19th – 22nd November 2014: Argentina part 2 – the Cordoba region   Leave a comment

This, the second installment from my Argentina trip, covers days one to four of the tour which was spent in the Cordoba area to the north and west of Buenos Aires. Terry and I flew from the capital to Cordoba early in the morning where we met up with leader Mark Pearman and the other three members of the group. We drove to the village of Izo Cruz where  we checked into our hotel and then went birding locally.

IMG_2150 Rufous Hornero

One of the most familiar birds in this part of Argentina is the Rufous Hornero. This bird was photographed feeding on the cover of a swimming pool at the hotel.

IMG_2015 Scimitar-billed WC

Woodcreepers are a familiar site in the Neotropics but are almost always are seen climbing trees, woodpecker fashion, in mature forest but these two Scimitar-billed Woodcreepers were messing around on a concrete post in the middle of the village

IMG_2028 Campo Flicker

Open woodland and scrub a short drive from our hotel held a variety of common species such as this Campo Flicker ….

IMG_2064 Fork-tailed Fly

…. and the beautiful Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

IMG_2060 Short-billed Eleania

Tyrant flycatchers are one of the commonest groups of birds in the Neotropics, indeed with 431 species they are the largest bird family in the world. Some like the Fork-tailed Flycatcher are showy and easy to identify, others are more elusive and some like the 27 species of eleanias are frustratingly similar. Fortunately this Short-billed Eleania can be identified by having a third wing-bar, but as that’s not visible in this photo it doesn’t help much.

IMG_2088 Sierras

The following day we climbed high into the Sierra de los Comechingones, a mountainous ridge that lie to the east of, and is much older than, the Andes.

IMG_1109 storm

However we soon ran into some very bad weather with heavy rain and high winds.

IMG_2099 Cordoba Cinclodes

In spite of the atrocious conditions at the top (about 2100m asl) we still managed to find both of our targets; this Cordoba Cinclodes ….

IMG_2102 Olrog's Cinclodes

…. and its cousin, Olrog’s Cinclodes. With high wind, rain and dreadful visibility it was amazing we got to see these range restricted birds at all, let alone photograph them.

IMG_1100 sierras view

Although conditions improved as we descended I was worried whether I had brought enough warm weather gear, this was the northernmost part of the trip and it was bitterly cold at the top – what was it going to like in Patagonia, far to the south?

IMG_1120 muddy track

The next day we drove north to Salinas Grande but yesterday’s rain had softened up the dirt roads somewhat ….

IMG_1118 bus stuck in mud

…. that said our driver put on an exceptional show of incompetence and got the bus well and truly stuck. It look the help of some locals and the driving skills of one of our group (who is used to tricky road conditions in his native Canada) to get us going again.

IMG_1124 thorn in tyre

We managed to pick up this huge thorn in the tyre somewhere on route but rather than get it fixed the driver left it in situ over the next couple of days whilst the tyre slowly deflated.

IMG_2131 Salinas

Whilst the driver was faffing with the bus we walked on for a couple of kilometers to try and get to the salt lake before it got too hot. Surrounded by the ruins of a former salt extraction industry, the lake shimmered in the increasingly hot sun.

IMG_2126 Salinas Monjita

We soon found our target, Salinas Monjita, a terrestrial tyrant flycatcher that behaves like a wheatear. This species is restricted to the xerophytic scrub surrounding a few saline lakes in the Cordoba region.

IMG_2134 Spot-winged Falconet

Returning to our stricken bus were got great views of a rare Spot-winged Falconet.

IMG_2167 Capillo del Monte

That afternoon and the following morning we birded woodland near the mountain village of Capilla del Monte. Our main target was the elusive Black-bodied Woodpecker, but it remained just that – elusive.

IMG_2188 Capillo del Monte

The scrub and woodland held a number of good birds such as ….

IMG_2179 Black & Rufous Warbling Finch

…. Black and Rufous Warbling-Finch, ….

IMG_2086 Green-barred Woodpeckers

…. this curious group of Green-barred Woodpeckers ….

IMG_2239 Rufous-thighed Sparrowhawk

…. and this Rufous-thighed Sparrowhawk (the woodpeckers are not looking at the sparrowhawk, the photos were taken on different days)

IMG_2227 Andean Tinamou

Recent research has shown that Tinamous are some of the most ancient of birds which is why they now appear at the start of world bird checklists. They are typically elusive, keep to cover and often are heard only. We were told by a local that he had woodpeckers around his property so hoping it might be a Black-bodied we went to investigate. We had no luck with the pecker but found that he had habituated an Andean Tinamou by feeding it and we obtained great views. In the afternoon we drove back to Coroba and caught a flight to Buenos Aires.

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