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SOUTHERN & CENTRAL ARGENTINA

Tuesday 21st November - Tuesday 12th December 2017

Mark Pearman

Hooded Grebe (Dave Jackson)

Hooded Grebe (Dave Jackson)

Seventy-six stunning Hooded Grebes at a new breeding colony on a remote Patagonian steppe lake was a mind-blowing experience. Now at fewer than 800 birds, from a global population of 5000 when first discovered in 1974, the species is currently classified as Critically Endangered. Many of the grebes were either sitting on eggs or nest-building, and we also had a pair display right infront of us, with typical synchronized neck-twisting, and unusual crest raising accompanied by a unique and almost magical windhorn chorus. Birdquest missed the species altogether in 2016, managed great looks in 2014, 2011 and notably of breeding birds in 2009 at what is now an unsuitable breeding lake. Put into perspective, we count ourselves very lucky at witnessing this lifetime experience.

The grebes came nicely off the cusp of a long journey which began with a string of goodies in Córdoba including both Cordoba and Olrog’s Cinclodes, as well as Spot-winged Falconet, Blue-tufted Starthroat, the wonderful endemic Salinas Monjita, stunning Olive-crowned Crescentchest, delightful Black-and-chestnut Warbling Finch and one of South Americas rarest woodpeckers, the elusive Black-bodied Woodpecker.

A brief incursion into southern Entre Rios province produced Stripe-backed Bittern, several White-naped Xenopsaris and fifteen Ringed Teal before we began our journey through Buenos Aires province. Top birds in the Pampas included both Red-and-white and Dot-winged Crakes, South American Painted Snipe, Olrog's Gull, the delightful Bearded Tachuri, Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail, Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, the declining Pampas Meadowlark as well as poorly known Hudson's Canastero and Pampas Pipit. Further south, the calden woodland provided us with five endemics breeders including Hudson's Black Tyrant, Straneck's Tyrannulet, White-banded Mockingbird, Carbonated Sierra Finch and Cinnamon Warbling Finch. Now officially in Patagonia, we soon added three more endemics in a morning including White-throated Cacholote, Sandy Gallito (displaying!), and Patagonian Canastero plus the stunning Black-crowned Monjita; yet another endemic breeder. Further south we enjoyed the endemic Rusty-backed Monjita, near endemic Band-tailed Earthcreeper, thousands of Magellanic Penguins and the flightless endemic Chubut Steamer Duck. Highlights in Santa Cruz province, other than the amazing Hooded Grebes included Spectacled Duck, Magellanic Plover, Magellanic Woodpecker and Rufous-legged Owl.

The extension was also a huge success with point blank walk-away views of White-bellied Seedsnipe, Ruddy-headed Goose, a variety of seabirds and seaducks, plus a superb adult King Penguin in a breeding colony of Gentoos.

In all we recorded some 346 species (2 heard only) of which 44 were only seen on the pre-tour Cordoba extension and 18 were only seen on the post-tour Tierra del Fuego extension. Among 16 species of mammal encountered, the very local Wolffsohn's Viscacha stood out.

White-bellied Seedsnipe (Mark Pearman)

White-bellied Seedsnipe (Mark Pearman)