Argentina part 3: 24th – 28th November 2014 – the Pampas   Leave a comment

The third instalment of my Argentine adventure saw us drive eastwards to San Clemente for two night stay, then make the long drive south to Bahai Blanca and onto Las Gruces the following day. From Las Gruces we continued on to the Valdez Peninsula, which will be the subject of the next post.

IMG_2426 Pampas

The pampas covers much of southern Argentina, a huge expanse of grassland interspersed with shallow lakes and marshes. From Buenos Aires we drove eastwards towards San Clemente stopping many times on route. Although dark clouds threatened it remained largely dry.

IMG_2568 Pampas lakes - Copy

Shallow lakes provided a haven for many wildfowl.

IMG_2363 Rosy Pochard, WC Pintail, Silver Teal, Speckled Duck, WF Ibis

In this shot alone you can see three Rosybill, three Silver Teal, a White-cheeked Pintail and a White-faced Ibis.

IMG_2531 Red Shoveler

Red Shoveler ….

IMG_2526 White-Tufted Grebe

…. White-tufted Grebe ….

IMG_2410 WB Stilts

..and Black-necked Stilts (closely related to and possibly conspecific with the Old World Black-winged Stilt) were all seen regularly.

IMG_2369 Limpkin

Damp grasslands held many birds such as this Limpkin, a distant relative of the cranes and the sole member of its family.

IMG_2408 Coscoroba Swans

Coscoroba Swans were common both on the lakes and feeding nearby on the wet grasslands.

IMG_2416 Southehrn Screamer

The huge Southern Screamer, one of three species in their family, are a primitive form of wildfowl. We splashed around in one flooded marsh in the hope of flushing a South American Painted-snipe. In most years this takes several hours to find one or two, this year we flushed 35 within yards of the bus! We didn’t advance any further as the water was coming over our wellies.

IMG_2341 Gtr Rhea

Drier areas held parties of Greater Rheas, the South American equivalent of the Ostrich.

IMG_2395 Crested Caracaras

Southern Crested Caracaras (Caracaras are related to falcons) were abundant ….

IMG_2450 raptor to ID

…. as were Snail Kites, this is a juvenile bird.

IMG_2579 Maguari Stork

This Maguari Stork was feeding on the mud of a nearby river.

IMG_2327 Brown & Yellow Marshbird

Passerines in the area including this Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, a member of the Icteridae or New World Blackbirds ….

IMG_2547

…. Warbling Doradito, a tyrant-flycatcher ….

IMG_2555 Wren like Rushbird

…. acrobatic Wren-like Rushbirds (a funarid) ….

IMG_2381 Bearded Tachuri

…. but the real prize was this tiny tyrant-flycatcher which goes under the wonderful name of Bearded Tachuri.

IMG_2480 Punta Rasa

We also visited the coast at Punta Rasa, seeing the tiny Dot-winged Crake in the saltmarsh.

IMG_2505 Turnstone, Am GP, Hudwits

There were many shorebirds/waders on the beach, mainly migrants from North America. Here a flock of six Hudsonian Godwits join single Turnstone and American Golden Plover.

IMG_2510 Hudwits

Hudsonian Godwits winter further south than most Nearctic waders with much of the population going as far as Tierra del Fuego. In a British context they can be separated from our Black-tailed Godwit by their dark underwing. I was lucky enough to see a Hudsonian Godwit in Devon in 1981 I think there have only been three British records, all close together in the early 80s, which probably related to the same bird.

IMG_2493 dragonflies

Incredible numbers of dragonflies were flying along the beach at Punta Rasa, probably numberings in tens of thousands. Whether these were migrants or had recently emerged I don’t know. I was surprised that there weren’t a lot of falcons taking advantage of this bonanza, but eight Swainson’s Hawks overhead, wintering birds from North America, were probably feeding on the dragonflies.

IMG_2434 Pampas

As we drove south the marshes gave way to open grassland and scrub. We had several periods of bad weather but most of the time it was hot and sunny.

IMG_1173 Mar del Platta

After a while we arrived at the city of Mar del Plata. I wondered why we went right into the city centre and then headed for the docks rather than take the by-pass ….

IMG_2599 Sea Lions

…. but all was revealed when we stopped at a beach near the docks where a number of South American Sea Lions were hauled out. We were also looking for Snowy Sheathbills but the only ones we saw were on the far side of the harbour and just appeared as white dots in the scope.

IMG_2607 Sealions

Although this was not a sea lion breeding beach the males were sizing themselves up and fights broke out from time to time.

IMG_2620 Olrog's Gull

Olrog’s Gull is a specialist crab-eating species restricted to the north-east coast of Argentina. We saw a few 1st year birds near Punta Rasa but had to drive much further south see see any adults.

IMG_2646 Pampas Meadowlark

One of the key species in this area is the very rare Pampas Meadowlark. Separated from the much commoner Long-tailed Meadowlark by underwing pattern, shape of the bill, underwing colour, shade and shape of the red on the breast and song, it has declined drastically in recent years.

IMG_2654 Burrowing Parrots

The further south we went the commoner Burrowing Parrots became.

IMG_2718 Variable Hawks

This pair of Variable Hawks were photographed on a roadside pylon. The smaller male is on the right. Once considered two species, Red-backed Hawk (mainly lowlands) and Puna Hawk (highlands), it is now realised that there is a massive amount of variation and that the two former ‘species’ might be merely colour morphs.

IMG_2726 WT Cachalote

On the 28th we had an excellent few hours in the scrub to the south of the town of Las Grutes, seeing two difficult to find funarids – White-throated Cachalote ….

IMG_2746 Scale-throated Earthcreeper

and Scale-throated Earthcreeper.

IMG_2734 Sandy Gallito

Another highlight was this Sandy Gallito (a name more reminiscent of a news reader than a bird) here seen performing it strange wing rotating display with its eyes closed. Although this bird looks like yet another funarid it is in fact a large member of the tapaculo family.

 

IMG_2752 WW Black Tyrant

The previous day we had found Hudson’s Black Tyrant, a bird restricted to central Argentina, photos were obtained but they were distant. Today we obtained far better views of the very similar White-winged Black Tyrant, which has a bit more white in the opened wing than the Hudson’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted December 24, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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