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Birding and Touring Argentina - 5 January to 6 february 2005,
San Clemente & Punta Rassa
Calafate & Glacier Perito Merino
Torres Del Paine (in Chile)
Ushuaia & Tierra Del Fuego National Park
Puerto Iguazu & Iguazu Falls
Chaco National Park
Salta and NW Argentina area including the old road to San Salvador de Jujuy, Huamahuaco, Lago Pozuelos, Salta to Cachi road, Cafayate and Taffi de Valle.
Trip purpose and overview / Who this report will likely be useful for
The trip was done with my girlfriend Erin Bohensky, and as this was a first trip to South America for both of us, the purpose of the trip was to get a good introduction to South American avifauna as well as to experience the range of scenic and habitat diversity in the southern part of the continent. Our trip covered many of the top birding sites and we made special effort to find many of the specials and endemics, the purpose of the trip was not an all out mission find all the specials and endemics in the areas we visited. We made use of a variety of travel means, including domestic flights, busses, car hire and taxis. This report is likely to be particularly useful to budget birders/ travelers trying to get out to a number of the good birding sites using public transport. Accommodations utilized were in the budget to mid-range category. A total of 327 species were recorded on the trip.
Monies & Costs
The exchange rate at the time of our visit varied from 2.90 to 3 Pesos (indicated as $) to the US$ and the South African Rand was trading at around R6 to the US$. This meant that Argentina was a very affordable country to visit, Chile was substantially more expensive. The main travel guide book we used was the Lonely Planet 2002 for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Most things were a third to half the price indicated in the Lonely Planet due to the currency devaluations in recent years.
As far as possible we stayed in low cost double rooms, the average cost was around US$15. Good value accommodations could be found in most parts. At a number of sites we camped, which was very inexpensive. Camping facilities are widely available.
The bus system in Argentina is very well developed, and the main RETIRO Bus Station in Buenos Aires can be quite daunting especially to the non-Spanish speaker. Many companies sell carma seats, which are very comfortable and recline all the way back. Semi carma seats are still comfortable and recline half way back. I found the normal seats to be more comfortable than any busses I have taken in South Africa or the United States. We found that an effective travel strategy was to take carma or semi carma overnight busses for some of our long trips.
Due to the large distances, taking domestic flights is very sensible for the long hauls. At the time of our visit, these flights were also inexpensive, a one way ticket for a long leg such as Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, Trelew to Buenos Aires or Salta to Buenos Aires was $300 or about US$100. It is most cost effective to purchase your tickets once you are in Argentina, directly from Aerolineas Argentinas (they have many stores in all major towns). The travel agent Asatej, located in Buenos Aires also have some good deals.
Car hire in Argentina was the only component that seemed quite expensive. The cheapest cars typically cost $130 - $150 per day (US$43 to U$50) including unlimited mileage and insurance (although excesses are high). The road infrastructure is very good and (as in South Africa) speed limits do not seem to mean very much.
Cheap Empanadas ($1 -2), Hamburgers ($3-5), Hotdogs (Panchos) ($1-2) and Pizzas as well as various meat dishes and chips (pappas fritas) are widely available. We found the food at the cheap places to generally be of poor quality and quite oily. Ham and egg added to your meal is common. At the more expensive restaurants ($30-60) for a meal we had some really excellent meals. Wine in the shops is very cheap and the drink called Pomelo (a fizzy grapefruit drink) is a winner on a hot day.
I found Argentineans to be very friendly people and travelling around the country was an absolute pleasure. Traffic police and police were also friendly and we didn't have any problems of any sort anywhere.
Field Guides and notes on identification
The field guide that we used and that was recommended was Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica by De La Pena and Rumboll. After discussion with 2 groups of birders who we came across in Argentina, Narosky's guide for the Birds of Argentina and Uruguay was recommended to be used in preference over De La Pena and Rumboll's guide, or at least should be taken along as a back up. I did not manage to find the Birds of Argentina and Uruguay in any bookshop in Buenos Aires and would certainly recommend getting it in advance. De La Pena and Rumboll's guide was particularly bad on birds of prey and the Tyrannidae. I identified as many Tyrannulets as I could using De La Pena and Rumboll's guide and acknowledge that I probably made some identification errors in identifying the new world flycatchers (and possibly with some of the other difficult groups). The bird names used in this report follow those used in De La Pena and Rumboll's guide.
