Day 1: Arrival in Jujuy, the Dam, Yala.
Day 2: Jujuy to La Quiaca
A. Barcena Upper Yungas
B. Molle Punco Marsh
C. Purmamarca/ Cerro Siete Colores
E. Azul Pampa Farm
F. Abra Pampa Lagunitas
G. La Quiaca
Day 3: Yavi/ Lago Puzelos
Day 4: Abra Pampa to Jujuy
B. La Esquinas Blancas
D. Cartelones Marsh in Jujuy
Day 5: Calilegu
Day 6: Lower Yungas to Chaco
B. Aguas Calientas
D. San Miguel Marsh
Day 7: Las Maderas afternoon departure
As I wanted to wrap up the Dipper and Flamingo families plus get my last two coots for the Americas I was looking at the northern corner of Argentina and Southern Bolivia for a short birding trip. Research lead me to Argentina as the road network is good, tourists are common up in this region and there are good hotels and infrastructure, plus Lago Puzulos has all three of the flamingos I wanted, and I found a great local guide who could show me around. The northern region of Jujuy has a good airport at San Salvador de Jujuy and daily flights from Buenos Aires, though you need to take a 45 minute taxi across town to get to the local airport.
I contacted a guide there who arranged all the transport, hotels, meals and knew all the local hot spots to go birding. When I arrived in Buenos Aires I took a “Remis”, sort of a fancy taxi, which I arranged online through Manuel Tienda Leon who is in both airports. It costs about $45 depending on exchange rate and the cars are very nice and efficient. I got across town on both accounts in less than an hour and that was with busy traffic the last afternoon.
For reference I used “Princeton: Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica, Narosky’s: Birds of Argentina & Uruguay and Fjeldsa/Krabbe’s: Birds of the High Andes.” All these I took along and they all served me quite well. The illustrations in Narosky’s book are not the best but they help in the field when combined with the Princeton checklist. I did have Fjeldsa/Krabbe’s book along in the car when necessary. I also read the few trip reports on the internet that were available and though this is not the best time of year to travel here as it’s the end of summer and the breeding season I did see over 265 species with over 120 lifers in 7 days so I’m not complaining. The food was excellent from the night at a fantastic grill place in Jujuy to pollo empenadas from a little stand in the median of the road in La Quiaca. Most of the roads are deserted and you can pull over anywhere along the route. The scenery is some of the most stunning geologically and the quaint Inca villages along the way are beautiful.
I arrived quite tired from the long flights and my guide was there to greet me with a sign. As I waited for my bag to come off the plane a pair of Guira Cuckoo’s frolicked in a bush outside the entrance. My bag showed up and the guide greeted me and we loaded up into a little economy car that served us well for the next week. We drove the 30 minutes to Jujuy seeing Southern Caracara, American Kestrel and Tropical Kingbirds while we chatted and my guide told me about himself, the trip ahead and what we would be doing.
We arrived in Jujuy and I checked into a little B & B called Pascana, www.hosteriapascana.com.ar which is wonderful. My lovely host Anna Marie greeted me and showed me to the room which opened up onto the gardens. I dropped my stuff down and got my birding gear together and met my guide half an hour later to head out for the afternoon.
He arrived on time and while he was turning around I enjoyed a Brown-capped Whitestart in a tree in the neighbor’s yard. We drove down through Jujuy and out the other side towards Yala. A stop for lunch in a little café for some empenadas and humitas filled us up for the rest of the day. My guide recommended a local dam, at Los Molinos, where he gets some good birds and it was on the way so we stopped there after lunch. The road in is lined with sparse trees and waist high grass and despite the inclement weather there were good birds everywhere. We pulled up at a group of trees where we found a Green-barred Woodpecker being harassed by Bay-winged Cowbirds and found the first of many Rufous-collared Sparrows. The Dam was small and we did find several Southern and Brown-chested Martins over the water but little else on the pebble bars in the water. In the trees next to the river a pair of Great Kiskadee’s shouted their onomatopoeic songs at each other as a Black-capped Brush-finch flew in for some brief looks. We drove on for about five minutes then turned left up a long winding road past some residences all the time heading towards thick cloud forest. We crossed one raging river as it had rained a lot recently, which is unusual, and continued up the road to the reserve. It soon became a dirt road following the river. We got out several times to check the river as the Dippers tend to feed lower down the river during the day and make their way upriver in the afternoon. A Black Phoebe was our first bird along with a small party of Plush-crested Jays. Our second stop revealed nothing as did our third. I was beginning to get worried. As we passed another clearing overlooking the river we spotted a Rufous-throated Dipper sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. We jumped out and got some bin views of it before it flew up the river a bit followed by another. They chased each other up river for a while until out of sight. My last Dipper done. It was a great feeling and a privilege to see such a fantastic range restricted bird in such a lush setting. With my target secure we continued up the road to higher ground stopping to bird along the way. The drizzle kept most of the birds down but we did come across a small flock on the way up which included Rufous-collared Sparrow, Brown-capped Whitestart and White-throated Tyrannulet. It was suggested we check another small river for birds so we took a side road that led down to a small tributary. We parked in front of the fast flowing stream and followed a path that ran beside it. The stream was swollen with water and most of the rocks in the middle were engulfed by the fast moving water. A sudden whir of wings got our attention as we flushed up five Red-faced Guans, these rare cracids are very range restricted and we were pleased to find them. Their hissing/honking calls echoed round us as they climbed into the lichen covered branches above them and we enjoy some fantastic looks at these rare birds. Close by a Fawn-breasted Tanager was the precursor to a moving flock that was up at the next small opening in the forest. Pale-legged Warbler was the first new bird gleaning insects from the foliage then a Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch popped up onto a log hunting food. Another Brown-capped Whitestart appeared along with a Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch. This crowd moved through slowly allowing some good looks and since the river wasn’t active we decided to go back to the car and head up to the lakes at the top. We were inspecting the river on the way back down when a grey and orange blob on a rock right under our feet turned and looked at us twice. I quickly pointed it out but the female Torrent Duck dove into the white waters and disappeared.
We took the car higher up the road checking one paddock for birds but finding nothing. When we got to the lake there was only three Pied-bill Grebes on the water and not much else. It was quite and getting dark so we decided to head back down to the ranger station. When we arrived we got out and birded for a while checking the river for Dippers but finding none. It was getting cool now too as darkness descended so we waited for a few minutes and my guide got out his portable flood light. As the crickets, cicadas and frogs began their night chorus we scanned the cliff face overlooking the river. The tree covered slope held our target but it took a little bit to find one but the reflection of two orange orbs let us know it was there. It blinked once or twice and would sally forth for an insect but still never a good look. We waited some more then checked the slope again now that it was fairly dark. It was still on its perch, eyeshine staring back at us. Then it burst forth from the forest clearing the trees, it’s long tail trailing behind it. A fantastic Lyre-tailed Nightjar flew out into the night, snagged and insect and turned, tail in tow, and flew back to its perch. A female was also seen flying above the forest canopy and with that last target done we got back in the car and drove back to Jujuy. I was soaked but very satisfied with such an array of fantastic birds. I slept like a stone that night.
We were off into the Andes today. We left at 6:30 while it was still dark and Anna Marie had made us some coffee and put out some bread and jam for us. As we rose out of Jujuy we were surrounded by lush, green, tree covered hillsides and this was upper Yungas forest. The road continued up and we pulled off onto the shoulder where the forest came close to the road near Barcena. A cacophony of bird songs issued forth from the tree line and out of the chest high bushes in front of us. Golden-billed Saltators, Rufous-collared Sparrows, Sooty-fronted Spinetails, Hooded Siskins and a Yellow-browed Tyrant were all seen well here. A distant Tinamou called once but was never heard from again and a lone Streak-fronted Thornbird landed on the wire near us for some brief looks. Satisfied we had birded the area well we loaded up and moved on. There were more places to bird along this scenic road that my guide wanted to show me. We stopped at a small village shortly after for some fantastic looks at White Monjita. It’s white plumage shining against the greenery that would soon disappear in the browns of the prepuna and puna zones. There was also a pair of Southern Lapwings on the side of the road foraging for insects.
Our next stop was Molle Punco Marsh. This little marsh is situated between a depression created by the road and the cliffs behind the marsh. We pulled in at the first exit which was the old road and stopped here for a while. It was a bit cooler up here but there were birds around. A pair of immature Blue-and-Yellow Tanagers flitted about in some bushes close to us, watched by a young Red-tailed Comet. My first White-tipped Plantcutter called from a bush close by and we enjoyed some good looks at this bird till a Patagonian Mockingbird began to sing from a lone bush near the car. We made our way back and enjoyed some tea before driving up to the other side of the road and walking in a bit.
