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Jake Mohlmann on his just-completed tour to Northern Argentina - High Andes, Chaco and Iguazú Falls

November 12: Jake Mohlmann on his just-completed tour to Northern Argentina - High Andes, Chaco and Iguazú Falls

On our recently completed tour through northern Argentina we encountered 429 species of birds as we scoured lush cloud forest, arid altiplano, dense Chaco thickets, and riverine rainforest.

Our group was delighted to have Iguazú Falls all to ourselves

Four days based in the Yungas forest produced a fine list of birds and one particular experience had us all slapping high fives at the end. While quietly watching a Rufous-throated Dipper carefully hold on to the slick rocks while somehow foraging in the raging waters of the Yala River, we noticed a family of Torrent Ducks, including 2 recent youngsters, struggling upriver within a few meters of our group and setting off a picture-taking frenzy. We were wondering why they were so 'tame' when we realized we're weren't the most feared creatures on the river bank. A hungry Tayra, a three foot long member of the weasel family, was working the riverbank nearby. Immediately after this encounter several range-restricted Red-faced Guans hurled overhead and perched on moss covered branches for a trifecta of specialties.

A Tayra lurks on the riverbank

Hummingbirds were in good supply this year with 16 species visiting an abundance of flowering plants; highlights included the dainty Slender-tailed Woodstar, the jet Black Jacobin, the near Bolivian endemic Wedge-tailed Hillstar, and the ridiculously colorful Red-tailed Comet.

A male Red-tailed Comet poses for pictures

With 99% of its range in Bolivia this Wedge-tailed Hillstar was a welcome treat

The high Andean altiplano hosted a horde of species including three varieties of flamingo including Andean, Chilean, and James’s. At one of the high elevation bogs near the Bolivian border, a pair of Diademed Sandpiper Plovers appeared (before we could get out of the car!) and foraged very closely before taking flight far down the canyon. Nearby another high altitude specialty was heard, then seen, and we watched a trio of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe work through a moist vegetation.

Diademed Sandpiper Plover

We spent several days in the unique Chaco habitat where this year we encountered both members of the highly sought after family Cariamidae: we watched at length both Red-legged and Black-legged Seriemas taking breaks from screaming their dog like ‘songs’. Other birds unique to this region were the vibrant Many-colored Chaco Finch, the enormous Great Rufous Woodcreeper, and the docile Spot-backed Puffbird.

It’s also worth noting that we actually saw five species of tinamous, quite a feat for any birding trip. These included bright-billed Tataupa, Ornate, Red-winged Huayco, Andean, and the regal Elegant Crested, with young in tow.


An adult Elegant Crested Tinamou stands guard with chicks nearby

Our final days were spent exploring the various roads and trails weaving through Iguazu National Park and getting exposure to an entirely new set of birds. Having the upper falls trail all to ourselves before the masses arrived one morning was a wonderful experience we’ll not soon forget!

Posted: November 12, 2017