Sunday, 29 December 2013

Three days around Buenos Aires

I flew up to Buenos Aries & enjoyed a pleasant evening in the Holiday Inn by the airport. My two guides (Diego & Ulises) were waiting for me in the morning & we immediately set off for Otamendi National Park about 90 kilometres out of the capital city.
Two excellent bird guides: Diego & Ulises.
Otamendi National Park

 The drive was uneventful and we arrived on the dirt track with extensive flood plains, covered in rushes and reeds all around us. There was also a narrow strip of riparian woodland, which gave us some additional species. Birds were everywhere and at times there were too many new birds on show at once! We saw around 60 species within a couple of hours, highlights included:
A fine adult male, Long-winged Harrier.

5 Long-winged Harrier; 2 Giant Wood Rails, (including one that crossed the road giving great views)! Monk Parakeets; Ash-coloured and Dark-billed Cuckoos, both performing really well. Wonderful Golden-breasted & Chequered Woodpeckers; great views of a Curve-billed Reedhaunter; 2 Diademed Tanagers; a plethora of Black & Rufous Warbling Finches; 50+ Yellow-winged Blackbirds; 6 Brown & Yellow Marshbirds and at least 8 Scarlet-headed Blackbirds.
Monk Parakeet

Brown & Yellow Marshbird.
Scarlet-headed Blackbird
The typical landscape around Ceibas

As the heat built up, we moved on to Ceibas, an area of scattered mature woodland surrounded by pampas grasslands (much of which is used for various types of agriculture), wet areas and a scattering of ponds. Birds were again prolific and we saw around 75 species here, despite it being the middle of the day. Highlights included:
 Southern Screamers were common
 Wonderful Woodpeckers
included White-fronted Woodpecker.
And the unbelievable White Woodpecker
 which travels in gangs!
The very strange, Lark-like Bushrunner
Red - crested Cardinals were common here.
The weird, but wonderful Spectacled Tyrant

15 Southern Screamer; Brazilian Duck; 18 Long-winged Harrier; White-fronted & White Woodpeckers; Lark-like Bushrunner; Firewood Gatherer; Brown Cacholota; Narrow-billed Woodcreeper; Warbling Doradito; 10 Spectacled Tyrant; Red-crested Cardinal; Great Pampa Finch & Bay-winged Cowbird.
With over 100 species seen during the day we moved to our accommodation for the night & spent a nice evening, eating, drinking & talking birds. Very typical of Argentina in my experience!
 The fabled pampas!
 It is not all grassland!
Pied billed Grebe
Ulises & myself in front of the many wetlands
which dot the landscape.
The one that got away!
An unidentified Armadillo!

It was an early start to get to the El Palenque Pampas area, but it was worth it! This is the scenery which you see on TV documentaries. It is big sky country, everything is on a massive scale including the birds. Birds were everywhere! It took a while and a bit of scanning, but eventually we turned up the star of the pampas, 8 Greater Rhea. We were also lucky to spot and get decent views of a Spotted Nothura. Southern Screamers, ibis, herons & egrets were dotted around, seemingly everywhere.
 Rather distant, Greater Rheas.
White-faced Ibis
 The strange looking, Coscoroba Swan.
 Rose-billed Pochards.

 Waterfowl included 6 Black-necked Swan; 2 Coscoroba Swan; Silver Teal; 3 Rose-billed Pochard. Both Red-Gartered & Red-fronted Coots were seen, with some brilliant views of Spot-flanked Gallinules.
The wonderfully marked, Spot-flanked Gallinule.

 Buff-breasted Sandpipers were quite tame.
Pectoral Sandpipers were often in the wetter areas
 with small pools.
Yes, they really are this stunning!
The quite unbelievable Many-coloured Rush Tyrant,
 common in patches of reeds in the pampas.
 It took a while, but we eventually saw it!
Short-billed Pipit!
The much more common Correndera Pipit.