Here we found a Common Miner as well as several White-winged Black Tyrants and a lone Red Comet hovering about some small red flowers. Past the greenery and up the slopes we followed some contact calls and found two Chiguanco Thrushes calling to each other and I followed more calls up the quebrada finding a Black-hooded Sierra-Finch trying to drive off a tyrant and singing once or twice and showing really well. We climbed back down finding another mocking bird and a plantcutter before spooking up a Doradito which was never found but also a lovely Brown-hooded Parakeet. We ended up looking over the reedbed listening to Plumbous Rails call back and forth. The rattling call of a tyrant close by had us scanning the short brush line in front of us and turning up three Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrants, two adults feeding a young chick. We enjoyed these guys for a while before moving on.
We continued North along route 9 to Tilcara and a quick stop for pictures at Pucara de Tilcara, an old indigenous fort used by the locals to defend themselves from the invading Incan then Conquistador armies. We then continued on to an area called Perchel just before the Tropic of Capricorn monument. Here we got out and birded a narrow ravine next to the Rio Grande. We found a lovely Blue-and-Yellow Tanager in some bright sunlight and he positively shone. An Aplomado Falcon flew over which kept everything down for a while. We didn’t find our target species here so began to drive up the road slowly when several birds flushed from the side of the road and over a berm into some fields. We pulled over right next to the river retaining wall and crossed over the road into the fields. Low grass and corn were growing here and as I walked along the corn I flushed a huge group of finches and doves. I followed one group and finally spotted the bare ocular patch of a Bare-eyed Ground-Dove the endemic target we were looking for. There were several yellow-finches here but I was trying to get a better look at the dove. Several flushed from behind me and over the road landing on the other side of the retaining wall of the river. I crossed over and using some of the reeds as cover managed to sneak up close and get some fantastic shots of the birds perched on a rock overlooking the water. Job done we continued north to get lunch.
We stopped in the lovely town of Humahuaca and ate in a fantastic small restaurant having a local stew with Quinoa and vegetables. It was lovely and the scenery around the town with the lowslung houses and fantastic geological terrain behind it made for a nice setting.
Onwards we went heading higher and higher. We could see an approaching storm at our next spot of Azul Pampa. A small farm next to the road had several trees which were being used by a good group of birds. It was raining at the time and several Ground-Doves were sheltering in the frame of an empty window while a House Wren collected food for a chick somewhere never seen. In the fields we could hear White-tipped Plantcutter, Golden-billed Saltator and Rufous-collared Sparrow. A constant ticking from a fir tree lead us to a Sparkling Violetear that emerged to feed on some of the flowers growing up the bank below us. A clap of thunder sent us back to the car as the rain was getting heavier. We continued north past the amazing rock formations of Tres Cruces and the land began to open up and wide expanses of prepuna began to show. Low scrub and vegetation was much more evident now, but so were the dark clouds ahead. We could see patches of white on the ground and I was told it was hail. No sooner had he said that when the heavens opened up and hail began to rattle off the car. It was coming down very heavily and making things a bit hazardous. We were close to Abra Pampa so sped up to get there quick as we were worried that if it got any heavier it might cave in the windshield and dent up the car pretty bad. We found a tree to shade under in the town but that wasn’t really enough. A local metal worker pulled up the gates he was working on and allowed us to pull into his garage which was very nice of them. We waited out the storm which passed fairly quickly. We walked around the village for a few minutes and even found a very close obliging Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch perched on a wall right next to us. We thought the storm had passed and just as we pulled out it began to hail again so we pulled in to the garage to wait a few more minutes and I took some video of the metal worker grinding smooth some welds, sparks flying everywhere.
Satisfied the storm was passed and sunlight was out we continued north of town taking a left on route 7 which leads you along some open fields. A blob on a post had me stopping I got out to find a lovely Burrowing Owl perched on a fence post. There was another in the field scouring the area for rodents. We got some nice close pictures of these birds before continuing to another intersection where we stopped to check some of the small ponds for birds. The reed chocked water was ideal and several Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs were patrolling the water. A distant duck went unidentified and the cry of a bird overhead had us looking up at a fast moving Andean Avocet as it whizzed by towards a local pond. We continued up to get close to the water and found a nice open stretch where both Chilean and Andean Flamingo were really close along with a Red-Gartered Coot, Crested Ducks, Andean Avocet and a Solitary Sandpiper. Satisfied with our looks here we turned around and as we were heading back several Puna Miners were scrambling along by the road and a small bird alighted a fence post in the distance with it’s tail cocked and a streaky back. I settled on Puna Canastero and we continued on back to the main road to keep heading north.
We stopped at another wetlands area that was larger but a bit more distant. We needed to walk in a bit to get close to the action but in walking across the fields we stirred up some Puna Miner, Rufous-collared Sparrow, a nice Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, had a fly by of both Mountain Caracara and Cinereous Harrier. We could hear and then see flying several Andean Lapwings and the distant calls of flamingos but never got too close to the water as we could see through the scope that most of the birds were Chilean Flamingos. We had a bit further to go so we turned back and continued north to the town of La Quiaca. We arrived when it was dark and checked into our hotel for the night then went out for dinner. We ate in a nice local restaurant before retiring for a good nights rest.
We woke early for coffee and bread again and left before light to get to Yavi. The sun was rising over a grey sky as we pulled out of La Quiaca and climbed up across a long plane towards Yavi. When we arrived we pulled up at the bridge over the river before town and though we could hear several birds we could see no movement apart from a pair of White-winged Cinclodes patrolling the stony river bed.
We pulled into town and there was not a soul about. The cobblestone streets were empty and we had the windows down to listen out for any birds. Near the center of town a few calls had us stop next to a mudbrick wall with a small patch of grass next to it and there on the ground were five Yellowfinches. Three Bright-rumped and two Citron-headed Yellowfinches were picking through the grass with two Bare-faced Ground-Doves. The white spots on the dark wings and the orange eyepatch make for quite a stunning ground-dove. We pulled through town to the campsite and got out to bird here for a while. We followed the path down to the ball field and found several Spot-winged Pigeons in a tree above us. A Yellow-browed Flycatcher alighted a tree right in front of us and as we continued round the ball field to the path at the back we came across both Saffron and Greenish Yellow-finch as well as a White-winged Cinclodes sitting on the wall. The field was covered with Chiguanco Thrushes and pigeons as we passed by following the path down to the river. There the path runs along it overlooked by a big cliff face where we found, funnily enough, Cliff Flycatchers. There were several sitting up in the rocks and Hooded Siskins gathered in the reeds. We followed the path along the river to where it cut through the cliff and as we passed by to the other side a Black-bellied Shrike-Tyrant flew across and landed on the other side of the river. Behind us on the opposite side of the cliff now there were more Yellowfinches, Ground-Doves and Sparrows. The whistled note of a Tinamou from the short grass field in front of us stopped us in our tracks. It was close and it responded to a little playback and we could see the movement of the grass as it crept through. It approached the edge of the grass and scurried across into the next section of weeds but as they were not as tall we got good looks at the dark crest of an Andean Tinamou as it moved through into deeper weeds and was gone. We turned our attention back to the cliff face and found a lovely Andean Flicker working over the rocks at the top while we were watching a Band-tailed Seedeater collecting seeds from the tall grasses in front of us.
We continued around the rock to fields on the other side and to a group of red flowers in the hopes of seeing some hummingbirds. The place was very active with several Black-hooded Sierra-Finches coming in close along with a group of five Streak-fronted Thronbirds that called actively to each other. While we were watching this we didn’t notice a Giant Hummingbird sneak in and land on one of the flower stalks. This massive hummingbird hovered around the flowers calling away for a while which kept other hummingbirds at bay. Higher up the grove the whistled, metallic calls of a Mourning Sierra-Finch gave us great views and recordings and the buzzy calls of a Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail from thorn bush eventually showed really well. Andean Tinamou continued to call from all around us as we made our way back to the car stopping at the river to watch a female White-winged Black-Tyrant cross the river with her rufous tail.
We made our way back towards La Quiaca stopping along the way as a young Variable Hawk alighted a fence post over looking a small gathering of houses. On the powerlines a Mourning Sierra-Finach sang and several Common Diuca Finches sang from the support poles. A lone Andean Flicker peered down at us from one of the pylons before we moved on. The scenery here was fantastic and we got good clear sky and views of the “Ocho Hermanos”, the eight small peaks that line the road on the way back to town. A large herd of Llamas next to the road made for some good pictures too.
We stopped on the side of the road on the way out of town to pick up some freshly made Empenadas and continued on to the town of Cineguillas with a brief stop for several Variable Hawks that showed really well on powerlines and cliff faces. We checked in at the town of Cineguillas with the local police and while they were checking papers the lovely song of a Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch met our ears from right above us on a powerline.