Although in some cases somewhat outdated, Nigel Wheatley's Where to Watch Birds in South America proved a useful and valuable guide. Auto Mapa publish some excellent road maps and we found the Rutas de la Argentina (which covers the entire country) and the map for Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego particularly useful.
5 January - Arrival
Arrived mid-afternoon at EZEZIA International Airport. Took the bus into the city (about $3). Settled into our hotel O Sol de Sant Elmo in Sant Elmo district.
6 + 7 January - Buenos Aires
Walked to Costanero Sur Ecological Reserve from our hotel. The reserve opens at 08:00. The reserve presented a very exciting introduction to South American birds. Species that were recorded included Rufousbellied Thrush, Rufous Hornero, Greybreasted Matin, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Redcrested Cardinal, Eared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Tropical Kingbird, Shining Cowbird, Baywinged Cowbird. The water-bodies held among others South American Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Blackcrowned Night Heron, Moorhen, Pectoral Sandpiper, Coscoroba, Blacknecked Swan, Whitewinged, Redcartered and Redfronted Coot, Green Ibis and Silver Teal. Other species included Yellowbrowed Tyrant, Baird's Sandpiper, Great Egret, Whitenecked Heron, Doublecollared Seedeater, Rosybilled Pochard, Greenbarred Woodpecker, Black and Rufous Warbling Finch, Hooded Siskin, Picuzaro Pigeon, Masked Yellowthroat, Spectacled Tyrant, Great Pampa Finch, Masked Gnatcatcher, Roseate Spoonbill, Redfronted Coot, Chimango Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Green Kingfisher and Guira Cuckoo. Non-birding time on these days were spent exploring the beautiful city of Buenos Aires and making travel arrangements for the rest of our trip.
8 January - San Clemente & Punta Rassa
We bussed to San Clemente Del Tuyu, the entry town to Punta Rassa. Species seen on route included Maguari Stork, Crested Caracara, Southern Screamer, Chimango Caracara and Whitetailed Kite. We camped at one of the campsites in San Clemente, it was fairly crowded but inexpensive. Monk Parakeet was seen in the campsite. We took a taxi out to Punta Rassa, asking the taxi to come back and collect us later (return trip = $30). At Punta Rassa, birding around the mouth and point (which was fairly busy with fisherman and recreationers) we recorded American Oystercatcher, Chilean Flamingo and Great Kiskadee. Additionally Whitenecked Heron, Cayenne and Common Tern, Brownhooded Gull, Golden Plover, Black Skimmer and Band-tailed and Kelp Gull were seen. Additional species included Brown Pintail, Snowycrowned Tern, Royal Tern, Whiterumped Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs. Walking back from Punta Rassa point towards San Clemente we recorded Brown and Yellow Marshbird, Spectacled Tyrant, Yellowwinged Cowbird and Frecklebreasted Thornbird.
9 January - San Clemente & Punta Rassa
In the early morning we hitched a ride to the T-junction where the road splits and one track leads to Punta Rassa and the other to Baia Aventura. We birded from the T junction towards Baia Aventura as well as the boardwalk on the right just down the Punta Rassa road. The highlight on the boardwalk was Hudson's Canastero. Other species seen included: Yellow and Brown Marshbird, Yellowish Pipit, Frecklebreasted Thornbird, Kelp Gull, Warbling Doradito, Hudson's Conastero, Longwinged Harrier, Barn Swallow, Vermillion Flycatcher, House Wren, Longtailed Reedfinch, Grassland Yellowfinch and Whitecrested Tyrannulet. The vegetation around the Car Park at Baia Aventura provided for some excellent birding including Whitethroated Hummingbird. At Baia Aventura itself which offers good views over the marine habitats Speckled Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, Whiterumped Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Crested Caracara, Yellowbilled Tern and Tropical Kingbird were recorded. In the afternoon we after much negotiation managed to get a taxi driver to take us out to Campos del Tuyu, a site described in Wheatley's Where to Watch Birds in South America. This site holds both good Pampas grassland birding as well as excellent waders and waterbirds in a wetland system. Species recorded included Correndera Pipit, Chilean Flamingo, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Brownhooded Gull, Whiterumped Sandpiper, Hudsonian Godwit, Kelp Gull, Great Pampa-Finch, South American Stilt, Wilson's Phalarope, Stilt Sandpiper, Red Shoveller and Silver Teal. The highlight of our visit to Campos del Tuyu was a group of Greater Rhea.
