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PARAGUAY

Wednesday 13th October - Sunday 31st October 2010

Matt Denton

Sickle-winged Nightjar (Matt Denton)

Sickle-winged Nightjar (Matt Denton)

Only very recently discovered by birders, the 2010 Birdquest Paraguay was the first tour by any organized birding tour company to visit this off-the-beaten path destination. The trip was a very enjoyable success and our travels ran quite smoothly, with the one letdown being rain in the eastern half of the country, but thankfully the weather did not prevent us from seeing nearly all of our major avian targets. A total of 386 species of birds and 21 species of mammals were recorded during the tour. We saw all of the Chaco big six: Black-bodied Woodpecker, Black-legged Seriema, Chaco Owl, Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Crested Gallito and Spot-winged Falconet; a fantastic selection of nightbirds that included Long-tailed Potoo, Tawny-browed Owl, White-winged and Sickle-winged Nightjars, and Ocellated Poorwill; superb grassland flycatchers with fancy tails of all sorts such as Streamer-tailed, Strange-tailed, Cock-tailed, and Sharp-tailed Tyrants along with other Mesopotamian grassland species such as Giant Snipe, Ochre-breasted Pipit and Saffron-cowled Blackbird. From the Atlantic forest of the Río Paraná other avian highlights included the threatened Vinaceous Amazon, Plovercrest, Saffron Toucanet, Spot-backed and Tufted Antshrikes, and the all round enjoyable birding and warm hospitality of Hans and Christina at Estancia Nueva Gambach. Some of the mammal highlights included a huge lumbering Lowland Tapir in broad daylight, the strange-looking Chaco Mara, the communal Plains Viscacha, and the lively Southern Three-banded Armadillo. We also could not help but learn a great deal of general natural history as we encountered creatures of all sorts from butterflies and moths, beetles and massive grasshoppers (Tropidacris collaris) to some really interesting reptiles. Paraguay was one of the first South American countries where biological studies were carried out in the early 20th century, but only in the last decade has it re-emerged amongst biologists and conservationists. Our group of Birdquesters had chosen Paraguay not only to see its specialty birds and mammals but also to experience that bit of the unknown that Paraguay offers. We found Paraguay to be a fascinating place to travel. It has a wealth of habitats and wild places and a warm and friendly people whose history has been bizarre and tragic. As you read on you will see Paraguay was an ideal trip to experience a wide variety of South American habitats with an enviable selection of birds, all the while taking in the big picture of its nature, culture and history.