We drove through town and followed the dirt road towards Lagunitas but 300 yards in the river stopped our path as it was swollen and we couldn’t get across. The one bonus we got while here was a Buff-breasted Earthcreeper. Having been thwarted in our efforts to go this way we turned back towards town and continued south along the east side of Lago Pozuelos. The arid scrub along this stretch held little birds and we wanted to get to the lagoons as soon as possible so we could spend the most time there. But we did stop once when a massive shadow passed in front of us. We stopped and got out to find a huge Andean Condor flying above us. We got some great views as it disappeared into the distance.
We met the main road in after a while and took it to the ranger station but he was not in so we couldn’t ask how the road was to the lagoon. The 7km dirt track can get flooded when there have been heavy rains like there had been recently but without anyone to ask we took our chances and drove in. Apart from a few bits of standing water which we circled around we made it all the way to the gate and parked. There was not another soul around. The best part was that on the way in as we were driving slow we managed to see three distant Lesser Rhea’s which finished off that family for me. Easy when there are only two birds, but still.
The sun was intense here and I grabbed a couple of bottles of water before we walked down to the water. The heat haze did little to help you identify anything that was far away but we could see many pink blobs far to the right and left of us. We hiked down to the center of the lake to see where the best place to be was and decided to check out the group to our right. As we walked along the edge of the lake we saw loads of Wilson’s Phalaropes and Baird’s Sandpipers. A lone Puna Plover was picked out of the crowd and several distant Andean Geese were easy to pick out against the green backgrounds. Vicuna’s were everywhere behind us as we trudged along the soft earth. We came to a small tributary which could not be crossed and most of the flamingos were too far away to be identified properly. I was a bit disappointed as I had come all this way to find the last three flamingos and now I couldn’t make out any of them. We stayed here for a while and enjoyed a few Andean Negrito’s that were running from tussock to tussock along with all the sandpipers and phalaropes. A group of flamingos was coming closer walking along the shore line which my guide told me was more likely Andean or Puna as the Chilean prefer the deeper water. We continued to watch and after a while discerned the bright pink in the neck, yellow on the bills and yellow legs plus showing a lot of black primaries, these were Andean Flamingos. I was pleased one of my targets was gotten. As we were scanning the lake here looking at the Andean Flamingos as small very pink flamingo flew towards us. Flying low over the water it flew right past three Chilean Flamingos and the size comparison was much smaller. Still I wasn’t convinced till I noticed that the bright pink in the wings didn’t extend to the primaries as it does in the other two and was much reduced to a small strip. A Puna Flamingo flew right past and continued to the other group of flamingos. My last flamingo and a sense of relief at finding it was a weight off my shoulders. We decided to walk around to the other group to see if we could find it. Along the way we found a nice group of five Puna Plovers with a massive group of American Golden Plovers. A little blob of fluff running along the waters edge had us both curious till we figured out it was a baby Andean Lapwing. The parents were far behind us calling at us. The little fluff ball dove for cover and froze on the ground blending in really well to the surrounding ground clutter. The screaming of Andean Gulls overhead revealed two nice birds quite low down for some good looks. We found another close group of Andean Flamingos and scanned it well for the Puna but it was never found as we needed to think about heading back to get some food and driving out before it got dark. It was about four in the afternoon when we got back to the car for some lunch. Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches called from several bushes around us while we ate.
We pulled out from the park but stopped shortly after as a small brown bird bobbed around in some short bushes near us. A little playback and a Cordilleran Canastero popped up right in front of and danced around the car. We had some fantastic looks as it chased bugs and landed on a close bush to survey the area. We drove on for a while till we got close to a house to stop for some activity we saw in the grass. A pale rumped Common Miner from the northern subspecies showed well but it was some Hellmeyer’s Pipit’s that got our attention. We followed two birds for a while making sure of identity before returning to the car. We drove on for a bit before some more miners had us stopped and as we walked in towards them two larger birds flew away from us. One stopped close enough to be seen as a Least Seedsnipe but the other was not found. As we walked in to see if we could flush it up again we came across a newborn Vicuna. It was on it’s feet but stumbling uncertainly and the mother had fresh blood all over her back end and legs. We quickly left as we didn’t want to disturb them but enjoyed some more of the miners on the way back.
Back at the main road we began to drive out towards the town of Abra Pampa stopping in quick succession for a female American Kestrel on a fence post with a lizard for prey then by a male about 20 posts down with a bird as prey. These guys are efficient. A little further on we came across three ground-doves and with some quick identification saw they were Golden-spotted Ground-Doves, my last Metriopelia ground-dove. Pleased with this we moved on away from the setting sun and near dusk I asked to pull over for a while an we enjoyed the sun set against the multicolored cliffs in front of us and the setting sun turning a few clouds bright orange behind us. We were the only people out here and it was amazingly quite and visually stunning. Once the sun was down enough that the show was over we moved on and as it was getting dark we put on the head lights. This helped dramatically when a few minutes later a bird ran across the road and stopped dead on a little berm frozen in the head lights. This was a Grey-breasted Seedsnipe. The rocky terrain up here is preferred by them to the open planes of the puna. It sat for a while till it eventually flew off calling a few minutes later which also helped identify it. We drove on through the darkness with a massive carpet of stars above us until we could see the lights of Abra Pampa in front of us. We pulled into town and checked into our hotel for the night. Another productive day done.
We left Abra Pampa before first light. Our destination was Jujuy and we had a good bit of driving to do today. Our first stop was as the first purple/orange hue of dawn was creeping over the eastern mountains to our left. Huancar is a massive 1,000 ft sand dune against a massive sandstone/clay monolith that looms over a small lake. We found the entrance through a small gate that we left open so we could drive back through it on the way out. We then drove the dusty path to the lake and as we got closer we realized that the gate was to keep in all the Llama’s that were crouched in the grass and bushes. They began to rise as we got close so my guide dropped me at the lake and returned to close the gate. When he returned I managed to get my camera out in time to capture a wonderful sunrise against the placid lake and the complete reflection of Huancar with the orange sun reflecting off it. That done we got down to some birding. The calls of water birds began to rise off of the surface near us and with enough light now we could make out many Silvery Grebe feeding chicks along with a lone White-tufted Grebe. There were several ducks here too with Yellow-billed and Puna Teal and Crested Duck. White-backed Stilts, Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Phalaropes were here too. As we walked away from the lake around the first rocky mounds we found a lovely Aplomado Falcon resting on a fence post that allowed us to approach quite close for some amazing looks. Around the sand dune several immature and one adult Mountain Caracara circled and played in the morning light. We made our way back to the car and continued on down the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
Our next stop was at the high pass of 3780 meters. We only stopped here when we saw a group of yellowfinches near the road. As we pulled up we could see several near the car so stayed in and got some great views of Puna Yellowfinch before we got out and had a look round. Several Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches were here too but as not much was calling we decided to continue on. A little further on we flushed several miners from the side of the road so stopped to have a look and while scanning for the miners we found a Rufous-naped Ground-Tryant. We followed as the bird made it’s way up the rock face in front of us and disappeared over the top. We hiked up to the top trying to find it for some better looks but it was gone when we got there. From here we had some fantastic views of the surrounding area and walked down the other side checking for birds. We came out at the bottom of the gulley and while walking across here we found two Yellowfinches. One was sitting on a rock doing contact calls to another in the bushes and as we looked at it we could see a dull yellow wash on the chest with a lot of heavy streaking. We could see the movement of the other bird under a small bush but not see it well. Our first thought was a Stripe-tailed Yellow-Finch which he told me just as they flew. “Check the undertail for white feathers” he called out as they flew over our heads but we couldn’t make it out in the still early light. They disappeared and we tried a little play back later on and two Yellow-Finches flew past us up the road a little later but we never did see these two birds again. Still a mystery. They are not often seen in this part of Argentina but the streaked yellowish chest presented an interesting case.
Our next stop was at La Esquinas Blancas. It was suggested we stop here as he has found some good birds here in the past. We pulled up where an old train bridge crosses a river gorge and began birding right away when two Black Siskins flew over us down to the river gorge. We had good looks at these birds and while getting some pictures of them two Mountain Parakeets flew past us down to the gorge. Another called from the cliff face behind us across the road and as we were scanning for it a D’Orbigny’s Chat-Tyrant popped up chasing and insect. We got brief looks at this bird and did find the Parakeet too. We continued down the slope and checked the bushes around here and the rattling calls of several birds led us to some Creamy-breasted Canastero’s that were moving rapidly from bush to bush. We also found a lovely Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail calling from atop a bush for some excellent views. A Bare-eyed Ground-Dove was sitting on an exposed rock overlooking the river when we got to the edge to look down and a White-winged Cinclodes was in the water hopping from rock to rock. The calls of Andean Swifts echoed from the massive cliff face on the other side of the gorge and we could make out a group of the big swifts swooping back and forth across the face. We also found pair of Southern Viscacha’s chasing each other about the cliff face opposite us. As we returned to the car we saw a Rock Earthcreeper which flew across the road and down the gully never to be seen from again.