10 January - San Clemente, San Clemente to Buenos Aires, Trelew & Peninsular Valdez
We took an early morning walk along the beach in San Clemente on the Punta Rassa side of the town. Species seen included Forktailed Flycatcher, another spectacular Vermillion Flycatcher, good views of Snowycrowned Tern, Common Tern, Brownhooded Gull, Yellow-winged Blackbird and Great Pampa-Finch. We returned to Buenos Aires on a good value and luxurious Chevallier bus ride. In the early afternoon we flew to Trelew where we picked up our Avis hire car which we booked online and headed for Punta Piramides, on Peninsular Valdez. On route to Punta Piramides we enjoyed a spectacular Patagonian sunset and located a Redbacked Hawk perched on a telephone pylon on the side of the road.
11 January - Peninsular Valdez & Trelew
We got an early start and explored the Valdez Peninsula. Whitethroated Cacholote was seen in Punta Piramides itself. On route to the Eastern side of the Peninsula we found a group of Lesser Rhea, Longtailed Meadowlark, Elegant-crested Tinamou, Common Diuca Finch and Mourning Sierra Finch. At Magellanic Penguin colony near Punta Cerro we recorded a pair of Common Miners (these were also seen elsewhere on the Peninsula), nesting Magellanic Penguins and Great Grebe. Between this site and Punta Norte we recorded Whitetailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture and Patagonian Yellowfinch. Punta Norte was alive with Elephant Seals and Southern Sea Lions, quite a spectacle. Birds recorded here included Kelp Gull, Great Skua, Giant Petrel, American Oystercatcher, Royal Tern, King Cormorant, Speckled Teal, Sanderling, Blue and White Swallow and Carbonated Sierra Finch. Austral Negrito and more Lesser Rheas were seen on route back from Punta Norte to the main entrance gate. From a mammalian perspective we also recorded numerous groups of Guanaco. In the pond behind the bus station in Trelew we recorded Slivery Grebe, Ruddy Duck and Whitetufted Grebe. We then got onto our 17 hour bus drive semi carma Andesmar bus trip to Rio Gallegos. This was one of our less comfortable bus trips.
12 January Rio Gallegos & El Calafate
The early hours of this morning saw us travelling through southern Patagonia. Seen from the bus were Lesser Rhea, Blacknecked Swan and Chilean Flamingo. In Rio Gallegos, due to our bus arriving 2 hours late we found ourselves having missed our connection to Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine in Chile. After spending an hour or two in Rio Gallegos we managed to find a LADE Air flight to El Calafate (not on our initial itinerary) and so we changed and made our plans. We arrived in the scenically spectacular El Calafate region in the late afternoon and settled into the Hospedaje Familiar Las Cabinitas, a very good value accommodation establishment. We spoke to very friendly and helpful travel agents at RUTA 40 travel agency in the main road in the town and through them we arranged a hire car for the next day.
13 January - Lake at El Calafate, Los Glacieros National Park, Glacier Perito Merino and Lago Roca
We were up early this morning and headed straight to the Laguna Nimes in the valley below Calafate. Here we located Upland Goose, Crested Duck, Coscoroba and Blacknecked Swan. From the lake we took the road to Los Glacieros National Park. The scenery on route was phenomenal and we were very glad that fate had brought us this way. I would highly recommend El Calafate for any Patagonian traveller. On route to the National Park we recorded our first group of about 12 Andean Condors. At a campsite in Los Glacieros National Park we found Austral Thrush and on the road from the campsite to to the main viewpoint we located Patagonian Sierra Finch, Austral Parakeet, House Wren and Chilean Swallow. At the main Glacier viewpoint (the glacier is incredibly spectacular) we found Chilean Flicker, Darkeyed Diucon, Tufted Tit Tyrant, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Thornytailed Rayadito and Blackchinned Siskin. From the main glacier viewpoint we made our way to the Lago Raco area (with more incredible scenery in store on this road). Here we located Upland Goose, more Andean Condors, Austral Negrito, Buffnecked Ibis, Speckled Teal, American Kestrel, Fireyed Diucon, Whitecrested Elaenia and Chilean Flicker. Our return journey to El Calafate produced Cinerous Harrier. We had some time left for more birding at the Lake at El Calafate (Laguna Nimes) which proved very productive. Species seen included Twobanded Plover, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Southern Wigeon, Greyheaded Goose, Cinerous Harrier, Austral Negrito, Upland Goose and Great Grebe among others.
