Trip Report Southeast Brazil Jan-March 2015
Look on flickr to see our butterfly photos from this trip, under Southeast Brazil
This trip consists of several smaller trips. The first 2 segments are organized through Richard Raby, who is a Brit who lives in Marica, Brazil for 6 months of the year, from November to April. He is a bird guide who has gotten seriously into butterflies and does a lot of rearing of Nymphalids. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, www.birdingbrazil.com.
I’ve just gotten in touch with a butterfly guide who works at Iguassu Falls, which is a fabulous place for butterflies. You can contact Roberto Rezende Greve at email@example.com Roberto has been helping me with id’s on some of our photos, and speaks very good english.
Trip #1 is with Tony Hoare and Bill Berthet from Jan 23 to Feb 11. Then I will hang out at Richard’s in Marica over Carnival. Trip #2 if with Dan and Kay Wade from Feb 18 to March 5. Then Richard will drop us off at Regua for a week, then we fly to Serra Bonita for a week.
Day 1 Tues Jan 20 – fly overnight Houston to Rio de Janeiro, arrive 11:15am
Day 2 Wed Jan 21 – Richard picks me up, 4 nights in Marica at his house
Day 3 Thur Jan 22 – Estrada Fazenda Bananal in Marica
Day 4 Fri Jan 23 – pick up Bill and Tony in Rio, Parides ascanius pm, owl ridge
Day 5 Sat Jan 24 – back to Fazenda Bananal for the day, de Limao pm walk
Day 6 Sun Jan 25 – move to Sertao da Bocaina, Sao Paulo for 5 nights,1150m
Day 7/8/9/10 Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu Jan 26/27/28/29 – explore around Estalagem da Bocaina, 1160m
Jan 26&27 – Sarbia meadow & trail to left
Jan 28 – drive back to Pro-Bocaina, km24 & trail on left
Jan 29 – trail above Pro-Bocaina again
Jan 30 – explore new trails
Day 11 Fri Jan 30 – move to Itamonte, Minas Gerias, the upper part of Itatiaia NP, for 4 nights at Pousada Ribeirao do Ouro, 930m
Day 12 Sat Jan 31 – drive up road to black needles, Itatiaia NP 2200m
Day 13 Sun Feb 1 – explore other track, back up mountain in afternoon
Day 14 Mon Feb 2 – drive 45 minutes to Passa Quatro, National Forest 1100m
Day 15 Tue Feb 3 – drive to Fazenda do Esperanca outside Delfim Moreira, Minas Gerais, for 1 night, walk track Pico de Atacaque 1450m
Day 16 Wed Feb 4 – drive to Campos do Jordao, Sao Paulo for 2 nights 1600m
Day 17 Thur Feb 5 – rained out
Day 18 Fri Feb 6 – Pedra do Bau & Pico de Itapeva near Jordao, then drive to Hotel Donati 950m, Itatiaia National Park late afternoon, after chocolate shopping
Day 19-22 Sat-Tue Feb 7-10 – trails & roads around Donati
Feb 7 – cloudy & cool, walk down to cut through road, no car
Feb 8 – much sunnier, work down to triangle, ride back up for lunch
Feb 9 – go to waterfalls, too much rain, explore Peneda after lunch
Feb 10 – waterfalls & road, sun in and out
Day 23 Wed Feb 11 – Tony & Bill to the airport, Kim back to Marica w/Richard for carnival, great sunny morning at Donati
Day 24 Thur Feb 12 to Tue Feb 17 – back in Marica for a week, catch up on computer work on photos & id’s
Day 29 Mon Feb 16 – hunt for Prepona deiphile
Day 30 Wed Feb 18 – the Wades fly in early, we’re off to Bocaina for 4 nights
Day 31/32/33 Thu/Fri/Sat Feb 19/20/21 – explore around Estalagem da Bocaina, 1160m
Feb 19 – walk trails near Sarbia meadow
Feb 20 – road above Pro-Bocaina, clearwing heaven
Feb 21 – up to the right, then the left, dirt road to bridges
Day 34 Sun Feb 22 – morning at Bocaina, drive to Hotel Donati for 5 nights
Feb 23 – work road down to triangle
Feb 24 – riodinid road behind gate
Feb 25 – Lago Azul, owls & large snake
Feb 26 – old Hotel Simon trail
Day 39 Fri Feb 27 – golden frog at waterfalls & monkeys am, pm drive to Itamonte, Pousada Ribeirao do Ouro for 5 nights
Feb 28 – water plant trail am, forest behind hotel pm
Mar 01 – up the mountain to upper Itatiaia, 2400m
Mar 02 – drove back roads through Itamonte, 1600m
Mar 03 – Passa Quarto Nacional Forestal, 1050-1100m
Day 44 Wed Mar 04 – go up mountian am, drive back to Marica for 1 night
Day 45-50 Thu-Tue Mar 05/06/07/08/09/10 – to Regua for 6 nights
Mar 06 – 4×4 trail
Mar 07 – Von do Mar trail, lots of Eurybia molochina
Mar 08 – walked trails around the lakes
Mar 09 – more trails around the lakes, back by road
Mar 10 – forest fragment trail, giant snipe late afternoon
Day 51 Wed Mar 11 – fly to Ilheus, drive 4 hours to Serra Bonita for 7 nights
Mar 12 – explore trails around lodge
Mar 13 – drive up to towers, walk back by road
Mar 14 – drizzly am, my talk after lunch
Mar 15 – see Vitor’s collection
Mar 16 – more work on Vitor’s collection
Mar 17 – back to the towers, walk back by road
Day 58 Wed Mar 18 – drive to Ilheus, 1:30pm fly to Rio on GOL, then United back to Texas at 8:50pm, arrive home 10:30am Mar 19
Day 1 Tues Jan 20 – United flight from McAllen, TX to Houston to Rio
Day 2 Wed Jan 21 – land in Rio, Richard Raby meets me at the airport. We drive back to his house, about 1.5 hours away, drop off my stuff and head up 30 minutes to walk a nice track at Estrada Fazenda Bananal. This is taller forest where Richard has spent a lot of time and does a lot of baiting here, so he’s very familiar with the species flying. It is very hot and dry, with curled up leaves and crunchy things underfoot. So that means not lots of butterflies flying. But we find some goodies.
Day 3 Thur Jan 22 – We go back the next morning and check some of the bowls of bait left overnight. Several owls come to the rotten banana, including Caligo beltrao, and some nice satyrs. I get good shots of Antirrhea archaea, one of the brown morphos, and Dasyophthalma creusa, one of the Brazilian specialities. Richard scores with Opoptera syme, a new species for this location for him, very fresh. We have several Archaeoprepona who are fairly worn, but this next morning we get a very fresh A.amphimachus, so things are hatching even in this dry time. By late morning we actually get some rain, hooray! It stays dark and overcast most of the day, thunder rumbling. Richard tells me it is the first rain he’s seen in almost a month.
Day 4 Fri Jan 23 – We drive back to the airport in Rio to pick up Tony Hoare and Bill Berthet at 11:30am, then go back to Marica after stopping at a roadside restaurant for lunch. We head to the beach about 3:30pm to look for one of the real endemic specialities, Parides ascanius. Richard knows where to go, wandering around the dirt roads in a little town down by the lagoon. We park next to a field of lantana and other flowers, and find a couple of them right from the car.
Then we move a bit down the road to a second location where we walk in a couple of hundred meters and have an extended, close encounter with another P.ascanius. Tony and Bill have a fabulous time taking tons of killer shots, much better than what we had when I was here five years ago. This male keeps circling around and landing right next to one of us on the trail, then we skulk slowly around trying to get in position.
We go back to the house for an hour or so, then leave about 6:30 to go up into the hills to look for owls. Richard takes us up a pretty bad dirt road, definitely 4×4, to a hang gliders launcing spot with a spectacular view over the coast. We walk in a couple of hundred meters on the side of the ridge through a dry, crispy forest at dusk. I’m thinking we won’t see anything, it’s almost dark, but boy am I wrong. Richard leads us to a very small clearing, maybe 3-4 meters wide, where there is a pile of dead sticks and vines, and suddenly we have 2 Narope cyllastros ? One keeps coming back to the pile of sticks and the guys get great shots.
Bill goes a bit further up the trail, up to the left, and yells out ‘Dynastor darius!’, so we all pelt up the hill to where he is. Richard grabs one with the net, we shoot it in the hand, and there are at least 2 others chasing each other up and down the trail. Richard catches a second one, much fresher and very rufous below. There are Eryphanis chasing each other in the treetops, and a beautiful Caligo brasiliensis that keeps coming back to a tree, low down and good for photos. So four species of great owls zipping around at 7:30 to 8pm! It is practically dark by now, good thing we brought flashlights to hike back out, though we could still walk without lights if needed. An amazing experience.
We head back down the steep dirt road and into Marica, where Richard takes us to a great German restaurant. We stuff ourselves with sausage, pork loin, fabulous sauerkraut and potates, and can barely waddle our way back to the car at 10:30pm. What a day.
Day 5 Sat Jan 24 – We go back to Fazenda Bananal with Tony and Bill. It is somewhat overcast, with sun coming and going. You can see the forest isn’t as dry as a few days ago, but it could still use a lot more rain. I see some different species from before, Marpesia petreus have hatched, and Bill gets some grass skippers skulking in the bushes. We get nice shots of the orange Pirella, P.nereis, which is new for Richard for this location.
By lunchtime it is hot and slow, so we decide to leave and try another spot, though Richard says this is the best forest. He takes us to another dirt road, we park and walk up a track, climbing through a barbed wire fench. It is nice and wooded, and we go down into the woods where there is a lek of tigerwings, mostly Hypothyris ninonia daeta. We chase Ithomiinae through the bushes, getting some photos but missing stuff as well. There are a dozen or more tiger striped Ithomiinae and a couple Heliconius here in southeast Brazil, and it is difficult to sort them all out. That night I go through Richard’s collection, which helps.
