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JAGUARS and the Wildlife
of the Pantanal
Photo Tour
August-September 2016

Trip Two Report

Photo: Cindy Marple

There are several reasons why I return again and again to the same location. One
reason is to finally capture one of my 'dream shots,' an image I've imagined and
that I really want to capture. Well, HERE ARE THE SHOTS -- but I didn't shoot either
one. The two versions of my 'dream shot' were made by Cindy Marple (top shot)
and Sharon Fisher (below). Both are of the same Jaguar on the same day, with two
wonderful interpretations.
Where was I? Still motoring down river to reach the spot, but my boat arrived too late.

I think you'll agree - both images are spectacular!

Photo: Sharon Fisher

While I would have loved to have been there, these images generated some reflection
on my part. Another reason we return to these locations is because Mary and I love
to share the experience. This point was brought home when we did our extension
to the Southern Pantanal, with Cindy and Jim. Several times, all three of us lamented
on the fact that the others on this trip (Two) would have loved it. When you read the
Southern Pantanal report, you'll see why.

Day One – Curicaca to South Wild Lodge

The group arrived inCuiaba today. My day was spent in Curicaca, editing images and doing some writing while I waited for my group to arrive, to pick me up for our continued journey to SouthWild, at Santa Teresa Lodge. Storms loomed to the west, and thunder marked the storms, and the group, in their bus, encountered heavy rains once they left Pocone’. Fortunately it did not rain here, and the rest of our drive to SW was relatively dry.
When we arrived, we found a bit of chaos on the grounds of the lodge, as the storm I heard had torn through the area with heavy rain and high winds, toppling a tree at the end of their garden, at the car park area, which landed upon the owner’s mini-bus. With the crushed roof and side panels, it looked as if it had been rolled.

With barely an hour to spare, we unpacked and headed into the forest to visit the Ocelot station. My group occupied the bottom shooting spots, leaving too little room for me, so I went to the second level. The shots, from ground level, were superb. Wade, using two wireless Nikon flashes, got some nice lighting, but even directional light, with one flash, worked well, as oone Ocelot, surprising everyone with how big it was, came in around 5:45, mulled around on the ground, and then climbed the bait tree. (Photo, left: Sue Atlenburg) It remained about a half hour, and as it left, Sue took a final shot – and discovered there were two Ocelots in her picture! No one ever saw that cat!

With another storm coming, and probably a 45 minute wait for another visit, we wisely retreated, beating the storm. It rained soon after we returned, and later, in the night, another storm blew in. I wondered what our road to Porto Joffre would be like tomorrow.

Day Two. Santa Teresa to Jaguarland

A bit of management coordination would have been helpful, for the heavy rains made the travel south to Porto Joffre a real concern. A British birding group, using the 4-wheel drive heavy lorry truck, decided to leave early, while we were still having breakfast. Our guide then told me that with that vehicle ahead, if we got stuck we’d be stuck for a long time, and their other group's driver and guide should wait for our group, too. I mentioned this to the company owner, and despite his surprise at the logistics, he did manage to stop the lorry, hurriedly packed, and we traveled a very muddy road south. At one point, even with chains on our tires, we needed to have a tractor pull us through a diversion, where a road was being fixed and the alternate route was a morass.
We arrived at Porto Joffre without incident, and there I had a major bonehead blunder. Laying my computer case – with money, passport, wallet, my hard drives, on a nearby  table I retrieved some cash to tip our bus driver, who was walking towards a bathroom. I ran over to tip him, then returned to the bus, where Gary and I did a sweep to make sure nothing was left behind. Whether I then picked up my laptop bag, or someone else did, and packed it, I don’t know, but when we were 2/3rds of the way to the Flotel I thought my bag wasmissing. We continued to the Flotel, grabbed another boat, and raced back down river. I hoped to find my bag sitting on the table but it was gone. Staff from our lodge were there and knew and saw nothing. We moved down river to check further, where we saw a woman that was there at that time. She knew nothing, either.
Quite despondent, I returned to the boat, reporting to everyone who anxiously were waiting along the boat's side, that the bag was missing. Meanwhile, the boat staff had placed my luggage in Cindy’s room, and miracle of miracles – my bag was there! Was it moved to the luggage boat? How’d it get there? Jeez, I don’t know, but I was sure relieved.