14 January - El Calafate to Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine, Chile
We got an early morning bus to Puerto Natales ($90 return) from where we switched busses to get to Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine. On the lake in Puerto Natales we recorded Dolphin Gull, Crested Duck and Southern Wigeon. We connected by an expensive boat trip to the Lago Pehoe camping and refugio where we camped in the scenically breath-taking campsite.
15 January - Torres Del Paine
We started a little later than we would have liked and headed for the spectacular Valli Francis hike. On this hike we recorded Rufoustailed Plantcutter, Austral Thrush, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Fieryeyed Diucon, Whitecrested Eleania and Austral Parakeet. Above Campomento Italiano we recorded the Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrant. We did not make it to the top of the Valli Francis walk as the weather caught us and we returned to the Lago Pehoe campsite.
16 January - Torres Del Paine and Puerto Natales
Today was a day of fairly foul weather (as had been the night before) and we headed out in the mist, wind and rain for the Glacier Grey walk. Austral Blackbird was seen at our campsite as were more Andean Condors, Upland Goose and Austral Thrush. We returned by bus to Puerto Natales in the afternoon and we overnighted at the good value for money Residencial Lo Oasis.
17 January Puerto Natales to El Calafate and Ushuaia
We bussed back to El Calafate, and saw numerous Lesser Rheas on route. From El Calafate we caught an early afternoon flight to Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego for $225. After finding a friendly and affordable backpackers (El Refugio De Mochilera) in Ushuaia we birded the harbour where we found numerous Great Skuas, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Dolphin Gull and Giant Petrel.
18 January Ushuaia and Beagle Channel
This morning we decided to take on the Martial Glacier walk, a short taxi or bus trip from Ushuaia. Birds recorded on the walk included Black-chinned Siskin, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Thorny-tailed Rayadito, Cinnamonbellied Ground Tyrant, Darkbellied Cinclodes and Chilean Swallow. In the afternoon we embarked on a scenic boat trip down the Beagle Channel to the Magellanic Penguin colony (6 hours for $150). The weather was not on our side and for much of the trip it was raining. We managed to record the following species: Flightless Steamer Duck, Sooty Shearwater, Magellanic Diving Petrel, King Cormorant, Great Skua, Guanay Cormorant, Rock Cormorant, Kelp Goose, Black-browed Albatross, South American Tern, Upland Goose. The boat stopped at the Magellanic Penguin colony in heavy rain and despite getting drenched searching for other Penguin species in the colony that are known to occur, I had no luck.
19 January Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park
Today we headed into Tierra del Fuego National Park, where we based ourselves for the next few days at the lovely La Roca campsite. On the first afternoon we took a walk along the lake to the Chilean border and around the campsite. The highlight of this walk was a very tame pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers which allowed for some spectacular photos! Other species included Chimango Caracara, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Blackchinned Siskin, Austral Thrush and Great Grebe. Camping at Lago Roca is good value and the confiteria is very friendly.
20 January Tierra del Fuego National Park
Today we embarked on a very scenic walk up to the top of Cerro Guanaco peak. The peak and the walk provide for spectacular views of the Beagle Channel and the Fuegian Mountain ranges and is highly recommended. The scree above the tree line provided us with good views of Dark-bellied Ground Tyrant as well as excellent flight views of Andean Condor.
21 January Tierra del Fuego National Park
This morning we set out for a walk to Lapatia Bay and Laguna Negra. Walking on route the highlight was a pair of Blackchested Buzzard Eagles. Also recorded were Andean Condors, Darkbellied Cinclodes, Crested Duck, Whitecrested Eleania, Fireeyed Dicuon, Brown Pintail and a group of Buffnecked Ibis. In the beautiful Laipatia Bay we recorded a family of Flightless Steamer Duck, Blackbrowed Albatross, South American Tern, Kelp Goose, Rock Cormorant, Blackish Oystercatcher and Olivaceous Cormorant. Mammalian highlights included Fuegian Red Fox and Canadian Beavers. In the forest on the way back from Laipatia Bay we were treated to another pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers.
