Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Tag

Argentina part 6: the Strobel Plateau and Rio Gallegos – December 2014   Leave a comment

This is the sixth and final account of my recent trip to Argentina. It covers the journey north from El Califarte to the Strubel Plateau and the La Angostera Estancia and then south to Rio Gallegos.

From here Mark (the leader) and two of the participants travelled on to Tierra del Fuego for the optional extension, but as we had already been to Tierra del Fuego on previous tours, myself and two others flew back to Buenos Aires and then home.

Most of this account covers birds seen on the plateau and the estancia, but a few birds seen near Rio Gallagos are shown at the start.

IMG_3903 Rhea and chicks

Along the road to Rio Gallegos we came across this Lesser Rhea and chicks trying to get through the wire fence.

IMG_1264 guanaco stuck on fence

Earlier on, crossing the plateau, we had seen a number of dead Guanacos on the stock fences that flanked the road, animals that had got their limbs caught between the wires and had remained trapped until they died. This individual was still alive and Mark and our driver were able to release it, albeit with a large gash to one leg.

IMG_3915 poss Austral Canestero

In the Rio Gallegos area we connected with the range restricted Austral Canestero ….

IMG_3912 pos Austral Canastero

…. which showed off its wing pattern nicely.

IMG_3910 Flying Steamer Duck

There are four steamer ducks, the flightless Chubut further north, two further flightless species on Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands/Malvinas and this one the Flying Steamer Duck, even in this species older birds loose the ability to fly. Flightlessness may have led to cryptic speciation in this group and it has been suggested that there are several more species to be described.

IMG_3939 Rufous-chested Dotterel

Other birds in the Rio Gallegos area included this Rufous-chested Dotterel.

IMG_3665 plateau

A couple of days earlier we had left Califarte and headed northwards to the Strobel Plateau. This is a wild, windswept and treeless landscape crossed only by a few dirt roads.

IMG_1216 Trelew - Califarte flight crater lake

We were heading for a number of crater lakes, the breeding ground for the rapidly declining and critically endangered Hooded Grebe. Fifteen lakes are accessible from the tracks and we checked them all. This crater lake was photographed as we flew over the area when we descended into Califarte

IMG_1268 flamingos on plateau lake

Of the fifteen lakes, twelve were dry and two others covered in a green algal slime. This was the only one that held any birds and there were no Hooded Grebes. This bird was the reason I had come on this trip and now it seemed that there was every chance that I would be going home empty handed.

IMG_3670 Patagonian Tinamou

Well not quite empty handed because there were other good birds up on the plateau; this Patagonian Tinamou ….

IMG_3636 Least Seedsnipe

…. Least Seedsnipe ….

IMG_3650 Tawny-throated Dotterel

…. Tawny-throated Dotterel ….

IMG_3681 CV Tyrant

…. and Chocolate-vented Tyrant.

IMG_3701 Estancia

We were staying at this traditional estancia at the foot of the plateau. An adjacent marsh held lots of good birds including the seldom seen Austral Rail (which we only heard), but our main interest was a lake some 5km away where Hooded Grebes had been seen in the past.

IMG_3812 dawn

We visited the lake in the late afternoon and again at dusk (in case any birds had come into roost) but again drew a blank. It looked like the trip would have to be summarised as ‘it was a great trip but I missed the bird I had travelled all this way to see’.

IMG_3707 Magellanic Horned Owl

But there was plenty to see around the estancia, including this Magellanic (or Lesser) Horned Owl ….

IMG_3787 Upland Geese

…. flocks of Upland Geese ….

IMG_3739 Upland Goose

…. which wandered around with their goslings just outside where we were staying ….

IMG_3741 Upland Goose

…. Upland Goose is a sexually dimorphic species, this is the highly distinctive male.

IMG_3719 Chiloe Wigeon

Chiloe Wigeon were common ….

IMG_3803 Crested Ducks

…. and there were small numbers of Crested Duck.

IMG_3797 Corendera Pipit

Corendera Pipits perched on the posts but inspite of a lot of tramping about up to our knees in the marsh Austral Rail remained a ‘heard only’.