Thunder gets louder and louder, so we head back to the car. Good timing, as it rains just as we drive out back to the highway. That night Richard grills us a tasty Brazilian barbeque, chicken wings, steak, sausage, lots of meat. This is a meat eating country.
For field lunches Richard and Bill bought some tuna, at my suggestion, but they bought some NRS (nasty red shit), tuna in tomatoe sauce. I refuse to eat it, and after calling it names, it’s not too popular with the others either. Fortunately they also bought a couple of cans of regular tuna, though we can only get tuna in oil here, and it’s not very high quality tuna. Call me a tuna snob, what can I say.
Day 6 Sun Jan 25 – Today we head out for the first place we’re staying, at Bocaina. I was there 5 years ago, but we didn’t have a car, so we were limited to walking around where we stayed.
We drive back to the first ridge towards the hang gliding place for an hour or so, as this is the last time we’ll be in the lowlands on this trip. We scramble up a steep bank off the bad dirt road, w/Richard giving us a hand, and hang around a hilltopping area in the dry crunchy forest. Richard says normally this is a great area with lots of swallowtails and butterflies displaying, but this has been the driest spring on record. But we see some good stuff anyway.
A determined Vacerra bonfilius keeps coming back to some leaves and allows great photos, and there are a number of Eunica, mostly E.tatilia but also a very fresh Eunica maja that likes to pose on the small tree trunks at the top. He is shy but with persistence we all get good photos.
We drive on to the state of Sao Paulo by back roads, stopping a few places to look for butterflies. We find a fresh Riodina lycisca, looks sort of like a Melanis riodinid black with an orange ring, and see several Pseudolycaena marysas at a parking lot for a restaurant. Richard used to find good butterflies here in the puddles, but now the restaurant is using it for cars.
We make it to the simple hotel where we will be based for the next 5 nights about 5pm, and immediately drive a little ways up the track and walk to the spot where we have found Sarbia damippe roosting in numbers before. Hooray, they are here in the rain, each sitting under a grass stem. There is a small swampy area just past a small wooden bridge. The three of us stay in the car, but Richard insists, and we’re glad he did. We get out and see them all over, very cool looking.
The next morning it is bright and sunny and we take lots of photos. Most of the Sarbia are gone by the time we get there, after our lovely 7:30am breakfast, enough food for twice as many people. There are at least two species of Sarbia here, perhaps more.
All morning we chase butterflies, many skippers, but also the big orange owls Blepolenis batea. One nice thing about these Brazilian owls is they fly during the day. Tony and I also get great shots of the white Morpho here, M.athena, and we see one of the smaller M.portis fly by. It gets dark and cloudy by 1pm, and as we get back for lunch it rains pretty good, with plenty of thunder.
This appears to be our weather pattern over the next several days – bright sunny mornings with clouds building and rain by 1pm. One day we drive back to the pavement and to our left, back a km or two, and walk a track down to the left. This is a cooler morning, but by 9am things are starting to fly. We find lots of the Synargis paulistina, with varying amounts of white, but I think they are all one species. Lots of small grass skippers, with Bernard’s help I’m gradually sorting most of them out.
Later that same morning, after a close encounter with a very fresh Noctuana diurna that lets us lift his hindwing, we drive a little bit further down the road and park at an abandoned building with a sign Pro-Bocaina. Then we walk a short distance and turn right up a dirt track. Richard has explored a number of these tracks that head off into the forest. This is a good one. A short way in is a house in a clearing with several swallowtails displaying and chasing everything that moves. Richard gets his net and catches two, a Battus polystictus and one he gets very excited about, Parides tros danunciae, which is a newer subspecies from further south. It is a mint fresh huge female.
We walk further up the track, past barking dogs at the house, and into nice forest, over a stream. This place looks great, several hairstreaks, a turn or two up the track we find the little white flowers with clearwings. Tony gets good shots of a mystery riodinid, black and white sort of like a Thisbe, but I can’t figure it out. A friend id’s it later as Synargis regulus, don’t know why I missed it. Richard goes back and gets the car and we drive 20 minutes or more up the track. We’ve been told there are 2 houses up here, but it takes us a long time to get to the first one. We stop in one beautiful open ravine just to watch the Morphos, 3 species, sailing up and down in the brilliant sun. There is also one of the huge dark species that never comes down from the canopy.
Suddenly it clouds up and rains by shortly after 1, right on schedule. We get back to the hotel for another delicious chicken and salad lunch. They even have maracuay (passion fruit) pudding or flan for dessert. Yum.
We spend another morning on this same track lower down, just walking up from the pavement. I find a new grey and white striped hairstreak, no idea what it is, and a beautiful Metron oropa comes to some of Bill’s pee. We haven’t had much luck here with different types of bait. Nothing came to the rotten shrimp, and male pee isn’t bringing in numbers either, though a few things have come to Bill’s pee. But nothing like in the Andes. I also get good shots of Rhadbodryas trite, the sulphur with a strong line down from the apex. They’re always more uncommon than the other Phoebis.
Our last evening Richard goes out at the end of the day and scores with a local Narope, very strongly marked. This is a different species from the one he showed us at the hang gliding place in the lowlands. He’s really into the owls.
Day 11/12 Fri/Sat Jan 30/31 – our last morning at Bocaina, we walk the tracks, come back for lunch and drive the 25 km back to Bananal, up to the main Sao Paulo to Rio highway, west for 30-40 miinutes then head up to Itamonte over a 1,666m pass and down the other side to 930m, to the Pousada Ribeirao do Ouro (little river of gold). www.ribeiraodoouro.com.br It’s about 7-8 km before we get to Itamonte, which is 20km below the pass, sort of a country hotel with a nice pool and gardens with a small river right behind our rooms. We score with a separate building off to the side with 4 apartments, 2 up and 2 down, so we’re more private and away from the rest of it.
They make us a delicious trout dinner, 2 large pieces of trout each with capers, mushrooms and chopped almonds, plus a great tray of veggies. We scarf it all down. The food at the last place in Bocaina was quite good and plenty of it. They offered 4 choices: trout, chicken, beef or pork. We weren’t wild about the pork, but the chicken was tasty and the beef was fine. We tried them all and our favorite was the trout, but this trout is better. No bones, perfectly cooked and crispy, very flavorful. We had trout for lunch at Bocaina, so this a double trout day. This hotel is a step up from the previous one with bigger and nicer rooms, though it was very personal and run by a family who did everything to please us. This also appears to be family run, much nicer than US chain hotels. The manager/owner is the cook and the mama, her son Fredirico speaks some english and checks us in, shows us the rooms.
There is a large family eating here with us, seems like 15-20 people and lots of little kids and very very noisy. But they seem polite and happy and having a good time, but even up in my room later I can hear the kids shrieking away. It doesn’t prevent me falling asleep at 10 or a little after, however I wonder when those kids shut up. I sleep like a log, waking at 6:30 the next morning, so they didn’t keep me up.
As Bocaina the last morning we had driven to the right up the pavement,past where the pavement ends a few km up the road, then took the first left and walked the road. We didn’t see much but we did find one of the purple blooming trees that was a magnet for butterflies. Mimoniades versicolor posed nicely for all of us, we got our first Memphis of the trip on some dog shit, and a green hairstreak, Cyanophrys remus was found by Tony. Bill pulled down some white daisies and we shot a lovely Passova poleman. We had lots of the gorgeous owls Caligo arisbe, all dark orange above. We also had this same owl inside the dining room at the new hotel when we arrived, they must be just hatching.
I’ve never been to this location, only at the lower part of Itataia National Park, so I’m eager to explore. We have breakfast at 7:30am and head back to the park. We stop and put various baits out at several places, but there isn’t much flying. The sides are pretty clean, they’re into whacking the roadsides here, so not much in the way of flowers.
Our main score for the day is the fabulous Polygrapha suprema, which comes in as soon as we put out bait. He, assuming it is a he, circles around Richard, then lands on the rotten shrimp that Bill has sprayed in the middle of the road. We get good photos, as we all sneak up on him. Tony and Bill even get some good dorsals. What a spectacular butterfly.
We continue up and see several more satyrs. Closer to the top there is a fork, where there is a Pousada Los Lobos to the left and the park straight ahead. This is open meadow with flowers, and we find Pampasatyrus gyrtone flying here. Tony finds a group of weird tall spikey flowers that they like, and we all get photos. Higher up Bill gets a dark satyr with a white squiggle on the costa, which is Praepedaliodes exul.
We’re looking for fox shit on the roads, which often attracts butterflies, but the only shit we find appears to be quite dried out and not much comes to it. The weather turns cloudy, foggy and cool, so it’s not great for butterflies. We get back to the hotel for their special dinner, using their new wood burning stove for the first time. They serve 3 soups with bread, tasty soups but a different dinner than I’ve had. My favorite is the bean soup, sort of a beans and wieners. The others are a green soup, mostly watery vegetable, and a pork with a corn mush. Interesting but it wouldn’t be something I would yearn to repeat.
Day 13 Sun Feb 1 – we go looking for a way to get up the track that is a trail up to the big rock on the ridge. We take the left turn to the water plant, Eughenis do Agua, and wander around the pretty gardens and nice houses on bumpy roads, finally finding a track that heads into the forest. We walk up a bit and some of us take a junction that appears to be a driveway, with cement in two tracks, but lots of flowers. There are lots of Parides bunichus flying, and we get good photos. This Parides mimics the Mimoides lysithous, black with a narrow white stripe on the wings, very beautiful.
At the top, through an old wood gate and cattle guard, to the left is a hillside of some sort of white heather plant in full bloom, and lots of butterflies coming to the flowers. I spend an hour or more, with Richard and Tony, getting bit by no-see-ums and getting shots of Adelotypa sejuncta and a different hairstreak, plus a few others. By now it is noon and bright sun, so we decide to dash back up the mountain.
