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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Cruise: Around Cape Horn

Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina (or reverse)

2020 Narrative

IN BRIEF: We have now done eight tours on the Valparaiso (Chile) and Buenos-Aires (Argentina) cruise route around Cape Horn and once again it was a real success! This cruise offers a wonderful mix between seabirding and land excursions, and a great way to discover many of the pelagic and costal species of Southern South America.

The seabirding this year was absolutely great! By using a huge and stable boat, we completely avoided any seasickness problems. Even with strong winds and swell up to 3-4 meters, the boat was so stable that we were still able to use our scopes (even if bins are enough to have great views of the birds) for seabirding! The quantity and diversity of seabirds was fantastic: 10 species of Albatrosses and 29 species of tubenoses, including great views of Soft-plumaged, Stejneger’s and Juan Fernandez Petrel, Pincoya and Gray-rumped Storm-Petrel, Antipodes Wandering, Northern and Southern Royal and Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, and so many more…

We always focused our land excursions on the most remarkable birds and habitat of the area, and we were very successful finding such diverse birds as Chucao and Black-throated Huet-huet, Des Mur’s Wiretail, no less than three species of Steamer-ducks, Magellanic Plover, White-throated Caracara, Magellanic Woodpecker, King Penguin, Giant Wood-Rail, or Southern Screamer. In addition to the birds, we also had some great looks at several species of sea mammals, such at Peale’s and Bottlenose Dolphins, as well as a few close Sei Whales.

Our 3 days pre-tour around Santiago were also great. We visited the stunning mountains above the Chilean capital as well as some coastal wetlands. These varied habitats are home to the splendid Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, Greater Yellow-finch, Moustached Turca, Seaside Cinclodes, the elusive Stripe-backed Bittern and many more.

And just to add some icing on the cake, some of the group ended with the extension to Ceiba and Iguazu, where, in addition to the amazing falls, we also found fantastic birds including Toco Toucan, Rufous-capped Motmot, Surucua Trogon, Spot-backed Antshrike, Green-headed Tanager, Lark-like Brushrunner, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, and Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch, just to name a few!

SANTIAGO EXTENSION: Most of the group did the pre-cruise extension near Santiago and met at our airport hotel for an introductory meeting with Fabrice and first dinner together.

On our first day of the pre-cruise extension, we visited the Farellones and Valle Nevado sky resorts above Santiago. On the way, we made a few stops at different elevations, resulting in great views of two Chilean endemics: Moustached Turca and Chilean Tinamou. We also found a few Band-tailed Sierra-Finches, Common Diuca-Finches and Chilean Mockingbirds. The scenery of the Andes above Santiago is impressive and just one hour after leaving the city we were surrounded by towering mountains. Around Farellones, we found a few Rufous-banded Miners, White-browed Ground-tyrants, Gray-hooded Sierra-Finches, Buff-banded Cinclodes and a Scale-throated Earthcreeper. We even found a Magellanic Horned-Owl on his day roost! It was now time for a great picnic lunch surrounded by a wonderful landscape, with a dozen Andean Condors soaring overhead and perching atop impressive cliffs. In the nearby shrubs and rocks, we found a Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant and a pair of Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant. After lunch we followed our way to Valle Nevado at 10,000 feet (3,000 meters); the highest ski resort above Santiago. This place should be called a ‘condorminio’, as around twenty condors come here to roost on the building roofs offering an amazing show and stunning photographic opportunities. After a great day in the mountains, it was now time to drive back to our Santiago hotel.

The next morning we had an early departure for the Maipo and Yeso valleys to look for other high-elevation specialists. During our drive, we found a female Torrent Duck foraging in the tumultuous Maipo River. What a beautiful and tough bird, rafting effortlessly in fast moving waters. Farther up, now in Yeso Valley, we found a lovely pair of the endemic Crag Chila. They came close to us, giving an incredible show.