*Note on the Caracaras at Ushuaia: The traditional site for the Whitethroated Caracara, the municipal dump on the road to the National Park is no longer in use. There is however a dump about 3 kilometres east of the pier in the industrial area, it is just after the main road crosses a small stream on the harbour side. White-throated Caracara occurs here.
22 January - Ushuaia to Buenos Aires
Today was spent getting ourselves back to Ushuaia from we got on a plane to Buenos Aires From Ezezia Airport we transferred to the bus station where we got on an overnight Crucero Del Norte semi carma bus to Puerto Iguazu for $95.
23 January - Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu
On route from the bus getting closer to Puerto Iguazu I managed to record Greater Ani and a Scissor-tailed Kite. In the afternoon I hit the streets of Puerto Iguazu for a wonderful introduction to tropical South American birding. Species that were seen included Bananaquit, Eared Dove, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and the Eastern Kingbird. Av Costanero which runs along the Iguazu river to the confluence of the Parana River provides for some excellent birding. Species recorded along here included Greybreasted Martin, Great Kiskadee, Saffron Finch, a pair of Blue Dacnis, Sayaca Tanager, Great Dusky Swift, Variegated Flycatcher, Purplethroated Euphonia, the spectacular Whitebarred Piculet, Rufous Hornero, Lesser Kiskadee, Amethyst Woodstart, Doublecollared Seedeater, Greyrumped Swift, Whiterumped Swallow and Bank Swallow.
24 January - Iguazu Falls
Today was spent on the Argentine side of the spectacular Iguazu Falls. There are regular busses from Puerto Iguazu to the falls starting at 0700. The atmosphere and feel of the falls is not all that different from Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls, but is more tropical and much more developed. The weather was not on side and the day was characterised by periods of heavy torrential downpours (which led to me catching a nasty cold which put me out of action for a while). The infrastructure and trail networks are excellent, although the main trails and boardwalks get quite busy from about 0930 onwards. Species that were recorded included Cayana Tanager, Saffron Finch, Smoothbilled and Greater Ani, Black Vulture, American Anhinga, Whiteyed Parakeet, Plushcrested Jay (common and tame), Plumbeous Kite, Blue Dacnis, Rufousbellied Thrush and Great Dusky Swift. From a mammalian perspective Howler Monkeys and a tame of group of Coatis were seen.
25 January - Iguazu Falls
Another day on the Argentine side of the falls, at least two full days are required to get at least a basic good overview of the falls and expore some of the jungle trails. My cold, picked up from walking around in the rain the previous day was beginning to kick in and my energy levels were therefore lower than optimal. The spectacular Toco Toucan was seen near the central train station. A walk along the side of the rail track to the train station that services the main boardwalk over the Iguazu River to the 'Garganta del Diablo' proved very rewarding in the early morning and produced Plumbeous Kite, Chestnutbellied Euphonia, Whitebearded Manakin, Rubycrowned Tanager, Redcrowned Ant Tanager, Magpie Tanager, Roughwinged Swallow and Brownchested Martin. The newly constructed boardwalk to the Garganta del Diablo produced numerous Snail Kites, Black Vulture, big flocks of Great Dusky Swift and Green Kingfisher. The central entrance gate area where all the restaurants are located produced Chopi Blackbird over lunch. A late afternoon walk along the Macoca Trail produced a bunch of goodies including Bat Falcon, Plain Antvireo, Redcrowned Ant-Tanager, an excellent view of the Uru, Palebreasted Thrush, Palm Tanager, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and Mottlecheeked Tyrannulet.
26 January - Puerto Iguazu
An early morning walk along the Av Costanero produced Bananquit, Gilded Hummingbird, Forktailed Flycatcher, Purplethroated Euphonia, Bluewinged Parrotlet, Yellowbrowed Tyrant, Ruddy Ground Dove, the interesting Chestnutvented Conebill, Greenheaded Tanager and Tawnyheaded Swallow. My plans to go across to the Brazilian side of the falls for the day were laid to rest by my nasty fevery cold kicking in which meant I spent the rest of the morning and the early afternoon on my back recovering. A late afternoon walk along the Av Cordoba produced Palebreasted Thrush and the spectacular Boatbilled Flycatcher. We took an overnight bus to Resistencia (access town for Chaco National Park) on Andesmar a full carma seat (very comfortable) for $57.