Of course it gets foggy the moment we drive up. We stop where we had left bait and find a fresh Pyrrhopyge charybdis semita on a flowering bush. He doesn’t want to fly, as it is cool and foggy. Richard puts the car under the bush, climbs on the hood and gets good shots. I hand up my camera and he gets some photos for me too. This is the same species we had seen yesterday up the hill. It was one of the only butterflies to come to the nasty stinking fishheads we threw around.
The sun comes out, we contine up, and see several more P.suprema. Otherwise it is about the same stuff, though a bit more active because we keep the sun until mid afternoon. The satyrs here are very difficult to photograph. There are lots of Moneuptychia umuarama flying, with a distinctive white squiggly on the ventral, but they pop around in the trees chasing each other and never landing.
After dinner Bill stays up late and watches the super bowl, but the rest of us go to sleep. The hotel has a big screen tv in the lounge, and they set it up for him and some Brazilians. Bill says the Brazilians spent more time on the phones than watching the game.
Day 14 Mon Feb 2 – It is heavily overcast and cool this morning, so we go for a drive over to Passa Quatro (4th pass) to explore some parks on the map. After hunting and pecking around, we find a Forestal Nacional Passa Quatro with a man on the gate, but he lets us in. We drive in, see a sign to Cachoeira de Ipora, which is a waterfall. Those are usually good for butterflies, so we drive up the rutted road, park and wander around.
It actually turns out to be a good day, much to my surprise. We get great shots of a very fresh riodinid, Charis cadytis, black with orange tips, and several other goodies up at the waterfall. A fresh 88, Diaethria candrena, leads us an a 30 minute chase before finally letting the photographers get close.
Bill has peed in a perfect open sunny area, and when we walk back up for the second time there are swallowtails on it. Heraclides thoas are there, but very ratty, and an immaculate Heraclides anchisiades, a different ssp than I’ve seen before. Many of the species here are the same as in Mexico, but different subspecies. Richard finds a Memphis caterpillar in his leaf roll, with a striking head pattern. Richard has reared many of the Memphis, so he is familiar with their habits.
Thunder chases us off the hill and back to the hotel, just in time. As we’re in our rooms a strong storm blows in, wind slamming our open windows around. Closing up our rooms just in time, heavy rain and hail slams down. Fortunately it backs off in time for time, so we dash across to the dining room for another delicious trout dinner.
Day 15 Tue Feb 3 – depart for 1 night at Delfim Moreira on our way to Campos do Jordao. We take Passa Quatro over the pass from Minas Gerais to Sao Paulo, a low pass about 1450m. We stop at the top for a spectacular view with clouds below us in Sao Paulo, at a shrine where pilgrims come. Then down the hill to the main SP-RJ road west.
After half an hour or so we turn off towards Lorena, drive some more then we take a dirt track up to a hang gliding launch pad, where the road continues up to some towers, signed Pico de Ataque. It is confusing here, as we keep slipping back and forth between states, going from Sao Paulo to Minas Gerais then a few turns later back to Sao Paulo.
We spend several hours here walking the track at about 1400-1500m. Lots of grass skippers, most of them the same we had at Bocaina, but there are some new ones. And some different satyrs, our first Forsterinaria. We snack on tuna and cheese bread, our standard field lunch, and drive on towards Delfim Moreira, Minas Gerais. We see our first Doxocopa, 3 species all very fresh.
We turn off the highway onto another dirt track towards the pousda, which is about 6-7 km up the road. It’s a slow bumpy road, but we stop a couple of times to photograph swallowtails and get several great species. Eurytides dolicaon on the way in, about 4 km along we get Heraclides hectorides and right at the driveway of the pousada we get a great spot with two Eurytides bellerophon that are most accomodating, and a fresh Mimoniades ocyalus.
This is an interesting place to stay, with separate cabanas with fireplaces. They generate their own power from their waterfall, and we even have internet, 8 km up a bad dirt road. They make us two soups for dinner, which are tasty.
Day 16 Wed Feb 4 – we explore a bit around here in the morning, though it is cool. We leave after a leisurely breakfast, about 9:30am. Back to the pavement, left to another dirt track 40km across to Campos do Jordao, Sao Paulo. Again with the moving between the two states, we’re right on the border. It stays cool and overcast all day, sprinkling at times, so we see very few butterflies. We do find a few wet spots and see a few new species for the trip, but nothing too exciting.
We get to the upscale resort town of Campos do Jordao, which is a weekend retreat for rich folks from Sao Paulo, about an hour and a half away. We get our nice wood walled rooms at Hotel Pousada Vale Verde, www.valeverdehotel.com.br about 2:30pm, then go looking for a late lunch. Richard takes us to an inexpensive pay by the kilo place, but we’ve seen a ton of snazzy restaurants driving around looking for a place to park, so we revolt. We want to go to a fancy looking Churrascaria ou Vivo restaurant, Parillia Argentina, so Richard is willing to change. We’re paying for our own meals here, and Tony graciously offers to buy Richard’s lunch, as this place is a bit above his budget.
The three guys all order giant steaks and rave about the quality of the meat. I have a bite and it is delicious. I don’t feel like a pound of meat, so I get a lasagna and a delicous pear and gorgonzola salad. The salad is better than the lasagna, and both are enormous, I can only eat about a third of the lasagna. The whole meal cost just under 400 reals, including a 10% tip, about US$160 for the four of us. It would have easily cost twice as much in the US or Britain.
As we walk back to the car, we realize it just happens to be parked in front of a chocolate shop, so of course we have to go in. I buy 8-10 pieces of delicious chocolate for 20 reals, US$8. I thought their sign said 20 reals per piece, which was way too high, but the clerk said no, it was 20 reals per 100 grams, much more reasonable. So Tony and I scarf down the tasty chocolates. It’s been raining all afternoon, and if you can’t look at butterflies, might as well eat. One of my basic life philosophies.
It quits raining as we get back to the hotel, and Richard is keen to go out and look for a special satyr from here. I pass and work on photos, but Tony and Bill go with him. They go to Pico do Itapeva at 1700m. They don’t find the satyr Richard is looking for, but they do get a great riodinid that we have no idea what it is.
Day 17 Thur Feb 5 – rain all day, at times quite heavy, so we never make it out of town. We drive into town and Bill goes shopping, then we have lunch at another pay by the kilo place. Back to the hotel for the afternoon of working on the computer, unfortunately no internet all day at the hotel. It’s ironic, we’ve been in several relatively isolated pousadas and had internet, at least part of the time, but here in town we don’t have it. Lots of excuses, but bottom line, it doesn’t work. Oh well. We walk up the road to the alligator place for fondue and pizza. When that place doesn’t have pizza, we drive into downtown and explore. We end up at a Swiss/German restaurant, Rosti’s or something like that. Tony and I share a delicious cheese fondue, and we both have caparinhas which are very tasty and huge. Good thing we’re not driving. Hopefully the sun will be out tomorrow morning. The rain appears to be stopping late in the day.
Day 18 Fri Feb 6 – In the morning we drive 45 minutes or so up to Pedra do Bau, a touristy scenic drive. Richard has seen the Sarbia firetips here, so we’re looking for those. No luck, but we do find a spectacular orange satyr covered with black and white spots, I’ve never seen anything like it. Richard finds it, as he goes down into a valley and wades through very tall grasses into a marsh-like place. He yells that he has something wonderful, so we follow him into the valley. We all get good shots, even though the big clumps of grasses are taller than we are. This is about 1750m, a couple of km up the turnoff for Pedra do Bau, which is well signed. Andres Freitas later id’s it for Richard as Pampasatyrus reticulata.
We go back to town, check out of our hotel, and drive to another of Richard’s spots, Pico de Itapeva, about 1700m. He’s seen a track and wants to drive down into this valley, where he thinks it will be similar habitat. He’s right, as we find more of the spectacular satyrs. We never would have seen them if it wasn’t for Richard’s perseverance.
On the way out of town we stop at a chocolate shop, painted as if chocolate was running down from the roof. They have a great display in the window of chocolate running down a wall, so of course we have to check it out. It’s mostly fancy boxes to give as gifts, but we manage to find some individual pieces to buy. I didn’t realize Campos do Jordao was such a magnet for chocoholics.
We leave for Itatiaia National Park, the lower part, about a 3 hour drive, and arrive by 6pm. We’re here for 5 nights at the Hotel Donati, the second to the highest hotel inside the park. The top hotel, Do Ype, is where the bird tours all stay. It has wonderful bird feeders and tons of hummingbirds, but I prefer the Donati for butterflies. It has 1-2 km of more open tracks to walk with lots of flowers, while the Do Ype is on top of a very steep hill and not much room to walk up there, except the waterfalls are closer.
Day 19 Sat Feb 7 – Richard’s lens broke for his camera a few days ago, so he leaves early to drive back to his home in Marica and get his backup lens. It will take him about 5-6 hours each way, hopefully he’ll be back for dinner at 8pm. We walk down hill to the cut through that heads over towards the Do Ype, 800m below the Donati. No cars are allowed on this, so it is great for butterflies. It is much more overgrown than when I was here 5 years ago. Then it was open enough you could have driven on it, now it is just a narrow track. They have had several washouts, so now it is almost impossible for a vehicle to drive on it.
The weather is mostly cloudy, after raining much of the night, so we don’t see lots of butterflies. More walking than photography, but we do get some good photos. There is a different crescent that appears to come in white or orange. Some new skippers, and the big white Morpho, probably M.athena, same as at Bocaina.
We make it back for lunch, better lasagna than I had at the fancy restaurant a few days ago. After lunch it gets quite cloudy, thunder starts, and it is raining by 2:30. I sit on my porch and watch the guan and wood rails feeding on the grasses by my room. They’re feeding a baby guan. With toucans in the cecropia and lots of other birds around, there’s plenty to watch, even if they aren’t butterflies.
Day 20 Sun Feb 8 – we get a much sunnier day today, and shoot lots more photos. Richard is back, so we take the car down to the triangle, where the road to Hotel Donati turns off. I hike up an hour or so behind the hotel up through the forest, but don’t see anything. Richard tells me this trail goes over to the Hotel Simon, which is now closed.