The whole drive through Yeso Valley is absolutely stunning. We drove up this beautiful glacier valley, going through impressive moraine-sculpted areas, and always surrounded by stunning sharp peaks. We stopped at a known bog where we had excellent close views of several Gray-breasted Seedsnipes including a pair with two young chicks. We also found flocks of Yellow-rumped Siskins and Greater Yellow-Finches, as well as a few Gray-flanked Cinclodes and Gray-hooded Sierra-Finches. No less than five White-sided Hillstars were feeding on beautiful white flowers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any of the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover expected here… Continuing our search for this beautiful shorebird, we continued our way up, making several stops and scanning any favorable bogs. After a picnic of traditional Chilean empanadas surrounded by stunning landscapes and hanging glaciers, we finally found a lovely pair of the charismatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. One of them was even seen very close, offering fantastic views. We also found several Creamy-rumped Miners, a group of seven Andean Geese and a few Yellow-billed Teals (of the oxyptera subspecies). After another beautiful and successful day in the mountains of Central Chile, we drove back to our hotel for some rest and a succulent dinner.

The next day, as our ship was due to leave in the afternoon, we had a full morning to look for a few more Chilean species. After leaving our hotel in the early morning, we first birded a little creek on the coast where we almost immediately found no less than three Stripe-backed Bitterns. What a start! At the same location we had great views of numerous Red-gartered Coots together with a few Red-fronted Coots, a few Pied-billed Grebes, and in the reeds we found a few Yellow-winged Blackbirds with a flock of 100+ Shiny Cowbirds who used the reeds as a night roost. We then birded a dry slope of the gully, where we found a Dusky Tapaculo cooperating well and singing for a while in the open. We also found a lovely male Striped Woodpecker, a few Dusky-tailed Canasteros, an impressive Giant Hummingbird and a pair of Chilean (Plain-mantled) Tit-Spinetail.

At the nearby Algarrobo Yacht Club, we found 50+ Humboldt Penguins, several hundred Peruvian Boobies breeding on a nearby islet, a few flocks of Guanay Cormorants, and even a Seaside Cinclodes. Along the rocky shore we also found a pair of Blackish Oystercatcher, as well as an adult Marine Otter feeding on undetermined prey. Our next stop was at Cartagena lagoon, a wonderful protected area on the coast which always attracts large numbers of waterbirds. There we found numerous Lake Ducks, Red Shovelers, Yellow-billed Pintails, together with less numerous Chiloe Wigeons, Patagonian Silvery Grebes, and even a few of the secretive Black-headed Duck. Amongst the numerous Franklin’s and Brown-hooded Gulls, we found a few South American, Elegant, and even a Sandwich Tern. We then had a great lunch of a delicious local fish, Pacific Pomfret or ‘Reinita’, at a lovely seaside restaurant. After lunch, it was now time to drive towards San Antonio to board our ship, our home for the next two weeks!

CRUISE: For our first full day at sea, we sailed between 35ºSouth (North of Concepción on the Chilean coast) and 39ºSouth (North of Valdivia on the Chilean coast). During daylight hours we sailed past Mocha Island, where more than 80% of the Pink-footed Shearwater world population breeds. Not surprisingly, we saw good numbers of this species. We also learned how to identify albatrosses and found seven different species: Northern and Southern Royal, Black-browed, Salvin’s, Buller’s, a few Antipodes (Wandering) and even one of the critically endangered Chatham. We also learned to separate Sooty Shearwater from White-chinned Petrel, two species we would see again and again during the tour. More difficult was the identification of the Pterodroma petrels, usually flying far from the ship and very fast, but we had a few close views of both Juan-Fernandez and Stejneger’s Petrels. We also had a few Fuegian (Wilson’s) Storm-Petrel, but the rarest bird of the day (here) were two Manx Shearwaters, rarely seen in the Pacific.