We drove from here but decided not to stop as we had birded here the day before and gotten most our target species. We did make a short stop in the quaint little village of Uquia to see the church and pick up some local handycrafts. As the sky was cloudless today I also stopped a few places to get photos of some of the gorgeous landscapes. As it began to get more moist farther down, trees began to appear and more lush vegetation rose on the hillsides. We pulled in at the town of Volcan and birded a trail leading out to a small pond. As we hit the trail one of our first birds was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo a surprise for me as it’s a yard bird back home. Migration is an amazing thing. We also found several Red-tailed Comet’s feeding on the little red flowers growing in the trees. Several Bay-winged Cowbirds called farther down in the pasture and a pair of Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrants hawked for insect through the low vegetation. A female Slender-tailed Woodstar was seen well here along with another Patagonian Mockingbird. A Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle flew over high above while Andean Swifts and Blue-and-White Swallows circled over the field below. The little pond was very low with water and there were few birds there so we continued on down the valley.
We arrived back in Jujuy in the early afternoon and my guide dropped me back at Pascana. Anna Marie greeted me after a bit and we chatted in my broken Spanish before the room was ready for me and I got settled in. Half an hour later he came back to get me and we headed out of town to do some birding. We stopped along a seldom traveled road when some birds flew in front of us. We birded here as locals ran past or cycled but very few vehicles drove by. The road overlooked a river valley and a wooded mountain rose from across us while we looked down the forested side in front of us. Our first good bird was a Rufous-capped Antshrike. A male sat up nicely for us while a Crested Becard hounded a Black-backed Grosbeak. Several Red-eyed Vireo darted about in the trees and a Small-billed Elaenia popped out of the near by foliage for a good look.
We continued on along this road before it opened up into some sparsely vegetated fields and rolling hills. Trees dotted the hillsides and we scanned here for birds turning up a White Monjita but little else. The spot was nice so we decided to grab a late lunch here.
We moved on stopping to check the open fields again and at an intersection we found a pair of Variegated Flycatchers hawking for insects from some of the trees. A Waypu Tinamou called from the thick grass behind us but was never seen. A Great Pampa-Finch popped out of the grass with some phishing and landed in an open tree for some nice looks. A Vermillion Flycatcher was found by my guide under a copse of small trees diving down into the water like a kingfisher and splashing about for a second then flying back to a perch. It did this several times before we turned our attention to the rest of the field. Finding nothing else we drove on to a spot mentioned for raptors. Just before we began to drive up the slopes of this mountain for the raptors we pulled over to check a river below us but found nothing. While scanning a distant field though I did find a Red-legged Seriema which was one of our target birds. We looked along the treeline trying to find a way down to the fields but were thwarted. As I scanned the distant treeline I saw two buff blobs that might be out other target but once scoped it turned out to be a pair of Whistling Herons. Still a nice find but not our Ibis’s. We decided to skip the raptors and head back to town as my guide mentioned a place to find rails. We did pull up and stop when we found a group of White-faced Ibis scouring a filed but no Buff-necked Ibis. Back in town we drove through with a quick stop for ice cream then headed to the back of the city to a water course that fed into the Rio Grande. We climbed down the gravel bed to where the river came out at the bottom and it’s slow progress to the main river made for a great wetlands.
Here we used a little playback and while we were waiting a Bran-colored Flycatcher popped up out of the foliage and began to rummage through the small tree in front of us. A Masked Yellowthroat made a quick appearance and a Uniform Blackbird sat out on a clump of reeds allowing some nice scope views. A pair of Dusky-legged Guans called from the forest behind the marsh but just then the long rattled call we had been waiting for issued forth from the reed bed in front of us. We used a little bit more playback and the response was almost instant. We waited now and didn’t move. My guide sat on a log while I stood motionless. A couple of minutes later he whispered to me that he could see the bird. I crept to the side to where he was looking into the reeds and I then caught a glimpse of movement. I focused on the spot and the head of a Rufous-sided Crake poked out from the reeds. The algae green bill and dark little eye peered out at us but we waited patiently. The bird moved around a little bit and behind us in the distance we could hear another bird begin to call as dusk was beginning to settle in. I stepped to the side for a better view and in a small break in the reeds the bird popped down and stood there looking out at me. It would retreat back in for a second then pop back into view. It was amazing to see this denizen of the reeds so well and for so long. As the mosquitos were becoming annoying we climbed back up the rocky river bed back to the car and drove out. We stopped near a field opening hoping to see Buff-necked Ibis flying up into the forest to roost but we had no luck so decided to pack it in for the day and get some dinner.
We left Jujuy early to get to Calilegu and arrived at the town of Libertador San Martin as first light was coming up. We began the drive into the park along the dirt road and after a while pulled up when we saw something glide across the road. I could see where it landed but couldn’t tell what it was till I found a break in the canopy and could see a Peregrine Falcon sitting atop a big snag overlooking the forest. A great first find. We continued on to the main entrance and checked in with the warden before walking the Sendero Guarani trail towards the camp ground. Not ten feet in we heard a pair of Two-banded Warblers that came really close and crossed over the path above us climbing through the canopy. We left them and continued along the path climbing up to the campground where above us we found a Green-cheeked Parakeet sitting out in the open on a dead snag. With a sudden burst of noise several more that had been camouflaged in the canopy took flight and they were gone. The campground was unusually silent but we figured it might be the Roadside Hawk that was calling above us. We continued on along the trail on the other side of the park finding another close Two-banded Warbler but some tapping on a close tree got our attention. A woodpecker was on a large tree banging away but through the foliage we couldn’t get a good look. I managed to find a small gap and got some pictures but if flew off up into the canopy. We continued to scan close by and found a lovely Golden-olive Woodpecker working a branch up higher in the canopy and more visible. As it turned out the first woodpecker was not this one but a Dot-fronted female. As we had never gotten a good look at the first bird we figured the Golden-olive was the same bird. Not till I got home and looked at the pictures on a bigger screen could I tell. As we were getting deeper into the forest now there were things moving around. Above us we could hear the ”Bean, Bean, Bean” call of Euphonias above us and some movement on a nearby tree trunk turned out to be an Olivaceous Woodcreeper moving up a close trunk then dropping down the bottom of another tree and working it’s way up again. A Red-eyed Vireo and a Yellow-olive Flycatcher were seen here too before we continued up the slope. Many birds were heard but usually too far off. Near one of the interpretive centers at the end of the trail we came across a Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner working over a vine tangle and got some nice close views of a White-bellied Hummingbird perched on a tiny snag. Yet another Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-olive Flycatcher were seen here. I was beginning to think they were following us. We came out onto the main road after a bit and walked back to the car to drive farther up into the park.
We stopped at a picnic area which was quite active. When we got here we walked the road back down a few meters as a large group of Common Bush-Tanagers was working over the canopy as well as several Purple-throated Euphonias. We found a pair of Tyrants as we walked back up to the picnic area that were moving actively through the tree in front of us but a brief pause allowed us to identify them as Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulets. They moved on quickly chasing insects through the greenery and were soon gone. A Tropical Parula hung upside down from the same tree gleaning bugs but with the light above him it made for a difficult Id but several songs from it helped. An Olivacious Woodcreeper sang from the greenery behind us but we left this group to take the Sendero la Lagunita trail into the forest. Ten feet in we found two Saffron-billed Sparrows bouncing around on the trail right in front of us for some fantastic views. Very confiding, they came within feet of us before we moved on.
We moved down the trail for a bit getting deeper into the woods. More calls came close but we didn’t find the birds. Then a clatter of wings and movement of a large bird to our right had us frozen on the trail. Sitting on a large branch under the canopy were a pair of Golden-collared Macaw’s. These stunning parrots sat looking at us for a bit but didn’t fly off. We were able to get some great looks at this pair before we moved off. Ahead of us we found a group of small birds in the canopy which turned out to be Red-eyed Vireos feeding chicks when a Narrow-billed Woodcreeper alighted a tree behind us and began working it over. Great looking bird. The breast on southern birds is a lot more streaked/scaled than on northern subspecies. Something that threw me at first.
Above us came the melodious song a Rufous-browed Peppershrike but it was no where to be seen. We scanned for a while and with no luck we used a little playback and within seconds the bird appeared right above me. It sat almost motionless and continued singing and we could hear another in the distance. Fantastic looks.
We stopped again a little further down the trail when a large group of Euphonias began to move through the canopy above us noisily. There were Purple-throated but the mechanically musical song of Golden-rumped Euphonia got our attention. The group was a bit farther off but moving closer. After a bit several females moved through the canopy above us singing away.