Then I walk down the road and meet the others at the triangle. Our plan is to have the car bring us back up the hill for lunch at 1 or 1:30, depending on the sun. Richard and Tony have driven up to the old Hotel Simon and found a great swallowtail, Protesilaus helios. Bill and I spend an hour or more shooting 3 species of Dynamine and several other fresh bugs at the triangle.
After lunch Richard takes Bill and me up to look for the swallowtail, which is gone. We drive on to the waterfalls right below the Hotel do Ype, which of course are crowded, today being Sunday. We wander around a bit, planning on coming back tomorrow when the crowds will be gone. The bamboo is fruiting, and flowering, and the buffy-fronted seedeaters are calling everywhere, which is a rare bird only found around seeding bamboo.
The waterfalls are on Rio Campo Belo, and there are 3 of them at 1000m. Walking back to our car we scare up a very fresh Hamadryas fornax fornax, the nominate subspecies.
The 4 of us end up in the hotel dining room, where we can all plug our computers into Bill’s power strip, and work sitting on chairs at tables. The rooms never have any place to set up a laptop, and it gets uncomfortable sitting on your bed. I had put mine on top of the minifridge, and used that socket to plug in, but it is too high over the small bed. Much more comfortable in the dining room.
Richard asks the hotel for snacks and they bring us a platter of cheeses, salami and olives, yum. The guys get beers and all is right with the world. We work on photos for 2 hours or so, dinner isn’t until 8pm, and have a great time.
Day 21 Mon Feb 9 – back up the hill to the 3 waterfalls and the road to them, past the turn off for the Do Ype hotel. We plan to check out the road to the old Simon hotel, where they found the P.helios yesterday at a wet spot. You never know…Unfortunately it is another cool, overcast day, and we don’t see squat at the waterfalls. Plus there are enough people wandering around that even if we had butterflies, it would be difficult to photograph them without people walking through them. Life is tough all over.
It starts to rain lightly, so we head back for lunch at 1pm. Then we drive down looking for sun. Back through the village at the base of the hill and a short distance towards Rio, then turn off to Peneda. Richard has heard good things about this area as a good place for birds from a Finnish book on where to find birds in Brazil. They must have written the book quite a while ago, as the area is now a tourist place stuffed with pousadas, stores selling tourist things, several chocolate stores, and bars and restaurants.
We hunt around and find one of the waterfalls, but the trails are slippery, lots of people, very suburban and hot and sticky (we’re down to 600m), so we bail and head back home. Oh well, you win some…
When we had come back for lunch the electricity in my room didn’t work, the lights only come on just a flicker. The hotel tells us it is the fault of the electricity company, something about one of the three phases isn’t working. So why are only my lights affected? Not Tony’s, in the other side of the cabin next to mine. Who knows why? When we come back at 5:30pm, it is still the same. So I’ll be using my flashlight in my room tonight, and charging my laptop in Tony’s room.
But amazingly the lights are fixed at 6pm, so all is well in my room. It’s the little things that matter.
Day 22 Tue Feb 10 – Tony and Bill’s last full day in the field. More light rain and then the sun bursts out to tease us. We see several new species, things seem to be hatching as almost everything we see is fresh. Bill gets good shots at the waterfall in the afternoon of 2 new swallowtails. I spend a lot of time just below the archway at the entrance to the hotel, which for some reason seems to attract butterflies. A spectacular fresh Catonephele numilia hangs around there, and Tony gets great shots of it. A new Julia, one of the first we’ve seen, is also there and makes me work for it.
Up at the waterfall, from the bridge, we watch as a beautiful female Morpho anaxibia sails up and down the ravine, big orange spots on the apex. What a stunner, a classic tropical vision.
We go up to the closed Hotel Simon, which is now full of weeds, and walk a trail that goes off to the right from the main garden. These leads to a dark area with lots of little white flowers that the clearwings like, but we only see Ithomia agnosia and they don’t cooperate. Tony spends half an hour with a beautiful fresh Parphorus, a yellow veined skipper, and finally gets dorsal shots, so hopefully we can id it, with help from Bernard. Later Bernard tells me it is Levina levina, new for me! Overall, while we don’t see high numbers, we have managed to find some new species daily, and more appear to be coming. It will be interesting to see what we find when I’m back here in a few weeks with the Wades.
Tony and Bill walk down the road from the Simon a bit and visit the artists’ home/studio, then Richard and I join them. The artists are a couple who live here, 700m up from the road up the hill, and they spend an hour or so with us, showing their work. He’s Australian and she’s Brazilian. Amazing stuff, check out www.christianspencer.pro.br, and his partner Tatiana, unfortunately I don’t remember her last name. I love his iguana painting, and her magical realism work, and painted ceramics, are fabulous. If I had a nice house I would have stuff like this in it. We didn’t expect to find something like this up in the forest.
Day 23 Wed Feb 11 – our last morning is gorgeous and sunny, of course, the best morning we’ve had so far. Back up to the waterfall where we watch lots of things chasing and fighting high up overhead. Both Morpho anaxibia and menelaus are sailing around, being attacked by Archaeoprepona and smaller butterflies. Doxocopa laurentia comes down to the fresh cement the workers are putting around the toilets. Too bad the workers are there, but a few butterflies come in anyway. We photograph Hesperocharis and a cooperative Mimoniades ocyalus, in between wheelbarrows and guys carrying shovels.
On our way back down the hill we stop at a puddle by a guard station and get great comparisions of several sulphurs, Phoebis philea the big one, also P.argante & neocypris with the tail. Plus there are 2 new grass skippers for our list, Heliopetes laviana and a beautiful Phemiades pohli, only the 2nd time I’ve seen this species.
We check out of the hotel and leave about 3:30pm, going directly to the airport at Rio about 7pm. We get some traffic for the last part, about 30 minutes in stop and go traffic, but get there in plenty of time. Bill checks in for his 11pm flight and departs, then we go w/Tony to terminal 1 where his flight has been delayed a couple of hours, from midnight to 2am. Sigh. We have a nice steak dinner, graciously paid for by Tony, then Richard and I say good bye and leave for Marica about 9:30pm. We have ugly traffic much of the way, as apparently mobs of people leave Rio to get away from carnival, which starts Friday. At 10:30-10:45pm we’re still in bad traffic getting to Marica, but we make it a little after 11, thank heavens, and thanks to Richard’s driving. Glad I wasn’t driving.
Day 24 Thur Feb 12 – back to the hot, dry area of Marica for the next week, while we avoid the madness of carnival. They haven’t had any rain at all here, surprising to me as we have had quite a bit of rain in the mountains. Richard will have to buy a tanker of water to fill his cistern, as the city hasn’t been pumping any water in quite a while. His last water bill was zero, no water delivered. So we’re conserving on showers, laundery, etc. Richard’s off to take care of accumulated errands, dentist, etc, and I have plenty of computer work to keep me busy.
Day 25 to 29 Fri to Tue Feb 13 to 17 – hang out in Marica, catching up on computer work and tons of emails, and eating at Richard’s favorite home away from home, the local italian/pizzaria. It is delicious, and we eat there every night. We find out that I like spicy pizza, but Richard does not, the wimp. We go out with some of his friends, a nice couple who lives here. One morning they take me to the beach, and then we have lunch at their house, chicken and okra. I had no idea they had okra in Brazil, and I’m not excited to find out, as that’s a vegetable I can do without. But the sauce is tasty, and they have ice cream for dessert.
Day 29 Mon Feb 16 – the great Prepona deiphile deiphile hunt. Jorge Bizarro, who works at Regua, graciously agrees to take us to the special spot where this magnificent butterfly has been seen. We leave Marica at 6am, get to Regua about 7:30 to pick him up, then drive to Tres Picos State Park another hour plus away. Jorge leads us up a dirt track inside the entrance, we drive up a bit under 5km then walk up 5-10 minutes to a beautiful steep narrow ravine with nice forest. He points out 2 tall trees that overhang the ravine and says the Prepona like to sit and chase from the tops of these trips.
Unfortunately last night a very strong thunderstorm blew in, probably winds of over 100km (60mph) and lots of rain. It blew a bunch of tiles off the neighbor’s roof, and wrecked some of Richard’s tall cactus. We lost power, and didn’t get it back for over 24 hours. Today is cool and overcast, we never even see any shadows, so very few butterflies and zero Preponas. Oh well, at least Richard knows where it is and can come back next year. Jorge says January is the best time, so we may also be a bit late in the flight time. We’re both very tired when we get back to Marica, I’m ready to crash and I didn’t do any driving. Poor Richard, he did a great job. We do manage to make it to the italian restaurant, after naps, so we can do emails from there.
Day 30 Wed Feb 18 – head to the airport to pick up Kay and Dan Wade at 7:30am from their overnight flight from Panama. It’s one and a half to two hours to the airport from Richard’s house, so we depart in the dark. The plan is to then head straight to Bocaina for 4 nights. This 2nd trip is for 2 weeks with Richard, hitting most of the same places as trip #1.
We meet up with the Wades, no problems, and drive 3-4 hours to Bananal and the last 27km up the winding mountain road to Estalagem da Bocaina, where we have a late chicken lunch. It is cool and overcast and drizzly, so not many butterflies. I do find a pair of very fresh Dione juno fanning their wings, and Richard sees some Sarbia when he goes and puts up his traps. Hopefully tomorrow will be sunny.
Later that afternoon, about 5pm, I mention to Richard there were a couple of Juno under the tree right outside our rooms, and he goes out to look. He realizes there is a passion fruit vine all over the small tree, and he finds a couple of pupa. So we photograph them, and find more as we keep looking, and some are starting to hatch! We find one freshly hatched and hanging, and another seems to be halfway hatched but doesn’t finish. Why they’re hatching late on a drizzly afternoon, I have no idea. You just never know what you’re going to run into if you go looking, even on a cool drizzly afternoon. Richard says they hatch on rainy afternoons, so they’re fresh and ready to go on the following sunny morning. How do they know it isn’t going to rain for 3 days? The next morning is sunny, and the bugs that hatched the evening before have survived rain most of the night and are fresh as daisies the next morning, so Richard is right.
