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Below are images and transcriptions of Eric’s words to Jen during his trip to Brazil as he hunted Filomena Caldeira, aka Ermelinda Pega.


12 April – Lençóis

Fellow Birders:

Search for black-capped nightingale in Brazil continues. Old folks in Lençóis remember when it returned after decades away. (They’re fond of it – call it “O Passaro Primo” – “cousin bird,” acc. to my guide.) Flock left suddenly in early ‘60s; they heard it went somewhere to NE. Onward!!

Miss You All, E—

P.S. Best to destroy this & the cards to follow – as we all know, rivalries are fierce in birding circles – but I hope you keep it & think of me. If you do, pls. take precautions.


15 April – Feira Nova, Sergipe

Fellow Birders:

People here say they saw nightingale but don’t remember specifics, not even where she nested. (My kingdom for ornithological rigor!) One bit of interest: a woman showed me an old copy of Alves’s Birds of Brazil that once belonged to a friend of her deceased mother. On p. 389 it says that in springtime, the nightingale sings a longer song, which sounds to local ears like:

“Se tenho que morrer,
Que seja na praia.”

I feel a call to the coast. You are all in my thoughts constantly. E—


18 April – Valenca

Fellow Birders:

Searching in Salvador, inquired at buildings w/overhangs that offered possible nesting spots. One housed a language school, the other a small publishing concern. Was leaving when the retired publisher arrived for afternoon sherry w/his successor. He’d seen the bird & found her impressive, but resources were thin & he had to shoo her away. He thinks she flew south; recalls that she seemed badly stressed & wondered how far she would get. Tomorrow: farther south.

XO, E—


19 April – Ibirapitanga

 Fellow Birders:

South thru small coastal towns. The locals have less English & I have my same Portuguese. My hosts tonight: a family who opened their home to me. I told them about the book we are writing together. They said (I think) there is a very old nightingale near Marau’ & people are very protective of her. They understand my good intentions (I think) & offered to take me there tomorrow & try to make introductions. I wouldn’t be able to sleep even if I hadn’t had the coffee.

I wish you were here – though in a way, you are. 

XO, E—


20 April, Near Marau’ 

Fellow Birders: 


She is impossibly old, & though she often forgets notes, she sings beautifully. I wish you could hear her. 

Have to run – can’t miss a minute of the song. Coming home on the 23rd. Will share stories and recordings ASAP. I promise. 

Love, E—