We arrived on time in Puerto Montt but the tender operation took some time and we finally left the ship after a one-hour delay. After meeting our drivers Arturo and Christian, we drove towards Alerce Andino National Park, where we spent the rest of the morning. It was a delightful morning, punctuated by the songs of Chucao Tapaculos and Green-backed Firecrowns. With some effort we enjoyed good views of the handsome Chucao, as well as a Magellanic Tapaculo and two Black-throated Huet-huets. Higher in the trees, we had repeated views of Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Patagonian Sierra-Finch, Chilean (White-crested) Elaenia and Green-backed Firecrown. We also all enjoyed an excellent view of the unique Des Mur’s Wiretail, at the edge of a very dense bamboo patch. An unexpected bonus came in the form of a beautiful male of Magellanic Woodpecker that showed well foraging close to our trail—a rarely seen bird here! After a fine picnic lunch and some more birding near the entrance park we headed back to the ship, making a stop at Chamiza River estuary where we found a large group of 800+ Hudsonian Godwits, together with good numbers of Whimbrels and Greater Yellowlegs. We arrived back on the ship in time to relax a little before some late afternoon birding, finding a few of the enigmatic Pincoya Storm-Petrel.

We began our second day at sea with very flat and quiet sea where we found 1,000+ Fuegian Storm-Petrel, as well as hundreds Sooty Shearwaters (probably breeding on Guafo Island we just passed). In more open and formed sea we found 20+ Northern Royal Albatross, 15+ Antipodes and our first Snowy (Wandering) Albatrosses amongst the numerous Black-browed Albatrosses. We also had great views of both Juan Fernandez and Stejneger’s Petrel, and a single Westland Petrel was also spotted between numerous White-chinned Petrels. It was great to see all these birds again and again during the day, and to get familiarized with these species. We also saw 30+ whales; all the identified ones being Sei Whales.

The following morning, we woke up in front of the scenic Amalia glacier, where we discovered a few Magellanic Penguins, as well as a group of Peale’s Dolphins and even a rare Southern Huemul walking on the beach. We then enjoyed the scenic cruise in the fjords, also watching a few Magellanic Diving-Petrels and Chilean Skuas. Fortunately, the weather was great and we could enjoy the wonderful landscape of these remote islands covered by impenetrable forests growing on some very steep slopes. Leaving the channels, we sailed a few hours in open sea again, finding hundreds of Black-browed Albatrosses and good numbers of Southern Giant Petrels. We also found our first Slender-billed Prions, whose numbers increased slowly during the afternoon through into the evening when we were surrounded by hundreds of them. We probably saw more than 2,000 prions this evening! We celebrated these first stunning days at sea with a nice group dinner while entering into the legendary Magellanic Straight.

After two days at sea, we arrived in one of the southernmost Chilean cities, Punta Arenas. After disembarking, we did a first stop to study a large Imperial Cormorant colony. Amongst the hundreds of breeding birds, including some pairs still with large chicks, we found a few Rock Cormorants and Dolphin Gulls, as well as a pair of Flying Steamer-Duck swimming near the colony. We then headed towards the “Tres Puentes” wetlands to enjoy the great diversity of waterfowl found in Patagonia: Yellow-billed Pintail, Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Teal, White-tufted Grebe, Upland and Ashy-headed Geese, a few Red-gartered Coots, and even a flock of Baird Sandpipers wintering here after an incredibly long migration. We also visited a lake in the Patagonian steppe where we quickly found one of the most sought-after Patagonian species: the “pink bubble-gum legged” Magellanic Plover. Three adults and one juvenile were seen together. At the same place we had great views of Chilean Skuas, large groups of Upland Geese, a flock of White-rumped Sandpiper together with a few Rufous-chested Dotterels. A small group of Lesser Rhea was also seen well here. During our drive to our next birding location, we spotted more Lesser Rheas, several Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles perched atop roadside posts and a group of lovely Guanacos. At a second lake we found no less than 100+ Chilean Flamingoes, some of them quite close to us, numerous Red Shovelers together with Crested Ducks, a dozen of Patagonian Silvery Grebes, and even a few Two-banded Plovers foraging on the muddy shore.  In the afternoon, we decided to search the coast south of Punta Arenas, where we quickly found Flying and Flightless Steamer-duck, a large concentration of several thousand South American Terns, a dozen of the superb (especially the female) Kelp Goose and a few Magellanic Oystercatchers. We even had a few groups of Peale’s Dolphin foraging along the coast. Back on the ship and leaving Punta Arenas, we found 50+ Magellanic Diving-Petrels, 200+ Black-browed Albatrosses, as well as 30 Magellanic Penguins and a few Chilean Skuas. We also had great views of two Sei Whales, just before passing by Cape Froward, the southernmost tip of continental South America.