Day 31 Thur Feb 19 – We head to the main trail, park the car at the junction of the trail and the dirt road, and Kay and I walk down to the Sarbia meadow. Much more water everywhere than 3 weeks ago. The meadow is under 6” of water, you need rubber boots to go in there now. It’s late, after 9am, and we don’t see any of the Sarbia hanging on the grasses.
We head back to where we left the car and take the trail into where Richard puts out his traps. This is maybe a km long trail, or a bit longer, goes across tall grasslands and into forest. There are now several very boggy places w/standing water, difficult to cross without getting your feet wet. They’ve obviously had lots of rain since we were here.
Much of what I see are the same species, but the Juno were not seen before. Now the Caligo arisbe are common, but the Blepolenis owls are scarce, so they’ve switched flight times. I do find a few new skipper species to add to the list. One that I send to Bernard, he replies back is an undescribed genera, similar to Quinta cannae but with big white spots of the FW. This is being described by the Brazilian skipperists, as he puts it.
Later that morning we drive up the right, back on the pavement, just a mile or so up the hill and park, then walk down the severely overgrown trail to the old abandoned hydroelectric plant. We see several Heliconius sara flying, a species we had not seen previously on this trip. And there are some Sarbia, still both species, hitting the white daisies in the sheltered spot by the old plant, so Kay and Dan get to photograph these spectacular bugs.
Day 32 Fri Feb 20 – Today we work the trail above Pro-Bocaina, past the house with the barking dogs. Of course almost all houses here in Brazil have barking dogs. These are two loud german shepard types that sound really mean, but the owner whistles them in and they appear to be more bark than bite, fortunately.
The little stream that crosses the trail shortly above the house is a great spot. We get a pair of Pythonides lancea, the beautiful blue and white skippers, chasing each other and cooperating nicely for photos, and several new (for this location) Lychnuchus celsus, the beautiful skipper with broad orange band in the wings and a green body. I had not seen it so far this trip, though Tony and Bill shot it earlier.
The most exciting butterflies are up the trail at the curve where there are lots of the little white flowers the clearwings like. On our previous visits we only saw 1 or 2 clearwings, and they appeared to be a species of Greta. But now we have dozens, quite a number of species, so we spend an hour or more photographing a very short part of the trail. Several new species for me, it will take a lot of time to sort them all out. The only tigerwing that comes to the flowers is a new species for the trip, Placidina euryanassa.
Today is a 2 snake day, as Dan almost steps on what looks to be a venomous snake first thing in the morning, right next to the road. We had gone wading in a meadow of daisies, often in waist deep grass so we had no idea where we were putting out feet. Not a good idea. I was more concerned with not stepping on a fire ant mound than worrying about snakes. Fortunately we all survived the meadow (I had a repeated close encounter with a very fresh Junonia evarete, a Buckeye, which seemed attracted to my blue shirt). Dan and Kay were photographing a Heliconius beschei on the other side of the road, just 8-10’ off the pavement. Dan had stepped across a small ditch to get it, then was stepping back when he saw a large snake coiled in the ditch. He made a mid air correction, I didn’t know he had it in him, and leaped right over the snake. They had been stomping around there for several minutes, and the snake had had enough. It was rattling its tail and making plenty of noise, I think it didn’t want to be stepped on. It had a large, triangular head, so good thing Dan was so athletic and leaped over it, probably a fer-de-lance.
Later that afternoon Richard wants to go look for Narope at dusk, so we head out about 6:45pm. Richard is an owl man, and always wants to go hunting them late in the day, when all reasonable people are sitting down with a cold beer. But he does finds them repeatedly. The guy who fishes the most hours usually catches the most fish. He takes us to a corner on the pavement, to the right of the pavement from the hotel, and sure enough, eagle eye Dan spots one sitting there at chest height, watching us. Exactly on the same curve where Richard had found them 2 nights previously. It is about 7pm, still light enough for photos, and we get some shots. Mine aren’t in focus,but some of the others look quite good.
On our way back we find another snake in the road, by the car headlights, and we stop and pile out and shot it. The snake poses very cooperatively, we get our fill of photos. Some local guy walks along and wonders what are we doing. When he sees the snake, of course he says kill kill, but Richard does the snake talk, not that it will do much good. We don’t think this one is venomous, but one never knows for sure. We meet a Chek?? researcher who is studying frogs here, and he tells us our 2nd snake is a frog eating snake, slightly venomous.
Day 33 Sat Feb 21 – Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, in fact no rain for the last 2 days. Today we wake to fog, but hopefully it will burn off shortly. After breakfast we leave about 9am, and it is bright and sunny. We drive to the pavement, turn right and go a couple of km to a Y, where we take the left hand path. This is after the pavement ends, after another pousada or Chez Brunno, another simple restaurant.
We worked this road on trip 1 and had some good things, but today it seems quite slow. I get good shots of Vehilius clavicula, a beautiful grass skipper with a pale tan background and black veins, but aside from that there’s nothing new. Don’t know why, as the weather is good and the habitat looks productive.
Day 34 Sun Feb 22 – our last morning at Bocaina and we decide to go back to where Richard has his traps, to the right from the lodge towards the Sarbia, not going on the pavement. He’s been checking the traps late every afternoon with Dan, and 2 days ago they were hopping. He had Pterourus scamander and several owls and satyrs.
He also had a mystery riodinid on the trail, which he missed catching, and has been beating himself up over it. He has seen this once before here at Bocaina a couple of years ago and photographed it, sent me the photo several years ago and I didn’t know what it is. Late this morning Dan finds another on the same part of the trail and gets some good photos, then when we’re walking back to check Richard’s traps Richard manages to catch it. We had seen Dan’s backpack lying in the grass with his binoculars, and Dan was just a few meters up the hillside but we couldn’t see him. When he said he had the curved wing riodinid, Richard was up the hill like a shot. So thanks to Dan we got both photos and the specimen. It is a beautiful large black metalmark, maybe a Eurybia without ‘eyes’, and a tan edge to the costa and apex of the very pointed, curved forewing. A striking bug, maybe new to science?
After lunch we say goodbye to Bocaina and drive 3 hours or so to lower Itatiaia National Park to stay 5 nights at the Hotel Donati. The mobs are leaving the park, Sunday afternoon, so our timing is good. It appears to be quite dry here, they haven’t had all the rain that Bocaina has had. Funny how just a small distance away the weather can be so different.
These 2 places are in 2 parallel mountain ranges that parallel the coast, running roughly east-west. The range Itatiaia is in is higher than Bocaina and more inland. Our cabins at Donati are spread out in nice gardens, where last time we had the dusky-legged guans and slaty-breasted woodrails everywhere. The birds don’t appear to be as active this afternoon. There may have been some sort of hatch of insects out in the grass last time, as everything seemed to be catching things, so we may not see as many now. We do hear the buff-browed owl calling as we walk up to dinner, sounds just like a spectacled owl with that deep huff huff huff call.
Day 35 Mon Feb 23 – Last night was clear, we could see stars, which has been unusual on this trip. I haven’t seen the moon in weeks. We’ve just changed the time an hour back here in Brazil, so dinner was late for me last night, at 9 according to my stomach. We’re moving into late summer here, similar to late August in northern latitudes.
After a cool overcast start to the day it warms up, the clouds disappear, and it is a beautiful day with brilliant blue sky that hurts your eyes to look at it. We walk the road down to the triangle, chasing everything that moves. It is slow, there seems to be fewer butterflies on the wing as compared to my earlier visit a few weeks before. Almost no crescents, but lots more sulphurs. A new species for the trip is the gorgeous Callicore hydaspes, which I follow up and down the road, finally getting one that is willing to sit.
Late morning we drive up to the waterfalls, just past the Do Ype hotel. Today being Monday, we had ‘assumed’ it wouldn’t be as crowded, but there has been plenty of traffic, both on our road to Donati and the main road up to the Do Ype. Not a steady stream of cars, but every 10 minutes or so. There are few things more frustrating than after you have spent 10 minutes following a butterfly that keeps coming to the road, letting you approach, then flying 5 or 10’ away and you approach again, gradually getting closer, and just as you get with good photographic range and he seems to be getting used to you, here comes a car and you’re back to zero and you start all over again. Patience is a necessary part of wildlife photography.
Kay scores by seeing a white Morpho, M.athena, on the side of the road. We leap out of the car and they get great open wing shots, which is almost unheard of. We wonder if it was hit by a car, then it flies away, apparently unharmed. Guess it just liked the edge of the road. One of the real treats here is watching lots of the beautiful big white morphos floating around, sometimes quite low, sailing along effortlessly over ravines. Truly stunning. We also get the fabulous blue and purplish big Morphos at the waterfall, menelaus and anaxibia, sailing up and down the ravine and sometimes coming very close to you on the bridge.
Day 36 Tue Feb 24 – Yesterday Richard checked out a trail and got some lovely shots of a fabulous orange and black riodinid, Stalachtis phlegia susanna, so we head there today. We park at a gated area for the park employees and walk in past the nice houses and manicured grounds, nice place they have here for themselves.
We take the dirt road down, past the empty EcoArtes building, and get into some good forest. We find at least 3 different species of riodinids hiding under leaves: a very fresh female Napaea, the Stalachtis (several individuals) and one of the clearwing metalmarks up higher, at least 20’ above the ground. Plus later in the morning Richard and Dan get good shots of Panara jarbus, dark with strong orange bands across both the forewing and the hindwing. Richard also gets a shot of what he thinks is the same black mystery metalmark he and Dan had at Bocaina. This is obviously a great area for riodinids, we may have to come back.