27 January - Resistencia & Chaco National Park
We got stuck at Resistencia bus station for a few hours as their electronic booking system was down and we couldn't make a reservation onward to Salta. We eventually managed to make one and from we got a taxi to take us to Chaco National Park and made an arrangement that he would pick us up 2 days later as Chaco National Park isn't serviced by any busses. The cost of this arrangement was a total of $250. We were the only campers in Chaco National Park campsite which has no shop but does have running water. The temperatures in the National Park shoot up after about 0900 when it becomes really hot, the evenings are pretty hot as well and the place is mosquito-infested 24 hours a day. Nevertheless, the birding is good. The habitat is essentially moist savanna with tracts of riverine forest along the rivers and it looks very similar to Sub-Saharan African savannas. Amazon Kingfisher was recorded in the river in front of the campsite. Additionally Narrowbilled Woodcreeper, Reddish-bellied and White-eyed Parakeet, Purplish Jay, Plushcrested Jay, Greenbarred Woodpecker, Toco Toucan, Greater Ani, Redcrested Cardinal, Plumbeous Kite, Giant Woodrail, Black Vulture, Whitenecked Heron, Whitewinged Becard and Greynecked Woodrail were in the campsite or on the nearby trails. At night we were treated to the spectacular and beautiful call of the Common Potoo (unfortunately no sighting).
28 January - Chaco National Park
An early start is necessary in the Chaco as the heat kicks in and gets pretty nasty as the sun rises towards noon. Species recorded on our morning walk along the main road through the park towards Laguna Carpachio: Ringed Kingfisher, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Rubycrowned Ant-Tanager, Whitelined Tanager, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, the interesting Limpkin, Blackcapped Warbling Finch, Great Black Hawk, Goldenwinged Cacique, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike and Redcrested Finch. A highlight at Laguna Carpachio was a Rufescent Tiger Heron, Southern Screamer was also recorded. We got very excited when a group of Capybara arrived at Laguna Carpachio. We took a break in the shade over lunch and in the afternoon headed out on an afternoon stroll. The beautiful Surucua Trogon was seen in the campsite and additionally Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture were recorded. We took a walk outsie of the National Park and turned right just outside the entrance. This road produced Field Flicker, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Blue Ground Dove, Ruddy Ground Dove, Savanna Hawk and Whistling Heron.
29 January - Chaco National Park, Resistencia
Another early morning walk this time heading down one of the side tracks off the main road through the park which traverses tall moist grassland and savanna. This produced Bayringed Tyrannulet, Roadside Hawk, Aplamado Falcon, Guira Cuckoo, Savanna Hawk, Wedgetailed Grass Finch, Ruddybreasted Seedeater, Smoothbilled Ani, Whitetailed Goldenthroat, Sayaca Tanager, Streaked Flycatcher, the attractive Tropical Parula, Variegated Flycatcher, Great Antshrike and Bay-winged Cowbird. The attractive Great Rufous Woodcreeper was called in with a tape in a patch habitat that looked virtually identical to Southern African moist savanna. Also recorded were Redyeyed Vireo, Whitebrowed Warbler, Epaulet Oriole and Sootyfronted Spinetail. We were treated to a pair of Blackbodied Woodpeckers in the campsite as well as to a Green Kingfisher. It was with a sigh relief that our taxi arrived to pick us up and take us back to Resistencia where we got on a Las Veloz Del Norte non semi carma or common bus for our overnight trip to Salta. It was not very comfortable and at least semi carma seats are recommended for longer overnight trips if you are able to afford these.
30 January - Salta
We arrived in the attractive, historic town of Salta around midday. We took a walk up Monument Hill in the afternoon where we recorded Hooded Siskin, Blue and White Swalllow, Tawnyheaded Swallow, Blackcapped Warbling Finch and Streaked Flycatcher. In Salta town itself a Cliff Flycatcher was seen on the walls of one of the main cathedrals (I believe it was the Convento de San Bernardo). We enjoyed a lovely dinner in Salta.