We woke up in the majestic Beagle channel, named after the ship used by Charles Darwin and the captain Fitz Roy during their trip around the world. It doesn’t seem that much has changed since the Darwin’s expedition: inaccessible islands, dense evergreen forest, and steep slopes with waterfalls, glaciers and snow peaked mountains. Hard to believe that only a few decades ago, some native people were still living in these channels, fishing mussels and hunting seals. A few Black-browed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrels and a few Humpback Whales accompanied us in the Beagle channel to the Ushuaia harbor. Arriving in Ushuaia (Argentina), the southernmost city in the world, we transferred to our bus and drove directly to the Ushuaia garbage dump… not a scenic place to visit, but that’s where we found big numbers of raptors attracted by the trash: dozens of Chimango Caracara, 40+ Southern Crested Caracaras, and about 20 of the very local White-throated Caracara. A few Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, one of the most beautiful South American raptors, were also perched around the most austral dump in the world. On the way to Tierra del Fuego National Park, we stopped on the coastline for lunch, and also enjoying great views of Flying and Flightless Steamer-duck, Kelp and Upland Geese, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Crested Duck, and the stunning Dolphin Gull, probably one of the most beautiful gulls in the world. We then headed to our main destination today, the stunning Tierra del Fuego NP. Wonderful pristine Nothofagus forest, bordering stunning lakes and rivers, and covering the neighboring mountains. We found several groups of Thorn-tailed Rayadito, sometimes associated with Patagonian Sierra-Finches and White-crested Elaenias. We were also very successful with the most sought-after Magellanic Woodpecker, finding a pair with a recently fledged juvenile, giving us amazing and prolonged views. Back to the ship in the afternoon, we sailed through Beagle Channel towards the eastern exit, and onwards town the famous Cape Horn.

We spent the first hour of the day in front of famous Island of Cape Horn, where so many ships sank and so many sailors disappeared. We can now say we belong to the “Cape Horner” community, even if rounding the cap with such a luxurious and stable ship is probably cheating. While watching at the light house and the albatross monument on the southern tip of the island, we were surrounded by large numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses and Sooty Shearwaters, as well as our first Great Shearwaters. Soon after leaving Cape Horn, we reached very deep waters, offering very few numbers of seabirds for most of the day. In the afternoon, the number of Slender-billed Prions began to increase, eventually up to hundreds of them at the same time. We also found a few Common Diving-Petrels and Gray-backed Storm-Petrels dancing over floating kelp patches.

We met at dawn on exterior deck to enjoy the arrival into Stanley (Falklands), finding a few Snowy Sheathbill walking around a large Imperial Cormorant group, and also enjoying some distant views of Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins breeding in the coastal sandy dunes. Our landing to the Falklands was not confirmed until the last minute because of weather conditions, so we were very happy when the Captain finally gave the green light to the tender operation! As soon as we disembarked in Stanley, we immediately jumped into our 4x4 jeeps, and drove towards Volunteer Point where are found huge colonies of King, Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins. It is a long drive on a very bad “road”, but the scenery is absolutely fantastic (recalling Alaska or Scotland), and our drivers were very voluble. They told us about the Falklands islands, its history, economy, and all aspects of living in such an isolated place. At Volunteer Point, the penguins were all over. The Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins, whose breeding season was already finished, were found in large molting groups, or traveling between the beach and the colony. The King Penguins, whose breeding season is way longer than the other species, were actively breeding. It was very interesting to find at the same time, birds incubating eggs, or feeding recently hatched chicks. No doubt that these King Penguins, with their beautiful suits, were the stars of the day. In addition to the numerous penguins, we also found a few dozen Ruddy-headed Geese, Two-banded Plovers and White-rumped Sandpipers. During the drive to/from Stanley, we made a few stops finding Dark-faced Ground-tyrant, Rufous-chested Dotterel, a flock of the Falklands (White-bridled) Finch, and many Correndera Pipits. On the coastline we had excellent views of the endemic Falklands Steamer-Duck, as well as a few Crested Ducks, the endemic (sub)species of White-tufted Grebe and a few Rock Shags.

