December Audubon features "Birds of Brazil"

December 3, 2013 

Brazil conjures up many images among Americans — Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon, tropical rainforests and abundant, exotic animals, and especially its stunningly colorful birds.

The largest country in South America, Brazil is home to a hugely rich diversity of avifauna — more than 1,800 species of birds, with more than 200 of them endemic (found only there). Sixty percent of the birds native to South America occur in Brazil.

Matthew Matthiessen, a recent transplant to Mariposa where he is now the chief financial officer for the John C. Fremont Healthcare District, visited the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso in Oct. 2011, birding from the Amazonian rainforest in the north to the extensive wetlands of the Pantanal in the south. This area harbors some of the most sought-after, beautiful birds in the world, including the harpy eagle, the hyacinth macaw and the Agami heron.

On Thursday, Dec. 12, Matthiessen will share some of his Brazilian fun-and-adventure experiences in a slide presentation, "Birds and Birding in Brazil." His talk features many of his superb photographs, not only of Brazil's eye-popping birds, but also some of the region's non-avian wildlife, including its impressive mammals. Sponsored by the Yosemite Area Audubon Society, the program will be held at the Mariposa Methodist Church parish hall at Sixth and Bullion streets in downtown Mariposa beginning at 7 p.m.

Matthiessen began birding while growing up in Thailand, developing a lifelong love for international birding. An extraordinary birder and bird photographer, he has pursued his birding passion in many countries throughout the world and captured hundreds of images through his camera lens.

His adventures have also produced some memorable, heart-pounding experiences. He has lived through two bloody coups — one, in Thailand, successful and the other, in Zambia, not. He has been charged by an elephant, stalked by a lion and threatened by a crocodile. He has kissed a cobra, push-started a Jeep amidst a lion pride, had the spotlight die while next to a leopard, captured a 14-foot python and almost tripped over a sleeping silverback gorilla. He says, though, that by far, the most exciting thing he has done was moving to Mariposa and joining the Yosemite Area Audubon Society.

Matthiessen will no doubt share some of his unusual experiences in his presentation.

Like all YAAS programs, Matthiessen's presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon's local activities are welcome.

In lieu of its usual monthly birding trip, Yosemite Area Audubon is encouraging residents to participate in any of several area and nearby Christmas bird counts scheduled between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 as part of the National Audubon Society's 114th annual count. The Mariposa CBC on Saturday, Dec. 14, will begin at 7a.m. with a pre-count meeting at the Happy Burger.

The Yosemite CBC will be held the following day, Sunday, Dec. 15; participants should email compiler Sarah Stock, Sarah_Stock@nps.gov, before that date to arrange a count assignment. The Oakhurst CBC is scheduled Friday, Dec. 20, starting at the Oakhurst Burger King at 7 a.m. Finally, the Merced CBC will take place Friday, Jan. 3, beginning at 7 a.m. at the Mariposa rest area just off Highway 140 for Mariposa participants.

Participation in all counts is free, and all comers are welcome regardless of birding experience. Bring binoculars, field guides, lunch, snacks and beverages. Dress in layers, bring rain gear and wear comfortable, waterproof walking shoes.

Call (209) 742-5579 or (209) 966-2547 or visit yosemiteaudubon.org for more information about the program or the Christmas bird counts.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.

— Len McKenzie

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