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NORTHERN ARGENTINA

Thursday 14th October - Sunday 7th November 2010

Mark Pearman

There is nowhere else in South America that one can sample so many wildly different ecosystems, each with their own avifaunas, on a one-way drive. This tour of contrasts covered Andean cloudforest, inter-montane Monte desert including the cactus national park, arid chaco thorn woodland, puna grass-steppe, high Andes to 4650 m., humid chaco palm savanna and the Iberá marshes; one of South America’s largest marsh systems, and rounded up with a journey through subtropical Paraná rainforest to the famous Iguazú waterfalls. The species total was the highest ever for this tour with 566 species seen, although without any overwhelming daily tallies. Highlights included Black-fronted Piping-Guan on the rails of the Iguazú boardwalk at point-blank range for an hour, nesting Rufous-throated Dippers, two male Lyre-tailed Nightjars chasing one another, all eight available Argentine endemics among which Sandy Gallito was a strong favourite, good numbers of both Puna and Andean Flamingos, a superb selection of rare and poorly known Andean species including Huayco Tinamou, Red-faced Guan, Wedge-tailed Hillstar, Alder Amazon, Zimmer’s Tapaculo, White-throated Antpitta, Red-backed Sierra-Finch, Short-tailed Finch, Tucumán Mountain-Finch and Rufous-bellied Saltator. In the altiplano we found Horned Coot at very close range in spectacular light. We enjoyed unusually close perched views of White-rumped Hawk and Spectacled Owl at Calilegua national park, not to mention a daytime Striped Owl asleep in the chaco. Highlights in the Iberá marshes included the amazing Strange-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, threatened Black-and-white Monjita as well as Ochre-breasted Pipit (South America’s rarest pipit) and eight species of seedeater including the threatened Marsh Seedeater and recently split Pearly-bellied Seedeater. Lastly, in the Paraná rainforest, highlights included the endangered Vinaceous-breasted Amazon, all five available toucan species including stunning Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets, the enigmatic Canebrake Groundcreeper and elusive Speckle-breasted Antpitta. Stunning Blond-crested and Robust Woodpeckers stood out among seventeen species of woodpecker on the tour, and we also managed to find a flock of roosting Biscutate Swifts which was a new species for Argentina.