Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Birding Argentina

I've just returned from a couple of weeks birding in Argentina - I was part of a press trip led by Tim Appleton, the founder of Birdfair and manager of the Rutland Water reserve. My other fellow travellers (and you'll hear more about them all later) were Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest in the USA, Dominic Couzens, one of the UK's best nature writers, and Niklas Aronsson, editor of Var Fagelvarld, the magazine of BirdLife Sweden.

After a day in Buenos Aires, we headed north into the Ibera wetlands, a region that's relatively unknown to European birders, but which has the look and many of the same birds as Brazil's famed Panatanal. From there we flew south, into the Andean foothills of Patagonia, and spent several days in the 'Lake District' around Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes.

I've already posted a fair few pictures on Facebook and Twitter, so apologies if there are some repeats here over the next few weeks. And before I get started, I'd just like to thank Pablo Cagnoni, everyone else at Inprotur Argentina, and our many excellent guides and hosts. You'll be hearing a lot more about them too.

Over the two weeks, we saw some truly astounding birds and wildlife spectacles, but I thought I'd start with a couple of what birders rather disparagingly (and disappointingly) call 'trash birds' - that is, very common and widespread species. Whenever I've bird-watched abroad, I've found it fascinating to discover just which species are the equivalent of the Blackbird or Great Tit that we see on a daily basis over here.

Above is a Great Kiskadee (Benteveo Comun, in Spanish), a large tyrant flycatcher that we saw everywhere in Ibera, as well as at the excellent Costanera Sur reserve in Buenos Aires. Its name is an imitation of its call, and it flycatches enthusiastically, hovering and swooping like a mini-raptor (it does occasionally catch small mammals and even fish).

Chimango Caracaras, above, were pretty much everywhere we went, and seemed to fill the niche taken up by Carrion Crows, Magpies and Jackdaws over here (the only corvids we saw were a couple of jays). That's to say, they feed opportunistically, and with a great willingness to adapt to whatever circumstances throw into their path. Despite their rather vulture-like behaviour, caracaras are related to falcons, and are found throughout South and Central America. I love corvids, and I love raptors, so a raptor that behaves like a corvid is always going to be a winner in my book.


Caroline Gill said...

What a tour! And thank you for explaining about 'trash birds' (not a nice term!). I am nominatiing you for a Lighthouse Blog award here. I think it's up to you entirely whether you choose to receive it!

Sheila Hamilton said...

I've really been enjoying your photos on Facebook, Matt. What an adventure! And yes, it's good that we look at the regulars as well as the rare once-in-a-lifetime birds. "Trash birds", horrible expression!

Matt Merritt said...

Thanks very much, Caroline and Sheila. I'm the same at home, really - Starlings get me a lot more excited than many rarities.