We follow the road down to a stream crossing and another closed up building with clearwing white flowers around it, and some clearwings. There are Strephonota hairstreaks, large silvery ventrals and brilliant blue dorsals, here and there, and Historis odius hanging around the empty building. One of the nicest parts is only one vehicle comes by all morning. Richard finds a blooming inga tree the other direction, to the left, and there are several swallowtails fighting over it, but it is too high for photos.
It clouds up and we get thunder as we head back for a late lunch. Light sprinkles during lunch, but it barely gets the road wet. It would be great to get some good rain, enough for puddles on the roads, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen today. It is clear as a bell by dinner time, stars out and the waxing moon.
Day 37 Wed Feb 25 – we decide to go back to the Lago Azul trails, this time from a different entrance. On our way down the rutted dirt road from the Hotel Donati Richard spots a female Myscelia orsis, and we all get good shots of her. She’s quite fresh with a beautiful bluish cast, and a few blue lines. Otherwise she looks very much like a female Catonephele. It would be great to get good shots of the male, as he is stunning, a brilliant blue.
Dan and Kay get out at the same place we walked in yesterday, through the guard gate and down the dirt road to the riodinid places. Richard and I drive a km or so down the road to the visitor’s center, park and walk in to the Lago Azul trail. We can loop around on the trail and meet up with Dan and Kay.
It is mostly overcast and we don’t see anything as we walk down the switchback trail into the little valley. We get down to the bottom of the ravine with the creek, at 750m. We cross the bridge and take another small trail that cuts down to the creek for swimming, and find a very cooperative Dasyophthalma cruesa that is guarding a little dell between rocks. We flush him, but he returns repeatedly, and doesn’t mind posing for photos.
This is one of the Atlantic forest speciality owls that fly during the day, and we’ve only seen them zipping past, never stopping. So it’s great to be able to shoot a bunch of shots, trying different setings, with this guy. He even flies to a rock and poses open wing when the sun comes out briefly. Unfortunately that is when another couple walks up the path, wanting to go swimming.
Later we meet Dan and Kay on the trail, and take them back to see the owl. He’s still hanging around, so they get photos too. The swimming couple comes up the trail and the guy tells us they had a big snake down by the water, so of course we go looking for it. The guy shows us the snake, laying across a couple of rocks trying to warm up. It is a large rattler, maybe 6’, and doesn’t really want to be photographed. But we get lots of photos anyway.
Day 38 Thur Feb 26 – We plan to go up to the Hotel Do Ype to check out their bird feeders, but we find out it is closed for renovation. However we’re told they are still maintaining the bird feeders, we shall see.
As we drive down the 1km road from our hotel to the main road to turn right and go up to the Do Ype, we see several butterflies flying and can’t stand it. We pile out of the car and spend an hour or so on our road. Yesterday we had some rain late afternoon and evening, and this morning the road is wet, with a few puddles around, and it seems to be bringing out the skippers. Several brown spreadwings are hopping around, including a new Anastrus sempiternus simplicior, a different subspecies from Central America. This one is is all dark below.
We then drive up to the old Hotel Simon and spend the rest of the morning there on the trail to Tres Picos, which takes off to the right from the parking lot. Dan, Kay and Richard hike up it quite a bit looking for monkeys, which we hear, but they never see them. I go straight a bit and find a stunning male Myscelia orsis displaying on a bit of the trail. I try many times to shoot him, but he always lands about 3-4 meters off the ground, so he’s looking down at me. I get some shots, but not the fabulous photo I want. He’s electric blue, and he keeps floating across the sunlite trail over my head, teasing me, but won’t give me a good photo opportunity. Oh well, at least I get to watch him and enjoy his sparkling blue flashing back and forth. If I was a female M.orsis I would be interested.
Day 39 Fri Feb 27 – our last morning at the Hotel Donati. After a great lightning storm last night at dinner, and fairly heavy rain (we had to borrow umbrellas to get back to our cabins) we have hopes for puddles. We head straight to the Do Ype, where there appears to be an army of maintenance folk cleaning, sweeping, polishing. They tell us this is their first day of accepting clients again, and they graciously let us wander around and watch the birds.
The hummingbird feeders aren’t filled, and the birds pop right in our faces as we walk out on the narrow porch, saying where’s our food? Richard asks the hotel staff if they can fill the feeders, and they do it right away. So we enjoy Brazilian rubys and Black Jacobins practically landing on our heads and shoulders.
After a while Richard and I walk back down the steep driveway and turn right to the waterfalls, maybe 400-500m up the road. We’re looking for the beautiful little orange and black riodinid that Richard has had here twice before, Barbicornis basilis, but no luck. However the guard there, Alex, comes over and talks to Richard and asks if we want to see the golden frogs. Of course we say yes, and he takes us back a bit from the bridge, down the road, and finds 5 or 6 gorgeous tiny bright orange/gold frogs crawling on the mossy bank. These are Golden Droplet Frogs, Brachycephalus ephippium.
He tells us they come out in the rain, and he had seen them late yesterday. He’s been seeing them since December. It may be part of his job to protect them. They move very slowly, not quick jumpers like every other frog I’ve seen, just slowly and deliberatly crawling around through the moss and leaf detritus. They don’t like the flash, and disappear under a dead leaf or into the thick moss if we bother them, but if we shoot without flash they ignore us. Amazing little frogs, I had no idea these were here. They are maybe an inch long, about a knuckle on your finger. Thanks to Alex for showing us something very special. He also has a bunch of cool butterfly photos on his camera, hopefully he will write me on my website and share his photos.
On our way back to the hotel we find a troop of the capuchin monkeys near the road and stop for photos. These are clearly beggar monkeys, and run towards the car looking cute. Richard tosses them a couple of bananas, which are promptly grabbed by the big one and taken into a small tree. Dan is out photographing them, while Kay and I shoot from the car. More monkeys are coming from both sides of the road, and showing their teeth, wanting more food. A bit intimidating, this is why it’s not a good idea to feed them. Later we see 2 other troops hanging near the road, maybe they know it is Friday and they’re waiting for the weekend tourists to show up.
We do find several wet places on the road with butterflies coming. We shoot a different Memphis, a new Callicore, some Emesis and several sulphurs, so there are more species coming to the road. Nice that we got some rain.
After a late lunch we drive the 2 hours back to the main highway, 20km or so to the next exit (towards Sao Paulo) and up over the pass into Minas Gerais to Itamonte. Our hotel is about 5 km before we get to town, the same one we used for trip 1. These are the nicest rooms of the 3 places we stay on the 2nd trip, close to the little stream so you sleep with windows open and the sounds of the stream.
Day 40 Sat Feb 28 – because it is the weekend, we don’t want to take the high road up to Itatiaia NP. So we try the water trail, about 1350m, to the left as we go back up the pass at Agua Engenho Serra. We stay to the right on the dirt tracks, following signs to a little restaurant, park at the end of the houses and walk in.
We spent a morning here on trip 1 and it was good for the Parides bunichus, and we see them here again, especially on the old cement driveway that heads up to the left once we walk in past the waterfall. We go up and check out the little white blooming heather-like bushes just past the cattleguard. They are a bit past their bloom, so there aren’t near as many butterflies here as before. It is cool and overcast, with some bits of sun, but much cooler than our previous trip.
But as the morning goes on it clears up and by 11am it is doing ok. Dan has been putting out his accumulated pee each morning, and not been getting much results. But today he scores with a fabulous fresh Myscelus amystis epigona, first time any of us have seen this gorgeous subspecies, with many little windows in the forewing. And he is very cooperative, he wants the pee so he poses for a thousand photos, even letting us lift his wing with a stick so we can get ventrals.
A few other goodies come to the pee as well, the Mimoides lysithous is planted. We have to watch where we’re walking so we don’t step on him. And the huge Phocides pialia maximus bombs around, zipping under a leaf but again not giving good photo opportunities. Dan gets better shots than I do, I’m shooting up against the sun, but we haven’t gotten the photos we want of this new species. Maybe they’re hatching and we’ll get another chance. I also shoot a beautiful yellow damselfly over the small stream, and later find the name on the Regua list of damsels and dragons, Heteragrion auranticum.
We were fed nothing but chicken at the Hotel Donati, and last night we had steak for our first night at Ribeirao do Ouro. Perhaps beef eating makes for more attractive pee? Studies need to be done.
We try a new trail, supposedly the hiking trail up to the big rock that sits above the town on the ridge. Richard has more information about how to find the trail, so we find the place to park, the old building and the artisanal building, and ask a local for directions. She offers to take us through the gate, which we didn’t even notice, up the hill, through the cow paddock filled with large cows and fresh cow paddies, and shows us the track leading up through the pasture. We walk up a ways, maybe half a km, but the forest is still quite a ways away. We decide to turn around, as we’re seeing only buckeyes and blues. We do get Battus polydamas and a fresh trite sulphur in the cow paddock.
We get back to the hotel and have some half ass lunch stuff, chocolate spread on crackers and oranges. Then some of us explore the forest in back of the hotel, across the yellow metal bridge, through the horse paddock. It is good for tigerwings, even though it is overcast. Crackers are fighting up in the tall trees, and I get a new Cymaenes gisca in the ginger. This could be worth exploring on a sunny morning.
That night during dinner, delicious trout with tons of wonderful veggies, it pours so we have to dash back through the rain to our rooms. The hotel family is having a farewell party tonight for their daughter, who leaves for a year in the US for studies, so we fall asleep to the music, fortunately not too loud at least for me.
Day 41 Sun May 01 – we wake to a spectacular clear sunny morning, and decide to head up the mountain to higher Itatiaia Nacional Park. Of course as we climb up to the pass and head up the bumpy dirt road the fog rolls in, and we are in and out of the clouds and sun all day.
Part way up, about km 3 where we stop to look for the bright red orchids on the trees, Richard points out the call of black and gold cotinga, which is ringing over the valley below us. While scanning the tops of the trees, I manage to find one, then a second one. They are a ways away but you can clearly see the orange bill and the yellow in the wings, and listening to their clear haunting songs is a magical moment.