IMG_3773 Cinereous Harrier

A feature of this marsh was the wonderful views we had a nesting Cinereous Harriers. I don’t think I have ever had such close and prolonged views of an harrier species before, including our breeding Western Marsh Harriers at home.

IMG_3730 Cinereous Harrier

The male (photo above) and female (shown here) were seen just yards from the estancia and appeared to be defending their territory against another pair. We had repeated good views throughout the afternoon and early the next morning ….

IMG_3725 Cinereous Harrier

…. and I was even able to photograph a food pass.

IMG_3827 Black-faced Ibis

Black-faced Ibis were common and relatively tame.

IMG_3893 Hooded Grebes

Although it was in the wrong direction we opted to make a third visit to the lake. Our spirits were raised when we realised that there were far more birds there than at dusk last night. Several of us got onto two distant birds simultaneously but it was Mark who got he scope on them and announced ‘Hooded Grebes’. A wave of relief and delight passed through the group!

IMG_3885 Hooded Grebes

The distant birds slowly swam towards us and even did a bit of display. This species, which was only described in 1976, is declining rapidly due to the drying out its breeding lakes, being killed introduced mink, its food supply being taken by introduced trout and predatory Kelp Gulls colonising the area due to poor waste management of the increasing human population. It was incredibly exciting to see this extreamly rare bird which looks likely to go extinct within 50 years of its discovery.

It had been a wonderful trip, full of interesting birds and mammals and great scenery. As I had been to many of the sites we visited I wasn’t expecting very many life birds. In the end I added 23 to my list, we had a few misses but that was to be expected. I very much enjoyed traveling in southern Argentina and would certainly recommend it to other birders.

2014 – what a great year!   Leave a comment

2014 has been a great year, full of foreign travel, great birding/ringing and social events. Fortunately there have been no serious issues, so the year has passed without major problems.

This post just summarises some of the highlights; more photos and discussion of each subject can be found on the blog.

During the year the companionship of my family (see the Christmas photo below) and my many friends (be they from school or university days, or birders and ringers here at home or people I have met on foreign trips) has greatly added to the quality of life. There have been a number of social events and musical concerts, many of which I have illustrated on this site.


IMG_4075 unwrapping presents

When at home much of my time has been taken up with bird ringing, either around Poole or at Durlston Country Park. We have ringed well over 5000 birds in this area and have amassed a lot of useful data. We have been notified of lots of interesting recoveries some of which I intend to post here in due course. The photo shows a male Bearded Tit photographed at Lytchett Bay.

IMG_1303 beardie

British birding and twitching has taken a bit of a back seat this year. I recorded 223 species in the UK, quite a bit less than usual and most of my birding has been following up other peoples sightings. I have only added one species to my British list – this Baikal Teal seen in Cambridgeshire in March, one to my Dorset list – a Hooded Crow on Portland and one to my Poole Harbour list – a Great White Egret.

IMG_1272 Baikal Teal

Foreign travel has dominated the year. I did eight tours through the year, although this was just seven trips from home as two were taken back to back, and birded in eleven different countries. I recorded 1515 species in total and had 199 life birds. This brings my life list to 7870 following the IOC checklist or 74.5% of the world’s birds. According to the ‘list of lists’ on the Surfbirds website this gives me the 27th highest life in the world, but I know that there are quite a number of birders who do not submit their lists and think I’m more like 50th in the world. Even so, I consider that to be a great achievement and well worth the cost and physical effort involved, and although it hasn’t required much skill on my part, as I have mainly seen these birds on guided tours, I am very pleased to have progressed so far.

For each tour taken in 2014 I have included two photos below, one of the scenery and one of a notable  species.

The first trip was in February to Oman to search for the newly described Omani Owl, wonderful scenery, although long hours were spent in the dark before we eventually got good views. No photos were obtained of the owl so I have included a shot of two critically endangered Sociable Lapwings that were also seen on the tour.





In March I did two trips to Mexico back to back. The first was to the delightful El Triunfo cloud forest reserve in Chiapas. The first photo shows dawn at the clearing where we stayed, the second the incredible Horned Guan, which was the 10,000th bird species Birdquest had seen on their tours.

