San Clemente and Punta Rasa, Argentina, January 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Sergio Corbet


San Clemente and Punta Rasa offer the possibility of seeing many if not all of the Pampas birds and also wintering migrators from as far as Alaska. Knowing the area well I thought it might help visiting birders if I described the best birding areas.

The Pampas are huge flat plains that have the Atlantic Ocean as their eastern limit. From the west to the east there is a slow drop in the land level that becomes salty lowlands close to the Ocean, interspersed by marshes, canals and small rivers that provide shelter and food to hundreds of thousands of local and wintering migrating birds. All these shoreline lands make poor quality cattle grazing fields with scarce farming productive patches.

Native woods are absent and any wooded area seen has been planted by man. Very close to the shore, runs a sea-conch layer many million years old. This makes a higher line on which certain very local twisted trees grow making a shore gallery. They are called locally "Tala" (Celtis tala) and abate the ocean winds giving nesting possibilities to many birds.

The Sanborombon and Salado are a couple of central Pampas' rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean and give the surrounding lowlands a very typical appearance. Close to the ocean, their shores look like a slowly dark brown moving mass due to millions of Fiddler Crabs walking on them. The skilled eyes of a birder will soon discover lots of birds feeding, roosting in the reeds, preening or just resting. In the canal's waters and in the marshes as well as on their shores many wintering waders can be discovered, all wearing their dull winter feathering to the local birders disappointment.

Moving to the southeast of Buenos Aires city, the eastern shoreline of the Buenos Aires province has a line of small towns/seaside resorts which, when going southwards, will end up in a large town with a port called Mar del Plata and then more to the south towns as Necochea and Bahia Blanca will appear. These towns with their ports are the outlets of the Pampas main production that is grain and the famous Argentine beef. San Clemente is the first of such small towns/seasideresorts and is 320 kilometers to the southeast of Buenos Aires city. Driving along National Route 2 up to Dolores and then turning to the left (east) towards Route 11 takes the birder right to the town. Birding can be done everywhere. Along the roads there are canals and marshes and side mudroads leading into neighbouring cattle estates, all of which provide excellent birding.

Some 12 kilometres to the north of San Clemente is Punta Rasa. This is a piece of land that stretches right into the ocean. It has a lighthouse and its shores look north and to the southeast. One can walk down to the beaches and watch the birds. On its northern part, there is a small river that falls into the ocean, a very good birding spot full of waders, ducks, flamingos and shorebirds. A true birdwatchers paradise.

I strongly suggest to return to Buenos Aires city along Route 11 and bird the "Tala" tree galleries up to a place called Pipinas then, instead of following the pavement, follow the mudroad that leads to Magdalena, Atalaya and ends in La Plata. Birding there is very interesting and rewarding. Now Buenos Aires is very close and easy to reach.

The following is a list of birds to be found at San Clemente in late January.

