Target 19 - Looking for Lifers in and around Buenos Aires

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Sergio Corbet


Sergio CorbetSergio Corbett leads wildlife and birdwatching tours around his native Argentina. Check this page for his regular bird reports or contact him if you're heading that way. Click here to see Sergio's entry in the Birders Address Book

During November 2001 I was contacted by a european guide, a group leader on trips and pelagic trips named Gerald Broddelez. He was coming by the end of November and was going to stay in Buenos Aires for a day and a half before flying with a group of tourists to Tierra del Fuego to board a ship on a pelagic trip. As he had been here a dozen of times before, he was asking me if I could help him to find and see some of the 19 species of birds he still was missing right down in South America.

From the list he sent me before his arrival, I saw that the task was not an easy one considering that most of the birds did not live together in a single place nor were they to be found near Buenos Aires. Yet I took the challenge warning Gerald that I'll do my best so as to show him the most possible birds of his list in a single day but certainly not all. Luck should be on our side in every sense. So we met on the day of his arrival and decided that he should take a good restoring afternoon nap and thus be able to leave the city with me by car very early next morning.

Next day by dawn at 6 a.m. we left his hotel and I drove nothwards. When we arrived to the bridge across the 'Paraná de Las Palmas' river, the day was getting off with a clear blue sky and some eastern wind blowing steadily. I thought I could show Gerald some of the birds he was seeking at a nearby campsite right beside the river. Driving slowly on a mudroad that runs parallel to the shore we saw several birds that would have delighted other birders, but not Gerald. He had seen them all before! We didn't find any of the seeked and sought ones. So back to the road and more driving.

Birds seen at the first stop:

Greater rhea, Rhea americana. Neotropic cormorant , Phalacrocorax olivaceus. Striated heron, Butiroides striatus. White-tipped dove, Leptotila verreauxi. Dark-billed cuckoo, Coccyzus melacoryphus. Glittering-bellied emerald, Chlorostilbon aureoventris. Rufous hornero, Furnarius rufus. Great kiskadee, Pitangus sulphuratus. White-rumped swallow, Tacycineta leucorrhoa. House wren, Troglodytes aedon. Rufous-bellied Thrush, Turdus rufiventris. Creamy-bellied thrush, Turdus amaurochalinus. Chalk-browed mockingbird, Mimus saturninus. Black-capped Warbling finch, Poospiza cinerea. Rufous-collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis.

Now the sun was getting higher and was promising a hot day. The wind was bending the tall Pampa grasses as well as the reeds at the sides of the road, yet we saw some other birds while driving to the second large bridge this time across the 'Paraná Guazú' river.

Birds seen at the sides of the road:

Roadside hawk, Buteo magnirostris. Southern caracara, Caracara plancus. Chimango caracara, Milvago chimango. Picazuro pigeon, Columba picazuro. Eared dove, Zenaida auriculata. Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus savana. Shiny cowbird, Molothrus bonariensis. Yellow-winged Blackbird, Agelaius thilius. Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, Pseudoleistes virescens.

The Yellow-winged blackbirds usually keep in small groups, so we saw several of them feeding on the reeds. The Eared doves fly in small bunches usually very fast while in a darting and swerving way while the Picazuro pigeons fly in pairs not far away one from the other. What is always funny to see is how the Fork-tailed flycatchers pester in flight the Southern caracara trying to nibble its rump. The same happens with some hummingbirds that resemble jet fighters attacking a heavy bomber when they chase off slow-flying predators like the Southern caracara and Chimango caracara. These tiny birds are very courageous indeed! Once we got into the Entre Rios province, many small rivers and lagoons appeared at the side of the road. I was trying to see in them some wild ducks hoping to spot the one Gerald was looking for. To my dismay, it seemed that on that morning all the ducks in the world had vanished. I just couldn't see or find a single duck! After driving for some more km, to my left a tentalizing mudroad appeared and I swerved on to it. At the place we stopped there was a marsh with tall grasses and reeds right beside a wire fence and we birded there for a while:

New birds seen: Bare-faced Ibis, Phimosus infuscatus. Snail kite, Rostrhamus sociabilis. Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus. White-winged Coot, Fullica armillata. Limpkin, Aramus guarauna. Southern lapwing, Vanellus chilensis. Wattled Jacana, Jacana jacana. Monk parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus. Freckle-breasted thornbird, Phacellodomus striaticollis. Double-collared seedeater, Sporophila caerulescens. Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch, Poospiza nigrorufa.

There was a Freckle-breasted Thornbird flying to and from a nearby bush, it was so excited that its continuos squeaking bored us and after a certain time we decided to leave. I drove a bit farther to an old metal bridge atop a small lagoon, but nothing new appeared. So I went back to the main road and drove northwards. After driving for several km a large lagoon appeared to our left and we stopped to look at it because on its shores there was an unusually large amount of Southern screamers, more than 150 birds! Although we were looking with our binoculars, we couldn't see the cause for such a great birds concentration. They looked from the distance as if they met for a friendly chat because no feeding activity was to be observed.

On we went and saw several more birds before deciding to stop at a road bar and have a mid-day meal.

Birds seen on last stop before lunch: Maguari Stork, Ciconia maguari. Southern screamer, Chauna torquata. White-necked Heron, Ardea cocoi. Great Egret, Egretta alba. Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria coronata.