Photo by Sharon Fisher

At 2PM we headed out for our first game 'drive,' and a short time after reaching the Cuiaba River our first two boats found the two male Jaguars from our last trip. My boat arrived last, and the guys, Jim and Wade, were still putting their stuff together when the Jaguars disappeared into the brush. Last week, those cats were shy, so I wasn’t surprised. We moved on.
My boat was in the Black Lagoon when we had another radio call of another Jaguar on the Three Brothers. It was a relatively short run to reach the cat, and a flotilla of boats. My boatman did an incredible job positioning us at gaps in the river brush where, often, a jaguar will step out to survey the scene. Our female Jaguar did so several times.
Eventually the Jaguar moved down river to the mouth of the Charles Creek, and there most of the flotilla preceded our boat. Marcos, with his three ladies, and Gary, Gayla, and John, were further ahead, and did get some jgreat shots of the cat walking towards them. The best we could manage in my boat was keeping parallel, for some nice close ups, and then back-end views as the cat continued upstream. As the stream narrowed, and with a dozen boats ahead of us and blocking any chance of getting in front, we moved on to the main river to explore. By 4PM it was practically dark, and at 4:30, when I called a halt for a return to the Flotel, the light was ISO 2500 at 1/50th sec at f5. No light for shooting. As we motored home we met our other three boats leaving the Black Lagoon and we reached the boat by 5:45.
Our day’s total – 3 Jaguars! And Giant Otters.

Day Three. Jaguarland

It rained through much of the night, and I suspect no one is leaving Porto Joffre today, or getting to PJ to reach the Flotel. The road must be impassable.
After breakfast, as I was walking down the metal flight of steps with a pair of Croc sandals that have lost all of their tread, I slipped on the wet steps and banged down three or four steps before clipping Cindy, who was in front of me, and she fell, too. Fortunately she didn’t bang down steps like I did, and she’s OK, but my tail bone is aching. Three years after back surgery, an accident like this makes one think, and I’m especially grateful that Mary, who just had another back surgery because of an infection settling at the site of her first one, wasn’t here, right after surgery. A fall for her like this one could have been crippling. As it is, I’m sore!
Because of the rain and the darkness we didn’t leave our Flotel until 7:15, as the weather began to break. My boat, with John and Cindy, explored the Black Lagoon, with Cindy racking up several new birds. While there, we had a radio call about a Jaguar on the Three Brothers, and we headed there, but the cat had moved into the brush. We moved up river, but Marcos’s boat was further behind, and spotted the Jaguar as she swam across the river. They were close, only 25 yards or so away when she surprised them by swimming across. We soon joined Marcos and many other boats.
jFor the next 40 minutes or so we followed the female, the same one as yesterday, I think, as she actively hunted the river bank, jumping over brush and logs at times, and searching, unsuccessfully, for prey. Although there were a fair number of boats there, the cooperation was excellent, and there was little trouble with anyone getting in each other’s way. Eventually the cat moved into the brush and disappeared, and we headed to the opposite shoreline where Marcos served coffer (he is the best!) while a heavy rain began. We decided to check the Charles Creek in case the Jaguar had moved there, but she hadn’t, and with an increasingly heavy rain I called it a morning. Ironically, the rain seemed to stop, at least for now, when we reached the Flotel, but if everyone is like me, they should all be cold, wet, and in need of dry clothes.

PM. It rained through lunch, and on past 2PM, so at 2 I did a one-hour program on Photoshop techniques and image management. At 3:15, with a drizzle, we headed out, and just upriver from Charles Creek, on the 3 Bros, we had another Jaguar, probably the same female from earlier, and now headed in the opposite direction. We only had her for 15 minutes or so before she headed into the brush for good, and at 5PM, with the light failing rapidly, with light levels typical of 6:30PM, we headed home, in the gloom and in the cold. An Antarctic Front has certainly arrived, and stalled here.