 As expected, both American Golden Plovers & Buff-breasted Sandpipers dotted the grasslands, with a pair sprinkling of Pectoral Sandpipers as well. Both Wren-like Rushbirds & Many coloured Rush Tyrants were in the reed beds. It took a while but we eventually obtained fabulous views of 2 Short-billed Pipits, among the abundant Correndera Pipits.
Late afternoon saw us birding around Punta Rosa, a coastal area with a wide variety of habits, estuary, mudflats, coastal grasslands, marshlands & isolated patches of bushes & trees. A real mosaic of habitats, which hold some very special birds! Most of which we managed to winkle out!
5 Greater Rheas; 110 Chilean Flamingos; a wide variety of wading birds & a vagrant Snowy Sheathbill! What? Among the abundant Kelp Gulls were 4 Olrog's Gulls & an amazing 72 Snowy-crowned Terns. 120+ Black Skimmers were also a very welcome sight. 

 One of the many, Snowy-crowned Terns
Adult Olrog's Gull
 A large flock of Black Skimmers

American Oystercatcher
Long-tailed Reed Finch
The almost mythical, Dot-winged Crake!

Two very pretty Long-tailed Reed-finches also showed well. However, the star of the day (some might say the year) was the sighting of at least two possibly three Dot-winged Crakes! Diego was the guy who worked out the call of this species & once this was known, it became increasingly possible to see this almost mythical species. I was ecstatic! I had at least two birds almost at my feet for several minutes, but amazingly difficult to see & they never broke cover & didn't  come out into the open. What an ending to a brilliant day!
The range-restricted, Hudson's Canastero.
 Another early start & a drive across the pampas. It really does look like it is on the television! We pulled off the main highway at KM 266 & drove a little way down Provincial Road 11. Pampas grassland surrounded us & there were a few dykes with reeds in them. We were looking for two specialities of this area: Hudson's Canastero & Bay capped Wren Spinetail. Within a minute we had great views of the Hudson's Canastero singing its heart out! Wow! Quite a display for a little brown bird! We walked a little further down the track & saw a Bay-capped Wren Spinetail fly up briefly. A little bit of playback brought the expected response & we enjoyed fabulous views. Two great birds in a few minutes.
 White-browed Blackbird
Grassland Yellow-finch

Great Pampa Finch.

 Other species recorded included White-browed Blackbird; Double collared Seedeater; Grassland Yellowfinch & a few Great Pampa Finches. But it was time to move on.
Just a small part of the
Santa Maura Lagoon complex.
White-winged Coot

The next stop was the Santa Maura Lagoon. A large area teeming with birds: White-winged, Red-fronted & Red-gartered Coots were numerous. At least 10 Spot-winged Gallinules were swimming around. Superb little birds! Grey-breasted Martins & White-rumped Swallows hawked insects over the water. Sooty Tyrannulets perched & called from reeds at the waters edge. Fork-tailed Flycatchers were perched conspicuously. A pretty White-tailed Kite sat high on a dead limb of a tree.

 Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Swainson's Hawk

A migrant Swainson's Hawk also flew over. There were the usual assortment of Caracaras, Snail Kites & a few species of heron dotted around.
We drove a little further up the road to another area of pools, yet again filled with birds: 4 Lake Duck were new, among 14 Coscoroba & 2 Black-necked Swans; Chiloe Wigeon; Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Pintail & Speckled Teal were all in evidence as well. 3 Swainson's Hawks & an American Kestrel were nearby. There were masses of coots; at least 180 Red-gartered & 150 Red-fronted Coots. Migrant waders included Lesser Yellowlegs; Pectoral Sandpiper & Baird's Sandpiper.

 American Kestrel

 Lesser Yellowlegs

Baird's Sandpiper

Stripe-backed Bittern

At another little stop by a large pool, an out in the open Stripe-backed Bittern was seen well through the telescope. Normally a tough bird to see well.
Heavily cropped!

A nice male Cinereous Harrier also flew by.
Our last stop for the day & indeed this trip was at Punta Indio. This is a small residential retreat, with some forest, amid a sea of grassland. We enjoyed a nice lunch here in the shade & then started working the woodland. It was early afternoon & hot, so there was little activity. But hard work paid off & we saw a very nice male Blue-billed Black Tyrant deep in shade. A Tropical Parula Warbler also showed well. 2 Gilded Sapphires were feeding in flowering trees & an enormous Ringed Kingfisher flashed down a small woodland stream. Then it was time to pack up & drive to Buenos Aries Airport. I said my goodbyes to the two guys & thanked them for an excellent three days birding. Both very nice people & good guides. I then flew back to a parallel universe called Abu Dhabi and found I had lost a complete day of my life! This was the end of an incredible trip, one of my most memorable ever. I am already planning the next one!

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