We began our sailing day towards Puerto Madryn with a few Soft-Plumaged Petrels, flying fast but seen very well in the morning light. Later in the day, we found thousands of Black-browed Albatrosses following fishing vessels, mixed with dozens of Southern Royal Albatrosses, hundreds of Southern Giant Petrels, as well as a few hundred Greater and Sooty Shearwaters attracted by the easy food. We also found Manx Shearwaters as week as a few Long-tailed Jaegers (reaching here the southern part of their wintering range). We also enjoyed great views of a few Peale’s Dolphins jumping close to the ship, as well as a Southern Right Whale.

After arrival at Puerto Madryn and meeting with our driver and our local guide Mabel, we headed towards the Valdez Peninsula. We had a productive stop in the Patagonian steppe, finding no less than three Lesser Shrike-Tyrants, a lovely pair of Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, two Cinereous Harriers, and numerous Patagonian Mockingbirds. On a small lake, we also had excellent views of colourful Chilean Flamingo, Coscoroba Swan, a large group of Red Shoveler, and three different species of coot. We then headed towards Puerto Pyramides, making a few stops on the way to enjoy close views of the well named Elegant Crested Tinamou, a pair of Mara and herds of Guanacos.  Our main birding spot of the morning was a South American Sea Lion colony, where we had good views of a dozen Dolphin Gulls, plus Imperial Cormorants, Rock Cormorants, Blackish Oystercatcher and a few Cayenne (Sandwich) Terns. At this time of the year, the Sea Lion pups are making their first swims and we enjoyed seeing the young seals swimming together with their mothers. For many the stars of this location were these 13 Snowy Sheathbill found around the seals and looking for food. Before leaving to ‘Isla de los Pajaros’, we found a cute pair of Patagonian Canastero on the parking lot, displaying atop of close bush. We then enjoyed our picnic lunch facing a great coastal scenery, having some distant views of 100+ Magellanic Penguins and thousands of Kelp Gulls, all breeding on the ‘bird island’. It was now time to drive back to the ship, and after a pleasant day at the Valdez Peninsula, we departed towards Montevideo (Uruguay), accompanied by hundreds of Manx Shearwaters.

We had a wonderful sailing day traveling from Puerto Madryn to Montevideo, almost continuously finding Yellow-nosed and Black-browed Albatrosses, Great and Manx Shearwater, as well as White-chinned Petrel. At one point we had seen more than 2,000 Great Shearwaters in only one hour! Amongst these numerous birds, we looked for rarer ones, and were lucky to find three Cape Verde Shearwaters. We also had several large groups of Common and Bottlenose Dolphins, often jumping close to the ship. What a wonderful conclusion to a fantastic seabirding trip!