Day Four. Jaguarland

The Antarctic Front has stalled over us, and this morning was gloomy with low, threatening clouds, periodic spits of rain, and cold. Really cold. Perhaps the temperature was in the low 60’s, maybe less, but on the river with whatever heat still lingers in the water radiating as a cool mist, it is damp and chilly. I wasn’t the only one dressed like winter, but I did have on thin silk long underwear, a windbreaker pants, regular light-weight pants, and rain pants (on the bottom half), and an Underarmour long-sleeve T-shirt, light weight camou shirt, medium weight polar fleece sweater, light weight down jacket, and a rain jacket on top. I was comfortable, but I was not overheated! Call me a wimp.
We headed up the Cuiaba River and I had a bit of a coup’, spotting a Jaguar on the riverbank before my boatman did. Unfortunately the cat, a male I think, was shy, and as we turned towards shore it did a U-turn and retreated into the jungle, and disappeared. A short time later, as we motored up the river, we received word of another Jaguar just down river from our Flotel, also on the Cuiaba. We raced there, and found another big male, all round-head, smoky gray-yellow eyes, lying on the bank. This cat, although with relatively few scars, looked like a real veteran, and that cat would give me pause if I’d encounter it as I walked a jungle trail checking camera traps. We stayed with the cat all morning as waited for it to get up and hunt, but when it did, it moved into the forest and disappeared.
hAt least one of our other boats had Giant Otters, and as my boat returned to the Flotel we had a nice session with a Capped Heron, a normally shy and retiring bird. We arrived at the Flotel at 11:30AM.

PM. At 2PM we headed out, and at 2:15 the light disappeared, with the exposures now being what one would expect at 6:15, at sunset. We had just entered the Cuiaba River when our boatman spotted a Jaguar (Salima, a female) on a sand bar right next to us. My lens was still under wraps, with the rain cover over the lens hood, and the back flap over the camera. By the time I cleared the gear, the Jaguar turned and ran up the bank. I fired, finding that my exposure was still set for the gloomy morning, and I was completely underexposed – an all black frame! Sharon and Cindy were with me, and had their gear ready in time, and both got nice shots as the Jaguar stood on the beach. Sharon was a graduate of our D CNPC so on manual, she outdid her teacher (me!).
Seconds later it began to rain, and minutes later it began to pour, a blasting rain, with lightning rolling around in the distance. I called it quits, and we headed back to the Flotel, fast, and between our speed and the hard rain we motored through what was basically horizontal rainfall. Despite wearing raingear, we were soaked through. At 3PM, we had a momentary let-up on the rain, followed by another downpour and thunderstorm. No more jaguar hunting today.
Total for today – 3 different Jaguars. 2 yesterday, and 3 our first afternoon, for 8 in 2.5 days.

