|Argentina East Birding Trip Report (Part One of Three)|
This report is a work in progress, as I find time... XZX indicates more information is needed
Please note I always travel by bus; this way I save time (valuable sleeping or reading time) and money, and hopefully hurt the environment less in the process. I also feel safer, compared to driving a car in a country I am not familiar with, and where the safety standards are probably less than my country. Having said that, during the time I was in Argentina, there were no plane accidents, but one serious bus crash that killed 18.
One environmental note about much of Argentina: recycling is done by the street people, and from what I saw, they do it very well. So when you throw out your trash, be sure to clean the containers and keep similar materials together.
There seem to be a number of books about birds of South America, but for Argentina specifically, "Birds of Argentina and Uruguay" by Narosky is the standard. The illustrations are not quite as good as Sibley for example, but there is a wealth of information here, all of which I found to be extremely accurate.
I arrived in Buenos Aires around February 20, 2008. My plan was to visit the most famous places, especially Patagonia, and to save time by sleeping on the buses. I contacted Alec Earnshaw of http://www.fotosaves.com.ar (Fotos Aves is Photos Birds in Spanish) after seeing his excellent site. I believe he would be a great guide for the Buenos Aires area. In fact, his page about birding locations in and around Buenos Aires seems to cover much of what I had planned to write here. Absolutely you have to see Constanera Sur Wildlife Reserve, which is close to the city and full of birds. The visitor center will give you, upon request, a very impressive check list of species. The only problem I had on my visit was all of the water was dried up (normally there are two small lakes). XZX include list of birds seen in Buenos Aires.
My only other excursion in Buenos Aires was to the Tigre area, but the area information center did not provide me with a great birding location. I would check the fotosaves.com.ar site for other locations around Buenos Aires.
I was heading south, and San Clamente was supposed to be the birding hot spot, but I wanted to make more distance, and picked Mar del Plata. I saw from the fotosaves.com.ar site that there was a nature reserve at the port. The good news is that it was open (several sources had told me it might be closed). The reserve is a marshy area that did have a lot of birds, but the best locations were hard to see from the concrete walkway. I also didn't feel too safe in this area with a big lens. The good news is just south of the reserve is a kilometer long pond full of every kind of water bird imaginable. This was one of the best bird watching spots on my entire trip. XZX list birds seen in Mar del Plata.
The plan was still to head south, so Las Grutas seemed like a good stopping point after an overnight bus ride. Las Grutas is a really nice quiet tourist-friendly beach town (compared to Mar del Plata) . The Patagonian 'step' which is the area west of Las Grutas, is what I would describe as scrub: very dry with bushes and few trees. There are few birds in the open areas, but the highlight of Las Grutas was the modern first-class nature center built for migrating birds, and specifically the Red Knot. The center is manned by several friendly guides, and has scopes setup to watch the abundant shore birds, who are on a protected beach. Unfortunately the local beaches didn't have near the number of shore birds seen at the reserve, but the area between the reserve and Las Grutas is good for shore bird watching.
I had thought about going to Pensinsula Valdez to see among other things penguins, but my research indicated I would have to take tour buses and not really have good access to the park, so decided to head west, to Bariloche and the lake district of Argentina.