We arrived early in Montevideo (Uruguay) where we met Florencia our local guide. After a very short drive, we had our first stop to a small wetland where we had an excellent beginning of our birding day. After enjoying excellent views of both Giant Wood Rail and Plumbeous Rail, we found two Gilded Hummingbirds, a cute White-crested Tyrannulet, a small group of Long-tailed Reed-Finch and the stunning Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch. We found no less than three species of woodpeckers: a nice group of the unique White Woodpecker, plus two Campo Flicker foraging on the ground together with three Green-barred Woodpecker. We also attracted no less than three Rufous-sided Crakes, seen well in the open. What a start! We then headed to Colonia Wilson where we had our lunch on the shore of the De La Plata River. Nearby we saw a lovely White Monjita perched on an electrical wire, a Double-collared Seedeater together with a Dark-throated Seedeater and large number of Saffron Finches, as well as a very cooperative Freckle-breasted Thornbird. From the bus, we also spotted a few cute Burrowing Owls at the entrances of theirs burrows along the roadside.

We then headed to Playa Penino where we were very pleased to find large numbers of gulls and terns. In just one close flock on the beach, we had at least 500 Snowy-crowned Terns, 150+ Cayenne Terns, 16 Royal Terns, and 4 Common Terns. We also spotted a few American Golden Plovers together with American Oystercatchers, and an American Black Skimmer. In the nearby shrubs, we found a pair of Rufous-capped Antshrike, a Great Pampa-Finch, two Bran-coloured Flycatchers, and even an unexpected White-banded Mockingbird. On our way back we stopped at a final wetland, where we added Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, South American Snipe (of the nominate subspecies here, soon to be split), a few Spectacled Tyrants and two Limpkins to our already long list. A great day in Uruguay with an impressive list of new birds concluded by an anticipated farewell dinner.

After disembarking in Buenos Aires, we reached Costanera Sur Reserve for a last morning birding in Argentina. Because of a complicated disembarkation process in Buenos Aires and traffic jam, we arrived late at the reserve but found several new species. It was hard to choose the best birds of the day between Silver Teal, the impressive Southern Screamer, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Double-collared Seedeater, Masked Gnatcatcher, the stunning Rufescent Tiger-heron, a pair of White-winged Becard, Golden-billed Saltator and more. Our day at these Buenos Aires wetlands was a beautiful end to a stunning trip.

During our last meeting for the daily checklist, we selected the ‘best birds’ of the trip: King Penguin, Snowy Sheathbill, Flightless Steamer-Duck, Des Mur’s Wiretail, Black-throated Huet-Huet, Black-browed and Snowy Albatross were named for the main tour, while Diademed Sandpiper-Plover and Andean Condor were the highlights of the pre-Cruise.

- Fabrice Schmitt

EXTENSION TO CEIBAS AND IGUAZU FALLS

After a morning with the full cruise group in Costanera Sur Reserve in Buenos Aires, some participants few back home today while the rest had an early disembarkation for our birding day near Ceibas, a small town located in the eastern side of the famous Parana River. After a two hour drive we arrived just after sunrise. We rapidly found a White-naped Xenopsaris watching us from an exposed branch, a pair of Masked Gnatcatcher, a group of three Black-capped Warbling-Finches, Suiriri Flycatcher, and Little and Freckle-breasted Thornbirds. Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Sooty-fronted and Pale-breasted Spinetail appeared low in the dense thorny bushes but showed well. The specialist Tufted-tit Spinetail never stopped searching for insects, while a beautiful male of White-tipped Plantcutter stayed quiet for great views. Far into the forest we heard the largest ovenbird, the Brown Cacholote, and after some work we saw a group of three of them, as well as a pair of Chotoy Spinetail, the beautiful Lark-like Brushrunner, a group of Guira Cuckoo and an active Short-billed Canastero.

Continuing the drive along flooded fields we found several waterbirds including Brazilian Teal, Coscoroba and Black-necked Swans, Southern Screamer, Roseate Spoonbill, Limpkin, Great Egret and Cocoi Heron, a couple of Whistling Herons and a Savanna Hawk. After this successful morning we had lunch on the way back to our hotel in Buenos Aires. Had we a relaxing afternoon to pack and get ready for the forthcoming days in Iguazu.