After lunch, on we went driving northwards. I don't think that we drove farther than 2 or 3 km when a large dark bird to my right caught my atention. It was feeding in a roadside ditch and seemed not to be scared by the noise of the road traffic. So I slowly drove back and stopped. Gerald was curious too as he didn't know exactly what bird it was about and here came his first "lifer"! It was a Plumbeous Ibis, Harpiprion caerulescens. It gave us a chance to look at it in detail before flying away apparentely scared by our parked car. Encouraging words and happy smiles appeared at last!

Now after driving for several km, again I swerved to my left on to a mudroad expecting to see some new birds. Soon we had to stop as a large water patch across the road made it unsafe to go on driving. We decided to go on walking. As we were talking about the way to go by the water, out of some reeds very near us another of Gerald's "lifers" came out. This time it was a Stripe Backed Bittern, Ixobrychus involucris that flew away but gave Gerald enough time to have a very good look at it even in flight.

Other new birds seen at this stop: Cattle Egret, Bubulcus Ibis. Speckled teal, Anas flavirostris. Silver Teal, Anas versicolor. Brown pintail, Anas georgica. South american Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus. Greater yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca. Lesser yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes. Field Flicker, Colaptes campestris. Chotoy spinetail, Schoeniophylax phryganophila. Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica. Great Pampa-Finch, Embernagra platensis. Saffron finch, Sicalis flaveola. Chestnut-capped blackbird, Agelaius ruficapillus.

As no more "lifers" showed up, we decided to leave to another place also reached from a side mudroad. This time we barely drove a distance of about 1 km when abruptly we had to stop because the road was in such a bad state that some repair teams and road machinery were working on it. Some intense rainfalls had fallen just a couple of days before and the resulting water caused all these disrupts, so we decided to leave the car and just walk looking around for some birds. At both sides of the road, extense and very green grass fields could be seen. Several nearby bushes offered some cover and shade to many of the birds that were flying around. I was looking for a speciffic bird I new would be in these places and suddenly there it was! To Gerald's delight, another of his "lifers", a Dark-throated Seedeater, Sporophila ruficollis showed up. This tiny bird was flying from one of the bushes to some tall grass stems bending over a fence and back, singing and feeding inbetween. Several Red-winged Tinamou were calling nearby but would not allow themselves to be seen.

More new birds seen at this stop: Gilded hummingbird, Hylocharis chrysura. Firewood-gatherer, Anumbius annumbi. Bearded tachuri, Polystictus pectoralis. Tropical kingbird, Tyrannus melancholicus. Masked gnatcatcher, Polioptila dumicola. Correndera pipit, Anthus correndera. Red-crested Finch, Coryphospingus cucullatus. Grassland Yellowfinch, Sicalis luteola. Grassland sparrow, Myiospiza humeralis. Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Agelaius icterocephalus. Hooded siskin, Carduelis magellanica.

As no progress was made in finding some more of the birds Gerald was seeking, we decided to move to a new place. Now I was looking for some grassy lowlands where I was sure to find some more of the seedeaters Gerald was looking for. As we were getting close to the place, I noticed flying over some tall grasses several seedeaters chasing one another and then dropping into the grasses. I stopped and invited Gerald to come along. I spotted the birds and asked Gerald to take a look at them as I firmly thought that I had found a new "lifer" for him. And I did! This time it was a Ruddy-breasted seedeater, Sporophila hypoxantha. I left Gerald alone and went a bit farther away to look at some Tyrants that were feeding nearby. When we met, Gerald told me that he had seen yet another new "lifer", also a seedeater but this time it was a Rufous-rumped Seedeater, Spororophila hypochroma. Gerald's easiness to remember so many different birds names and fast eye to spot birds was really impressive.

Other new birds seen at the place: Green-barred woodpecker, Colaptes melanochloros. Rusty-backed monjita, Neoxolmis rubetra. Spectacled tyrant, Hymenops perspicillata. Blue-black Grassquit, Volatinia jacarina. Bay-winged Cowbird, Molothrus badius. White-browed Blackbird, Sturnella superciliaris.

Now the sun was starting to get visibly lower and the heat wasn't so intense. Shades were getting longer and the breeze was refreshing. The journey had been a long one and we decided to go back slowly. I had in my mind to go back to a marsh we visited earlier in the afternoon, because I know that ducks after feeding in the fields come back to rest at their favourite water places and so they do when coming for the night. As I arrived to the road crossing, I turned off to my right onto the mudroad and started to drive slowly looking for ducks. I barely made about 200 metres when I stopped the car at the sight of a couple of ducks. Almost in a whisper I told Gerald to look at the ducks he was seeking. Gerald started to glass the marsh but never could imagine that 'his' lifer ducks were quietly standing on top of a couple of the wirefence poles just 10 metres in front of us! What a sight! They were so close that binoculars seemed to be useless! After gorging himself for about 10 minutes looking at a couple of Ringed teal, Anas leucophrys, the male teal decided it was enough parading and flew lazily into the marsh followed by the female. They still gave us an excellent sight in the marsh whith some other marsh birds mingling in the water. I must say that these Ringed Teal are very nice looking ducks, they have a very "neat and elegant" stance and their colours are very nice too. The female reminded me the female of the North american Wood duck.

Final days birds sightings: Ringed Teal, Anas leucophrys. Spot-flanked Gallinule, Gallinula melanops. Pectoral sandpiper, Calidris melanotos. Common Snipe, Gallinago g.paraguaiae. Burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia. Black-and-White Monjita, Xolmis dominicana. White Monjita, Xolmis irupero.

Only now did we call it a day. Off I drove to Buenos Aires and we arrived to Geralds hotel in the evening. Although we both looked tired, Gerald added to his list 6 new lifers and I was happy having spent an excellent birding journey. We saw all in all 83 different bird species in a single day!