IMG_0176 El triunfo



The second Mexico tour was to the Yucatan where we enjoyed the Mardi Gras festival and climbed to the top of some Mayan ruins as well as some stunning birds like the Ocellated Turkey.

IMG_1084 Anne and Martin at Calakmul

IMG_1033 Ocellated Turkey


The most varied trip and in some ways the most enjoyable was the drive from North Carolina to the Canadian border that Margaret and I did in May/June. We enjoyed birding in southern woodland and the Appalachians, did pelagic trips off Cape Hatteras, went sightseeing in Washington and New York, birded in the boreal forests of New Hampshire and the coast of Maine as well as visiting a number of friends. I have yet to edit all these photos so I there should be more posts from this most photogenic trip still to come. Below – the Statue of Liberty and a Black Bear seen in North Carolina.

IMG_0094 Statue of Liberty

IMG_0210 Black Bear


In May/June I had another great trip, this time to Borneo. One of the highlights was seeing the last bird family for my list, Bornean Bristlehead, but the four new species of Pitta came a close second. There was a really good selection of mammals too. The photos show dawn at Danum Valley and Blue-banded Pitta.

P1120162 Danum

P1120091 Blue-banded Pitta2


In late August my friend Roger and I had a week in the Azores concentrating on pelagic trips off the island of Graciosa. The highlight for me was seeing two new species of storm-petrel, Monteiro’s and Swinhoe’s The former is shown below along with storm clouds off the coast of Graciosa.


IMG_5609 Monteiro's SP


The longest and hardest tip of the year was to northern Madagascar and the Comoros in September/October.  Good birds and mammals abounded but roads were poor in places, transport unreliable, journeys were long and accommodation was variable. The photos below shows sunset over Lake Kincloy, the site of the rare Sakhalava Rail, but the bird of the trip was the wonderful Helmeted Vanga seen earlier on the trip on the Masoala Peninsula.

IMG_0759 Kincloy Sunset

IMG_0329 Helmet Vanga


The final trip in November/December was to southern Argentina. This highly scenic trip was most enjoyable and produced some great birds. The photos show the Moreno Glacier in Glacier National Park and the critically endangered Hooded Grebe. I have still to upload the final installment of this trip but will be on this blog within a few days.

IMG_3559 Glacier NP

IMG_3885 Hooded Grebes


All of these trips are illustrated in more detail on the blog. Feel free to scroll back through the year. Happy New Year – here’s to a successful and enjoyable 2015.

Posted January 3, 2015 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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Argentina part 5: El Califarte and the Glacier National Park – December 2014   Leave a comment

This is the fifth installment of my Argentina saga and covers the area around El Califarte and the Glacier National Park.

IMG_1209 Trelew - Califarte flight

From Trelew we caught a flight to El Califarte in the far south-west of Patagonia. It was a bumpy ride as we descended through the cloud ….

IMG_1219 Trelew - Califarte flight

…. but the views as we came into land were spectacular.

IMG_3354 Califarte

Near to El Califarte is Largo Argentino. There was a bitterly cold gale blowing as we battled our way along the shore looking for the rare and enigmatic Magellanic Plover.


It took about an hour battling into the wind before we found a pair of Magellanic Plovers, a species so unlike all other waders that it is put into its own family. I had a camera failure that day so had to take this picture from the Internet Bird Collection. Photo by R Lewis (no relation).

IMG_3373 Glacier NP

Later we drove up the hill where we had a commanding view of the lake, it was more sheltered here and we were able to get good views of Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, and a small rodent called a Tuco Tuco

IMG_3374 Glacier NP

The following day conditions had improved as we headed for the incredibly scenic Glacier National Park.

IMG_3355 BC Buzzard Eagle

On route we had good views this juvenile Black-chested Buzzard Eagle

IMG_3375 BF Ibis

…. and these Black-faced Ibis.

IMG_3368 Black-chinned Siskin

We saw our first Black-chinned Siskin on the edges of the forest.

IMG_3404 southern beech forest

As we approached the Andes the endless Patagonian steppe gave way to Southern Beech forest. These Nothofagus forests are very interesting as species in the same genus also occur in Australia and New Zealand and fossils have been found in Antarctica, showing that they were widespread when all those land masses were joined together as Gondwanaland.