We moved now down the slope towards the small pond at the bottom but never actually reached it as we came across some fantastic birds near the bottom. First the rapping on a tree an explosive call finally led us to a small window through the canopy where we found a Golden-green Woodpecker. The looks weren’t the best but it was still nice to see. We startled up a big bird in a vine tangle as we moved around and the black-and-white barred plumage of a massive Giant Antshrike feet from us made for a spectacular sight. This huge antshrike moved through the vine tangle in front of us for some amazing views before it crossed over the path and up into the canopy.
The buzzy song from pair of Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatchers got our attention next and we waited as they continued to sing to each other eventually moving close to investigate some playback. These tiny Tyrants were quickly off though and continued to sing through the canopy as we waited for our next bird. A lovely Ochre-cheeked Spinetail moved low through the vines and roots in front of us allowing many close, brief views. Loud rapping on a tree close by told us a woodpecker was close. We found the tree and crawled through a bit of forest out into an opening where the tree was and that’s where the bright red crown of the Golden-green Woodpecker popped out and had a look at me. It continued to bang away then circled round the tree for much better looks than our first encounter. A fantastic male gave us great looks before we walked away to leave him to search out lunch. Speaking of which we were getting hungry so decided to give the lake a miss and climbed back out the trail to the main road.
Back at the picnic area it was buzzing with birds so we stopped for a bit to check out the canopy flock moving through. An Olivaceous Woodcreeper moved up a trunk in front of us while a female Crested Becard flitted around in the canopy. Several more Red-eyed Vireos moved about with a Tropical Parula. We followed the commotion to the other side of the road and found three Chestnut-vented Conebills singing to each other above us along with several Euphonias. I followed the Woodcreeper up near the edge of the overlook trying to get some pictures but the calls of a Tyrant close by had me focus on that. The bird moved through the canopy above us then dropped down out into the open in some sunlight for some great looks at a Brown-crested Flycatcher. A Smoke-colored Pewee watched from a snag above the river as the Brown-crested continued to sing and call from the canopy.
We tore ourselves away from the action and continued up for a while negotiating some mudslides till we got to the Mesada de las Colmenas. Here we stopped for lunch while listening to birds call from the forest below us. The heat was coming up and the birds were beginning to get quiet. The highlight here was a Squirrel Cuckoo that flew across the parking area into a near by tree and disappeared down the other slope.
After lunch we continued on up stopping for a raucous group of Mitered Parakeets and while stopped there we could hear a long series of whistled hoots that we couldn’t figure out. They were easy to imitate but the bird never came close. We continue on up the road till we came to the top at Abra de Canas and enjoyed some amazing views of the surrounding lush covered hills rolling away into the distance. There was a short trail near the top we stopped at on the way down but there was still little activity at this hour apart from a Rufous-bellied Thrush that scolded us from cover above us.
We continued down stopping for a small group of birds that moved across the road in front of us. We were able to get some great looks at White-throated Tyrannulet before they moved further into the foliage and were gone. We made our way down past the mudslide and back into thicker forest. It was getting later which allowed for the birds to become more active. We drove slowly with the windows down listening for calls. We wanted to try for one of Calilegus specialties so we pulled over and walked for a bit before we heard one sing. We used a little playback and it moved closer. We could hear another from farther down the road begin too. The bird called for while from the canopy above us in the gulley then moved down closer. I saw some movement and watched as a White-breasted Antpitta crept along a branch and dropped down through low cover moving closer. Ten feet away from us it settled into a clump of brush and began to sing. It was amazing to think that such a noisy bird could remain covered at such a close range. It continues to amaze me how they do it. We waited for a while here hoping it would move out and as it continued to sing so several others joined in. While we were waiting a group of American Swallow-tailed Kites circled above us, the group getting bigger and bigger till at one point I think I managed to count 25 birds. A lone King Vulture circled out from behind the canopy for some nice close views before it circled back over the forest and was gone. As we were waiting one of the park wardens drove by and we chatted to him for a second. As he was doing this the Antpitta flew across a gap in the canopy and began to make its way back up the slope in front of us. Just a few brief glimpses but that was enough for the ID. We continued down again till we could hear a lot of commotion so we got out to investigate. There were birds calling all around us. Several Two-banded and Pale-legged Warblers were close by in the low brush at the side of the road along with Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch. A Tropical Pewee showed up sitting on a snag for some nice close views and a Cinnamon Flycatcher glided down to a snag above me for a brief second then it took off. Thrush’s began to call and sing and Rufous-bellied and Spotted Nightingale-Thrush issued forth from the surrounding greenery. A Brown-capped Redstart popped up out of the brush in front of us with it’s fantastic array of colors and as it was getting dusk we could hear Toco Toucan’s from across the valley. Above me the long whistled calls of a Dusky-capped Flycatcher along with the rattle of a Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner were some of the preliminaries of the dusk chorus. As we were waiting for what might come next a single low, “hoooo” was issued close by. We never saw the owl or heard it again but figured that’s what it must have been. We decided to try for some owls as it was getting dark but had no luck. The Rufous-bellied Thrushes were calling all about us now along with Olivaceous Woodcreeper’s, Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner’s and others. The darkness crept in and with no response to any of the owl playback we continued down the road. It was getting quite dark now so we made our way slowly down checking the road as we went. Then there it was, a bit of eyeshine from a dark form in front of us in the road. We watched for a few seconds as the bird checked us out, caught in the headlights. Then it decided to burst forth in flight showing us the white patches on the wings and tail of a Band-winged Nightjar. This was the last bird we saw here as we continued down the road though we did find two fantastic Tarantula’s on the road home. We arrived back in town and just had a few sandwiches while going over the lists before heading for bed.
We set of early this morning headed east towards the chaco forests stopping along the main road to check some of the canals for birds but as most of the area is sugar cane we didn’t find much. We turned around to take the main road towards the Salta region. This road was much less traveled and with patches of vegetation here and there we found some good spots to stop. When we could hear some birds calling for a patch of forest we pulled over, a place called Caimencito. Here a patch of forest not more that fifty feet wide in between a field and a dirt road was filled with birds. My guide said that these little patches are usually very active as they are conduits between the Yungas forest and the chaco to the south. Our first birds were a group of three Lined Seedeaters sitting in a small bush. Several Blue-black Grassquits were bounding around in the lower bushes and some activity from across the road got our attention as a pair of Hooded Tanagers moved about in the brush in front of us. The call of a Great Antshrike got our attention next and we got some great views of this bird right in front of us as it flew out and landed close to us before flying across the road to join another bird that was calling from the forest patch. We turned our attention back to this patch of forest as it was teeming with birds. Next a pair of Greater Thornbirds, with their bright yellow eyes, darted out of the brush chasing each other around while a Crested Oropendola landed atop one of the trees at the back of the patch. The rattled call of a Yellow-chinned Spinetail came in close with a little playback and climbed a short bush in front of us for some great looks and pictures before dropping down into the vegetation and proceeding about its business. A pair of Smooth-billed Ani’s showed up just about the time three Toco Toucans landed in a tree on the other side of the dirt road. They jumped about at the back of the tree making it difficult to get a picture or a descent view but a few times they would cross an open spot in the canopy and you could see them well. We returned to the forest patch after enjoying the Toucans when a small bird flew in and began to climb a tangle of vines. An Ocellated Piculet showed well preening itself for a bit before flying into some lower vegetation. During our time here we found Greyish Saltator, Grassland Sparrow, Scaly-headed Parrot, Ruddy Ground-Dove and a small cuckoo which I saw fly in. As I focused in on the bird I noticed the red eye and black bill and thought to myself, a Black-billed Cuckoo. The chances of one being here are rare to begin with so I was pleased to find it but after looking at the guide the washed out grey color and not brown on the head lead me to the conclusion it was an Ash-colored Cuckoo which was a nice find. The old adage of check everything twice to confirm it came to mind. We were hard pressed to tear ourselves away from this spot as it was so productive but we needed to head on if we were to make it to the Chaco area.
We continued on in a south easterly direction for a while and it began to get warmer and drier. We were now in transitional forest between the two zones. We pulled over at one spot as there was a small flock of swifts above the road circling over a forested area. Getting to grips with these guys was tough but after a while we managed to figure out that most of the group were Ashy-tailed Swift’s with a few Rothschild’s Swift’s thrown in for good measure and at one point I found a larger White-collared Swift a small group of Purple-throated Euphonia’s landed in a lone tree in someone’s house entrance for some nice up close looks at a male. We continued on getting into some open areas mixed with patches of thick, shorter trees. It was here that my guide found a raptor soaring low over the road. We stopped and got out to investigate finding a lovely Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle circling over us and slowly down the road.