We continue on up the road, spending more time chasing birds than butterflies, as it is cool and foggy much of the time. We stop at the plateau at 2,150m, by the dam and the pool of water on the right. Another black and gold cotinga is singing from a tree very close, and we get excellent looks. While Dan and Kay are photographing it, Richard wanders down by the water and find a pair of gorgeous fresh Mimoniades montana, a new species for all of us.
As we wander over the meadow, we realize there are quite a few of the colorful Mimoniades zipping around, chasing and displaying. We’re in the middle of a Mimoniades orgy. This is very different behavior from the similar looking M.versicolor, which we’ve only seen 1 here and 1 there, and at 1,000m lower. Maybe we just haven’t found the right meadow.
Across the street from the meadow there are lots of puffy white flowers blooming, and the skippers are coming to them. They are also popular with hummingbirds, and the plovercrests are fighting over the flowers. We find a perch where one of the males keeps returning, more photos are taken. This is probably the best looks I’ve ever had at this wonderful hummer.
We continue on up to the top, go into the national park after filling out all their forms. We’re looking for their special red and black frog, but we don’t see it. We walk along the road from the parking lot, which is the continued rocky road we drove up here, but no luck. We are above tree line, at 2400m, so we find all sorts of special flowers and plants, very few butterflies. But it’s been a great day for birds, and the Mimoniades were great.
We go into town for dinner tonight for the first time, at an Italian restaurant called Seis y Meia, or 6:30 in english. It’s a nice clean looking place. Dan and Kay have ravioli which aren’t fabulous, too much pasta and not enough filling, but I have a great pizza. They have a whole bunch of weird pizzas, including a chocolate one. We may have to come back just to try a chocolate pizza. We’ve been eating most of our dinners at the hotel, which has been very good.
Day 42 Mon Mar 02 – We drive the opposite direction, into the town of Intamonte, turn right and take back road through the country. Apparently there is an 80 km circuit that comes out up on the mountain on the road up to the Pousada Los Lobos up on the plateau, but we don’t make it near that far.
We stop at several woodsy looking spots, seeing a few butterflies here and there but nothing special. We ask permission to go down a track, which a guy working there gives us, and we see more Sarbia zipping around the clearing around the house. Both species are here, about 1600m. We also have our first Mexican Fritillary, 2 or 3 chasing each other in the clearing.
We continue our drive and stop for lunch at a wide spot on a dirt road with a track off to the right. We flush several riodinids, most of us not getting a shot. These are one of the Baeotis species. We find several other little riodinids, including Stichelia bocchoris again, posing on small plants in the stream bed by a creek. This is black w/orange stripes on the forewing and a orange collar.
Tonight we eat back at the hotel, and she makes fabulous lasagna, with a salad of huge piles of lettuce, tomatoes, slices of mozarella and a delicious home made pesto sauce. We slather the pesto sauce on the fresh crunchy bread, and our lasagna as well. When we’re totally stuffed, they bring out lemon pie for dessert. We can’t insult the cook, so we stuff it in and waddle our way back to our rooms. Yum.
Day 43 Tue Mar 03 – we drive 45 minutes or to to the Passa Quatro Nacional Forestal, where we were before with Tony and Bill. Today is a beautiful sunny day, we’ve had lovely weather here, and we walk the road to the left of the gate first. There is a different Adelpha coming to some shit, we all chase it and get good shots.
Kay and I walk on up the road and find a dead rattlesnake squashed in the road, very fresh. The ants haven’t even found it yet. Too bad, they are quite rare here in southeast Brazil, and now we’ve seen 2 of them.
We go into the park and drive up to the same waterfall parking spot, then walk into the falls. The whackers have been through, and everything is clean, no weeds or flowers on the edges, which means no butterflies. Sigh. We get to the falls and see a different Parides drinking, I’m not sure this is P. bunichus. One of the black and white ones w/red crescents, we’ll have to work it out. The Parides is flushed from the wet sand, but he flies up and perches on a perfect leaf for photography. Apparently he wants to be famous, because the 3 of us shoot lots of shots.
A white Eunica zips around but won’t sit for photos. Richard says there is only 1 white species here. Because it is such a sunny day, several couples show up. Apparently this is a good date place, though one of the couples is not happy with each other. So people are walking around, swimming, having a good time, but it doesn’t make for good butterfly photography. Though Kay wanders off and gets a nice dorsal of the Diaethria candrena that we worked so hard to get on our earlier visit.
Tonight we have round 2 of the lasagna, with more lemon pie for dessert. This butterfly photography is hard work, we need to keep up our energy.
Day 44 Wed Mar 04 – we depart the lovely Pousada Ribeirao do Ouro and head back to Marica. We plan to miss the worst of the Rio traffic, so the plan is to get through Rio before late afternoon. We go up the mountain road for a final check at higher Itatiaia. No Polygrapha suprema on trip 2 at all, maybe it’s too late in their flight season.
Kay finds a blooming tree with 2 Pterourus scamander coming to nectar and we get our best shots yet of this species, plus a couple of firetips. We leave about noon for the 4-5 hour drive to Marica. We make it through Rio without any problems and get to Richard’s about 5ish. We drop off our stuff and dash up to the first ridge to look for owls, but don’t see a single one. He is very surprised, as he almost always gets at least Caligos here, but not tonight.
Day 45 Thur Mar 05 – Dan and I go w/Richard to look for Parides ascanius at the beach and see 2 or 3 flying, but don’t get any good photos. I shot some cooperative Iaspis hairstreaks, then we go back home to pick up Kay and our stuff and head for Regua for the next 6 nights.
Regua is a wonderful place with tons of habitat and trails to explore. They are doing a bang up job of conserving a very special area. This is my 2nd trip, Dan and Kay and I were here 5 years ago. The rooms are lovely, with a/c, which is a big plus as they are in the hot and sticky lowlands. Delicious food, caparinhas served before dinner, and Nicholas and Raquel make delightful hosts. Check out their website – http://www.regua.co.uk/
After lunch I wander around the lodge at the top of the hill, and find a number of hairstreaks hilltopping, chasing each other around. 3 species of Theritas, including many of the black and blue Theritas hemon, a number of the little green Cyanophrys, probably C.arcaste, and some Strymon, and others that get away.
That night at dinner we meet a filmmaker, Verity White, who is making a film on Regua to help raise money, and she gives us a demonstration of her drone, and shows a sample of what she has shot here for the last 7-8 days. It is amazing, and extremely well done. It will be distributed through http://www.wildscreen.org/
Day 46 Fri Mar 06 – after a scrumptious breakfast we head for the 4×4 trail. This was my favorite trail 5 years ago, with tons of hairstreaks and riodinids. It will be interesting to see how it is now. They have been very dry here at Regua, but they have had recent rains and I think butterflies are hatching.
There are a lot fewer hairstreaks than we had here 5 years ago. We see plenty of Calycopis on the dark banks of the trail, and a few other species like Celmia celmus and Ocaria thales. But where we had hundreds of hairstreaks when we walked down the track last time, now we have dozens and almost all are Calycopis. There seem to be very few large Nymphalids flying, apparently due to the prolonged drought.
I get several spreadwing skippers on my spitwads, Zera tetrastigma erisichthon and a very fresh Camptopleura, which finally lets me flash it after repeatedly jumping the flash. I also shoot a funny looking Pierella lamia with pale orange/tan on the dorsal forewing, but apparently it is just a bright lamia. I was hoping for something more exciting.
Day 47 Sat Mar 07 – today we try the Vor do Mar trail. I’m looking for a trail we did 5 years ago that led to a dark little ravine with a creek at the bottom that was full of yellow Ithomiinae. Thomas drops us off where they think we mean, but this is not the right place. This is by a large, 2 story house with lots of outbuildings and a big pavilion, someone’s fancy weekend home. We walk uphill for several hundred meters, but the road has been whacked and there is nothing. Plus it is overcast and dark today.
We continue up, as Thomas won’t be back until 1:30pm, so we have an extended morning to explore. We come to a small house and see another truck from Regua, the one we were in yesterday, so we know another birding client, Malcom, is up here with the bird guide. We head down a small trail off to the right, come to a stream, cross it and head up the other side. It is dark and not much flying, but we do see several Eurybia molochina metalmarks. They don’t want to pose for photos, though Dan and I chase them repeatedly.
I find one of the yellow Ithomiinae flying up the hill and get some photos. Difficult to shoot it, as if you use flash the color is too bright, and if you don’t use flash it is soft focus in the low light. The challenges of wildlife photography.
We’re assuming the bird guide and Malcom are up this trail, but that turns out to be wrong. I head back down the trail because I want to work the more open areas where we saw the Eurybia, and check around the stream where Dan put out pee. It is still quite overcast, but I find at least 2 of the Eurybia coming to impatients blooming just above the stream, where it is a bit more open. So I chase them for an hour or more, trying to get close enough to get a decent shot on the bright flowers. I get 50 photos or so, none of them really satisfying. Good enough for id, but not great. These Eurybia can be tricky to shoot, as this species has lots of reflective blue on the wing. Depending on their angle, sometimes you see a beautiful deep purple/blue, and sometimes just plain brown. They love to go under the leaves, so you spend lots of time trying to get the camera underneath things. I would love to get that stunning shot of a beautiful purplish butterfly sitting on a bright pink impatient flower, but it is not to be, at least not today. I didn’t know that Eurybia came to impatients. More soft focus photos.
Suddenly a small terrier type dog appears and barks wildly at me, looking back over his shoulder for his master, warning him that strangers are about. I’m not sure how aggressive the dog will be, fortunately I can get off the trail and motion for him to go on by me. He finally does, he must belong to the house back at the start of this track. Then the guy shows up, after picking up my thermos of water on the other side of the creek. I tell him that is mine, he hands it over, and says he’s going to take a bath, I think. As he heads back down to the stream I go uphill to give him some privacy. Of course, this puts me on a collision course with the killer dog, who is not happy that I’m approaching when he’s alone. More barking, though the owner whistles him to be quiet.