Day Five. Jaguarland

oThe weather broke, and the skies were clear this morning, but with the prolonged cold and dampness the river was shrouded in a thick fog, so much so that the light was only silver/gray, not orange at sunrise. My boat headed up the Black Lagoon with Wade and Jim, and we encountered four Giant Otters rather quickly, and spent at least an hour or so with them as they fished and often swam around us. At one point, a Striated Heron moved in close to an Otter eating a fish, attempting to steal scraps. I had an 800mm on, and not wishing to shake the boat by reaching for my 100-400, I missed getting the two of them together. With the bright skies back, it was as if the birds were happy, as the songbird activity was extensive, and far more so than it had been for the last several days. At one point, at a dead tree festooned with wrack bfrom previous high water, we had Tropical Kingbirds, White-winged Swallows, Gray Salvators, Green Kingfishers, Kiskadee spp, and nearby, a Vermillion Flycatcher. Cindy and Sharon were with Marcos, and did a lot of songbird birding today, too.
Jim, in his boat, also did well with Giant Otters. My boat continued up the 3 Bros to the side-channel that led to the Cuiaba, where I expected to find Caimans sunning, with jaws wide open. The rains had so raised the water level that the sandbar was nearly covered, and the Caimans were a disappointment. A few minutes later, we received a radio call that a Jaguar had been seen.
Marcos’s boat was the first to arrive, and they did so just in time for Cindy at least (since she zoomed out for a habitat shot!) to get my still-sought after c‘dream shot,’ a Jaguar lying on a log overlooking the river. The scene only lasted a minute or two, and unfortunately the others had 400mm lenses on, and only got portraits. We arrived too late, but the Jaguar was hunting, and in the hour or so we spent with it we did see it catch a small fish, probably a catfish in the shallows, and a small caiman, in the high marsh grass, and presenting no real shots. The jaguar disappearing into the grasses with that kill, we headed on to lunch.
PM. We left at 2:15 and almost immediately found a Jaguar lying in the shade on a high bank. It was barely visible, but we waited nearly an hour, hoping it would hunt. It did not, but when it finally rose, it walked off into the forest. We soon had another radio call – actually the boats there had two, one, apparently on the Cuiaba (where many boats went), and another, far up the 3 Bro where we went, and found what I suspect was a juvenile or large cub. He was curious but shy, and when he finally rose, he belly-slunk out of view.
We continued down river, where we found our Third Jaguar for the day, lying in an alcove or small clearing in the brush near the river. He was looking at the sandbar on the other side, where a family of Capybara waded about, and where the adults later mated. A pair of Chinese tourists climbed out of their boat and onto the sandbar to get a better look, and the Jaguar retreated a bit, and I told them to get back into their boat so as not to scare the cat. One guy complied immediately and the other eventually did so. Eventually the Jaguar moved, and we suspected it would swim across the river to start a stalk, but the light was failing, and with the cat visible, but not moving, we decided to do two passes, getting some shots as we went by. The light was low, and I shot first at ISO 3200, and then 6000 and 10000, just to see what the camera would do. I have the results, with 10000, here.
ISO 6400. 1/200th sec at f5.6. RRS Monopod

ISO 10,000. 1/400th sec at f/5.6. RRS Monopod

I think you'll agree that the high ISOs worked. I'msure there is noise in the dark areas if you enlarged to 66% or 100% in a RAW converter, but does that matter here? I don't think so.

We headed back at dusk, with Fishing Bats flying by us, at 5:45PM, but the flight was erratic and I didn’t try any shots. We arrived at the boat at 6. I thought our count was four Jaguars for the day, but one of our boats spotted a fifth cat on the way back , for five for the day.
This gives us a total of 13 so far.

Day Six. Jaguarland

We expected less fog, but enough to make the river pretty and the scenic worthwhile, and so we left at 6AM this morning. We hadn’t traveled more than two minutes downriver when we spotted a Brazilian Tapir swimming across the river. I shot most of my images wide, to capture the ambience of the fog, forest, river, and tapir, but we had several opportunities. At one point, the Tapir submerged, and swam for about a minute underwater – still in the right direction he was going, then surfaced, and at a wall of willows swam upstream until the Tapir reached an open area, where he dashed into the forest.
We continued, shooting landscapes as we went, and my boat was the first into the Black Lagoon. Jacare’ Caimans were quite active doing their ‘bubble dance,’ which I assume is some type of fitness demonstration, and may have something to do with territory or attracting mates. I can’t be sure, here, because later in the day Caimans will be stacked up together, so a formal territory is not defended, although perhaps, in early morning, a temporary territory is established with the hope and purpose to attract a female.