Near Aguas Calientas we stopped for another raptor which was circling over head. It turned out to be a Hook-billed Kite and circled in right above us for some fantastic looks before it disappeared over the horizon behind us. One side of the road was field but the other, where we were parked, was open forest bordered by some thick brush and there were some good birds here. An Azara’s Spinetail called close by and moved through the brush in front of us while Plush-crested Jay’s called to each other in the trees at the edge of the forest. I saw the movement of one and focused in on the bird finding a Blue-crowned Trogon but the looks here were unsatisfying but that didn’t last long as it flew out of the canopy into an open branch for some fantastic scopeviews.
We were getting hungry now so pulled into the small town of Plama Sola for some lunch. The day was becoming quite hot so we relaxed through lunch before driving into the Chaco proper. The heat was relentless. Not a cloud in the sky and thick Chaco scrub on either side. There wasn’t much in the way of birding here either as the heat was keeping everything down. Eventually we came to a spot where we heard some activity and got out. There were few cars along this road so mostly silence which allowed us to hear birds as we drove along. A short rattled call of a Tyrant and single contact calls from some thorny scrub let us know a bird was close by. A little playback and out it popped right in front of me in a low, thorny tree. A fantastic Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant with it’s bright orange/red eye sat looking at me for a few moments before it went back to hopping through the thorn scrub around us. A sudden cacophony of calls from right above us had me furiously trying to hit the record button in time to catch it but I missed out. Though that didn’t last long as they called again moving in close. Three Greater Wagtail-Tyrant’s came in really close and sang to each other while bounding about in the canopy. We had fantastic looks at these birds before they moved on and so did we.
We continued on for a while till we found the tyrant he was looking for. On a lone snag in the heat of the day sat a Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher who gave us some obliging looks as it sat motionless waiting for an unsuspecting insect to become lunch. We drove on and eventually came to the Salta Border and turned back.
There was little on the way back either till we found a small flock in a ditch next to the road. It was mostly comprised of Bay-winged Cowbirds but there was a Rufous-collared Sparrow and a Red-crested Finch. The cowbirds made quite a racket but there was not much else here so we headed back to town. We dropped off a gentleman whose car had broken down before heading out on the main road. Just out at the edge of town we spotted a Red-legged Seriema walking the edge of a field for much better views than the one’s I’d had previously. I could really make out the features of this bird better as it walked away from us along the tree line.
Plenty of Tropical Kingbirds and American Kestrels were seen on the wires between our next stop and a lone Toco Toucan resting in the heat of the day underneath the canopy along the road made for some nice sight’s before we stopped at our next destination. A brief stop at a farm/residence to look for Great Rufous Woodcreeper. My guide knew of a trail here and he asked permission to walk it and the lady who lived here said that would be fine and her two young boys accompanied us through the forest as they knew where to look. We traipsed in a ways before we found some larger trees but no Woodcreeper. We did find another Ocellated Piculet along the small creek that was here and a Variable Antshrike skulking through some low brush but we needed to continue on.
We stopped again at the hot springs to look for some waterbirds. Though the smell was a bit rank it wasn’t bad and there were some good birds here. Roseate Spoonbill, South American Stilts, Solitary Sandpiper, Sayaca Tanager and a heard Plumbeous Rail were all seen from the waters edge. Back out by the car we found a group of Lined Seedeaters before we continued on towards Perico.
My guide had saved the best for last as he told me about a great marshy area we would stop at next. We pulled up along the side of the road and before me lay acres of six feet tall reeds going in all the way to a Santa Barbera mountain range and on the other side of the road was lower Yungas forest. The place was awesome. The man living in the only house here that overlooked the marsh gave us permission to walk and bird here which was great. I had walked down the bank to get some pictures of a pair of Yellow-chinned Spinetail’s that were hovering about a brush pile on the edge of the marsh when the movement of a Plumbeous Rail caught my eye. It was right at the edge of the marsh and coming out into the open grasses for some amazing looks. He came back and said it was no problem for us to walk around so after getting some pictures of the rail we crossed over the fence and walked the edge of the marsh and within minutes more movement caught my eye this time from a Rufous-sided Crake that was working the shallow water here at the edge of the marsh. Amazing to see two rallid species so close and almost out in the open. Not often you have walk away views of Crake’s. The spinetails called back and forth loudly as we walked away and another Plumbeous Rail began to call close by. A blast of wings from the reeds in front of us had a Rufescent Tiger-Heron rise out of the tall reeds and fly away from us calling loudly. At the end of the reed bed it opened up into a flooded field that went all the way to the edge of the mountain. The reeds followed at the edge all the way down too. At the foothills of the mountain was forest and on the other side of the flooded field was a narrow band of trees that met the forest at the foot of the mountain. The grass was about ankle deep and a few dead trees protruded out of soaked earth. The place was teeming with birds. We had stopped at the end of the reedbed to look at another Plumbous Rail and here found several chestnut colored Wattled Jacanas. As they would fly off a little way we could see the yellow under their wings. Two huge Ibis looking birds turned out to be Limpkin’s right out in the open sifting through the grasses. Three Roseate Spoonbills were on the other side of the limpkins and a pair of Brazilian Ducks poked their heads up from the grass so we could see the males bright red bill. In the distance we could make out Great and Cattle Egret’s along with a bevy of Jacana’s and Crested Ducks. We crossed over to the forest that had a trail that led up to the base of the mountain. The forest was close and the trail muddy. We spooked up some White-tipped Doves but as the forest was so close in we decided to turn back as it would be dusk soon. As we came out at the end of the trail again I could see a Wood-Rail disappear into the grasses on the other side of the creek we crossed by never did get a look at it.
We crossed over back to the field as a group of five Guira Cuckoo’s called noisily from the dead snags around us. The birds were becoming quite active now that the sun was starting to work it’s way down. We stopped at the farm to talk to the owner who mentioned some of the birds he’d seen and when he’d seen them. Rails began to call all around us along with the Jacana’s. A group of White-faced Ibis flew towards us sailing past and into the distance. But it was four large birds heading away from us that caught our attention. Four Southern Screamers were flying to another part of the refuge, not the best looks but still able to see what they were. A Whistling Heron flew by close and another off in the distance. Black-crowned Night-Heron’s began to rise out of the reeds with their croaking calls and a Crake chimed in with it’s long rattling song.
The rails began to emerge from the reeds and several Plumbeous Rails started to feed at the edge of the grass. They were joined by a Grey-necked Wood-Rail and while I was getting pictures of this bird two huge Giant Wood-Rails crept out of the reeds and began to feed in the grass. I could also make out the slight form of a Rufous-sided Crake at the edge of the reeds. Four Rails in view at once, ridiculous. I crept down the reed bed to get some pictures of the Wood-Rails and near the end of the farm the Plumbeous Rails began to call with the Crake and a pair of Grey-necked Wood-Rails joined the cacophony. We climbed up the bank to see the action from the road. That’s when a large white bird glided in and circled above the reeds before landing. Wood Stork or Maguari? We couldn’t tell in time as we didn’t get the bin’s up before it dropped out of sight. A minute later another large white form glidded across the reeds. This time we got good looks at the red legs and black in the wings and tail of a fantastic Maguari Stork before it settled in close to the other bird. The sun was coming down now and the rails were into their songs really well as two Common Thornbirds came back to their large stick nest hanging in the tree right next to us. They disappeared in and out a few times and called in low tones to each other. The forest behind us came alive too with insects and just as the sun set and dusk crept in and the nightjars began to circle over the forest. We managed to make out the long pointed wings with no white spots of a Semi-collared Nighthawk there was another Nightjar there with rounded wings but the light was too low for us to get a look.
We left Refugio de San Miguel when it was almost dark and made our way along the road to Perico keeping an eye out for anything on the road. We passed a small snake and once or twice a bird would fly past our headlights but nothing we could see. Then a huge bird flew up and turned away from the car and we slowed down and checked it out. We got the spot light out and the bird came in close again and got it in the spot light as it turned again and he managed to get it in the light again as it landed on a snag. A fantastic Common Potoo sat illuminated in the light turning it’s head from time to time to scan for bugs. We got some fantastic looks at it before we left it to the darkness and the insects. A probable Little Nightjar flew over us here too with it’s rounded wings and disappeared over the tree line on the other side of the road before we could get a good look at it. We continued on finding a freshly killed rattle snake. The head and tail had been crushed but the nerves still had it moving. Shame as it was a gorgeous snake. I got out to get a few pictures and while standing there another crept out of the grass unseen beside me. Suddenly my guide shouted and honked the horn and I moved to the side to let it out. It crept up to the other snake and crawled around it rubbing it’s body on it as if checking to see if it was alive or not. We didn’t know if this was it’s mate but it seemed as if it was trying to coax the other back to life. This could be a bit of personification but at the time it seemed a sad scene. We drove around them and continued on towards Perico where we got into our hotel for the night. We checked into a fantastic little hotel overlooking the main square and once in our rooms we headed out for some dinner. The square was packed with people and the restaurants were all out in the open dining was under the stars. We had a great meal and enjoyed the local culture as everyone sat about eating and enjoying the Saturday night.