IMG_3383 Chilean Eleania

Chilean Eleanias, with their erectile white crests, were quite common ….

IMG_3598 WT Treerunner

…. but we only saw a pair of White-throated Treerunners, a funarid restricted to the southern beech forests.

IMG_3495 Magellanic Woodpecker

However the highlight of these cool temperate forests was the pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers, one of the largest woodpeckers in the world. This male showed rather briefly but ….

IMG_3507 Magellanic Woodpecker

…. but the equally enormous female hung upside down on this bough for some time, allowing great views.

IMG_3461 marsh

The area around a small and largely overgrown marsh was quite productive with Magellanic Tapaculo (a life bird for me)

IMG_3471Plumbeous Rail

…. Plumbeous Rail ….

IMG_3585 Spectacled Duck

…. and the rare Spectacled (or Bronze-winged) Duck.

IMG_3475 Glacier NP

Good as the birding was it was the scenery that stole the day.

IMG_3456 Glacier NP

From a viewpoint some miles away you get a fantastic view of the Moreno Glacier as it spills down off the Patagonian Ice Sheet. Note the rainbow over the ice.

IMG_3454 Glacier NP

There were plenty of other tourists enjoying the view …..

IMG_3528 RCS

…. as was the inevitable Rufous-collared Sparrow.

IMG_3535 condor

Several Andean Condors were seen in the area, it is not very often that you get to see the upperparts of this high soaring bird.

IMG_3548 Glacier NP

Close up the Moreno Glacier is absolutely spectacular

IMG_3558 Glacier NP

The lake is V shaped with the glacier reaching into the lake at the apex of the V. Over a four-year cycle the glacier expands until it touches the land, cutting the lake in two. As rivers flow into the part of the lake visible in this photo the level of this part of this lake rises by up to 20m until the water pressure undermines the glacier and a tunnel is formed. This expands until a ice arch is all that remains, in time this collapses and the cycle starts all over again.

IMG_3559 Glacier NP

It was a warm day with temperatures in the mid-twenties, but a freezing cold katabatic wind blew off the glacier, so air  temperatures could soar just by stepping into a sheltered spot.

IMG_3572 Glacier NP

Where the ice is greatly compressed by the weight of the glacier beautiful blue colours are formed.

IMG_3574 Glacier NP

Chunks of ice were always falling off the glacier but as sound travels a lot slower than light, the ice had always fallen into the water by the time we heard the loud crack. We had just left the viewpoint when we heard a massive roar, a huge chunk of ice had fallen off as can be seen by the area of clear water in the photo above, but all we saw was a huge splash.

IMG_3541 Condor 3

One of the most memorable sights in the whole trip, indeed on any trip, was when this Condor flew in front of the glacier face.

Argentina part 4 – The Valdez Peninsula and Punto Tombo   Leave a comment

This the fourth update from Argentina and covers our time on the Valdez peninsula and at Punto Tombo a short distance to the south.

IMG_2845 Whale watching - Copy

We arrived at Puerto Piramides on the Valdez peninsula mid afternoon on the 28th and straight away boarded a whale watching boat similar to this.

IMG_2814 Southern Right Whale - Copy

There are two large sheltered bays on the Valdez, both are calving and mating grounds for large numbers of Southern Right Whales (so called because being slow and floating when dead they were considered the right whales to hunt).  The whale watching boats only operate in the southern bay, the whales often approach the boats quite closely allowing great views.

IMG_2819 Southern Right Whale - Copy

We had at least four whales close to the boat including two calves and at about 25 were seen throughout the bay.

IMG_2821 Southern Right Whale - Copy

The head and upper jaw of the Southern Right Whales are covered with areas of thickened tissue known as callosities which are even present on the young calves.

IMG_2850 Mark & Jim on boat - Copy

We were on a boat with about 30 other tourists (thousands of tourists visit the Valdez each year to see the whales) our leader Mark and participant Jim climb to the lookout platform ….

IMG_2854 Mark Pearman

…. but the captain neglects to tell them that he was returning at speed so they have to hang on for their lives.

IMG_3059 Valdez

The following day we drive around the rugged coast of the Valdez.