At any rate, one can recognize a likely candidate for the bubble dance quite easily. The head and tail of the Caiman are raised, creating something of a wide U. The Caiman then appears to gulp in water, as if powering himself up, and then, if we’re lucky, a low moaning roar precedes the eruption of bubbles, which might last for a few seconds. Then the Caiman raises his head even higher, and gives a roar that some have mistaken for a jaguar’s, and with that the tail and head drop horizontal and the show is over. At times this morning we had Caimans on either side of us calling, so the shooting was good.
We were still looking for more bubble dances when we received a radio call that another Jaguar had been spotted on the Cuiaba. Gary actually spotted the cat first, in the open on a brush heap on a bank, in great light. Later, Marcos’s boat arrived as well, and the two boats followed the Jaguar as it hunted. My boat, under my advice, opted to stay in the lagoon and photograph what we had here.
oWe soon found the four Giant Otters that frequent this area. Marcos’s boat had had them at the entrance of the lagoon, but left them for the Jaguar. Consequently, we had the Otters to ourselves, and by silently paddling about, and rarely motoring, we had an incredible shoot, perhaps one of the best.
Finishing with the lagoon, we headed up the 3 Bros and soon encountered a fishing boat whose occupants were flagging us down, as a Jaguar was on the bank. We stopped, no cat visible, but a few seconds later a male, Scarface, appeared. As we dropped anchor my boatman noticed a second Jaguar on the bank – at first I thought it was our two males we had last week, but this male was different, and we soon learned why.
jThey were a mating pair, and in the 2 hours we were there the cats noisily mated about four times, about every 20-35 minutes. All female Panthera cats (lions, tigers, etc) are a bit testy at mating, and at completion, the male generally jumps off as the female twists and fires off a swat. Sometimes the cat connects – I’ve seen an arching spray of blood fly from the mouth of a male lion after one direct hit, but usually it’s just a swipe and a snarl and growl. With the Jaguars, I saw something different.
After the male jumped off, amidst a roar, the female twisted and swatted, and the male darted off. Amazingly, the female went in pursuit, as if just trying to swat him wasn’t enough – she wanted to get him! In other cats, after the swat the female generally just flops over, off with her legs in the air. Not this female – she was chasing the male!
The mating shots were poor, but the male came to the edge of the clearing and did the flehmen grimace several times, full-on for face shots. Afterwards, the two retreated in the forest and only loud roars marked other matings. We moved upriver to a likely clearing, but all the roars were further downstream, and although I said to the other boat, ‘the cardinal rule is, never leave a cat,’ I told them I was going to the Black Lagoon to see if any other cat was active and perhaps hunting.
We’d barely left when my boatman received a radio call that there was a Jaguar in the lagoon. We arrived, with about six boats there ahead of us, as cthe cat walked upstream. It was hunting, and Caiman and Capybaras dashed into the stream. At one point we positioned ourselves in a likely spot if the cat swam through the reeds, but it did not, it went via the shoreline, and although we got some nice shots, I’d have preferred to be upstream, and facing the  cat as it walked the shoreline. Our other two boats were there, and should have had some nice images before the Jaguar finally moved away from the shoreline. A Marsh Deer was in the distance, and we wondered if the cat might attempt a stalk, but the distance, and angle, was too difficult to make waiting worthwhile to see. We headed back to the Flotel.
In total, we had four Jaguars this morning.
Our total now, 17 cats.

j PM. We left at 2:30 because of the heat, and headed immediately to a reported Jaguar on the Cuiaba. We arrived as he was hunting the banks, but as we followed the cat entered the water and swam, and with my 800, only slightly cropped, I appear to be almost at water level with the cat. Eventually the Jaguar moved off into the brush and we headed back to the 3 Bros and the mating pair.
jWhen we arrived, I was told the pair had appeared in the clearing three times, and the last only minutes earlier. Two of our boats remained behind, but Gary, Gayla, and I headed upriver, figuring that with virtually everyone here, no one would know if another Jaguar was hunting just ahead. We didn’t find another cat, but did have great Caiman gaping, and several inexplicable Caiman dashes into the river, which at first I thought was triggered by Jaguars.
At a bend and sand bar we heard the alarm snort of Capybara, and investigating we found our youngest babies for this trip. We pulled in to shoot, and to hang around for the source of the alarm, and had some nice tshooting of the Capybaras. Right where we had moored our boat I found a series of very fresh Jaguar tracks, including tracks only half the usual size – cubs, but although they were fresh, they were old enough for the Capybaras to reclaim the beach.
After shooting these, we returned to the site of the mating pair, and heard them roaring (mating talk) twice, but the cats never appeared by the river. We headed back to the Flotel in the last light of the day.