We left Perico early and drove to Las Maderas. These wooded hills are home to a dam and some prime birding spots. As we drove up the hills the Rufous-collared Sparrows and Golden-billed Saltators began to call. We got out here to see if we could find anything amidst the assault of bird song. Behind us in the field below several Tataupa Tinamou began to sing but were never seen. We continued up for a while till we came across a farm where there were trees on both sides of the road. Birds were all about here so we stopped for a bit to see what we could find. More Sparrows and Saltators called away and a Rufous Hornero landed next to the road. A Golden-winged Cacique called from the tree in front of us but towards the back. As we waited for this bird to move around a bit a small greenish bird flew up out of the canopy near us. A Green-backed Becard female popped up for some fantastic looks before she moved down to the next tree. With a little playback she came right back to the tree behind us and showed really well before crossing again into the trees on the other side of the road. By this time the Cacique was out and we had a good look at it.
We continued on up the hill and near a crest at some open fields we stopped to enjoy a Narrow-billed Woodcreeper and do a spot of birding. We heard a pair of Spot-backed Puffbirds lower down the valley so we headed up a pathway towards the field so we could look down onto the trees below. We did a little play back and soon I saw one of the birds moving up into the canopy of the tree. It sat there for a bit and we got some nice but distant views of it before it dropped from the branch and flew towards us. On the other side of the bush line in front of us it landed just out of view. That was ok as another landed in a taller tree and was quickly joined by it’s mate. They did their head bobbing calls and both dipped forward. We enjoyed this spectacle a couple of times before moving on.
We drove on for a bit till we found a good pull off surrounded by trees. We could hear several birds here so stopped for a bit. Our first find was a difficult one to locate but there were two birds here one on either side of the road but moving through the canopy. Eventually I did get looks at one of the Sclater’s Tyrnnulets that was jumping from branch to branch. A few musical notes from another tree had us looking at a pair of Golden-winged Caciques that eventually flew right over us and a Smoke-colored Pewee darted in and out of a large epiphyte laden tree.
From here we continued up the hill till turning off down a dirt road with tree lined slopes on one side and brush on the other. This was drier forest and we stopped several times along here seeing Green-cheeked Parakeet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Tropical Pewee and our best find was when my guide frantically pointed into the nearby trees and exclaimed “Potoo”. He backed up a bit and looked into the overhanging trees to find a Common Pottoo sitting in its upright posture on a branch. It wasn’t at the end of a snag as I have so often seen them before but mid branch with it’s tail hanging down below the branch. Odd that it would rest here and quite low in the canopy.
Just a bit farther on we came out at the dam and drove across. We could see down onto some forest here and up behind us was the spot for our target. My guide had seen it here before so we tried with a bit of playback first. We waited and after a while a response came from lower down in the forest on the other side of the valley. It never sang again while we waited. We stayed here for about fifteen minutes listening to the song of a Saffron Finch that was with a female in the bush behind us but no response from our target. We decided it might be worth trying to drive down to the other side of the valley and see if we could find the bird there. It was getting hot and we were worried it might be getting to the point of the day when nothing would be moving about. We did scan the shoreline from the other side of the dam finding Great Egret, Cocoi Heron and Neotropical Cormorant, while above us a fantastic male Snail Kite circled over the dam.
Once down on the other side we followed a winding road till we found the spot we thought the bird had sang from. We played its song twice and a few seconds later he found the bird as it flew up onto a large trunk in front of us. From behind the white trunk peered a Great Rufous Woodcreeper. Its fantastic bill and eyes peering out from behind the wood, it moved up the trunk into the branches exploring for food then dropped down over our heads onto another trunk behind us where we could see the whole bird in all it’s rufous glory. An amazing woodcreeper to say the least.
It was getting close to lunch time so we continued on to a restaurant that served great fish. We sat here and enjoyed lunch while watching Southern Lapwing, Bay-winged Cowbird, Double-collared Seedeater, Andean Gull and Cormorant’s and soon the place was filled up.
After lunch we drove slowly out to the main road to look for woodpeckers but without any luck. A last drive through the country side and we were soon at the airport. I said my goodbyes after I had gotten my ticket and I caught a flight back to Buenos Aires then home.
Overall this was a fantastic trip with such an array of biodiversity in such a small area. My guide was great and knew all the right places to stop. We saw some amazing birds and I hit most of my targets. The scenery is stunning and it’s hard to believe we were in high puna one day then the next in thick Yungas forest. There is a huge array of birds here and another couple of days were really required to get into the Chaco and south into Salta. The roads were fine and there was usually little traffic anywhere we went. It seemed at times like we had the whole place to ourselves which was especially good when you were trying to listen for birds. All the places we stayed were good and the food was nice and interesting from light corn humitas to an all you can eat meatfest. For the most part the locals were friendly and helpful and with such an array of cultures it was fascinating to move from the Andes to the lowlands. I can’t recommend this part of Argentina enough. Good luck and good birding.
You can see photos from this tour in my Argentina 2009 Flickr album.
You can listen to recordings from this tour in my Argentina 2009 Xeno-canto set.
H= Heard only
1 Lesser Rhea Rhea pennata NT
2 Tataupa Tinamou Crypturellus tataupa H
3 Huayco Tinamou Rhynchotus maculicollis H
4 Andean Tinamou Nothoprocta pentlandii
5 Southern Screamer Chauna torquata
6 Andean Goose Chloephaga melanoptera
7 Brazilian Teal Amazonetta brasiliensis
8 Torrent Duck Merganetta armata
9 Yellow-billed Pintail Anas georgica
10 Puna Teal Anas puna
11 Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicansis
12 Red-faced Guan Penelope dabbenei
13 Dusky-legged Guan Penelope obscura H
14 White-tufted Grebe Rollandia rolland
15 Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
16 Silvery Grebe Podiceps occipitalis
17 Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis NT
18 Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus andinus V
19 Puna Flamingo Phoenicopterus jamesi NT
20 Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
21 Rufescent Tiger-Heron Tigrisoma lineatum
22 Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi
23 Great Egret Ardea alba
24 Snowy Egret Egretta thula
25 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
26 Striated Heron Butorides striata
27 Whistling Heron Syrigma sibilatrix
28 Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
29 White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi
30 Puna Ibis Plegadis ridgwayi
31 Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja
32 Maguari Stork Ciconia maguari
33 Wood Stork Mycteria americana
34 Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
35 Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
36 Andean Condor Vultur gryphus NT
37 King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa
38 Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus
39 Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus
40 White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
41 Snail Kite Rostrhamus sociabilis
42 Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle Geranoaetus melanoleucus
43 Cinereous Harrier Circus cinereus
44 Savanna Hawk Buteogallus meridionalis
45 Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris
46 White-rumped Hawk Buteo leucorrhous
47 Variable Hawk Buteo polyosoma
48 Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus melanoleucus
49 Mountain Caracara Phalcoboenus megalopterus
50 Southern Caracara Caracara plancus
51 Chimango Caracara Milvago chimango
52 American Kestrel Falco sparverius
53 Aplomado Falcon Falco femoralis
54 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
55 Rufous-sided Crake Laterallus melanophaius
56 Giant Wood-Rail Aramides ypecaha
57 Gray-necked Wood-Rail Aramides cajanea
58 Plumbeous Rail Pardirallus sanguinolentus
59 Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
60 Red-gartered Coot Fulica armillata
61 White-winged Coot Fulica leucoptera
62 Limpkin Aramus guarauna
63 Red-legged Seriema Cariama cristata
64 Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
65 Andean Lapwing Vanellus resplendens
66 American Golden-Plover Pluvialis dominica
67 Puna Plover Charadrius alticola
68 Andean Avocet Recurvirostra andina
69 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
70 Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana
71 Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
72 Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
73 Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii
74 Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor
75 Gray-breasted Seedsnipe Thinocorus orbignyianus
76 Least Seedsnipe Thinocorus rumicivorus
77 Andean Gull Chroicocephalus serranus
78 Rock Pigeon Columba livia
