|Argentina North Birding Trip Report (Part Three of Three)|
This report starts in Salta, in the northwest corner of Argentina. The
area is relatively undeveloped and still has many trees. The Narosky
book shows hundreds of species that are found either only here, or
here and in the northeast corner. If I ever visit Argentina again, I
will spend more time in this area, although I didn't find any areas
dense with birds as in other parts of Argentina.
We decided Iguazu, the famous waterfall in the northeast corner of
Argentina, and or main destinantion, was still too far for a single
bus ride, so decided to stop in Formosa, a city in the state of
Formosa. The first part of the bus ride from Salto to Formosa goes
through a large section of very undeveloped land, which is either part
of, or connected to, Las Yungas, or the cloud forest in the northwest
corner . We spotted probably fifty Southern Caracaras just outside of
Salta, as well as a Toco Toucan. Formosa is a great state; the
governer is very ecologically minded, and promotes Formosa as land of
water and green. The birding destinations in Formosa are Laguna
Blanca, a park on the west side whose name I don't have, and Laguna Oca,
which is just outside the city of Formasa, and the only one we visited.
Laguna Oca has it's own eco-police, and is a superb birding
destination. There is an island in the middle of the lake which can
be reached only by canoe, and it is full of passerines. The canopy is
low and the grass is tall, so it is perfect for photography. Alas, I
only spent one hour there in the middle of a hot day, and still saw a
suprising number of different species, including Piculets,
Kingfishers, and Monjitas. But you will see birds in all parts of
Laguna Oca State Park.
The eco-police, such as the friendly Omar Ricardo Lopez, will tell you
that Argentina has over 1000 species, that Formosa has over 500, and
that this park has around 350. The locals even put us on TV and in
the newspaper, because of our interest in the local nature. See my
I had wanted to visit Ibera, the Panatal of Argentina, but I simply
couldn't figure out how to do it. The main eco-posada, Posade de la
Laguna, wanted to charge my $180/night US for a single. The only entry
point I could find was through a tiny town called Carlos Pellegrini
and it seemed too complicated, even for me with a fluent Spanish
So next stop was Asuncion, Paraguay, and then Iguazu. Note US
passports need a VISA to enter Paraguay (lucky for me I have a German
passport also). The ride from Formosa to Asuncion went through a
large undeveloped areas of the Chaco, which is the primary land type
in Paraguay. The chaco is dry with grasses and cabbage palms.
Maguari Storks and Jabiru could be seen from the bus.
I read that there were two great birding areas in Asuncion: Bahia de
Asuncion (the bay) and the city park and botanical garden, with the
zoo. I couldn't figure out how to access the river/bay. All of the
borders seemed to contain the makeshift homes of the very poor. We
walked through one of these areas and started walking to the river
when locals told it was too dangerous for us. Walking back, other
locals who had tried to get our attention before were suprised we were
The city park seemed safe enough. The zoo was closed. The park
contained the normal city birds I had become familiar with, such as
the Plus-crested Jay, the Crested Cradinal, Rufous Hornero, etc., but
nothing really interesting. I tried to arrange a trip to the north of
Paraguay to the Pantanal, often described as the greatest bird
watching destination in the world, but was told this time of year the
roads were flooded and things were problematic. A boat that travelled
up the river had left two days ago. So nothing left to do in
Asuncion, and on to Iguazu.
The bus ride from Asunction to Ciudad del Este, the Paraguay border
town, was very disappointing. The entire stretch was developed with
farms and small towns. Ciudad del Este is a commerce city for trading
with Argentina and Brazil. Paraguay is poorer than Brazil or
Argentina and you can see it here. I am used to seeing a man with a
big rifle in front of a bank, but in this city there are three men
with rifles in front of the bank, and one with a rifle in front of
most everything else.
The only eco destination on this side of Paraguay is ITAIPU, the
enterprise with Brazil that controls the largest dam in the world,
that powers all of Paraguay and 20% of Brazil. After flooding a huge
forest, a few parks were created on the edges of the lake, but access
times are controlled by a strict schedule. For birding I recommend
arranging a camping trip to ITAIPU's closest park's camp site. Although
Paraguay is a little scary, anything associated with ITAIPU will be
very safe. The ITAIPU zoo is a waste of time, although there was a
Rhea and a Seriama free on the property.
So I stayed in the Iguazu area for three weeks, bouncing between
Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Regarding Iguazu falls, I have heard
discussion if it is better on the Argentina side or the Brazil side.
There is no discussion, the Argentina side is much better. You have
many many walking trails, and it is much less expensive. On the
Brazil side I had to invent a trail by walking 8 kilometers on the
road back to the entrance. And Puerto Iguazu, the city on the
Argentinan side, is a small dense city surrounded by a lot of natural
areas, while Foz do Iguazu in Brazil is a sprawling city with no
apparent thought given to the environment.
In Park Iguazu in Argentina, there is one trail called the Macuco
Trail, which goes into the 'jungle', and is where you might see exotic
tropical birds. I visited the park and trail six times, and although
you have to work really hard to see birds there, every day I managed
to find two or three totally new species for me. Because it is dark
and the canopy is very high, photography is difficult. Some bird seen
or photographed include Orange-breated Falcon, Blue Manakin, Planalto
Woodcreeper, Green-headed Tanager, Toco Toucan, Blonde-crested
Woodpecker, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-bearded Manakin, White-barred
Piculet, Fire-eye, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, Blue-winged Parrotlet,
and about six others I need to identify exactly. I saw
six mammals: Monkeys (unsure of species), Coatis, Aguatis, Guinea Pigs, Squirrels, and Bats. There
are six jaguars left on the Argentinian side, and presumably more pumas.
When you visit the park you also have to visit the Sheraton hotel. The lawns
around the hotel have fruit trees, and you will probably see some Toco
Toucans or Chestnut-mandibled Toucanets. On one cloudy day we saw many
twenty at once. I remember on one occassion seeing six species of common
birds in the lawn at once, including the Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Campo
Flicker, Cattle Tyrant, Southern Lapwing, Rufous Hornero, and probably
the Saffron Finch.
Another good spot in Puerto Iguuzu, I was told, the city next to the
Falls, is a road next to the airport. The airport is in the middle of
the forest, and it would be a way to visit the sub-tropical jungle
without paying the park entrance fee. It can be reached by bus, but I
didn't try to go there.
Jardin de los Picaflores is a hummingbird garden in the city, and is
recommended. Many of my hummingbird shots were taken there.
Guira Oga is a bird and animal rehabilitation center, and is also
recommended, although you have to join a tour. The location is
directly connected to the National Park, so on my two visits I saw
Guans, Squirrel Cuckoos, Toucanets, and Blond-crested Woodpeckers
outside the cages.
Parque de Aves is a bird zoo with large aviaries near the Brazilian side of
Iguazu, and is also worthwhile.