last full day in the field, we go back to the 4×4 trail, as that is where we have the best butterflies. This 2nd day I walk downhill from where the range rover drops us off, for several kms. I’ve never seen so many hairstreaks anywhere.
The road, big enough for the car and basically 2 ruts through the vegetation, has a mossy dark bank on the uphill side about 1 to 3 meters tall, and the hairstreaks seem to really like this. You keep kicking up many, probably quite a few different species. Many are Calycopis, probably C. caulonia, which were studied here by one of Jorge’s friends. But there are several other Calycopis type hairstreaks, and quite a few other genera. Lots of Strephonota, a few Janthecla, at least one Lamprospilus, some Tmolus, Iaspis, and more. It would be productive to catch some and photograph the dorsals as well, to make sure of the id’s. this is definitely a place to come back to, probably several times throughout the year. Jorge says May is good for several species of Parides, including P. ascanius. Maybe I’ll just have to spend several months.
One very useful book I find here, pointed out to me by Jorge, is Historia Natural da Serra do Japi, by L.Patricia C.Morrellato, published in 1992 in Sao Paulo. It covers many types of living things, but it includes a chapter on butterflies, and it includes skippers. They illustrate almost 700 species, done by Keith Brown, and it’s extremely useful. I photograph the entire chapter for future reference, as I am told it is out of print, of course. Nice to know Nicholas has it here for our use in his library. He also has Butterflies of Misiones (Argentina) by Canals, which is quite helpful.
One thing I’ve learned on this trip is how similar many of the species are to Iguazu Falls, so I should have brought my Argentina butterfly books. Next time I will. I hadn’t realized that the Mata Atlantica goes down to Iguazu, duh.
The last afternoon Nicholas and Raquel come and take us to an old swimming hole, as the electricity goes out and it’s hot. We drive to the old ranch house, which is now owned by the brewery, and walk in across a pasture. By the time we get to the river we’re definitely ready to jump in, and it’s a perfect temperature. A beautiful spot, hidden away and very private.
The guys scramble up the boulders and head upstream, but I just float in the fabulous pool and enjoy the spectacular tangerine colored bromiliads hanging over the mossy rocks. We hang out for an hour or so, until we all have goosebumps from the cool water, something we haven’t felt in quite a while. A lovely way to end our fabulous trip to Guapi Assu Lodge, and our spectacular trip to southeast Brazil. I’ll be back, hopefully many times!
Future trips – schedule some time to visit Campos do Jordao, about 2 hours from the airport at Sao Paulo, east of town about 1500-1600 meters. Richard says it’s good for higher elevations, mountain tourist town with lots of hotels, good habitat. He suggests on his website some hotels to use, Vista Verde is nice. I would not include the lowland locations in a summer trip, I would skip Ubatuba when I come back in Jan/Feb/March.
I need to figure out the better times for the lowlands, maybe their spring like Sept/Oct/Nov/early Dec. So a future highland trip might be a bit later, like Feb/Mar instead of Jan/Feb, but pay attention to when carnival is. I would maybe fly into Sao Paulo and drive to Intervales, then work my way back to the east and do Campos do Jordao, which would be a closer drive from Intervales. Then do Itatiaia, then Serra do Bocaina, then back to Rio and maybe Serra dos Tucanos and maybe around Teresopolis. Add more days at Itatiaia and Intervales and Bocaina.
One thing the Serra do Japi book talks about is the Ithomiinae are more common in the dry winter months, and they make large congregations then, probably in September before the rains start. That would be something to try and find, a reason to come at the end of their winter. Nicholas says the bird tours come to Regua mostly June/July, when it’s cooler, so that might be a time to avoid. It was very nice having the lodge at Guapi Assu mostly to ourselves.