79 Pale-vented Pigeon Patagioenas cayennensis
80 Picazuro Pigeon Patagioenas picazuro
81 Spot-winged Pigeon Patagioenas maculosa
82 Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata
83 Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti
84 Picui Ground-Dove Columbina picui
85 Bare-faced Ground-Dove Metriopelia ceciliae
86 Bare-eyed Ground-Dove Metriopelia morenoi E
87 Black-winged Ground-Dove Metriopelia melanoptera
88 Golden-spotted Ground-Dove Metriopelia aymara
89 White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
90 Yungas Dove Leptotila megalura
91 Green-cheeked Parakeet Pyrrhura molinae
92 Gray-hooded Parakeet Psilopsiagon aymara
93 Mountain Parakeet Psilopsiagon aurifrons
94 Mitred Parakeet Aratinga mitrata
95 White-eyed Parakeet Aratinga leucophthalma
96 Golden-collared Macaw Primolius auricollis
97 Scaly-headed Parrot Pionus maximiliani
98 Tucuman Parrot Amazona tucumana NT
99 Blue-fronted Parrot Amazona aestiva
100 Ash-colored Cuckoo Coccycua cinerea
101 Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana
102 Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus
103 Guira Cuckoo Guira guira
104 Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
105 Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia
106 Semi-collared Nighthawk Lurocalis semitorquatus
107 Band-winged Nightjar Caprimulgus longirostris
108 Lyre-tailed Nightjar Uropsalis lyra
109 Common Potoo Nyctibius griseus
110 Rothschild's Swift Cypseloides rothschildi E NT
111 White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris
112 Ashy-tailed Swift Chaetura andrei
113 Andean Swift Aeronautes andecolus
114 Sparkling Violetear Colibri coruscans
115 Glittering-bellied Emerald Chlorostilbon aureoventris
116 Gilded Sapphire Hylocharis chrysura
117 White-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia chionogaster
118 Giant Hummingbird Patagona gigas
119 0Red-tailed Comet Sappho sparganura
120 Slender-tailed Woodstar Microstilbon burmeisteri
123 Blue-crowned Trogon Trogon curucui
124 Spot-backed Puffbird Nystalus maculatus
125 Toco Toucan Ramphastos toco
126 Ocellated Piculet Picumnus dorbynianus
127 Dot-fronted Woodpecker Veniliornis frontalis
128 Golden-green Woodpecker Piculus chrysochloros
129 Golden-olive Woodpecker Colaptes rubiginosus
130 Green-barred Woodpecker Colaptes melanochloros
131 Andean Flicker Colaptes rupicola
132 Common Miner Geositta cunicularia
133 Puna Miner Geositta punensis
134 Rufous-banded Miner Geositta rufipennis
135 Rock Earthcreeper Ochetorhynchus andaecola H
136 Buff-breasted Earthcreeper Upucerthia validirostris E
137 White-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes atacamensis
138 Rufous Hornero Furnarius rufus
139 Wren-like Rushbird Phleocryptes melanops
140 Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail Leptasthenura fuliginiceps
141 Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail Leptasthenura aegithaloides
142 Sooty-fronted Spinetail Synallaxis frontalis
143 Ochre-cheeked Spinetail Synallaxis scutata
144 Stripe-crowned Spinetail Cranioleuca pyrrhophia
145 Yellow-chinned Spinetail Certhiaxis cinnamomeus
146 Cordilleran Canastero Asthenes modesta
147 Puna Canastero Asthenes sclateri
148 Creamy-breasted Canastero Asthenes dorbignyi
149 Common Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons
150 Streak-fronted Thornbird Phacellodomus striaticeps
151 Greater Thornbird Phacellodomus ruber
152 Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner Syndactyla rufosuperciliata
153 Olivaceous Woodcreeper Sittasomus griseicapillus
154 Great Rufous Woodcreeper Xiphocolaptes major
155 Black-banded Woodcreeper Dendrocolaptes picumnus
156 Narrow-billed Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes angustirostris
157 Giant Antshrike Batara cinerea
158 Great Antshrike Taraba major
159 Rufous-capped Antshrike Thamnophilus ruficapillus
160 Variable Antshrike Thamnophilus caerulescens
161 White-throated Antpitta Grallaria albigula
162 Buff-banded Tyrannulet Mecocerculus hellmayri
163 White-throated Tyrannulet Mecocerculus leucophrys
164 Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant Anairetes flavirostris
165 White-crested Elaenia Elaenia albiceps
166 Small-billed Elaenia Elaenia parvirostris
167 Sooty Tyrannulet Serpophaga nigricans
168 Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet Phylloscartes ventralis
169 Sclater's Tyrannulet Phyllomyias sclateri
170 Greater Wagtail-Tyrant Stigmatura budytoides
171 Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant Hemitriccus margaritaceiventer
172 Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher Poecilotriccus plumbeiceps
173 Yellow-olive Flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens
174 Cinnamon Flycatcher Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus
175 Cliff Flycatcher Hirundinea ferruginea
176 Bran-colored Flycatcher Myiophobus fasciatus
177 Smoke-colored Pewee Contopus fumigatus
178 Tropical Pewee Contopus cinereus
179 Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
180 Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
181 Andean Negrito Lessonia oreas
182 White-winged Black-Tyrant Knipolegus aterrimus
183 Yellow-browed Tyrant Satrapa icterophrys
184 Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola maculirostris
185 Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola rufivertex
186 Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant Agriornis montanus
187 White Monjita Xolmis irupero
188 D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca oenanthoides
189 Cattle Tyrant Machetornis rixosa
190 Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
191 Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus
192 Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
193 Streaked Flycatcher Myiodynastes maculatus
194 Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius
195 Variegated Flycatcher Empidonomus varius
196 Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher Griseotyrannus aurantioatrocristatus
197 Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus
198 Fork-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus savana
199 White-tipped Plantcutter Phytotoma rutila
200 Green-backed Becard Pachyramphus viridis
201 Crested Becard Pachyramphus validus
202 Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
203 Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis
204 Plush-crested Jay Cyanocorax chrysops
205 Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
206 Gray-breasted Martin Progne chalybea
207 Southern Martin Progne elegans
208 Brown-chested Martin Progne tapera
209 White-rumped Swallow Tachycineta leucorrhoa
210 House Wren Troglodytes aedon
211 Mountain Wren Troglodytes solstitialis
212 Rufous-throated Dipper Cinclus schulzi E V
213 Spotted Nightingale-Thrush Catharus dryas
214 Rufous-bellied Thrush Turdus rufiventris
215 Chiguanco Thrush Turdus chiguanco
216 Patagonian Mockingbird Mimus patagonicus
217 Chalk-browed Mockingbird Mimus saturninus
218 Brown-backed Mockingbird Mimus dorsalis
219 Hellmayr's Pipit Anthus hellmayri
220 Tropical Parula Parula pitiayumi
221 Masked Yellowthroat Geothlypis aequinoctialis
222 Brown-capped Redstart Myioborus brunniceps
223 Two-banded Warbler Basileuterus bivittatus
224 Pale-legged Warbler Basileuterus signatus
225 Hooded Tanager Nemosia pileata
226 Orange-headed Tanager Thlypopsis sordida
227 Rust-and-yellow Tanager Thlypopsis ruficeps
228 Chestnut-vented Conebill Conirostrum speciosum
229 Common Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus ophthalmicus
230 Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava
231 Sayaca Tanager Thraupis sayaca
232 Blue-and-yellow Tanager Thraupis bonariensis
233 Fawn-breasted Tanager Pipraeidea melanonota
234 Black-hooded Sierra-Finch Phrygilus atriceps
235 Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch Phrygilus gayi
236 Mourning Sierra-Finch Phrygilus fruticeti
237 Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch Phrygilus plebejus
238 Band-tailed Sierra-Finch Phrygilus alaudinus
239 Common Diuca-Finch Diuca diuca
240 Rufous-sided Warbling-Finch Poospiza hypochondria
241 Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch Poospiza erythrophrys
242 Black-and-shestnut Warbling-Finch Poospiza whitti
243 Black-capped Warbling-Finch Poospiza melanoleuca
244 Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina
245 Lined Seedeater Sporophila lineola
246 Double-collared Seedeater Sporophila caerulescens
247 Band-tailed Seedeater Catamenia analis
248 Stripe-tailed Yellow-Finch Sicalis citrina
249 Puna Yellow-Finch Sicalis lutea
250 Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch Sicalis uropygialis
251 Citron-headed Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteocephala Rare
252 Greenish Yellow-Finch Sicalis olivascens
253 Saffron Finch Sicalis flaveola
254 Grassland Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteola
255 Great Pampa-Finch Embernagra platensis
256 Red-crested Cardinal Paroaria coronata
257 Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch Atlapetes fulviceps
258 Red-crested Finch Coryphospingus cucullatus
259 Saffron-billed Sparrow Arremon flavirostris
260 Stripe-headed Brush-Finch Arremon torquatus
261 Stripe-capped Sparrow Aimophila strigiceps
262 Grassland Sparrow Ammodramus humeralis
263 Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis
264 Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens
265 Golden-billed Saltator Saltator aurantiirostris
266 Black-backed Grosbeak Pheucticus aureoventris
267 Unicolored Blackbird Agelasticus cyanopus
268 Bay-winged Cowbird Agelaioides badius
269 Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis
270 Golden-winged Cacique Cacicus chrysopterus
271 Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
272 Purple-throated Euphonia Euphonia chlorotica
273 Golden-rumped Euphonia Euphonia cyanocephala
274 Hooded Siskin Carduelis magellanica
275 Black Siskin Carduelis atrata
276 House Sparrow Passer domesticus