Day Seven. Jaguarland to Santa Teresa

We had a final morning on the river and it was a great one. Several people had not shot the ‘bubble dance’ of the Caiman, so my boat headed up the Black Lagoon for more Caiman shots. The weather was warmer this morning, with little mist, and although we arrived at approximately the same time as yesterday, not a single Caiman even suggested the pose for the dance. None performed! It was a real surprise and disappointment.
Soon, however, we got a radio call that another Jaguar was seen on the Cuiaba River, and although my boatman said it was far away (that often discourages me), it was our last day and we figured we’d try to make it a jaguar day. We headed out, and 25 minutes later arrived at a flotilla of boats, with everyone aiming at the shoreline.
jImagine my surprise when I saw what they had – my dream shot, or at least my first version of it. A male Jaguar lay sprawled like a leopard on a tree overhanging the river. My boatman stopped immediately, but we had a terrible angle so I motioned for him to circle around all the boats so that we’d have a front view. We had to shoot between boats, fast, to get the shot, and when we finally settled and anchored, the Jaguar stood up and walked into the forest. Luckily, though, those first shots worked.
Most of the boats left when we spotted the Jaguar again, hunting the shoreline upriver. We followed, and had a tense, exciting morning as we parked ourselves on two sets of Capybaras that the Jaguar was hunting. In the first, most of us were ready when these huge rodents darted into the water, but for the second, although I had kept a 20 minute vigil with my lens always at the ready, the sun was baking my face and just as I adjusted my sun hood, the Capybaras did these massive, spectacular dives. I caught the splash.
Capybara leaping composite

With no other prey in sight, we received another call that the mating pair were in the open, so we raced down the Cuiaba and up the 3 Bros, and after a 45 minute wait both cats appeared on the shoreline. The female jumped to the water’s edge, where she looked up to the male and snarled, as if daring him to come down, although eventually she jumped back up the bank and they mated, again, in the woods. With our morning running short we left the cats, and headed back to the Flotel.
After lunch we motored to Porto Joffre, and most of the group took the 4x4 truck so that they could birdwatch and photograph on the way to ST. En c
Photo: Cindy Marple

route, they photographed two male Capybaras fighting over territory, the highlight of the morning for many! Four of us took the air-conditioned bus and headed out on an express drive, as I wanted to get to ST to set up flashes for this evening’s ocelot shoot.
When I arrived, the bamboo poles I use as light stands were missing, and I wasted valuable time searching for them before giving up and walking into the forest, very annoyed, just with my threaded rods. While I was setting up, however, the wonderful lodge manager, Lucy, showed up, carrying the entire bundle of bamboo in her arms! I thanked her profusely!
I barely had time to set up and return to the lodge to collect some clothes for the evening vigil before returning with the group. Cloud cover had built up during the day and as we waited it began to drizzle, but while it was still dusk the first of two Ocelots arrived.
oLater, another joined the first, and after some hissing and growling and posturing, they charged one another and, and, …. My AF went haywire at that moment and I missed the two shots of confrontation. I was using the 5DSR, and the frame rate is very slow, and I’m not sure how well it handles autofocus in dim light – and we had dim light. At any rate, however, we had over an hour of shooting and some exciting action, completing a very eventful day.

