Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Argentina: Part 2

A complete change of scenery greeted us in Bariloche; beautiful blue lakes, vast mountain ranges and lots of greenery, making a nice change from the hauntingly beautiful but somewhat desolate Patagonian Steppe. We managed a few new birds in and around Bariloche, and my favourite and a bird that I was very keen to see before we came was a Burrowing Parrot. We found a small and very noisy flock on the edge of a dirt track and they were just as pretty as I´d imagined. We were able to watch these two below as they courted, which ended in success!

Burrowing Parrots wooing
Chimango Caracara nearby. In the running for most common bird of the trip
We slowly started winding our way North through mile upon mile of breathtaking scenery as we explored Nahuel Huapi National Park. The almost empty dirt roads proved an excellent source of birds, and as we drove we spotted some cracking birds including Ashy-headed Goose, Chilean Flicker, and California Quail (introduced I know, but splendid none-the-less).

I do love geese!

Chilean Flicker digging for worms!

Very HandsomeCalifornia Quail

We hit our 100th species just outside our hotel in Villa La Angostura, in the form of a pair of Franklin Gulls. Strange to think that a few weeks previous we were at Blashford Lakes hoping to catch a glimpse of the individual there. I love Blashford, but this location just about piped it.

Franklins Gull - the big 100!

The view from our hotel!

Thats all for now. I have many more stories but the internet cafe is about to shut for lunch and we have a trip to Cueva de los Manos awaiting us!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Argentina: Part 1

A week has flown by, and what an incredible week it has been. We have seen so much wildlife and fallen in love with this country already. My accounts here will have to be brief; a sort of best-of if you like. So we started in Buenos Aries, a hot, bustling but very pleasant city (coming from somebody who normally avoids cities like the plague), and explored Costanera Sur nature reserve on the Eastern edge of the city which turned out to be a real oasis. We struggled to find any water so missed out potential ducks and migrating waders, but there were plenty of other birds around. Many of them were tricky to photograph, but we logged around 40 species in 3 hours, not bad for an urban location full of unkown birds!! The highlights here and around the city itself were the raptors, most notably the Southern Crested Caracara. If anybody thinks that raptors have a negative effect on songbirds, they need to visit Argentina, as there is an abundance of both laying waste to that flimsy argument. I was also extatic to finally catch up with a Hummingbird, and what incredible creatures they are!

Southern Crested Caracara

Glittering-bellied Emerald (Phwaaar)

Green-barred Woodpecker

After BA, we took a long coach jounrey to Peninsula Valdes on the Atlantic coast and rented a car for a few days to explore. I can honestly say this is the greatest place (from a naturalists point of view) that I have ever been. As soon as we arrived we went on a sunset whale tour, and spent 2 hours in the company of Southern Right Whales and their calves. We were then lucky enough to catch up with a pod of Orca just after a kill and watched them for half an hour as they drifted slowly past. These two experiences would have been enough, but we also walked amongst a Magellanic Penguin colony, got to visit both Sea Lion and Elephant Seal Colonies and saw some top quality birds. It was great sadness that we had to say goodbye to this beautiful place, and I must admit that I am already trying to work out how I can get back as soon as possible. The land is barron with low scrub and lots of wind to go with it, but we still encountered some wonderful birds. The endearing Elegant-crested Tinamou were everywhere, as were the splendid Long-tailed Meadowlark and Darwin's Rhea. Also on the list were Lesser Shrike Tyrant, Mourning Sierra-finch, Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail, Olrogs Gull, Snowy Sheathbill, Blue-eyed Cormorant and Giant Southern Petrel.

Enjoying the sunset with a Southern Right Whale 

Orcas cruising past

Splendid male Sea Lion

Long-tailed Meadowlark in all its glory!

Darwin's Rhea; she had no less than 13 young with her

Just like the Farnes!! Rock Shags and chicks

We are now on the other side of Argentina in Bariloche, amongst lakes, mountains and lots of greenery again, and it is stunning! The next leg of our jounrey sees us drive south along the spine of the Andes. It promises to be long but incredibly rewarding, and I can't wait! And hopefully there will be lots more amazing wildlife along the way!