Finally the guy finishes his bath, goes past me to join his unhappy dog, telling me with his hands that the dog barks but no bites. Of course, this has scattered all Eurybia. While I’m shooting a Saliana that has popped in, the dog starts barking like crazy up by the house. I suspect this means the bird guide and Malcom have shown up, so I go up to meet them, as we want to catch a lift back 20 minutes or so to the lodge, rather than wait until 1:30 for Thomas’s scheduled return. Apparently the local guy told the guide there was a single gringa down by his stream, as he’s coming to look for me. Anyway, we get together and they are happy to give us a ride. But Dan and Kay are somewhere behind me on the side track, I haven’t seen them in quite a while. I go back on the track, find Kay, but Dan is further away.
I decide to go ahead and ride back with the 2 guys, and Kay will wait for Dan and Thomas. We’re turning the truck around, ready to depart, when we hear Dan yelling, so we wait and all ride back together. It works out well, as the birders are looking for crescent-chested puffbird, and the guide pulls it in with tape. So we get good looks too, sort of a bonus.
On our way out, Malcom in the front of the truck spots a gorgeous black with blue spots butterfly on a big rock. We stop and pile out, and the butterfly sits, a stunning Hamadryas arete, similar to the stunning Starry Night Cracker, Hamadryas laodamis. Unfortunately he doesn’t like flash and departs shortly after we get out. This was in a stretch of road with pasture, fairly cut over.
Day 48 Sun Mar 08 – we wake to overcast skies, which proves to be with us for the next several days. We walk trails down around the lakes/wetlands that Nicholas has been building. The trees have grown amazingly in the last 5 years. We take the brown trail and the yellow trail, seeing a few butterflies but not too many, due to the heavy overcast. But then the sun comes out about 11am, and we have a few decent hours. Heavy rains that afternoon, lots of lightning and thunder.
Day 49 Mon Mar 09 – even darker clouds when we get up, so we decide to explore more nearby trails. Jorge and I walk the long way around to meet the others, and he almost steps on a venomous snake coiled in the path. Jorge Bizarro, their local butterfly guide, likes to walk in only flipflops, and he brushes the snake. He’s lucky he didn’t get bit. Of course we take lots of photos. We meet up with Dan and Kay at the tower, tell them about the snake, and they head back and find it. It is cool and wet, and apparently doesn’t want to move. Jorge put branches around it, to make it more obvious. Later after lunch Raquel goes to see it, but it has left.
Day 50 Tue Mar 10 – even more rain, we’re hexed. Today Jorge drives us to the forest fragment trail, which goes through a nice forest. We are seeing a few species, most of which is quite fresh, but I bet it will be great once the sun comes back.
Late that afternoon at dusk we go out with the bird guide to look for giant snipe. He takes us to a low lying pasture full of cows who stare at us as we walk in through the tall grass. When the guide plays the tape, they start calling back, and sure enough, one flies in close enough for us to wade out into the swampy area and get good looks at it in his flashlight. Beautiful bird. Then we see the scissor tailed nightjars chasing each other over the grasses, their eyes glowing in the torchlight. By now it is almost dark, as the birds don’t get active until night. Our lights show scads of insects flying around, so there is a ton of food for the birds to eat. We wade our back through the field, hopefully avoiding the cow paddies, and scramble up to the truck on the dirt road. What a magical experience, in spite of the cows.
Day 51 Wed Mar 11 – we leave Regua, sorry to say goodbye, and head 2 hours to the Rio airport to fly to Ilheus. Good thing we left early, as we’re caught in a protest which has shut down the main highway. Lots of flag waving, drum beating, and burning of tires to make huge clouds of black smoke. We’re only stalled about an hour, but we’re happy that we left early or we might have missed our noon flight.
4 hours and 2 flights later, our driver meets us at the Ilheus airport and drives us another 3-4 hours to Serra Bonita about 800m, above the town of Camacan, in the state of Bahia for our last week in Brazil. The transfer cost 400 Brazilian realis each way. See their website – http://uiracu.org.br/en/serrabonita.html
The main reason I’ve come here is for Vitor Becker’s amazing moth collection, the result of 45 years of his intense work. I’ve heard this is a good place for forest and nature. Lots of the bird tours come here now, and some friends liked it a lot.
It is interesting to compare it to Regua, as they are in very different habitats. Regua is pasture and farm land that is being revegatated, and is almost all secondary forest, relatively flat and low, under 400m. Serra Bonita is on a hill and covered with good forest, much taller and darker. The lodge is at 800m, so it is cooler, no a/c needed. (It would be nice if the rooms had fans, not so much for cooling but just to move the humid air.) They actually have fireplaces in each room, and apparently they use them from April to December, when it rains frequently. The butterflies are quite different between the two places, so they compliment each other. It is more difficult to photograph butterflies here at Serra Bonita, as you are mostly in tall forest, watching the butterflies cruise over your head up in the trees.
Bait doesn’t seem to work. It hasn’t worked well on this trip at all. Pee, poop, spitwads, rotten shrimp, rotten bananas, nothing seems to bring them in. There is a group of students and 5 instructors doing an insect course here in english, maybe 25 -30 people total, and they aren’t catching lots of butterflies either. They have put up fruit traps on the trails with almost no success. They tell us if you go down to low elevations there are more butterflies, but I’m not real interested in going down and sweating to find amazonian species. Guess I’m lazy.
One problem with being on top of a hill is that all trails and the road lead downwards. This means that when you return everything is uphill. One day Vitor drives us down to the junction, about 2km, then up another km+ to the microwave towers. We’re hoping for hilltopping butterflies, but don’t see anything except a spectacular view. We spend the morning slowly walking back to the lodge along the weedy road. There is also a trail that cuts off through the woods, but it looks quite dark, so we stick to the road. This first time it seems like a long way, but once we get familiar with it, it’s not so long. Later I walk to the junction in less than 45 minutes, and that includes stopping for photographs and walking slowly.
There are quite a few solanaceae plants up towards the tower, with white flowers hanging from the branches. The Ithomiinae appear to like these, as do the Actinotes. But they are mostly well off the ground over our heads, so we can but watch and enjoy. With a net the students got quite a few, but with our cameras we’re SOL.
I spend 2 days photographing Vitor’s smallish butterfly collection, about 15 drawers, buried in with his 300,000+ moth specimens. All collected and mounted by him, a truly impressive collection. I feel honored that he turns us loose and tells us we can shoot what we want. Very generous, and trusting, of him. I only look at a few of the hundreds of moth drawers. They are all meticulously mounted, perfect specimens. You could spend months and months photographing here, that’s why I call moths the slippery slope.
One day after being in the collection all morning I take a short walk down the road. It is overcast, sun coming and going, and I don’t see any butterflies. But I do shoot two beautiful damselflies, both with yellow and black stripes on the thorax and yellow faces. One has a black tail and wider stripes, and the second has a bright blue tip to the tail. I find them only 20’ apart on the cobblestone road.
Just past our row of rooms there is a nice trail off through the woods, heading down of course. Andy Brower, one of the course instructors, has hung a series of bait traps down this trail, but he gets very little except flies. We do find a fabulous (new for me) glowing blue riodinid, Semomesia geminus, and we get good shots. He is there every day about 2pm for a short while. This must be an unusual species, as BOA doesn’t even have a specimen photo of it. Dan and Kay also get a small black and red riodinid, I think a Comphotis, but I never see it.
Down this trail in the afternoon, if it is sunny, can be interesting but frustrating. You can see quite a few butterflies landing high in the trees, chasing and displaying, but they are far above your head. I take distant shots of some fresh Catonephele acontius, but never see them within 50’.
Serra Bonita is run by a small family who are trying hard to please people, but they have a difficult time with the large group of students. Quite a few have special diets, and it is tough for the wife, who does the cooking in a very small kitchen, to provide for all their special requests. The US kids don’t understand that nobody in the closest town, an hour down the steep, rocky road, never heard of vegetarianism, let alone vegan or gluten free, and there just isn’t much food for the Beckers’ to get except basic stuff. We hear a lot of complaints about the food, and the quantities seem a bit light, especially for a bunch of students. We learn quickly to be at the start time for meals, which are served buffet style. Don’t stroll in at 10 to 8am, when breakfast starts at 7, and expect to find much left.
The course overlaps with us for the first 5 days, then we are alone for a day, then another large group of Germans comes in for our last night. The food is quite a bit better for the first night without the students, shredded meat in a sauce over rice with corn and beans, delicious beans in another sauce, and salad, hooray. They had restricted much of the salad stuff to the vegetarians, so those of us who eat everything didn’t seen to get much in the way of veggies, or at least salad. Then we are served the exact same meal the 2nd night post students. Vitor is skinny and a high energy guy, and I suspect food just isn’t high on his list of concerns. Oh well, spa butterflying, hopefully I’ve lost some weight on this trip. After all the delicious food we had at Regua and some of the other hotels, it didn’t hurt me to eat a bit lighter.
Anyway, I’m glad I came to Serra Bonita, it is a beautiful place. Vitor’s moth collection is probably the most impressive and complete in the world as a private collection, maybe only the British museum and the Smithsonian have anything like it. He wants to keep it here in Brazil after his death, I hope that can be worked out. It is the most astounding private collection I have seen. There are some good birds here, Dan and Kay even saw the pink-legged gravitero (however it is spelled), and I had close encounters with the local marmosets chasing cicadas. We watch huge tarantulas at night, owls coming to the moth lights, foxes on the roads, and of course always the moths at the sheets.
Our Brazil trip end here, we have a long 26 hours plus to get back home. Lucas the taxi driver hopefully picks us up at 8am, drives us to Ilheus for our 1:30pm 2 flights to Rio, where we make our international connections (hopefully) tonight. We land in Rio at 5:30pm, and my United flight to Houston leaves at 8:50pm. If all goes well, it should be fine. The flights coming up here were right on time, vamos a ver. Words to live by in South America!