31 January - Salta, old Salta - Jujuy road, Humahuaca
After a morning of exploring the town of Salta some more, we picked up our hire car at Europcar which we booked through the web. There was some major confusion and in the end we waited about 4 hours for a car to be fixed that we could finally take, we did however get a good deal by Argentinian standards. Eventually in the late afternoon we managed to get onto the famous old Salta - San Salvador de Jujuy road which holds some good patches of Yunga forest and some excellent birding. Species that were seen included the Sayacca Tanager, Screaming Blackbird, Shiny Blackbird, Blue and Yellow Tanager, Ruddy Ground Dove, Guira Cuckoo, Doublecollared Seedeater, Crested Caracara, Browncapped Tit Spinetail, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Twobanded Warbler and Greencheeked Parakeet. We continued up the spectacular misty mountain passes to quaint town of Humahuaca, rich in culture. We overnighted in the main hotel (a large multistory building) in town which was fair-priced.
1 February - Salta - Abra Pampas to Laguna de los Pozuelos
In the hotel grounds where we stayed Chiguanco Thrush was seen. Just outside of Humahuaca we recorded the spectacular Redtailed Comet, Ashbreasted Sierra Finch and Whitebanded Mockingbird. Further along the scenic road to Abra Pampas we found Mourning Sierra Finch and Thickbilled Siskin as well as a group of Llamas. Also seen were Greater Yellowfinch, Bandtailed Sierra Finch, Brushland Tinamou, Brownbacked Mockingbird, Yellowrumped Siskin and the attractive Mountain Caracara. From Abra Pampas we got onto the very scenic and bumpy gravel road to Laguna de los Pozuleos. On route to the lake we recorded American Kestrel, Goldenspotted Ground Dove, Andean Lapwing, Andean Goose, Redbacked Hawk, Blackhooded Sierra Finch and Chestnut Canastero. At the Lake itself and on the tracks leading to the Lake we found the Puna Miner close to a group of Vicuna (a type of wild Llama). A group of domesticated Llamas nearby offered excellent views and photographic opportunities close by. The Lake itself was teeming with birds and offered excellent views of Puna Plover, Baird's Sandpiper, Andean, Chilean and Puna Flamingo as well as Andean Coot and Speckled Teal. Paramo Pipit, Spotbilled Ground Tyrant and another Mountain Caracara were on the road around the Lake. The return journey from Laguna de los Pozuelos delivered the attractive Andean Negrito and Brown Pintail at a dam close to Abra Pampas. Between Abra Pampas and Humahuaca we recorded Brightrumped Yellowfinch and Blackish Siskin. We continued on to Tilcara where we found excellent value accommodation just off the main road at the Hosteria El Pato.
2 February - Tilcara, Rio Yala, Old Jujuy - Salta road, Salta - Cachi
An early morning walk around the hotel grounds delivered the beautiful White Monitja as well as Shining Blackbird. On route we also recorded Cinnamon Teal. The Rio Yala site described in Wheatley's book was teeming with birds and a very worthwhile site to visit. Here we recorded Goldenbilled Saltator, Crested Becard, Plushcrested Jay, Black Phoebe (along the river). Slightly higher up the road above the pumphouse we recorded Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Fulvous-headed Brush Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling Finch, Buff-browed Foliage Gleaner, Buff-browed Spinetail, Brown-capped Redstart, Speckled Hummingbird, Sayacca Tanager, Fawnbreasted Tanager, Whitethroated Tyrannulet and Common Bush Tanager. Unfortunately no Rufous-throated Dipper. The yungas along the old Jujuy - Salta road also provided us with some good birds including Common Bush Tanager, Stripecapped Sparrow, Red-crested Finch, Burrowing Owl, Golden Green Woodpecker, Scaly-headed Parrot, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Mountain Wren, Orangeheaded Tanager, Blackbacked Grosbeak, Sclater's Tyrannulet, Buffbrowed Foliage Gleaner, Fawnbreasted Tanager, Goldenrumped Euphonia and Creambacked Woodpecker. We were unfortunate in that the Salta - Cachi road was very dreary and rainy and the only birds we recorded were Goldenbilled Saltator and Sayaca Tanager. We travelled up the spectacular mountain pass towards Cachi in very wet and misty conditions. We eventually got to Cachi at 2300 and found comfortable, clean, and good value accommodation at Hostal Llaqta Mauk at $80 for a double room.