Day Eight. Santa Teresa

It rained during the night and this morning dawned gray and gloomy, but by 9AM the drizzle had stopped and the light level rose sufficiently for a boat ride. nWe headed downstream to look for tapir and birds, but we were fortunate to still find a cooperative Great Black Hawk that flew in several times for fish. Later, closer to the lodge, we had a Black-collared Hawk do the same, three times, so the morning was productive. We were not in good Kingfisher country, although we had a few steal fish, but the light level was too low to attempt good shots of these fast birds. I did have one luck series of a Black-crowned Night Heron in flight carrying a catfish, just as we started the boat ride.
The highlight of the morning was a short phike, from the boat skiff, to the roost of a Great Potoo, perched in the tree I’ve often found it in. No one could spot the clearly visible bird until it was pointed out – the broken branch camouflage is that effective. Everyone got frame-filling shots.
The ride took until lunch, and afterwards a forest hike was scheduled, but the rain began rather heavily and everyone returned to the lodge. Meanwhile, I was out in the forest setting up a camera trap, hopefully for Tapir, which I baited with corn and bananas. I had planned to use a Sabre, but I wasn’t sure of the battery charge so instead I used  a Range IR, positioned, I hope, not to do false firing. I placed three flashes – one on either side of a trail, and one shooting down on it, with the Range IR aimed straight down the trail, and everything covered with plastic bags. My camera was covered with a plastic bag and an umbrella, so hopefully everything will survive the night.
At 5PM we headed back to the Ocelot blind, but as the darkness settled, so too did the rain, and it was a cold, miserable 1.35 hour wait until a relatively shy Ocelot ran in, scampered up the log, grabbed some meat, jumped off, and ran back into the forest. It did this several times, but the shooting was very brief. I restrained from shooting unless it was exceptional, as another ‘photo group’ was there – all WITHOUT FLASHES – and shooting with ambient light – from the dim overhead light, and the guide’s powerful torch flashlight – which my guide thought contributed to the Ocelot’s wariness and brief appearance. At any rate, my low ISO and f11 aperture would not mix well with an ambient light exposure of ISO 6400 and wide-open for those folks, so I only shot when I heard those people had clicked several times. I can’t imagine what they got – a dumb way to shoot that is! When that group was sated, we all wrapped it up, as it was pouring, and we were cold. At dinner, most of us were bundled up as if we were in Alaska – it was cold! Tomorrow, that photo group heads to Porto Joffre in a less than ideal vehicle for the road they’ll be on – I wish them luck!

Day Nine. Santa Teresa

Another cold, dreary day – and this is the height of the dry season and the winter (our summer) dry heat! Birds were exceptional at the feeders, and several in our group spent a lot of time around the grounds photographing the birds. At the two small ponds/pools just outside the fence more birds were active, including a displaying Sunbittern! Unfortunately the light was low, but I do think people managed to get shots. t
At 9:30 with the light finally up we went for a boat ride, and with no one at the lodge the birds hadn’t been fed and were hungry. We barely made it past the first bend in the river with Black Hawks, Black-collared Hawks, Large-billed Terns, and Ringed Kingfishers all coming around for a fish toss. Although the light required high ISOs, the light was also wonderfully even, and I think we did pretty good. Towards the end of our boat ride an Amazon Kingfisher, that is very tame and rides the boat, mistook my offered finger (I held it out as a perch) and flew up and grabbed my finger tip with its beak! It pinched, but not hard, but what a great surprise!
At 1PM we repeated the procedure, redoing all of the birds once more, with Cindy finally getting a good look at a Sungrebe.
Meanwhile, my overnight camera trap captured nothing. The RangeIR false-fired, which it can do if the aim isn’t perfect, and all I captured was a four-spotted Opossum on a tree along the side. Nothing came down to the bait. I reset the camera trap with a Sabre, and new batteries in the flashes, and through the day nothing came in but a Currasow. I didn’t bother trying again for this evening, since I wanted to pack up for leaving tomorrow.
oAt 5 we headed to the Ocelot blind, and at least two cats came in, once with two together, but they only low-growled at each other and never came close enough for shots. Still, it was a good shoot, and as we broke down the gear I could see the eyes of one cat, still in the brush, hoping for more food. It would be disappointed.

