Thursday 9 February 2012

Birding Buenos Aires with Alec Earnshaw

So I got home just over a day ago and slowly getting back into a 'normal' routine.  This afternoon I get my wisdom teeth out, so might be out of action for a few days...not looking forward to that!

However, my final day in Argentina was an absolute cracker!  Alec Earnshaw, a birding guide based in Buenos Aires (visit his website here), picked me up from the hotel at 0430 (yes the time is correct, that is not a typo!), and we headed north out of the city to a place just up out of the Plana River valley called Ceibas.  This was to be our first stop, with it being dark most of the way, just getting light as we got to the area.  However, on the way lightening flashed in the sky, and with a not so good weather forecast we were a little anxious.

We made our first stop, and within minutes were racking up the species, almost all of which were new - three spinetails, a conastero, a couple of doves and pigeons, black-capped warbling-finch, etc etc.  Even in the half light we were managing some great views of the birds, and even better the rain was holding off.  Alec was extremely sharp with bird calls and was picking up and identifying birds I was struggling to even get a whisper of, knowing the calls and having good ears really is the key to successful birding in many parts of the World.

We headed down the road a little further and had very close views of several scissor-tailed nightjars (unfortunately no breeding plumage male, but these birds are beaut anyway), and then further down the road to some areas that used to contain wetlands.  With the drought over the last five years, many of these areas are now dry or hold only remnants of what used to be significant wetland areas.  However, there were still plenty of giant woodrails around, a strange bird with beautiful orange and green bill, and as the name suggests quite large.  As the rain started we managed a few other local specialties, including another spinetail, but unfortunately no firewood gatherer (hows that for the name of a bird?!).  We did find some Southern screamers, another lifer for me and a bird from a family I had long wanted to see.  These things are related to ducks, but look more like a large long-legged turkey vs goose.  Weird and wonderful at the same time, and quite the fliers too.

We decided to get to some better roads as the rain came down heavily, for fear of getting stuck, but we were still able to bird along the way and gradually pick up a few more things.  Steadily the rain eased, and after an hour or so had completely stopped.  We picked up wattled jacana, plumbeous rail, curve-billed reed-haunter, rufous-capped antshrike, scarlet-headed blackbird and a few other good birds, with another couple of stops for two more species of spinetail.  Cattle tyrant, dark-billed cuckoo, and blue and yellow tanager were seen along the way, and as the sun started to shine, the camera came out a little more often.

Before long it was time for lunch, and we had a quick lunch stop, where amongst others we found a glaucous blue grosbeak singing from a perch, very nice bird.  We then headed out into some drier country, and started to see some more different birds, although a couple of wetland/stream stops had South American snipe, black-backed water-tyrant, and finally a stonking male vermilion flycatcher (after having seen a few juvs and females).    The drier country gave up things like a juv savanna hawk, American kestrel, burrowing owl, and a saffron-cowled blackbird, plus a couple of grey monjita.  It was here we also managed the bird with definitely the weirdest name of the day - a firewood gatherer!  Nice little fella and a member of the family Furnariidae, to which so many of the birds seen today belong.

As the sun started to get lower in the sky, we decided we should head back towards the city...missing my flight back to New Zealand was not really on my wish list, so with the potential for a slow drive in heavy traffic after the end of holiday season, we started to head back.  On the way we made a few quick stops, and found what I feel was the bird of the day - yellow-billed cardinal.  A stunning bird with blood-red head and black and white plumage.  Perhaps it was the warm evening light, or the success of the day, so far, but several nice views of this bird made it stick in my mind as the best of the day.

We slowly headed back into the city, traffic was not actually too bad, so we made reasonable time, getting back to the hotel around 2100.  All in all a fantastic day with Alec, and I thoroughly recommend him as a guide.  It was great chatting throughout the day, and as he had just bought a new SLR we got to talk camera gear and practices.  In total we got 106 species for the day, which was pretty good considering the dearth of waterfowl/wetland species due to many of the wetland areas being dry.  Of these 106, 47 were lifers, and counting the 118 species seen during my three days in Buenos Aires I managed about 52 lifers in total.  Thanks for a great day Alec!

Rufous-capped antshrike

Southern screamers

Freckle-breasted thornbird

Double-collared seed-eater

A roadside hawk...beside the road

Chalk-browed mockingbird

Cattle tyrant...without the cattle

Patterning on an Uturu pit viper Bothrops alternatus
Ha, and you thought I was so brave to get the above photo! Dead Uturu pit viper  Bothrops alternatus, one of four snakes we saw during the day, three of which were unfortunately road kill.

Fork-tailed flycatcher, a species seen commonly throughout the day

Burrowing owl in flight

Pair of burrowing owls perched

Juvenile savanna hawk perched on a fence post

Pampas cavy (or guinea pig) Cavia pamparum

1 comment:

  1. interesting,very nice ,rare photographs and excitement ,pleasure
    communicates itself to me.brave deed.
    "Deeds are better than words "
    pair owl is wonderful. and thanks to Alec me too. Tokiko said.