IMG_3028 Valdez

Unfortunately the wind was very strong, at least F7 probably gusting to F8 and it was impossible to stand in the most exposed places let alone use binoculars or a scope.

IMG_2912 Elephant Seals

We were able to see this haul out of young Southern Elephant Seals on the south east corner of the island but it was so windy that we beat a hasty retreat.

IMG_3048 Puerto Tombo

We continued north but ……

IMG_3042 Valdez

…. conditions weren’t much better.

IMG_3051 Valdez

Again only a brief visit was made to this lookout ….

IMG_2960 Valdez

…. however we had more success at this sheltered bay. Good numbers of Elephant Seals and a few birds were seen here, however last year the tour watched a party of Orcas (Killer Whales) and one took a seal pub by beaching itself as seen on Attenborough documentaries- no such luck this year.

IMG_2954 Giant Petrel

There were a number of Southern Giant Petrels in the area, major scavengers, they can often be seen around seal colonies.

IMG_2948 Patagonian Yellow Finch

In spite of the vicious wind, this Patagonian Yellow Finch perched nicely in front of us

IMG_2908 Darwin's Rheas

A little inland we saw lots of Lesser (or Darwin’s) Rheas …..

IMG_3069 Mara

….and these Pacas, large hare-sized guinea pigs with white mini-skirts. Unfortunately I was unable to open the window of the bus by my seat and getting in and out was a nightmare due to the wind blowing the door out of your hands, so this photo and that of the rheas had to be taken through the glass.

IMG_3157 Punta Rasa

The following day we left the Valdez and drove south to Punto Tombo, a reserve near Trelew.

IMG_3142 Magellanic Penguins

Access through the colony is by means of a boardwalk, this allows the penguins to waddle underneath in places, so it is possible to get very good views without getting in their way …. well that’s the theory.

IMG_3167 Magellanic Penguins

Although there are a million penguins in this colony they are spread out over a huge area and not packed together like some of the Antarctic species.

IMG_3164 Magellanic Penguins

As Magellanic Penguins are hole nesters they have to nest at well spaced intervals.

IMG_3152 Magellanic Penguin

Yet another Magellanic Penguin.

IMG_3232 underwater penguins

You can even watch them swimming underwater.

IMG_3242 Chubut Steamer Duck

One of the prime targets in this area was the Chubut Steamer Duck, a flightless species known only from this small part of the Argentine coast.

IMG_3258 Chubut Steamer Duck

Note the yellow spur on the carpal joint of the (rather stubby) wing of this female.

IMG_3212 Brown Skua

A few Brown Skuas, close relative of our Bonxie, patrolled the penguin colony on the look out for unguarded eggs or chicks.

IMG_3187 Chimango Caracara

…. as did the ubiquitous Chimango Caracara.

IMG_3138 Sharp-billed Canastero

Other birds included Sharp-billed Canastero ….

IMG_3112 Patagonian Mockingbird

…. Patagonian Mockingbird ….

IMG_3195 Dolphin Gull

…. and the only Dolphin Gulls of the trip.

IMG_3102 Guanaco

Both the Valdez and the Porto Tombo area are strongholds of the Guanaco, the wild ancestor of the Llama.

IMG_1194 Guanaco

…. although usually wary, here they fed close to the paths ….

IMG_3266 Guanaco

…. and allowed close approach …..

IMG_3159 cavy

…. as did this tiny Southern Mountain Cavy (which was nowhere near the mountains) ….

IMG_3132 Hairy Armadillo

…. and this remarkable Larger Hairy Armadillo.

IMG_3297 flamingos

The day ended with a visit to a rather unsavoury water treatment (= sewage) works, where we had good views of thesse Chilean Flamingos along with a variety of other waterfowl.

IMG_3305 BN Swan

We stayed overnight in Trelew, the capital of this formerly Welsh speaking part of Argentina. Before going to the airport of our flight to the south we visted a lake in the city where we had good views of Black-necked Swans ….

IMG_3319 Silvery Grebes and Lake Duck

…. and this pair of Silvery Grebes and a Lake Duck.

IMG_3328 WT Grebe + chick

In typical grebe fashion, this White-tufted Grebe carries its chick on its back.

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 ….


…. 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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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.