Day Ten. Santa Teresa to Pueso Allegra

Another day began under dreay, wet skies. We did another boat ride, hoping for more hawks and kingfishers, and perhaps to have the Amazon Kingfisher land on my hand, or take a fish from my hand – which it did. We had several opportunities with Black-collared Hawks and Great Black Hawks, including two great sequences where, in one, an immature but precocious and a hunter, went for a tossed fish at the same time as its parent.
The action was brief, but both are in the frame – for me, unfortunately, some of the shots had the focus on the back bird, so the front one isn’t sharp. Still, perhaps the most dynamic shot has the two nicely in focus! Later, a Black Hawk and the immature Black-collared Hawk went for the ksame fish, with an almost mid-air collision. Towards the end of the ride we found the Amazon Kingfisher, and the first fish I offered was too large ( a big yellow piranha) so the bird grabbed it and struggled with it but I wouldn’t let go, it would have been a waste as the fish could not have been swallowed. The bird came to my hand several times – people got nice shots, and the bird was rewarded with a couple of fish. (Photo by Wade Aiken)
At 11AM we took the 4xx4 truck to Matto Grosso Hotel to transfer to our bus, as the ST road was impassable for a normal vehicle. We arrived at PA by lunch, but rooms were not ready (mine wasn’t until 2PM) and with dreary weather we did a game drive at 3PM, hoping for giant anteater. We had limited success on the drive, with a Plumbeous Kite, good views of a pair of Bat Falcons, and a male Coatimundi. By 5 it was nearly dark, and still quite dreay.

Day Eleven. PA to Cuiaba to Campo Grande and our first lodge

We had bags out at 5AM for a 6AM departure for Cuiaba so that those flying home could make their 11:30AM flight to Sao Paulo. Cindy, Jim, and I were heading on to the southern Pantanal, and Wade had a later flight home, so we spent until 5PM in the airport for our flights. Jim had a bit of a scare, as he had canceled one flight and rebooked on our flight, but the non-English speaking GOL guy only saw his first tracking number, and that was only for a later flight and was cancelled. Fortunately we got another guy there and we got everything figured out – 45 minutes of stress, however – and the flights to Brasilia and to Campo Grande, and the drive to PA went smoothly. We didn’t arrive in PA until 1:45AM , and didn’t get to bed until almost 3AM.


Donocobious, Antshrike, and Rhea - Cindy Marple
Toucan - Sharon Fisher

hOn this trip, I used the new Canon 100-400 which I found to be incredibly sharp, which I used for quick shots, flight shots, and for situations where trying to position my heavier lens on a monopod was impractical. I used a 200-400mm mounted on a Really Right Stuff Monopod and Really Right Stuff Pro Monopod head for the times when I was shooting Jaguars with a bit more time (90% of the jaguar shooting. Those two lenses and two camera bodies easily fit inside my Gura Gear Bataflae bags which I kept in the skiff with me as we motored along looking for Jaguars. Mary used basically the same combination, with the 100-400, and a fixed 500mm f4 lens. In the last two trips, Alaska and this one, we've had one photographer on each using the new Sigma 150-600mm image-stabilization lens, and both loved that lens. I used 64 and 32gb Hoodman Cards. When I was shooting on land I used a Wimberley Gimbal II head, mounted on a Really Right Stuff Tripod. I've used the RRS quick release clamps so that I can, when necessary, change from a Wimberley to a BH40 or BH55 head, and I would highly recommend anyone who plans on using two heads on a trip, like a Wimberley and a BH40 oe BH55, use these plates. Just a couple of pieces are involved, and I've listed the pieces for this below, and I can't stress how convenient this system is for switching heads!

TA-LBC: Round lever-release clamp

Round lever-release style quick-release clamp

TH-DVTL-55: Round Dovetail Plate

Round Dovetail Plate

TH-DVTL-40: Round Dovetail Plate

Round Dovetail Plate

For my remote camera work , I used the RangeIR
camera trigger, and a Really Right Stuff TP-243 Ground 'Pod. I supported my three flashes with 1/4" threaded rods, small ballheads, and Phottix flash slaves, that triggered the flashes from a master mounted on the camera.

Join us in 2017 -- we'll be doing another trip to the Pantanal.
Check out OUR 2015 Trip Report, or check out all our Trip Reports for the Jaguars and the Pantanal.

Read our 2015 brochure (until I get a chance to update the brochure!) Information applies for 2017, for reference, although exact dates and prices will differ.

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