3 February - Cachi to Cumbres del Obispo, Cachi to Cafayate
An early start saw us head back the mountain pass in the direction of Salta as we didn't bird these habitats in the mist, rain and dark the night before. Just outside of Cachi we recorded our first flock of Burrowing Parrot. Up the mountain pass, on the Cachi side of Cumbres del Obispo (the top and peak at 3500m a.s.l. - marked by an attractive shrine) we managed to find Cordoba Canastero, Rufous-banded Miner, Blackhooded Sierra Finch, Andean Flicker, Bay-winged Hawk, Band-tailed Seedeater, Ash-breasted Sierra Finch and Tawny-throated Dotterel. We didn't continue over to the Salta side of Cumbres del Obispo as the mist and rain was still there. Near the town of Payogasta on route back to Cachi we found Glittering-bellied Emerald, Cliff Flycatcher, Andean Swift and White-winged Black Tyrant. We had an early lunch in Cachi after some shopping for crafts and then hit the long, winding, bumpy and incredibly scenic road to Cafayate. This road passes through some spectacular riverine gorges and Andean mountain scenery (and reminded me of some of the pro-Namib riverine landscapes in Namibia). Birds recorded on route were Green-barred Woodpecker, White-tipped Plantcutter, Whitefronted Woodpecker, Blue Ground Dove, Andean Swift, Goldenbilled Saltator, Blue and Yellow Tanager, Greenish Yellowfinch and Picui Ground Dove. We arrived in Cafayate in the late afternoon after some wine-tasting at the highest altitude vineyards in the world. We overnighted in Cafayate.
4 February - Cafayate, Quilmes to Taffi De Valle to Rio La Sosas
We started off the morning with a stop at the famous ancient Indian ruins of Quilmes, these ruins are well-maintained and in a spectacular setting. At the ruins we got good views of Whitefronted Woodpecker. The newly built Museo Pachana in Achai del Valle is an excellent cultural and historical museum with some great displays. The pass from Achai de Valle towards Taffi de Valle passes over El Infernillo (at 2800m a.s.l. the top of the pass) produced Patagonian Mockingbird, Black Siskin, Puna Hawk and Hellmayr's Pipit. A stop at one of the first main river gullies on the Taffi side of El Infernillo produced some fantastic birds. Species seen included Tucuman Mountain Finch, Bare-eyed Ground Dove, Dinelli's Doradito, D'Orbigny's Chat Tyrant, Whitewinged Cinclodes, Andean Tinamou and Redcapped Tit-Spinetail. Otherside Taffi De Valle we re-entered the Yungas and 23km below Taffi you pass over the Rio La Sosas. We birded the trails and bridges here and found some exciting birds, the highlights being the Rufous-throated Dipper (exactly where Wheatley describes it should be) and Torrent Duck. Other species included Blackcapped Redstart, Crested Becard, Rufousbellied Thrush, Plain and Whitebellied Tyrannulet and Yellowstriped Brush Finch. At lower altitude we recorded Alder Parrot, Whitecollared Swift and Tropical Parula. After driving down through the lowlands to Tucuman we returned up the pass to overnight in Amaicha del Valle, which would enable us to drive the very scenic Route 68 back to Salta.
5 February - Amaicha de Valle to Salta, Salta to Buenos Aires
Today we travelled along the very scenic Route 68 from Cafayate to Salta which passes through and past the spectacular Las Medanos, El Obelisco, El Fraile, El Sapo, El Anfiteatro and Garganta del Diablo. Highlight was a pair of Black and Chestnut Eagles, also seen were Andean Swift, Whitecollared Swift, Great Pampa Finch, Goldenbilled Saltator, Brightrumped Yellowfinch, Blue and Yellow Tanager and Purplethroated Euphonia. We got an afternoon flight back to Buenos Aires where we enjoyed a last night in Argentina out in the city.
6 February - Buenos Aires & Departure
An early morning start saw me back in Costanero Sur for a last morning's birding. The highlight of the birding was a Blackheaded Duck. It was also great to round off this phenomenal trip where the birding all started just over a month ago. Other species included Long-winged Harrier, Rosy-billed Pochard, Pied-billed Grebe, Lake Duck, White-faced Duck, Glittering-bellied Emerald, European Starling, Masked Gnat-catcher, White-tufted Grebe, Roseate Spoonbill, Striated Heron, Guira Cuckoo, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Green-barred Woodpecker and South American Stilt among many others. We spent the afternoon visiting some of the cultural and historical sites in Buenos Aires and doing some shopping (including a really good value leather jacket) before getting a taxi back to Ezezia Airport for our overnight flight back to Cape Town. We were sad that such a great trip to a really magnificent part of the world had come to an end, but one thing we were sure of is that we would be coming back.