Greater Rhea, Rhea americana
Spotted Tinamou, Nothura maculosa
Pied-billed Grebe, Podylimbus Podiceps
White-tufted Grebe, Podiceps rolland
Great Grebe, Podiceps major
Neotropic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Whistling Heron, Syrigma sibilatrix.
White-necked Heron, Ardea cocoi
Great Egret, Ardea alba
Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
Striated Heron, Butorides striatus
Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nicticorax
White-faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
Roseate Spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja
Maguari Stork, Ciconia maguari
Chilean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis
Southern Screamer, Chauna torquataFulvous Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna bicolor
Coscoroba, Coscoroba coscoroba
Black-necked Swan, Cygnus melancoryphus
Speckled Teal, Anas flavirostris
Brown Pintail, Anas georgica
Silver Teal, Anas versicolor
Rosy-billed Pochard, Netta peposaca
Brazilian Duck, Amazonetta brasiliensis
White-tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
Snail Kite, Rosthramus sociabilis
Cinereus Harrier, Circus cinereus
Long-winged Harrier, Circus buffoni
Roadside Hawk, Buteo magnirostris
Southern Caracara, Caracara plancus
Chimango Caracara, Milvago chimango
Rufous-sided Crake, Laterallus melanophaius
Plumbeous Rail, Pardirallus sanguinolentus
Spot-flanked Gallinule, Gallinula melanops
Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
White-winged Coot, Fulica leucoptera
Southern Lapwing, Vanellus chilensis
Limpkin, Aramus guarauna
Golden Plover, Pluvialis dominica
Two-banded Plover, Charadrius falklandicus Semi-palmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus
Rufous-chested Dotterel, Charadrius modestus
American Oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus
South American Stilt, Himantopus melanurus
Lesser Yellowlegs, Tringa flaviceps
Hudsonian Godwit, Limosa haemastica
White-rumped Sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis
Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos
Stilt Sandpiper, Calidris himantopus
Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Tryngites subruficollis
Wilson's Phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor
Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger
Olrog's Gull, Larus atlanticus
Kelp Gull, Larus dominicanus
Grey-hooded Gull. Larus cirrocephalus
Franklin's Gull, Larus pipixcan
South American Tern, Sterna hirundea
Snowy-crowned Tern, Sterna trudeaui
Rock Dove, Columba livia
Picazuro pigeon, Columba picazuro
Eared Dove, Zenaida auriculata
Picui Ground Dove, Columbina picui
Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus
Striped Cuckoo, Tapera naevia
Guira Cuckoo, Guira guira
Green-barred Woodpecker, Colaptes melanochloros
Field Flicker, Colaptes campestris
Bar-winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscusRufous Hornero, Furnarius rufus
Wren-like Rushbird, Phleocryptes melanops
Tufted Tit-Spinetail, Leptasthenura platensis
Rufous-capped Spinetail, Sinallaxis ruficapilla
Chicli Spinetail, Sinallaxis spixi
Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Certhiaxis cinnamomea
Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, Cranioleuca sulphurifera
Freckle-breasted Thornbird, Phacellodomus striaticollis
Sooty Tyrannulet, Serpophaga nigricans
Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus
Austral Negrito, Lessonia rufa
Spectackled Tyrant, Himenops perspicillata
Yellow-browed Tyrant, Satrapa icterophrys
Cattle Tyrant, Machetornis rixosus
Great Kiskadee, Pitangus sulphuratus
Tropical Kingbird, Tyrannus melancholicus
Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus savana
White-rumped Swallow, Tacycineta leucorrhoa
Grey-breasted Martin, Progne chalibea
Southern Martin, Progne elegans
Bank Swallow, Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow, Hirunda rustica
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
Masked Gnatcatcher, Polioptila dumicola
Rufous-bellied Thrush, Turdus rufiventris
Creamy-bellied Thrush. Turdus amaurochalinus
Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Mimus saturninus
Short-billed Pipit, Anthus fuscatus
Hellmayr's Pipit, Anthus hellmayri
Yellowish Pipit, Anthus lutescens
Correndera Pipit, Anthus correndera
Masked Yellowthroat, Geothlypis aequinoctialis
Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Thraupis bonariensis
Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria coronata
Double-collared Seedeater, Sporophila caerulescens
Great Pampa Finch, Embernagra platensis
Saffron Finch, Sicalis flaveola
Grassland Yellowfinch, Sicalis luteola
Long-tailed Reed-Finch, Donacospiza albifrons
Grassland Sparrow, Myiospiza humeralis
Rufous-collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis
Shiny Cowbird, Molothrus bonariensis
Bay-winged Cowbird, Molothrus badius
Screaming Cowbird, Molothrus rufoaxillaris
Yellow-winged Blackbird, Agelaius thillus
Epaulet Oriole, Icterus cayennensis
Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, Pseudoliestes virescens
White-browed Blackbird, Sturnella superciliaris
Pampas Meadowlark, Sturnella defilippi
Hooded Siskin, Carduelis magellanica
European Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

A very productive birding area. Those venturing on their own may need several days to see the mentioned birds and not be so successful.