The next morning we flew to the city of Puerto Iguazu, gateway to the famous Iguazu Falls. There is also a large amount of protected forest found near here in the extreme north of Argentina. We landed in Iguazu midday and checked in to our very comfortable hotel. In the afternoon we headed to a famous hummingbird garden in the city where we spent more than hour enjoying the effervescent activity of tens of Versicolored Emeralds and Black-throated Mangoes, together with males and females of Black Jacobins, Gilded Hummingbirds, Violet-capped Woodnymphs, Glittering-bellied Emeralds and even a splendid pair of Fork-tailed Hummingbird. Later in the afternoon we visited the coast of Iguazu River, finding some colourful and stunning birds such as Magpie and Green-headed Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Violaceous and Purple-throated Euphonias!

After an early breakfast, we drove to route 101, a dirt road crossing Iguazu National Park. While we were watching a Yellow Tyrannulet a few meters from the car and Streak-headed and Rufous-winged Antwrens higher in the canopy, a Toco Toucan arrived and perched in the open! Wow, what a bill! In the forest we found a male Black-throated Trogon, and a Spot-backed Antshrike perched for a long time. We also encountered the tiny Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner and the Atlantic subspecies of Olivaceous Woodcreeper. We concluded this morning with good views of a pair of colourful Yellow-fronted Woodpecker perched near their nest, as well as Sibilant Syristes and Three-striped Flycatchers.

After a good lunch at the hotel we drove to Iguazu National Park where we spent the full afternoon. The national park is an impressive place to be. We had amazing views of the falls, both from the bottom as well as from above. What a wonderful scenery; wild rivers surrounded by tropical forest with falls plunging 250 feet (75 meters) down with an indescribable roar. We also had some birds during the visit of the falls, such as splendid views of several groups of the fancy Plush-crested Jay, Toco Toucan, Anhingas, and Neotropic Cormorants and a close pair of Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail. We also had several encounters with tame groups of South American Coati and Black-horned Capuchin, used to receive food from the numerous visitors. In our last minutes of birding we concluded our day list with a flock of Chopi Blackbird and a pair of Yellow-headed Caracara.

For our following morning we drove to the Urugua-í Reserve, about 90 minutes from the hotel. The forest here is fantastic and quiet in comparison with the hustle and bustle of people visiting the waterfalls. We quickly found a forest jewel; a Black-fronted Piping-Guan was perched for long time, allowing for great views. After this first bird we found two more individuals of this endangered and range restricted species. In only three hours we found a lot of interesting species such as Blond-crested Woodpecker, or an amazing pair of Red-breasted Toucan searching for eggs in a Red-rumped Cacique colony! We also had good views of a nice male  Chestnut-headed Tanager, as well as Southern Bristle-Tyrant, Lesser Woodcreeper and plenty of White-browed Warblers. We enjoyed good views of two stream specialists, the Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper and Riverbank Warbler walking at close range. Later we walked through a large stand of spiny bamboo where a female Tufted Antshrike was sunning at close range, and a minute Ochre-collared Piculet was actively eating ants. A few minutes later others bamboo specialists appeared: Drab Pygmy-Tyrant, Rufous Gnateater and Rufous-capped Spinetail. We had a nice picnic near the stream between Black-fronted Piping-Guans and Plush-crested Jays. On the way to our hotel we stopped close to a patch of Araucaria forest where we quickly found the specialist Araucaria Tit-Spinetail.

After a deserved nap we did a short walk near the hotel, finding great birds such as Rufous-capped Motmot, Scaly-throated Hermit, and the stunning Buff-bellied Puffbird. Searching for night birds we had great scope views of a Common Potoo — while he was singing! We also found a pair of Tropical Screech-Owl and heard the nice song of Common Pauraque.

Our flight back to Buenos Aires was relatively late in the morning so we had time for some early birding near the hotel. We re-sighted many of the birds seen the previous days while adding to the list White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Green-winged Saltator, and White-shouldered Fire-eye. However, the bird of the morning was a fantastic male of Surucua Trogon. It was now time to fly back to Buenos-Aires and the conclusion of this fantastic tour!

- Julián Quillén Vidoz

Updated: March 2020